If the closest you usually get to enjoying a celebrity chef's creation is seeing one on "Top Chef" or the Food Network, a cruise might change that. Celebrity chefs have increasingly carved out a variety of roles for themselves on cruise ships -- serving as menu consultants, making special guest appearances or lending their names to at-sea restaurants.
In addition to providing cruise lines with extra marquee glitz, the presence of acclaimed and award-winning culinary giants also elevates cruise ship food, which traditionally has had a reputation for quantity, not quality.
Some eateries are included in the cost of the ship; others are small, reservation-only venues that charge $20 or more just to sit down (a relatively reasonable fee, considering how much it costs to eat in some of these chefs' land-based restaurants).
Here's our rundown of cruise lines where you're most likely to encounter the creations of celebrity chefs.
Carnival Cruise Lines
Who: Food Network staple, game show host and restaurateur Guy Fieri lends his name and his burger-making prowess to Carnival Cruise Lines for poolside Guy's Burger Joint aboard most ships. The surcharge-free venue is styled like a 1950s roadside diner.
Ships: The eatery debuted aboard Carnival Liberty during a fall 2011 dry dock and came pre-installed on Carnival Breeze, which launched in June 2012. Since then, the venue has rolled out on Carnival Conquest, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Glory, Carnival Sunshine and Carnival Triumph, too.
Specialties: Fieri's burger-making philosophy pairs simple, 80-20 chuck burgers with greased-out, flavorful toppings. Those include Donkey Sauce ("jacked-up" secret mayo sauce), spicy onion rings, chili, "super melty" cheese (combo American and whiz) and brown sugar barbecue sauce. All burgers come with seasoned fries.
Who: The line has partnered with “Top Chef,” the popular Bravo reality TV series. “Chef-testants” make in-person appearances on designated voyages for cooking demonstrations and special events, while all ships incorporate elements of the show such as “Quickfire” competitions.
Who: Nobuyuki "Nobu" Matsuhisa is widely acclaimed as the master of Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine. A classically trained sushi chef, Nobu has an empire of restaurants across the world in cities like London, New York, Melbourne and Milan -- and aboard two Crystal Cruises ships.
Ships: Both Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity have Silk Road restaurants and Sushi Bars. Passengers may eat free at either Silk Road or the Sushi Bar once per seven days of sailing; for additional reservations, a reservation fee of $30 per person will apply. Matsuhisa makes appearances occasionally, sailing on specialty theme cruises that include omakase dinners, cooking classes, demonstrations, autograph sessions and photo ops.
Specialties: Whether you want sushi, sashimi or dishes with Asian flair, it's all in Nobu's restaurants. Dishes include seafood ceviche, black cod with miso, lobster with truffle-yuzu sauce, sushi, sashimi and a grilled Wagyu rib eye. For dessert, the trio of creme brulees -- sweet ginger, pink guava and passion fruit -- is a winner.
Who: England-based Cunard Line is the only U.K. cruise line to hire an American chef! In this case, the chef is Boston-based Todd English, proprietor of Olives, an upscale chain of restaurants featuring Mediterranean cuisine. English has a list of accolades under his belt, including National Rising Star Chef and Top 50 Tastemakers. In addition to Olives, he has establishments in the W Hotel at New York's Union Square and the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, to name just two.
Ships: The Todd English restaurant is on Queen Mary 2. Dishes are priced a la carte and as well as offering dinner service, the restaurant is open for lunch on sea days.
Specialties: Porterhouse of lamb, grilled tenderloin with lobster ragout, seared yellowfin tuna, sea scallops with oxtail and a risotto cake, and pumpkin puree "love letters" are top choices. For dessert, try the chef's carrot cake or banana creme brulee.
Disney Cruise Line
Who: French celebrity chef Arnaud Lallement from the Michelin-rated three-star (out of three) restaurant l'Assiette Champenoise outside Reims, France, helped design a French-inspired menu on Disney Cruise Line's newest ships. He paired up with Scott Hunnel, another award-winning chef from Walt Disney World's Victoria & Albert's restaurant.
