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Just add salt: 5 hands-on cruise cooking classes for seasoned sailors

Do you have foodie clients who are looking for next-level culinary experiences on their next cruise? Some luxury river and ocean ships run hands-on cruise cooking classes that are proving to be big drawcards. Karryon samples what’s on offer.

Do you have foodie clients who are looking for next-level culinary experiences on their next cruise? Some luxury river and ocean ships run hands-on cruise cooking classes that are proving to be big drawcards. Karryon samples what’s on offer.

As savvy cruise lines are well aware, getting to know a place through its local produce, cuisine and drinks is part and parcel of the travel experience for today’s sophisticated travellers.

Last year, Virtuoso picked culinary travel as one of 2024’s big trends. Another recent survey reported that more than 40 per cent of travellers aged 18 to 34 have chosen a holiday destination specifically because they wanted to try a certain type of food.

While plenty of cruise lines run shopping-with-the-chef tours, culinary demonstrations and expert-led tastings of wine, beer and spirits, hands-on cruise cooking classes taught by top chefs offer extra insight into a region’s traditions and cuisine.

They’re also a lot of fun and for those who are too time-poor to cook for pleasure at home, a chance to indulge your inner masterchef and hone your culinary skills.

Scenic Culinaire

Guests will be able to Shop with a Chef at a local food market before cooking up a storm on board at Scenic Culinaire with their fresh ingredients
Shop with a Chef at a local market before creating a feast on board with Scenic Culinaire cruise cooking classes. Image: Scenic

Scenic appears to be the only river cruise company that operates an onboard cooking school, which is only available on Scenic Sapphire and Scenic Diamond.

The two upgraded Space-Ships sail on France’s Rhône, Saône, Dordogne and Garonne rivers. Not surprisingly, Scenic Culinaire focuses on French regional cuisine, reflecting food and wine from the regions where the ships are cruising. The well-equipped cooking schools, set in a purpose-designed area that includes a wine and cheese cellar along with cooking stations, cater for 10 guests apiece.

1000x568 KO Scenic Spaceships
Breakfast on Scenic’s Space-Ships. Image: Scenic

Local and onboard chefs lead the classes, using seasonal, local produce. Guests can head off to the market with the chef to source ingredients for their classes and, of course, get to enjoy the meals they create – accompanied by fine French wines. There is no charge for taking a class.

Oceania’s Culinary Center

Oceania Cruises' Culinary Center and Dining Room for cruise cooking classes.
Oceania Cruises’ Culinary Center and Dining Room. Image: Oceania Cruises

Oceania Cruises’ Oceania Marina and Riviera were the first ships to host cooking schools, which have proved incredibly popular over the years. The Culinary Center on the line’s latest ship, Oceania Vista, is three times bigger than Marina’s and Riviera’s with 24 individual cooking stations and a separate Chef’s Studio used for lectures and dinners.

Originally the brainchild of famous French-American chef Jacques Pepin – who has been with Oceania since 2003 – Executive Chef & Director of Culinary Enrichment Kathryn Kelly now overseas Oceania’s three Culinary Centers as well as Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ three Culinary Arts Kitchens.

Culinary Center cruise cooking class on Oceania Cruises.
Culinary Center cruise cooking class. Image: Oceania Cruises

Cruise cooking classes are taught by highly trained chefs and cover a range of culinary adventures. Oceania Vista’s new program includes an astonishing 16 different classes, including plant-based dishes, brunch, regional cuisines, desserts and one that sounds essential for out-of-practice cooks like me: Taste and Technique: A Chef’s Toolkit – described as being “as close to a culinary bootcamp as possible in two hours”. Classes, priced from USD$89 per person, run daily, but the number varies per voyage.

RSSC’s Culinary Arts Kitchen

RSSC's Culinary Arts Kitchen cruise cooking classes
Culinary Arts Kitchen on Seven Seas Splendor. Image: RSSC

Regent Seven Seas Cruises‘ state-of-the-art Culinary Arts Kitchens are available on three ships: Seven Seas Explorer, Splendor and Grandeur. A while ago I spent a very enjoyable few hours in Explorer’s Culinary Arts Kitchen, working through three Mediterranean dishes (because we were cruising from Rome to Barcelona). Chef Noelle was an attentive and entertaining instructor and if you’re cruising solo, cruise cooking classes are a fun way to meet fellow foodie guests.

The Culinary Arts Kitchens each have 18 well-equipped work stations and giant TV screens so you can see all the instructor’s work up close. Like sister line Oceania, RSSC offers an extensive range of cruise cooking classes led by expert chefs. The classes appeal to a wide range of tastes and cater to all levels of ability, from beginners to experienced chef instructors. 

Group of solo cruisers on RSSC Seven Seas Explorer ship Culinary Arts Kitchen cruise cooking classes.
Seven Seas Explorer Culinary Arts Kitchen class with Kathryn Kelly. Image: RSSC

Cruise cooking classes cost USD$89 – one of the few options not included on a Regent cruise – and menus vary according to the region where the ship is sailing. Knife Skills and Master of Fire, Heat & Grill are among the cruise cooking classes lineup.

Silversea’s S.A.L.T. Lab

S.A.L.T. Lab cruise cooking classes
S.A.L.T. Lab on Silver Nova and Silver Ray. Image: Silversea

As part of Silversea’s S.A.L.T. foodie program on board Silver Moon, Silver Dawn, Silver Nova and Silver Ray, the S.A.L.T. Lab is where guests take hands-on cruise cooking classes with guest chefs or the ship’s culinary team members.

The Lab has been significantly expanded on the two Nova-class ships, Silver Nova and Ray, with each venue accommodating up to 28 guests, and the Lab turns into the 18-guest Chef’s Table in the evening. Silver Nova and Ray’s S.A.L.T. Lab also has a new outdoor space.

Silversea cruise cooking classes
View from the S.A.L.T. Lab as seen on Silver Nova and Ray. Image: Silversea

Classes are typically held several times during a voyage, though the exact frequency can vary. They relate to the location where the ship is sailing and culinary-focused S.A.L.T. shore excursions and there is no extra charge. Lectures and cooking demonstrations also take place regularly in the Venetian Lounge,
allowing larger groups to explore the connection between food and destination.

Viking’s The Kitchen Table

The Kitchen Table cruise cooking classes
The Kitchen Table on board Viking’s ocean cruise ships. Image: Viking

Viking’s ever-expanding fleet of ocean-going ships – the latest, Viking Vela, is due to set sail at the end of 2024 – all feature The Kitchen Table cruise cooking classes. The culinary experience offered at The Kitchen Table cooking school is all about bringing local ingredients from market to table.

Twelve guests can join the groups and go to local markets with the chef, learn how to prepare regional dishes and create elegant three-course meals at The Kitchen Table with the experts – and then dine on the results.

Viking Cruises
Food is part of the journey. Image: Viking Cruises

Cruise cooking classes and market tours vary according to destinations and are not available on every itinerary. The cost also varies and is generally upwards of AUD$300.