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In the history of passenger shipping, food has always played an important role. On the ocean liners of yesteryear, formal nights were the highlight of relaxed sea days, with caviar and champagne flowing freely in opulent first class dining rooms. Times have changed but to this day one of the lures of cruising is the food. So let's have a look at how cruise ship food has changed over the decades. From a post-war lunch on the beautiful ss Nieuw Amsterdam to the extravagant christening dinner on Regent's Seven Seas Explorer earlier this year. Directly from the ShipParade archives are cruise ship menus that will make your mouth water!
May 20, 2016 - Holland America Line decided to officially name their beautiful new Koningsdam during a regular revenue cruise. Passenger and invited guests mixed and mingled in various public rooms as HRH Queen Maxima of the Netherlands boarded the ship in Rotterdam. After blessing the ship's bell in the Lido Pool area, the Queen named the ship in the World Stage Show Lounge. As the royal guest disembarked, all other guests and passengers were invited for this 3-course lunch in the main dining room.
July 11, 1976 - My grandmother gave me this menu after sailing on P&O Cruises' great ss Oriana. Built in 1960, Oriana was originally designed for UK to Australian liner service, but became a hugely popular cruise ship in the seventies and eighties. Dinner on this day in July, 1976 was a traditional affair with main courses and side dishes ordered seperately. What about sardines that can be ordered as an appetizer or the Ham and Tongue Fondantes that proudly opens the main course list? As was usual in those days, after-dinner tea and coffee were served in the lounges. A fine tradition that has sadly disappeared on most modern cruise ships.
June 1, 1985 - The first cruise ships I ever visited were the three Royal Viking sisters and I still have a very soft spot for the elegant triplets. Now in their forties, the three ladies still go strong and are as beautiful as ever. Considered the best of the best in their early days, the Royal Viking Line ships were known for the exquisite itineraries and their excellent food which was served in a large single seating dining room. Shown below is the Welcome Dinner on board Royal Viking Sky, now Fred. Olsen's Boudicca. True to Royal Viking Line's reputation, guests were offered Beluga caviar, Paté de Foie Gras, Lobster Tail and Strawberry Romanof.
July 10, 1994 - Directly after the handover by her builders Fincantieri in Italy, Carnival's new Fascination was sent to Southampton, UK to show European travel agents what a Carnival Fun Ship is all about. During a very lively one-night event alongside, we exquisitely dined on Penne with vodka and caviar and Beef Wellington in a dining room that had flashing lights and singing waiters. Was it fun? Yes, most definitely!
October 19, 1948 - One of my prized possesions is a menu of the Grande Dame of Holland America Line, 1937-built Nieuw Amsterdam (not to be confused with the current Nieuw Amsterdam). She was probably the most beautiful Holland America ship ever built, decorated in a stunning timely Art Deco style using lots of aluminium and fluorescent lighting. Nieuw Amsterdam was dubbed "The Ship of Tomorrow" when she entered service, but after only 17 voyages between Rotterdam and New York she was requisitioned by the British Ministry of Transport for wartime duty as troop transport vessel. During the war she carried 350,000 troops and sailed over 500,000 nautical miles taking her as far as Australia. She was returned to Holland America Line in 1946 and it took 18 months to bring the ship back to her former glory. On October 29, 1947, she returned to her transatlantic service. Later, Nieuw Amsterdamwas quite successfully used for cruises until broken up in 1974. The luncheon menu shown below is dated October 19, 1948 and was given to me by a friend. Now, what about a glass of sauerkraut juice and a good old Dutch-style Stuffed Beef Tripe? How tastes have changed!
August 18, 1985 - One of my very first cruises saw me sailing for two nights from Hamburg to Southampton on Norwegian America Line's great Vistafjord. For the first time, I landed in the lap of luxury and I don't think I have ever eaten as much as during these two days. I still remember the freshly baked waffles with blueberries at lunch... Vistafjord's Chef de Cuisine at the time was Rudolf Sodamin, who revolutionized cruise ship dining. These days, Rudi Sodamin is Master Chef Consultant for Holland America Line. In 1985, he wowed guests of Vistafjord with superb dishes like Escalope of Veal with Sweetbread and Dark Chocolate Soufflé.
July 13, 2016 - To launch their "Most Luxurious Ship Ever Built", Regent Seven Seas Cruises pulled all stops. The 55,000 ton, 738 guest Seven Seas Explorer was named by Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco in a star studded black tie ceremony in Monte Carlo. The naming ceremony was followed by a dockside concert of Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli. But before all this, guests to the naming ceremony were served a simply exquisite gala dinner which was served simultaneous in all dining venues on board. Click on the image below to discover what was on the menu. Or click here to check out our Seven Seas Explorer cruise review with many exclusive interior photos.
December 24, 1963 - Traveling First Class on the France in the sixties was the epitome of style and luxury. This First Class lunch menu was given to me by my (French) sister in law who in turn got it from a family member that once worked on board. It is wonderful to see what was on offer during this Christmas cruise back some 53 years ago. Although I still wonder what to expect of "Dry Fancy Cakes"... You will probably know the story of the incomparable France, but if you don't be sure to click the link. Or check out our article with photos of a 7-day cruise in the Caribbean where the ship sailed as Norway.
March 2, 1992 - We go back to Royal Viking Line. When Seabourn didn't pick up an option for a sister to Seabourn Pride, Royal Viking Line jumped in an launched the ship as Royal Viking Queen. Presented to the world in London, Royal Viking Queen docked in the shadow of the Tower Bridge alongside HMS Belfast and guests where whisked across the Thames by tender. I had the privilege of staying on board for one night while docked at London and was absolutely stunned with the level of luxury and personal attention, proving Royal Viking Line's enviable reputation. That evening, we dined on Lobster Salad and drank 17-year old Bordeaux wine as we gazed at the illuminated Tower Bridge. It was unforgettable. Royal Viking Queen ended up in the Seabourn fleet after all but is now Windstar's Star Legend. Interestingly, Royal Viking Queen's Chef de Cuisine Toni Neumeister is now Vice President of Food and Beverage Operations at Crystal Cruises.
June 25, 1989 - In a bid to outshine the competition, Princess Cruises ordered a very innovative new ship from Finland's Wärtsilä Shipyard. Royal Princess lacked inside cabins and all guests had outside staterooms with bath tub. The ship was designed like a hotel with vast open deck space and spacious public rooms. When I visited Royal Princess in 1989, I was impressed with her layout. In fact, it is quite remarkable that after being in service for more than 30 years, the ship is still looking spiffy. She is currently sailing as Artania for Phoenix Reisen of Germany. Shown below is a dining room menu of the day I visited Royal Princess in Amsterdam, showing Princess' signature Italian influences.
August 19, 1998 - The venerable steamship Oriana of 1960 was replaced by a brand new motor ship of the same name in 1995. Just like her predecessor, Oriana has proven to be a classic. Her interiors are very elegant, mostly done by British designers. This 1998 Gala Dinner menu is a tribute to classic cruise ship dining, featuring favorites like Lobster Thermidor and Crepe Suzette Flambé.
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