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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

At Sea with Sirena

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Against a cultural backdrop of tapas, La Sagrada Familia, Picasso and Gaudi’s Parc Guell, 684 passengers eagerly awaited their turn to board Sirena, Oceania Cruises’ newest ship, for her inaugural voyage. On that day, April 27, 2016, she officially joined the premium cruise company’s fleet of small to mid-sized ships, known for their casual elegance, attentive customer service and excellent cuisine. Thus, when those passengers embarked from the dock in Barcelona, Spain, they stepped into a pristine vessel that had been completely gutted and entirely redesigned to match Oceania’s five-star standard of excellence — with a few key differences: revamped suites and public spaces, a line-up of fresh destinations, and new dining options exclusive to Sirena. 

Your Sanctuary
Like its sister ships, Sirena’s suites and staterooms capture the warm, casual ambiance associated with Oceania Cruises. The restyled modern décor features clean lines, accents of dark wood and custom-designed Ultra Tranquility Beds dressed in 1,000-thread-count linens that feel as heavenly as taking a nap. Inspired by the shades of the sea, a neutral color palette brings a sense of order and calm to each room. Plush robes hang in the closets, inviting you to put one on and start relaxing. More than 70 percent of the rooms have an ocean view or a teak veranda where you can recline and literally watch the world go by.

Perhaps the most significant changes, however, are evident in the Owner’s Suites and Vista Suites, palatial residences that resemble small, urban apartments, complete with second baths and dining areas to comfortably accommodate in-suite meals. Enjoy contemporary custom-made furnishings and a renovated master bathroom featuring Italian marble, an oversized shower and a new collection of Bulgari bath amenities. All passengers, regardless of booking class, receive complimentary Bulgari shampoo, conditioner, lotion and personal products, but this latest assortment allows only guests staying at the Concierge Level or higher to choose from a variety of Bulgari tea-scented bath items, including The Blu, a new scent limited to Oceania. 

Sirena’s common areas retain signature design elements popular on its sister ships, such as a Grand Staircase, but also integrate new looks in lounges and other public spaces, including the upper decks. In these areas, often open to the sun, designers paired gleaming teak wood with custom stone and tile work to create upscale outdoor spaces.  

World Traveler
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; La Paz, Mexico; Gaeta, Italy — because of the smaller size of Oceania’s ships, they can sail up rivers and into narrower, shallower waters as well as navigate the world’s largest oceans. That kind of flexibility means you can disembark in off-the-beaten-path ports of call to hike up to the Afareaitu Waterfalls in Moorea, admire the lush Costa Rican rainforest in Golfito, or view Canada’s vibrant fall foliage at Sept-Iles, Quebec, located at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. Longer voyages and special value packages mean you can include an African land safari at several ports along the edge of South Africa, including Cape Town, or tour the Great Wall of China on a cruise that calls in China.

Specifically, Sirena, in her inaugural year, will sail like a nomad. She cruises from Europe to the United States, taking in autumn’s splendor on America’s East Coast, then suns herself (and her passengers) for the winter in the Caribbean. On the “Pacific Holidays” journey, she wends her way from Miami to Los Angeles byway of the iconic Panama Canal before steering toward the South Pacific to embark on some never-been-done itineraries in Australia and New Zealand. Between March 6 and April 9, 2017, you can spend 34 days circumnavigating Australia as part of the “Southern Cross Sojourn,” calling in boutique ports, many of them virgin stops for Oceania Cruises. View the gurgling mud pools and spewing geysers at Alotau, Papua New Guinea; ride a camel across famous Cable Beach in Broome, Australia; and tuck into one of Australia’s hidden gems, Penneshaw, the gateway to Kangaroo Island, to experience a dramatic landscape filled with cliffs shaped by the sea, leafy eucalyptus forests, fairy penguins and all the koalas, kangaroos, and fur seals that live there. The intimacy of Sirena means that you may not have to disembark at all to appreciate the beauty of her exotic ports. Simply relax on your veranda or beside a window in one of the lounges, a glass of Australian shiraz in hand, and watch as the waves tumble against the nearby golden beaches.

The Finest Cuisine at Sea™
World-class cuisine has been part of Oceania Cruises’ mission and promise since its first sailing in 2002. That hallmark extends to Sirena, except that her delivery is different. She introduces two new ways to savor “the finest cuisine at sea” with the debut of two new specialty restaurants Tuscan Steak and Red Ginger and the lunchtime transformation of the Grand Dining Room into Jacques Bistro, which will offer a seasonal mix of masterchef Jacques Pépin’s legendary French recipes. 

As executive culinary director, Pépin inspires everything gastronomic across the fleet, including the fare served at the two latest specialty restaurants. Tuscan Steak, an entirely new concept influenced by Oceania Cruises’ traditional steak house, Polo Grill, and its Italian restaurant, Toscana, features succulent steaks and seafood infused with the tastes of Tuscany. Bite into a tender piece of the signature porterhouse, bistecca alla fiorentina, to understand how well the flavors of Italy complement American beef. Selections from the wine cellar, often complete with vintages from the destinations on your itinerary, cap the experience.

