Kabuki on Silversea’s Silver Muse will offer Japanese a teppanyaki-style experience in the evenings, and sushi, sashimi and other raw Asian-inspired dishes during the daytime.
Foodies have an amazing array of new culinary choices at sea. Luxury oceangoing lines are introducing specialty dining, updating existing restaurants and adding new culinary partnerships, food-focused shore trips and market visits. Here’s a look at the latest developments.
New for Silversea Cruises, the 596-passenger Silver Muse launches in spring 2017 with 286 suites and multiple specialty culinary venues. We can’t wait to dine at the new Kabuki, described as a theatrical production of flavors, tastes and senses with Japanese teppanyaki-style experience exclusively in the evenings, and sushi, sashimi and other raw Asian-inspired dishes during daytime. An Indochine specialty restaurant will feature dishes with a fusion of Indian, Vietnamese and Thai flavors, while the Atlantide restaurant will create a European-style seafood experience with royal crab, blue lobster and fresh fish, including Verbena-infused red snapper in a sea salt crust and steaks. MaDame by Relais & Châteaux will serve French cuisine created by top chefs from the Relais & Châteaux team.
Separately, L’École des Chefs sailings by Relais & Châteaux this year and next on Silversea will allow epicureans to watch cooking demonstrations, participate in intimate “Lunch & Learn” events, shop at markets ashore, showcase their culinary skills in cooking competitions and learn knife skills. Itineraries range from Asia to the Caribbean, Mediterranean and trans-ocean crossings.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises is launching a two-year, $125 million fleet-wide refurbishment program. Seven Seas Navigator enters drydock this spring for significant upgrades, followed by Seven Seas Voyager later this year and Seven Seas Mariner in spring 2017. It’s much more than simply replacing soft goods as some spaces will be taken down to bare steel, then reconfigured, redesigned and updated. Guests sailing on Seven Seas Navigator’s 10-night “Flawless French Riviera” voyage from Barcelona to Rome in mid-April will be the first to experience the enhancements.
The Compass Rose and La Veranda restaurants will be updated, along with the lounges, library, casino, boutiques, reception area and more spaces. Compass Rose will emerge with a new coloring scheme of dark blue, gray, bronze and silver leaf. Grand crystal chandeliers will be enhanced by recessed ceiling lights and an ornate silver-leaf feature wall will grace one end of the dining room. Tables will be ringed by sleek leather chairs and the dining room will have a larger wine cellar. On Deck 6, the Coffee Connection lounge will replace the space occupied by the library, which will relocate to the current spot of the Connoisseur Club smoking lounge; smokers can use the designated pool-deck smoking area and the line will test how that’s working.
The Navigator Suite will get a new redesign and custom-made Elite Slumber Beds. In both the bedroom and living room, an ebony-black wooden vanity with a white marble top will stretch the length of the room and this suite will get new green and yellow accent furniture, draperies and carpeting. The Penthouse, Concierge and Deluxe Suites, the fleet’s largest collection, will also receive a new comfortable, yet modern look and the Elite Slumber Beds. We like that the line is replacing the 90s-look, light-colored wooden built-ins with modern, dark wood furniture and built-ins with high-end surfaces.
Two top chef-hosted “Wine & Food Festival” themed voyages are slated for Crystal Cruises’ oceangoing ships this year. Crystal Symphony’s 12-day Mediterranean voyage from Athens to Rome on May 1 will welcome aboard Michelin-starred French Chef Alexis Gauthier of the Gauthier Soho in London. He’ll lead culinary demonstrations and provide hands-on instruction to small guest groups in the ship’s galley. On select evenings, guests will dine on a Chef Gauthier-created menu in the Crystal Dining Room. Crystal Adventures ashore will include cooking lessons with the head chef at Feggera Restaurant in Santorini, Greece, at a private Italian villa (Sorrento) and at a working farm outside Rome; feasts and wine tastings follow.
