September 02, 2021

Are Experiential Dining Options On Cruise Ships the Next Trend?

From the Disney Wish’s latest Avengers-themed restaurant to the Celebrity’s Le Petit Chef dining experience, more cruise lines than ever before are investing in fun, experiential and unique dining experiences to draw more travelers to their specific cruise line or cruise ship.

Could the future of cruise travel have a more focused eye on culinary experiences?

Celebrity Cruises has created a dining experience exclusively for Celebrity ships: Le Petit Chef. This experience turns the average dinner table into a theater, using 3D laser projection displays to entertain and delight as the main character, Le Petit Chef, prepares your dinner. The Celebrity Apex will feature the newest animation, Le Petit Chef & Family.

“We wanted to offer our guests a new dining experience that included a fusion of entertainment and cuisine. Something very unique that you could not experience on any other cruise line,” said Fabio Scaglione, Director, Food and Beverage Operations for Celebrity.

The creators of Le Petit Chef, TableMation Studios and Skullmapping, spent 23,000 hours creating each animation for the experience or around 24 hours for each five-second segment.

“Cruise ships are an ideal venue for our unique experience, and when it can be implemented across the entire fleet of ships, it brings even greater value to cruise lines as they can reach the widest array of audiences and attract newcomers. Cruise passengers are always seeking over-the-top experiences that are truly one-of-a-kind and we can deliver this in the most exciting and immersive way...” said Michael Bickel, President and CEO of TableMation Studios.

Disney Cruise Line has been helping families experience, not just taste, their meals since its first ships launched. Its newest ship, the Disney Wish, is set to offer plenty of family-friendly and Disney movie-inspired dining experiences, but on a whole new level.

From Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure that brings Elsa’s magic to life and recreates the Aurora Borealis on the ship’s windows to the ambitious Worlds of Marvel’s “Avengers: Quantum Encounter,” families will not only be able to enjoy a themed dinner, but they’ll also be able to follow interactive stories that help immerse them in these worlds.

Danny Handke, Senior Creative Director at Walt Disney Imagineering, says, “When we set out to design the Disney Wish, we wanted to create experiential, story-driven restaurants that will offer our guests so much more than a meal. We’re using this dedicated time each night to give families unique new ways to interact with some of their favorite stories and characters during experiences that can’t be found anywhere else.”

“We know that, for many guests, it’s a rare treat to have the whole family sitting around the dinner table together, and we want to make the most of these precious family memories. So we are taking two universally beloved franchises, ‘Frozen’ and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and developed elaborately themed, highly interactive and action-packed dining experiences that will immerse families on fun-filled adventures with some of their favorite characters,” continued Handke.

Lastly, Windstar Cruises, which specializes in small-ship cruising, has been a longtime official cruise line of the James Beard Foundation. Part of the partnership includes special culinary-themed cruises featuring celebrity chefs and their delicious dishes, but the cruise line itself also focuses on providing culinary excursions and locally sourced, regional dishes onboard.

Christopher Prelog, President of Windstar Cruises, said, “The themed cruises include chef demonstrations, which are typically on at-sea days, as well as a hosted four-course dinner one night of the cruise where the chef takes over the full menu. Each of the themed cruise chefs also provide special recipes, which are then featured on Windstar’s menus across the fleet and sailing regions. So it’s really fun to see some of our past guest chef’s dishes on our menus today, and our guests love ordering these recognizable chef’s creations even when they aren’t on a themed culinary cruise.”

“Food is definitely my passion, and I have grown up in this industry and remain really close to it. I started my career on cruise ships as a waiter, so food is part of who I am and a huge focus for Windstar’s operations. We want to highlight the spectacular flavors of the regional cuisine – because you’re traveling. You want to taste where you are in the world,” continued Prelog.

Cruise lines are able to differentiate themselves from other cruise lines by offering innovative dining or food-centric experiences. Scott Lara of says, “Cruisers are foodies! Many cruisers are tired of the same old food at the buffet and in the main dining room! These new venues are precisely what frequent cruisers want.”

It’s too early to say whether more cruise lines will follow and create truly unique dining experiences that aren’t just your average cruise ship restaurant. But for now, the future of cruise dining is looking very, very bright.

Copyright 2021 Northstar Travel Media, LLC. All rights reserved. From By Lacey Pfalz.

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