Healthier food, inspired dining experiences now being served at sea

by Maureen McKeon

Food for thought: do you know what you are eating?

Heres why you should care. Theres been a lot of talk lately about the brain food movement, prompted by neuroscientific research proving diet plays a critical role in concentration, mood, and cognitive performance. Cruise lines are making adjustments to their menu planning in order to keep guests alert, energized and engaged.

Rise of the Foodies

While Americans are embracing healthier eating habits, were also becoming more food savvy. The proliferation of reality-based cooking shows and celebrity chefs have created a shift in our dining expectations. Meeting attendees, in particular, are demanding more inspired menus, nutritious food, and unique culinary experiences.

Taking it to Sea the Cruise Line Food Revolution

One of the greatest cost-saving benefits of a cruise is that meals, snacks and round-the-clock snacks are included.

If you think cruise ship dining is all about high-caloric all you can eat buffets, think again cruise cuisine has come of age. Healthy options and signature recipes created by top chefs are now being served in a variety of inspired settings many with soothing ocean views.

According to the CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association), State of the Industry 2011 Report, one of this years top trends reported by member cruise lines is: Increased choice in dining experiences, with more specialty restaurants, guest chefs and local sourcing of food.

Whats New in Cruise Ship Dining

In keeping up with food trends, cruise lines have added more global offerings, cooking classes, chefs tables and spa menus. Here are a few of the latest developments:

Celebrity Cruises
Lawn Club Grill, found on Solstice-class ships, is the first interactive outdoor grill at sea. This unique dining option overlooks the lush green lawn atop the ship (yes, a lawn with real grass!). Your attendees can either select from a wide array of top quality meats to have a grilled to order dinner, or they can grill meats themselves side by side with Celebrity chefs.

Celebritys Qsine has been described as entertainment and dining rolled into one. This high-tech specialty restaurant features playful options like a vertical selection of savory tapas served individually in custom-made frames. All are described on the iPad-housed menu, which offers a scan of wine labels, an interactive cocktail menu, and the ability for guests to enter tasting notes.

Royal Caribbean International
150 Central Park, the most exclusive restaurant on Oasis-class ships, serves a six-to-eight course tasting menu with customized wine pairings. An observation window into the kitchen of this chic restaurant lets Central Park passersby observe the executive chef in action, who later interacts with guests. The price for this culinary experience? Probably less than you would pay for lunch at a first-class hotel.

Solarium Cafe offers a low-calorie buffet for breakfast and lunch, before transforming into a suppertime bistro also serving healthy items the goal is to keep each entree at 500 calories or less.

Norwegian Cruise Line
More Choices: This cruise line originated the Freestyle concept that revolutionized dining at sea with more choice and flexibility. Norwegian Epic offers 20 different globally-inspired dining options from classic French to Asian fusion restaurants -and 11 are complimentary.

Sea Cloud Cruises
Culinary Adventures: Accomplished top chefs are revealing culinary secrets and enchanting guests on selected Mediterranean voyages of windjammer Sea Cloud II and the river Yacht River Cloud II. Highlights include a olive oil tasting in Corsica and a shopping excursion through the food markets of Palermo.

SeaDream Yacht Club
Cuisine a la Minute: Dining aboard a SeaDream yacht is a culinary adventure for the senses. Dishes are freshly prepared with local ingredients, and your attendees will even have an opportunity to shop with the yachts chef in exotic ports of call.

Prefer to dine al fresco? The yachts tiered outdoor restaurant serves breakfast and lunch; and when dressed up with candles and linens, it makes a stunning group venue for dinner under the stars.

Carnival Cruise Line
The Chefs Table is Carnival Cruise Lines exclusive fine dining experience. During this culinary journey, a select group of 12 guests enjoy champagne and hors douevres hosted by the ships master chef. The chef then takes the group on a private tour to see the galley in operation.

The evening concludes with a sumptuous full-service dinner created by the lines master chefs, served in a non-traditional dining venue the galley, library, conference center, etc.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime culinary event for an elite group, at a cost comparable (or less) than what you would pay for a typical hotel banquet dinner.

Eat Well, Save the Planet

If youre concerned about keeping your vacation green, youll be as excited as we are about these cruise line culinary initiatives:

Lindblad Expeditions

Sustainable Food: Lindblad Expeditions shipboard chefs use fresh, local ingredients whenever possible, including locally grown produce, sustainable catch fish, and other local products. By adding regional ingredients and flavors to their menus, Lindblad provides guests with a greater sense of the cuisine and culture in the regions being explored.

Chefs at Sea: Lindblad is promoting sustainable cuisine by bringing top chefs on select voyages to inspire and educate guests. Through Chefs at Sea, your participants will learn from award-winning chefs who are devoted to sourcing and cooking with local and sustainable ingredients -with presentations, hands-on demonstrations and market visits while in port.

Slow Food: Silversea Cruises has partnered with Slow Food, an international organization whose mission is to link pleasure and food with awareness and responsibility.

Silversea will soon have the only restaurants at sea to display the Presidio Slow Food logo next to foods that comply with the Slow Food philosophy, including sourcing from a global network of food communities committed to responsible and sustainable food production.

No more rubber chickens

So there you have it a taste of what you and you can expect during your vacation at sea. Why settle for banquet-style rubber chicken when you can treat yourself to food thats nutritious, delicious, and sustainable?

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