In an industry noted for its culinary credentials, Oceania Cruises likes to think of itself as the ultimate cruise line for foodies. On Oceania Marina, every mealtime becomes something of a gastronomic blowout and with nine venues to choose from (with all but two being complimentary), guests can savour a mouthwatering mix of dining styles and flavours. For EMEA managing director and senior vice president Bernard Carter, Oceania’s epicurean attributes are a vital part of its appeal that he relishes in a professional and personal capacity. Admitting that his favourite restaurant is Red Ginger, with dishes including tuna tataki, lobster pad Thai and beef teriyaki, he adds: “I always try to get more than one visit to Red Ginger when I cruise – the choices are all amazing, and the whole experience is pure theatre.”
The Grand Dining Room
Best for: Quintessential glamour and eclectic menus
I love the sweeping entrance to the restaurant that lives up to its name, giving every guest that red carpet feeling as they walk into the palatial-style surroundings. Lined with uniformed waiting staff ready to escort you to your table, it is easily one of the most elegant main dining rooms on the high seas. Oozing classic style with a vast glittering chandelier at its heart, the ivory and taupe surroundings lend a sense of occasion. The menu is expansive with food and wine pairings, ‘global cuisine’ options, healthy Vitality bites and international dishes including lobster bisque, roasted butternut squash and delicious beef bourguignon.
Best for: Exquisite Asian classics with a contemporary twist
My favourite restaurant afloat and, in my opinion, the piece de resistance of Marina’s culinary line-up. The dark, moody interior of black ebony wood punctuated with scarlet leather chairs and modern Asian artworks adds to the atmospheric feel. I opt for the wonderfully piquant duck and watermelon salad, followed by the restaurant’s most popular dish, Miso glazed black cod that literally melts in the mouth. This combination is rounded off with Japanese togarashi ice cream, which is topped with chilli salt for a tangy kick.
Best for: North Italian homespun cuisine with a sophisticated sheen
Located at the ship’s aft across one side of deck 14, this Italian speciality venue focuses on Tuscan fare. Décor is light and airy and tables look fabulously stylish, with custom-designed Versace china adding a salubrious feel to each place setting. With a fulsome selection of fresh breads, including focaccia and ciabatta, there’s even a menu of virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars to accompany them. It’s a tempting combination, but don’t fall into the trap of over-indulging and spoiling your appetite for beautifully-presented Tuscan treats such as tender beef carpaccio, fried calamari and lobster risotto.
Best for: Prime steakhouse fare and impressive trimmings
Stretching across the other side of deck 14 as a mirror image to Toscana, this has the air of a cosy gentleman’s club with dark woods and plush leather seats. As you might expect, there’s a gut-busting selection of steaks to tuck into, from a giant 32 ounce prime rib to a surf and turf combination and Cajun-style blackened salmon. But that’s not all – a tantalising line-up of side dishes including lobster mac and cheese, roasted garlic or truffle mash and crispy onion rings, prompts such a dilemma that the only solution is to order for the table so everyone can share the veritable feast.
Best for: French favourites with a cosmopolitan flourish
There’s oodles of Gallic flair about this enclave, modelled on a Parisian bistro and named after French celebrity chef Jacques Pepin, who is Oceania’s executive culinary director. Diners can tuck into classic dishes including terrines, tartlets and Gallic classics such as escargots, foie gras and bouillabaisse. There’s a rich profusion of choices with rotisserie meats, a fish section of the menu that includes lobster thermidor, a trolley-full of French cheeses and sweet-toothed temptations including rum baba, tarte aux pommes and crème brûlée.
Best for: A gastronomic celebration of haute cuisine and fine wines
One of two dining venues commanding a fee (the other is the Privée exclusive dining restaurant). Its full title – La Reserve by Wine Spectator – reflects the food and wine pairing feasts guests can indulge in, with three options offered. Ours is a seven-course extravaganza, La Cuisine Bourgeoise, designed by Jacques Pepin and costing £87pp, with dishes including Maine lobster and cheese soufflé, Dover sole fillet with French black truffles and roasted beef tenderloin. After just a few courses I am full to bursting and fall hopelessly behind on the wine servings that accompany every course, but this is ideal for gourmands with large appetites.