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BellaOnline's Cruises Editor

7 Tips For A Memorable Foodie Cruise

Many avid travelers view dining and culinary experiences as one of the best parts of their cruise vacation. For these vacationers, it’s particularly important to choose the right ship with a great mix of restaurant offerings and cuisine options. A study conducted by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) revealed 75% of today's consumers are seeking new and innovative dining experiences. A majority of cruise guests also want to have the option to enjoy traditional dining as well.

Cruise lines have responded to today's most exciting dining trends, creating unique brand partnerships and appealing new dining venues. If your dream cruise features a wide variety of memorable culinary experiences, here are seven tips to keep in mind.

1. Choose The Right Ship. Culinary-oriented travelers should carefully consider onboard dining options when choosing a ship for their much awaited cruise vacation. Selecting the right ship will ensure that foodies have the most enjoyable cruise experience with no possibility of getting bored. Recently launched ships tend to offer the most innovative dining choices. The new Carnival Vista, for example, features nearly 30 distinctive dining and bar venues with diverse flavors and food choices from around the globe. In addition, there are a wide variety of unique bars and lounges on Carnival Vista. There’s even a brewery onboard producing craft beers and beverages.

2. Research Specialty Dining Options. Specialty dining venues on today’s cruise ships can be a true culinary treat. Many ships offer at least one alternative dining option for guests and reservations are typically required. On large ships, guests may have a dozen or more choices. The new Carnival Vista is packed with a multitude of specialty dining venues including the popular Seafood Shack, which is exclusive to the ship. Seafood Shack is modeled after typical New England roadside seafood stands. Here, guests can enjoy delicious lobster rolls, New England clam chowder, buckets of fried clam strips, oysters, fresh fish and more. Other favorites include the ship’s highly rated Fahrenheit 555 classic American steakhouse, Ji Ji Asian Kitchen and Bonsai Sushi, both serving a variety of Asian delicacies. Guests can sample authentic Cuban bites at the Havana Bar, try light Caribbean fare at the RedFrog Pub & Brewery, and dine on family-style Italian favorites at Cucina del Capitano. It’s important to note that not all specialty restaurants come with an additional cost. On Carnival Cruise Line ships, guests can order freshly-made tacos and burritos at BlueIguana Cantina or savor individually-made burgers and hand-cut fries created by Food Network star Guy Fieri – all free of charge. Guests can also enjoy free authentic Italian pizza at Carnival Vista's Pizzeria del Capitano as well.

3. Check Out Venues Once Onboard. Evaluate all of the available dining options early in your cruise to determine which ones offer the most memorable culinary experiences. For a true VIP foodie treat, for example, make sure to try The Chef’s Table on Carnival Vista. Hosted by a master chef, this unique dining experience for just 14 guests includes a tour to view the ship’s galley in operation along with a full-service dinner including cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, appetizers, entrees and desserts not featured on the ship’s regular menus. You’ll also want to make sure to find the little onboard venues designed for a specific purposes, like satisfying your sweet tooth at Cherry on Top or getting your specialty coffee fix at JavaBlue Café on the Carnival Vista. If you’d like to enjoy a certain specialty dining experience on a set date and time, make reservations as early as possible.

4. Sample Handcrafted Beverages. Great dining venues alone don't make the perfect foodie cruise. Having exceptional bars and lounges is important as well. At Carnival Cruise Line’s Alchemy Bar, currently available on 13 Carnival ships, trained mixologists serve up “cocktail therapy” with every one of their creatively concocted mixed drinks. Guests can fill out “prescription” forms to devise their own unique cocktail or order a specially made hand-crafted potion from the menu. Onboard the innovative new Carnival Vista, guests can try three craft beers brewed in the first brewery at sea in North America. Launched in collaboration with Miami-based Concrete Beach Brewery, the Carnival Vista's RedFrog Pub & Brewery serves specially created beers including ThirstyFrog Port Hoppin’ IPA, ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat and FriskyFrog Java Stout. Of course, all hand-crafted beverages don't have to be alcoholic. The awesome Shake Spot on the Carnival Vista serves hand-crafted classic shakes and other sweet treats.

5. Learn In Shipboard Culinary Programs. Memorable culinary learning experiences are often featured as part of the activities program on ships. Guests can often take cooking classes, sample a variety of regional wines, and even try out craft beers on certain ships. Carnival Cruise Line offers a number of different types of cooking classes and demonstrations, such as those offered at Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse on Carnival Vista. Vacationers can also learn more about beverages on their cruise. Carnival’s Alchemy Bar offers a "Master The Martini" Martini tasting session and Carnival Vista guests can participate in the ship’s brewery tour to learn about handcrafted beers as well.

6. Experiment and Try Something New. One of the most enjoyable aspects of cruise ship dining is the opportunity to try new things. While it may seem odd to order more than one appetizer or main course on land, it’s often the norm on many cruise ships. So take the opportunity to be a little adventurous when dining at sea. That's easy to do at Carnival Vista's Horizons and Reflections main dining restaurants - or even at the ship's Lido Marketplace buffet. After all, if you don’t like what you’ve selected you can always get something else. Some shipboard venues cater to guests’ desire to experiment with new cuisines while cruising. The Taste Bar, found on many Carnival ships, offers free bite-size samples inspired by popular Carnival dining venues to encourage guests to find new favorites.

7. Seek Out Authentic Local Cuisines in Ports. Some of the most memorable culinary experiences can take place in exciting ports of call. Do some advance research to make the most of your visits. It helps to be informed and make reservations at top restaurants if needed. Investigate culinary-oriented private and group shore excursion options, too. These might include food tasting tours, winery tours with private tastings, meetings with local producers and food entrepreneurs, and special meals at local restaurants to sample authentic cuisines. Visits to bustling food markets and other types of independent explorations can be fun as well.

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