21 Foods You’ll Probably Only Ever Try on a Cruise!

If you ask seasoned cruisers, many will tell you that the available dining options when onboard are a major selling point when they come to book their stint on the sea.

After all, as the saying goes, the way to a man’s heart is through his belly – and ladies do love to lunch!

 

When you’re at sea, with as much food as you can eat thrown in, you can afford to be adventurous with your plate choices and if you don’t like something, just send it back and try something else instead!

If you are in the mood for some daring dining, there are plenty of things on cruise line menus that you may not have tried before.

 

Some are nice, some are naughty and some are just plain peculiar but there’s no excuse not to try them all!

 

1 – Bison Burgers

It’s not really something that we see in the UK but American liners, such as Disney, offer bison burgers as standard.

Did you know a bison burger is healthier than a beef burger?

So not only are you tucking into the rear end of a buffalo for the first time but it’ll be kinder to your waistline – something many of us could really do with when most of the food on a cruise is included in the price!

 

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2 – Escargot

AKA snails.

Don’t eat the shell though, just the inside bit!

If you’re sailing with Azamara, book yourself into the Aqualina restaurant to try a plateful of these French culinary favourites, in a different way.

There’s no classic garlic butter with these snails – just aubergine caviar for some earthy tones or dine in the Qsine restaurant onboard Celebrity and you can enjoy a lobster and escargot fritter, bringing together two shells of the sea and the soil – interesting!

Kinda gross, but interesting.

Do you think they’d allow you to take away any of the snail slime in a doggy bag?

It’s good for your skin, apparently!

 

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3 – A Pizza the Action

Everybody loves pizza, right?

Well the good news is that most cruise lines serve up a decent slice.

On Carnival Cruises, Pizzeria del Capitano boasts a brick oven and is open 24/7, so you can get a pizza the action whenever you get the craving.

 

 

4 – Carpaccio

If you like the sound of steak so raw it’s pretty much mooing, topped with a raw egg, carpaccio might just be your thing!

You can find it at the Prime C restaurant onboard the Azamara ships.

You don’t get a choice of how it’s cooked though because it doesn’t even see a grill!

However, it melts in the mouth and despite all the rawness is highly rated among hard-core food fans.

 

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5 – Calamari

Salt and pepper squid, anybody?

Don’t worry – you won’t be inked

Perhaps some octopus sashimi, onboard Crystal Cruises, may be more your thing?

With Nobu Matsuhisa at the handle of the ceramic knife in the Silk Road kitchen, you can guarantee it’ll be the best quality and perfectly prepared.

There’s nothing like a lovely bowl of tentacles to get the evening off to a great start – and you’re a sucker if you think otherwise!

 

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6 – Sushi Lollipops

And speaking of suckers…

These aren’t as weird as they sound but if you like the idea of sushi rolls being served to you on a stick, then the Qsine restaurant onboard some of the Celebrity fleet is the place to go.

Licking them may not be as effective as using chopsticks or a fork, though.

 

 

7 – Ham and Cheese Croissant-wich

These tasty morsels are a legend in their own time on Royal Caribbean, with repeat cruisers knowing to head to the 24/7 Café Promenade for their fix.

A savoury croissant filled with ham and cheese and topped with lettuce, tomato, mustard and mayo, the croissant-wich looks innocent enough but just one can be enough to form a cruise-long addiction.

 

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8 – Chocolate Buffet

It’s not weird but it is wonderful and wicked, all at the same time.

Imagine – a whole buffet cart, dedicated to chocolate and you don’t even need a golden ticket to try it.

Need we say more?

You can find this magical trolley on the Jewel and Sun class NCL ships – just get there early before the chocolaty sculptures are devoured and grab a snapshot before you tuck in.

Be careful though!

Go too crazy and you’ll be looking like Bruce Bogtrotter and saying goodbye to your closet of fitted pantsuits!

 

 

 

9 – Milk and Cookies

Not just any old milk and cookies – the ice cold milk and fresh-baked soft cookies that will be served to you poolside on Princess Cruises.

