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Cruising: It’s All About The Food

Chef Curtis StoneFor some of us, there’s an old (and probably outdated) saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach…i.e., good cooks get good husbands. The subjects may have changed but the principle has not.

Good cooking gets many cruisers.

As the year winds down, there are two more examples to validate that thinking.

1) Princess Cruises has been hyping the fact that Chef Curtis Stone has opened his own restaurant (SHARE) on select ships, such as the Ruby Princess and Emerald Princess, with more likely to follow. The “headlines” are “Chef Curtis Stone invites you…” and “Chef Curtis Stone shares his love with this special ingredient…”  and “A favorite family recipe from Chef Curtis Stone…”

2) The new Godmother of the Oceania Sirena — next year — will be Claudine Pepin, who has the right surname to be in the kitchen creating cuisines-des-spectacles. She is, of course, the daughter of the famous Jacques Pepin, who is Oceania’s master chef and The Pepinswhose restaurant is named after him and on two ships, the Riviera and the Marina.

See, it’s all about the food.

While we wouldn’t know Curtis Stone from Oliver Stone (we would know him from Sharon), it’s clear this Aussie “Celebrity Apprentice” grad has many followers and many exquisite recipes. He also has a restaurant in Beverly Hills called Maude, which means that a lot of the beautiful people enjoy his menus. And now a lot of cruisers will, too.

Claudine Pepin, also apparently, has some healthy credentials to go with her healthy food. Her Dad, who turns 80 before Christmas, made it big with Julia Child at his side on PBS and now Claudine’s stepping up in class with him at her side. She also had a PBS show — Cooking With Claudine — and this year has her first cookbook on the shelves for Christmas, Kids Cook French.

As generations of cooking go, both she and Curtis Stone represent a passing of the torch.

Or at least the spatula.

In the news…

• MSC Cruises offers 2-for-1 Caribbean fares for balcony guests starting April 23
• Flash from the past: Verandah Restaurant to open in June on Queen Mary 2
• Two sets of tourism students spend a day on Norwegian Epic in Cannes

Today at portsandbows.comSuite time with Celebrity

Carnival Fantasy
5 nights
January 27, 2016
Charleston (return): Nassau, Freeport
Inside: $409
Cost per day: $81

Celebrities With Cruise Appeal, Too

Kathie Lee Gifford Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines/Ray Stubblebine

If you think society at large is tiring of celebrities who fail to live up to the lofty standards placed upon them by…well, society, think again.

Celebrity sells. Still. 

That’s why Carnival is partnering with Kathie Lee Gifford, known to her millions of TV fans simply as Kathie Lee. She has a winery, or at least some wines, as do a growing number of movie stars, TV stars and sports stars. Her partnership with Carnival isn’t news, but her latest wine is.

GIFFT Pinot Noir Rose.

Kathie Lee’s wines — the red blend and chardonnay are already being poured on all Carnival ships — are from Monterey County in California. If the idea wasn’t working, and if the wine wasn’t good, there’d have been no Pinot Noir Rose uncorked yesterday in Miami, an event she toasted (above) with Candeloro Donato, captain of the Splendor.

Celebrity sells. Still.

That’s why Princess is partnering with another TV personality, chef Curtis Stone. His presence will also be felt on the entire fleet, which for Princess means 18 ships. His Curtis Stonebusiness is food, naturally, so he has TV shows (All-Star Academy and Beach Eats), restaurants (Maude, in Beverly Hills), not to mention how-to books.

On the Princess ships, his “Crafted by Curtis” menus will be savored in the main dining rooms and perhaps more elaborately by passengers who sign up for the Chef’s Table or visit the new specialty restaurant, his first at sea. The fun with his food starts on the Golden Princess in a couple of months, and fleet-wide by the end of the year.

All of it to appeal to the public’s appetite for celebrities.

In the news…

• Carnival, Justice Department settle over disabilities investigation
• AIDA Cruises achieves environmental protection milestones
• Steel cut at shipyard for new Silversea ship the Silver Muse

Today at portsandbows.com: French billionaire buying into cruising?

Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam
7 nights
December 13, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Half Moon Cay, George Town, Cozumel, Key West
Inside: $615
Cost per day: $87

Norwegian, Zakarian Double Down

Those of us who live in North America are north-south driven. Check out our winter escape habits…West Coasters head for California or Arizona, mid-Westerners go to Texas, and Easterners seek the sun of Florida.

Once on a while, somebody crosses over, but the distance and time (changes) are deterrents.

It seems restaurateurs have a similar compass.

Like Geoffrey Zakarian.

Last summer, Norwegian announced that the celebrity chef would create and oversee Ocean Blue, the luxury seafood dining experience on the Breakaway, the new ship that will arrive in New York City in about three months. Norwegian's boss, Kevin Sheehan, paid tribute to Zakarian's "deep roots in New York City."

