Mistakes Made by a Rookie Cruiser

I cruised. I ate. I devoured. That’s basically the end of the story for this blog. I mean, if you’ve ever been on a cruise, what other descriptors are there?

But alas, to make this blog count, I’ve got to add in a few more adjectives, have a denouement, and insert some pictures.

I cruised on Oceania’s Riviera, its maiden voyage of all trips. And in a bout of fitted irony, ’twas mine and my husband’s maiden voyage about any cruise line, too. Both born and raised in Florida, it never really occurred to us to try cruising before. We enjoy traveling and dining, but cruising? If you’re going to travel, why not just book a hotel and spend lengthy time in one city instead? To me, cruising seemed a holed-up vat where cabin fever permeates – a prison on the water, if you will – and the sin of gluttony and gross overeating seemed the norm. Oh, how I was wrong. Sort of.

We traveled on the newest ship out of Oceania’s entire fleet, Riviera, a mid-size upper-premium ship with 1,250 occupancy and 15 total decks (16, if you add in this shorter platform). It was a Mediterranean itinerary: first Monte Carlo, then Marseilles, Valencia, Barcelona and ending in Venice. And here I was with Cruising Rookie Mistake #1, thinking cruises only went to the Bahamas, Caribbean or Alaska.

Before I left for the cruise, a friend who’s been known to cruise here and there asked me if I was excited for the cruise’s “formal” night. What the hell is formal night, I thought. So I thought to pack an elegant dress and asked my husband to bring a formal suit. And here’s where Rookie Mistake #2 occurs.

Even though it was my first cruise, I quickly learned Riviera and Oceania are not pedestrian cruising concepts. Deleted are the hokey cruise concepts of photographers taking your photo, sometimes interrupting your meal, at every waking moment as well as this whole formal night idea. Because guests aboard Riviera do the black-tie thing on a normal basis while on land and get their photos taken regularly for functions they are board members of, those things are no longer special or rare occasions – in fact, it gets annoying to guests of this demographic. So, no official formal night for this cruise.

This ship is touted as a cruise for foodies, an epicurean’s dream boat. And, boy, was it. Enter stage right: gluttony. But at least it’s gluttony of the Chef Jacques Pepin variety. Pepin, the famous French chef who I watched as a child pairing up with Julia Childs for her weekend PBS show, has a restaurant aboard the ship. His restaurant is among four speciality dining options on Riviera, the others being Red Ginger (Asian-fusion cuisine), Polo Grill (steak house) and Toscana (Italian). Beyond that are six open-seating gourmet restaurants that make other cruise line restaurants pale. And naturally, here’s where Rookie Mistake #3 happens.

You know the feeling when you were a kid who got a new toy and just got fixated with it and wanted to just sit and play with it all day long? That’s kind of the same feeling I got with the restaurants: I just wanted to sit down and eat everything in sight. And, sadly, I did. The Waves Grill was easily one of my favorite restaurants. A country-club-elegant restaurant with open seating, there were multiple buffet bars with plenty of servers ready to plop delicious gourmet food on your plate. So what else could I do but eat and eat and eat? If the measurement of a great cruise is determined by the amount of body weight gained from it, then our first expedition was successful.

Alas, I hope to learn from all my cruising mistakes and commit less errors on my next one. But, somehow I feel Rookie Mistake #3 is one I’ll fall ill to time and time again.

A modified Surf N Turf at Polo Grill: I ordered my Maine lobster with a 14 oz. free-range Iberico de Bellota Pork T-bone. And you bet I finished it.

The husband order this speciality dish at Polo Grill: a 6 oz. Wagyu beef burger with foie gras and truffle on top.

Polo Grill’s best starter was a roasted beetroot and garlic goat cheese Napolean with champagne and truffle vinaigrette.

Easily my favorite salad, this watermelon and spicy duck dish at Red Ginger was the perfect combination of a juxtaposed texture of soft and crunchy.

The Mille Feuille at Jacques was composed right in front of us by the restaurant’s pastry chef.

Hola, Riviera! Docked in Barcelona, this photo was taken a few minutes before it was to be christened by its godmother, Chef Cat Cora.

How cool was this ship? It even had an original Picasso painting hanging on its walls.

I was lucky enough to take a culinary class aboard the ship’s Bon Appetit’s Culinary Center. On the menu: frittata.


2 responses to “Mistakes Made by a Rookie Cruiser

    • Hahaha! Thanks for the comment, Laurie. Now I’m off to working off the excess weight I’ve gained from the cruise…

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