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Yes, it’s true, there is a lot of food on cruises, from the endless buffets, numerous restaurants and round-the-clock room service. But these days, cruise ship food is increasingly about quality, not just quantity.
And now, cruise ships are taking America’s new love affair with food to a new level — they’re teaching us how to source, prep and cook — through onboard cooking classes or tours that teach how to prepare cuisine found in the destination.
Here are five cruise lines that will help you learn how to cook.
PHOTO: Chef Kathryn Kelly takes Oceania guests on a food-focused tour to a produce market. (Courtesy of Oceania Cruises)
You know that Oceania Cruises is dedicated to teaching its guests all about food — the company has a director of culinary enrichment and a fully equipped, dedicated cooking studio with 12 stations on its two newest ships, the Riviera and Marina. The company’s self-proclaimed title as the “cruise line for foodies” is well-deserved.
The upper-premium line also offers Culinary Discovery Tours, which take small groups of passengers to a food market, farm or vineyard and then to a shoreside cooking school to learn how to prepare the local ingredients. Sometimes the class continues in the onboard Bon Appétit Culinary Center.
The food-focused tours are a hit with guests, and now Oceania is expanding the program with new culinary outings in St. Lucia and Antigua. The new tours will be offered during the “Holidays in the Tropics” sailing that departs Miami on Dec. 23 and on two “Island Paradise” voyages in early 2015.
In St. Lucia, the new tour will visit a private estate situated on the grounds of a former sugar cane plantation to explore its expansive herb garden and learn how to cook with them in a class inside the grand house. On the return drive to the pier, guests will stop at the open-air Castries Market to check out locally grown fruits, vegetables and spices.
In Antigua, guests will walk through the local market in downtown St. John’s with the culinary center chef, who will show them local fruits such as breadfruit, mangoes, soursop and dasheen. Afterwards, they’ll head for the Villas at Sunset Lane boutique hotel and cooking school to help Chef Jacquie prepare lunch.
“With our new tours in St. Lucia and Antigua, guests spend time in the kitchen with local culinary experts learning about the spices, fruits, vegetables and cooking customs that have influenced Caribbean cuisine for centuries,” said Kathryn Kelly, Oceania’s director of culinary enrichment. “Our goal is for guests to leave the tour with new culinary skills, satisfied taste buds and a deeper appreciation for the vibrant culinary traditions found in the Caribbean.”
PHOTO: Guests sailing through France on the AmaDagio prepared Provençal appetizers at a cooking studio in Avignon. (Photo by Theresa Norton Masek)
When you’re sailing on a river through Europe, of course you want to taste the wine and local cuisine. AmaWaterways takes it a step further with Limited Edition Tours that often visit cooking schools, culinary specialty shops, chocolatiers, charcuteries and and more.
On its Rhone River cruise through the South of France, the Limited Edition Tours included a lesson in making French bread and nougat in a bakery in Viviers and a hands-on class on Provençal appetizers in Avignon (think tapenade and an eggplant spread). Both were delightful.
The Limited Edition Tours are included in the cruise fare, but guests must sign up for as space is limited. Regular excursions open to all also included a visit to a truffle farm, another to an olive farm, a red wine and chocolate pairing, and wine tastings at a vineyard in Beaujolais and winery in Tain-l’Hermitage.
Side note: AmaWaterways just slashed fares on this seven-night cruise between Lyon and Arles. The Nov. 6 and Nov. 27 departures on the AmaDagio are now priced from $1,859 per person, double occupancy.
Holland America Line
PHOTO: Holland America Line offers cooking classes in its Culinary Arts Centers. (Courtesy of Holland America Line)
Holland America Line is another cruise company that takes food and education very seriously. The premium line formed a Culinary Council of renowned chefs — including Elizabeth Falkner, David Burke and Jacques Torres — who offer experience and signature recipes served onboard.
Its ships also boast the Culinary Arts Center, presented by Food & Wine magazine, a theater-style venue that offers classes (including some for kids and teens), wine tastings, guest celebrity chef demonstrations and the like. In some ports of call, there are tours to the local market.
This luxury line offers an array of classes and shore excursions that focus on food and drink, visiting traditional homes, farms, chateaus, Michelin-starred restaurants and markets. For example, in Honningsvåg, Norway, guests ate King crab just pulled from the North Cape waters! In Dublin, Ireland, the line offered a “Seafood Master Class” at the Cliff Townhouse restaurant, which includes a lesson followed by a three-course lunch.
PHOTO: Crystal offers wine-tastings and culinary shore excursions. (Courtesy of Crystal Cruises)
All of Crystal’s culinary Experiences of Discovery voyages include hands-on cooking classes, demonstrations, wine tastings, mixology lessons, and a guest chef dinner in the Crystal Dining Room. This year, each culinary-themed cruise features an optional guest chef-created dinner for 12 to 14 guests in Crystal’s Vintage Room. The seven courses feature the flavors of the region and are paired with wines.
During holidays and summers, there are galley tours and classes in cookie baking or pizza marking just for kids.
PHOTO: Silversea offers cooking classes designed by Relais & Châteaux chefs. (Courtesy of Silversea Cruises)
On select voyages, luxury line Silversea offers a cooking school at sea called L’Ecole des Chefs by Relais & Châteaux. Hosted by Chef and culinary trainer David Bilsland, the program includes classes on board or at Relais & Châteaux properties, wine tastings, market tours and cooking competitions.
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