Your guide to the food and culture of the tropics


The 5 Best Tropical Cruises for Foodies

Gone are the days when cruise dining meant less-than-average, mass-produced ‘mystery stews’ and rows upon rows of tasteless Jell-O. Nowadays, food has taken center stage in the cruising world. Particularly in the tropics, where high-quality organic local produce, combined with exceptional cooking skills, result in some of the most mouth-watering meals you could ever taste.

Want to sail the tropical world and enjoy unforgettable epicurean experiences? Then make a beeline for the very best tropical cruises for foodies.


(Photo: Paul Gauguin Cruises)

Paul Gauguin Cruises, Caribbean

Enlisting the help of double Michelin-starred French chef Jean-Pierre Vigato, has certainly helped Paul Gauguin Cruises stay ahead of the food-lover’s cruising world. Tere Moana, the utterly stunning 88-guest luxury yacht cruising the tropics. Where Gauguin Cruises shine best is in the culinary department, where they have invested much of their efforts. So committed are they to providing a brilliant epicurean experience, that guests are requested to fill in a food preferences form up to two months before sailing.  

The ship: The Tere Moana boasts 44 sea-facing cabins, 8 of which have glorious balconies and Class A Suites with expansive verandahs. A journey on the Moana certainly feels more like a private charter voyage rather than your run-of-the-mill cruise. On board, you’ll find a swimming pool, whirlpool, sundeck lounges, beauty spa, gym and fun water toys like kayaks and windsurf boards. Outdoor and indoor dining and relaxation lounges, with the added bonus of Wi-Fi hotspots, make this a most relaxing ship on which to cruise.

The destination: In the Caribbean, Gauguin Cruises run two amazing, weeklong voyages. Choose from a sail to vibrant and colorful Panama, glitzy Aruba and stunning French West Indies, or a jaunt to and through the British Virgin Isles.

The dining: Offering three exceptional onboard dining options, guests really do have the best of the Caribbean at their taste buds when they cruise on the Tere Moana. L’Etoile specializes in international cuisine with a varied menu created by Chef Vigato, incorporating the finest local ingredients available. With the abundance of tropical fruits, fresh seafood, aromatic spices and organic vegetables in this region, meals onboard are sensationally tasty. Meals usually consist of six courses or more, with a choice of hot and cold appetizers including melt-in-your mouth tuna tartare and hot off the coals suckling pig! Although the menu varies with each cruise, there are a few signature dishes that are always available. The almond-crusted mahi-mahi is revered among return guests, as is the chicken cordon-bleu just bursting with flowy French cheese.


(Photo: AmaWaterways)

(Photo: AmaWaterways)

AmaWaterways River Cruises, Vietnam & Cambodia

River cruising is a magnificent way to discover off-the-beaten tropical destinations. This is especially true in Southeast Asia, where the mighty Mekong River winds its way through some of the most outstanding scenery in the entire region. AmaWaterways have two beautiful riverboats cruising the Mekon River in Vietnam and Cambodia, the Amadara and Amalotus. Both are outstandingly striking riverboats, offering luxury, comfort and exclusivity.

The ship: Similarly sized, the Amadara and Amalotus were both built in Vietnam and are only a few years old. They both carry 124 passengers in similarly sized cabins, the main discerning aspects being the layout of the main areas, and the fact that the Amadara boasts a swimming pool at bow, whilst the Amalotus’ pool is at the stern.

The destination: The 16-day Mekong River cruise offered by AmaWaterways (from July to May every year) offers a kaleidoscope of exotic experiences, with a myriad of enticing cultural landmarks, ancient palaces and temples to discover. The journey starts in Hanoi, with an overnight stay in magnificent Ha Long Bay on a traditional junk, before travelling overland to the ancient Khmer temple city of Angkor Wat, in Siem Reap, Cambodia. From here, cast off on a spectacular cruise all along the Mekong River for 9 unforgettable sailing days. Stopover ports include the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, the insanely busy floating markets at Cai Be, and bustling Ho Chi Minh City.

The dining: Food is a big deal on AmaWaterways cruises, and never more so than when sailing in one of the world’s foremost foodie destinations. Southeast Asian cuisine, renowned for the regional richness, abundance of spices and intricate recipes, is rated among the best in the world. Aboard this cruise, you get to savor it all. Each meal on board is regionally inspired, complemented by international flavors and expert hands. Although Western meals are always on offer, it’s the Cambodian and Vietnamese specialties that hit the mark with guests. Best part about these cruises? Not only do you enjoy fantastic meals on board, but you can also include visits to the famed night food-markets of Siem Reap – for the best fish amok in the country – and Phnom Penh, a haven for Cambodian sticky rice and mango pudding lovers. Cruising and feasting your way through Southeast Asia has never been more delightful!

