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Best cruise for foodies? Try Oceania Cruises

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Come on… Confess…

It’s important that food on a cruise be really really good, right?

It is for us – and we’ve sailed on more than 60 cruises now.

At the end of the day – whether exploring ancient ruins, shopping for souvenirs or curling up with the latest bestseller on your ship balcony – there’s nothing nicer than sitting down in refined surroundings, sipping a fine glass of Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir (poured at just the right temperature, naturally) and savoring a delightful, artfully presented dinner.

Best Cruise for Foodies
One of our favorite aspects of cruising is having breakfast on your balcony

When we heard that Oceania Cruises claims to serve the “finest cuisine at sea,” we were intrigued.

Would they offer the best cruise for foodies? If you’re looking for the cruise line with the best food, is Oceania the answer?

Oceania, as you might know, is a casually elegant cruise line with six mid-size ships sailing to Asia, Tahiti, the Med and elsewhere around the globe.

So we did a little digging (careful not to salivate too much over our computers).

Here’s what we learned…

Warning:

Reading this post may cause severe mouth-watering and cravings for foie gras or truffles. Do not read on an empty stomach.

Best cruise for foodies

Some of the best food on cruises can be had on Oceania ships
Some of the best food on cruises can be had on Oceania ships

First, Oceania Cruises isn’t whipping up bold claims out of thin air.

The line has won a slew of awards for its cuisine. It has some of the best cruise ship food.

It won “Best Dining” in the mid-size ship category in the Cruise Critic 2019 Cruisers’ Choice Awards.

Oceania also won “Best Onboard Dining” in the TravelAge West 2018 WAVE awards; “Best for Dining” in 2017 as voted by Cruise Critic readers (mid-size ship category); “Best Cuisine” in Travel Weekly’s 2016 Readers Choice Awards; “Best for Food” according to Town & Country Travel; “Best Main Dining Room Cuisine” in Porthole Cruise Magazine’s 2016 Readers’ Choice Awards and so on.

No doubt having legendary Master Chef Jacques Pepin run the kitchen, so to speak (he’s officially Oceania’s executive culinary director) has helped the line to achieve gastronomic excellence.

Celebrated Master Chef Jacques Pepin is head of the culinary team on Oceania Cruises
Celebrated Master Chef Jacques Pepin is head of the culinary team on Oceania Cruises

Once personal chef to Charles de Gaulle, Pepin is the talented French American celebrity chef who rose to fame cooking on TV with Julia Child.

Something else that whets our appetite: Every single plate is made-to-order.

That means your meal is given that extra bit of attention – which can make the difference from “okay” to “fresh from the sauté pan, piping hot, OMG this is delicious!”

Where are we going for dinner?

Tough decision!

On Oceania’s two newest ships – the 1,250-guest Marina and Riviera – five full-service restaurants serve different cuisines from around the world. (That’s in addition to the informal, inside or alfresco dining venues.)

And there’s no extra charge for the specialty restaurants.

Grand Dining Room:

It’s all fine dining in the Grand Dining Room…

Let’s start with the Grand Dining Room, the main restaurant on all ships, which serves Continental cuisine.

As befits a fine dining restaurant, tables are set with Versace bone china, Christofle silver and Riedel crystal.

The menu features four or five appetizers (you’ll find Sturgeon caviar), two soups, two or three salads, five or six main courses and three Jacques Pepin signature dishes (his French classic, five-peppercorn beef filet with a light brandy sauce, is always popular).

If you’re watching your waistline, Canyon Ranch spa selections are available too. (The steamed Maine lobster looks pretty yummy – and it’s only 330 calories.)

Toscana:

If you’re in the mood for Italian, you can indulge in your own 6-course menu at the Tuscan-inspired Toscana.

Begin perhaps with artichoke-and-parmesan cheese timbale with black truffle sauce. Then move on to a light Minestrone soup, followed by hand-rolled gnocchi in a creamy pesto sauce or fresh spinach fettucini with duckling ragu.

A Caesar salad prepared tableside then veal scaloppini should hit the spot as the fourth and fifth courses.

And for dessert, well, for us, it would have to be the classic Italian tiramisu.

best cruise for foodies
This tiramisu would finish off the meal nicely at Toscana!

Polo Grill:

Then there’s the Polo Grill.

Its high-back burgundy leather chairs and dark wood furnishings set the stage for a true steakhouse.

All the beef is USDA prime from Black Angus cattle, dry-aged for a minimum of 28 days.

Jacques:

Marina and Riviera have two additional specialty restaurants as well.

Jacques looks like a Parisian bistro, with heirloom antiques and art from Jacques Pepin’s own collection.

This is the place for frog legs, escargots with garlic butter, mussels in white wine, duck breast with orange sauce, lamb loin in a Cabernet Sauvignon sauce, and most everything else delicious to eat that’s French.

