The cruise industry is reaching out to first-time and younger cruisers with out-of-the-box culinary experiences, and pulling these ideas into a ship's regular entertainment calendar is the way to keep engagement up, say experts.
Dining concepts are being redefined on board cruise ships as demand from new-age sophisticated cruisers demand new experiences beyond the fine dining and standard offerings of multinational cuisines. As a result, collaborations too are seeing an exciting shift, with partnerships between cruise lines and the likes of animation studios.
The Le Petit Chef animated dining experience onboard Celebrity Cruises is one such example that has caused quite a stir, as well as the likes of Disney Cruise Line’s movie-inspired dining experiences.
A digitally animated menu by Le Petit Chef on Celebrity Apex/ Celebrity Cruises.
Barring Disney’s obvious leverage in brand experiences, these dining concepts are special highlights involving time and investment. So where does that leave F&B directors in planning engaging experiences on a regular basis?
“I would like to see more customisation onboard ships. I feel the offerings on most ships are too static and inflexible,” said Loh Lik Peng, CEO of Singapore Cruise Centre. “It comes down to having a wide range of products and chefs with the skill and adaptability to satisfy today’s demanding cruisers.
“This also means giving the chefs the right training and the right mandate to change things on the go and really deliver what the diner wants. Perhaps they can have online polls every day on what people want to eat. This can make the dining experience much more fun, reactive, and interactive,” added Loh, a respected hotelier and restaurateur of award-winning properties and Michelin-starred restaurants.
A freedom to curate
On land, many F&B options abound from pop-up concepts and private dining by home chefs to titillate diners’ interests. A rotating calendar of such highlights and guest chefs might be a start, and an omakase approach to menu planning will keep things fresh, as Loh had suggested.
Cruise lines with facilities such as cooking studios will generate attention from the aficionados, and when destination cruising with onshore excursions resume, market-to-table experiences will keep passengers engaged, especially at a time when consumers are particular about the origins and sustainability of the ingredients that are on their plates.
To ensure that dining remains engaging, entertainment is one key highlight onboard cruise ships that should be maximised. For instance, Dream Cruises with its international cast of multi-talented performers would make an easy transition in providing theatrical dining experiences. Apart from that, Dream has also demonstrated flexibility and creativity in coming up with culinary ideas and themes.
Lifestyle activities onboard Genting Dream that attracts Gen Z cruisers.
“Dream Cruises always aims to provide the most innovative and immersive activities for our guests and we are excited to be able to bring the Wine & Dine experience onboard Genting Dream with ‘C’est La Sea’ to enhance their cruise experience,” said Kent Zhu, President of Genting Cruise Lines.
“Dream Cruises is also happy to collaborate with the Hong Kong Tourism Board to host a session of ‘On-air Tastings — The Art of Pairing: Johnnie Walker & Chocolate’ onboard Genting Dream this year.”
Starting 7 November onboard Genting Dream, guests can look forward to interesting sessions such as Johnnie Walker whisky and chocolate pairing, mixology and wine workshops, the Bar City Tasting Journey — which takes passengers through the Bubbles Champagne Bar and mixology bar, Mixt to the Penfolds Wine Vault and the Johnnie Walker House.
Cruise ships with their sprawling premises enjoy the advantage of having multiple experiences in different parts of the ship, leaving passengers spoilt for options. Dream Cruises, with its constant activation of destination and dining experiences, looks to be on track to cater to demands.
“At the moment, consumers are definitely open to anything that delivers them a special experience and you have a whole new generation of young people cruising for the very first time. This segment must be marketed to in new ways, and through digital and social media channels. You need to deliver new onboard experiences that will entertain them and keep them engaged,” concluded Loh.