They are calling it the other great Australian bite… food and wine are among the hottest tourist experiences thanks to the country’s clean and green reputation. Now homeported cruise ships are tapping in to their guests’ desire to know where their food comes from, and even to meet the farmers, fishermen and producers.
Companies such as P&O Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line and many more are encouraging sustainable eating and showcasing the country’s local produce. And they are calling in at regions such as the Barossa Valley and Kangaroo Island in South Australia and Marlborough in New Zealand so international guests can sample produce and hear producers’ stories.
From wine to chocolates, pickled vegetables to pork, food tours offer a great insight into local culinary secrets and specialties. Some cruise lines also stock up on local produce while in port so passengers can savour the food and wine as they sail. Short cruises to New Zealand are also getting in on the feeding frenzy.
It makes dinner a piece of theatre and a local education as well. Here’s a sample of the tasty tours on offer by leading lines.
P&O’s ships head to a number of Australia’s top food regions, including the Margaret River, Barossa Valley and Kangaroo Island.
The line recently introduced The Pantry, replacing the traditional buffet with a variety of food outlets. The Pantry will be onboard the Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden. The idea is to promote local produce, which will be available onboard.
P&O sources much of its food from Australian producers – the beef is from Goulburn Valley and Gippsland in Victoria, the chicken is from Cordina Farms and lamb from Dubbo in New South Wales.
The line also features many food and wine tours around the country, so both guests can gain an understanding of the range of Australian produce.
One of the newest tours available is a visit to the Kangaroo Island gourmet FEASTival (held in May) where guests visit a farm and try local produce. The day is made up of tastings, cooking demonstrations and even tips on preserving your own food at home.
P&O also offers a tour of the Cape Naturaliste Vineyard in Margaret River, which won the 2011 London International Wine Fair trophy for best red from a single vineyard. Guests will have a chance to
taste some brews from the Eagle Bay Brewing Co and sample chocolate from Gabriel Chocolate.
Also in Margaret River, guests can
enjoy a five-course degustation menu at the Aravina Estate. The experience is
about food sourced both locally and onsite and executive chef Tony Howell explains how the winery uses organic and sustainable produce.
In South Australia’s Barossa Valley, guests can visit one of the world’s best-known wineries, Jacob’s Creek.
Back onboard, cruisers will be able to sample local cheese, dried fruit and crusty bread, as well as regional olive oil, balsamic and chutney, paired with matching wines.
Royal Caribbean International
For those who love good wine and cheese, Royal Caribbean offers excursions through the Hunter Valley when its ships dock at Newcastle, NSW.
The tour includes visits to three of the regions’ best wineries as well as sampling Hunter Valley cheeses. Some of these wineries have been around since the 1800s.
“Australians expect gourmet food on land and at sea, so we’re very proud of our many shore excursions that deliver the very best in fresh, local ingredients,” says Royal Caribbean’s Sean Treacy. “Onboard our local sailings, our culinary offering is similarly sourced from fresh, local Australian produce. We have seen culinary shore excursions grow in popularity as people’s interest in the origins of their food grows. Our culinary tours regularly feature in the top-five shore excursions for Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International.
“For example, in Adelaide, our guests can’t go past the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills for their vineyards and gourmet produce served fresh in the winery restaurants. In Tasmania, our Historic Hobart, Countryside and Winery tour is a perennial favourite.
“Meanwhile in Newcastle, the gateway to wine country, our guests regularly rate our Hunter Valley cheese and vineyard tours within their top three picks. Fremantle boasts a Swan Valley Food & Wine Trail that features in the top five, and Melbourne’s Wallabies & Wine offers guests the chance to sample local wine paired with the best local produce.”
Full-day Hunter Valley Wine Country
Princess Cruises heads to a number of regional destinations in Australia to showcase their wine and food.
In New Zealand, Princess offers its guests a chance to visit Picton’s Marlborough Wineries and Makana Confections.
Marlborough’s sauvignon blanc put this region on the map, and today it is responsible for 79 per cent of New Zealand’s wine production.
After a wine tasting, guests are taken to Makana Confections. This boutique chocolatier is famous for its truffles and macadamia-nut candies and guests even have the chance to watch the confectionery being made.
Celebrity Cruises recently employed MasterChef Australia contestant Mindy Woods to source the best produce from Australian growers and food artisans.
“I’ve worked with lots of different Australian growers and producers and what I did with Celebrity Cruises is advise them about where to source the best seafood, the best meats, the best breads, all grown locally at home,” says Ms Woods.
“Some of my favourite things I have shown the chefs is beautiful artisan breads, butter from Pepe’s in Tempe in Sydney, as well as banana prawns and succulent Australian lamb. These kinds of ingredients show overseas visitors how amazing
our food is.”
The line also offers guests a tour in Tauranga, New Zealand. The Basket of Plenty tour includes visits to artisan bakeries, the fish markets, a coffee roaster and a kiwi fruit orchard.
The idea is for cruisers to pick and choose what they want in their basket – Manuka honey, kiwi fruit, olive oils, spirits, meats, seafood, cheeses and breads.
In Adelaide, SA, Celebrity Cruises offers tours of the McLaren Vale region, famous for its wide variety of wineries. The eight-hour tour includes tastings, a two-course lunch and an opportunity to purchase wines to take home.
The Bay of Plenty
Experience McLaren Vale
Holland America Line
HAL’s itineraries cover most of the globe and, like other lines, it also has food tours which celebrate the sustainability of
A Taste of Port Lincoln gives guests an insight to Australia’s seafood at the Fresh Fish Place. The day includes meeting local fishermen as they come off their boats. The region is known for its King George whiting, nannygai fish, shark, mussels, Coffin Bay Oysters, prawns, squid and much more. The fishermen then show guests how they clean and package the seafood for some of the best restaurants around Australia.
At the end of the Fresh Fish Place tour, there are samples of smoked fish and pickled seafood for guests to try.
Next on the tour is a visit to the Boston Bay Winery, hosted by local seafood chef Tony Ford. He also does a cooking demonstration featuring local bluefin tuna wonton cones and seared squid with popcorn mayonnaise. Passengers also feast on smoked kingfish crepes and sweet and sour pork belly seafood.
New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, is well known as a city for food lovers. On it’s New Zealand cruises, HAL offers a tour for guests to meet local artisans – cheese makers, coffee-bean growers and chocolatiers. The guide also tells stories about the growers of Wellington.
A Taste of Port Lincoln
Flavours of Wellington
The line has specialty tours where chefs
even take guests to farmers’ markets to shop for local produce.
In Wellington, New Zealand, Seabourn has a walking tour that takes guests to visit a local gelato maker as well as chocolatiers and candy makers. Guides also take guests to Moore Wilson’s Fresh, a hidden gem in Wellington where local foodies and chefs shop for cheese, bread, meat and seafood. The tour ends with a three-course tasting lunch with selected wines at one
of Wellington’s leading restaurants,