Foodies everywhere can take heart. It’s now possible to take to the seas for a memorable culinary adventure with Princess Cruises as part of the line’s “come back new” experience featuring fresh, flavorful meals. We have partnered with Arizona-based Susan Lanier-Graham, who writes about wandering the world on her blog Wander With Wonder, as she sets sail on the Ruby Princess for the cruise line’s annual Culinary Cruise.

I recently had the opportunity to sail from the Port of Los Angeles to Santa Barbara and down the coast to Ensenada, Mexico onboard the Ruby Princess with Princess Cruise’s annual Culinary Cruise. In this fun event, with the help of different celebrity chefs each year, the cruise line takes the opportunity to highlight the fresh culinary delights passengers can experience every time they book a cruise with Princess Cruises.

Along with former Love Boat star Jill Whelan, who played Captain Stubing’s daughter Vicki on the long-running sitcom and is now Celebrations Ambassador for Princess Cruises, I had a chance to discover the best culinary experiences both onboard and in the excursions offered at different ports of call. Come aboard… the culinary adventure is a sweet reward.

Susan with Jill Whelan

Jill Whelan (on left) played Captain Stubing’s daughter Vicki on The Love Boat

Fun Culinary Facts

So I admit it. I’m a bit of a foodie. Okay, I’m a lot foodie. I’m sort of obsessed with food. I think food defines cultures and the souls of the places I visit. I like trying new things. I don’t always like everything I try, but I’ll try just about anything once. But I am passionate about fresh food. I love knowing where my food comes from and getting to know the people who grow it or catch it. I like talking to chefs and feeling their passions. So I found all the fun facts about the culinary offerings on Princess Cruises fascinating.

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Chef Curtis Stone in the kitchen on a Princess Cruises ship with some of the fresh ingredients. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

As part of their “Come Back New” campaign, the cruise line has partnered with some great chefs, including celebrity chef Curtis Stone, to inspire people to find passion in their food and to excite their senses. Here are some of the fun things I discovered on my cruise:

  • Princess Cruises sources ingredients from over 40 local providers worldwide
  • The kitchens on each ship are massive and include multiple refrigeration units so everything is stored at precise temperatures — peaches at 34 degrees, onions and potatoes at 63 degrees and lemons and chili peppers at 48 degrees
  • On average there are 70 fruit varieties and 100 different vegetables on board
  • Steaks are cut by hand just hours before dinner service
  • Bread is baked within 30 minutes of being served
  • Dough is made from scratch

SHARE by Curtis Stone

In late 2015, Princess Cruises announced a collaboration with celebrity chef Curtis Stone, unveiling his first restaurant at sea, SHARE. SHARE is a unique dining experience onboard several Princess ships that features shareable meals served family style in an elegant, but comfortable setting.

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Chef Curtis Stone inside SHARE. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

As I was waiting to be seated for my dinner in SHARE, a couple left the restaurant and I asked them how they had enjoyed their meal. The woman, probably in her late 60s, hooked her arm inside her husband’s, gave him a school-girl grin and told me it was the best meal of her life. Quite a testament. Not to think it was a generational observation, a young couple, perhaps celebrating a honeymoon, came out right after them and I overheard him exclaiming, “I don’t think I’ve ever had such a great meal.” After a set-up like that, I was wondering if the meal could meet my expectations. I was pleased from the moment we were led into the comfortable space and never disappointed.

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SHARE dining room. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

The food kept arriving all evening. It is meant to be shared and I enjoy eating that way. It is hearty food that combines Stone’s native Australia, his adopted California, and reflects his world travels. We started out with the most amazing plate of bread, pickles and charcuterie (sliced meats).

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Charcuterie Course. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

Everything was delicious throughout dinner, although I think the potatoes au gratin might have been my favorite savory item of the evening. The table was filled with so much food that I believe we all ate far more than our share.

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Dinner at SHARE. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

We were all full and satisfied, sipping our wines. And then that amazing thing happened … they served dessert. Have you ever noticed how there’s magically room for just one more bite of something sweet? SHARE serves this delicious lemony tarte that is rich yet delicate. Probably one of the best bites on the trip.

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Tarte Au Citron Vert. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

While the meals in the café, regular dining rooms, and buffets are included in your cruise, there is an additional cover charge of $39 per person that includes one appetizer, one main, one side, one cheese and one dessert at SHARE.

