Oceania Cruises Christens New Riviera in Barcelona

Oceania Cruises christened its new 1,250-passenger Oceania Riviera in Barcelona on May 11 in a ceremony punctuated by emotion and cries of “Viva Riviera” and “Viva Barcelona!” The 66,172-ton ship, sister to the Oceania Marina introduced 15 months ago, was officially named by godmother Cat Cora, a celebrity TV chef and restaurateur.

Frank Del Rio, chairman and CEO of Oceania parent company Prestige Cruise Holdings, made several references to the “Oceania family” as well as his own family, which was on hand for the celebration. After being introduced by Oceania President Kunal Kamlani, Del Rio was greeted with a standing ovation by the audience.

The ceremony was held at the Port of Barcelona on the same pier where Oceania’s first ship, Regatta, was launched nine years ago. The day was warm and sunny, and waiters circulated with flutes of ice water as attendees cooled themselves with commemorative fans similar to those held by flamenco dancers who performed.

Del Rio spoke of the efforts it took to exceed the performance of the Marina, which launched to glowing reviews and has sailed full since it was christened in January 2011 in Miami. “Today, the baton as the world’s premier cruise ship has passed to Riviera,” Del Rio said. “Riviera has indeed improved upon perfection.”

Del Rio and Kamlani gave credit to travel agents who have booked the line. Indeed, more than 500 agents attended the ceremony. Many sailed on the ship for a five-night cruise from Monte Carlo, Monaco, preceding the christening and some embarked or continued from Barcelona to Venice. “Our travel agent partners have been with us every step of the way,” Del Rio said, noting that a “true spirit of partnership forged with the world’s leading travel agents.”

Cora sat on a stage with the executives and other dignitaries as aides held umbrellas over them to shield them from the sun. But she stood to dance when invited by a flamenco dancer, briefly twirling and swaying to the crowd’s delight. Del Rio introduced Cora, explaining why she was chosen. “Being the cruise line for foodies, we quickly zeroed in on this remarkable woman,” he said.

In addition to being the first and only female Iron Chef on Food Network, Cora’s new show, “Around the World in 80 Plates,” premiered on Bravo on May 9. In 2004, she also founded Chefs for Humanity in response to the tsunami disaster in Indonesia. Chefs for Humanity is dedicated to reducing hunger worldwide by supporting humanitarian relief and promoting nutrition education.

“Viva Barcelona!” Cora said when she began the official christening. “As a mother of four boys, I finally have a girl, and isn’t she a beauty!” Using a device, she unleashed a bottle of champagne, which smashed satisfyingly against the hull as cannons shot confetti into the air.

Riviera departs on its 10-day maiden voyage from Venice to Athens on May 16. Through Nov. 29, 2012, it will sail 20 Mediterranean voyages, calling at ports in France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Israel, Croatia, Cyprus, Montenegro, Morocco and Monaco. Riviera will spend the winter in the Caribbean and return to Europe in summer 2013, offering seven-, 10- and 12-day Western and Eastern Mediterranean cruises.

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