Wherever in the world you choose to sail, one thing is for sure, food glorious food, will always abound. And not just on your ship of choice but in the destinations you visit as well. And more and more cruise lines are now offering superb shore excursions with food as a primary focus. And let's not forget wine, port, champagne, cognac and beer tastings too. Or perhaps it's all about the chocolate!
So perhaps it's a wine tasting accompanied by delicious small bites or tapas, or a more in-depth culinary experience where you can work alongside famous local chefs. Alternatively you may choose to sample a fabulous home-cooked meal in a gorgeous and romantic setting in Italy or France or something more exotic in the Far East. But whatever your choice we offer you a sampling of the excursions cruise lines are cooking up to wow those taste buds as well as giving you a real sense of the area in which you are cruising. Be prepared to have your palate pleased.
A Taste of Italy
Sorrento: For guests of Oceania Cruises which boasts a Bon Appetit Culinary Center and dedicated chef on board, there are a myriad excursions offered by the Line, all catering to the inner chef in you.
Discover the secrets of authentic Sorrento cuisine at a centuries-old hilltop villa, where you'll watch a cooking demonstration and then enjoy a delicious meal of local favorites.
Your tour starts out with a relaxed drive to the Villa Il Pozzo surrounded by fragrant groves of lemons and situated affording spectacular views of the sea and the fabled isle of capri. After time to wander the garden amidst the lemon and olive groves and enjoy the views you will sit in the kitchen where the chef will showcase a seasonal menu including favorites such as mozzarella in a lemon leaf with tomato salad, lemon risotto, and a dessert of lemon cream. There's ample opportunity to quiz the chef on the techniques and secrets of Sorrento cuisine and of course you will enjoy the delicious and typical lunch you have just seen prepared. Local wines will also be served.
The Chianti Region and Wine Tasting
Greve: For wine lovers, this is an ideal excursion from Florence (or its port Livorno) and also offers a wonderful drive through the gorgeous and lush Chianti countryside. Green rolling hills, fields of vineyards and olive groves, small and charming villages await you at practically every turn and you will revel in the beauty of the region. Many of the wineries feature Castellos, or castles and you will enjoy a delicious Tuscan lunch including wine (of course) in one of the leading Castles in Greve. This is the center and unofficial capital of the Chianti region and dates back to the 11th Century. There is a market in town which has been running more or less continuously for centuries serving the nearby castle communities and small villages and hamlets. You will have time to wander the market area, shop and enjoy various wine stores as well as a chance to see the Wine Museum.
A lesson in Spanish cooking
Barcelona: Your tour begins with a coach ride to the center of this marvelous city known for its art, culture and amazing architecture including La Sagrada Familia, a Gaudi masterpiece. You will have the opportunity to visit one of the best markets in the world, the Boqueria before walking to the center of the old Gothic quarter where you will find your cooking venue. Your lesson will commence as you are shown how to prepare and cook such tasty dishes as gazpacho, a potato omelet, seafood paella (of course!) and a delicious dessert called Crema Catalana. And of course you will savor a taste of each of the dishes. With the day’s menu and a collection of new cooking skills as mementos you will then have some free time to further enjoy Barcelona and perhaps try some famous tapas.
Puerto Chiapas: Located on the west coast of Mexico near the border of Guatemala this region offers much in the way of culture and history but if its relaxation you are looking for then this tour looks at the typical lifestyle of the Tapachula locals; it’s a chance to just kick back and also enjoy some pool time.
You will be driven to a lovely hotel close to Tapachula where you will have wonderful views of the city as well as an opportunity to wander through the beautiful gardens of the property. You will then learn about delicious Mexican dishes such as quesadillas and famous guacamole as well as the region’s typical totopos. And of course you will be able to taste and enjoy all of these foods. Naturally you will also see how to make the best Margarita and enjoy same! Sip your refreshing cocktail, listen to some marimba music and perhaps enjoy a little shopping too.
Thai Cooking Class
Ko Samui: Thai cuisine is a wonderful blend of flavors and dishes and this tour is ideal for those who wish to have a hands on cooking experience and enjoy some delicious food. Beginning in a local market, you will be shown by a local food expert which items to choose for your meal. Naturally you will also gain insight into local life.
From there you will be driven to a nearby hotel for your class where you will be welcomed with a typical Thai beverage. Then, after donning apron and chef’s hat you will be invited to lend a hand while learning about traditional methods of Thai cooking. Dishes that might be prepared are a tasty chicken soup, deep-fried and stuffed crabmeat in its shell and Thai-style fried noodles all of which you will be able to enjoy at the conclusion of the class. And of course there’s dessert too – lovely coconut ice cream with seasonal fruits. Yummy.
Written by Vanessa Lee
First published in World Traveler Summer 2013