As I sit here and write this I have to own up to thinking about food. Although I grew up with an Irish diet – lots of meat, potatoes and over cooked veggies – as soon as I sprouted into an adult (albeit a small one), and ventured out into the world, I realised quickly that there are many amazing culinary options out there to explore.
For me, food is a huge part of travel, and when I first started cruising the culinary offerings were, well, boring. I am not a fan of fixed seating dining (no allowing for spontaneous decisions), if I don’t eat something spicy for two days I get withdrawal symptoms (yes, a self confessed chilli addict), and to eat the same food night after night, even if fine, sends my taste buds and appetite to sleep.
Over the 25-odd years I’ve been cruising, however, things have undoubtedly changed. I have written about this before, the evolution of cruise food and rise of the celebrity chef, but a couple of things caught my eye recently that I found quite interesting.
The first is that Celebrity Cruises have introduced packages for dining in its alternative restaurants. The move evidently follows the popularity of its attractive beverage packages, so they are aiming to make dining more easy for people once they are on board. It’s beverage packages are excellent, with the top one covering everything you could possibly drink on a cruise, from bottled water to specialty coffees, pre-dinner drinks, wine, and nightcaps.
So what are the dining packages all about? For one they are designed to offer not only convenience but value for money. For solo travellers, there are Individual Dining Packages offering three or five specialty restaurant visits. But the best news is for couples, with three to choose from depending on your level of commitment (otherwise known as love of dining).
The Savor Package features three dining reservations per couple including three bottles of wine. For lighter drinkers, the Gourmand package ups this to five dining reservations per couple with three bottles of wine, while the Bacchus Package matches five dining reservations per couple with five bottles of wine. Because the lineup of specialty restaurants varies by ship, however, the specific offerings within the packages also vary.
In contrast, another new development is that NCL is now offering a 24-hour pizza delivery service to staterooms across its fleet, saving late night revelers, casino goers or insomniacs from the munchies. The program started initially on the Hawaiian based Pride of America, and proved so popular that the company has expanded the service. At only US $5 a head its pretty good value, but the downside might be waking up to your neighbour taking a delivery at 3am.
Also last week, MSC Cruises announced it is taking the plunge and offering beverage packages from 2012. There are quite a few to choose from, but for example you can buy a water package (Europe only) for $40 a person which includes vouchers for 14 bottles of mineral water. For wine lovers there’s a wine package (also Europe only) which for $107 a person includes four bottles of unlisted wines selected by their sommelier – vouchers again, and a mix of wine types.
What does all this add up to? Ultimately two things which are good for cruisers; more choice for one, and hopefully better value for money for another, and it also ups the ante in terms of competition between cruise lines. Will others follow suit? You bet. The question lingering is when. Happy cruising!