Not that it ever strayed very far, cuisine has regained its position as a top attraction for travelers choosing a cruise vacation. Or so it would seem from all the attention culinary topics are receiving lately. Several recent announcements by a variety of cruise lines indicate the topic of food is still a big selling point.
Why Now? Why Food?
Maybe it’s because new ship rollout has slowed down a bit. The process of building and launching a new ship has always been good for promoting a cruise line in general and everything new they do specifically. Perhaps ships enable the current culinary push with more possibilities via new dining venues and a move away from a one-kitchen-produces-all mentality.
Certainly, that the cruise industry has turned a corner from being known as the world of buffets to a place where culinary delights are created is a contributing factor. Moving beyond having the ability to feed thousands around the clock, no small task in and of itself, cruise lines have figured out how to decentralize production. Rather than telling cruise travelers what they have an appetite for, cruise lines are listening.
While unlimited grazing is still possible, passengers are finding smaller, more manageable portions. Sure, they can order a dozen of them, but the force-feeding of the past is out, opening the door for appropriate choices for each individual.
A New Spin On An Old Idea
A case in point, Princess Cruises recently announced a partnership with a master chocolatier to produce Chocolate Journeys, a new onboard “experience”. Far more than a chocolate fondue fountain at a buffet, the Chocolate Journeys event has chocolate authority Norman Love (Godiva Chocolates) designing custom-crafted desserts as well as chocolate and wine pairings.
Perfectly timed, the Princess Chocolates Journeys experience will offer less-guilt small bites, a cruise traveler favorite-sized portion. Princess itself has had great success in the ‘feed around the clock, just not so much at once’ craze with their centrally located International Café in the atrium area of their ships. Small chocolate bites fit right in here.
The New Alternative
Not all that long ago, big ship cruise lines started adding alternative dining venues; perhaps a steakhouse to supplement the main dining room experience. That idea quickly blossomed into multiple dining venues on most ships, some included in the price, others for a nominal extra charge. Regardless of the number of options or their cost: cruise passengers loved them.
The result is an environment turning towards elimination of the main dining room experience, once seen as the most efficient, most profitable way to feed thousands, three times a day.
On The Horizon
Ingraining multiple dining options into standard fare, Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum class ships won’t have the main dining rooms per se. Instead, passengers will choose between a number of venues each night.
Making a further attempt to include formerly alternative dining as part of the experience, Norwegian Cruise Lines recently announced an all-inclusive option. Now included, complimentary access to one of the line’s specialty restaurants every night of the cruise as part of the deal. Also known as Norwegian’s Ultimate Dining Package, its just one part of their new All-Inclusive package that claims to offer over $2,400 in value.
Total Food Immersion
If all of the above does not convince us that culinary efforts will continue to be a big part of the cruise experience, special sailings focused on food and wine certainly should.
Celebrity chefs taking to sea today, in person, to share their knowledge and love of food go far beyond the celebrity chef endorsement of yesteryear; when lending their name to a menu did the trick.
Celebrity Cruises’ Modern ‘Luxury focus’ has brought upscale dining, healthy cuisine and unique culinary concepts to sea in a way unmatched by other cruise lines. Now, Celebrity is launching four cruises featuring former “Top Chef” contestants, giving passengers the opportunity to participate in complimentary cooking demonstrations, the show’s famous, interactive Quickfire Challenges and other activities.
Not so much for extreme foodies as for those who want a rich immersion into food and wine; where it came from, its history and detailed preparation information, Seabourn cruises recently announced their first-ever epicurean themed sailing.
On board Seabourn Sojourn for an 11-day “Best of the Riviera Food & Wine Cruise” cruise travelers will visit some of Europe’s most appealing food and wine regions, sailing October 30, 2014 from Monte Carlo, through the French and Italian Rivieras to Rome. Celebrity Guest Chefs from the region will be along on the voyage as well as Seabourn’s award-winning team of corporate executive chefs and wine experts.
Don’t look for this to be anywhere close to the end of what we will hear about cuisine at sea either. If history tells us anything it is that cruise lines will remain a relevant, if not cutting-edge travel option. While food writers are fond of saying a given experience on a cruise ship was ‘the best _____ I have had on land or sea’, look for the next step in cruise travel dining to be offerings only available at sea.