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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 food options. A study conducted by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) showed that 75% of consumers are seeking new and innovative dining experiences. A majority of cruise guests also want to have the option to enjoy traditional dining, too.
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 foodies 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 onboard the Carnival Vista. There’s even an on-board brewery 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 dozens 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 lobster rolls, New England clam chowder, buckets of fried clam strips and more. Other favorites include the ship’s Fahrenheit 555 classic American steakhouse, Ji Ji Asian Kitchen and Bonsai Sushi, both serving a variety of Asian delicacies. Guests can sample authentic Cuban fare at the Havana Bar, try light Caribbean bites 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.
3. Check Out Venues Once Onboard. Check out all of the available dining options early in the 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 the 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 the find little 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, any needed 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 the 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. On the innovative new Carnival Vista, guests can try three craft beers brewed on the ship in the first brewery at sea in North America. Launched in collaboration with Miami-based Concrete Beach Brewery, the RedFrog Pub & Brewery onboard the Carnival Vista 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 themed to the cruise’s itinerary. Cooking classes on Holland America cruises are offered theater-style in their shipboard Culinary Arts Center, sponsored by Food & Wine magazine. A wide variety of classes are offered, including some with special guest chefs. There are even culinary programs for kids on certain sailings. Vacationers can also learn more about beverages while 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. After all, if you find you don’t like what you’ve ordered, you can always ask for 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. Advance research is often needed to make the most of your visits. It helps to be well informed and make advance reservations at restaurants if needed. Investigate private and culinary-oriented group shore excursion options, both independently and through the ship. These might include food tasting tours, winery tours with private tastings, meetings with local producers and foodie entrepreneurs, and meals at top local restaurants to sample authentic cuisines. Independent trips can be fun as well.
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