Ships: The adults-only restaurant Remy (named after the star of the animated film "Ratatouille") is found on Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. The specialty restaurant costs $75 per person -- the highest surcharge for an onboard restaurant (other than Chef's Tables) to date.
Specialties: The meal consists of a tasting menu of up to nine different small plates. Smoked buffalo with jicama, scallops with black olives and fennel, porcini mushroom soup with wild mushroom bread pudding and wild turbot are among the dishes. Desserts are simple but elegant: choux pastry with praline cream and wild strawberry sorbet are among them.
Who: Hurtigruten has enlisted the help of Andreas Viestad, a Norwegian food expert whose TV series, New Scandinavian Cooking, is broadcast in more than 100 countries. He has also written for the Washington Post, authored several cookbooks, and is considered one of the leading international ambassadors for modern Norwegian food.
Ships: The 11 Hurtigruten ships that sail along the Norwegian coast.
Specialties: Local food. Menus, which are still in development, will reflect the ingredients and themes of the waters and areas that the ships sail through.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Who: Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian has opened many restaurants, including The Lambs Club and The National in New York City and The Water Club at Borgata in Atlantic City. He can be seen on many Food Network television shows, including the fourth season of "The Next Iron Chef, Super Chefs", "Chopped" (he's a recurring judge), "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" and "The Kitchen." Now, Zakarian can add overseeing seafood-focused restaurants for Norwegian Cruise Line and leading cooking demos and workshops on select sailings, to his resume.
Specialties: Fish is the specialty at all three of Zakarian's restaurants, with main course items at upscale Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian including scallops, salmon, sea bass and Dover sole. A roast Peking duck and savory Delmonico steak is available for the non-fish-lovers. The Raw Bar features crustaceans and small plates paired with wines by the glass and classic cocktails. Ocean Blue on the Waterfront is a more casual venue with alfresco dining.
Who: Born in France, Jacques Pepin served as the personal chef to several heads of state before relocating to the United States. In addition to authoring 25 cookbooks and hosting multiple cooking shows on public television, he holds the title of Oceania Cruises' master chef and executive culinary director.
Ships:Pepin's influence can be found throughout all five ships, including his namesake restaurant Jacques aboard Marina and Riviera. But here's the difference: Instead of focusing on one alternative restaurant, Pepin works with the line's executive chefs in all of the dining venues. Meals at all onboard restaurants are included in the cruise fare; no additional surcharge is assessed.
Specialties: Pepin's touch is most obvious in his three Signature Dishes, always available in the Grand Dining Room at dinner. Steak Frites features New York strip steak with hand-cut French fries. Poulet Roti is a fancy name for herb-crusted chicken with gravy and mashed potatoes. Rounding out the offerings, Supreme de Saumon au Court-Bouillon is Norwegian poached salmon with rice pilaf.
Who: P&O has two marquee names attached to its kitchens -- Atul Kochhar and Marco Pierre White. Kochhur is an award-winning chef who creates modern Indian cuisine with a British twist. White was the youngest British chef to be awarded three Michelin stars, and operates six restaurants on P&O ships. Both chefs are often onboard the ships.
Ships: Kochhar has two fine dining restaurants: the recently rebranded East on Ventura and Sindhu on Azura. White's restaurants are the Mediterranean-inspired The White Room on Ventura; Ocean Grill for seafood on Adonia, Arcadia and Oriana; the French bistro Cafe Bordeaux on Aurora; and Italian Cafe Jardin on Oceana. He also designed family-friendly menus at the casual, alternative dining spot The Beach House. All P&O ships feature Marco Pierre White dishes on gala evenings in the main dining rooms. The fine dining restaurants levy a per-person surcharge that varies according to the dining establishment, meal and length of cruise; prices range from £6.50 (for a two-course dinner in Cafe Jardin, for example) to £30 (for dinner in The White Room). East varies from £15 - £25, depending on the length of the cruise.
