Oceania Cruises' Riviera Breaks Godmother Tradition

| Monday, 05 Mar. 2012

Oceania Cruises is putting its money where its mouth is. Or rather, where passengers' mouths are headed. Which, onboard the new 1,250-passenger Riviera, are toward a stellar chowfest on a foodie fantasy ship.

Oceania just revealed the vessel's godmother for the May 11, 2012 christening ceremony in Barcelona - and it's Cat Cora, a chef. That's right, no superstar singer like Mariah Carey, who did the honors for Disney's Fantasy last week. Not even some Tony-or-Oscar-winning actress. A chef. Actually, an Iron Chef.

Cat Cora made television history as the first – and only – female Iron Chef on Food Network's iconic Iron Chef America. This May, Cora's television star shines anew; she's co-hosting Bravo's new series Around the World in 80 Plates. (Actually, that sounds more like the title of a food-lover's diary on a world cruise.)

Cora also has her whisks in four restaurants, including Cat Cora's Kitchen, in San Francisco and Houston, with a third CCK location opening at Salt Lake City International Airport next month. And, like all celebrity chefs, she has penned best-selling cookbooks. And, of course, olive oils, vinegars, sauces, wine and cookware with her name on it abound. It's de rigueur for star chefs, these days.

So even if we can't all go to the no-holds-barred, invitation-only christening ceremony (for which they will be breaking a 15-liter Nebuchadnezzar of champagne, custom-made by Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin), we can watch Cora on television, dine in her restaurants and buy her wares.

I must add that Cora is committed to philanthropy – one more reason why Oceania Cruises selected her for this christening honor. She is the president and founder of Chefs for Humanity, an organization Cora began in response to the devastating tsunami that struck Indonesia in 2004. This organization is dedicated to reducing hunger worldwide by supporting humanitarian relief and promoting nutritional education.

Choosing a chef as godmother for this food-devoted vessel makes perfect sense. Riviera, the second new ship launched by Oceania Cruises in under 18 months, is a sister-ship to Marina. I've sailed Marina and it's a game-changer in the culinary world. Like the Marina, Riviera was built from the ground-up for epicureans. This upper-premium ship has 10 dining venues; six are gourmet.

I don't use the word "gourmet" loosely. The quality of ingredients - think Maine lobster, Vahrhona chocolate - excel. The bread alone – made from provincial French flour using exacting master baker techniques – is reason enough for a sail. And each restaurant has a singular identity. For instance, in Toscana, waiters bring carts filled with regional Italian olive oils and vinegars, which have their own menu.

The ship's Bon Appétit Culinary Center is a state-of-the-art hands-on cooking school led by expert chef instructors. That means they know not only how to cook, but more importantly, how to teach. You will learn critical technical skills and how to prepare recipes that work for the home cook.

After the Christening Cruise concludes in Venice, Riviera sets sail on May 16 on a 10-day maiden voyage from Venice to Athens.

I'm betting Riviera will be as popular as Marina, and a third ship of this class will soon make it a trio. Hmmm, time to sharpen my knives and second-guess whom the next chef godmother will be. Thoughts, anyone? (OceaniaCruises.com)

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