For dedicated foodies who love to see the world, cruising and cuisine are like a pair of inseparable twins. Stepping aboard is the beginning of both a voyage of discovery and an epicurean adventure.
Cruise ships offer their passengers a host of facilities to enjoy and pass the time at sea, from the less-familiar circus school to the ubiquitous fitness centre, cinema and casino. However, for foodies it’s the thoughtfully designed restaurants, serving the best in local and world cuisine, which take centre stage. Chefs may be classically trained or Michelin starred and it’s not unusual to see a celebrity chef moving from kitchen to galley to provide the creative inspiration.
Marella Cruises, for example, have 10 restaurants on their ship Explorer offering everything from casual to fine dining. Particularly popular is the Market Place on Deck 11, which serves an international buffet that can whisk you away to an intimate Balearic eatery or a pizzeria in Naples.
James Martin and Marco Pierre White are two high-profile celebrity chefs who have dipped their toes in cruising waters. They might prepare a number of special menus or take a teaching role. Wine personalities Oz Clarke and Olly Smith have also helped to curate top-notch wine lists, ensuring that cruisers have the pick of the best bottles.
Local food markets
There’s often time on a shore excursion to visit local food markets. Venice, a popular stopping point for cruise ships, is home to the wonderful group of Rialto Markets which have an enticing selection of fresh products. Exploring an Italian food market is one of life’s great pleasures. With a seemingly infinite variety of fish, cheese, and fruit and vegetables, these markets are as vibrant and colourful as a Claude Monet painting.
Viking Cruises’ Kitchen Table dining experience gives you the chance to visit a local market with a knowledgeable chef, discuss and select the produce before learning how to prepare and present it. It makes your evening meal just that bit more satisfying. What better way of meeting new, like-minded friends.
Ethical food sourcing
With increasing consumer awareness of ethical food sourcing, many cruise ships, particularly the smaller ones, now routinely stock up with fresh local produce while in port, adding authenticity to their chef’s regional meals. And by doing so, the money spent by cruise lines also helps to support the local economy.
For some passengers who just want to relax, one of the great delights of cruising is that they can leave their apron at home and let others do the cooking. Increasingly, however, people take to the seas to hone their skills in onboard cookery schools. Regent Seven Seas Cruises, for example, offer individual instruction for budding chefs of all abilities.
So, what are the best cruises for foodies? Well, people’s tastes vary and each cruise offers something different, but perhaps if you are looking for variety, then the Mediterranean offers an unrivalled opportunity to indulge yourself. Travelling west to east, you can enjoy fish and chips in Gibraltar, pasta in Italy and moussaka in Greece.
For the adventurous foodie, Mediterranean cuisine offers an endless range of textures and flavours, influenced across the centuries by sailors and other travellers, which means tucking into a great plate of food is a cultural as much as a culinary experience.
What’s your favourite cuisine and has the food of a certain region ever inspired you to travel there?