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When I first saw Oceania Cruises’ Marina, I knew it would be a great venue for a culinary-themed sailing. After months of planning and working with my inside representative at Oceania, I was able to organize a fabulous Chef’s Charity Cruise for 24 clients. Southwest regional sales director, Dave Socha, was extremely helpful in working out all the details along the way.
We sailed on the 10-night Mediterranean Mosaic itinerary departing April 26, from Rome to Venice, Italy, and it was so successful that I have reserved next year’s cruise with the same chef — Giuseppe Di Gristina from Ravioli’s Osteria in Murrieta, Calif. I’m confident that we will book at least 48 clients on the next cruise.
This year, we raised money for Michelle’s Place, a breast cancer resource center in Temecula, Calif. Oceania donated $100 per cabin, and our group was able to raise a total $2,200 in the end. Chef Giuseppe presented the check to Michelle’s Place on July 12, and I spoke with the local radio, newspapers, etc. — it was a big success. Next year, we will raise funds for the Special Olympics.
Among the events that made this such a great experience was a two-hour culinary session in the Jacques Pepin Culinary Center. Everyone enjoyed learning all the secrets of preparing one of Chef Giuseppe’s signature dishes while sipping complimentary wine. Those who didn’t want to participate could watch from the sidelines. The Jacques Pepin Culinary Center is a private enclosed venue (the Marina’s 24 cook stations guarantee exclusivity, a good thing for promotion), but the rest of the passengers could take a peek from the outside, which made them curious about what was taking place. Chef Giuseppe provided all participants with an apron bearing his restaurant’s logo and tote bags to take home.
I also arranged a private cocktail party, prepaid gratuities and a $150 onboard credit. Throughout the cruise, our guests were surprised with pillow gifts from the chef and me.
The Marina is beautiful, with large staterooms, a Lalique crystal staircase, a multi-million-dollar art collection and gourmet food in all 10 open-seating restaurants (guests could even snack on a steak and lobster sandwich at the Terrace Grill). Several members of our group experienced the La Reserve wine pairing option onboard. Group members also tried the many restaurant venues, but we all got together for dinner in the Polo Grill.
The ports were great — we saw everything from the statue of David and the Leaning Tower of Pisa to Mount Etna and Pompeii. We also listened to a small orchestra in St. Marks Square in Venice, rode in a gondola, gambled in Monte Carlo, visited the land of the Godfather, walked all the walled villages and sipped wine along the way.
And before the cruise, I organized a seven-hour private tour of Rome. Our group saw all of the hot spots: the Vatican, St. Peters Basilica, Trevi Fountain, the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, Spanish Steps and the Pantheon.