Fine dining is now an integral part of cruising. Teresa Ooi takes a look at 10 of the cruise lines that do it best.
Food glorious food. While orphans in the popular West End musical Oliver could only dream of it, it’s a reality for today’s cruise passenger.
Over recent years, cruise cuisine has been elevated to an art form. With Michelin-starred chefs, gastronomic feasts and degustation menus, onboard dining can blow your tastebuds away.
Many lines have teamed with a celebrity chefs which adds cachet, even if the chef himself only joins one or two cruises a year. Specialty restaurants range from French bistro and classic Italian to Japanese sushi bars and Asian fusion to American steakhouse and Australian seafood.
The food is cooked to order, service is impeccable and guests are encouraged to linger and enjoy.
Here’s our pick of 10 of the best to whet your appetite.
1 Crystal Cruises
Renowned Japanese chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa brings his unique fusion of fine Japanese and Peruvian influences to Silk Road and the Sushi Bar on Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity. Every detail is perfect from sake cups to chopsticks.
Take a seat at The Sushi Bar to savour Nobu specialities such as yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno and tuna tataki with ponzu sauce prepared in front of you. You can also try grilled wagyu beef from golfer Greg Norman’s ranch in Queensland.
At the Silk Road, try Nobu-style lobster with truffle-yuzu sauce or saikyo miso black cod served with peach and young ginger. crystalcruises.com
2 Regent Seven Seas Cruises
You are spoilt for choice when it comes to fine dining restaurants on the luxurious Seven Seas Explorer.
French Chartreuse on deck 10 is reminiscent of a Parisian cafe with feminine art nouveau decor and a feature wall lined with sculpted Chartreuse glass surrounded with metallic frames. The menu is classic French with a modern twist. The terrine of foie gras is exceptional, the coquille Saint Jacques sea scallops delicious and the duck breast is served with turnip. Dessert of dark chocolate mouse is wicked.
The Pacific Rim restaurant serves dishes from Japan, China, Thailand, Korea and Vietnam. Small portions allow you to sample several starters. The miso black cod wrapped in a hoba leaf is outstanding, the green chicken curry is surprisingly spicy and the pho sai gon is great. For dessert, you won’t go wrong if you pick the superb green tea panna cotta. rssc.com
Celebrated Vietnamese chef Luke Nguyen is a key attraction for APT’s itineraries on the Mekong. On selected cruises, he leads a walking tour of Ho Chi Minh’s marketplace and alleyways to taste some of the best street food before guests board AmaLotus to cruise to Siem Reap. The tour includes his cooking school, Grain Studio, where you can learn the tricks of cooking with the wok from the master. On board AmaLotus, the Vietnamese culinary feast continues at the ship’s Indochine restaurant where you can experience Luke’s signature creations. aptouring.com.au
4 Princess Cruises
Australian celebrity chef Curtis Stone has created a concept restaurant called SHARE aboard Emerald Princess, Ruby Princess and Sun Princess. He has designed the menu so guests share a number of appetisers, pastas, salads and main courses. Dishes to try include the butter-poached lobster, a side of mac and cheese as well as the beef.
The other perennial favourite on Princess ships is the wood-panelled and traditional Crown Grill, home to the best steaks and French onion soup at sea. princess.com
With multiple three-star ratings from the prestigious Michelin Guide, Thomas Keller is a star in the US. The chef has teamed with the luxury Seabourn line to open The Grill on its newest ship Seabourn Encore. Inspired by the classic American chophouse, it serves the freshest products from hand-picked suppliers and iconic dishes such as crab cake on aioli, simple but tender roast chicken and sharp and sweet lemon meringue pie. Keller’s dishes appear on other menus throughout the ship. The main dining room, The Restaurant has Keller’s signature Sonoma duck breast and herb encrusted saddle of lamb while his more rustic dishes such as ribs and fried chicken are available at the more casual The Colonnade. seabourn.com
6 Oceania Cruises
One of the most famous French chefs in the world, Jacques Pépin has been working with Oceania since 2003. At 82, he has an illustrious culinary CV, including working as Charles De Gaulle’s personal chef. So it is no surprise the line often wins awards for its food (including Cruise Passenger 21st Birthday Awards). The dining room features some of his creations and on the newly refurbished Sirena, passengers can dine at Jacques Bistro, which transforms the main dining venue into a French-styled lunchtime eatery. On Rivera and Marina, specialty restaurant Jacques has beautiful entrees such as duck a l’orange and bouillabaisse.
Sirena also has a new specialty restaurant, Tuscan Steak serving succulent grills and Italian favourites, and the Asian fusion restaurant Red Ginger. Presentation is meticulous down to the choice of lacquer or ivory chopsticks.
Jacques Pépin hosts a culinary-themed European cruise every year. oceaniacruises.com
7 Royal Caribbean
Fast-talking British chef Jamie Oliver partnered with the popular line several years ago and a number of ships offer Jamie’s Italian. The menu includes seasonal Italian fare such as antipasti plates with salami, pastrami and beautiful cheeses. Guests will also find handmade pastas and risottos. And try Jamie’s signature porchetta. Don’t miss Wonderland ‘s molecular gastronomy which offers dishes like liquid lobster with bone marrow and caviar. rcl.com.au
8 Carnival Cruise Line
Famous in America for his burgers and barbecues, Guy Fieri created Guy’s Burger Joint for Carnival ships, including Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend. Guests can order up hand-cut fries as well as burgers to their liking. It’s perfect for a poolside meal. If you’re travelling on the Carnival Magic or Vista, Breeze or Dream you’ll be able to try Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar Bar-B-Que Smokehouse which includes pulled pork butt and smoked Andouille sausage. carnival.com.au
9 Dream Cruises
The former owner of famed Sydney restaurant Marque, Mark Best has launched Bistro on board Genting Dream, which will be homeported in Singapore from December. The menu combines the best of Western and Asian flavours and includes Iberico pork, Rangers Valley beef, potatoes cooked with duck fat, fresh oysters and the beautiful Three Rivers dish of Murray Cod, Sichuan potatoes and a French butter sauce. dreamcruiseline.com
10 MSC Cruises
American-Japanese chef, Roy Yamaguchi will debut his Pan-Asian eatery, Asian Market Kitchen aboard MSC Seaside in December. The menu will include sushi, sashimi and teppanyaki grills. msccruises.com.au
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