Piazza dell’Unita d’Italia is Italy’s largest square overlooking the sea. The expanse in front of Trieste’s 19th-century Palazzo del Municipio offers an elevated view of the Gulf of Venice in the blue Adriatic Sea, and over a glass of red wine one can imagine the future that awaits over 10 days aboard the cruise ship Oceania on below Wait. And then sleep and dream about it.
“Trieste is a beautiful city that has a lot to offer from a historical point of view. Stroll and explore,” advises Andrea Grisdale, Founder of IC Bellagio, Italy’s leading travel consultant for bespoke travel.
In the morning I had to remind myself to eat just a cautious “colazione” at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in central Trieste – where it would have been easy at the Novecentro restaurant to overeat at their lavish Italian breakfast buffet of meat, cheese, eggs, Ricotta pancakes, brioches, thick hot chocolate and more. But I was within an hour to board the bus to the Riviera — and it would be silly to take a full stomach aboard an Oceania cruise ship.
I sipped a cappucino and listened to the other patrons, who were already getting to know each other and making small talk, since almost everyone in the restaurant was American and was also traveling for 10 days aboard a 10-year-old, but newly renovated, 784-foot ship. With a maximum guest capacity of just 1,238 in the Ralph Lauren Home-designed suites aboard the luxury liner, they’d likely dine together again at some point. Or they share together breathtaking shore excursions that they will remember in their own individual way: the antiquities of Croatia, Montenegro, the Greek Islands, Athens and Turkiyes Ephesus and Istanbul awaited them.
This type of cruise is as adventurous as most adults, so yes, everyone loved it. So I pushed the cappuccino aside and poured myself a Prosecco – it was like Christmas – a morning to celebrate!
Prosecco is made in the countryside near Venice and it was sweet to drink, but it didn’t hint at a shore excursion – instead an onboard option I was looking forward to: The Dom Perignon Experience! It’s a culinary experience at the ship’s gourmet restaurant La Reserve, pairing each of the six courses with different vintages of the famous champagne. Lobster, Wagyu beef and caviar with the popular bubbly, thanks to an Oceania Cruises partnership with Moet & Chandon and Wine Spectator magazine.
If that’s not enough, you can enjoy a traditional seven-course wine-pairing dinner from La Cuisine Bourgeoise, designed by world-renowned French chef Jacques Pepin, culinary celebrity and Chief Culinary Director of Oceania.
“It takes love to create extraordinary dishes,” said Pepin. “One cannot cook indifferently.”
Pepin’s cooking traditions date back to the mid-19th centurythCentury in France, and this particular Oceania cruise offered numerous cultural land-based cooking experiences in different countries. In Split, Croatia, we sampled Dalmatian bites in a setting of Renaissance, Baroque, and Romanesque architecture. Smoked ham and cheese near the 12th-century St. Tryphon’s Cathedral in the UNESCO-listed Walled Old Town of Kotor, Montenegro. A port visit to Greek Santorini offered a tour of Venetsanos winery; Snacks on Mykonos arrived in an idyllic bay aboard a small boat on the island of Rhenia.
Oceanic guests were able to tour the Acropolis and Parthenon in historic Athens in small groups. Landing at Ephesus was to see the last home of the Virgin Mary; Istanbul meant multi-religious historical experiences of former Constantinople at the inspirational Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, as well as a taste of and a foot in Asia and Europe before the bustling 4,000-shop Grand Bazar.
“Istanbul is a center of world history. Napoleon said, “If the world had a capital city, it would be Constantinople,” said Patrick Anderson, CEO of Anderson Economic Group, who visits Turkiye frequently. “You are also in the footsteps of Alexander the Great and St. Paul.”
The shore excursions on offer were varied to suit all tastes, pardon the pun. Plus options for level of physical ability or inclination.
“I’ve been on a number of cruises, but none of them compare to this level,” said Dennis Bialecki, a retired businessman from Toledo who is a sailor himself.
Based in Miami, Oceania Cruises offers a variety of seven sea itineraries each year.
Contact Michael Patrick Shiels atMShiels@aol.com His radio schedule can be found on MiBigShow.com or on WJIM AM 1240 weekday mornings from 9am
Michael Patrick Schiels
Syndicated talk show host and travel writer
(248) 866 4965