Caroline Hurry
Caroline Hurry

Get on board in November for some Mediterranean Magic, writes CAROLINE HURRY

Meet Riet “Pronounce my surname right and win a free Oceania cruise” Goetschalckx. Damn! Having fallen irrevocably in love with the Oceania Riviera since enjoying her maiden voyage to Venice in 2012, I can’t think of anything I’d like more, but “Goet Schlax” doesn’t cut it. Perhaps you need to be half Dutch and half Belgian like Ms Goetschalckx to get it right, first time.

Riet Goetschalckx, sales and brand manager for Oceania Cruises.
Riet Goetschalckx, sales and brand manager for Oceania Cruises.

“Just call me Riet,” says the vivacious brand manager for Oceania Cruises, aka the best job in the world. Riet Goetschalckx has worked for other luxury cruise lines but only Oceania “still sparks so much passion in me”.

I can only agree. From the first time I stepped up the gangway of this floating skyscraper at the Monte Carlo harbour across the way from the Grimaldi palace, I was smitten. Within the Riviera is a hushed new world of silent elevators, uniformed crew, muted hues, and soft murmurings.

George Cruises Int
The inspirational George Argyropoulos.

Watching Riet Goetschalckx present the opulent and extravagant Oceania fleet to a small press gathering at Rosa, The Palazzo, Montecasino – hosted by the inspirational George Argyropoulos, owner of Cruises International which represent Oceania and other luxury cruise lines in South Africa – transported me back to 2012 when Bvlgari toiletries and a butler made me feel like royalty. Thomas Beuermann, our German concierge, left the impression he could procure for you at a nod, the Queen of Sheba’s left earring if you so desired. How I miss him!

The Polo Grill restaurant.
The Polo Grill restaurant.

As Riet Goetschalckx pointed out, any Oceania ship is about class, elegance, and oh, the food! The food! You have never! Gourmet restaurants, all offering lobster every night if you like – all included in the price.

I began to slaver as I recalled the Whole Maine Lobster in the Polo Grill washed down with copious amounts of delicious Merlot one night, Asian sushi at Red Ginger another, and sophisticated Parisian food at Jacques, named after Master Chef Jacques Pepin, who has cooked for three state presidents, the next.

Red Ginger, an Asian fusion restaurant aboard the Oceania Riviera.
Red Ginger, an Asian fusion restaurant aboard the Oceania Riviera.

I was lucky enough to meet Oceania owner and CEO Frank J Del Rio, who had us in stitches as he described repelling pirates with some sort of low frequency device. A good thing too because the artwork on the Oceania Riviera is worth millions of dollars, including 16 Picasso’s – one in the women’s loo on the sixth deck.

CEO Frank Del Rio shows us the pristine galley for Jacques Restaurant. Picture: Caroline Hurry
CEO Frank Del Rio shows us the pristine galley for Jacques Restaurant.

Why hang an original Picasso in the toilet? Because I can, replied Del Rio.

I adored my stateroom with balcony where I spent many an afternoon gazing out at the ocean before a spot of high tea at Horizons where a classical string quartet provided an aural backdrop to the prodigious pastry talents of the chefs.

Was there a fitness centre? I really don’t remember. What I do recall is wanting never to have to disembark. Indeed, finally being wrenched away from this enchantress of the sea was almost a traumatic experience for me.

  • On a brighter note, here are two special Oceania Mediterranean voyages for November this year, hosted by legendary chef Jacques Pépin.
High tea at Horizons
High tea at Horizons
  • Jacques Pépin, Executive Culinary Director for Oceania Cruises, will host the Venice to Rome voyage on board the 1,250-guest luxury Marina on November 1. The 10-day cruise encompasses specially designed menus in the restaurants, epicurean-infused shore excursions and hands-on culinary instruction highlighting Pépin’s signature style.
  • The next sailing will host the 13th annual Oceania Cruises Reunion Cruise.  Departing on November 11 this Rome to Lisbon voyage will visit eight ports in Italy, Monaco, Spain, Gibraltar and the French Riviera.  The voyage is open to all guests, but offers premium amenities for Oceania Club members, or past guests of Oceania Cruises.
  • Extras for Oceania Club members include special cocktail parties, celebratory dinners, wine-pairing events in La Reserve by Wine Spectator, exclusive shore excursions, a reunion cruise gift and other surprises.
  • Cruise fares for the Jacques Pepin Cruise and Reunion Cruise start from €2399 per person, including all meals on board, bottled water and soft drinks. Oceania Cruises also developed an Extended Journey option for guests looking to experience both the Jacques Pépin Cruise and Reunion Cruise.  The 20-night sailing provides additional savings for guests with cruise fares starting at €4559 per guest.