In Barcelona, I’m onboard the 66,084-ton, 1,250-passenger Riviera, the newest ship from luxury-mainstream straddlers Oceania Cruises. In preparation for Friday’s christening ceremony, our dock is literally ringing with the sounds of hammers and chisels as workers install stages, lighting towers and a massive flat-screen television to create a mini-arena.
No doubt the star of tomorrow’s festivities will be Riviera’s godmother, “Iron Chef” Cat Cora. A chef is a fitting pick for a line that’s one of the most passionate in cruising when it comes to the culinary arts (whether it’s about eating food or cooking it in the Bon Appetit Culinary Center). Indeed, Oceania takes cuisine so seriously that its two new-builds (sister ship Marina debuted in January 2011) are often described as “the world’s largest floating galleys.”
But I’ll be honest: I’m not a huge Food Network devotee and, at first, it seemed to me that Riviera’s godmom should’ve been someone who’s famous in the culinary world for more than just dexterity in TV cooking competitions. On a ship in which the inimitable Jacques Pepin, the French superstar chef, not only oversees all its cuisine but operates his own eponymous restaurant, wouldn’t Alice Waters, the Julia Child of our time, actually be a more appropriate match?
Maybe not. The more I learned about Cora, the more the pick made sense. As host of the brand new “Around the World in 80 Plates” reality show, an “Amazing Race”-esque series on Bravo in which 12 chefs will compete across 10 countries in 44 days, Cora has proven she’s got traveling chops. That’s an important quality for a godmother on a cruise line that sails around the globe, focusing on destination-intensive itineraries.
And the mother of four is feisty, just like Oceania, an upstart line which in the nine years since its founding has carved out an identity for its style of hybrid luxury and its hedonist approach to food and drink. So what was I thinking? This sounds like a perfect match to me.
Stay tuned for reports from Oceania Riviera, including tomorrow’s christening in Barcelona.
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