It is no longer fashionable to have only speciality restaurants on board cruise lines. The new catch-phrase is celebrity chefs at sea. Not only do they have a faithful following of foodie passengers, they also attract new cruisers who are lured by the attractions of dining on gastronomic meals cooked by famous chefs.
Watching these chefs in action at their signature restaurants at sea is often a culinary feast itself.
So which cruise lines have been upping their ante with renowned chefs? Popular British chef Jamie Oliver opened Jamie’s Italian on RCL’s Quantum of the Seas, the world renowned master chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa’s Silk Road and Sushi Bar on board luxury ships, Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony and there’s Luke Nguyen on APT river cruises on the Mekong, to name a few.
So here’s Cruise&Travel Asia’s take on the best known celebrity chefs and their signature restaurants:
If you like unadulterated Thai food as it is eaten on the streets of Bangkok, then try Aqua Expeditions which has renowned Australian Thai cook David Thompson as its consulting chef on Aqua Mekong. This year, Thompson will run chef-hosted cruises on Aqua Mekong with customised tours to local markets, run cooking lessons at the ship’s kitchen and conduct Q&A sessions so that passengers can get some tips on his culinary creations.
In similar vein, Vietnamese chef Luke Nguyen – actually an Australian-Vietnamese TV chef who was popularised Vietnamese cooking – is the star attraction of APT’s river cruises on the Mekong on board AmaLotus. His personable and charming take on how to prepare, pick the freshest ingredients, marinate and cook local aromatic dishes is something that keen followers of Vietnamese cuisine will not want to miss. On some APT cruises, Nguyen will also host a couple of “foodie” nights at Ho Chi Minh City where his relatives still run market stalls.
Genting Hong Kong, one of the biggest players in the Asian cruise market will launch its much-anticipated Dream Cruises later this year. Billed as an integrated resort at sea, Dream Cruises offers what it calls “the ultimate culinary journey’’ with 35 restaurants and bars capturing the very best flavours from around the world. As Asian cruisers enjoy their local food, there’s no shortage of dining choices for Dream Cruises patrons. Sister line Star Cruises, the dominant cruise line in Asia, has a wide variety of eateries onboard flagship SuperStar Virgo including a 24-hour Blue Lagoon cafe offering Asian specialities, two Chinese restaurants (Genting Palace and Noble House) and a fine-dining Chinese restaurant called Taipan with an a la carte menu. It also has a laboratory-made liquid nitrogen ice-cream bar. Star Cruises executive chef Lee Eng Heng has won several awards in Asia.
Not to be outdone, Princess Cruises recently recruited popular Australian chef Curtis Stone to develop, Share, an elegant restaurant designed by Stone who has a big following in the the UK and UK and is New York Times best-selling author. Share is available only on Ruby Princess and Emerald Princess. The line also has a Japanese sushi bar called Kai Sushi – a traditional sushi bar, serving up sushi and sashimi expertly prepared before your eyes. Kai Sushi is on board Diamond and Sun Princess.
Then there’s the experienced Singaporean chef Eric Teo from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Singapore who led a fine dining, health, wellness and karaoke cruise holiday on board Mariner of the Seas ship charted by Chan Brothers, one of the leading travel agents in the city state. During the cruise, Teo also held cooking demonstrations classes and cooked a six-course Chinese banquet for guests on the final night of the cruise. Teo’s nickname is “Tam Jia” – in the local Hokkien dialect, it means ‘greedy.’
P&O Cruises have a long association with celebrity Sydney chef Luke Mangan whose growing international reputation has seen him open his first Salt grill bar on board Pacific Eden. It is next to his fifth Salt grill restaurant where he serves his crab omelette in miso-broth, curry-crusted tuna, beef carpaccio finished with liquorice parfait. They are all absolutely divine.
Few who have cruised on Crystal Symphony or Serenity, would not have tried Nobu Matsuhisa’s world renowned Silk Road and Sushi Bar which offers a blend of classic Japanese cuisine with a Peruvian and European touch including lobster with truffle-yuzu sauce.
Further afield on Oceania Cruises in the Mediterranean, legendary French chef Jacques Pepin has waved his culinary wand on Red Ginger restaurant which is known for its Asian classic claypot of caramelised chicken and miso-glazed seabass. Make sure you book ahead and there’s no extra charge, it’s gratis.
As Asian cruisers develop a taste for holidays at sea, one thing’s for sure – a celebrity chef will go a long way to convince them how to dine and drink in style, not in excess.
Want to know more about celebrity chefs and the very best dining on cruise ships? Check out our new magazine, available from June.
And if you’ve been cruising, tell us your favourite meal.