For decades cruise ship dining has remained much the same, with the options consisting almost exclusively, (unless you’re cruising on an NCL liner), of traditional and flexi dining. Traditional dining will see you seated in the main dining venue at a set time, usually on a shared table, with the same waiter and sommelier each night, versus flexi dining which allows the choice between two times and, in some cases, varying dining venues. Although traditional cruise dining may have its perks, (getting to know your fellow passengers, scheduling your day around dining times, and an everchanging menu), cruise-goers and diners are pushing more and more for new and exciting features, and the cruise lines are listening. This year alone we’ve seen the introduction of world-renowned chefs Cornelius Gallagher (Celebrity Cruises) and Harald Wohlfahrt (MSC Cruises), while other Michelin-starred chefs such as Marco Pierre White and Nobu Matsuhisa have also made their mark on cruise ships over the years.
The decline in popularity of traditional dining is clear as we witness more cruise lines opting for distinct dining venues and speciality restaurants. Celebrity Cruises scrapped the idea of a main dining venue altogether, instead opting for four unique restaurants where guests can still enjoy traditional dining if they so choose.
But what other trends can we expect to see in onboard dining over the next decade or so?
The open kitchen at the Eden restaurant. #iphonexsmax #iphone #iphoneonly #iphoneography #iphonephoto #iphonephotography #celebrity #celebrityedge #cruise #trip #travel #vacation #chef #cook #cooks #food #foodphotography #portrait #portraits #portraitphotography #portraiture #portraitpage #portraitmood #ship #boat #photo #photoshoot
Above all else, modern cruise goers want to know where their food is coming from. The farm-to-table trend places an emphasis on bringing local, sustainable, and often organic products to the restaurant experience. This may be an easier trend for river cruise lines to deliver than ocean-faring vessels, as sourcing fresh, local food while out at sea isn’t the simplest of tasks. In efforts to tackle this trend, cruise chefs will often venture out into food markets while at port, in search of the freshest, most authentic ingredients they can find. Moreover, the farm-to-table trend places a massive emphasis on the need for effective storage and preservation solutions in the galley, as chefs are expected to provide fresh food even without the aforementioned port-stops.
“The process to create a new dish or a new menu starts with being on trend” - Wes Cort, Vice President, Food and Beverage Operations, Norwegian Cruise Line
The rise in vegetarianism and veganism in recent years has been huge, with 1.16% of the population in Great Britain identifying as vegan, (that may not sound like a lot, but that figure has doubled since 2014, when just 0.25% identified as maintaining a vegan diet). As such the demand on cruise lines to provide cruelty-free options has increased accordingly. Even non-vegans are requesting cruelty-free options in the form of free-range products. In fact, Royal Caribbean and Carnival Corporation have pledged to use only cage-free eggs by 2022 and 2025, respectively. Again, this places an emphasis on the importance of providing effective galley solutions, as fresh fruit and veg is one of the harder ingredients to preserve aboard an ocean-going cruise ship.
“Plant-based eating will continue to gain strength, becoming more mainstream, where we’ll see accelerated adoption within non-vegan/vegetarian consumers. We will see an increased rate of innovation in this area.” – Yilmaz Erceyes, Marketing Director, Premier Foods
It may be one of the more controversial aspects of cruising, but the buffet is certainly here to stay. Despite its vast array of speciality dining venues, Celebrity Edge has retained its buffet, and injected yet more life into it. Oceanview Café has revived the once looked down upon buffet, inserting “live action stations” including made-to-order pasta, a carvery, bakery, and Asian stir fry area. Introducing interactive stations with global cuisine allows guests to opt for more exciting options in a relaxed setting.
“We’ve already begun a major movement towards offering healthier choices onboard our fleet, as well as providing a larger infusion of regional cuisine based on where our ships are sailing. We give our guests a taste of the destinations the ship is visiting, we purchase fresh locally caught fish to serve onboard and develop dishes that reflect the local culinary culture and use local ingredients.” – Culinary Director, Oceania Cruises, Chef Franck Garanger
As guests make their way across the globe with cruises through the picturesque Norwegian Fjords and getaways to the delightful Med, they also want to taste global flavours as they travel. While cruise lines previously focused on providing world-class cuisine, the demand now is that they provide cuisine from around the world. Just this year we’ve seen the introduction of a range of diverse eateries, from tapas (MSC Bellissima) to Brazilian barbecue (Crystal Serenity) to fresh sushi and sashimi (Seabourn Ovation).
Arguably the most important trend for onboard dining in the years to come will be personalization. While the one-size-fits-all approach used to satisfy guests, nowadays choice is paramount. An interesting take on this cruise dining trend can be found aboard Celebrity Edge in the form of Le Petit Chef. Available once per sailing for $55 per head, Le Petit Chef uses 3D animation to bring guests’ dinner to life, uniting entertainment and dining as one. These personalized, unique dining experiences are what guests are looking for more and more, and thus the technology required goes beyond even that of the most sophisticated galley equipment.
What do you think the biggest trend will be in onboard dining? Let us know using the hashtags #MCE19 #OpportunityIsServed!