Dining on the High Seas
By Cindy Bertram
Since the cruise industry was in its infancy, dining aboard cruise ships has changed dramatically. Over the past years cruise lines have reinvented the dining experience for their passengers by offering more choices in restaurants, as well as more variety, and flexibility.
Gourmet Dining Experiences
Although cruise lines began experimenting first with more flexibility in their casual cafes for breakfast and lunch in the late l980s and early l990s, cruise line dining reached new heights when Celebrity Cruises in l990 hired renowned French chef, Michel Roux. Roux takes several cruises each year to evaluate the culinary operation.
When Oceania Cruises executives were designing their cruise line, they hired Jacques Pepin. According to Joseph Watters, Chairman of Oceania Cruises, Jacques offered three key elements he has an excellent reputation, he mixes well with people, and he is someone who likes to cruise.
Cunard Line brought in Daniel Bouland to create signature menus for the QM2, and Todd English lent his name to an intimate restaurant onboard. Norwegian Cruise Lines offers a special Presidential menu aboard their ships for cruises that are seven days or longer, designed by former White House Executive Chef Henry Haller. And Holland America Lines new Signature of Excellence program launched a partnership with well-known Master Chef Rudi Sodamin, who is acting as culinary consultant.
Flexibility in Dining
When Norwegian Cruise Lines introduced their Freestyle Cruising concept in 2000, it truly revolutionized dining. Simply put, NCLs Freestyle Cruising offered guests the opportunity to dine when they want, where they want, and with whom they want. Open seating in the restaurants was NCLs first move; even greater flexibility for guests occurred with the addition of alternative restaurants onboard their ships offering a wide variety of cuisines. Other cruise lines soon followed suit.
With more flexibility with main dining room options, how does this affect groups and requests? Cruise lines that still offer variations of the more traditional Main seating and Late seating confirm group dining requests at the time of booking.
Carnival Cruise Lines does confirm group dining requests 3 weeks before sailing (Guests with individual reservations must wait until boarding the ship.)
NCL has found that Freestyle actually offers group members more options. Due to the extensive restaurants and cuisines offered onboard, members can break off into smaller groups and dine together. Avoiding peak times at restaurants is another way passengers can be accommodated when they want to dine together.
Reservations-only supper clubs and restaurants are now the norm. Reservations for these specialty restaurants can only be made once onboard the ships. (Groups are not given any preferential treatment - the exception is with Carnival Cruise Lines.)
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Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.