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Holiday Dinners at Sea: Cruise Ship Cuisine

by Linda Coffman

Pastry chefs create a festive holiday atmosphere on 
Silversea Cruises' Silver Shadow

Don't cook your own holiday goose (or turkey or ham)...
Who says you have to go over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house for a perfect holiday dinner? That's the American Dream version, but even my husband will agree that my grandmother's holiday dinners were a bit eclectic. Not only did she serve the usual turkey, green bean casserole, and canned cranberry sauce with the lid indentations still visible, but she also prepared ethnic dishes like lefse, dubbed 'soggy bread' by non-Norwegian in-laws, and lutefisk, which defies description.

Unfortunately, my mother didn't have a cooking gene to pass along to me. I was in college the first time Mom 'prepared' a holiday dinner... she took the rock-hard turkey out of the freezer and popped it into the oven at dawn. So far, so good, but she was puzzled that the bird didn't have giblets. Well it did. But she didn't realize they were packaged in a plastic bag that was still inside the frozen turkey. Which wasn't exactly roasting on schedule. With everything else done for an early afternoon feast, the turkey's "pop-up timer" hadn't budged. Uh-oh. Amid hysterical laughter we gave up on the raw turkey, piled into the car, and headed for what had always been our Thanksgiving tradition—dinner reservations.

Celebrity Cruises serves turkey and the trimmings

Since reaching adult womanhood, two of the scariest words in the English language to me are Holiday Dinner and I cringe at the thought of following in my mother's footsteps. How DO my peers manage to put everything together to serve a festive meal all at once? They make it appear effortless. But it's just not possible in my kitchen where the major food groups are packaged, canned, frozen, and (my favorite) RESERVATIONS. There must be other women like me—who keep the phone book in the oven and are utterly challenged when it comes to culinary arts. Surely they also long for something more special than a poinsettia-decorated buffet at the local haute hotel restaurant of the moment.

In Search of the Ultimate Reservation
Don't get me wrong.... almost any reservation is a Good Thing and certainly preferable to a bird pre-basted with an anonymous petroleum substance and served with instant mashed potatoes and packaged stuffing mix on the side. But one has to be very selective when it comes to reservations. After much trial and error, I can assure you that all reservations are not created equal.

In the galley: Carving the bird on Silversea Cruises' Silver Shadow

It should come as no surprise that I consider a cruise the ultimate reservation. Think about it... what could be better? Not only can the entire family gather together for the holiday (be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanza), but no one has to grocery shop, set the table, cook, clean up, OR wash the dishes. Perfect!

Let's Talk Turkey
And what's for dinner on your cruise ship? If you guessed turkey, go to the head of the class! And not just any turkey... juicy, mouth-watering roast Tom turkey. On Celebrity Cruises' ships it comes accompanied by stuffing, sweet potatoes, and a yummy baked apple, while on Silversea Cruises' Silver Shadow a chestnut stuffing, cranberry relish, and rosette of sweet potatoes complement the time-honored bird of choice.

Traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner on Silversea Cruises' Silver Shadow

The Picky Eater
In every family there is someone who isn't fond of turkey, who gets seasick at the sight of a quivering fruit-filled Jell-O salad, and who suffers through holiday dinners with an air of false cheer. For them and others with more sophisticated palates, cruise ship holiday menus feature a variety of selections not usually available on grandmother's table. For Thanksgiving, chefs on Silver Shadow offered not only turkey, but also Grilled Swordfish Filet, Roasted Veal Rack Loin, and Spiced Roast Filet of Beef Tenderloin. Vegetarian entrées included Pancakes with Creamy Spinach filling and Linguine Pasta with Tomatoes.

Pumpkin Pie a la Silversea

One of the most unique Thanksgiving dinners afloat has been the annual "all pumpkin"-themed menu available on Princess Cruises' ships. Princess culinary artists designed the holiday meal to use the traditional gourd favorite in unconventional new ways. Every dish features pumpkin, but the style of presentation and preparation varies. Main courses include roasted Vermont turkey, served with pumpkin polenta; broiled filet of orange roughy with pumpkin risotto; center cut pork loin chop with pumpkin spaetzle; and grilled medallions of aged beef tenderloin with sautéed pumpkin rosti. Even appetizers, salads, and desserts feature pumpkin. "Healthy choice'' and vegetarian items are also available. If traditional pumpkin pie doesn't float your boat, how about pumpkin Crème Brûlée?

Roasted Tom Turkey from
Princess Cruises' 
Courses: A Culinary Journey

Courses: A Culinary Journey
Sharing memories with friends and family members is one of the rewards of cruise travel. Naturally, every past passenger mentions the food! Princess Cruises makes it possible to share not only the recollections of those incredible meals, but the actual memorable dishes served on board.

Compiled by their expert chefs, the Princess cookbook Courses: A Culinary Journey includes recipes for their most frequently requested dishes and signature delicacies. Not only are the illustrations beautiful, but the recipes include ingredients that are readily available in almost any supermarket. Best of all, the preparation steps are explained in terms that even novice chefs can follow!

For your holiday dinner, serve Roasted Young Tom Turkey with Bread-Fruit Stuffing and Glazed Sweet Potatoes. Princess Cruises has generously allowed to share these recipes on the following printable pages...

Greet your guests with refreshing and festive...

Some family traditions should be preserved; therefore, in addition to the above dishes, I'll honor my grandmother by also serving canned cranberry sauce complete with the ubiquitous lid indentations... and, yes, I will never forget to thaw the turkey!

Buon Appetito!

Courses: A Culinary Journey © 2002 Princess Cruises is available for purchase on all Princess Cruises' ships throughout the fleet

Images © & Princess Cruises

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