Cruise Dining Options: What’s Cooking Onboard?

Gone are the days of one meal for all, nowadays cruise dining options are a true gourmet experience. There’s a range of tasty and satisfying options from the fast – BBQ’s, hamburgers, fresh salads, to the delicious – international cuisine; buffets, alfresco, room service, specialty restaurants, fine dining and now, even to the famous with A-list celebrity chef’s… the modern day cruise line really has it all!

Today you are invited to the table of top chefs who are taking to the high seas in an effort to promote and develop interesting and varied menus for a wider audience. Not only do cruisers enjoy luxurious surrounds and beautiful destinations, new found friends and fine wines from around the world, they have a wide choice of dining options and culinary experiences  to suit their every mood.

P&O Australia’s own home grown Luke Magnan’s Salt Grill, provides an unforgettable dining experience with his commitment to innovative, fresh and fantastic food. Luke turns the finest Australian ingredients into his signature dishes like crab omelette with enoki mushroom salad and miso broth, and the famous licorice parfait with lime syrup.

PO Cruises UK have opted for TWO award winning chefs.

Michelin-starred Atul Kochhar who creates modern Indian cuisine with a modern twist in East and Sindura offering crisp soft-shell crab with squid salad, Chiang Mai ribs, Khmer king prawns, 24-hour slow-cooked lamb rending and star anise poached rhubarb with yogurt foam and salted nuts. (that’s very “cheffy”)

Then there is the Italian specialty restaurant The White Room or Ocean Grill by Marco Pierre White, who has been dubbed the ‘godfather of modern cooking” and a Michelin Star chef three times over! Savour juicy Breast of Corn-fed Chicken with Truffle, Dauphinoise Potato and Roasted Courgettes or a Mascarpone Crème Brûlée (OMG… yum!!) or maybe Tiramisu MPW – Marco’s version of a classic Italian dessert and there’s more!

Royal Caribbean are introducing total flexibility onboard their two new vessels Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas with no set dining times, no required formal nights and no assigned seats in their many restaurants. Instead, you can let your appetite guide your options ranging from chic contemporary and Asian flavors, to Mediterranean and Grand dining experiences. Plus, Jamie Oliver, one of Britain’s most famous food experts, brings his love of Italian rustic cooking onboard from his famous antipasti plank piled high with cured meats, pickles and tempting cheeses to an indulgent Spaghetti Vongole to delectable desserts (I’m hoping there’s a crème brûlée in there somewhere – it’s a favorite!)

Cunard, the UK based cruiseline has gone abroad to locate their US celebrity chef – Todd English, with a list of awards to his name including National Rising Star Chef and Top 50 Tastemakers. His self titled onboard restaurant has brought sheer genius and inspiration to the Queen Mary 2 with such fare as Porterhouse of lamb, seared yellowfin tuna, sea scallops with oxtail and top choices for dessert – chef’s carrot cake or a superb banana crème brûlée! …OMG I love these chef’s!

Disney Cruise Line asked Michelin Star x 3, French celebrity chef Arnaud Lallemont to design their newest cruise ship menu’s including scallops with black olives and fennel, smoked buffalo, wild turbot and a simple but elegant range of desserts… choux pastry with praline cream and wild strawberry sorbet to name a few… yum and yum.

Geoffrey Zakarian, Celebrity Chef oversees menu’s for seafood-focused restaurants of Norwegian Cruise Lines as well as an occasional stint onboard for cooking demos and workshops. With all things fishy being on the menu at Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian, scallops, salmon, sea bass and Dover sole make a regular appearance, along with roast Peking duck and the ever-succulent Delmonico steak for the non-fish-lovers.

Jacques Pepin holds the title of Oceania Cruises’ master chef and executive culinary director. His influence can be found throughout all five Oceania ships, including his namesake restaurant Jacques, as well as all other onboard restaurants. Pepin works with Oceania’s executive chefs in all of the dining venues where meals are already included in the cruise fare – because there is no additional surcharge! Three Signature Dishes that are always available in the Grand Dining Room at dinner are Steak Frites features New York strip steak with hand-cut French fries; Poulet Roti (that’s a fancy name for herb-crusted chicken with gravy and mashed potatoes – still yummy though); and deliciously sounding Supreme de Saumon au Court-Bouillon.

Crystal Cruises have scored big with the master of Japanese cuisine – Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa providing the menu for Silk Road or Sushi Bar onboard both Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity. He occasionally makes personal appearances giving cooking classes, demonstrations, artistic omasake dinners and of course, signing autographs for his huge number of foodie followers. Diners are regularly thrilled with sumptuous creations as black cod with miso, lobster with truffle-yuzu sauce, sushi and sashimi and… you better believe it – a TRIO of crème brûlées – sweet ginger, pink guava and passion fruit. (I’m seriously thinking this should be my next cruiseline with a dessert like that!)

Celebrity Cruises have gone a different route, opting for special in-person appearances on selected voyages for “Top Chef” TV contestants who give demonstrations and host special cooking events and themed dinners. All ships also combine elements of “Quickfire” Competitions. A variety of worldly menu’s crafted by a James Beard feature chef from the main dining room Cosmopolitan, to the Oceanview Cafe buffet, to the specialty restaurant Qsine, and feature the hottest culinary trends.

Carnival Australia certainly make your mouth water with plenty of choices from such restaurants as Fat Jimmy’s C-side BBQ – serving up Italian sausage, barbecue chicken breast, Italian sausage, and the specialty of the grill, classic pulled-pork sandwiches; as well as the main Empire dining room for anytime dining, the Red Frog Pub for live music, good beer and snacks. And in the specialty Nouveau Restaurant you’ll enjoy the finest aged beef char-grilled to your specifications, seared lobster tail and other delectable morsels.

It must be said, though, if you were to book a table at an exclusive, Celebrity Chef land-based restaurant, you are likely to wait for weeks for your reservation, plus be charged the earth to eat there! It’s a little bit different when you sail on a ship where most specialty restaurants and exclusive Chef’s cuisine will only charge a small additional cover charge upwards of $25 – all the rest of the dining options and all the food you can eat is already included in your cruise fare! Such a small price to pay to experience sensationally inspired cuisine while on the holiday of a lifetime.

Dining is a huge part of the cruise experience, passengers can opt for a romantic a-la-carte meal, a great steak, snacks by the pool with friends or a pizza with the kids! Plus most onboard traditional run-of-the-mill dining room’s have really lifted their game with elegant, relaxing surroundings, impeccable service and a changeable menu of local delicacies, steak favorites and crème brûlée’s galore! And, of course, if you’re in the mood to relax and dine in the comfort of your own stateroom, there is always the Room Service menu – all the staples, plus some champagne extras on request… and I know for a fact that no one cares how many crème brûlées you eat!

Whichever cruise ship or dining style you choose, there are signature chefs with delicious cuisine to tantalize your tastebuds and satisfy any hunger needs or desires. Remember though, cruising has a tendency to make your clothing shrink!

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