Farewell buffets and ahoy to degustation fine dining and cooking classes
PROFESSIONAL cooking schools, Michelin-starred guest chefs and hi-tech multimedia food demonstrations are just a few of the gourmet drawcards on the high seas.
As travellers become increasingly obsessed with things culinary, many a cruise company has put their money where their mouth is, investing in exclusive culinary experiences and innovations to appeal to more discerning palates.
Limp all-you-can eat buffets are being replaced by elegant highend dining rooms (many of which attract a surcharge) and foodthemed cruises are all but de rigueur. There are even workshops to teach passengers which stemware best suits their chosen tipple, and onboard cheese sommeliers. Make like a masterchef: You could be forgiven for thinking you’d strayed on to a MasterChef Australia set aboard the newly launched Marina, with 18 sleek food preparation benches lined up and a rota of international chefs scheduled to teach classes in an industry-first, hands-on cooking school.
Food is very much the focus of the newest ship in the Oceania fleet, epitomised by its Bon Appetit Culinary Centre, the first cooking school at sea, where participants have individual workstations. French-American Jacques Pepin, Oceania’s consulting chef, will be on select voyages; Pepin’s bistro, Jacques, which draws inspiration from brasseries in Paris and his hometown Lyon, is one of 10 restaurants on Marina.
The ship also has a wine-tasting centre, La Reserve, which turns into an intimate private dining room at night. Marina plans a number of food-themed shore excursions on upcoming voyages. More: oceaniacruises.com.au. Grazing in the galley: Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Chefmakers at Sea classes offer a more intimate experience with adult cooking classes on board Liberty of the Seas (and soon Freedom of the Seas) taking place in the galley. Participants can cosy up for threehour sessions that include knife skills, ‘‘quick and easy fish’’ and ‘‘all about chicken’’, and more advanced programs such as Asian and North American cuisine.
Classes cost between $US40 and $US125, and guests leave with an apron and recipe cards, and have the option of buying the cookware and utensils used during the session. Junior cooks are catered for with a one-hour Kids with Kids Baking Class in which they can whip up sweets such as mini puff pastry turnovers while learning about kitchen hygiene. More: royalcaribbean.com.au. Stars of the small screens: Astateof-the-art, theatre-style demonstration kitchen with multiple plasma television screens is the centrepiece of Holland America Line’s gourmet line-up, with guest chefs leading cooking demonstrations and classes on select cruises under the group’s Culinary Arts Program.
HAL has also assembled a Culinary Council, with internationally renowned chefs such as Rudi Sodamin, Charlie Trotter, David Burke and Marcus Samuelsson offering their wisdom at dining venues across 15 ships.
The line recently introduced a Master Chefs Dinner at Nieuw Amsterdam’s Pinnacle Grill; the seven-course meal for 18 guests is served on Versace china and matched to sommelier-chosen wines.
HAL has also announced the roll-out of a sustainable seafood program that adopts environmentally responsible purchasing practices and features menus that showcase sustainable seafood. More: hollandamerica.com.au. Dinner dazzler: A $US1000-aperson, seven-course Ultimate Vintage Room Experience is one of the highlights of Crystal Cruises’ 15th Annual Wine & Food Series, which kicks off next month. Michelin-starred guest chef Alessandro Stratta will create the signature dinner while Gaia Gaja of the Gaja Italian Wine Estate will oversee the wines.
Those who don’t have a cool grand to spare could make do with sushi-making classes conducted by Nobu-trained chefs in one of Nobu Matsuhisa’s onboard restaurants, or perhaps cocktailmaking classes.
Six Crystal cruises, between June and December, will feature celebrity chefs and food personalities who will focus on the cuisine of the itinerary’s geographic regions. Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity also have cheese and wine cellars overseen by their own sommeliers. More: crystalcruises.com.au. Kids off the menu: If screaming children in restaurants are the bane of your life, P&OUK’s superliner Oriana is the ship for you. It’s being transformed into an adultsonly oasis from November, with 27 new cabins replacing existing children’s areas, and a new premiumdining restaurant, Ocean Grill, by bad boy British chef Marco Pierre White. On the menu: the likes of classic crayfish cocktail, grilled lobster with triple-cooked chips and one of his signature desserts, Sherry Trifle Wally Ladd, said to be named after a chef who used to work at London’s The Connaught.
A cover charge will apply at the restaurant, which will be rolled out in due course to P&OUK’s Adonia and Arcadia. More: pocruises.com. Would sir like a look at the iPad? The new Qsine restaurants on Celebrity Cruises’ Eclipse and Infinity vessels are the first dining venues at sea to present their menu and wine lists on iPad. Sushi lollipops, Chitinis (Chinese nibbles served in martini glasses), popcorn fish and chips and Treseviche (tiger shrimp and scallops with tequila, tomatoes and jalapeno oil) all get a guernsey.
Meanwhile, under Celebrity’s Savour Your Destination guest chef program, there are meet-andgreet cocktail receptions, a star chefs’ interactive cooking competition, and food-and-wine pairing dinners. Celebrity’s Solstice Class ships will offer 13 cruises hosted by star chefs, with demonstrations on techniques and ingredients, and regular book signings. The group also offers winemaker-hosted voyages featuring a Riedel Wine Glass Comparative Workshop teaching participants how the shape of a wineglass affects the palate and flavours. More: celebritycruises.com. Slowly does it: The Slow Food movement has infiltrated many countries. Now the sustainability ethos has been taken offshore, with Silversea announcing a partnership with Italy’s Slow Food Promozione. Silversea will work to source products that meet the organisation’s standards. Its La Terrazza ( on Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper and Silver Spirit) will be the first restaurant at sea to display the Presidio Slow Food logo next to foods that comply with the philosophy, including products made by the Terra Madre global network of food communities committed to responsible and sustainable food production. Silversea will also introduce Slow Food culinary voyages. More: silversea.com. Degustation dining: Pre-dinner cocktails and canapes, a tour of the ship’s main kitchen and a presentation by the executive chef are part of a $75-a-head Chef’s Table experience on board P&O Australia’s Pacific Pearl.
The 14-person dinners, comprising a seven-course degustation menu matched with Australian wines, will be held in Pearl’s bottle-lined Wine Room, created during a recent multimilliondollar refurbishment of the vessel. The Chef’s Table concept will be expanded to stablemate the Pacific Jewel later this year. More: pocruises.com.au.
Cruise companies are introducing food-themed voyages where passengers are served gourmet meals and, if they choose, attend demonstrations conducted by leading chefs
Cooking school aboard the newly launched Marina
Liberty of the Seas features culinary classes
Kids in the galley on a Holland America Line cruise