Ask any cruise enthusiast what they loved most about their sailing and you’re sure to hear about all things culinary. Sailing all over the world on a cruise ship means an endless array of cuisine options. Long gone are the days when one main restaurant and those midnight buffets were the only option, as cruise lines have upped the ante to make dining experiences at sea unique. From exclusive collaborations with famous chefs, to fabulous specialty restaurants and sensational onboard and onshore learning and dining adventures, food is truly what cruise dreams are made of.
Chef Guy Fieri
Move over, Hollywood! The real stars these days are celebrity chefs and you’ll find many solidifying their fame onboard countless cruise ships. Guy Fieri, star of the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”, brings the authentic appeal of his roadside burger shack to Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship, The Horizon, where his signature "FLAVORTOWN" catch phrase lights up the full-service bar at Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse and Brewery. Several Carnival ships already feature Fieri’s barbeque themed restaurants, but Carnival Horizon will be the first with the attached brewery serving house-made craft beer. His downhome barbecue flavors are a great counterpoint to the other big dining news on Horizon – Bonsai Teppanyaki.
Crystal Cruises: Nobu, Black Cod
Aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Escape, it’s Iron Chef, Jose Garces who has the spotlight and showcases Latin dishes with an Ecuadorian and Cuban influence in his chic dining room, Bayamo, as well as in the more casual al fresco Waterfront dining area on Norwegian’s Breakaway class vessels.In another cruise partnership, Chef Thomas Keller – the culinary genius behind such Michelin-starred restaurants as The French Laundry and Per Se – has joined forces with Seabourn to bring his award-winning French and American cuisine to the ultra-luxury cruise line which only adds to Seabourn’s already celebrated onboard cuisine. Meanwhile, on Crystal Cruises’ ships, avid foodies are wowed by the delicious Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine of internationally renowned Chef Nobu Matsuhisa at his restaurant Umi Uma. The name is apt since, in Japanese, Umi Uma means seahorse – the Crystal trademark logo.
The partnership between Food Network Chef Curtis Stone and Princess Cruises has resulted in the creation of the über-elegant six-course SHARE menu onboard Ruby Princess, Emerald Princess and Sun Princess. Following Curtis Stone’s inspiring success with his first restaurant, Maude, which was acclaimed by several publications, one praising it with the accolade “2015 Best Restaurant in L.A.” this partnership with Princess Cruises is a popular, fresh approach to fine dining at sea.
Chef Curtis Stone
Oceania Cruises’ collaboration with French chef Jacques Pépin gave birth to the highly acclaimed Jacques restaurant on each ship, while Royal Caribbean has two culinary alliances; the first with world-famous chef and author Jamie Oliver, whose rustic, homemade dishes at Jamie's Italian are huge favorites, and the second with Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink in Miami, who has produced new à la carte menus for 150 Central Park onboard the Quantum class ships, Harmony of the Seas®, Allure of the Seas® and Oasis of the Seas®. He also adds his name to Michael’s Genuine Pub offering a new twist on pub food and draft ales aboard Anthem of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas.
Sharpening Culinary Skills
Holland America: Culinary Arts Center
As keen as cruise guests are on savoring the work of celebrity chefs at sea, some are equally interested in honing their own cooking skills. Guests are hurrying to book Culinary Center learning adventures on such lines as Regent Seven Seas and Oceania, which include first-rate instruction in gleaming teaching kitchens, complete with individual range tops and the kind of top-quality equipment that would make any aspiring chef salivate.
Guests aboard Holland America Line ships also experience great culinary learning, offered in partnership with Food & Wine Magazine and more than 60 internationally-renowned guest chefs, in addition to the cruise line’s own resident executive chef Rudi Sodamin, who bring their talents, mouth- watering recipes and professional cooking tips onboard. From delicious and informative wine tastings and fascinating workshops inspired by regional foods, to hands-on cooking classes and even farm-to-table experience dinners all happening in the state-of-the-art Culinary Arts Center demonstration kitchens, the cruise line offers a fabulous lineup of foodie fun.
Celebrity Cruises: Top Chef Cooking Class
Well-recognized for the quality of the bespoke menu in their La Dame by Relais & Châteaux® dining room on the Silver Muse and Le Champagne on Silver Spirit, Silversea offers private tastings, cooking demonstrations, and a grand gourmet dinner on Culinary Arts Voyages as well as events such as knife skills classes, chef competitions, market tours and lunch-and-learns in The L'École des Chefs cooking school.
If you’re a fan of food television, in particular “Top Chef”, you’ll love Celebrity Cruises’ creative spin on the show. Their hugely popular "Top Chef at Sea" experience in combination with the Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking Magazine hosted by star chefs Curtis Stone and Pete Evans simply can’t be missed.
Oceania Culinary Tour
Fabulous cuisine alone isn’t enough to captivate sophisticated cruise guests, so cruise lines’ creative minds are always hard at work, coming up with new and increasingly fanciful dining venues and themes. Knowing that sun-starved cruise guests long for as many outdoor dining opportunities as possible, ships are now featuring a wide range of al fresco options. Some cruise lines are even creating breezy quarter-mile-long stretches of ocean-front restaurants and bars where the cuisine ranges from fine dining to ultra-casual, but the sunny ambiance is always consistent. Lines such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Crystal Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Silversea, MSC and others are all noted for expanding their al fresco dining options well beyond the casual pool side grill to include high-end Chinese and pan-Asian cuisine, specialty sushi, Brazilian churrascaria, teppanyaki and much more.
Exciting cuisine options are also available inside! Chef’s table evenings – during which small groups of guests are treated to a cooking lesson, followed by an intimate dinner with the chef – are becoming increasingly popular features, particularly on river cruise ships where specialty dining areas are often created in the secluded aft area or as a part of the dining room or lounge.
Azamara Club Cruises
Food Goes Ashore
River cruise lines such as AmaWaterways, Uniworld, Avalon, Viking and many others are all keen to entertain and amaze food-loving guests by providing more options beyond the dining rooms and so offer fascinating culinary and wine-focused shore excursions. Depending on the itinerary, these might include everything from trips to meet local farmers, cheese makers, vintners and hikes through harvest-ready vineyards, to tastings in charming family wineries, chocolate shops and local markets. Ocean liners such as Azamara Club Cruises and many others also create destination immersion experiences for their guests that provide unforgettable tastes of the local culture and food. Sometimes, those food-focused shore excursions lead back to the ship where, in private kitchen sessions, the chef will cook up a bespoke dinner – a very memorable experience!
For many travelers on a long cruise, specialty restaurants and different dining experiences offer a welcome change of scenery and cuisine variety, whether it’s the phenomenal gala night dinner, that recipe for ceviche the Chef gave you or the charming farmer who taught you to choose a perfect mango, chances are your fondest cruise memories will be a collection of great food adventures and experiences. Bon Appétit!
Written by Liz Fleming. Published in Dream Voyages, Spring 2018 issue.