Food, wine and beer theme cruises take the customary overeating and drinking on cruises and elevate it into an educational and enriching experience. Lectures and workshops by expert chefs and sommeliers, visits to breweries and vineyards, culinary demos, and wine, beer and food tastings let foodies and oenophiles revel in their favorite pastimes while on a cruise vacation.
Most food, wine and beer theme cruises are organized by the individual cruise lines as enhanced sailings, though some tour companies, such as Food & Wine Trails, charter ships for their own culinary tours by sea.
Here's a lineup of some cruise lines with ongoing food and wine theme cruises.
American Cruise Lines highlights good eats the country with its Food & Wine Cruises on select Columbia and Snake rivers itineraries, culinary theme sailing on at least one 2020 Mississippi River cruise (more will likely be added), Lobster Bake cruises on several New England and Maine itineraries, and Crabfest cruises on many American Revolution and Chesapeake Bay cruises. Ask the cruise line for specific theme cruise dates as they're tricky to identify online.
Columbia Valley Food and Wine theme cruises bring experts onboard to lead passengers in food and wine pairings and tastings, and accompany them on tours to local wineries and distilleries, as well as venues for artisanal or traditional foods. Mississippi culinary sailings focus on regional cuisines, including Cajun, Creole and Memphis barbecue, with onboard experts and a visit to the Louisiana Culinary Institute.
Crabfest cruises begin in Maryland, home to the Blue Crab Capital of the World, and offer the opportunity to taste local recipes, such as crab cakes and crab chowder. An onboard crab expert teaches about the Chesapeake Bay watermen and how to choose and shuck crabs. Meanwhile, lobster-lovers can select one of the Lobster Bake-themed New England itineraries that allow cruisers to experience a traditional lobster bake while sampling other lobster dishes onboard.
Prost! Avalon Waterways is hosting a series of beer-themed European river cruises in 2020. Onboard activities will vary but generally include tastings, historic brewery tours and lectures on European beer brewing techniques. Among the itineraries on offer are cruises from Nuremberg to Basel, Amsterdam to Paris and Budapest to Amsterdam (with post-cruise stays in Paris and London). Check out Avalon Waterways' breakdown of beer cruises for itinerary details and starting prices.
Crystal dubs select cruises throughout the year as Wine & Food Festivals, bringing onboard local or celebrity chefs, wine experts and mixologists knowledgeable about the cruise region's cuisine and beverages and are acclaimed (e.g., with Michelin stars or the title of Master Sommelier).
These experts lead events on sea days only, including wine tastings and cooking demos, mixology classes and intimate Vintage Room dinners. Guest chefs will plan a main dining room menu, while mixologists will take over a bar one night. No tours are added specifically for Wine & Food Festival cruises. There are six of these themed cruises planned for both 2020 and 2021.
Cunard's first-ever Festival of Food & Wine at sea will take place on Queen Mary 2. Two-star Michelin Michel Jr. of London's Le Gavroche headlines the event, along with his executive chef Rachel Humphrey, wine writers Steven Spurrier and Will Lions food editor Lisa Markwell. During the weeklong transatlantic crossing, will host dinners in The Verandah restaurant, create a three-course gala menu in the Britannia Grill and lead a Q&A and cooking demo. During the crossing, passengers can also join the Cunard Wine Academy and gain a WSET Level 1 Award.
Celebrity chef and Oceania Cruises partner Jacques Pepin will be onboard Marina for a special sailing from Venice to Rome in 2020. Foodies can indulge in specially designed lectures and demonstrations, as well as custom dining menus and other themed extras. Many cabin categories are already waitlisted.
Jacques' daughter Claudine Pepin, godmother to Oceania's ship Sirena, is also hosting two culinary cruises, one in July 2020 (Mediterranean) and one in July 2021 (Baltic). Passengers can enjoy special menus, culinary demos and food-themed lectures. The 2020 sailing is currently waitlist only, but there's still room on the 2021 sailing.
As part of its Enriched Voyages series, luxury line Silversea Cruises offers Culinary Voyages and Wine Voyages around the world (and often on transoceanic crossings) in 2020. Expect onboard tastings, and food and wine pairings on both types of cruises.
Food-themed sailings feature talented chefs leading market visits, cooking demonstrations with a regional focus, cooking competitions and workshops, and dinners with special menus. Wine cruises bring aboard vintners and expert sommeliers to teach introductory sommelier courses and wine appreciation, and lead excursions to local vineyards and wineries with tours and tastings.
Sip your favorite red, white or rose while soaking up views of the Mediterranean, Australia and New Zealand, Portugal, the south of France, the Danube or South America. Food & Wine Trails is offering a series of chartered wine cruises -- all of which include private events onboard and onshore on high-end cruise lines, such as AmaWaterways, Azamara, Celebrity, Crystal, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea and Uniworld.
Each cruise will feature a different special guest host, such as Sonoma Magazine, various regional wineries and respected sommeliers. For a full list of themes and details on dates, itineraries and fares, visit the Food & Wine Trails website.