Gourmet travellers are in for a smorgasbord of foodie experiences on next year’s river cruises. Hands-on cooking classes, regional onboard and onshore banquets and more flexible dining options are on the menu for foodies, along with lashings of “fresh, locally sourced produce” wherever you go.

Scenic was first off the mark in the cooking-school stakes, introducing Scenic Culinaire in 2017. Scenic Sapphire and Scenic Diamond, which cruise the Rhône and Saône (Sapphire) and in Bordeaux (Diamond) both offer hands-on cooking classes in the well-equipped Scenic Culinaire facility.

Local and onboard chefs teach up to 10 guests per session how to prepare and cook regional French dishes that reflect where the ship is sailing.

Uniworld SS Beatrice
Uniworld’s SS Beatrice has four dining options inspired by famous Austrian composers, including the newly added Max’s. Image: uniworld.com

Uniworld’s revamped SS Beatrice has four dining options inspired by famous Austrian composers, including the newly added Max’s. Guests can take small-group classes with the chef at Max’s, where they create local European cuisines inspired by countries along the Danube. Onboard SS Joie de Vivre, which sails in France, guests can whip up a seven-course meal in La Cave du Vin, which is washed down with wine pairings recommended by the sommelier.

Foodies can just watch and eat

If letting the experts to do the work for you is more to your taste, acclaimed chef, restaurateur and author Luke Nguyen will join APT’s 11-day Paris to Bordeaux cruise in August. Luke will cook dinner at the famous La Terrasse Rouge restaurant in Saint-Emilion – all guests have to do is watch Luke and the head chef create the feast then enjoy eating it.

La Terrace Rouge
La Terrace Rouge. Image: laterrasserouge.com

Luke will also be onboard APT’s AmaLotus for a 14-day Vietnam and Mekong river cruise in November. Highlights include dinner at his restaurant Vietnam House in Ho Chi Minh City, meeting his extended family in Old Saigon, taking a class at his culinary school, Grain and a ‘Get to Know Luke’ session on the ship.

Flexible dining has reached a new level on Uniworld’s Super Ships, where you can enjoy appetisers in the galley and dessert on the top deck – and presumably a main course somewhere in between.

Avalon’s new FlexDining system offers open dining times, more tables for two, bar service on the Sky Deck and daily night fare, on request, at the bar. Staff will also pack you a picnic for off-ship lunches.

As for culinary shore tours, the sky’s the limit in Europe with chef-led cooking classes, dinners in Michelin-starred restaurants and sampling sessions in such famed markets as Bordeaux’s Marche des Capucins. Bon appetit!