FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Cruise Lines Elevate the Onboard Fine-Dining Experience

by Katie McElveen

Mar 28, 2024

PHOTO:
© OCEANIA

March 2024

It’s been a long time since the food on cruise ships resembled the bland, uninspired fare that gave onboard dining a bad name. These days, cruise passengers can look forward to menus created by Michelin-starred chefs made with top-quality ingredients served in stunning spaces. Choices abound as well. In addition to elegant main dining rooms, cruise ships have created a huge array of specialty restaurants that focus not only on perfectly executed traditional European and North American dishes but flavors and experiences from around the globe as well. In fact, meals served aboard cruise vessels have gotten so good, they’re drawing passengers onto ships: According to a recent report by luxury travel planning network Virtuoso, advisors report after Europe (specifically Italy and France), the No. 2 dining destination for travelers is aboard an ocean or river cruise. “This shows how cruise lines have really stepped up their culinary game, with consulting chefs and new restaurants and making that a focal point,” said Misty Belles, vice president, Global Public Relations, Virtuoso.

PHOTO: © OCEANIA

Looking at the options available, it’s easy to see why. Oceania Cruises recently launched three new dining experiences, one of which offers a two-hour Cellar Wine Luncheon with the ship’s head sommelier. Joining the line’s famous Dom Perignon Experience, a six-course extravaganza featuring three Dom Perignon vintages, is the Moët & Chandon Experience, pairing the house’s iconic bubblies with dishes such as duck foie gras terrine and cured beef tenderloin. Oceania offers both experiences in partnership with Wine Spectator.

Princess Cruises added the interactive 360: An Extraordinary Experience to its offerings. The seven-course meal takes guests to Italy and France with a blend of storytelling, tech-driven visuals, music, immersive aromas and, of course, food. Wine aficionados will want to book the line’s exclusive Caymus Winemaker’s Dinner, a five-course feast limited to 12 guests. The line also introduced expansive vegan menus with dishes such as pasta with walnut sauce and stir-fried portobello mushrooms with maple and soy.

© SEABOURN

A recent survey by Seabourn Cruise Line revealed guests were looking for fresh, healthy options as well as Mediterranean cuisine. The resulting restaurant, Solis, combines the flavors of the region with its wine and culture. Appetizers and entrées include a tomato tart flavored with roasted garlic and green olives as well as a Greek salad that gets its pop from barrel-aged feta cheese and a bright hit of mint. “Our guests are drawn to global flavors, which we love as chefs because we can be creative and curate fun and interesting dishes for them,” said Master Chef and Culinary Partner Tony Egger. “I’m particularly proud of Solis’ lobster ravioli, which features roasted lobster and a lobster emulsion. The combination of luxury ingredients in comforting pasta makes the dish amazing.”

According to Sidney Simedo, director, Culinary Operations, Celebrity Cruises, guests aboard Celebrity’s fleet of 16 vessels are interested in sustainability, with a focus on plant-based and ethically sourced products. Meeting that demand with style is Eden, a concept space — think cocktail bar, entertainment venue and restaurant — where offerings include a seven- course, plant-based menu. Not only is the food beautiful, but, in many cases, the vegetables and fruits have been minimally processed and are presented in their natural state … only better. Dishes include beet and tomato ceviche, roasted celeriac steak, and Masala curry made with dried rose petals, proving healthful eating can be exciting. Omnivores won’t go hungry, either: Bacon and corn stud Eden’s rich lobster casserole; lamb loin is roasted in a fragrant herb crust.

Chefs aboard cruise ships take authenticity seriously, often traveling to the source for inspiration and ingredients. In developing new menu items for Chartreuse, Steph Armengol, vice president, Hotel Operations, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and a team of executive chefs traveled to Armengol’s hometown of Port-la-Nouvelle, France, for inspiration. That trip resulted in dishes including halibut Viennois with fennel, porcini mushrooms and veal jus; and a soupe de poissons with mussels and a dollop of aioli.

WINE AND SPIRITS
Cruise ship fine dining isn’t just about the food. Creative cocktails, high- end liquors and vintage wines also have a place at the table. Cruise lines meet that need with wine cellars so expansive Celebrity, Princess Cruises, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Virgin Voyages have all earned Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.

“We are proud of our wine program, which features wines from all over the world, including many of the destinations we visit,” said Sami Kohen, vice president, Food and Beverage, Princess Cruises. “Our guests love learning from our sommeliers and perhaps finding their new favorite wine.”

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