Last updated: 01:00 AM ET, Fri August 19 2016

What Restaurants and Chefs Will Cruise Ships Bring Aboard Next?

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Norwegian Cruise Line | Jason Leppert | August 19, 2016

What Restaurants and Chefs Will Cruise Ships Bring Aboard Next?

 Photo by Jason Leppert 

Norwegian Cruise Line recently announced that it would be expanding its partnership with Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville – adding Margaritaville at Sea to the Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway and Landshark Bar & Grill to both of its private islands. That got us to thinking beyond to what other culinary partnerships might still exist to introduce to the cruise industry.

It’s all about brand association these days. That is to say, bringing aboard a celebrity chef or food chain that is a favorite of landlubbers in the hopes of luring them onboard to become loyalists of a cruise line as well. The approach extends from Starbucks Coffee on Royal Caribbean International to Thomas Keller’ signature cuisine on Seabourn Cruise Line.

The question is what other brands could possibly be associated with cruise lines. Starbucks Coffee onboard just goes to show how important some comforts of home are regardless of the destination. It’s not out of the realm of possibility then to see a McDonald’s at sea or even a Subway, which is actually the largest international food chain ahead of both Starbucks and Mickey D’s.

 READ MORE: Norwegian and Margaritaville Expand Partnership 

Speaking of Mickey, Disney once collaborated with McDonald’s in its theme parks, serving its unmistakable burgers and fries, but the sponsorship has since expired, on land at least. You never know at sea.

The goal of cruise lines, though, is to be the most unique in order to compete. Carnival Cruise Line’s Guy’s Burger Joint for complimentary gourmet burgers from celebrity chef Guy Fieri has been extremely successful. Consequently, more distinctive burger brands like Five Guys, Shake Shack or even In-N-Out might be more fitting.

What’s probably less likely to ever be seen onboard are sit-down chains like The Cheesecake Factory, T.G.I. Friday’s and Outback Steakhouse. In those cases, celebrity chefs are more prevalent like Curtis Stone on Princess Cruises, Jose Garces on Norwegian Cruise Line and Jamie Oliver on Royal Caribbean International. After all, there’s a fine line between drawing people in and simply being homogeneous.

 READ MORE: 8 Cruise Lines For Dining With Celebrity Chefs 

In the world of celebrity chefs, the newest to soon be featured onboard is Roy Yamaguchi of Roy’s restaurant fame on MSC Cruises’ upcoming MSC Seaside. There are still some other big names that have not been picked up yet, perhaps the biggest of which is Wolfgang Puck. However, I’ve seen a number of his restaurants shuttered, so maybe his appeal is less universal, an important characteristic onboard.

That still leaves the likes of Emeril Lagasse, Gordon Ramsay, Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain and Bobby Flay, but perhaps some of these are also cost prohibitive. Big names cost big money. Some partnerships like Norwegian’s with Geoffrey Zakarian and Cunard Line’s with Todd English have since lapsed, perhaps in part because of this very reason.

For now, the future of popular cuisine onboard also lies with reality television: “Top Chef” on Celebrity Cruises and “MasterChef” on Holland America Line. Following Norwegian’s partnerships with Garces and Zakarian, might “Iron Chef” be next? Only time will tell.


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