On another night, try Red Ginger, a beloved contemporary Asian-inspired restaurant also available on Marina and Riviera. The eatery’s décor—red crystal chandeliers, ebony wood furnishings and modern Asian artwork—all a study in feng shui—complement the Pan-Asian menu. 

“For us, it’s not what we enjoy serving, it’s what our guests enjoy eating,” says Franck Garanger, culinary director for Oceania Cruises, “and each of these two restaurants offers a collection of truly exquisite cuisine … Guests adore the Maine lobster fra diavolo at Tuscan Steak, and the Miso Glazed Sea Bass at Red Ginger is a beloved guest favorite.”

Regardless of the restaurant or style of food you choose onboard—Continental dishes served in the Grand Dining Room during breakfast and dinner; made-to-order gourmet burgers at Waves Grill; and pizza, sushi, or even succulent lobster tail at the alfresco Terrace Café—you can be sure that the pledge of fine cuisine is in practice. In fact, the cruise line is so passionate about sharing supreme food with you, its guests, that none of the restaurants have supplemental dining charges and all of them offer open-seating dining, which means you are not locked into a particular table at a particular dining time. You may dine when and where you choose, although reservations are recommended.

“To deliver the finest cuisine at sea, we start by providing our chefs with the highest quality, freshest ingredients possible,” Garanger explains. “That means we import flour and butter from France so we can prepare incredible bread onboard; we serve locally caught fish so it’s always fresh and utilize the world’s finest chocolates to develop our decadent desserts. Shaping these ingredients into exquisite meals for our guests is a core group of extremely talented, Michelin-star quality chefs – many of which have been with Oceania Cruises for many years. The kitchens themselves are state-of-the-art and some of the most spacious at sea. Much like a great recipe, the combination of all of these ingredients help us deliver an unrivalled culinary experience on Oceania Cruises.”

Oceania Cruises, and Sirena in particular, are clearly the cruising choice for foodies, but, as those passengers on the ship’s inaugural voyage from Barcelona to Venice, Italy, can attest, they are also the choice for travelers seeking a premium cruise experience when value, a sophisticated atmosphere and authentic, unusual destinations are on the vacation menu. 

As executive culinary director, Pépin inspires everything gastronomic across the fleet, including the fare served at the two latest specialty restaurants. Tuscan Steak, an entirely new concept influenced by Oceania Cruises’ traditional steak house, Polo Grill, and its Italian restaurant, Toscana, features succulent steaks and seafood infused with the tastes of Tuscany. Bite into a tender piece of the signature porterhouse, bistecca alla fiorentina, to understand how well the flavors of Italy complement American beef. Selections from the wine cellar, often complete with vintages from the destinations on your itinerary, cap the experience.

On another night, try Red Ginger, a beloved contemporary Asian-inspired restaurant also available on Marina and Riviera. The eatery’s décor — red crystal chandeliers, ebony wood furnishings and modern Asian artwork — all a study in feng shui — complement the pan-Asian menu. 

Regardless of the restaurant or style of food you choose onboard — continental dishes served in the Grand Dining Room during breakfast and dinner; made-to-order gourmet burgers at Waves Grill; and pizza, sushi, or even succulent lobster tail at the alfresco Terrace Café — you can be sure that the pledge of fine cuisine is in practice. In fact, the cruise line is so passionate about sharing supreme food with you, its guests, that none of the restaurants have supplemental dining charges and all of them offer open-seating dining, which means you are not locked into a particular table at a particular dining time. You may dine when and where you choose, although reservations are recommended.

“To deliver the finest cuisine at sea, we start by providing our chefs with the highest quality, freshest ingredients possible,” Garanger explains. “That means we import flour and butter from France so we can prepare incredible bread onboard; we serve locally caught fish so it’s always fresh and utilize the world’s finest chocolates to develop our decadent desserts. Shaping these ingredients into exquisite meals for our guests is a core group of extremely talented, Michelin-star quality chefs — many of which have been with Oceania Cruises for many years. The kitchens themselves are state-of-the-art and some of the most spacious at sea. Much like a great recipe, the combination of all of these ingredients help us deliver an unrivalled culinary experience on Oceania Cruises.”

Oceania Cruises, and Sirena in particular, are clearly the cruising choice for foodies, but, as those passengers on the ship’s inaugural voyage from Barcelona to Venice, Italy, can attest, they are also the choice for travelers seeking a premium cruise experience when value, a sophisticated atmosphere and authentic, unusual destinations are on the vacation menu.  

Are you imagining yourself on an Oceania cruise? Call 1-800-750-5386 or visit your AAA office to speak with a AAA Travel Specialist and live your dreams. 

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