Good Food on a Greek Island Cruise

The food choices on Oceania's Riviera cruise ship were varied and superb

Octopus, Veal Wellington, and Sweet Tomatoes on a Greek Island Voyage

Many believe that cruise lines have mediocre food that tends to leave people feeling heavy and bloated. That couldn’t be farther from the truth, at least when you embark on a journey with Oceania Cruises. This luxury cruise line travels around the globe, exposing passengers to different countries and cultures while serving up some of the most tremendously delectable dishes — so good that they'll have you signing up for the cooking classes offered aboard the ship so as to learn their culinary secrets.

In fact, Oceania Cruises has an actual cooking school, The Culinary Center, nestled into one of the many floors of the Riviera cruise ship. Though it may be hard to peel yourself off one of the ship's luxuriously comfortable poolside lounge chairs as you soak up the ocean air, the second you smell the aromas coming from the cooking school, you will no doubt be craving some time inside. That being said, if you do sign up for cooking classes aboard Oceania Cruises, you will, of course, spend time in the kitchen, cooking up some of the local specialty dishes, but you will also be able to accompany the master chefs, who are also your teachers, as they pick out fresh, local ingredients ashore at select ports during your trip.

If you’re not so much a fan of cooking, yet enjoy, say, a thick slice of pasture-raised pork drizzled with a wine-infused butter sauce and served with truffle mashed potatoes and baby grilled vegetables, then you’re certainly in luck because the Riviera boasts nine exquisite restaurants — Toscana, Jacques (supervised by famed master chef Jacques Pépin), Terrace Café, La Réserve, Red Ginger, Privée, The Polo Grill, The Grand Dining Room, and Waves Grill — that will undoubtedly cater to every palate (including those with food allergies and intolerances). 


Jacques: Chilean Sea Bass With a Poached Egg and Capers

Chilean sea bass is "the butter of the sea" and can be compared to black cod, however, it's far richer in flavor. When paired with a poached egg, the flavor escalates to whole new heights and the caper addition adds a wonderful salt component that completes the dish beautifully. 

Jacques: Crispy Skin Branzino With Baby Vegetables, and Pea and Parsnip Purée

At first glance, this dish looks like a fancy plate of pita and dip — but that "pita" is actually flawlessly prepared branzino, a Mediterranean fish that has a light, delicate flavor that worked marvelously with the garlic-infused purées served alongside. 

La Réserve: Baby Scallop Teriyaki Seared on Riverstone

A picture speaks 1,000 words when it comes to describing how this scallop tasted. This was the dish that the diners who enjoyed it continually discussed for the rest of the cruise. 

La Réserve: Maine Lobster Cassolette With Tarragon and Sea Urchin Bisque

Sea urchin is not something everyone's taste buds are fond of, thanks to its interesting custard-like texture and briny flavor, but when it's combined with the robust flavor of lobster and the pungent, bittersweet character of tarragon, you might change your thinking about the sea creature. This dish may even have you ordering some when you go back home to your local sushi restaurant. 

La Réserve: Wellington of Veal Tenderloin With Cabernet Sauvignon Reduction and Harvest Vegetables

This untraditional wellington of veal was, yes, wrapped in pâté that was creamy, rich, and addictive; however, it wasn't enclosed in a pastry crust, because this version was 100 percent gluten free. The cabernet sauvignon reduction lent a sweetness that accentuated the flavor of the perfectly pink meat. 

Privée: Octopus Potato Stew

Octopus is known for its chewy consistency, which can turn people off, and that's extremely unfortunate because this sea creature is actually delicious, very similar to seared scallops when properly cooked. The potato it was matched with here worked nicely as it gave the octopus a creamy counterpoint. The fact that the octopus was purchased at a market earlier the same morning it was cooked only made this dish that much more scrumptious. 

Privée: Pumpkin Onion Soup

If you think this is a dairy-laden soup, you are mistaken. This dish simply comprised pumpkin, onion, olive oil, and garlic, and it was hands-down one of the best dishes served during the entire cruise. This dish truly exemplifies the way fresh ingredients can make the most magnificent and divine creations. 

Privée: Sweet Tomatoes

Though this dish might be called "sweet," it simply comprised juicy tomatoes found at a local market earlier in the day, Italian olive oil (the dish was served as we were leaving the coast of Sicily), and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar (no sugar added). The tomatoes in Europe are worlds different from those we have in the U.S. with a flavor that is almost indescribable. They're not served as filler foods on hamburgers. They are prepared as the main event in dishes because they pack pungent flavors that would turn any tomato-hater into a fan. 

Red Ginger: Avocado Lobster Salad With Crispy Lotus, Avocado, Tuna, Hamachi, Den Miso, and Shiso Vinegar

The creaminess from the avocado, tuna, and hamachi mixture, paired with the crispy sweetness of the deep-fried lotus root and den miso, topped off with thick slices of robust lobster, would make anyone want to consume at least five of these little spoons of flavor-packed heaven. 


Red Ginger: Chicken Satay With Peanut Sauce

These chicken satays are stars by themselves — no need for the peanut sauce. However, if you did want to get "saucy," your taste buds would be flooded with a nuttiness that will have you wanting to lift that bowl of sauce up to your lips and drink it as you would a beverage. 

Red Ginger: Miso-Glazed Chilean Sea Bass

Rich. Flaky. Moist. Tender. Buttery. Firm yet soft. Sensational. Delicious. You could almost order this as dessert and be satisfied, thanks to the sweetness of the miso

Red Ginger: Salmon and Tuna Sashimi

If you're worried about the freshness of cruise food, you might be skeptical about savoring this deliciously fresh salmon and tuna sashimi served with salty-sweet soy sauce. The only risk you'd be taking as you relish in these flavors, though, would be that you might feel forced to order another plate! 

Red Ginger: Tuna Tataki With Sesame Crust

If you love tuna sashimi, then this dish is for you. Tuna is a mild, deep-red-fleshed fish and very hearty. Served raw, like this was, it's quite firm. Add the sesame crust for a little crunch and your mouth will enjoy the textures as you chew this sensational offering. 

Terrace Café: Grilled Vegetable Kebobs With Chimichurri Sauce

Even those who detest vegetables would indulge in a few of these kebobs with smiles on their faces, as the chimichurri sauce — a dressing that comprises parsley, garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and oregano — packed a powerful pop of flavor that increased the sweetness of the zucchini and grilled peppers. 

Terrace Café: White Anchovies With Tomato and Onion Relish

Some might be turned off by the thought of these salty, fragrant, little fish, but the ones offered on Oceania Cruises were not "fishy" at all. Instead, they smelled delectable thanks to the sensational tomato and onion relish drizzled on top — and they were extremely fresh, having been purchased from a market at port prior to setting sail. 

Toscana: Octopus Carpaccio With Garbanzo Beans, Arugula, and Cherry Tomatoes

The octopus was light and refreshing, while the garbanzo beans lent a heartiness, accompanied by the sweetness of the cherry tomatoes and a pop of bitter with the dusting of arugula on top. 

Toscana: Pan Seared Sea Bass With Grilled Baby Vegetables

The sea bass, with its perfectly crisp skin, was made with Greek olive oil that enhanced the fish's decadent flavor. Though it looks like a simple dish, the flavors were extremely powerful.