Crystal Serenity’s 10-day Alaskan cruise roundtrip from Vancouver on July 17 features Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa (whose cuisine is featured in Crystal’s Silk Road and Sushi Bar as well as land-based restaurants). He’ll mingle with guests, host dinners and create special menus. In addition, the cruise includes a Ketchikan crab feast, Juneau salmon bake and Victoria, BC, traditional English tea. See the sidebar on page 38 for luxury advisor feedback about Crystal’s onboard specialty dining venues.
Guess who’s returning to Alaska this summer for the first time in 15 years? Yes, Seabourn Cruise Line plans 11- to 14-day voyages on Seabourn Sojourn from both Anchorage (Seward) and Vancouver, BC. Interspersed with destinations like Ketchikan and Sitka are port calls at Alert Bay, BC, a tiny Namgis First Nations community, and Klemtu, a small Inside Passage island outpost. Among the many perks of Seabourn’s new Alaska sailings is a “Caviar on the Ice” deck party.
Also, Seabourn has partnered with American chef and restaurateur Thomas Keller, the culinary force behind three Michelin-starred restaurants — French Laundry, Per Se and Bouchon — to add an array of dishes for multiple venues aboard Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest. New this spring, Seabourn will partner with Keller to introduce a new signature restaurant on Seabourn Quest before that concept is expanded to the entire fleet, including the new Seabourn Encore launching later this year and Seabourn Ovation in early spring 2018.
In the Caribbean, Oceania Cruises is offering new Culinary Center offerings and Culinary Discovery Tours, which debuted on Riviera in December 2015. We particularly like the new Culinary Center class, “Cuban Family Table,” revealing family recipes passed from generation to generation. Cruisers will learn to make Cuban pastries, stews, meats, desserts and even tasty mojitos with fresh mint. Another new class, “Wake up to Brunch,” teaches how to master egg cookery techniques and shows how to host a brunch at home.
Oceania’s new Culinary Discovery Tours take guests ashore to food markets, restaurants, vineyards, farms and cooking schools. All tours are accompanied by the Culinary Center’s master chef instructor and often conclude with a cooking class on the ship. Recommended? The “Honduran Farm & Ocean-To-Table Experience” has an appealing mix of authentic experiences. Guests visit the Blue Harbor Tropical Arboretum, view gorgeous flora and learn how pesticide-free, hydroponic farming assists with water conservation, sustainability and fresher, longer lasting produce. Then it’s off via boat to Big French Key Beach for an interactive “pink shrimp” cooking demonstration at a local restaurant. What’s for lunch? Guests will chow down on shrimp prepared in three different ways as well as rice and beans, cole slaw, fried yucca and cassava bread. After lunch, there’s time for beach relaxation.
Azamara Journey has updated the Patio, Windows Café, Discoveries Restaurant and Discoveries Bar, the Living Room and Cabaret Lounge.
Newly refurbished is Azamara Club Cruises’ Azamara Journey, which boasts new dining and entertainment updates to the Patio, Windows Café, Discoveries Restaurant and Discoveries Bar, the Living Room and Cabaret Lounge. Windows Café now has contemporary furniture and new tables for two, while Discoveries Restaurant has new décor, lamps, seating and sheers. A guest favorite, the Pool Grill on Azamara Journey is now the Patio, a sit-down, al fresco dining experience. In the evening it glows with candlelight, lovely tablecloths and a new menu. After dinner, those with a sweet tooth can visit the new Swirl & Top self-serve frozen yogurt station and heap on yummy toppings.
The former Looking Glass Lounge is now the new Living Room with cozy chairs, sofas and a handcrafted wooden wine table. During the day, fine teas and coffees are served along with breakfast pastries, finger sandwiches and sweets, and starting at 4 p.m., hot and cold tapas are served. Azamara Journey’s accommodations also were updated, Club World Ocean and Owner’s Suites were redesigned and two new Spa Suites were built adjacent to the Sanctum Spa. Azamara Quest will get the updates in April 2016.
Guests on Viking Star can savor Italian cuisine at the popular Manfredi’s.
