On Monday I participated in one of my first industry activities, a tour of a cruise ship and a passenger dining experience...that is a gourmet six-course lunch in the main dining room. As I have never sailed on a cruise this was a bit of an adventure. I'm not here to give my personal preferences on this type of travel but merely to give a peek into lunch.
Cruise ship cuisine, due to market competition, been upgraded in the past few years. Norwegian Cruise Lines first embarked on this effort when it introduced specialty restaurants on its ships. While the desire and ability may exist in the galley the challenge is the ingredients. According to a recent New York Times article, chefs need to know that they will have access to ingredients worldwide and that the quality of those ingredients will be consistent. Remember some of these ships can accommodate up to 1,800 people--it's a small floating city.
Many celebrity chefs are at the helm, ok in the kitchen consulting--Jacques Pepin for Oceania; Charlie Palmer for Seabourn; Todd English is over at Cunard; Jacques Thorel for SilverSea and Nobu Matsuhisa for Crystal and the big coup was Carnival hiring 3-star Michelin chef Georges Blanc who is going to overhaul the whole dining experience from menus to training. Celebrity, the line I was touring, has 2-star Michelin chef and noted cookbook author Michel Roux, who designs the menu and wine lists, while also assisting with training the executive restaurant staff. He also frequently "mystery cruises" various ships to ensure that there is consistency in quality and performance. Menus are revised every six months. In addition there is a growing trend in cruising featuring a well-know chef who will teach or event's such as Seabourn's Great American Food & Wine Festival on the open sea. Here is the lunch menu. Overall the man was pretty good. Standouts were the artfully-plated and perfectly cooked duck and a well prepared plum sauce; a thyme-infused sherbet and the iced chocolate terrine which although I couldn't figure out was iced nor terrine about it (more of a mousse, really) I had absolutely no shame in finishing. But seriously who could eat this way for 11 days?
Oriental Duck in Ginger Spiced Pancake with Plum Sauce and Pickled Cucumber
Double Beef Oxtail Consomme with a Pot au Feu Garnish
Meli-Melo of Mesculun Mulberry Oak Balsamic Vinaigrette
Thyme and Lime Sherbet
Mille-Feuliles of Halibut and Crisp Potatoes Mousseline of Green Asparagus
Iced Chocolate Terrine, Orange Caramel Sauce