The 7 Best Cooking Experiences at Sea

by Fran Golden

The 7 Best Cooking Experiences at Sea

by Fran Golden

Sure, nearly every large ship — and lots of smaller ones, too — serve up cooking demonstrations, where a chef prepares dishes in front of a crowd for fun entertainment. But these lines go the extra mile with cooking classes, complete with individual burners, and even TV-inspired competitions where you can actually play with food and test your skills against the ticking clock.

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Oceania Marina's Culinary Class / Oceania
Cooking with "America's Test Kitchen" chefs
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1. America's Test Kitchen on Holland America

This newly launched foodie offering brings the popular, long-running public TV program to sea. The ship's specially trained chefs share food facts and methods in in-depth 45-minute cooking demonstrations in the Culinary Arts Center theaters (on a replica of the TV show set) and in hands-on 90-minute workshops.

What You'll Learn: Demo topics include Asian dumplings and chiles, while classes focus on such topics as Homemade Pasta and Cake Decorating.

Cost: Lectures are complimentary; workshops $39 per person.

This newly launched foodie offering brings the popular, long-running public TV program to sea. The ship's specially trained chefs share food facts and methods in in-depth 45-minute cooking demonstrations in the Culinary Arts Center theaters (on a replica of the TV show set) and in hands-on 90-minute workshops.

What You'll Learn: Demo topics include Asian dumplings and chiles, while classes focus on such topics as Homemade Pasta and Cake Decorating.

Cost: Lectures are complimentary; workshops $39 per person.

Oceania Marina's Culinary Center
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2. The Culinary Center on Oceania Cruises

Onboard Marina and Riviera are real cooking schools with proper test kitchens set up with 12 well-equipped cook stations, designed for up to 24 participants. You get directions on how to dice, chop, sauté and otherwise prepare several dishes.

What You'll Learn: Classes vary by destination and include a local focus, such as Cuban in the Caribbean. Regulars in the lineup include a session on knife skills, sweets, wok frying, vegetables, and pizza.

Cost: $69 per class.

Onboard Marina and Riviera are real cooking schools with proper test kitchens set up with 12 well-equipped cook stations, designed for up to 24 participants. You get directions on how to dice, chop, sauté and otherwise prepare several dishes.

What You'll Learn: Classes vary by destination and include a local focus, such as Cuban in the Caribbean. Regulars in the lineup include a session on knife skills, sweets, wok frying, vegetables, and pizza.

Cost: $69 per class.

Seven Seas Explorer's Culinary Arts Kitchen
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3. Culinary Arts Kitchen on Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Regent Seven Seas Cruises' newest and most extravagant luxury ship, Seven Seas Explorer, has a cooking school equipped with 18 stations, with equipment including fancy induction cooktops and stainless steel sinks.

What You'll Learn: The lineup of classes includes poultry and French technique.

Cost: $89 per class. The line also offers programs that include market tours and onboard cooking classes, from about $200.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises' newest and most extravagant luxury ship, Seven Seas Explorer, has a cooking school equipped with 18 stations, with equipment including fancy induction cooktops and stainless steel sinks.

What You'll Learn: The lineup of classes includes poultry and French technique.

Cost: $89 per class. The line also offers programs that include market tours and onboard cooking classes, from about $200.

"Top Chef" on Celebrity Cruises
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4. "Top Chef" at Sea on Celebrity Cruises

The tie-in with the popular Bravo TV cooking show includes a shipboard competition in the main theater, based on the show's popular "Quickfire Challenge." Whether you just watch — or are actually picked from the audience to participate — it's a hoot. Teams of contestants, under the tutelage of a professional chef, try to complete kitchen prep tasks quickly. Finalists later compete in a cook-off, also held in the theater, for the title of shipboard "Top Chef."

What You'll Learn: If you participate, you'll learn that smashing eggs and peeling potatoes against a clock is not easy.

Cost: Complimentary. On occasional "Top Chef" theme cruises real "chef'testants" from the TV show come onboard, appearing on stage, conducting small group cooking classes in the galley (for a fee), and hosting exclusive dinners (also for a fee).

The tie-in with the popular Bravo TV cooking show includes a shipboard competition in the main theater, based on the show's popular "Quickfire Challenge." Whether you just watch — or are actually picked from the audience to participate — it's a hoot. Teams of contestants, under the tutelage of a professional chef, try to complete kitchen prep tasks quickly. Finalists later compete in a cook-off, also held in the theater, for the title of shipboard "Top Chef."

What You'll Learn: If you participate, you'll learn that smashing eggs and peeling potatoes against a clock is not easy.

Cost: Complimentary. On occasional "Top Chef" theme cruises real "chef'testants" from the TV show come onboard, appearing on stage, conducting small group cooking classes in the galley (for a fee), and hosting exclusive dinners (also for a fee).

Dining with Silversea
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5. Culinary and Wine Voyages on Silversea

Silversea's Culinary and Wine Voyages with Relais & Chateaux put fine French cuisine in the spotlight. Chef David Bilsland, a former instructor at Le Cordon Bleu in London, hosts the sailings and the curriculum includes cooking demonstrations, competitions, "lunch and learn events," and culinary tours on shore.

What You'll Learn: One popular session focuses on knife skills and ways to improve your technique.

Cost: The demos are complimentary; the lunches and culinary shore excursions are for a fee.

Silversea's Culinary and Wine Voyages with Relais & Chateaux put fine French cuisine in the spotlight. Chef David Bilsland, a former instructor at Le Cordon Bleu in London, hosts the sailings and the curriculum includes cooking demonstrations, competitions, "lunch and learn events," and culinary tours on shore.

What You'll Learn: One popular session focuses on knife skills and ways to improve your technique.

Cost: The demos are complimentary; the lunches and culinary shore excursions are for a fee.

Costa's Bravo Chef cooking competition
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6. Bravo Chef on Costa Cruises

In this lively new poolside competition, guests vie for the title of "Bravo Chef for a Day" ... plus a free dinner for two in a specialty restaurant. The cruise director hosts the game, which pits contestants against one another as they prepare a dish with surprise ingredients. The contest is part of a new culinary program that also includes the ship's chefs offering TV show-style demos in the main theater.

What You'll Learn: If you play, you'll find out whether you're great under pressure ... or not.

Cost: Complimentary

In this lively new poolside competition, guests vie for the title of "Bravo Chef for a Day" ... plus a free dinner for two in a specialty restaurant. The cruise director hosts the game, which pits contestants against one another as they prepare a dish with surprise ingredients. The contest is part of a new culinary program that also includes the ship's chefs offering TV show-style demos in the main theater.

What You'll Learn: If you play, you'll find out whether you're great under pressure ... or not.

Cost: Complimentary

Cooking with the chef
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7. The Kitchen Table on Viking Ocean Cruises

Sign up for this experience and you'll spend quality time with the ship's executive chef, helping buy ingredients at a local market, doing prep work in the ship's well-equipped 12-person test kitchen. Later that night, you'll return to the kitchen for a multi-course dinner of locally inspired dishes, hosted by the chef.

What You'll Learn: Exploring the market with the chef means you'll get insight into the local ingredients — a very different experience from exploring on your own.

Cost: $199 per person 

Sign up for this experience and you'll spend quality time with the ship's executive chef, helping buy ingredients at a local market, doing prep work in the ship's well-equipped 12-person test kitchen. Later that night, you'll return to the kitchen for a multi-course dinner of locally inspired dishes, hosted by the chef.

What You'll Learn: Exploring the market with the chef means you'll get insight into the local ingredients — a very different experience from exploring on your own.

Cost: $199 per person 

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