In the last few years, cruise ships have really upgraded their restaurants. Noted chefs like Charlie Palmer, Todd English, and Jacques Pepin have created menus, designed kitchens, and worked with the cruise lines to create restaurants that are as appealing as those in cities like London and Lyon.
But that’s not all the cruise lines are doing to attract foodies. Because of the increasing popularity of culinary programs in destinations like Italy and Mexico, several cruise ships are now offering their passengers a wide variety of food and wine experiences.
Wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, lectures from guest chefs, and shore excursions that include visits to wineries, local markets, or cheesemakers are fairly common. And now, a few ships are also offering on-board cooking classes in purpose-built kitchen studios.
Cooking classes on Holland America Line (HAL).
HAL led the way with their Culinary Arts Centers sponsored by Food & Wine magazine. Available fleet wide, these demonstration kitchens feature plasma-TV monitors so passengers can see all the action as top guest chefs prepare some of their most popular dishes. You can also watch from your state room.
Wine tastings and seminars are also held in the theater-style space. Classes are usually specific to the cruise region. In Alaska, students might learn the art of preparing fresh salmon, and jerk dishes are popular on Caribbean cruises.
HAL has a roster of noted chefs, cookbook authors, and wine experts who will conduct classes on upcoming cruises. And the success of this program has inspired other cruise lines to follow suit.
Cooking classes on other cruise lines.
Royal Caribbean International (RCI) has joined forces with Chefmakers Cooking Academy to offer classes on sailings from Port Canaveral on Liberty of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas. The three-hour classes include Quick & Easy Fish, New American Cuisine, and California Cuisine, and range in price from $40 to $125.
Holiday offerings include pumpkin carving, making gingerbread houses, and Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve entertaining. Classes for children are also available.
The biggest news for cruise and food lovers is the 2011 launch of Oceania’s 1,200-passenger vessel, Marina. The state-of-the-art culinary studio – developed in partnership with Bon Appetit – will include 22 cooking stations tricked out with ovens, cooktops, cookware, utensils, and more.
Master Chefs from around the world will teach students how to prepare regional dish. And when possible, students will accompany the chef ashore to tour the market and select the ingredients for the meal they’ll prepare. Groups will shop for sea bass in Amalfi, blood oranges in Taormina, and basil in La Spezia for pesto.
Workshops last from 45 minutes to three hours and cover topics like grilling, chocolate making, or preparing seafood. These are the only true hands-on cooking classes at sea.
Culinary Arts Center on Zuiderdam Image Flickr: Josh Friedman Luxury Travel