The best restaurant in town may have just arrived. Cruise ships visit ports all around the world. Something we tend to forget is they have great restaurants and wine cellars. Because of security concerns, the local population can’t just walk aboard and book at table. But you can.
My wife and I are wine fans. Food fans too. We are big Cunard fans, however the examples I suggest are probably available on most cruise ships you would consider booking today.
- Caviar and champagne. It’s so classic, it’s a stereotype. This won’t be on the general dining room menu, but there’s likely a specialty restaurant or upscale bar where you can find it. On our recent Queen Victoria voyage, I asked in one bar. They took my information, called a day later, quoted a reasonable price and provided caviar with all the trimmings at the appointed time. Lots of fish eggs are called “caviar” however cruise ships source from around the world. Expect the real thing.
- Grilled steak and California Cabernet. You’ve had this experience at expense account restaurants in big cities. Your ship should have a dedicated specialty restaurant serving steaks. At the other extreme, steak is probably available on the room service menu. Dinner on your balcony? You’ll need a good California cabernet, ideally from the Napa Valley. The ship should have a decent selection at multiple price points.
- Port and chocolate. It’s another classic combination. Ditto port and walnuts. You can be eating a chocolate bar or a decadent chocolate dessert. Port is a fortified wine that is sweet and full of flavor. The two are perfect together. Your ship should have several selections available.
- Blue cheese and Sauternes. Roquefort is the classic, but any blue cheese should work. It crumbles. It’s got those blue veins running through. Break off small pieces, put on the crackers provided, alternate with sips of your sweet dessert wine.
- Cold seafood with Sancerre or Chablis. For years, we would walk by those Spanish/Portuguese/French/Italian sidewalk cafes, glancing as people were presented with seafood towers with lobster, crab, shrimp, scallops, oysters, etc. They are often boiled, usually served cold, on a bed of ice. One of the ship’s specialty restaurants should be able to make this happen. Sancerre from the Loire Valley (Muscadet too) along with Chablis from Northern Burgundy are classic combinations.
- Roast lamb and red Bordeaux. The British seem to have set lots of culinary rules. England has lots of lambs. They consider the Bordeaux region of France their “wine back yard” for many, many years. It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, although there are about 4+ other permitted grapes adding to its unique character. Red Bordeaux comes at all price points, so it’s affordable by normal human beings.
- Salmon and Pinot Noir. Everyone’s heard of “red wine with meat, white wine with fish.” The rules changed long ago. There are some spectacular “New World” Pinot Noirs especially those from New Zealand and Oregon. It’s considered a classic match with grilled salmon. The dining room aboard the ship likely has salmon on the menu at least once.
- Salad Niçoise and Rose wine. So, there you are, walking along the Promenade de Anglaise in Nice. You spot a sidewalk café across the street, maneuvering past the Lamborghinis and Ferraris stuck in traffic. You get a seat, ordering that gorgeous Salad Niçoise. (We are in Nice, after all.) Provence rose is the official wine of the South of France. Well, you aren’t in Nice, but it should be pretty easy to order a Salad Niçoise. There’s rose wine on the menu.
- Dover Sole and White Burgundy. It’s one of the richest seafood dishes you can imagine. There’s a great scene in the movie Julie and Julia when Julia Child and her husband order one in France. It’s usually presented after cooking and deboned at the table. There’s plenty of sole swimming around, but Dover Sole is the Rolls Royce of the species. You should be able to find it in one of the specialty restaurants. Puligny Montrachet would go well, but there are other white Burgundies that would work well
- Popcorn and sparkling wine. OK, that’s unexpected. There’s an urban legend that Remi Krug, of the Krug champagne house in France, was asked: “What’s your favorite food to have with champagne? “Popcorn” was his answer. It’s often salty and buttery, which somehow works. Potato chips are good too. You don’t need to splurge on the champagne. Any good quality sparkling wine should be a fine experience.
- Roast chicken and almost any wine. You are a wine fan. You want to drink what you like. You can’t stand these rules that take you down a certain path to certain selections. You are in luck. Chicken pairs with almost every wine imaginable. You like red. That’s fine. White works too. Add rose wine into the mix. Still or sparkling is OK. “Don’t tell me what to drink. I’ll drink what I like.”
You are traveling along with a fine restaurant, or more accurately, several fine restaurants. You can enjoy some classic wine and food pairings that might be very expensive or difficult to find back home.