The latest line to jump on this trend is Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, which has up until now been known and loved for its very British cuisine. This summer, it will embrace its Scandinavian roots by bringing a taste of Norway to its fjords cruises, complete with themed Norwegian dishes in the dining room, presentations and demos by a Norwegian celebrity chef and Norwegian foodie excursions.
Although Fred. Olsen carries mainly Brits (and a growing number of Australians), the line is actually owned by a Norwegian family and this "A Taste of Norway" promotion will celebrate the company's heritage.
Both Balmoral and Braemar will offer a different style of salmon dish every day per cruise. Norwegian starters will be on the menu, accompanied by Aquavit shots. Delicacies will, according to a press release, include trout tartar, Aquavit smoked salmon with mustard sauce, and traditional caviar of capelin and salmon, with warm potato cakes, sour cream and chives.
Special food-themed shore excursions will include visits to the fish market in Bergen (hopefully with no politically incorrect whale meat on display); tours from Eidfjord to see the Orchard of Norway, an area known for its quality fruit; and a trip to spot -- and eat – the king crabs that populate the waters around Honningsvag.
Fred. Olsen is also joining a Norwegian food festival programme called "Taste the Coast." On two port calls at Bergen in June and August, local celebrity chef Fredrik Hald will be demonstrating seafood preparation in Braemar's Neptune Lounge, working with salmon, scallops, herring, mackerel and more. In the evenings, his dishes will be on the menu in the ship's dining room.
Other lines going local with their menus include Celebrity, which has embraced British cuisine for Celebrity Eclipse's season out of Southampton. Mushy peas, Beef Wellington, curries and English bangers may not be haute cuisine, but the menus do seem a fair reflection of what Brits enjoy.
Then there's Costa Cruises, which announced in April that it would be serving regional Arabic dishes and drinks (non-alcoholic, of course) on Costa Deliziosa and Costa Luminosa, both based in Dubai in winter, as part of a bid to woo more Arab customers.
Meanwhile, Princess Cruises revealed this week that it is introducing a Kiwi flavour to its forthcoming New Zealand season. Passengers on Sun Princess and Dawn Princess' New Zealand cruises will be able to start their day with bacon and egg pie, sample the finest New Zealand lamb, and enjoy a Kiwi Caipirinha cocktail or a Steinlager beer from the bar. These tweaks will, like Fred. Olsen's, be part of a greater immersion in New Zealand's culture, with Maori shows, lessons in Kapa Haka dance and Maori language lessons and New Zealand-themed films (think "The Piano" and "Lord of the Rings").
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor