March 9, 2018
(9:38 a.m. EST) -- Holland America Line is hoping to lure hungry passengers with a multicourse menu of cruises featuring celebrity chefs, a master mixologist and wine specialists.
The line's new Food & Beverage Aficionado cruises will feature members of its Culinary Council, seven high-profile chefs who advise the line on its gastronomic offerings. In addition, the company is working with prominent experts to help guide its wine and beverage programs.
The Aficionado sailings will include complimentary cooking, cocktail or wine presentations, and a chance to not only meet the chefs, but join them at a reservation-only dinner, which will have an extra cost.
"It's not every day that you get to see a famous chef cooking live or have a personal conversation with someone whose restaurant you've dined in, and we're making those experiences possible for our guests through these cruises," said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line's president, in a statement.
The special 2018 sailings feature several new Culinary Council members. Japan-born Andy Matsuda, who runs the Sushi Chef Institute in Los Angeles, joins Nieuw Amsterdam's seven-night Western Caribbean sailing March 17, roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, and Koningsdam's seven-night June 3 sailing, roundtrip from Amsterdam. High-profile Seattle chef Ethan Stowell has also been recently introduced to the council, and will join two Alaska sailings from Seattle: Eurodam's seven-night cruise on May 26; and Amsterdam's September 16 sailing.
James Beard Award-winner Jacques Torres, a French-trained artisan chocolatier and regular on the Culinary Council, joins Westerdam's seven-night cruise from Vancouver to Alaska on June 24, and Veendam's 14-night Cuba cruise on August 4, roundtrip from Boston.
David Burke, who has been featured on "Iron Chef America" and "Top Chef Masters," will join the Zuiderdam's 10-night sailing from New York to Quebec on September 13.
Austrian-born Rudi Sodamin, Holland America's Master Chef and the Culinary Council chairman, will sail on Koningsdam's seven-night July 1 cruise, roundtrip from Amsterdam.
In addition, two beverage-themed trips feature Dale DeGroff, a James Beard Award-winner for Wine & Spirits, who will join the first few days of Zuiderdam's 18-night Fort Lauderdale-to-Copenhagen voyage on April 22, and Oosterdam's seven-night November 10 cruise, rouundtrip from Fort Lauderdale.
Wine-lovers will be drawn to several ofKoningsdam's 2018 European sailings, which feature experts from the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery in Washington state. For an extra fee, passengers can join a vinologist for three, one-hour tasting sessions in the ship's BLEND tasting room, and attend the ship's special Cellar Master's Dinner.
The wine programs will be available on the May 1 sailing from Civitavecchia (Rome) to Amsterdam, and the June 3, July 1 and July 22 sailings from Amsterdam.
Other members of the Culinary Council include Jonnie Boer of De Librije, a restaurant in the Netherlands that has earned a three-star Michelin rating every year since 2004; and Elizabeth Falkner, a Food Network regular, and founder of San Francisco's Citizen Cake.
"Culinary partners often only influence one restaurant or one area, but having seven world-class chefs enables us to cover our entire dining program and utilize their collective passion and creativity so all guests can enjoy their cuisine," said Ashford.
In addition, just this week the line announced its hire of James Suckling, former senior editor and European bureau chief of "Wine Spectator", and European editor of "Cigar Aficionado" to be Holland America's wine curator.
The culinary announcements build on Holland America's recent rollout of culinary shore excursions, known as Food & Wine EXC tours, through the line's partnership with "Food & Wine"magazine.
--By Larry Bleiberg, Cruise Critic Contributor