Culinary Journeys – 5 Amazing On-Ship Dining Experiences

by Vanessa Lee

Avalon's Wrenkh brothers

HAL's Culinary Arts Center

NCL's Oreo cheescake

Avalon's Sky Bistro

Celebrity's rooftop terrace lounge

Taste: it's a wonderful and delectable thing. Literally providing numerous delicious moments, our taste and desire for good food and libations is a part of our journey through life. When we travel, cuisine and all it means to us, is often at the heart of our best experiences. 

Cruise lines continue to raise the bar in both the food arena and in their cocktail and wine choices on board, so much so that we thought it was time to delve more deeply and find out more about their offerings. 

Seabourn & Celebrated Chef Thomas Keller

Ultra-luxury and award-winning cruise line Seabourn has launched a new era in culinary ‎excellence. Renowned American Chef Thomas Keller, of Per Se and French Laundry fame, has created a series of menus now featured aboard Seabourn Quest in a new bespoke restaurant. The Grill by Thomas Keller was unveiled on the line's ‎newest ship Seabourn Encore and will have a space on Seabourn Ovation launching in 2018.

As well, menus throughout multiple dining venues on Quest, Seabourn Odyssey and Seabourn Sojourn feature an array of Keller dishes ranging from first courses to mains and desserts.  

To introduce an unparalleled dining experience unlike any other at sea, Chef Keller, his veteran staff and Seabourn’s executive culinary team collaborated in menu development and training. It’s a remarkable partnership sure to please guests’ palates!  

HAL Launches a New Culinary Era

The beautiful ms Koningsdam, the newest ship in the highly regarded Holland America fleet, brings fabulous new dining opportunities for its guests and a first at sea as well. Not only are there many guest-favourite restaurants on board, along with some great new additions, there is also a unique experience of being able to blend your own wine courtesy of a partnership with Chateau Ste Michelle.

If you’ve always wanted to be a winemaker, Blend is for you. For a charge of $129 US you can spend an hour or so with a winemaker and work towards blending your own wine which you can then take and enjoy in your room or at dinner. Cruisers choose from a variety of Chateau Ste Michelle blends such as a cabernet franc, a Cold Creek Merlot, a Canoe Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon and more. It’s a fun way to spend an hour, engage with other guests and determine the wine that tastes the best for your palate. And it’s only on HAL.  

New fine-dining options at alternative restaurant Sel de Mer, a French seafood brasserie, are enticing guests, as is an immersive farm-to-table concept dinner experience in the Culinary Arts Center, presented by Food and Wine magazine. The delightful Grand Dutch Café has also proven to be popular, serving traditional Dutch treats along with coffees, drinks and European Beer.

Norwegian Introduces À La Carte Specialty Dining

Always seeking to offer its guests the utmost in freedom and flexibility, Norwegian Cruise Line has introduced à la carte specialty dining for its signature restaurants. Guests can now savour an array of gourmet dishes and determine for themselves how many courses they wish to enjoy during a meal.

The concept was launched in late 2015 on Norwegian Escape. Guests can choose to dine at any of the 11 complimentary dining spots or experience new flavours at specialty restaurants including La Cucina, Le Bistro, Cagney’s Steakhouse and the new Bayamo by James Beard Award-winning chef Jose Garces on an a la carte basis.

There are enhanced menus offering guests the freedom to select as many courses as they’d like to enjoy with per-item pricing. Whether guests wish to have a light meal or a favourite appetizer and soup or salad, or perhaps indulge in a multi-course gourmet extravaganza with a Maine lobster, fabulous steaks or Chateaubriand, Norwegian’s a la carte options will have guest’s taste buds wanting more.

Other ships in the fleet also offer this popular option and guests can continue to reserve dining times ahead of sailing by visiting MyNCL. There is no charge to make a reservation and guests will have any a la carte selections added to their onboard account at the time of dining.

Avalon Waterways Gets Fresh!

Known for its innovative Suite Ship design, Avalon Waterways always seeks to add new ideas, creativity and appeal to its river ships and cruise offerings. Now they are literally bringing fresh ideas to the table! Starting this year the company is teaming up with two of Europe’s rising culinary stars – the Wrenkh brothers – to design Avalon Fresh.

Avalon guests told the line they want healthier and vegetarian food options that taste great. Having always provided travellers with a wide selection of nutritious and delicious recipes, Avalon is taking this idea to a whole new level with Avalon Fresh. Garden-fresh, local ingredients from small farms are married with a big dollop of culinary ingenuity.

For guests who prefer a regular menu, Avalon delivers here too; there’s always an extensive menu and dinners feature specialty items from the day’s destination as well as a choice of wines including regional specialties. And on each Avalon cruise, the company brings a local chef on board to interact with guests while preparing a special menu.

Celebrity Cruises Presents A Fusion of Food and Film

Modern luxury cruise brand Celebrity Cruises recently premiered its sumptuous new sensation at sea, “A Taste of Film.” The setting is the new Rooftop Terrace, a chic modern lounge with breathtaking sea views aboard Celebrity Summit, Celebrity Millennium and Celebrity Infinity.

This is one of the most delicious and indulgent ways that cruisers can enjoy both a beautiful outdoor space as well as a rich cultural and culinary moment. A Taste of Film presents films that evoke a specific cultural, culinary or destination offering paired with cuisine that brings the scenes on the screen to life through guests’ taste buds.

Celebrity’s first film was “The Hundred-Foot Journey” which tells the story of a feud between two adjacent restaurants in a small French town: one operated by a recently relocated Indian family and the other a Michelin-starred French restaurant.

The cruise line’s culinary team, led by Michelin-starred Cornelius Gallagher, has specially crafted a multi-course tasting menu inspired by the film’s French and Indian cuisines, which are served throughout the screening.  It’s a great way to showcase Celebrity’s fine dining choices.

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