Specialties: Among the best-rated dishes at White's restaurants: fillet of turbot with citrus fruits at The White Room, a classic crayfish cocktail at Ocean Grill, quails' eggs Hollandaise at Cafe Bordeaux or gnocchi sorrentina at Cafe Jardin. Sindhu offers such dishes as crisp soft-shell crab with squid salad, pan-fried sea bass with tomatoes and tamarind, and star anise poached rhubarb with yogurt foam and salted nuts. East offers dishes from all over the Far East, including Chiang Mai ribs, Malaysian-style curry puffs, Thai fish cakes, chicken satay, Khmer king prawns, spiced sea bream fillets, Burmese fillet of beef and 24-hour slow-cooked lamb rendang.Who: P&O also has partnered with TV chef James Martin and Eric "Cake Boy" Lanlard for elements of its new ship Britannia. Martin first appeared on TV screens in the U.K. in 1996, and has been on air ever since in programs including “The United Cakes of America” and “James Martin: Home Comforts.” Lanlard is an award-winning master patissier and international baking star. He is the author of five books and runs a cookery school.
Ships: On Britannia, Martin will host the Cookery Club, a 24-person, state-of-the-art cookery school, which will run regular classes onboard.
Who: Paris' Michelin-rated Jean-Pierre Vigato, a self-taught chef who grew up in the country and learned to cook from his mother, is the chef proprietaire of the world-renowned Restaurant Apicius on the famed Champs-Elysees.
Ships: All sailings aboard Paul Gauguin feature Vigato's signature menu in La Veranda restaurant, and select dishes are also featured at L'Etoile. Even better, the cruise line does not impose a surcharge for dining in either venue. The menus onboard Tere Moana also feature dishes by Vigato.
Specialties: Try the grilled and braised veal, heart of beef tenderloin with beef tartare, lobster lasagna and roast halibut. For dessert, how about a chocolate and passion fruit millefeuille or warm raspberry compote with pistachio ice cream?
Who: Royal Caribbean pulled out all the stops when it announced its celebrity chef lineup for its Quantum Class of ships. James Beard Award-winner Michael Schwartz is Royal Caribbeans experience advisor for Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, and his Michael's Genuine Pub is a gastropub highlight on those ships. He also advised on the in-cabin dining options. He also is responsible for the menus at 150 Central Park on Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. Michael's Genuine Pub is priced a la carte, while 150 Central Park is $40 per person.
Specialties: 150 Central Park features two rotating six-course menus per voyage, incorporating ingredients grown on small Florida farms. Specialties include jumbo lump crab cakes with carrot butter sauce, mahogany black cod and slow-roasted and grilled Harris Ranch beef short ribs.
Michael's Genuine Pub features a range of snacks and sweets. Options include the more traditional Chile chicken wings and ricotta crostini as well as more exotic choices like polenta fries or country pate. Dessert offers include peanut butter pie-in-a-jar and panna cotta. The menu also has a craft brewery selection that includes Michael's Genuine Home Brew, the chef's American-style ale.
Who: Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver (aka the Naked Chef) also joined Royal Caribbean for its Quantum Class of ships. Oliver brings his take on Italian to this class with Jamie's Italian, already a hit on land. Lunch at the restaurant is $15, while dinner is $25.
Ships: Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas
Specialties:Family-style rustic Italian dishes are the name of the game at Jamie's Italian, where cured meats, Italian cheeses and pickles are served on planks for appetizers, and pastas and risottos, including a wild mushroom and smoked mozzarella risotto and a simple lasagna, are available. Entree options include lamb lollipops and Jamie's Italian Signature Porchetta.
Who: Devin Alexander, chef for television's "The Biggest Loser," brings healthier cuisine to the Quantum Class. Her Devinly Decadence at Solarium Bistro serves a complimentary breakfast as well as lunch ($10 per person) and dinner ($20).
Ships: Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas
Specialties: Alexander, who lost 70 pounds nearly two decades ago and maintains that weight loss, specializes in healthy comfort food. Her philosophy is you shouldn't have to sacrifice taste for health. Menus include low-calorie versions of sausage penne bake, a cheesy jalapeno chicken sandwich, ahi tacos and burger with fries. Desserts, too, come with reduced calories. Try True Love in a Bowl or Chocolate Not Only in Your Dreams, which boast only 100 calories.Share