Cruise lines reinventing dining at sea


, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

For today's tourists, enjoyable eating is an essential part of any vacation. And while cruises once got by with mediocre yet generous buffets or unexciting meal choices served only at appointed times, travellers have recently come to expect something more. As a result, cruise operators are pulling out all the stops to enhance their clients' food experience, whether by offering more flexibility or by bringing prestigious chefs on board. Here is a round-up of some of the latest examples.

Dine anywhere

Aboard the Oasis of the Seas, which at 362 meters long is one of the world's largest cruise ships, travellers can take advantage of the Dynamic Dining concept, which aims to offer a wide selection of meal options included in the standard price. There are no less than 20 dining facilities to choose from, and travelers are not restricted by set meal times or assigned seats. The main dining room has been transformed into three distinct restaurants, allowing diners to choose between three different culinary ambiances. American, Asian and gastronomic cuisines will all be offered on the ship from March 14. Its sister ship, the Allure of the Seas, will take on the same concept from May 20.

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Dine anytime

Today's travellers dislike being told when to eat, as a growing number of cruise operators have come to realize. As part of its slow cruising concept, Costa Cruises offers tourists the freedom to dine on their own schedule. Dinner is served continuously from 6:30pm to 10:30pm.

Renowned chefs

Some cruise companies have enlisted the help of the experts to delight travellers' taste buds. Star Clippers, for example, offers a series of wine and gastronomy cruises featuring celebrity chefs and award-winning sommeliers. Travellers on the company's sailing yachts have recently enjoyed the culinary delights of chef Bea Schulz and sommelier Nathalie Lumpp, or chef Marcus Semmler and sommelier Gwenaël Laroche.

Quality dining

Of Costa Cruises's 17 ships, 12 now boast an authentic pizzeria where the pies are prepared by Italian pizzaioli trained at the Accademia Italiana della Pizza. The pizzerias, which offer an authentic Italian ambiance, are open daily from 6:30pm to 11:00pm.

Aboard the slow cruises in the Costa Cruises neoCollection, travellers also have the opportunity to taste the local cuisine of the regions visited, both in the ports of call and in the ship's restaurants. The dishes, prepared according to local traditions, are offered with wines served by the glass and selected by the Italian Sommeliers Association.