Well, we are certainly an island race of travellers. During the last few years of recession and economic woes, research has shown that we’ve continued to take our holidays – giving up other treats instead, when we have to. We tell ourselves (and quite rightly in my personal opinion!) we deserve our holidays. We need them to look forward to, and so when they arrive, we all want to make them as enjoyable and fulfilling as we can, ticking as many of our ‘must do’ boxes as possible.
And it would seem we’re also becoming a nation of foodies, with recent TV cooking shows ‘Masterchef’, ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and ‘Saturday Kitchen’ achieving top ratings, as we’re all glued to our TV sets to see if we can pick up tips from the experts, and avoid the now legendary curse of ‘the soggy bottom’!
So, what about combining the two? To me that’s a match made in heaven. We’ve all heard of cookery holidays, where you go for cookery lessons for a few days in a wonderfully scenic location – sounds great, but that might mean your holiday is ALL about cooking, and whilst that’s fun for the really dedicated chefs amongst us, to be honest, it’s a little single minded for me. But, combine some sort of foodie learning experience with other things to do, and with exploring some wonderful places around the world and that’s even more appealing to me. So I’ve been intrigued by the growth in popularity of Food and Wine Cruises, where you are simply on holiday, but in the company of a celebrity chef, and all the possibilities that brings.
I’ve been on P&O Cruises’ Adonia, the 700 passenger ‘discovery’ ship, when Marco Pierre White has been on board, chatting with passengers and dining up in his restaurant ‘Ocean Grill’. The Lounge was packed for his interview style Q&A sessions and then his book signing caused quite a gathering, as he liked to chat to each of his visitors at quite some length – answering their questions on his recipes, and giving them tips, and then often having a much more general conversation, as after all, we were all fellow passengers together. And of course exploring a variety of local markets as the ship progressed around the Mediterranean was fascinating for everyone, as he was able to explain what the local produce was each time, how the food was important to the local culture and how, and with what, it was best cooked to make sure the ‘food chemistry’ worked well. Not your normal trip to the supermarket!
Another of my favourite ‘celebrity chef’ cruise experiences was on Azura, also a P&O Cruises ship. This time it was a bigger vessel, and I watched one of the cooking demonstrations in the Theatre, with Atul Kochhar, the first Indian born British chef to achieve a Michelin star for his London restaurant Benares, and Olly Smith, the young wine expert who is also a popular cooking/wine show TV presenter. The two of them together were really entertaining, and informative too, with would-be chefs calling out questions from the audience, like ‘How do you make sure your meal isn’t just a great combination of tastes, but a colour, texture and visual feast too?’, and ‘How did you go about getting your Michelin star?’ And then whilst out and about around the ship, Olly had an incredible knack of chatting with you for a few minutes, and then from that, working out which wine you’d fancy and would go well with your planned dinner that evening….and I have to say, I’ve used several of his great matching ideas at dinner parties at home!
And then there was also a cruise where Eric Lanlard, the great patissier to celebrities and royalty, was on board, making amazing afternoon tea cakes, pastries and savouries. He, too, talked about his experiences and showed how he creates such amazing ‘show-stoppers’. (Eric also helped us out on P&O Cruises 175th Anniversary, when we invited The Princess Royal for afternoon tea on Oriana, before she conducted a Royal Fleet Review. Eric made an ENORMOUS cake for us all, with fresh fruit, chocolate and what can only be described as ‘mini rockets’ on top, which, when lit, made the cake an incredible spectacle! Princess Anne was very admiring of it, but wasn’t in the least fazed by having to ‘cut the cake’ and managed the first incision masterfully!)
So, the idea of exploring several countries in one holiday, and learning more about the variety of food and wines specific to that region, from a familiar expert chef (who’s quite simply your holiday companion at the same time!), ticks several boxes at once for me.
And, I think, that means that your well earned holiday becomes even more special.
More about Carol
Carol has worked in cruising for the last 16 years, for Swan Hellenic, Princess Cruises, Cunard Line and P&O Cruises, having previously spent time with Thomson (now TUI), in tour operating and also in hotels with Forte, but she has continued to be fascinated by the sheer variety of cruise holidays available. For the holidaymaker, a cruise combines all the ease tour operators bring to taking a package holiday, with the choice of different styles of ‘floating hotels’ and of course the ability to experience lots of different destinations in one holiday. She thought it might be helpful to chat about some of the different aspects of cruise holidays that people might not be aware of, and also simply share some of the great cruise experiences she has been lucky enough to have first hand. We hope you enjoy reading ‘Carol’s Cruise Collection’ and if you have any requests for her to take a particular focus, please contact us.
Read more from Carol’s Cruise Colection: Arriving by Sea