Themed cruises, including culinary and wine cruises, are becoming more popular than ever, as more and more travelers who love the resort-like amenities of cruising and the opportunity to discover new destinations seek personal immersion in their interests. Plus, there are no designated drivers to worry about!
With so many themed sailings, the decision on which cruise to choose has become more complex. Here are few tips to consider to whet your appetite:
1. Which cruise line is right for me?
One cruise ship does not fit all – size, ambience, cabin types, amenities and demographics all play an important part. Do you prefer to be among a lot of passengers, activity and entertainment options, or is an intimate experience with one-on-one service ratio more your style? Is a cabin with panoramic views important, or is your focus more on excellent cuisine with wines of the regions you’re cruising? Do you want to be surrounded by families with children or is adults-only important? Is a cruise line with its own impressive wine cellar and onboard sommeliers essential? Is it important that wine and other alcoholic beverages be included with the fare? Both river and ocean cruise lines offer themed cruises, but the experience you’ll encounter on each can be very different.
2. Are winemaker or culinary expert hosts important?
Many of the themed culinary and wine cruises today feature an onboard expert host for the length of cruise, along with unique, in-depth experiences such as tastings, wine dinners, lectures and special excursions. This is an excellent opportunity to sip a fine Riesling from an award-winning winemaker or throw on an apron to get messy alongside a well-known chef. When choosing a cruise with a specific host or theme, consider the demographics of the winery or venue itself, along with grape varietals offered, to better match your preferences. Also consider how much time, if any, you’ll get to spend with the host. Can you meet the featured celebrity chef, or is she simply giving a one-time lecture and then departing at the next stop, for example?
3. What gourmet experiences will I have access to?
In addition to hosts, it’s important to look at overall amenities and activities offered onboard. Are there scheduled wine tastings, cooking classes, special dinners at the chef’s table, lectures, etc.? Which culinary classes are hands-on versus demo only? Which pique your interest?
4. What should I look for in terms of themed excursions?
Shore excursions on themed cruises include special interest excursions that give cruisers access to places they normally wouldn’t be able to visit, such as a gourmet dinner at a local winemaker’s chateau, a visit to one of the oldest wine caves in Europe, chef-led sourcing expeditions for the best truffle or caviar, and even the opportunity to cook in the kitchen of a local. Review the daily itinerary for the cruise you’re considering to see if what’s offered matches your expectations and if the ports are places you wish to visit. Look for guided tours by wine or food experts as well as the venues you’ll visit to get the full themed experience.
A cruise is the perfect way to see the world while only unpacking your suitcase once. When you elevate your food and wine experience on a themed cruise, you enjoy a double bonus!