When I travel, I love exploring local flavors. I believe food defines a culture. As Anthony Bourdain eloquently stated, "Food, culture, people, and landscape are all absolutely inseparable."
Travelers have become so enamored with food that cruise and rail lines have begun embracing the foodie culture.
As cruise ships get bigger, they have had to meet the demands of more travelers and more discerning palates. Some cruise lines have welcomed celebrity chefs who have established specialty restaurants onboard cruise ships.
Holland America is one of several cruise lines that offer culinary cruises. Throughout the cruise, you can sample signature dishes, watch cooking demonstrations, and join the chefs at intimate onboard dinners.
Cruises aren't alone in plying customers with great food. Trains also now feature gourmet delights. Rocky Mountaineer, the luxury Canadian rail line through the Canadian Rockies and in the Colorado Rockies, serves gourmet meals on each train. I was even surprised recently to discover exceptional cuisine onboard Amtrak!
Here are a few of the most sumptuous bites I've had on the go.
Holland America Line
Led by a team of celebrity chefs, Holland America offers a great variety of fine dining options onboard each ship. While there is an additional cost to dine at the fine-dining establishments onboard, it’s worth the extra cost. I love Canaletto, which serves up authentic Italian cuisine.
CroisiEurope is a European-based cruise line that sails on rivers, canals, and at sea. The European cruises feature French menus developed in partnership with renowned chefs like Paul Bocuse and Marc Haeberlin. There is a single seating for each meal with several main dish offerings.
European Waterways has been my favorite culinary cruise experience. Each barge carries only a few passengers—between 8 and 20—and the classically trained chef caters to your every need. The crew pairs each meal with a white and a red wine. Your evening ends with a cheese course and dessert.
Rocky Mountaineer offers luxury train excursions in the Canadian Rockies and from Denver to Moab over the Colorado Rockies. All meals are exceptional, but the Eggs Benedict for breakfast is over the top. It’s the perfect way to start what is the journey of a lifetime.
Sailing on Windstar is yacht cruising at its finest. While you do need to make reservations for the specialty restaurants, there is no additional charge for meals. I loved Spanish-inspired Cuadro 44 by Anthony Sasso, where every meal was exceptional. Amphora requires no reservations, and dinner is exquisite.
Norwegian Cruise Lines
Norwegian Cruise Lines is family-friendly, but it offers grown-up dining options. It ranges from fun—so many desserts—to beautiful wine-paired meals. Choose Texas-style BBQ at Q Texas Smokehouse or opt for Spanish tapas at Pincho. Order modern Italian at Scarpetta or Japanese fare at Teppanyaki.
Viking ocean cruises feature multiple restaurants, each at no additional charge, although some require reservations. Make reservations for a night at The Chef’s Table, where each course is paired with exceptional wines. On river cruises, one main restaurant features destination-focused menus and incredible breakfast options.
Food onboard has become a destination, but remember to venture off to experience local flavors. I had delectable sushi in Tahiti, discovered amazing pastries in Austria, savored the best-ever poutine in Banff, sipped the most amazing Eisschokolade (ice cream and hot chocolate) in Germany, and feasted on asparagus and truffles in France. Anywhere can become a foodie destination when you venture out and explore.
Susan Lanier-Graham is the founder of Wander With Wonder (WanderWithWonder.com), an award-winning digital travel publication. She is also the managing editor of North Peoria Lifestyle. Lanier-Graham travels to discover wow food and experiences.