Cheeses are flown in from France.

And a custom rotisserie slowly turns roasted chicken, duck, pork, beef and veal.

Red Ginger:

Some guests say the Red Ginger restaurant on Marina and Riviera may be the finest Asian restaurant they’ve ever tried

Red Ginger is the most sought-after specialty restaurant. Indeed, it’s one of the best cruise ship restaurants!

Guests say it’s the equivalent of a delicious pan-Asian dining experience you’d find in San Francisco, New York or Seattle.

The food here is bold and spicy – caramelized tiger prawns, seared tuna with a sesame crust and wasabi cream, creative salads like spicy duck with watermelon and cashews.

Mmmm… Need we say more?

Culinary discovery tours

Eating is one pleasure; learning about different local culinary cultures is another.

With Oceania, you can delve into the food traditions of many of the destinations you visit on their popular culinary discovery tours.

First you get a little orientation about the local cuisine.

Then, accompanied by an Oceania chef instructor, you explore local food markets, restaurants, vineyards, farms and cooking schools.

Of course, some grazing and sampling is on the activity menu too.

When you stop at Marseilles, you stroll through the daily colorful market of nearby Aix-en-Provence, bursting with hand-made sausages, vegetables and cheeses, before being treated to a one-of-a-kind cooking demonstration by Michelin starred Chef Reine Sammut.

Then you get to eat what she’s whipped up.

In Catania (Italy), you learn how to make cannoli from a Sicilian pastry chef.

In Cozumel (Mexico), you visit a cacao plantation and see how chocolate is made.

And in Sydney (Australia), you buy fresh local oysters from the famous Sydney Fish Market.

Getting into the dough on a culinary discovery tour

Hands-on cooking school

Now, you’re probably keen to try preparing some of these wonderful dishes yourself, right?

Well, on Marina and Riviera, you can do just that at The Culinary Center – the first hands-on cooking school at sea.

Everyone has their own fully-equipped workstation. Roll up your sleeves, because you’re going to have fun mucking about with your hands!

Unlike some cooking schools at sea, at The Culinary Center you’re not only learning how to cook, you’re sipping wine, hearing personal stories from the chef and learning about the local cuisine.

Discover the secrets for making the perfect mojito, brush up on your knife skills, master the art of working with rice paper and revel in creating one of the most-requested desserts – the drunken limoncello cake.

Sadly, the only problem is that cooking back home is going to seem, well, boring, in comparison.

A cooking demonstration onboard Oceania Cruises
Let’s get cooking! An onboard demonstration

Personalized service

None of this would matter a whit, though, if the service was only so-so.

On Marina and Riviera, 800 crew members look after 1,250 guests. On Oceania’s four other smaller ships, there are 400 crew for just 680 guests.

That staff-to-guest ratio is pretty high.

We hear they remember your name and your likes and dislikes.

Seating is open at all restaurants – dine at the time you want.

Dining service on Oceania Cruises
Expect excellent service on Oceania Cruises

And if you want a romantic table for two, just ask. (No being forced to sit with that dreadful couple from New York, or was it Toronto?)

Oh, and the butlers – yes, suite guests have butlers – are trained by the Guild of Professional English Butlers, which certifies staff for the royal palaces of Britain.

Cruise line with best food? Maybe!

Okay. We’re convinced that Oceania offers some of the best cruises for food lovers – perhaps even the best cruise for foodies?

So we’re ready to twirl chopsticks and use lobster forks on Oceania Cruises! How about you?


Photo credits: Oceania Cruises (except #7)


Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with Oceania Cruises and the SheSavvy Influence Network. All opinions (and drooling), however, are our own.


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews and information, insanely useful travel tips and more!

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Olga o Flores

Friday 9th of August 2019

We are traveling to Dubai for a 30 days cruise! Beginning from Dubai and finishing in Cape Town. Going to be 12/7 until 1/7/2020! Any advice from people who have already been on this cruise? This will be our first time with Oceania! We cruise most of the time with Holland America and with Princess (very disappointed with princess).

Janice and George

Saturday 10th of August 2019

Oh, you'll be happy :-). Here's what Frommers says about Oceania and how it compares to HAL and Princess. And here are some CruiseCritic comments on Oceania vs Holland America.

Your one-month itinerary sounds fabulous too! Maybe add on a safari in South Africa too at the end of your cruise? See our post on A Big 5 Safari in Sabi Sands Game Reserve.

Enjoy!

Irene S. Levine

Wednesday 2nd of August 2017

Not only did you make me hungry but you made me yearn to sail on Oceania again! Definitely a great line for food enthusiasts!

Janice and George

Wednesday 2nd of August 2017

And who isn't a food enthusiast!