Great holidays are not just about relaxing and unwinding but immersing yourself in different cultures.
It’s why so many cruise lines are committed to serving food that is as innovative and exciting as it is diverse.
For many passengers, the food served on ship is as alluring as the sights off it – the dining experience is as important as the itinerary.
Whether through big-name chefs, fusion cooking or secret ingredients, there are some superb options on the waves.
Here we pick the best cruises for food-lovers.
The Brit pack
P&O says that new ship Britannia combines the excitement of cruising with the sophistication of a five-star hotel.
And at the forefront of that is the cruise line’s commitment to food.
The ship’s ‘Food Heroes’ are gods of the culinary world: James Martin, Marco Pierre White, Atul Kochhar, Eric Lanlard and wine expert Olly Smith.
Britannia’s Epicurean restaurant, dedicated to fine dining, will offer a contemporary menu of molecular cooking, home smoking – and even flaming jellies.
And then there’s The Market Café, which will serve charcuterie, including smoked lamb and venison, from Britain’s finest artisan producers, as well delicate cakes and pastries.
Regular guests on Silversea ships will be used to luxury – but the chefs at Le Champagne have taken things to a new level.
The only Relais & Châteaux restaurant at sea is offering passengers the chance to enjoy one of the world’s most expensive ingredients – the gold leaf.
Usually sold at £10,000 per pound, it will feature in Silversea’s extravagant risotto, devised by master chefs at the luxury hotel and restaurant group.
The cruise line, which describes the creamy Italian rice dish as an “exquisite culinary indulgence”, says the tradition of consuming gold leaf dates back to the 16th century.
Take a taste tour
Oceania Cruises says its onboard restaurants rival the best ashore – and it would be difficult to argue: the cruise line’s trophy cabinet is bursting with best-food awards.
With speciality restaurants onboard each of its five ships, the operator’s delicious dishes include prime rib of beef (dry aged for at least 28 days), sea-bass marinated in miso and wrapped in a banana leaf, as well as fine Asian-fusion dishes in the Red Ginger restaurants.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Additional Culinary Discovery Tours are being added for 2015, allowing guests to explore the cuisine within the region the ships are sailing, while there are hands-on cookery schools – the Bon Appetit Culinary Centres – on the Marina and Riviera ships.
In the Sushi Bar and Silk Road restaurant of Crystal Cruise’s Serenity and Symphony ships, guests have the chance to experience the gastronomic coming together of three continents.
The innovative food, dreamt up by the master chef Nobuyuki ‘Nobu’ Matsuhisa, combines traditional Japanese cuisine with Peruvian and European flavours.
Prepared by the Nobu-trained chefs, the mouth-watering dishes include salmon tartar with sevruga caviar; tiradito and yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño; Nobu-style lobster; and black cod with miso.
Hurtigruten, which offer voyages along the Norwegian coast, has enlisted the help of Andreas Viestad, one of the country’s foremost food experts.
The result is sumptuous, locally-sourced fare: more than 80% of the food and drink served onboard is produced in Norway.
Its ‘Arctic Awakening’ menu, launching in April, promises the likes of cured leg of lamb from Hellesylt, near the Geirangerfjord; baked Arctic char from the Sigerfjord, near Vesterålen, and roast reindeer from Finnmark.
Wine and dine
As everyone knows, food is nothing without a good bottle of red.
That’s why Uniworld in conjunction with Titan offer river cruises that combine stunning gastronomy with fine wine.
The perfect example is the line’s eight-day Bordeaux, Vineyards & Chateaux itinerary, new for 2014.
The 130-passenger River Royale sails three rivers – the Garonne, the Dordogne and the Gironde – giving guests the chance to indulge themselves in the heritage of south-west France, with excursions to the region’s finest food and wine producers.
Guests can enjoy the likes of duck confit, caviar d’Aquitaine and oysters and on-board meals designed by French master chef Philippe Etchebest.