High-end beers, vegetarian menus, seafood-centric restaurants and locavore cuisine: A guide to the best eating and drinking on ocean and river cruises.
Small Boat, Star Food
With room for just 90 guests, the new Tere Moana is more like a yacht than a cruise ship. As on its sister ship, the Tahiti-based Paul Gauguin, the consulting chef is Jean-Pierre Vigato, who has two Michelin stars for his Paris restaurant Apicius. The ship’s small size means it can dock in ports where bigger boats can’t. On the tiny Italian island of Elba, passengers can visit La Chiusa winery; in Croatia, they can tour great limited-production wineries, like Milos and Grgich, near Dubrovnik. From $2,895; pgcruises.com.
Locavores at Sea
When a ship is hundreds of miles from shore, sticking to the locavore creed isn’t easy. But Miami chef Michael Schwartz has been creating a mostly Florida-sourced menu for Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas since 2011. This spring, Schwartz brought the menu to sister ship Allure of the Seas, the world’s biggest cruise ship. Here, he shares his locavore success story.
“Our pork supplier at Palmetto Creek Farms told me that our Royal Caribbean orders help him get through the slow season.”
“The ricotta appetizer with orange segments, baby vegetables, olive oil and lots of herbs—that’s something you don’t see on most cruise ships.”
“There’s no open flame allowed onboard, and I love cooking with fire. But the galleys have induction burners, so it’s not like you’re cooking on a camp stove.” From $799; royalcaribbean.com.
The Ocean’s Best Beer List
Crystal Cruises’ Connoisseur Beer Program features all kinds of intriguing brews. Crystal’s beverage guru, Toni Neumeister, names a few favorites. crystalcruises.com.
Samuel Adams Utopias. “They make only a limited number of bottles a year, and the wholesale cost is over $100. It’s very high in alcohol and intensely flavored.”
La Trappe Blond. “This Belgian-style blonde ale is actually made in Holland, and it’s clear, sparkling and refreshing.”
Rochefort Trappistes 10. “This dark, complex Belgian beer clocks in at 11.3 percent alcohol—that’s closer to a wine than a beer.”
Samichlaus Bier. “Made once every December in Austria and aged for 10 months before bottling, this beer resembles a chocolaty port.”
Seafood Specialist: Geoffrey Zakarian
Norwegian Cruise Line’s The Breakaway is one of the few cruises departing from New York City harbor. The onboard experience pays tribute to Manhattan with performances by the Rockettes and three seafood-centric spots by NYC chef Geoffrey Zakarian. We spoke with Zakarian about the challenge of cooking for a floating metropolis. From $999; breakaway.ncl.com.
What’s the hardest thing about cooking on a cruise ship?
If you load up the ship on Monday, and you want to serve fresh fish on Friday, you have to plan. We solved that riddle by making sure we understand what we can freeze and what we can’t. The greatest sushi masters in the world will tell you that shrimp is best within 24 hours of being alive, and tuna should be aged five or six days.
What’s your all-time favorite seafood restaurant?
I’m a big fan of Milos, a great Greek restaurant in New York City. They know how to do seafood in a way that really extracts the utmost flavor. You don’t want to adulterate the fish.
Are you a big cruiser?
The inaugural cruise in May was my first. No pressure, right? I grew up in Massachusetts, so I enjoy water and boats—I mean, ships. You can’t say boat. They will get annoyed if you say boat. I got scolded once.
River Cruises for Foodies
Powered by a paddle wheel, American Cruise Lines’ Queen of the West travels on the Columbia River through Washington and Oregon. The ship’s sommelier pours regional wines and leads tours of five wineries. From $3,750; americancruiselines.com.
Uniworld has new itineraries in Italy, including a 13-day trip from Venice to Rome. The wine list features great producers from the Veneto, and there are food-centric activities onshore almost daily, including a pasta-making class in Bologna. From $2,899; uniworld.com.
With just 14 suites, the high-end Tauck ships specialize in rarefied experiences: A 10-day Rhône River culinary cruise includes a Beaujolais tasting at Château de La Chaize and a private dinner at Paul Bocuse’s L’Abbaye de Collonges, near Lyon. From $5,290; tauck.com.
Holland to Romania
A river-bound version of the Grand Tour, Viking’s European Sojourn hits nine countries as it sails from Amsterdam to Bucharest. Activities shift along the way: In Holland, there are genever tastings; in Austria, the chef leads a strudel class. From $6,667; vikingrivercruises.com.
When the Holland America Line (hollandamerica.com) added a vegetarian menu last year (including a mushroom quesadilla) it had to start ordering much more produce. Here’s how much a large ship goes through in a week:
- 600 pounds of mushrooms
- 900 pounds of carrots
- 550 pounds of zucchini
Port Guide: Insider’s Miami
Celebrity Cruises’ new expert panel, called “Global Insiders,” provides travel tips for 150 ports. Here, chef Marc Murphy suggests where to eat in Miami, one of Celebrity’s main ports. celebritycruises.com.
Mandolin Aegean Bistro
“I love to get a lot of mezes to share, like sucuk, a Turkish chorizo, and stuffed zucchini with eggplant.” mandolinmiami.com.
“They hand-make all their pastas, and my absolute favorite is the tagliolini ai funghi with abalone mushrooms and Parmigiano.” macchialina.com.
Joe’s Stone Crab
“On occasion, I’ll splurge on the Alaskan king crab, but my favorite is the stone crab. It’s fresh and juicy, and it never disappoints.” joesstonecrab.com.