Afternoon tea is one of the few remaining traditions left over from the days of first-class service on the great ocean liners. Many modern cruise travelers still take enjoyment from the simple pleasures of sipping tea from delicate cups and savoring bite-size treats on a sea day afternoon. Several lines offer a variety of cruise ship tea services, including luxury line offerings with white-gloved waiters and china tea cups, casual DIY buffets with a handful of tea bags and cookies on mainstream lines and more unique offerings like a Mozart Tea or Royal "Tea" (read: apple juice served from a pot) with Disney princesses.
Some cruise lines do afternoon tea better than others, and on many ships, these midday repasts are true cruise highlights. Here are the 10 best afternoon teas on cruises that are not to be missed.
Passengers look forward to traditional and themed tea events like Mozart Tea with waiters dressed in period costumes of velvet, brocade and lace; English Colonial Tea, where waiters are decked out in white ties and tails; and Chocolate Tea aboard Crystal ships. Afternoon tea is offered daily on both Serenity and Symphony in the Palm Court as well as aboard Crystal's yacht, Esprit. Waiters pour tea at your table while you help yourself from extensive buffet selections.
The list of available teas is long, so try something a bit out-of-the-ordinary like "leaves of Provence" black tea or a ginger twist herbal concoction. Sandwiches, scones and petit fours are served along with traditional pastries and specialties like warm Viennese apple strudel and chocolate tart.
Children are welcome to attend.
All tea events are complimentary.
Cunard's claim to fame rests squarely on its upper-crust British heritage, and teatime aboard its ships is legendary. Tea is held between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. daily, with the exception of embarkation day, in various locations across its fleet, including its crystal chandelier-clad Queens Room and intimate Grill lounges for Grills passengers.
An enhanced afternoon tea, with Champagne, is served for an extra charge in the Garden Lounge on Queen Elizabeth, the Laurent Perrier Champagne Bar on Queen Mary 2 and the Verandah Restaurant on Queen Victoria. Passengers on Queen Mary 2 can also indulge in a Godiva chocolate-themed tea in the elegant coffee shop, Sir Samuel's.
Teas on offer are from Twinings, and the onboard tea sommelier will help you decipher the menu. An enticing array of sandwiches is presented; offerings include salmon and cream cheese, roast beef with horseradish and shrimp salad. They're followed by scones with clotted cream and jam, and then it's on to pastries like Black Forest cake, fruit tarts and eclairs. Gluten-free options are available but you need to let the waiters know.
The Champagne Afternoon Tea includes extra items, like feta and mushroom filo tart, or choux buns with passion fruit and mango. A glass of Laurent Perrier is included in the price.
At Sir Samuel’s, the coffee shop on Queen Mary 2, you can opt for a Godiva Chocolate Afternoon Tea. This includes one item of patisserie from a selection of decadent-looking cakes on display; white chocolate scones with lime jam and clotted cream; and two Godiva chocolates, washed down with Illy coffee or premium tea.
There is no specific children's menu, but the kids are sure to enjoy some of the pastries.
Standard afternoon tea is free. Champagne Afternoon Tea costs $34.50, while Godiva Chocolate Afternoon Tea costs $14.95.
Disney offers the Royal Court Royal Tea on Disney Fantasy, Disney Dream, Disney Wonder and Disney Magic sailings. This is no Mad Hatter's tea party. Families gather for an afternoon snack while princesses tell stories, sign autographs and pose for pictures. Little ones don tiaras or swords and shields (which they get to keep at the end) for the royalty-inspired multicourse tea service.
Apple juice and herbal tea are served in little teapots alongside sweet and savory snacks like cookies and crustless sandwiches. In addition to the food, girls are gifted with a photo and photo holder, autograph book, doll, jewelry box and charm bracelet as well as plenty of time visiting with the princesses. Boys also receive a photo and holder and autograph book plus a stuffed bear and assortment of Disney pins.
Absolutely! This experience was designed for kids. (But adults likely will have a bit of fun, too.)
The children's tea event costs $210 per child and $69 per adult.
