Cruise lines are notorious for feeding their passengers A LOT of food. I don’t think you’ve ever heard anyone complain they got hungry on a cruise, right? But as a foodie, quality goes over quantity. Sometimes quality goes out the window when you are trying to feed thousands of people and only have a small galley kitchen. So if you love food, you might wonder: What Cruise Line has the best food? Is there something like the “Ultimate Foodie Cruise?”
I have been on my fair share of cruises in various regions of the world, and as a self-proclaimed foodie, tasty meals are high up my list of things that make or break a vacation. Sometimes, food is the reason for me to travel in the first place. I’ve literally flown to the other side of the world to try a specific dish (Laksa noodle soup in Singapore, and it was worth it FYI).
Over the years, I have had some great meals on cruise ships, innovative menus that focus on fresh ingredients, and dishes that showcase the region and offer something that pleases whether you want to indulge or eat a more health-focused meal.
And these meals were on two different cruise lines, in two different countries, and two very different kinds of ships: A Greek Island cruise with Celestyal Cruise Line and a Barge Cruise in the French Champagne with European Waterways. I wrote all about the delicious food on my river cruise here: Food Travel – Mastering the Art of French Eating on a Barge Cruise. If you are a foodie, these two cruise lines should be on your cruise bucket list. But what makes these cruise lines so perfect for foodies?
Let’s dive a little deeper into why Celestyal is one of my top recommendations for a Foodie Cruise, shall we?
This Greek Island cruise was actually the second time I have cruised with Celestyal Cruise Line. My first trip was a fabulous 3-Continent Cruise with stops in Egypt, Israel, Turkey, and Greece. I was already impressed by the delicious food we had on board then, but in the past four years, Celestyal has even further improved its food offerings and dining experiences. Here are a few of the things that make Celestyal Cruises perfect for foodies:
Authentic Excursions: Small-Group Food and Wine Tasting Tours
Celestyal offers a new line of excursions in each port of call. These “Authentic Excursions” are small group tours that dive a little deeper and let you experience the destination in a little less touristy way. And in most places, Celestyal offers food tours, cooking classes, or wine-tasting tours that will be a perfect fit for any foodie.
On my recent trip around the Aegean islands, I did a food tour in Thessaloniki, a wine tasting in Santorini, and another food tour in Mykonos. They were all fantastic, and I highly recommend them. We got to try local delicacies, experience various restaurants and wineries, and also got a little insight into how the food and wine is produced. Did you know that in Santorini, the grape vines are grown on the ground in a nest-like shape? The Greek island is so windy that the wind would damage the vines if they were grown in the traditional upright way. Fascinating, isn’t it?
Blue Zone Diet Menu
The Mediterranean diet is known as one of the healthiest diets to follow. Greece is home to one of the five so-called “Blue Zones” in the world, with an exceptionally high number of centenarians. More than just a diet consisting of mainly fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, little meat, and fish, the blue zone diet is a lifestyle of low stress and incorporating movement into an active lifestyle. Most people in these areas don’t “work out” per se; rather, they get their exercise by gardening, walking to run errands and visiting friends and family nearby, and spending time outside.
Celestyal offers a “Blue Zone” dish on its menu every night, which offers a healthy and tasty option. I had several of them during my cruise, and each was absolutely fantastic. According to Executive Chef Alan Noel Bonchol, guests are really drawn to the Blue Zone Diet option on the menu, and have become a popular addition to the cruise menu.
My favorite blue zone meal was the “Gigantes”: huge fava beans cooked in a savory, tangy tomato sauce. The sauce was so flavorful, with lots of Mediterranean herbs, onions, and lots of olive oil. And then the beans. The fava beans were cooked to perfection. The inside was so creamy and a perfect mix with the chunky sauce. And, of course, it was drizzled with the most flavorful Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Greece. It is not a fancy dish, more like a peasant food. But who cares if it is good AND healthy? Simple, but delicious!
The Greek Table Experience 6 Course Tasting Menu
One of my favorite nights on board the Celestyal Crystal was the Greek Table Experience. This 6-course fine dining tasting menu was created by celebrity chef Diane Kochilas. She is the queen of Greek cooking, with 18 cookbooks, an award-winning travel cooking show about Greece, and a passion for Greek food that she translated into a fantastic menu.
