New-wave fare

Farewell buf­fets and ahoy to de­gus­ta­tion fine din­ing and cook­ing classes

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat - MICHELLE ROWE

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.

PHOTOLIBRARY

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

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