(4:25 p.m. EST) — We admit, when we first read the list of events for Seabourn’s Third Food and Wine Cruise — a 14-day sail through Southeast Asia — our inner foodie felt overwhelmed.
With over 90 events scheduled between Hong Kong and Singapore, the cruise had multiple choices everyday, with everything from Champagne tastings to movie screenings to build-your-own pho bowl. (And the schedule doesn’t even include Seabourn’s partnership with Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller, which is still being incorporated here on Sojourn). How could we fit it all in?
The sailing ends in several days, and we’re pleased to report that while the agenda is packed, the pace still allows plenty of time for “Seabourn moments” — the little touches that the luxury line promotes as central to its onboard experience — as well as relaxation.
The sailing sold out well before we boarded January 3, and while not everyone is here because it’s a food and wine cruise, the every passenger has benefited from the diversity of culinary talent brought onboard. Food and wine is a hallmark of Seabourn, and the theme cruises have proved so popular that the line plans to hold another in 2017; watch this space for details.
Here are the top seven times we’ve had foodie-oriented fun onboard Seabourn Sojourn so far.
With a rotating cast of guest chefs, Seabourn Sojourn has amped up its already robust cooking demo program with lessons every sea day. One highlight: Watching Henry Fong, the dim sum chef at the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong, put his dumplings together so quickly, his translator could barely keep up. Even if we know we’ll never be able to replicate the technique at home, it’s fascinating to learn from those at the top of their craft.
Seabourn always has locally inspired food onboard, but the Food and Wine Festival in Asia has shown how creative the line can be. Highlights have included a spring roll bar at the Patio Grill, a Vietnamese hot pot dinner in the Colonnade and a street market buffet inspired by the flavors of Hong Kong. And we still have Thailand and Cambodia to go.
For its Food and Wine cruises, Seabourn turns to guest sommelier Sebastian Pacheco to lead seminars. Because the line attracts a cultivated clientele, Pacheco’s classes go well beyond the basics. Who knew that Asian countries such as Thailand and China are making wine? Or that pairing food and wine is akin to a boxing match, where each element needs to match in strength to work together? For true oenophiles, Pacheco has been leading extra-fee classes and seminars, some quite pricey — like a $600 per person First Growth tasting. While that’s far too rich for our blood, we did splurge on a three-class series that finally taught us, through blind tasting, how to tell the difference between a burgundy and a Bordeaux.
Trivia is a mainstay on cruises. Seabourn has incorporated its Food and Wine theme into the mix of questions, giving those with a culinary background or interest a leg up. As befits its country-club atmosphere, Seabourn asks passengers to form teams at the beginning of the cruise to play for cumulative points. We’re happy to report that our team, the Red Hot Trivia Peppers, is in the lead, thanks to our secret weapon: a restaurant owner from Chicago.
In addition to giving cooking demonstrations, the cruise’s guest chefs are asked to prepare a meal with some of their signature dishes. So we were able to have a fabulous lunch starring Chef Fong’s dumplings, without having to shell out for a meal at his pricey Hong Kong restaurant. Still to come: a dinner by Gypsy Gifford, an instructor at Singapore’s branch of the Culinary Institute of America and former executive chef of well-regarded Cafe Pinot in Los Angeles.
This is another Seabourn signature event that has received a boost, both from its Asian locale and from foodie interest onboard. The line prides itself on locally sourced ingredients, and chefs rely on markets around the world for fresh fish and meats, vegetables and fruits. In Southeast Asia, entering the markets is a particularly exotic experience, as you’re exposed to sights, smells and tastes that you can’t find anywhere else. Think “weasel coffee” — processed by the digestive tract of a civet — and the smelly durian fruit (thankfully, the latter remains in the markets, not on the ship).
Besides leading his wine program and darting about the dining room with recommendations, Pacheco closes down the deck 10 Observation Lounge with nightly themed tastings. So far, we’ve sipped sake, discussed Argentinian malbec and tried to enjoy grappa. Tomorrow night, Chinese and Japanese single malt whiskeys are on the menu.