We started off with a selection of 3 delicious dips: Smoked Eggplant Caviar (eggplant with tahini, walnuts, and grape syrup), Roasted Tomato Kopanisti (roasted tomato with goat cheese and herbs), and Syros Maintanosalata (parsley pesto with capers). Sooo good, but we had to pace ourselves… so many tasty things were yet to come…
The first course was one of my favorites: Octopus Carpaccio drizzled with an ouzo-citrus vinaigrette. The octopus was cut paper thin and melted in my mouth. Paired with a light and refreshing Assyrtico/Sauvignon Blanc blend, it was a nice and refreshing start to the meal.
The second course followed the citrus-seafood combination with a delicious Seafood Avgolemono soup. Avgolemono soup is the Greek equivalent of homemade chicken soup, a favorite comfort food made with chicken, seafood, or veggies paired with a delicious lemony broth. Seeing such a comfort food dish elevated to a fine dining experience was a great way to experience what Greek food is all about: simple food and high-quality ingredients that speak for themselves.
Our third course was lobster tail on a bed of safron-infused rice pilaf with pistachios, almonds, and peas and a Greek yogurt & Mayonnaise dip with Kalamata olives. I loved the lobster and rice but did not care for the dip too much.
Next up, we enjoyed a little palate cleanser dish of zucchini pappardelle with tomatoes and pine nuts in a refreshing minty vinaigrette.
The 4th course was a beautifully presented terrine of beef loin and eggplant, tomatoes, and sheep’s milk cheese, with a side of potatoes. The thin beef was so tender and juicy – absolutely divine.
Our next course was a refreshing arugula salad with grilled and crumbled local cheeses dressed with delicious Greek olive oil and aged balsamic. It was new to me to have a salad so “late” into the menu, but I loved it. After so much food, having something a little lighter at the end was nice.
The final course was a choice of a cheese platter or a sweet dessert. My niece and I both chose the sweet treat, as its description sounded so intriguing: “Floating Greek Island in a Wine-Dark Sea
Rose Geranium-infused Fruit Soup & Meringues”. And it tasted as delicious as it sounds. Yum, what a way to finish off this delicious meal.
Restaurants/Buffet on Board
Of course, we also enjoyed plenty of meals at the Buffet and in the restaurants on board. The food options and service were fantastic.
Our favorite was the special buffet for cruisers with a suite. It was smaller than the regular buffet, but it had all the same things. The atmosphere was so much calmer and more relaxing. Definitely a big benefit of having a suite! My niece and I really enjoyed our breakfasts there every morning. What a great way to start the day.
For dinner, we switched a few times between the two restaurants on board. Both were really good, and the menu was the same. Speaking of the menu. I loved the mix of local dishes, blue zone diet options, and fancy upgrades, such as surf and turf or dry-aged steaks. We could choose between 3-4 appetizers, 3-4 main courses, 1-2 blue zone meals, 3 steak dinners (at an additional cost), and 2-3 dessert options each night.
My favorite all week was the duck à l’orange and the mango sorbet. The duck was cooked perfectly, and the mango flavor was so intense it instantly brought me back to Thailand, where I enjoyed mango sticky rice almost every day. Sooo good.
Any meal is only as good as the service around it, don’t you think? And the service onboard the Celestyal Crystal was fantastic. The waiters were always friendly, made excellent recommendations, and fast. They asked about our day and experiences off the ship and ensured we had everything we needed (and more, like extra appetizers or desserts).
Cooking Class on Board
Another must-do cruise activity for foodies is the cooking demonstration, where we were shown how to make traditional tzatziki and seafood saganaki. It was fun to watch the chef live and get helpful tips for making the dishes at home.
On my previous Celestyal cruise, we had a Shrimp Saganaki presentation, and you can read the whole article (and recipe) here.
Celestyal definitely is a great cruise line to choose if food is an important part of why you travel. As a travel writer, I often get the question: “What Cruise Line Has the Best Food?” And I always recommend Celestyal Cruise Line.
Maria joined a Press Trip sponsored by Celestyal Cruise Line to experience the 8-day Greek Island Cruise Idyllic Aegean and European Waterways for an 8-day Barge Cruise in the Champagne. to write this article. This invitation did not influence her opinion and review of the cruise, tours, meals, and places mentioned in this article.