Savvy cruise lines know food is a top vacation priority, so from bountiful delights to high-end specialty restaurants, they’ve turned their ships into floating feasts – but the celebration of everything edible doesn’t end there. the cruise industry is serving up an experiential banquet to satisfy every appetite and we thought you’d like to see what’s on the menu.
From discovering the secrets of great olive oil, to learning tips and tricks from your Food Network idol – there’s a smorgasbord of choices available for food-focused travelers. Whatever your culinary tastes, a cruise vacation is sure to satisfy.
Wisely jumping on the food television bandwagon, many cruise lines now work with guest chefs who help create specialty restaurants and appear as onboard celebrities.
Norwegian Cruise Line
If you love Iron Chef America, Chopped and The Best Thing I Ever Ate, you’ll be enticed by Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ships, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, which now have Ocean Blue, a restaurant created by Food Network rock star, Geoffrey Zakarian. His culinary creativity is also the power behind a fabulous crustacean-station called the Raw Bar and he’ll be overseeing other fish-focused restaurants and hosting cooking demos and workshops on select sailings.
Carnival Cruise Line
On Carnival’s Breeze, Conquest, Glory and Liberty, pool-side dining now means burgers and fries served up at a 50’s-style diner called the Burger Joint, developed by Guy Fieri, Food Network star, game show host and restauranteur. Thanks to the positive reception on the first three ships, the rest of the fleet is receiving Burger Joints as well.
Jacques Pépin, national public television cooking show host and cookbook author, is Oceania’s Executive Culinary director, bringing his gourmet artistry to the restaurants of five ships, two of which – the Marina and Riviera – host his namesake Jacques restaurant. Also on board the Marina and Riviera, guests can enjoy the Bon Appétit Culinary Center, operated in tandem with Bon Appétit Magazine, and billed as the “world’s only hands-on culinary studio at sea”. Guests learn regional recipes in hands-on classes and head home with a newly sharpened skill set.
Many shore excursions, such as Ama Waterways’ Culinary delights – Bites & Sights, now have culinary themes. Offered on European itineraries, the program includes guided food-theme walking tours, a French cooking school visit, a Barcelona tapas expedition, and tastes of everything from specialty Belgian waffles to Dutch cheese and more.
Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean international has joined culinary forces with James Beard award-winning chef Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink restaurant in Miami and Grand Cayman to bring dining pizzazz to the 150 Central Park Restaurant on the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. According to RCI, “It’s the perfect pairing: a chef with a commitment to sustainable and seasonal food sourcing and a cruise line that continues to offer guests innovative dining concepts and the freshest most distinct ingredients. “ Guests enjoy two rotating six-course menus per voyage, which incorporate produce from small Florida farms.
Aboard the Paul Gauguin and Tere Moana, the culinary creations of Jean-Pierre Vigato, Chef Propriétaire of the world-renowned, two-star Michelin-rated restaurant Apicius in Paris are featured in the elegant L’etoile and La Veranda restaurants.
On Cunard – the famed U.K. cruise line – there’s an American super chef whose name is – wait for it – Todd English. Delicious,yes? The Boston master chef and owner of the upscale Olives restaurant chain, English brings to the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Victoria an eclectic mix of taste sensations he says are “common ingredients prepared in uncommon ways.” If you’d like to sink your teeth into “Todd’s Truffled Potato Love Letters,” you know where to find them.
Serious foodies know you don’t have to be on television to be a hot property in the culinary world. World-renowned master chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa is a case in point. Nobu’s eclectic cuisine is prepared by specially trained chefs at Silk Road and The Sushi Bar on both the Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity. Using an innovative blend of classically styled Japanese foods with distinct Peruvian and European influences, Nobu himself occasionally comes aboard for cooking classes, demonstrations, autograph sessions and photo ops.
Food and wine pairing workshops are offered on Celebrity Cruises, along with a Mixology 101 Experience that teaches “chef-inspired” bartending and a Riedel® Comparative Wine Crystal Workshop where sip-happy sailors can discover the difference a glass makes to the wine served in it. Celebrity’s ships are also noteworthy for their wide range of interactive culinary options from the Lawn Club grill where guests can learn grilling tips and bake their own flatbreads, to the innovative Q-sine® where a meal is a dining expedition into a myriad of tastes and textures, to Murano where the delights of tableside flambé are a feature.
Want to come home a little sharper than when you left? Many cruises offer learning expeditions and experiences. If wine and beer are your preference, you might want to try the “Epicurean Adventurer ProgramTM offered on many Uniworld European cruises where the experience includes great food, fine wine, craft beer and even a private cellar tasting on shore, all at no extra charge.
Where we eat is as important as what. Windstar takes fine dining seriously indoors in its recently opened alternative dining spot, the intimate Stella Bistro, on board the Wind Surf. The atmosphere relaxes on the aft deck around the pool on all three yachts where intimate and casual barbecue dining takes place al fresco at Candles.
Disney Cruise Line
When it comes to cuisine, there’s nothing Mickey Mouse about Disney Cruise Line. Remy, the romantic adult-exclusive restaurant on Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream, offers fine French-inspired cuisine, stunning ocean views, and a sophisticated décor. It’s the brainchild of French celebrity chef Arnaud Lallement of the Michelin-rated two-star restaurant L’Assiette Champenoise, and Scott Hunnel, an award-winning chef from Walt Disney World’s Victoria & Albert’s restaurant.
On Silversea, the only cruise line to partner with the Grands Chefs Relais & Châteaux, one can dine in the fabulous and elegant Le Champagne, a reservation-only intimate restaurant with room for just a small number of guests per evening or go completely casual and head for the grill, a poolside dining area that transforms into a “hot rocks” dining area where guests grill their own seafood and meats tableside on heated volcanic rocks.
Always wanted to run away to “An evening at Le Cirque”? Holland America can make that happen in their Pinnacle Grills. Master Chef Rudi Sodamin has teamed with le Cirque’s Executive Chef Craig Hopson to bring the spirit of that iconic eatery alive for at least one night on nearly every voyage. Serving le Cirque-style crème brûlée on the classic orange china is just one of the many tiny touches that create the authentic le Cirque feel.
Written By Liz Fleming
First published in World Traveler Summer 2013 Issue