As cruise ships develop more and more unusual on-board experiences, some have drawn inspiration from reality television to add a unique point of difference. Nowadays, it’s possible for passengers to learn foolproof recipes from instructors who have come straight from the set of a TV cooking show or become a wine expert, and create your own special, one-off blend.
Holland America Line is tapping into the huge interest in TV cooking shows by bringing aboard the United States’ most popular instructional cooking show – America’s Test Kitchen (this culinary program is already aboard some ships and will be installed across its fleet of 14 ships by 2018).
Hosted by Bridget Lancaster, Julia Collin Davison and Christopher Kimball, the TV cooking show is produced on a massive set near Boston, Massachusetts. The show’s point of difference is that instead of having a single personality demonstrate a dish, more than 50 test cooks – who also take on the various roles of historian, scientist, detective and artist – go to work in the TV kitchen to develop the best possible version of dishes such as chewy oatmeal biscuits, gumbo, peri-peri chicken, Korean fried chicken wings, sticky buns, roast turkey and gravy, garlic bread, baked potatoes and vegetarian lasagna.
A recipe might be repeated up to 60 times as the team perfects it – providing the ultimate culinary hack for home cooks who might take years to finesse the same dish. The show also tests out kitchen equipment and products – in short, everything that’s part of the consumer cooking universe.
Instructors who have worked in the Boston test kitchen have now come aboard Holland America Line ships to pass on their expert cooking knowledge. This can be in the form of 45-minute demonstration classes, where passengers watch the expert prepare a dish, or in a hands-on workshop where you work alongside the instructor. The themed cooking demonstrations cover a variety of topics. In Meatless Monday Meals, for instance, the expert covers alternative protein-packed ingredients such as tofu, legumes and grains. Other demonstrations cover knock-out main-course salads, making delicious dim sum, the hot topic of chillies and Italian dishes such as tagliatelle with prosciutto and peas. Those with a sweet tooth can see how to make chocolate pots de crème and delicious chocolate brownies.
If you prefer to get your hands dirty, sign up for a 90-minute cooking workshop (a nominal fee applies). Over these four classes, you learn the best culinary techniques when it comes to some of the trickier aspects of cooking. Join the expert in turning out flaky pie dough or try your hand at making pasta from scratch and using the pasta sheets to make ravioli. The egg workshop starts with the basics – how to crack an egg and separate whites from yolks – before advancing into turning eggs into aioli, devilled eggs and meringue. Finally, if you’ve always wanted to know more about decorating cakes, sign up for a class where you can learn a few simple tools and techniques for decorating like a pro – before enjoying a slice of cake.
Between these workshops and demonstrations, passengers can savour the journey in other ways, drawing even more inspiration from watching episodes of America’s Test Kitchen and its spin-off show, Cook’s Country (filmed in a renovated Vermont farmhouse), on their in-cabin television.
Why not become a wine expert? Turns out there is more to wine than just drinking it. Holland America features the only purpose-built wine-blending venue at sea, BLEND. Created in collaboration with Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington state’s oldest and most acclaimed winery, the venue allows guests to blend their own wine and enjoy it at dinner or in their stateroom.
Its tasting table accommodates only ten guests, who can create their own signature blend from a selection of five barrels of single-vineyard red wine, while also learning about wine from the ship’s own sommelier.
For those with a more environmental bent, Holland America has partnered with BBC Earth to bring guests unforgettable new ways to experience the world’s natural wonders.
Through the innovative and breath-taking programming, guests will be taken closer to the ocean and natural world through a groundbreaking concert, films, game shows, trivia, children’s activities and feature cruises. Why not challenge yourself and test your natural history knowledge with BBC Earth’s “Trivia from Earth”; from general earth trivia, to earth record breakers, each quiz will equip you with surprising and entertaining new facts.