The Salty Dog Gastropub

In another new collaboration, Princess Cruises worked with chef Ernesto Uchimura to open The Salty Dog Gastropub inside the Wheelhouse Bar each night. The pub features small dishes paired with craft beers, cocktails, wines and whiskeys. Chef Uchimura was the inaugural chef of Los Angeles’ Umami Burger and The Salty Dog’s “The Ernesto” burger is named for the chef. You need an appetite for this one. It features a rib eye and short rib burger, grilled pork belly, gruyere, caramelized kimchi, beer battered jalapeño and charred onion aioli on a smoked salt and pepper brioche bun.

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The Ernesto at The Salty Dog Gastropub. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

If your appetite isn’t quite that large, there are options. The menu features a fun selection of small plates. You select three plates of your choice. There were four of us at my table, so we had 12 — yes, TWELVE —plates of food. Okay, maybe the plates are smaller, but I didn’t say you’d go hungry. It was quite a spread. Some of our favorites included these delicious dishes.

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Maryland Style Jumbo Lump Crabcake. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

Beef Short Rib Poutine - The Salty Dog Gastropub

Beef Short Rib Poutine. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

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Sweet Potato Fries. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

Again, The Salty Dog Gastropub is one of the specialty restaurants, so there is a nominal cover charge of $19 per person that includes three small plates, a complimentary appetizer and a dessert.

Chef’s Table

A special culinary treat available to book on most Princess Cruises is the Chef’s Table. The experience takes you behind the scenes into the ship’s busy galley during the height of dinner where you enjoy champagne and hors d’oeuvres while you watch the buzz of activity. We were met by Maitre D’Hôtel Jean Paul Musiu and Executive Chef Jozef Yitschak Lisner and given a chance to explore the impressive galley under extremely tight guidelines to ensure the safety of the other passengers.

After sampling some delightful little bites with the chef, the Maitre d’ escorted us to a beautiful table where we were treated to a hand-picked menu throughout the remainder of the evening.

Chefs Table

Chef’s Table onboard the Ruby Princess bound for Ensenada, Mexico. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

The meal for each Chef’s Table usually reflects the ports of call of the ship, and our meal was no exception. The chef highlighted the fresh cuisine of the California coast and the lively flavors of Mexico. It’s not often I can say that a palate cleanser was a memorable “course,” but this meal was the exception. We had a Margarita palate cleanser that chef described as “mostly tequila”. It was one of those tasty little treats I’ll always remember and something I’ll crave on one of the triple digit days next summer here in Arizona.

Chefs Table Palate Cleanser

Margarita Palate Cleanser. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Chef Lisner came into the dining room on several occasions to describe the dishes, but the best moment was when he presented the entrée, complete with flames and pizzazz. I’ve never met a chef who didn’t enjoy playing with fire.

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Chef Jozef Yitschak Lisner at the Chef’s Table. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

The evening was a huge success. The multi-course menu is prepared with so much attention and, at the end of the evening, all of the ladies departed with a rose and every guest left with an autographed copy of the cruise line’s cookbook, Courses, A Culinary Journey, and a keepsake photograph.

Chefs Table Group

Guest Chefs

During my cruise, we had two guest chefs onboard the Ruby Princess to help celebrate the Come Back New promotion with Princess Cruises. The cruise line hopes to offer these culinary celebrations each year. This one explored the wonders of the California coast with Chef Joel Miller, Executive Chef at The Wallace, a shared plates hyper-seasonal restaurant in Culver City, CA and Ted Hopson, Executive Chef/Owner at The Bellwether in Studio City, CA, with a market-inspired menu showcasing California produce with family- style shareable dishes and infusion-based cocktails.

Visiting Chefs

Chef Joel Miller (left) and Chef Ted Hopson (right) at the Culinary Demonstration. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

To help celebrate the fresh cuisine found onboard each Princess Cruises ship, the chefs gave culinary demonstrations, shared recipes, prepared canapés for a special wine tasting, shared the Chef’s Table, and gave passengers a chance to ask them questions during an afternoon Q&A session. Look for future Princess cruises here.

But even if you don’t happen to be onboard for one of the culinary cruises, there are plenty of sweet treats and culinary treasures awaiting you on every Princess Cruise to appeal to every foodie. Bon Voyage and Bon Appetit!

Final Sunset

Sunset from the Ruby Princess. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Susan Lanier-Graham is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity. For more information on the Travelocity Gnomads, visit TravelocityGnomads.com.

Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.

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