Food Face Plate by Judi Cuervo

Food for Thought : Cooking Classes



Learning is full of flavor aboard today’s cruise ships.

By Lynn and Cele Seldon

Whether it’s for a hot new restaurant, a food and wine festival, or culinary classes that divulge chef secrets and recipes, culinary travel is tastier than ever. That’s especially true on cruise ships, where food has been a delicious focus for decades and onboard cooking classes and other appetizing offerings have more recently developed a cult-like following. Here are some of the ways you can roll up your sleeves and dig in on your next cruise.


Food as Art on Holland America Line


Holland America Line’s Culinary Arts Center program, presented by Food & Wine magazine, was the groundbreaking trendsetter of the onboard culinary class craze. First introduced aboard Ryndam in 2005 for the line’s innovative culinary initiatives (part of the $525 million Signature of Excellence enhancements), the Culinary Arts Center is a theater-style show kitchen with a large and fully equipped preparation area, cooking display counter, four cooking stations, and two large plasma video screens for close-ups.


The program’s offerings are diverse, but the culinary demonstrations and cooking classes are key components. Other options include demonstrations and seminars by visiting chefs, wine experts, and cookbook authors (including recipe cards, wine-tasting notes, copies of the magazine, and more); book signings; question-and-answer sessions; mixology presentations; wine tastings; market tours in select ports of call; specially designed onboard menus; hosted dinners; and more.


The varied culinary demonstrations are complimentary one-hour cooking presentations taught by shipboard or guest chefs that take place a minimum of two times on all 7-day sailings (more on longer voyages). Complimentary party planner presentations are also popular with passengers hungry for knowledge. Topics might include easy entertaining, ice carving, cake decorating, plate presentation and garnishing, signature cocktails, and flower arrangement.


The popular hands-on cooking classes are private affairs led by an onboard chef in the Culinary Arts Center. With a maximum of 12 students per class, participants learn take-home techniques and recipes. A minimum of two classes are taught on each cruise (more on longer sailings), but Culinary Arts Center staff will add classes as demand dictates (and it often does). There’s currently a minimum age of 15 and a minimum charge of $29 per person for these tasty classes.

In addition, Holland America’s Culinary Arts Center for Kids is a more recent offering and features 45-minute classes for kids, tweens, and teens. Instruction incorporates breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks into complimentary classes when appropriate (depending on the number of children on particular sailings). Kids under 8 might learn to make Bear Tracks (Alaska-themed cookies) or fruit leather roll-ups, while those over 8 might make soft pretzels, granola bars, or saltwater taffy.

This is an excerpt only. To read this article in its entirety, pick up the current issue of Porthole Cruise Magazine.