The Wave Of Cruise Innovations Keep Coming
From new dining venues to vintage cocktails

by Vanessa Lee

Chef Thomas Keller with RIck Meadows, President of Seabourn

Seabourn Encore suite decor

Adam D. Tihany, Seabourn Encore's ship designer

The Grill 

MSC Chef Roy Yamaguchi

Having just come off a jam-packed Sea Trade in Florida, I really can't emphasize enough that 2016 is a pivotal year for many cruise lines. Especially for luxury, small-ship companies. It's as if the starter's gate is up and everyone is racing out at the same time -- ready to run at high speed down the track and pip each other at the winner's post. It’s a very exciting time in cruising.

Seabourn Encore is coming this December and as I have always had a soft spot for this superb brand, I am delighted to see how much care and attention they are applying to their new 600-guest ship. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting the ship's designer, Adam D. Tihany at the Seabourn press conference at Sea Trade and was able to learn more about their plans for the ship.

Familiar spaces from the Odyssey class ships are being somewhat redesigned. The partnership with acclaimed Chef Thomas Keller will continue with a new restaurant coming soon on Seabourn Quest in the small space previously given to Restaurant 2. It will then debut on Encore as The Grill by Thomas Keller, which, according to Rick Meadows, President of Seabourn, will be modelled on the American classic Chop House and inspired by same.

A timeless sense of art and design of this grand tradition will be complemented by table-side service of many dishes and by Chef Keller's approach to finding artisan purveyors who will supply the ships with their superb produce. 

What I really love about this new dining option is that it is simply gorgeous, with al-fresco dining and a very sexy bar replete with a piano and separated from the restaurant by a glass wall. 

As the charming Adam Tihany stated, “this is not just a restaurant on a ship, it is a portrait of a chef.” And he continued, “You will feel this is about a great culinary artist who will share with you - everything is designed with you (the guest) in mind, by an extraordinary host". 

Guests will be able to pre-reserve for The Grill before embarking and will have an opportunity to dine once per cruise. If space allows and if guests are flexible with day and time, they may well be able to enjoy a second meal there. 

On Seabourn Encore there will be 94 seats in the restaurant with many tables for two and on the Quest (and the other 2 ships as they dry dock), the restaurant will hold 44 for dinner. ‎

Seabourn is also focusing on very fine wines for The Grill, chosen by Chef Keller. They have also announced another new partnership with renowned mixologist Brian van Flandern, who will elevate the craft of superb cocktail making throughout the fleet. I'll drink to that!  Bring on those fab, sexy cocktails of yesteryear with great ingredients.

Seabourn plans to roll out ‘the art of creating cocktails’ and enhance their complimentary drinks programme with the finest spirits from across the world. And consistency is promised from ship to ship and bartender to bartender.

More culinary news came from MSC Cruises. I attended a demo by the very friendly and delightful Chef Roy Yamaguchi, ‎famed for his Iron Chef appearances as well as his 30 Roy Restaurants featuring very tasty Hawaiian-fusion cuisine which he pioneered. Chef Roy brings a wealth of talent and knowledge to his partnership with MSC and will debut on the MSC Seaside which will be sailing to our shores in December 2017.

According to Ken Muskat of MSC, "The design, the menu stock, uniforms, flowers and music are all within Chef's scope for his onboard restaurant.” And as the engaging Chef himself says, "the way I cook is global." His involvement in this new dining spot is complete – from meetings with the ship's architects, the design team, and lucky for us, the purveyors for Roy’s Restaurants ashore to ensure that the onboard experience is just right. 

Food is definitely a big item on ships these days as the bar continues to be raised and each brand looks to extend their culinary "chops" by partnering with famed restaurateurs and chefs. And your guests are the fortunate recipients of same. 

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