This little treat will save your liver from yet another cocktail and make you feel like a cosseted child again.

 

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10 – Fresh Donuts

We don’t care what anyone says, donuts are a holiday essential, whether you’re at the seaside or cruising the Caribbean.

On the pier-style Boardwalk on RCI Oasis class ships you’ll find a sweet little donut shop where the sugary treats are gratis and you can forget getting bored with plain old jam, ring or custard donuts – the rotating flavours here include Passion Fruit Glazed, Key Lime and Nutty Nougat.

Try to resist taking a box full at a time.

 

 

11 – A Guy Burger

Fine dining’s all well and good but sometimes what you really fancy is a big, meaty, juicy burger.

Let US celebrity chef Guy Fieri satisfy your cravings in a BIG way at Guy’s Burger Joint on Carnival. With extras including donkey sauce, brown sugar BBQ sauce, super melty cheese and a Rojo ring, it’s a burger experience that you won’t find at your local drive-through.

 

 Video of Guy's Burger Joint

Video: Guy’s Burger on Royal Caribbean Cruise

 

12 – Sashimi

You’re sailing on the ocean – the least you should do is try some of the stuff that swims in it!

With sashimi, you don’t even have to worry about waiting for it to be cooked either!

Raw fish, such as salmon, yellowfin tuna and amberjack can be found on many of the sushi restaurant menus and is a great thing to try if you can get your head around the idea of eating a piece of fish that hasn’t even seen a searing pan.

NCL offers a decent sashimi selection on its sushi and sashimi menu but the king of sashimi can be found on Crystal Cruises at Silk Road.

 

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13 – Eel

No, not jellied like you’d find in an East End market.

Freshwater eel is one of the weirder things found on the Bonsai Sushi menu, onboard the Carnival liners.

It comes in a roll, alongside some BBQ eggplant (aubergine, to us Brits), tamago (Japanese egg omelette) and panko breadcrumbs.

The Celebrity Silk Harvest restaurant serves a similar freshwater eel (Unagi) roll. Chopsticks are optional but be safe in the knowledge that the eel won’t slither away if you do need to ask for a fork.

 

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14 – Crème Brulee

Ok, on the surface, this sounds pretty normal, so what makes it a must-try?

The fact that it’s served in an eggshell, hidden in a basket made of grass, that’s what!

Book into the ‘fun food’ Qsine restaurant on one of the several Celebrity ships that host it (including the Eclipse, Silhouette and Reflection) and you can enjoy this weird and wonderful spin on a classic French dessert.

You could do with some shortbread soldiers to dunk in it though… chef!!

 

 

15 – Modern Indian

We Brits love a good curry and being a great British cruise line, P&O know this.

They’ve brought Michelin-starred master of the madras Atul Kochhar onboard as one of their five Food Heroes and you can expect more than your usual massala, rice and naan at his Sindhu restaurants.

Mains on the menu (found on Azura and Britannia) include Goan Style pan roasted Lobster and Trio of Duck…………………. as well as a Lamb Rogan Josh for traditionalists.

 

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16 – Caviar

Mmmmmm… raw fish eggs, yum!

Caviar is said to be a rich man’s delicacy and can be tried on Celebrity cruises at the Murano restaurant (found onboard the Eclipse, Solstice and Equinox).

You even get a choice of caviar – Golden Osetra or Sevruga – aren’t you the lucky cruiser?

Even luckier are those booked onto a Seabourn Caribbean cruise that can enjoy champagne and caviar served in the surf, from a surfboard. Yep, really!

 

 

17 – Foie Gras

The Prime 7 restaurant onboard the Regent Seven Seas cruises serves foie gras with rhubarb chutney – what better way to bring out the flavour of plump goose liver than with a fruit that dinner ladies used to force you to eat?

Don’t worry though, this rhubarb will be ripe and mouth-wateringly tasty.

Can you bring yourself to try this controversial delicacy?

