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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Cruise Foodie Favorites

Let’s face it—one of the top pleasures of cruising is eating. While the food may not be the best, the ships certainly make up for it in quantity.
And as an unabashed foodie, I love the growing emphasis of cuisine on cruises. Here, for your culinary consideration, are some food experiences you can have onboard beyond the usual MDR/buffet/specialty restaurant dining:

Food as entertainment—While most of the mass market ships have these now, Holland America really takes the cake when it comes to cooking demos. Through their partnership with Food and Wine magazine, HAL’s got a great Culinary Arts program, which boasts an-easy-to-view kitchen setup for demos. And for an extra charge, you can sign up for a small-group cooking class, complete with a chance to get your hands and apron dirty.
There are also celebrity chefs and “Iron Chef” knockoffs. We went to one years ago, where senior crew members competed and their food was judged by a panel of cruisers. It was terrific fun and memorable.

Indonesian pastries on HAL's Noordam
Tea ceremony—HAL also hosts a “tea ceremony” on its ships. In reality, it’s not so much of a ceremony as a chance to savor high quality tea and coffee, and sample Indonesian pastries--all at no extra charge. 

Galley tours—When we started cruising, these were only available through word of mouth. Now, everyone’s doing them. I never tire of the opportunity to sneak a peek behind the curtain. (So, those French fries are frozen after all…) Some of the tours are slick, complete with pitches to buy their cookbook, food carving demos, chef meets-and-greets, and often offer some sampling along the way. 

Salmon spread in Alaska's Inside Passage
The big spread—Then there are the special events that feature the special foods. Alas, the days of midnight buffets are long gone (anyone remember Celebrity’s spectacular presentation?), but there are a few events still around. Some Celebrity ships put on a not-very-publicized but elaborate brunch, Princess does a very nice seafood buffet in Alaska where salmon is king, and Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas features sidewalk sampling on its Promenade.
While the food is the thing at these events, they also usually have photo-worthy ice sculptures, food carvings and such.
Room service—While we rarely use this service, it’s great that it exists. Knowing what room service costs at hotels, there’s just something neat about having food delivered to your doorstep—without the exorbitant fee that usually comes with it. One word of caution, however: some cruise lines are adding a fee for late-night room service. For example, Allure of the Seas charges $3.95 for orders between midnight and 5 a.m.

Dine with a chef—We haven’t done it, but the newest thing is the “Chef’s Table” experience. Royal Caribbean has it on a number of ships and so too does Princess and Carnival. For an additional fee, you can enjoy a freshly made dinner, usually with a lot of courses, which showcases the chef’s skills, in an intimate, small group setting. Sample cost: $85/person on Allure of the Seas for a meal paired with wine.

Know of any other foodie fests on the seas? Let us know!