Everything about the Breakaway, to be permanently based in The Big Apple, has a New York motif.

Fast forward.

This week, Norwegian announced that Zakarian would do essentially the same thing on the Getaway, the new and sister ship that will arrive next February. Another Ocean Blue restaurant, another Ocean Blue on the Waterfront (more casual), and another seafood eatery known as The Raw Bar.

Did we mention that the Getaway will be permanently based in Miami?

Zakarian is basically a northerner, who was born in Massachusetts and who first became an acclaimed chef in New York, where the New York Times once proclaimed he "seems to have his finger on the pulse of Manhattan." That was 15 years ago.

By then, the Food Network and Iron Chef celebrity had already been an executive chef in South Beach, at a Miami restaurant called Blue Door. And this week's announcement was made at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, to which Geoffrey invited 100 of his chef and celebrity buddies.

So while his Miami roots don't run as deep as his New York roots, there is at least a connection.

It's that north-south thing again.

Carnival Sensation
4 nights
May 5, 2013
Port Canaveral (return): Freeport, Nassau
Inside: $249
Cost per day: $62

Celebrity Chefs on Land and Sea


What's cookin' in cruisin'…are celebrity chefs.

On the same day, two major cruise lines were promoting associations with celebrity cooks. Actually, only one was a celebrity cook, the other a celebrity chef. Sounds like splitting pasta hairs to me.

In both cases, your taste buds will have to wait.

Royal Caribbean is engaging the cook, Paula Deen of the Food Network, for one cruise, on Mariner of the Seas from Galveston in late January. The cruise will coincide with the Super Bowl and you can be sure Mama Deen will be hoping one of those good ol' southern teams will be in the game. She's from Savannah (so the Atlanta Falcons would do just fine) and southern cooking is her specialty at The Lady & Sons restaurant she operates with her two boys, Jamie and Bobby.

On Mariner of the Seas, events she'll be part of include a "welcome pajama dessert party", the Deen Family Olympics, Not Your Mama's Meals and, of course, a Super Bowl party. There's one catch, although it's more of an incomplete pass: It's really a Pre-Super Bowl Party because the ship returns to Galveston before Super Sunday's opening kick-off. It has to be booked at pauladeencruise.com, which is also accessible from her website, pauladeen.com.

Norwegian is engaging the chef, Geoffrey Zakarian. He's also a Food Network star and he's going to have his own restaurant on NCL's new ship, the Breakaway, once it starts sailing from New York next spring and early summer. The restaurant is Ocean Blue, a "luxury seafood dining experience" — that means it'll come with a price tag.

Chef Zakarian will preside over the restaurant and will prepare and supervise it just as he does his two land-based restaurants in New York, The Lambs Club and The National. Except, of course, that he won't likely be on the Breakaway as much as he'll be on land. Norwegian CEO Kevin Sheehan says it's like winning the culinary lottery: "We win big…but so do our guests." Opening day for the restaurant, and for Breakaway, is May 12.

Here on land, I have my own celebrity chef, seven days a week. She may dispute the celebrity part but there are no doubters when it comes to her cooking talents.

Now, if only some cruise line would recognize that!

Sapphire Princess
7 nights
December 22, 2012
Los Angeles (return): Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, Ensenada
Cost per day: $114

Holland America Ups the Veggie Fare

Hands up, if you know somebody who has or has had cancer. Hands down, if you've thought about eating better because of it.

We've never been vegetarians. One of us (hands up) is more of a carnivore than she is. Yet we have both felt the urge, or need, to become "more vegetarian" because, frankly, it's healthier.

Holland America's like that, too.

This week, the venerable cruise line that's sometimes linked with the most senior of cruisers blew the lid off the veggie pot and introduced a vegetarian-only menu and 30 new vegetarian dishes to the main dining room menu. For the most senior of cruisers this might be like an event most will remember…when non-smoking rows in planes suddenly became non-smoking  planes.

Translation: Vegetarians are growing, and not in the same way junk-food addicts are. On all 15 Holland America ships, you'll find a difference: here a veggie, there a veggie, everywhere a veggie.

Rudi Sodamin, who last month was named the Best Cruise Line Chef by Porthole Magazine for the second year in a row, is the designer of Holland America's new menus. Decorations and plaudits aside, there is a good reason for this. Rudi is Holland America's Master Chef.

He has come up with a 22-dish vegetarian and vegan menu that highlights…wait for it…vegetables! Appetizers, main courses, soups…the while nine yards. They're all available (upon request) for either lunch or dinner. And guess what?

No extra charge.

Holland America calls Chef Rudi's creations "vibrant, flavorful culinary selections." The key word there is flavorful.

Just ask the resident carnivore. If Rudi can succeed there, he might have a convert.

Norwegian Jade
7 nights
May 26, 2012
Venice (return): Naples, Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, Olympia
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64

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