Culinary themed sailings of just about any cruise line seem like a natural fit. After all, cuisine has always been a big part of the experience anyway. Take that focus a step further and we see one time events repeated frequently. The topic does not seem to be of any less interest now than it did a couple decades ago. Still, cruise lines can’t just bring on a celebrity chef, add a few events and add it to the list of culinary voyages. That takes a unique focus, specific theme and passengers looking to gain something more than the standard fare. A recent unexpected announcement from left field highlights just how detailed onboard programming can get or needs to be.
Our best textbook examples of what it takes to host successful culinary voyages comes from ultra luxury Seabourn cruise line and the annual Seabourn Food And Wine Cruise. That’s not what this post is about. Today we bring you news from the little cruise line you may never sail, Star Clippers the line with the tall masted ships. There too, culinary efforts rate high with cruise travelers, perhaps moreso than on larger ships. Dinner is a real shared experience and those on board often line up early to be in the dining room first. Ok, we lined up early to be some of the first in the dining room, not every one, but you get the point: this is one heck of a show they do, on any given night.
Now, Star Clippers is introducing not just one but a series of culinary-themed voyages for 2016, featuring some of Europe’s top gourmet Chefs and Sommeliers. During these select sailings, on all three ships in the Star Clippers fleet, guests will have the opportunity to take part in complimentary cooking demonstrations, wine and beer tasting, and culinary lectures. Each theme will reflect the region in which the ship is sailing. While in the Mediterranean, guests will learn about cooking with lemons, capers, and olives and sample European cuisine and fine wine. That’s one heck of a tall order for the first rendition of their entry to the world of culinary voyages. Frankly though, that’s what it’s going to take to score high on the culinary voyages circuit.
Adding more depth, a variety of celebrities that should do well on culinary voyages. Interestingly, celebrities are specific to ships and include both wine and beer sommeliers, a certified butler, the owner of a wine estate, a Michelin starred chef and more.
STAR CLIPPER CULINARY VOYAGES
May 14, 2016 (7 nights) Rome Roundtrip
Sommelier Fabien Riot
Fabian Riot is a sommelier and certified butler, ranked the top National and European sommelier at the Toques Blanches competition in 1994. He managed the Michelin starred Gilles Goujon’s Restaurant, which is ranked the top 10 “best restaurants in the world.” He then came to Château l’Hospitalet in France to manage its Mediterranean restaurant, l’Art de Vivre.
June 18, 2016 (7 nights) Athens Roundtrip
Sommelier Pascal Jolivet and Chef Christian Loisl
- Sommelier Pascal Jolivet is one of the youngest and most dynamic owners of a wine estate in the Loire Valley in France, and is also the owner of the Metis Wines Estate in South Africa. 11 wines from his vineyards earned an outstanding rating of 90 points or higher on the Wine Spectator 100 points scale.
- Christian Loisl is a Michelin starred chef, formerly with Le Carat Ludwigsburg. He refers to his cuisine as international, and his style and experimental dishes encompass various techniques.
STAR FLYER CULINARY VOYAGES
Aug. 20, 2016 (7 nights) Rome Roundtrip
Sommelier Bruno David and Chef Mike Susser
- Sommelier Bruno David and his wife Marie-Hélène are the owners of La Passion des Terroirs, Bordeaux’s largest family run wine estate.
- Chef Mike Susser is known for his appearances on German and Austrian TV. He is also the author of several cookbooks and owns a cooking school.He was named one of the “Top 20 Chefs in Austria” in 2014.
ROYAL CLIPPER CULINARY VOYAGES
Departure: May 7, 2016 (7 nights) Rome to Athens
Chef Gwenaël Laroche
- Chef Gwenaël Laroche inspired by her extensive travel experiences, creates varied and original food parings.
Departure: Aug. 20, 2016 (7 nights) Rome to Athens
Chef Jens Kirchenwitz
- Michelin starred chef Jens Kirchenwitz has become very well known in the German food world in the last few years. He hosts radio and TV shows in Europe, has cooked for celebrities and toured with Jamie Oliver around Germany.
Departure: Oct. 1, 2016 (7 nights) Istanbul to Athens
Beer Sommelier Annika Klee and Chef Martina Koempel
- Annika Klee is a world renowned German beer sommelier. Her beer experience includes running breweries in Greece and Namibia.
- Chef Martina Compel has moderated countless cooking shows in German and French television. Her professional career began at Alain Senerens, a Michelin starred restaurant in Paris. She worked alongside Michel Roth at the Hôtel Ritz Paris.
Time will tell if Star Clippers’ Culinary Voyages are an ongoing program or last minute addition to existing programming to fill unsold space. On the surface one might suspect the later of the two. These things do take time to set up and plan. Still, Star Clippers is a resilient organization that kind of sails along the shadows from year to year with one of the highest repeat guest rates in the business. We wish them well on what should be a defining series of events.
Speaking of Culinary Voyages however, let me not miss a chance to throw in a little something about the highest rated culinary event at sea, the Seabourn Food And Wine Cruise. The next one happens in Alaska, a place Seabourn visits for the first time in 2017, after a 17-year absence.
Before We Remove The Cover
Actually, let’s hold up on that right now and come back later, after you have had time to review all we know about the Seabourn 2017 Alaska season. After all, the beginning of the 2016 Alaska season is just around the corner. Between sisters Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and soon-to-return Seabourn the three will pretty much have a lock on overall itinerary diversity, pricing and experience. That’s a whole other story.