The experience of tasting local cuisine and learning about the cultures surrounding culinary traditions is one of the most appealing aspects of travel. For foodies, that level of interest and engagement is heightened even further. Many of the top cruise brands, in their marketing wisdom, have taken notice and are increasingly serving up fabulous, food-centric adventures for their guests both onboard and ashore.
Considering that the culinary offerings on cruises are now on par with land-based resorts and destinations, gastronomy is an important selling point that travel advisors can use to inspire new and repeat cruisers to book.
A diversity of restaurants
Cruise lines house a wide diversity in their restaurants onboard, with offerings from refined gourmet dining to relaxed casual bites. Menus center around fresh, local ingredients and wines, delivering authentic tastes from the destinations the vessels are passing through. In addition, more brands have welcomed Michelin-star chefs to their kitchens to curate cuisine that has raised the bar to five-star dining.
“I like to find voyages that have unique culinary experiences for my foodie clients,” says Samantha Robichaud, owner, Fabulous Adventures Travel Company. “There are several cruise lines that have at least one eatery that dazzles all the senses. These restaurants push boundaries to create an unforgettable experience. One of my favorite cruise lines to recommend for foodies is the new adult-only cruise line. Their eateries onboard will delight any foodie and satisfy even the most basic eater.
“One experience, in particular, onboard that is perfect for the ultimate foodie is a laboratory-like restaurant. The menu reads as a simple one-ingredient-per-course, but the actual dish is a combination of several ingredients creating a culinary masterpiece. It’s really an experience like no other! I send all my foodie clients there.”
Another feature that gastronomes expect on their sailings is “options, but ‘made-for-me’ options,” notes Jason Dorn, of Jason’s Travel Deals.
“Foodie clients are looking for something a bit elevated, without having to pay extra for it. Being able to explain that there are numerous fine dining (without the pretense) options for them to choose from becomes a very easy sell. [What’s more], everything [can be] custom ordered, taking into consideration any allergies or food restrictions. At no additional upcharge!”
Robichaud explains further that foodies want “options that are different from the normal, out of the ordinary and not your basic food. Food that is designed to stimulate the senses, ALL the senses. They are tired of your basic cruise menus that haven't changed in years. When my foodie clients go on vacation, they want to experience the same out-of-this-world options you can get on land, at sea.
“That is hard to find now, but I do see an upward trend of less basic and more extraordinary. When I have a foodie client, I make sure to choose a cruise line that accentuates food. The best option is the cruise line that has these experiences already included, and the client doesn't have to pay for the upgraded dining experience. This is a win-win for the ultimate foodie.”
Culinary excursions, cooking classes
Perhaps the most memorable moments occur during the culinary excursions and cooking classes. That is where guests wholeheartedly explore the flavors, smells, sights, sounds, and cultures of the local destinations.
“My foodie clients LOVE excursions where they can taste their way through the local food. Cooking with a local is a favorite excursion, as well as tasting the local libation! I always tell my clients about the excursion I went on in Greece where I visited a local Mykonian home, cooked and ate the most AMAZING Greek food. The wine she served us was from her father’s winery and it was absolutely delicious. It was the best food and wine! I still dream about it!” recounts Robichaud.
One popular cruise line offers a three-hour Margarita and Chocolate Mixology excursion in Cozumel. Guests visit the Mayan Cacao Company, where they learn about the history of chocolate and its importance to the region, and how this favorite sweet treat is made. Of course, chocolate and cocktail tastings abound.
During a longer, five-hour Mexican Cuisine Workshop, travelers are immersed in a hands-on cooking lesson with a local chef. They learn to whip up a three-course Mexican meal, and then enjoy their culinary creations before heading to the beach.
In Key West, travelers can embark on a rum-tasting excursion, a mojito class mentored by a master mixologist, and a key lime pie bakery experience. All one can say to that is, yum.
On yet another sailing, during a stop at Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, various foodie tours are offered. The outstanding four-hour Eat, Drink and Fiesta tour starts with a visit to Plaza Independencia before heading to Rancho Las Catalinas, where travelers learn how to dance the national-favorite merengue and cook the iconic Dominican dish called sancocho (a delicious hearty meat stew with starchy vegetables such as yucca and plantains).
These are just a few examples of the superb, savory adventures cruisers can delve into during their journeys. Other options include vineyard tours and wine tastings, foraging trips to local markets with the chef, onboard cooking classes, coffee tastings, and more.
Dorn says that food photography is also a big draw with his clients. No doubt, as so many travelers these days delight in recording and sharing their culinary escapades on social media.
“I believe cruise lines are joining the Instagrammable food trend,” says Robichaud. “This is a new movement to get the best, most unique picture of your dining experience. I believe this has spurred several lines to up their game in the foodie market. Some great options I have seen are a true Korean BBQ complete with social drinking games; a restaurant designed around wonder and fantasy where the menu is blank until you paint it; and a Mexican restaurant that is definitely NOT your basic taco, although the chocolate taco is on the dessert menu.”
As for recommending specific cruises to foodies, Robichaud explains: “I really just try to sell the most inclusive, jaw-dropping, let-me-grab-my-phone-to-take-a-picture experience that I can find for them! When offering different options to my clients, I consider age, destination, and, of course, eateries. I believe foodies are realizing that cruising is making a change, and they need to jump on board!”
Cruisers today want authentic culinary experiences, those that are immersive and varied, and that open a window to learning something about a destination’s people and culture through their food-centered activities. These are the stories -- and maybe even a new food or cocktail recipe -- they seek to take home and share with friends and family about their travels.
FROM THE SPONSOR:
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