I can’t say which came first: my love of food or my love of travel.

Growing up in a military family, we pulled up stakes every few years and relocated. I never felt a sense of loss when we migrated to a new place, just a sense of adventure. The change excited me, being able to see new places, meet new people and experience new things. Perhaps the most memorable place we lived was Ankara, the capital of Turkey, a city situated right in the middle of the country. My memories of the years we spent there are rich with the sights, sounds and smells of that beautiful place and I’ve always wanted to return. So, when the folks at Altair Travel & Cruises asked me to host a culinary cruise and we began discussing itineraries, the Greek Glory excursion aboard Oceania’s brand-new ship, Riviera, was my hands-down favorite. The 10-day voyage went from Istanbul, Turkey, through a number of Greek islands, up to Croatia and then ended in magical Venice.

The Feast readers who joined me on this journey were in the capable hands of Maeve Day, Altair’s corporate manager; she ensured that every detail was attended to, so all we had to do was enjoy the experience. Altair owner Pat Blassie and I planned some delicious extras for our group: the trip opened with a hands-on cooking class in the ship’s Bon Appetit Culinary Center and closed with a multi-course wine dinner in La Reserve, a Wine Spectator venue that hosts wine tastings and private events. Opportunities like this are what set the Oceania and Altair experiences apart – I had never been on a cruise before and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I can tell you, after this 10-day voyage, I’m already eagerly anticipating the next time I climb aboard an Oceania ship.

Here, you see the bow of the Riviera, an elegant mid-sized vessel that holds up to 1,250 passengers, with a staff of 800. The ship’s art collection alone was stunning, and in this multi-part photo essay of the journey, you’ll be given a tour of the ship, from the beautiful staterooms to the array of culinary options on board.

But first, let’s explore Istanbul, where we spent two nights at the Eresin Crown Hotel before boarding the Riviera. Located in the heart of Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet section, the hotel was situated perfectly to allow us to explore one of the world’s most intriguing cities.

Check back every Tuesday this month for another installment!

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