The chef's table on a cruise refers to a dinner event staged in a private setting for a small group of passengers (usually eight to 16). A chef, often the executive chef or chef de cuisine, chooses, prepares and presents a series of gourmet dishes -- not found on any other onboard menu and usually of a higher caliber -- and a sommelier pairs each course with the perfect wine. The two will present each course and explain the pairings throughout the meal. In some cases, the event may begin with a tour of the galley and a senior officer of the ship may join the passengers for the meal.
The chef's table experience is becoming quite trendy, with some cruise lines creating intimate glass-walled dining rooms with views of the galley, specifically for these dinners. While prices vary by cruise line, expect to pay around $100 per person, wines included. Chef's table dinners must be booked upon boarding the ship. On some lines, you can book on embarkation day; on others, an announcement will be made in the daily bulletin later on in the cruise. If you are interested in participating, it never hurts to ask about the booking procedure at Guest Services on the first day of your cruise. In most cases, the event will be held only once during a cruise unless the demand is high enough to warrant a second night.