 

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18 – A Breakfast Burrito

Forget bacon and eggs or a bowl of soggy cornflakes.

Spice up your breakfast onboard with a breakfast burrito!

Carnival do a really good one at Seaday Brunch, as well as Fat Stack Pancakes, the Funniest French Toast and Loaded Mac n Cheese.

That little lot should keep you going until lunch – Lunch the next day!

 

 

19 – Liquid Lobster

Disappear down the rabbit hole in Wonderland on RCI’s Quantum of the Seas and this is just one of the magical treats waiting to be tasted.

As well as ‘Drink Me’ fish courses, you’ll also find truffled egg still in its shell, spearmint cotton candy, olive ice cream and espresso air.

Don’t be late!

 

 Video: Royal Caribbean's New Wonderland Dining

Video: Royal Caribbean’s New Wonderland Dining

 

20 – Best Shake at Sea

When is a milkshake not just a milkshake?

When it’s from the Carnival Shake Spot!

Choose between the ‘Black and White’, the ‘Strawberry Creamsicle’, the ‘Island Delight’ and more shakes, floats and spiked shakes than you can shake an extra wide straw at.

 

 

21 – Something Michelin-Starred

Ok so you won’t find Michelin-starred restaurants at sea but you will find Michelin-starred chefs, whether they’re in residence or have developed the menu.

Disney has French wonder chef Arnaud Lallement, P&O has Marco Pierre White and Atul Kochhar, RCI has Michael Schwartz and Cunard has Jean-Marie Zimmermann – all of which have struck fear into many a Michelin-starred kitchen.

Chances to dine on menus created and executed by the finest chefs in the world are rare – and expensive – so make the most of the opportunity to dine like a real foodie on your cruise, usually for a small supplement or for free!

 

 

So go on…be brave!

Be adventurous!

Be greedy!

How many times will you have the opportunity to eat and experience so many different tastes (unless you’re a frequent cruiser with an appetite for something other than the typical British meat and two veg diet, anyway!)?

The onboard chefs are among the best in the world, including household names like Marco Pierre White on P&O, Jamie Oliver and Michael Schwartz on Royal Caribbean and Nobu Matsuhisa on Crystal, so if anyone can get you to enjoy escargot, eel and fish eggs, they can!

Or you could just stick with the pizza and donuts.

Your cruise, your choice!

 

Themes breathe new life into river routes

By Michelle Baran
Insight It isn’t easy to reinvent the wheel, so one has to give it to the river cruise lines for getting creative with itineraries that go up and down the same rivers week in and week out by crafting unique and engaging themed departures.

River cruise companies have been toying with themed river cruises for years —holiday-themed winter cruises came onto the scene several years ago as a way to extend the river cruise season and continue to be a mainstay in all the river cruise lines’ brochures — but they’re getting more innovative with themes and definitely having more fun with it.

AmaWaterways’ wine-themed cruises have become so popular that the line now dedicates an entire brochure to its In Celebration of Wine cruises. The company also hosts Jewish heritage cruises, chocolate-themed cruises and even knitting cruises: AmaWaterways will have a “Knitting New Year’s Cruise” this year on the Danube, which will showcase the latest in luxury yarns, forums on fashion trends, and classes on new stitch patterns and techniques. The knitting cruise was suggested by one of AmaWaterways’ travel agent partners and will be hosted by Barry Klein, owner of Trendsetter Yarns in Los Angeles. MichelleBaran

For 2014, Avalon Waterways increased its special-interest cruises by 30% to meet demand, adding beer-tasting, golf, wellness and World War I history cruises to an already innovative roster of themed cruises. They also offer cruises based around the themes of art and impressionism, authors, food, wine, music, Jewish heritage and history. Tauck, too, has culinary, art and music-themed cruises.

There are also themes that are more timely, such as the 70th anniversary of D-Day, which many river cruise lines have incorporated into their France itineraries, including Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection.

And stateside, American river cruise lines have endless themes to enhance their Mississippi and Pacific Northwest river itineraries. The American Queen Steamboat Co. has cruises centered on baseball legends, Mardi Gras, music of the 1950s and 1960s, Elvis, bourbon and bluegrass, and many others.

American Cruise Lines has Mark Twain, Lewis and Clark and Civil War cruises, and for the American foodie, lobster cruises and crabfest cruises.

Not convinced by river cruising? Perhaps you’ll be lured in by your love of shellfish … or knitting … or bourbon. Pick your poison.

Cruise Lines Battle for Foodies

Cruise Lines Battle for Foodies

In my experience, often the first question everyone asks when you get home from a cruise is, “How was the food?” Americans have become passionate and knowledgeable about the culinary world, their enthusiasm fueled by food-based television shows and celebrity chefs. So it’s not surprising that cruise lines are investing in an escalating competition to capture the loyalty of the foodie passenger.

Culinary appeal goes beyond the table. Holland America Line (HAL), which was a pioneer in culinary enrichment, established its Culinary Arts Centers presented by Food & Wine magazine 10 years ago; by 2007, the line had added classes for children. HAL provides cooking shows and hands-on classes conducted by top chefs, wine experts, noted culinary specialists and leading cookbook authors.

“The Culinary Arts Center is a highlight of our onboard enrichment program and, year after year, we strive to bring the most talented and entertaining culinary experts onboard,” said Richard Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs for HAL.

Whole seagoing itineraries built around cuisine are being introduced by destination-oriented Azamara Club Cruises, including the Aug. 16 Route of the Wine Traders voyage. It offers 12 nights from Southampton to Seville with two full days in Bordeaux, where connoisseurs can travel to vineyards including St. Emilion, Margaux and Haut-Medoc. Azamara Quest also stays two days in St. Jean-de-Luz in the Basque region of France, which is known for its excellent cider houses and its easy access to Bayonne, home to fine chocolates, unusual cured ham and other delights.

Houston-based Tom Baker, who was acknowledged by Conde Nast Traveler with its Top Travel Specialist award in cruising, said his Cruise Center clientele emphasizes dining “even over the ship” in booking their vacations. He believes that television’s attention to dining has moved popular taste “from mass quantity to discriminating world cuisine.”

Dining plays an important role on ships beyond the food itself. John Delaney, Seabourn senior vice president of marketing and sales, said guests look for meals and dishes that will enhance their travel experience and help them to discover more about the cultures and destinations they visit.

“Dining is also a key part of the social life onboard,” he added. “Our open-seating dining encourages spontaneity and enables guests to meet new people and break bread together — the start of many lasting friendships.”

Chef John Suley, director of culinary operations for Celebrity Cruises, noted that people on vacation are spending a very valuable commodity — their time — and they are more particular than ever about their choices. Suley, the first cruise line chef to be invited to cook at the James Beard House, said the challenge is to keep the culinary level consistent when cooking for 3,000 people, which requires the best possible talent and the best possible products.

Baker also stressed the necessary willingness to invest in quality ingredients, talented culinary staff and space for them to operate.

“We’ve seen it over and over,” he added, “When a cruise line is run just by stockholder yield, you’re in trouble. You have to invest to have quality.”

Cruisers have the opportunity to sample the work of some of the best chefs in the world just steps from their rooms. Two examples are Michelin-rated Jean-Pierre Vigato, of Restaurant Apicius on the Champs-Elysees, who designs dining for Paul Gauguin Cruises, and James Beard Award winner Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami, who creates dishes for Royal Caribbean’s 150 Central Park. Among the famous names who have put their imprint on cruise lines’ culinary offerings are Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa (Crystal Cruises), Todd English (Cunard Line), Dieter Muller (Hapag-Lloyd), Arnaud Lallement (Disney Cruise Line) and Cat Cora and Danny Grant (both with HAL).

Oceania Cruises is often mentioned by agents when it comes to cuisine at sea. Bob Binder, vice chairman and president of Prestige Cruises International, was a major force in shaping Oceania’s culinary program. Binder, who owns a winery in California’s Napa Valley, says Oceania’s culinary goal is not only to be the finest at sea, but to rival top shoreside restaurants.

