Julie Peasgood tells us about the superb gastronomic experiences cruise lines offer and what her favourite foodie moments have been while dining at sea.
I am contemplating a cheese board that could grace a Michelin-starred restaurant. There’s everything from Camembert to Crottin and Roquefort to Reblochon, all meticulously selected to satisfy the most discerning palate. But this isn’t Le Gavroche or The Fat Duck; I’m on Saga Sapphire in the middle of the Caribbean and I honestly don’t know how they do it.
When I’m asked what it is I love most about cruises my answer always includes the food. I know it’s a running joke that it’s non-stop dining on board cruise ships, but I find the culinary delights are a genuine high point – and it’s not just me. My Editor Liz loves Kaiseki, the renowned Japanese restaurant on Silversea’s Silver Muse and has very happy memories of enjoying the finest Italian cuisine in Manfredi’s on Viking’s ocean-going vessels.
Liz also rates Jacques (modelled after a Parisian bistro) on Oceania Cruises’ fleet, and interestingly, it’s the Asian fusion dishes in neighbouring Red Ginger that inspire the cruise line’s MD, Bernard Carter. He’s even mastered the secret of creating his favourite Lobster Pad Thai at the line’s onboard cooking school: “We learnt so many little tips and skills as well as the proper preparation of udon noodles and how to not overcook the lobster, and I was able to eat my own creation with a glass of complimentary sparkling rosé.”
I love that surge of confidence that comes from creating your own masterpiece; it might not sound important but I’m still proud of conquering cake pops after my workshops with celebrated pâtissier Eric Lanlard on P&O Cruises’ Britannia. (By the way, his favourite onboard foodie moment is the soft-shell crab in Sindhu.)
Sometimes it’s the ambience and the whole dining experience that’s so memorable. Cruise blogger Marcus Adams (@Sparkx) was as impressed as I was by Celebrity Edge’s decadent Eden restaurant: “The food is arguably some of the best I’ve ever tasted, on land or at sea. But it’s not just about the food, Eden is an experience in itself where the Edenites, entertainers each with their own distinct personalities, interact with you and guide you on your culinary journey,” he says.
My fellow Cruise International Contributing Editor, Sara Macefield, also loves the spectacle of it all, particularly Teppanyaki on NCL ships for the magical showmanship of the chefs as they juggle eggs and knives, play tricks and sing with vigour whilst conjuring up delicious feasts. As she says: “It’s a flavoursome mix of fun and fine food, and ideal for diners of all ages.”
For me, it’s a toss up between the meltingly soft Kobe beef on board Regent Seven Seas Voyager and the aforementioned cheese board. Then again, I remember the excitement of being served the finest Russian caviar on my very first cruise, which was on board Cunard’s iconic QE2. I hadn’t ever tasted the genuine article before that and our generous waiter, once he realised how much we loved it, spoiled us rotten by offering it every night. My waistline may have expanded along with my horizons, but I feel very fortunate to have sampled such epicurean treats at sea.
For more expert insights from Julie, read Julie Peasgood on why she loves cruises.