Oceania Cruises is a Cruise Critic member favorite for afternoon tea -- and with good reason. The line offers teatime every day in Horizons, an observation lounge with dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows that afford inspiring, panoramic views. Waiters transform this venue into a traditional tearoom with linen-topped tables, fine china and silver. A classical string quartet plays discretely in the background.
Oceania's pastry chefs look forward to afternoon tea almost as much as you do. They craft an ever-changing menu of finger sandwiches, colorful (and tasty) petits fours, moist scones and sinful desserts, which are served on four-tiered pastry carts along with an equally compelling selection of tea.
There's no specific children's menu, but kids are welcome to attend.
Regent's ships -- Seven Seas Mariner, Seven Seas Explorer, Seven Seas Navigator and Seven Seas Voyager -- offer afternoon tea daily. The event is held in various lounges such as the Observation Lounge on Explorer or Galileo's Lounge on Navigator. A Regent musician (pianist, guitarist, etc.) is generally on hand to entertain throughout tea service, although sometimes staff will host friendly but competitive trivia sessions during that hour.
Regent teatime always features goodies like finger sandwiches, fruit, scones, pastries and a variety of teas and coffee. Look for themed teas with special desserts, such as cupcakes or cheesecake.
Children are welcome at the line's daily afternoon tea. The "Downton Abbey" tea party cooking class at the Culinary Arts Kitchen aboard Seven Seas Explorer involves cocktail-making, and isn't appropriate for very young cruisers.
Afternoon tea is complimentary with open seating, and reservations are not required. Explorer's "Teatime at the Abbey" class costs $89 per person.
Held daily in the Observation Lounge, except on embarkation day, Seabourn's afternoon tea is a don't-miss. Waitstaff will seat you at a table set with china and silver and take your tea order. You're then free to peruse the buffet tables and help yourself to treats.
It's evident that a true tea connoisseur developed the menu for Seabourn's ships. The line serves tea from the Mighty Leaf Tea Company. The offerings are extensive and include gems like African amber, organic mint melange, ginger twist, mandarin rose petal, Himalayan peak darjeeling and acai black tea. Finger sandwiches, scones, pastries, cookies, cakes and more are served alongside the tea. Sandwiches of special note are the marinated shrimp salad on focaccia and the roast beef, remoulade and cornichon croissant. On the dessert spectrum, favorites include apple mascarpone cheesecake, chocolate peanut butter ganache tart and apricot cake.
Children are welcome.
Silversea stands out because you can enjoy full afternoon tea in your suite. Butler service is standard for every suite aboard Silversea ships, so you might as well keep the staff busy with this request. Tea can be served with caviar and blinis, foie gras terrine with brioche, Alaska crab claws with dip, and cheese and crackers. Speak with your butler, and he'll run down all your options.
Of course, you shouldn't miss the public afternoon tea that's served daily. Depending on which ship you're sailing, head to the Panorama Lounge, La Terrazza or The Bar. White-glove service and entertainment, usually in the form of a pianist, await you.
Ronnefeldt is Silversea's tea purveyor, and it offers a variety of blends like green darjeeling, rose hip and chamomile. Afternoon tea kicks off with platters of sandwiches, including smoked salmon with cream cheese, chicken salad, roast beef, and cucumber with cream cheese. Your waiter will then serve a variety of pastries, including chocolate surprise and fruit tarts, along with scones with clotted cream and jam.
Silversea does not cater to children, but any children onboard are welcome at tea.
It's complimentary, with open seating.
On all Viking ships, afternoon tea is held daily in the Wintergarden, a beautiful, light-filled solarium with comfortable easy chairs and couches. Seat yourself in the open, central space for a more social atmosphere, or seek out a nook along the side windows for a more intimate cuppa. Live music often accompanies teatime. If it's crowded, seating will spill over onto the pool deck.
Three-tiered trays hold crustless finger sandwiches, macarons and other miniature pastries, and warm scones with clotted cream and jam. Passengers can select from a huge tea menu, or order Champagne, wine and other spirits for an extra fee.
Viking Ocean Cruises does not welcome children under 18.
Tea is included in your cruise fare.