By GERRY BARKER
MIAMI BEACH_ “When we set out to find the right godmother for Vista, it was something we took very seriously,” said Frank A. Del Rio, the president of Oceania Cruises. “We wanted to find someone that exemplified everything Oceania stands for.”
That honor went to celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis, who was on hand to meet media and other invited guests at a reception in her honor at the Soho Beach House in Miami Beach Feb. 24.
Del Rio called her “a perfect fit,” and that’s hard to argue. Oceania Vista, which makes her upcoming inaugural voyage in May, aims to deliver “the finest cuisine at sea,” and food is a Ms. De Laurentiis specialty.
Looking radiant and flashing her megawatt smile, she charmed the room as she interacted with guests and posed for photos. A star on the Food Network for 20 years, she said she was “thrilled and excited” about her selection. “This is a very special honor. I have never been a godmother before.” While noting how important food is to Oceania, she also cited its 20-year association with master chef Jacques Pepin. “If it’s good enough for Jacques, it’s good enough for me.”
She confessed it’s been 15 years since she took her last cruise, but as someone who loves “seeing the land from the water,” she’s looking forward to sailing on Vista.
Besides godmother, Oceania will utilize her special talents as well. She told us she will work with the chefs onboard to create two signature dishes — one pasta (of course), and one that spotlights fish. In addition, she talked about hosting a cooking class. No question people better sign up early for that one.
After her long and successful tenure at the Food Network, she announced earlier this month she has joined Amazon to helm new projects still in development. “I would like to connect all my brands — travel, lifestyle, my website,” she told me, “to create synergy” between them.
Something else she likes about Oceania is “the feeling of family,” which has always been important to her. “My grandfather told me to look yourself in the mirror every day and don’t do things that make you proud, but make me proud and make our family proud.”
She added, “I don’t do things for money — I do things for adventure and new experiences.”
The reception also was an apportunity for Oceania to spotlight some of the new signature drinks that guests can enjoy on Vista. One is called “The Twenty,” made with gin, apple liquor, lemon juice, passion fruit puree, egg white, lemon bitters and rosemary. That sprig of rosemary is the crowning touch.
My personal favorite was “Clooney’s O’Twelve Martini,” a mix of vodka, Cointreau, lime juice, maple syrup, black peppercorns and coriander. Kudos to the mixologist.
Vista, the line’s seventh ship, can accommodate 1,200 guests, with 800 crew, and will feature 12 new dining options. And while we haven’t seen any menus, we already know about two very special signature dishes, coming soon from her godmother.