Viking Ocean Cruises’ Viking Star crosses the Atlantic Ocean in September and, for the first time, will operate five new Western Hemisphere itineraries, including “In the Wake of the Vikings,” a 15-day sailing from Bergen to Montreal, and an “Eastern Seaboard Explorer,” a 13-day voyage from Montreal to New York. These voyages give foodies a close-to-home opportunity for checking out the new line and dining at its specialty restaurants, including the popular Manfredi’s.
Small-ship Ponant has inked a partnership with Ducasse Conseil, the consulting arm and training school of the Alain Ducasse Enterprise, which will collaborate with Ponant’s chefs on menu concept creation. Training begins on Le Lyrial this summer. Le Boreal, L’Austral, Le Soleal and Le Ponant will be updated by the end of 2016 or early 2017. Fans of fresh, light, yet elegantly presented cuisine should sample SeaDream Yacht Club’s Le Menu de Degustation, accompanied by wine pairings. Varying by voyage, past dishes have included a terrine of foie gras with pear compote, brioche and port wine sauce, grilled halibut filet served with gingered white asparagus and caviar beurre blanc, and a gold-leaf-topped fondant au chocolat with vanilla ice cream.
Several James Beard Foundation Culinary Cruises set sail on Windstar Cruises this year, including a Southern Spain and Morocco sailing from Lisbon to Barcelona on April 24, 2016. With calls at Tangier, Morocco, as well as Malaga, Granada, Cartagena, Ibiza and Tarragona, Spain, this voyage allows foodies to savor Spanish tapas, jamon (ham), Moroccan tagines (a North African Berber dish) and aromatic, spicy tempranillo red wines. The James Beard-selected host chef will provide onboard cooking demonstrations, create a nightly featured dish and arrange market or culinary outings. Guests can also participate in food-and-wine themed shore excursions and wine tastings, plus watch vintner lectures and a Flamenco show.
When it comes to favorite specialty restaurants at sea, Ellen Kalish at CruiseCenter in Houston loves Crystal Cruises’ Prego, serving Italian cuisine, and Silk Road, featuring Japanese/Asian cuisine with Peruvian and European influences created by famed Chef Nobu. She suggests guests reserve a table at both restaurants as soon as their bookings are fully paid. “My advice for any specialty restaurant is to stay on top of the dates and book early,” she says, also advising that upon embarkation, guests should meet with the maître d’ about a preferred table.
Pictured: Ellen Kalish likes The Grill on Silversea.
Her top culinary picks? Kalish describes Prego’s cream of mushroom soup as the stuff of legends. “It’s served in an oregano bread bowl and is downright sinful,” she says. At Prego, she enjoys “Lasagna alla Casalinga,” not as heavy as lead pasta, but rather with “lovely thin layers that change this Italian comfort food into something sublime.” In Crystal’s Silk Road, Kalish orders Nobu-style lobster with truffle-yuzu sauce and enjoys watching the Nobu-trained chefs at the first-come, first-served Sushi Bar.
Kalish also likes Crystal’s Vintage Room dinner experience, accommodating just 12 guests and advantageous for small groups of couples traveling together. It’s essentially three hours of fine reserve wines, tasting notes from the head sommelier and an eight-course menu created by the ship’s executive chef. Reservations can be made online in advance; the actual dinner date is provided closer to sailing.
“On Silversea Cruises, I really like The Grill,” she says, adding that this venue, formerly called Hot Rocks, is the ultimate, evening cook-out under the stars. A super-hot lava stone is placed at the table and guests select meat, fish or vegetables and cook as they prefer. “My filet was tender, very tasty and perfectly medium rare,” she says. Reservations can be made 120 days before sailing.
As for Oceania Cruises’ Marina or Riviera, Kalish reports excellent feedback from those who have dined in Privée, a gorgeous intimate venue serving a maximum of 10 people. What’s special? Guests can order courses from Polo Grill, Toscana or even both. It works well for three to five couples traveling together. “Those in the know reserve this room very early,” she emphasizes. “It’s great to have a choice of nights instead of settling on what’s left.”