If you’re like most people, dining and drinks are top factors when choosing a cruise. Cuisine is one of the cruise lines most important and expensive offerings, with the six leading cruise lines spending $2 billion on food and beverage supplies – every year!
No wonder, when cruise lines serve up ever-more imaginative culinary programs every year to keep up with cruise travelers’ growing tastes. Gone are the days when a lobster tail served in the main dining room on formal night and a festive service of flaming Baked Alaska as a special goodbye dessert on the final evening of your sailing provide cruise diners with culinary awe to write home about – or post to social media.
More specialty restaurants, more celebrity and celebrated chef partnerships and branded-restaurants, interactive onboard culinary experiences and culinary demonstrations, more local flavors and hands-on local gastronomic, wine, spirits and food producer visits – the foodie fun of cruising just keeps growing.
Recently, one cruise industry survey of cruise food, beverage and hotel operations managers, as well as companies who provide the incredible amounts of culinary supplies needed to keep ship food and beverage programs literally afloat! – revealed some of the latest trends for the next year in three ‘priority sectors’ of cuisine at sea.
How many of these do you want – or even expect? - to see on your next cruise?
(Author Tasting Olive Oil on an AmaWaterways shore excursion during a Rhone River cruise, France)
FOOD – More Sustainable Dining
You might predict that “Instagrammable” dining experiences top savvy cruise food professionals’ lists, but that was not the case.
• The top culinary priority was sourcing and serving local cuisine that reflects your cruise itinerary, with 61% of survey respondents identifying that cruise food trend;
• Over one-third of respondents named sourcing sustainable seafood (with per-person seafood consumption on board ships doubling since 1961!)
• One-quarter said providing cruise guests with meat substitutes was a priority; and
• 22% said they were trying to get closer to zero-waste food preparation and food service.
DRINKS – More nutrition, Less tipsy
Tippling tastes are changing, and cruise companies and their providers are staying on top of trends.
• Half of respondents cited offering low- to no- alcohol beverages in ship’s bars, lounges and dining rooms;
• 37% said sourcing and providing craft spirits was important;
• And the same number said providing health supplement drinks was an increasingly important trend meet their ships’ guests’ tastes and lifestyles.
TECH – Convenience is king
While unparalleled service remains a touchstone of the cruise lifestyle, guests are increasingly looking to cruise lines for the conveniences provided by technology in their food and drink experiences onboard. We are seeing that larger ships have been relying on technology more to increase convenience, reduce lineups and speed up service, while small and luxury ships continue to keep staff-to-guest ratios high and favor the personal touch of human servers.
Still, it’s worth noting that:
• Nearly two-thirds of cruise food and beverage pros said they see the need for more ordering and menu apps; and
• Over one-third saw a continuing need for contactless ordering capabilities.
Start Your Culinary Cruise Trip!
By: Lynn Elmhirst, cruise / travel journalist and expert
Top Image: Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Culinary Arts Kitchen, courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises
2nd Image: Lynn Elmhirst
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