The concept of dinner and a show has long been a popular one. But what if dinner was the show? Or an immersive multi-sensory show/voyage/documentary, to be a little more exact. That's the concept Princess Cruises is pursuing with '360: An Outstanding Experience,' which the cruise line introduced in November 2022 and currently offers on two of its ships.
Cruise Critic attended Princess' dining experience aboard Enchanted Princess in Port Everglades, before the ship embarked on its Transatlantic sailing to Barcelona. Here's everything you need to know about '360: An Outstanding Experience.'
In essence, 360: An Outstanding Experience is an intimate, seven-course gourmet meal in a unique space within a specialty restaurant. But the experience can be defined in so many other ways. It's also a virtual voyage across the Mediterranean, a culinary documentary, an interactive performance, a sensory journey, and a dazzling display of visual storytelling.
The '360' in the name refers to the LED walls that encircle the dining space. The screens project visuals in 4K cinematography and carry the experience's storyline throughout in synchrony with each course served.
The journey begins with a video of actress Brooke Shields sitting on the balcony of a Princess cabin, where she writes on her diary and reminisces about a culinary voyage across the Mediterranean. She stars not as herself but plays the role of a narrator named Bethany.
From the pages of Bethany's diary, we were whisked off to our first destination in Greece, where we met Tassos, a Koroneiki olive farmer in the Peloponnese who explains the importance of olive oil in Greek culture. A mezze plate consisting of kalamata olives, tzatziki, olive oil and bite-size pita bread was served as our first course, as images of the Greek countryside flashed on the surrounding LED screens. The iconic cliffs of Santorini came into view next, as the island's fishing traditions took center stage while we enjoyed a course of grilled octopus.
Our next stop was Italy, specifically the picturesque Amalfi Coast. We began the virtual tour bysampling Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio, a white wine produced from grapes that have been grown on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. Local vintner Maurizio from Pompeii Vineyards explained that the agricultural tradition here dates to Roman times. The other two local ingredients presented in the Italian segment were mozzarella di bufala and sfusato almafitano lemons, featured in a rich burrata and a savory serving of spaghetti al limone, respectively. While we were introduced to Salvatore Aceto's lemon farm in Amalfi, a pleasant citrus scent was pumped into the dining space, marking the first instance of the dining experience's olfactory component.
Next up was an underwater journey to the coasts of Catalonia in northeastern Spain. The submarine trek across the Western Mediterranean was done on purpose: it was used as a medium to introduce ElixSea, a red wine aged not in oak barrels but on the ocean floor some 26 feet below the sea surface. We learned about this unusual aging process from ElixSea owners Mariona and Gergö, while our waiters brought out barnacle-encrusted bottles that evidenced the six-month odyssey endured by the Grenache-grape wine.
The visit to Spain featured the deepest immersion into local culinary traditions as we met a prawn fisherman in Roses, a truffle hunter in the mountains of Solsonès, an edible flower farmer in Barcelona's Boqueria Market, and the founder and operator of a 65-year-old of a charcuterie shop in the town of Cantonigròs. The next two courses combined the ingredients introduced by the locals: a charcuterie plate with chorizo, serrano ham and pa amb tomàquet (toasted bread rubbed with tomato, olive oil and salt), and a beef tenderloin with demiglace sauce topped with prawns and paired with truffle butter and grilled eggplant.
Dessert is reserved for France, the last country on our virtual voyage. We began our visit touring the lavender-rich fields of Provence, as the scent of the purple flower flooded the dining venue. Lavender grower Guillaume explained the buzzing connection between bees and the aromatic flower, which served as the inspiration for our dessert course: lavender honey mousse. Our last culinary stop took us inland to the Champagne wine region in northeast France, specifically to the Drappier champagne house, where we were given a quick virtual lesson about the history and attributes of the bubbly drink as we toasted to the end of our meal.
In addition to the courses described above, diners also had the option to select vegetarian and vegan courses as well as non-alcoholic drinks. Once the experience begins, however, the meals are served to the chef's preference; that is, you don't have the liberty to select your steak's degree of doneness and condiments are not made available to alter the flavor of any of your courses.
Princess' 360: An Outstanding Experience takes place inside Sabatini's Italian Trattoria onboard Enchanted Princess and Discovery Princess. It does not, however, share a space with Sabatini's main dining room. Diners are whisked past the specialty restaurant into a separate secluded area that has been specifically built to house the LED screens and the round-table display.
The 360 Experience is offered twice nightly, and each seating accommodates a maximum of 20 diners. The dinner is billed as a 90-minute experience, but ours veered closer to the 2-hour mark
The menu we sampled and the virtual journey across the Mediterranean we embarked on are a fixed feature of 360. While there are currently no plans to expand the culinary offerings to other regions of the world, it's easy to see how this concept can be replicated to highlight culinary traditions outside of the Mediterranean.
Presently, the 360 Experience is accessible by invitation only. There isn't an additional cost, but passengers must sail in a suite to receive an invitation to the specialty restaurant.
Additionally, passengers sailing on Discovery Princess or Enchanted Princess that book a future cruise with suite accommodations on any Princess ship at non-cancelable rates are also extended an invitation to the dining experience. Invitation access may also be gained from participation in specific VIP casino gaming and retail event sailings.
In and of itself, 360: An Outstanding Experience is -- as the name not very modestly suggests -- an outstanding culinary highlight onboard Enchanted Princess and Discovery Princess. The food alone is of excellent quality, and it's further elevated by the multisensorial experience and the opportunity to 'meet' the real folks behind every ingredient.
Moreover, several of the products served -- such as Italy's Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio white wine or the ElixSea read wine -- aren't accessible anywhere else on the ship, adding to the exclusive nature of the specialty restaurant.
Given that the restaurant can only accommodate 20 passengers at a time, it’s understandable that the 360 Dining Experience is offered to select diners by invitation only. And although booking a suite for the sole purpose of securing an invitation to the 360 Dining Experience doesn't merit the splurge, if you are considering this level of cabin, then the specialty restaurant is a very tempting incentive.