Tag-Archive for » Chef Kathryn Kelly «

Oceania’s Still Cookin’ With Kathryn

It has been more than three years since we had the pleasure of meeting Kathryn Kelly. Pleasure, because she is a fascinating woman who doesn’t think she is. Pleasure, because she knows more about cooking than both of us combined…a piece of cake compared to one of us (male), a formidable chore compared to the family chef (female).

At the time, on board the Oceania Riviera where she was conducting classes at the ship’s Culinary Center, she told us that two years earlier she’d agree to this assignment for two months, maximum. She also told us about the most popular shore excursions she was conducting, taking passengers to a market to buy ingredients, to a restaurant to taste local cuisine and back to the ship for a cooking class.

Chef KellyTwo months became two years became five years…because these days the Center’s Executive Chef is still doing what she enjoys, in the bread-basket of cuisine.


“On our new tours, guests spend time in the kitchen with local culinary experts and renowned chefs learning about regional ingredients and cooking customs that have influenced European cuisine for centuries," Kelly said in a statement. “Our goal is for guests to walk away with new culinary skills, satisfied taste buds, and a deeper appreciation for the vibrant culinary traditions found in Europe.”

The Culinary Discovery Tours are not in all ports, not on all Oceania ships (also the Marina), and not always with her as the host (i.e., the program is growing). For example, when the Riviera’s in Barcelona there is sometimes a Chef’s Gastronomy Tour and Tapas Lunch. In France, there’s an Aix-en-Provence Market Tour. Greece and Italy are also on the menu.

All have at least the touch of Chef Kelly.

“Guests love it,” she says. “They're on vacation. A lot of them are experienced travelers and they've been to some of these places four or five times, so for them it's 'show me something new.' They see the world through a culinary lens. They go to a market for local produce, a favorite place to eat, come back for cooking class. There's no corollary to that."

Nor is there for a Kathryn Kelly.

In the news…

• Royal Caribbean keeps Majesty of the Seas, which was headed to Pullmantur
• Oceania launches free shore excursion incentive for booking early
• Carnival Vista floats out at Monfalcone Shipyard to prep for May 1 arrival

Today at portsandbows.com: Silver Muse new flagship for Silversea

Carnival Glory
7 nights
September 19, 2015
Miami (return): Half Moon Cay, St. Thomas, San Juan, Grand Turk
Inside: $409
Cost per day: $58

Friday File: Food More Than A Thought

Food is such a focal point of cruising, for at least two reasons. One is that the quality and/or amount of food consumed justifies the cost of the cruise. The other is that cruise lines traditionally have special events for food lovers — sometimes at an extra cost (specialty restaurants) and sometimes free. The photos today give you a taste (ahem) of a little of both those options from our cruises…

1-Millenium-Andrew Harris

Staff often gets personally involved — as Celebrity Hotel Director Andrew Harris did here on the Millennium,


Kids love all things Seuss, including the most unusual ice sculpture we’ve seen, on Carnival Freedom's Seuss at Sea.

3-Riviera-Kathryn K

Cookin’ with Chef Kathryn Kelly on Oceania ships is an experience worth the modest cost.

Crown-chef's table

Radishes never looked so appetizing as during this Chef’s Table experience on the Crown Princess.

5-Epic-Teppenyaki Michael-1

At Teppanyaki on the Norwegian Epic, Michael from the Philippines was so quick his hands were a blur.

6-Eclipse-elegant tea

What’s ‘elegant tea at sea?’ This is what it looks like on the Celebrity Eclipse — and it tastes better.

In the news…

• Carnival's 'fathom' designed for cruisers who wish to participate in 'social impact travel'
• Celebrity Infinity returns to Nanaino (Vancouver Island) for first time in four years
• Vietnam's six-day 'cruise of a lifetime' to visit disputed reefs and islands

Today at portsandbows.com: Carnival unveils its '10th brand'

Royal Caribbean Splendour of the Seas
3 nights
November 14, 2015
Port Canaveral (return): Nassau, CocoCay
Inside: $381.50
Cost per day: $127

Cruise Critic Editors' Best Of…Cruising


Anybody who has been on more than a few cruises is inevitably going to be asked: “What’s your favorite…ship…destination…cruise…port…activity…restaurant…?”

There are no correct answers, given that everybody’s cruising taste is different in every area. Sometimes, it’s incredible how much stock all of us put in recommendations of others, qualified or not.

Cruise passengers pay attention to “awards” and that’s why we write about them. Among the most credible awards are Cruise Critic’s — some of them determined by cruisers, some by editors. The latter is the latest, announced this week.

The editorial staff at Cruise Critic is nameless, identified only as an ”international team of editors.” The awards they just announced — 18 of them —  cover everything from new ships to itineraries to romance, and we thought a sampling of them would be appropriate today. 


If you’re looking for the best new ship from 2014, head for Bayonne, N.J. and board Quantum of the Seas.

If you’re into luxury, you have to go a little further…to France, because that’s where Ponant is based (Marseille) and where you can cruise on one of three small ships and enjoy authentic French cuisine, among other things.

If you’re after the best bang for your buck, it’s Carnival.

Best dining? Oceania, which features Jacques Pepin and Kathryn Kelly.

Best entertainment? Norwegian…think Blue Man, Legends in Concert, Rock of Ages.

If a few more inches and a few more amenities in a standard stateroom is important, check out Holland America.

And if you wonder which cruise line has the best itineraries, Cruise Critic’s editors like Princess — for the second year running.

What it all adds up to is an educated guess at what you’re going to like best (or better), as long as your taste is similar to the critical eyes of Cruise Critic.

Today at portsandbows.com: Special news from Silversea

Crown Princess
3 nights
January 6, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Ensenada
Inside: $129
Cost per day: $43

Sharpening Culinary Skills At Oceania

It’s more than two years since we experienced cooking at sea (and we lived to write about it) and, at the time, Oceania’s Director of Culinary Enrichment speculated what her upscale cruise line was doing would continue to grow.

Chef KellyKathryn Kelly also said that she believed in five years only Oceania would be teaching customers like this, because it was too expensive to create the Culinary Centers on the Riviera and the Marina.

What’s happened?

Two years ago, shore excursions under the title of Culinary Discovery Tours were conducted mostly in Europe. In a nutshell, you shopped at local markets, ate at local restaurants and cooked the ingredients you bought as part of a culinary class.

Today, while the tours are still mostly (15) in Europe, the concept has been expanded to Australia and New Zealand (2), South America (2) and, later this year, the Caribbean (3). Today, the tours have evolved so that you may wind up at a biodynamic farm in Tortola where organic produce was planted according to the lunar calendar…or cooking pizza in a Tuscan oven…or picking herbs to go with lunch on a New Zealand hillside.

It’s all about time in the kitchen, because that’s where you learn to cook. The kitchen could be on the shore excursions, or back in the ship’s Culinary Center. That’s where Chef Kelly — as she is widely known — will teach up to 24 people at a time how to…well, cook.

“Guests love it,” she said. “They’re on vacation. They learn to relax. When we’re at sea, there are two classes a day. In ports, we take guests to market. There are so many fabulous markets.”

Maybe the people at Norwegian Cruise Line love it, too. Oceania’s ships will soon be owned by Norwegian, and you know what they say about reaching somebody’s heart through the stomach…

Today at portsandbows.com: “3 for Free”  Princess promotion

Celebrity Constellation
11 nights
October 25, 2014
Istanbul, Ephesus, Haifa, Jerusalem, Valletta, Messina, Naples, Rome
Inside $599
Cost per day: $54

Chef's Special a Special Chef

In our first epistle about the Director of Culinary Enrichment for Oceania Cruises, you discovered how a successful business person could walk away and tackle a lifestyle that's fun. Today you'll learn how and why she spends almost her whole life on cruise ships.

Chef Kathryn Kelly's connection to Oceania is Jacques Pepin, whose signature is on two cruise ships: the two-year-old Marina and the Riviera, which was launched earlier this year.

Having joined the faculty of the Culinary Institute of America, she promised the famous chef that when he presided over Oceania's Bon Appétit Culinary Center on the ships, she would teach in one or the other for two months.

That was more than two years ago. Until then, her connection to cruising was a 21-day trip to South America with her daughter when she graduated from college, and a week in the Mediterranean with her mother, who wanted to see where Princess Grace was buried (Monaco).

Both ships were Oceania.

"A friend said 'You're favorite hotel is the Ritz Carlton, and this is a floating Ritz Carlton," she chuckles.

What turned two months into two years was, simply, Oceania. This is the cruise line that focuses the most on cuisine, and not just in the on-board establishments that serve what cruise executives champion as "gourmet" dishes. Besides the restaurants that bear Pepin's name and menu input, Oceania ships sell space in the Culinary Centers for passengers who want to learn more about cooking.

But there's more to it than that.

"You can say we're going to do Moroccan cooking, and then we go to market in Morocco to buy the ingredients," explains Chef Kelly. "We go to a restaurant in Morocco and then come back and gave a class on the ship. It's a 12-hour tour — market for local produce, favorite place to eat, come back, cooking class. There's no corollary to that."

It's more than a unique shore excursion…it's more like the ultimate cooking experience.

"A brilliant idea," she exclaims, "and guests love it. They're on vacation. A lot of them are experienced travelers and they've been to some of these places four or five times, so for them it's 'show me something new.' They see the world through a culinary lens."

Kelly credits Bob Binder, Vice-Chairman of both Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, with the concept.

"This is his dream and his vision," she adds. "I remember once we were in a meeting and we agreed that if Cat Cora is the Godmother [of the Riviera] then Bob Binder is the Godfather of the Culinary Center. I asked the [Center’s] architect if anybody else was doing this and he said no, because it's too expensive. He said in the next five years, we'd still be the only ones doing it. Every idea we've had, Oceania has said 'Let's do it.' I've run two publicly traded companies and I know how difficult it can be to get things done. It takes an enormous financial commitment."

Classes at the Culinary Center last an hour. In them, participants prepare (usually) three dishes at 12 cooking stations for two, under Chef Kelly's good-humored but pointed supervision. Because of the time frame, some raw preparation takes place before the class begins.

Every day she's at sea, Kelly teaches two classes.

"In general, people come in frightened, afraid to pick up a knife," says the Center's Executive Chef. "A woman will drop a man off and say 'Teach him to cook something…anything!' Those are the ones that have such a sense of accomplishment that they wind up taking a second and third class. I'm addicted to it and I want to make sure people learn something."

Meanwhile, back at the CIA, they're investigating if she's ever coming back…

"I don't know," she says. "It's my floating home and I'm having a ball!"

Carnival Ecstasy
5 nights
October 8, 2012
Port Canaveral (return): Half Moon Cay, Nassau, Freeport
Inside: $239
Cost per day: $47

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