“We buy extraordinary ingredients,” he said. “That means products such as 21-day dry-aged beef and custom-milled flour.”

Delaney also stresses quality of ingredients. Seabourn uses premium, sustainable beef from the Pacific Northwest-based Double R Ranch, known for its commitment to superior quality, animal well-being and environmental stewardship. Executive chefs are empowered to frequent local markets in the ports they visit, and augment their menus with seafood from local sources. In some instances, they also invite guests to go shopping with them.

Talent in the galleys is soaring, as well. Jacques Pepin’s partnership with Oceania gave the line access to other chefs who may not have previously imagined working on a cruise ship, and the line delivered a large galley space where they could use traditional techniques, with no shortcuts. Oceania’s partnerships with Bon Apetit and Wine Spectator further enhance its emphasis on incorporating current trends in dining.

“The big surprise was our program with Canyon Ranch,” Binder stated. “We brought them in to run the spa and, now, we have their selections for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food is vibrant and delicious.”

The response has been so strong that, in September, Oceania will launch Canyon Ranch cooking classes in its Bon Apetit Culinary Center. The ships also will have Canyon Ranch dishes on room service menus.

The same kind of care is being paid to more casual fare. Greg Poplewko, director of product development for Carnival Cruise Lines, noted that when the line was forging its partnership with Food Network star Guy Fieri, it sent samples of the beef it would use for his gourmet burgers to him for his approval. Attention to detail is critical; the new pizza restaurant on Carnival Sunshine provides the real Neapolitan product, using flour from Italy and baking its pizza in a specially made stone oven.

Agents can stress the value of this fine dining with their clients, who can often enjoy celebrity chefs’ dishes at little or no cost. On Crystal Cruises ships, for example, dining at the Nobu restaurants is complimentary, whereas in New York’s Nobu, a tasting menu runs from $65 to $125.

A function of fees for specialty restaurants is to balance supply and demand; nobody wants disgruntled passengers who can’t dine in the restaurant of their choice. Oceania, which does not charge for its alternative restaurants, allows each guest a reservation in each alternative restaurant; those who want additional dinners in a given venue are added to a waiting list. The morning traffic at the restaurant reservations desk can rival that of the shore excursion queue.

Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean International’s senior vice president of sales, trade support and service, noted that Royal Caribbean is grouping alternative dining for greater value. For instance, one package on Grandeur of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas costs $55 and includes meals at Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table and Izumi Asian Cuisine. On Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas, a $130 package includes meals at the Chef’s Table, Chops Grille and 150 Central Park.

“When you go on vacation, you are more interested in trying new experiences than at home,” Freed said.

Special dietary needs don’t mean diminished dining pleasure on cruise lines, which cater to everything from fat-free and low-salt diets to gluten-free meals.

“With special needs, we want to do it right,” Poplewko said. “You can’t bake gluten-free dishes in an oven where dishes with gluten have been prepared; if someone is really vulnerable to gluten, the food must be isolated.”

Vegetarian and vegan dishes are commonplace, and SeaDream Yacht Club even has a raw food menu in its main dining room.

Group cruises built around food and wine experiences are booming.

“The fusion of wine, food and travel is the Holy Grail of cruising,” said Tracy Michaels CTC, co-owner of Flying Dutchman Travel in Santa Rosa, Calif.

Michaels is doing big business in cruise charters, including themed food and wine sailings. Her seven-day cruise out of Tampa on Brilliance of the Seas in November brings Napa to the Caribbean, providing complimentary bottles for guests from seven winemakers, education panels galore and the presence of culinary names.

Freed said the emphasis on dining is a real opportunity for the knowledgeable agent, who can lead clients through the culinary maze on the seas. She urged agents to explain the variety of onboard dining experiences and encourage guests to plan ahead, especially for dinner, to avoid disappointment in what has become one of the hottest aspects of cruising.