Dynamic Dining & Celebrity Chefs At Sea

Jamie's Italian Sign

I had lunch at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant in Liverpool yesterday and as I was enjoying a wonderful hand made pasta dish I couldn’t help thinking about Royal Caribbean’s Quantum and Anthem of the Seas. The latest additions to RCI’s fleet will both feature a Jamie’s Italian, Oliver’s hugely successful high street chain.

Royal Caribbean really are game changers in the cruise industry and always at the forefront of innovation with zip lines, bumper cars, ice rinks, skydiving and surf simulators at sea. With these new ships the innovation will extend to the cuisine as they ditch the main dining room and adopt a new scheme called Dynamic Dining. The traditional large dining space with two set sittings, formal nights and my time dining is no more. Instead guests can choose to dine at a choice of 18 different restaurants at whatever time they wish. Five of the restaurants will be complimentary with the rest classed as speciality and charging a fee ranging from a la carte pricing for sushi at a few dollars a piece through to $25 for dinner at Jamie’s Italian or $45 for Wonderland, RCI’s take on a Heston Blumenthal style gastronomic theatre.

If dynamic dining is successful RCI plan to roll it out fleet wide and rumour has it that Oasis of the Seas which is currently in dry dock for a refit will also have this new style dining when it resails in October 2014. This announcement has undoubtably ruffled some feathers in the cruising world and opinion seems divided on the cruise forums I frequent. Some are very excited by these new developments whereas others seem horrified by the proposed changes. Personally I think it’s a fantastic concept and most definitely a change for the better as I’m always happy to splash out a little on speciality dining as an alternative to the main dining room which can feel a little repetitive on a two week cruise. I’m a huge fan of Jamie’s Italian and would love to dine there while at sea so I just need to persuade my husband to let me book Anthem for next summer now!

Speciality restaurants are always significantly cheaper than their equivalents on dry land. This is because you’ve really already paid for full board but as the holiday is long paid for by then it does make you feel you’re getting a bargain when enjoying three or four course gourmet cuisine usually for less than $30!

Royal Caribbean are not the only cruise line to offer celebrity chef restaurants or menus, in fact on our very first cruise 5 years ago on Ocean Village we enjoyed several dinners at the James Martin restaurant. We were lucky enough to dine there while he was actually on board although I’m not sure how much cooking he actually did as he appeared to be out chatting to diners and having his photo taken most of the night.

Another celebrity chef favourite haunt of ours was aboard Carnival Breeze, the slightly less upscale but nevertheless delicious Guys Burger Joint. This is a daytime burger bar created by American TV star Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive ins & Dive’s fame. The food is far from diet friendly but mouth-wateringly good and unusually for celebrity endorsed dining options there is no cover charge at his diner themed venue.

We’ve not yet sailed P&O but they have Marco Pierre White and Indian chef Atul Kochhar on board and from the reviews I’ve read they are both highly rated. Their latest ship Britannia also features our old friend from the Ocean Village days James Martin with a 24 person cookery school.

As cruising grows in popularity and cruise lines continue to enhance the guest experience, I imagine there’ll be more and more celebrity chefs taking to the seas. Surely it’s only a matter of time before we see Gordon Ramsay (chef’s top optional) on board ; )

It will be interesting to see if other cruise lines follow RCI and move away from the main dining room in favour of greater flexibility and choice. I’m looking forward to reading the reviews when Quantum has her inaugural sailing in November 2014 and hopefully sampling a bit of Jamie at sea in summer 2015!

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