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AAA World | Travel
Exciting New Options in Cruise Dining

HOW CRUISE LINES ARE GOING WAY BEYOND THE BUFFET WITH INNOVATIVE CUISINE OFFERINGS

Seated in the round aboard the Discovery Princess on a recent Alaskan cruise, my fellow diners and I were led through Europe via a panoramic video narrated by Brooke Shields while an interactive tabletop teemed with geo-specific dishes—both real and digitized—showcasing the sights, sounds and tastes indigenous to the highlighted regions.
  
At some points, in tandem with the video that curated the entire meal, aromas were spritzed into the air through tiny nozzles in the restaurant’s ceiling—lemon zest for Sicily and lavender for Provence, for example—which deepened the multisensory elements of all seven courses. The well-choreographed moments proved just as captivating as the breaching whales and cyan-blue glaciers I spied along the southern Alaska coast.
  
Dining on surf and turf on an Oceania cruise. Photo courtesy of Oceania CruisesDining on surf and turf on an Oceania cruise. Photo courtesy of Oceania Cruises
  

And the cuisine was no exception: buffalo mozzarella, handmade spaghetti al limone, Spanish cured meats like serrano ham and chorizo, and beef tenderloin topped with truffle butter, all of which exceeded my expectations about onboard dining.
  
This is Princess Cruises’ 360: An Extraordinary Experience, which debuted in late 2022. The immersive dinner melds cutting-edge technology and culinary magic, and it’s complimentary to suite guests and available for a fee to other guests aboard the Discovery Princess and Enchanted Princess.
  
Princess’ 360 dining adventure is a prime example of cruising’s more recent forays into gastronomic tourism. As travelers seek more sophisticated culinary options, major cruise lines have answered the call, elevating their food and beverage offerings with palate-pleasing menus and activities that celebrate diverse ingredients and innovative cooking. Providing exceptional sips and bites are top of mind industrywide, ensuring that those who travel to eat won’t be faced with uninspired buffets at sea.
  
Champagne accents a gourmet meal at Oceania’s La Reserve restaurant. Photo courtesy of Oceania CruisesChampagne accents a gourmet meal at Oceania’s La Reserve restaurant. Photo courtesy of Oceania Cruises
  

LAPPING UP LUXURY
Cruise lines are known for grandiosity in their ships’ design, amenities and entertainment, so it only makes sense that upping the ante when it comes to cuisine would follow. In fact, some shipboard culinary events are so opulent that they rival that of AAA Five Diamond establishments.

Among them, Seabourn touts a Caviar in the Surf beach barbecue with uniformed staff members serving—you guessed it—caviar and Champagne from a swim-up surfboard bar installed in the ocean. Oceania has also gotten in on the fancy bubbles game with a Dom Pérignon-themed dinner in its La Reserve dining rooms. There, rare vintages are paired with dishes like Brittany blue lobster in yellow curry broth, sashimi-style Wagyu beef and sakura tea-flavored ice cream.
   
Princess Cruises’ 360 dining experience. Photo courtesy of Princess CruisesPrincess Cruises’ 360 dining experience. Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises
  
Royal Caribbean’s Wonderland restaurants deliver fine dining aboard its Anthem of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas. The two-story eateries guide patrons through playful reinterpretations—fire, earth, sun, sea and ice—of Earth’s natural elements, with ingredients and imaginative presentations to match, like crispy shrimp kataifi with a scotch bonnet pepper sauce to represent fire and chilled spicy tuna with yuzu granita as a nod to ice.

While many of these inventive culinary experiences from cruise lines require a supplemental fee, they’re worthwhile small investments for anyone whose taste buds have the final say.
   
Disney Cruise Line cooking class at Tuscany’s Castello del Trabbio Photo by Chloe Rice/Disney Cruise LineDisney Cruise Line cooking class at Tuscany’s Castello del Trabbio. Photo by Chloe Rice/Disney Cruise Line

ALL IN A NAME
In addition to such innovative dining events, cruise lines are calling on some of the biggest personalities in food hospitality to lend their talent and recipes through onboard restaurants, culinary-minded projects and leadership consulting roles.

In 2019, French-born chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud was named Global Culinary Brand Ambassador of Celebrity Cruises, bringing his expertise to the line’s epicurean journeys. This partnership marked one of the first major shifts in top-tier chefs signing on to revamp cruise dining.
  
Carnival Cruise Line has teamed up with the Food Network’s Guy Fieri to launch the uber-popular Guy’s Burger Joint as well as Pig & Anchor Smokehouse | Brewhouse, while Norway-based cruise line HX (formerly Hurtigruten Expeditions) has enlisted the business expertise and star power of Andreas Viestad, a Norwegian food expert whose series New Scandinavian Cooking airs in more than 100 countries.
   
Other noteworthy partnerships include Curtis Stone for Princess Cruises, Thomas Keller for Seabourn, Jamie Oliver for Royal Caribbean and Jacques Torres for Holland America Line.
  
Gothel black forest tower served aboard the Disney Magic. Photo by Matt Stroshane/Disney Cruise LineGothel black forest tower served aboard the Disney Magic. Photo by Matt Stroshane/Disney Cruise Line
  

STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE
The rise in food-focused travel has coincided with interest in knowing exactly where your meal comes from. Ships have long restocked ingredients while in port, but now, many cruise lines are spotlighting locally sourced produce and proteins through cooking classes, culinary events and gastronomy tours.    

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Holland America Line even broadcasts its own live onboard version of America’s Test Kitchen, complete with a high-tech TV studio kitchen, while Disney Cruise Line has expanded its destination excursions with chocolate factory tours in the Bahamas and a pasta-making class in Tuscany.
   
A signature dish from guy fieri’s burger joint aboard Carnival Cruise ships. Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise LineA signature dish from guy fieri’s burger joint aboard Carnival Cruise ships. Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line
   

Regent Seven Seas is also pushing the envelope when it comes to making food a focal point of international travel. Not only has the brand introduced a slew of food-centric classes, events and tours, but it also hosts epicurean-themed voyages that feature guest chefs and vintners who engage one on one with passengers eager to learn more about the intersection of culture and sustenance.
   
With today’s unique culinary events, over-the-top dining experiences, celebrity-helmed restaurants and food-driven programming, you can now embark on a cruise in which the food and drink reflect the splendors of the destinations. Bon voyage—and bon appétit!