A Taste of Sea Cloud Spirit’s San Juan Guest Chef Program

Sea Cloud Spirit, the 136-passenger, three-masted, full-rigged windjammer from Germany’s iconic Sea Cloud Cruises, is coming to America’s backyard.

Beginning this January, Sea Cloud Spirit will, for the first time ever, homeport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, making it easy for us Yanks to experience her spectacular approach to cruising. At the same time, guests may indulge in the ship’s San Juan Guest Chef series, a specially designed program developed in partnership with Chef’s Dinner Table, a lavish private kitchen and culinary salon located on Mulberry Street in New York City. The onboard program features some of the island’s most distinguished chefs, including Francis Guzman, Wilo Benet, Julie Carrion, and Mario Pagan, along with cooking demonstrations, Don Q rum tastings, and chef-led culinary discussions. 

Menu | Photo: Judi Cuervo

Recently, porthole.com had an opportunity to sample what’s in store for Sea Cloud Spirit guests sailing from San Juan this winter. Amid the urban splendor of New York’s Little Italy, an industrial-looking elevator at 132 Mulberry Street delivered us to another culinary world: homey yet elegant, with an open kitchen beneath elaborate glowing light fixtures, a bar stocked with premium wines and daiquiris, and, in a spacious nook, a stylish dinner table set for 24, its crystal sparkling in the glow of candles resting atop window sills carved into weathered brick.

As members of the intimate gathering sipped their libations, servers circulated, offering delectable canapes like scrumptious guava egg rolls, pesto-drizzled chicken skewers, and bite-sized pork pies. Julie Carrion and her team toiled within the open kitchen, whipping up the dishes that would give us a taste of what we could expect during Sea Cloud Spirit’s January 10-17 sailing.

Chef Carrion, a San Juan native, spent the early years of her culinary career in New York City training under Top Chef Masters’ Anito Lo. She then relocated to Montreal, where she worked with Chef Normand Laprise of Toqué! before returning to New York and a position at the New York Times four-star Restaurant Daniel, working under the iconic Daniel Boulud.

Tonight, it’s obvious that all that experience paid off.

Black Sea Bass | Photo: Judi Cuervo

Dinner kicks off with lobster resting atop a creamy pool of guacamole, garnished with hearts of palm and drizzled with passion fruit vinaigrette. A banana-leaf-wrapped pastel follows, dense and delicious, with root vegetables, garbanzos, dates, almonds, and pineapple hot sauce. (The pastel, according to Chef Carrion, is typically reserved for Christmas and special occasions because it’s an ambitious recipe, yet guests aboard Sea Cloud Spirit will tackle its creation at a cooking class led by the chef during her sailing.) The perfectly seared black sea bass is a main course masterpiece, presented as it is on a silky bed of plantain mousseline and topped with a fresh and tender vegetable escabeche and its riot of color. 

Chocolate Rum Torte | Photo: Judi Cuervo

The meal concludes with a dessert I’ll remember all my life: an intense bittersweet chocolate rum torte beneath a strip of fresh coconut and accompanied by a generous scoop of creamy guava ice cream perched atop a chewy coconut base, the dish adorned with a streak of glittering white chocolate.

The only way Chef Carrion’s dinner could have been better is if it was served under the billowing sails of Sea Cloud Spirit as she sails from San Juan to the Caribbean. And from January 10 through 17, it will be.

Sea Cloud Spirit 2025 San Juan Guest Chef Sailings:

January 4-10 (Philipsburg, St. Maarten-San Juan, Puerto Rico): Chef Wilo Benet

January 10-17 (Round Trip San Juan, PR): Chef Julia Carrion

January 17-24 (Round Trip San Juan, PR): Chef Francis Guzman

January 24-February 1 (San Juan, PR-Philipsburg, St. Maarten): Chef Mario Pagan

Judi Cuervo is a New York City native who fell in love with cruising in 1976 during her first sailing aboard Carnival Cruises’ Mardi Gras. Twenty years later, she began her freelance cruise writing gig and, since that time, has covered mass market, ultra-premium, riverboat and expedition ships for regional, national and international publications as well as cruise websites.