Hungry for more foodie experiences at sea? You are most definitely in luck, as there has never been a better choice of cuisines, menus and dining venues on cruise ships. It seems hardly a week goes by without a cruise line announcing a partnership with a celebrity chef, a new restaurant or cooking school, so here's a taster of treats in store.
Seabourn Encore, the luxury line's newest ship – it arrives in Australia in January for its inaugural season – has a smorgasbord of dining options. The latest to be revealed is a dedicated sushi restaurant – helpfully named Sushi – a first for the Seabourn fleet. The description of the dining space is almost as appetising as the menus: "The decor is all off-white, almost like a very delicate Japanese eggshell," says Adam Tihany, Seabourn Encore's designer. "The sushi bar is bespoke with Venetian glass fixtures to create a shimmering effect."
Other restaurants on board include The Grill by Thomas Keller, a renowned American chef who has three Michelin-starred restaurants to his name. Here, guests will enjoy table-side preparations of Caesar salad and ice cream sundaes as well as steakhouse favourites such as Lobster Thermidor.
In April, Silversea is launching its newest luxury vessel, Silver Muse, which it calls "a floating diamond of gastronomy". It will be the line's first ship to do away with a main dining room; instead of The Restaurant there will be two eateries, each with its own bar. Atlantide will serve a range of seafood and Indochine will offer an Asian-fusion menu. Le Champagne will be renamed La Dame (still a Relais & Chateaux restaurant) and Kabuki is a reinvention of the Japanese-inspired Seishin, which was introduced on Silver Spirit.
Princess Cruises recently announced that it has partnered with three-Michelin star chef Emmanuel Renaut to develop the line's new specialty restaurant La Mer, which will make its debut on board Majestic Princess, also in April. Closer to home, Sun Princess and Emerald Princess are among the first ships in the fleet to feature SHARE by Curtis Stone. As its name suggests, the menu and communal tables are designed for guests to share dishes.
"SHARE combines all the things that I'm most passionate about – being on the ocean looking over the water, escaping to visit new destinations, and sharing stories and good times over a delicious meal," Stone said at the unveiling of his restaurant on Sun Princess last month.
Looks like we'll have to redouble our efforts to work off the cruise kilos at the gym – or just pack plenty of loose-fitting clothes.
MEET THE CREW
NAME Amy Tibbett, from Australia
POSITION Purser, Coral Expeditions' Coral Discoverer
MY JOB I have overall responsibility for the onboard dining services, guest accommodation and food preparation; ultimately I make sure that all of our guests' expectations are exceeded.
A TYPICAL DAY … starts with checking on the accommodation service standards with our senior housekeeper and ensuring that the front of house manager is prepared for meal periods. The rest of my day is split between completing paperwork and accounts and being available to answer all guest queries.
FAVOURITE CRUISE MOMENT Getting to swim off a traditional Indonesian fishing pontoon with no less than seven whale sharks and two dolphins!
FAVOURITE CRUISE PORTS Banda Neira, which is where we clear into Indonesia and are greeted by locals in traditional kora kora canoes.
INSIDER TIP Wear elastic-waisted pants – our chefs are world class!
Upgrade your layovers on long flights – the LoungeBuddy app lists airport lounges you can enjoy for a fee in more than 500 airports around the world. Free for Android and iOS smartphones.
Melanesia Discoverer cruise
Internationally acclaimed scientist, explorer and conservationist Professor Tim Flannery has been described by Sir David Attenborough as being "in the league of the world's all-time great explorers". Now you can join him on a one-off World Expeditions cruise that he will be escorting in Melanesia in October 2017.
Flannery will share his extensive scientific knowledge of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, along with his passion for exploration and discovery, on the 14-day Melanesia Discoverer cruise on board the 50-passenger Spirit of Enderby. There will be lots of opportunities for landings, village visits, kayaking and snorkelling, and for "birders" this itinerary offers sightings of rare species on remote islands where few travellers have been before. See www.worldexpeditions.com .
P&O Cruises' hot spots
P&O Cruises, which recently won the 2016 Cruise Critic Editors' Picks award for best cruise line itineraries, is adding the Kimberley to its ever-expanding regional and overseas portfolio of ports. Next year, P&O will make its first call to the Kimberley, visiting Kuri Bay – a remote bay north of Broome boasting magnificent red rock escarpments and a turquoise bay – on its cruises from Fremantle. During calls to Kuri Bay, passengers can explore the spectacular wilderness of the Kimberley through walking tours and scenic flights or visit a Paspaley pearl farm. The nine-night cruise, departing May 16, also includes a call to Exmouth and an overnight stay in Broome. Tasmania will also feature on more P&O cruises next year, from Sydney and Adelaide. See https://www.pocruises.com.au.
New-look Celebrity Solstice
Celebrity Solstice has just returned to Australia after a nine-day, $11.25 million makeover in Singapore. The 2850-passenger ship is now showing off a host of new features, including "A Taste of Film" cinema experience, new Lawn Club cabanas and a Japanese sushi restaurant, Sushi on Five, which replaces Bistro on Five. Adam Armstrong, managing director of Celebrity Cruises in Australia and New Zealand, said, "Australians are great lovers of the outdoors, so our iconic, real grass Lawn Club has proven to be incredibly popular. We'll enhance this space even further by adding an outdoor movie screen, beautiful cabanas, and introducing 'A Taste of Film' experience, which pairs classic films with culinary delights – an industry first." Suites and balconies have also been upgraded. See www.celebritycruises.com.au.
DEAL OF THE WEEK
E-cruising.travel's Southern and Caribbean Explorer 24-night fly/tour/cruise package combines a 12-day escorted tour of the US with a 10-night round-trip cruise from Miami on Celebrity Equinox. Starting in New York on April 21, highlights of the land tour include Washington DC, the Great Smoky Mountains, Memphis and New Orleans. The Caribbean cruise visits ports such as Grand Cayman, Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire as well as Key West in Florida. From $5419; phone 1300 369 848, see www.ecruising.travel .
ROYAL CARIBBEAN is offering a buy one, get up to 50 per cent off deal plus free balcony upgrade on all its Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific cruises departing from January 3 to April 22, 2017. With five ships sailing in the region there's plenty of choice; offer valid until December 3. Phone 1800 754 500, see www.royalcaribbean.com.au .
MYCRUISES' exclusive 20-night fly/stay/cruise package from Tahiti to Sydney includes flights from Australia, three nights' accommodation in Papeete and a 17-night cruise on NCL's Norwegian Jewel as it arrives for its first Australian season. Departing October 25, 2017, Norwegian Jewel will call at Bora Bora and Moorea, Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. From $4490; phone 1300 69 2784, see www.MyCruises.com.au.