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As travellers hunger more from their holiday dining experiences, cruise lines have upped their game with dedicated food and wine programmes, celebrity chef partnerships and tours to food markets and vineyards to meet producers.

Find out which lines are luring foodies with fresh and creative cuisine, cookery classes and curated sailings geared to global gourmet palates.

Author: Kerry Spencer

Silversea

This top-draw line offers a luxury small-ship ambiance on board its fleet of 10 ships, paying particular attention to food with its Sea and Land Taste (S.A.L.T.) Programme. Debuting on Silver Moon, this new concept will see passengers take a deep dive into destinations with immersive culinary experiences. 

Local food experts will guide small groups of passengers to meet producers, visit food markets and go into the homes of local cooks for private workshops and teachings. This might involve venturing into the wilds of a Balinese jungle to discover wild honey and other indigenous ingredients before cooking a traditional recipe in the home of a local villager.

Back on board the ship, there’s a new dining venue called S.A.L.T. Kitchen, which serves to complement the on-shore experiences with dedicated destination-focussed menus and wines, while S.A.L.T. Bar serves regional drinks and S.A.L.T. Lab offers workshops, tastings and demonstrations to enable passengers to learn about local produce and techniques.

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Oceania Cruises

Another luxury cruise line to really nail its dining offering is Oceania. Leaning towards a more formal style of cruising, passengers are greeted with one of the finest restaurants at sea: La Reserve by Wine Spectator. 

A pairing of outstanding cuisine and fine wines selected by on board sommeliers, La Reserve by Wine Spectator is home to the line’s extraordinary Dom Perignon Experience, which is exclusive to ships Marina and Riviera. The experience involves six courses paired with six exquisite Dom Perignon vintages. Dishes might include Brittany Blue Lobster in Yellow Curry Broth with Coco Foam and Sashimi-style Seared Wagyu Beef. 

On land, the line’s Culinary Discovery Tours, in destinations such as the Mediterranean, Mexico and South America, take passengers on an insider’s journey into the local culinary scene, visiting markets and meeting local chefs, before finishing off the experience at The Culinary Center back on board the ship (also exclusive to Marina and Riviera). Here passengers get to hone their new skills and prepare dishes under expert guidance. 

Topping this off is celebrated chef Jacques Pépin; the line’s Executive Culinary Director who oversees the line’s The Bistro venue with his wonderful French flair.

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Crystal Cruises

This top-notch line’s two ocean vessels, Symphony and Serenity, entice foodies with a partnership with one of the world’s most celebrated chefs, Nobuyuki Matsuhisa. Nobu’s signature take on Japanese-Peruvian fusion is served at the line’s Umi Uma, with delicious dishes including Lobster with Truffle-Yuzu Sauce and Chocolate Soufflé Cake with Shiso Syrup and Sesame Ice Cream, plus fresh sushi and sashimi dishes served at The Sushi Bar. 

Crystal’s plush Vintage Room, which is a dedicated space for private dinners, is another standout venue and geared towards enthusiastic oenophiles, with extraordinary wine dinners paired with some of the world’s finest vintages, such as rare 1959 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and a 1996 Screaming Eagle from Napa Valley. Crystal’s wine cellars boasts more than 10,000 labels, including 230 vintages selected by master sommeliers. 

Crystal runs several Wine & Food Festival voyages each year, too, featuring acclaimed chefs, sommeliers and mixologists taking part in a series of dinners, demos, hands-on classes and tastings.

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Cunard

This iconic cruise line takes its wine offering very seriously indeed. So much so that it has its own Wine Academy offering formal training for passengers to achieve Wine Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 1 and 2 Awards while sailing. This involves a three- or 10-day course, including a study guide, material and wine tastings, culminating in an examination, four-course wine-paired lunch in The Verandah restaurant and a certificate. 

There’s also a WSET Level 1 Spirits Award, which explores different types of spirits, flavours and aromas, while on Queen Elizabeth, which sails itineraries in Japan, a WSET Level 1 Sake Tasting Award can be achieved. 

The Cunard Wine Academy also offers tutored wine tastings, fine wine seminars and masterclasses led by the Chief Sommelier – ensuring travellers leave their voyage with expert knowledge as well as treasured memories.

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P&O Cruises

A favourite of British cruisers, P&O Cruises is well geared up for foodies. The line’s Food Heroes programme is led by Marco Pierre White, wine expert Olly Smith and master patissier Eric Lanlard. At The Cookery Club on Britannia and new ship Iona, Marco hosts select interactive cooking demos, dinners and takes parts in Q&As with fans. The renowned British chef also lends his expertise to Gala Evening menus, while Eric Lanlard is responsible for one of the most exquisite afternoon teas at sea at The Epicurean (Azura, Britannia, Iona and Ventura) and Ocean Grill (Arcadia). Lanlard also hosts exclusive dinners and masterclasses for sweet-toothed passengers looking to recreate his decadent masterpieces. 

Olly Smith brings his knowledge to the fore at The Glasshouse on Aurora, Azura, Britannia, Iona and Ventura, with wine pairings and An Evening with Olly events. 

P&O Cruises also work with a series of local Food Heroes on new ship Iona, which includes Spanish chef Jose Pizarro, who has his flagship restaurant in London. 

Dedicated Food Heroes sailings provide exclusive tours to markets and vineyards in destinations including Norway, Spain and Madeira, while passengers with a penchant for gin will love new ship Iona, which features its very own gin distillery.

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Holland America Line

The sophisticated Holland America Line is dedicated to its dining offering. So much so that it has gathered a cohort of culinary experts to form the Holland America Line Culinary Council, made up of eight world-class celebrity chefs led by Rudi Sodamin. 

Rudi’s own on board restaurant, the chic French brasserie Rudi’s Sel de Mer, is one of a number of outstanding venues on Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam, while his menu also features across the fleet on selected evenings at the upmarket Pinnacle Grill. 

For wine lovers there’s Blend (also on Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam), which invites passengers to mix their own red wine from five varietals. The programme at Blend is in partnership with Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington State’s oldest and most acclaimed winery, led by a wine expert to guide passengers through the process. Wine tastings and masterclasses are also available. 

Holland America also offers a series of food and wine-themed sailings, including Food & Beverage Aficionado Cruise, Wine Experts Cruises and the Mixologist Aficionado Cruise featuring James Beard award-winning mixologist Dale DeGroff.

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Princess Cruises

If you’re hungering for something sweet, Princess Cruises has the answer with its Chocolate Journeys programme in partnership with celebrated chocolatier Norman Love. 

Passengers can enjoy artful creations on select main dining room menus as well as more flamboyant desserts at Sabatini's, Crown Grill, Sterling Steakhouse, and the Chef's Table experience. 

In addition, Vines wine bar offers unique chocolate and wine-pairing experiences prepared by Love, while at Lotus Spa, guests can indulge in extraordinary chocolate body treatments. 

Gourmet travellers will also adore Share, the line’s venue in partnership with Australian chef Curtis Stone. The award-winning chef – whose Los Angeles restaurant Maude was awarded a Michelin star in 2019 – has created an outstanding farm-to-fork menu consisting of dishes including Charcuterie, Burrata, Poached Alaska King Crab and Brown Butter Berkshire Pork Chop, which is available on Ruby Princess and Emerald Princess. 

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