Cruise Lines Whip Up Culinary Treats

The Grill by Thomas Keller, Seabourn Cruises.
The Grill by Thomas Keller, Seabourn Cruises.

Whether it’s a new restaurant, a wine-themed cruise in France, or partnering with celebrity chefs, cruise lines—ocean- and river-going—are whipping up some tasty treats for your culinary aficionado clientele. And these days who isn’t into good food, cocktails and wine? So when I say culinary aficionado clientele, I mean pretty much every client on your list. I just attended Seatrade Cruise Global in Fort Lauderdale, and it seemed as if every press conference and interview was focused on a cruise line’s new culinary offerings. So come along as I take you on a savory journey on the high seas and along some of the world’s riverways.


Late last month, AmaWaterways—“98 percent of whose bookings are made through travel agents,” says Kristin Karst, the line’s executive v.p. and co-owner—debuted its 13-day Taste of Bordeaux sailing aboard the AmaDolce. The line will feature 24 such departures sailing the Garonne River and its surrounding estuaries, and 10 of those departures will be special wine-themed voyages, with immersive experiences led by some of the world’s top wine experts. Along the way, guests will be able to visit Bordeaux’s famous chateaus and vineyards, and there’s a Grand Cru Classe wine tasting in Pauillac. Wine-themed cruises from June onward are set for June 28, July 19, Aug. 2 and 9, Oct. 18, and Nov. 1, 8 and 15. Rates for the wine-themed cruises start at $3,099 cruise-only.

American Queen Steamboat Company
Clients can explore the Pacific Northwest wine country of the United States on American Queen Steamboat Company’s Vineyards, Vintages and Varietals themed cruises that will sail this November through Washington and Oregon. Guests will have the opportunity to meet with local wine makers for wine tastings and pairings, plus sit in on lectures from partnering wineries. Additionally, onboard chefs will incorporate the region’s local wines into a variety of culinary creations. Departure dates are Nov. 12 and Nov. 19 from Portland, Oregon, with rates starting at $2,649 pp dbl.

With the remastering of the Queen Mary 2, set for a summer (re)debut, comes new dining options, including The Verandah, which will feature French regional cooking. Also new is the Carinthia Lounge, a redo of the Winter Garden featuring light breakfast and lunch dishes, a dedicated patisserie and afternoon tea service, as well as premium wines, and small plates. As for the ship’s Kings Court, it will be completely redesigned with a more open layout and interactive guest experiences. There will be cooking demos that highlight the remastered menus, as well as a variety of cuisines such as Indian, Italian, Pan Asian, and Tex Mex. There will also be a chef’s table tasting menu on select evenings. A highlight of all of Cunard’s culinary offerings is that Nicholas Oldroyd and his twin Mark, the executive chef on board Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, are reinvigorating the menus across the fleet. “They have gone to great lengths,” says Cunard’s president Richard Meadows, “to source interesting ingredients.”

Holland America Line
These days it’s all about the Koningsdam when you mention Holland America, but the Eurodam, too, has some new offerings that you’ll want to tell your clients about (and they’ll roll out across the fleet in the coming years). The Lido Market, originally the Lido buffet, now has themed stations offering an array of options guests can grab on the go or have quickly made to order, including freshly made personalized salads. Meanwhile, pizza lovers will want to take a detour to the new dining venue, New York Pizza, which offers five Big Apple-themed thin-crust personal pizzas made to order in less than 10 minutes. Additionally, Holland America has partnered with master mixologist Dale DeGroff, who has created a drink menu that features signature classics as well as some unique cocktails.

MSC Cruises
A pan-Asian restaurant will be making its home on board the MSC Seaside, which will come into service in December 2017. The cruise line has partnered with pan-Asian celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi, who will be personally involved in conceptualizing and designing every element of the restaurant, including the recipes, menus, chinaware, music, wine list, etc. “My whole thing,” said Yamaguchi during a Seatrade press conference, “is giving a great experience to people who come and dine, and that’s what MSC does.” In addition to chef Yamaguchi’s pan-Asian style dishes, the restaurant will include a sushi, sashimi, and raw bar, as well as space with teppanyaki grills. 

