Stroll from deck to deck aboard any cruise ship during the holidays, and the wafting aromas are enough to knock your blinking-lights Santa socks off. Fresh-baked Christmas cookies here, latkes there, stuffing everywhere — what’s a foodie to do? Why, indulge, of course. We’ve got the goods (and goodies) you crave during this festive time.
Of any holiday meal savored at sea, Thanksgiving may be the trickiest for passengers and chefs. Expectations are high and most of us favor our family dining traditions: Aunt Emily’s cranberry sauce, perhaps, or mom’s pecan pie. Luckily, cruise ship chefs go overboard (only figuratively) to ensure Thanksgiving dinner ticks all the iconic boxes. Take Disney Cruise Line, out to please multigenerational families. Children feel terribly grown-up sipping Turkey’s Trots and virgin piña coladas, all festive with pumpkin syrup and mango puree. Mom and Dad can toast the season with a real adult cocktail dubbed Pumpkin Spice, merrily splashed with vodka, Kahlua, and Baileys.
Disney’s big crowd-pleaser is always the freshly carved roasted turkey, starring trimmings like mashed sweet potatoes with honey and crushed pecans. Just don’t fill up first on the fresh-baked cornbread with chive sour cream dip. Worried about pleasing the vegetarians in your Thanksgiving group? Entrées like pumpkin curry with brown lentils and apple, or pretzel and cashew-crusted tofu with sweet onion chutney, assure veggie devotees that they, too, feel the holiday love.
The buzz is that Oceania Cruises’ Hanukkah dinners taste so stellar, even non-Jewish passengers want in on the feast. Can shipboard potato pancakes taste as good as the latkes grandma fries at home? They might be better. (Plus, no one is stuck scrubbing the oil that splatters all over the kitchen.)
Oceania chefs fashion crazy-good latkes, all crispy-edged golden-brown deliciousness. Check out the creative toppings, which can cleverly include wasabi fish roe. Hats off, also, to the chicken soup; feather-light matzah balls float ethereally in a richly simmered broth. Word is, the fork-tender brisket with porcini mushrooms and onion gravy drives guests so wild, cruisers request it repeatedly as the sail progresses.
Come Christmastime, Cunard Line’s kiddy cruisers flock to gingerbread workshops to decorate houses and cookies, and surely eat a gumdrop or three. Disney organizes similar get-togethers; one for families to design candy-laden gingerbread houses together, and the other solely for wee ones to decorate gingerbread men and gobble up a spare foot when they think no one is looking.
On Crystal Cruises, chefs craft six gingerbread houses, with the biggest, most splendid to be showcased in the Crystal Plaza by the Crystal Dining Room alongside an internationally inspired assortment of cookies. Think freshly baked vanilla kipferl (almond crescents), chocolate chip, meringue, and hazelnut-linzer with apricot jam. Grab as many cookies as you like, whenever you like. I can personally testify to how their buttery aromas beckon.
Your Goose is Cooked
On Regent Seven Seas Cruises, dive into the Christmas Eve spirit with roasted goose. Ship chefs promise crisp crackling skin, and sides of sweet prunes plumped in Armagnac, braised red cabbage, dainty potato dumplings, and rich port wine gravy.
Surely Christmas and eggnog are the peanut butter and jelly of the holiday season; count on Cunard to pour this creamy drink in….
By Janice Wald Henderson
Photo: Cunard Line/Christopher Ison