Norwegian Cruise Line
Harvest Caye, which, says Norwegian Cruise Line’s president and COO Andy Stuart, offers “a different way to explore Belize,” is set to debut in November as Norwegian’s resort-style port of call in Southern Belize. It will feature lots of goodies, including a zipline, high-end beach villas, a pool, and access to excursions throughout the area, but foodies will want to know that Norwegian has once again partnered with Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville to debut Landshark Bar & Grill. It’s a 2-story indoor/outdoor venue with a scenic upper deck and a swim-up pool bar.

Princess Cruises
This past January, Princess Cruises celebrated the grand opening of SHARE by Curtis Stone aboard Ruby Princess, the award-winning chef’s first restaurant at sea. SHARE offers signature dishes made for sharing, complemented by an ambiance that encourages lots of socializing. SHARE is available aboard Ruby Princess, Emerald Princess and Sun Princess.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Guests who want to delve into the local culinary scene along the Med can opt for one of Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 22 Gourmet Explorer Tours. The culinary-inspired tours, which were developed for the Seven Seas Explorer’s Mediterranean season, are accompanied by a chef instructor from the line’s Culinary Arts Kitchen and a local guide, often a chef. When docking in Sorrento, for example, passengers become immersed in the cuisine of Campania by making cheese at the artisanal fromagerie, watching a culinary demonstration, and wining and dining amid the gardens of the Don Alfonso. In Monte Carlo, Monaco, there’s wine tasting at Cave Bianchi in Nice, followed by dinner at La Chevre d’Or restaurant. Think also food markets in Barcelona, a wine experience in the Tuscan countryside, and a 7-course tasting menu luncheon in the stone-walled village of Madremanya. As Regent’s president and COO Jason Montague says, the tours are “true once-in-lifetime epicurean experiences.”

Scenic Cruises
In France, Scenic Cruises’ 10-night Beautiful Bordeaux itinerary offers an array of opportunities to delve into the local cuisine, including enjoying a foie gras tasting at a local farm; spending a full day exploring the fortified town of Cognac, renowned for its production of fine brandy, and then enjoying a tasting at the acclaimed property of Remy Martin; and in Medoc, sampling the region’s finest wines at the Chateau Gruaud-Larose. Pricing from May to September starts at $5,495 and in October at $4,445.

Set to debut on board the Seabourn Quest next month, as well as the Seabourn Encore when it sets sail this December, The Grill by Thomas Keller will feature cuisine and ambiance inspired by the classic American chophouse. On the menu will be table-side preparations of Caesar salad, lobster thermidor and creamed spinach, as well as sundaes. “It takes our already award-winning cuisine to new heights,” says Seabourn president Richard Meadows.

The cruise line has also partnered with mixologist Brian Van Flandern, who will transform the onboard spirits across the entire fleet with new cocktail menus that will be exclusive to the line. He will use fresh produce, botanicals and flavor profiling to create a unique list of hand-crafted cocktails that take advantage of the local markets that Seabourn ships visit.

Silversea Cruises
The themed Exclusively Yours – Enriched Voyages that Silversea Cruises just debuted are set to take place in late summer and fall of this year and will feature a complimentary onboard program of entertainment and enrichment activities, as well as complimentary shore excursions included on select sailings. Itineraries include Culinary Arts & Wines Voyages such as the Relais & Chateaux Gourmet Cruise on the Silver Spirit, which sails Oct. 1 from Istanbul to Athens. This sailing will feature chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants in France and Italy who will present a program of informative cooking demonstrations and gourmet dinners. On the menu is a chocolate and coffee cruise, a high tea cruise and a wine cruise, of course.