(Photo: Seabourn)

(Photo: Seabourn)

Seabourn, Cruises, Caribbean

Seabourn are renowned for their intimate, luxury cruises and for placing a strong emphasis on gourmet dining experiences. Offering all-inclusive rates and stunning elegance, Seabourn is a great choice if you dream of a journey that is just as enticing, relaxing and rewarding as the destination.

The ship: For a cruise company of this caliber, you can expect your Seabourn yacht to be out of this world. And they really are. Voted the world’s “Best Small Ship Luxury Cruise Ships”, the Seabourn dames are exclusive luxury resorts at sea. Currently, there are three luxury yachts sailing the world, with a new addition expected to join the fleet in December 2016. The Sojourn, which typically sails the Caribbean, is an Italian-built treasure, comprising 650 feet of pure opulence. This includes a health and beauty spa which spans two floors and 11,000 square feet! With spectacular outdoor terraces, indoor golf putting greens, Observation Bar, designer boutiques, two full-service restaurants and a more casual grill bar, stepping off the Sojourn may arguably be your biggest challenge.

The destination: You’ll find Seabourn sailing the high seas in the Caribbean, on a multitude of itineraries. Spend 12 days scouring the width and breadth of the British Virgin Islands, with lovely hop-over stops on highlights like St Barts and St Lucia. Have more time? Then indulge in a phenomenal 39-day adventure that’ll guide you from Florida, all the way to Panama, Barbados and a zig-zag adventure through a dozen impossibly idyllic tropical islands, right in the heart of the Caribbean Sea.

The dining: Renowned for hosting celebrity and award-winning chefs like Michele Bernstein and Thomas Keller, Seabourn cruises not only offer amazing delights at every meal, with 7-course degustation menus of local and imported treats a highlight, but also regularly hold on-board cooking classes and presentations. The signature dish, according to head chef Tony Egger, is “Lobster, Champagne and caviar” which perfectly epitomizes the 5* dining experience you can expect. All three indulgences are ubiquitous on the menu and served on demand. Sundowners complemented by a silver tray of whole-wheat crackers topped with crème fraiche, egg, red onion and caviar are the most anticipated daily highlight. Meals are European-style on board, so dishes served are small yet numerous. Some of Thomas Keller’s famed dishes from his California restaurant are also regularly offered, including the awesome Napa Burger, made with a potato brioche-bun and topped with Wisconsin cheddar cheese and his signature, homemade Thousand Island dressing.

Amazon River

Amazon River

Aqua Expeditions Amazon River Cruises, Peru

Head to the deepest, darkest depths of the Amazon rainforest in Peru and gourmet cuisine isn’t something you would expect. After all, it certainly takes you long enough to reach this place, how on earth could you expect premier ingredients to make it this far? But they do. At least, aboard the M/V Aqua they do! Alongside jungle tribe visits, wildlife spotting, and trekking in the world’s most important tropical rainforest, the cruise line offers an extensive gourmet food service that belies belief.

The ship: Aqua is a stunning, recently refurbished 12-cabin vessel accommodating 24 guests and 21 crew, including a naturalist guide (for offshore excursions) and medic for any eventualities. Designed with nature in mind, Aqua is superbly elegant and modern on the inside, yet still manages to blend in with the tropical and all-natural surroundings. Onboard kayaks offer you the chance to explore the landscape, and the incredible wildlife that inhabits the Amazon River, at close range.

The destination: Aqua Expeditions lead exploratory cruises in parts of the Amazon that are out of reach of most cruise liners. The world’s longest and arguably most important river boasts unique biodiversity and more ecosystems than you’d find in entire continents. When you leisurely sail the Apurimac River, the place where the Amazon originates, you’ll be privy to a side of the Amazon Rainforest very few get to visit.

The dining: Aboard the M/V Aqua, you’ll savor scrumptious Peruvian specialties, prepared by none other than Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, owner of Malabar Restaurant in Lima, one of South America’s top-rated culinary gems. Schiaffuno’s signature Camu Camu Sour cocktail is perhaps his most beloved drink delight and perfect when paired with an Amazonian sunset. Unique specialties like Napo-de-Berenjena, an amazing terrine of fried eggplant with mozzarella and pears are indicative of the chef’s avant-garde approach to Peruvian cuisine.  For those who wish for a completely immersive Amazonian experience, complete with award-winning chef-created delights, the M/V Aqua cruise in the Amazon is an absolute bucket-list contender.

Esprit_Water (1)

Photo courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Crystal Cruises, Indian Ocean

If you are interested in a truly luxurious cruise experience with fine dining and cultural immersion, Crystal Cruises could be the right line for you. In particular, their Indian Ocean routes are jam packed with scenery unlike anything you have ever experienced. Enjoy a tropical breeze while you explore coral reefs, breathtaking shorelines, and even a two-night stay in the city of Dubai.

The ship: Crystal lines have three ships to choose from on their Indian Ocean tour — the Symphony, the Serenity, and the new Esprit. All three offer top-shelf luxury, with slightly different accommodations. Serenity and Symphony are celebrated by cruise enthusiasts world wide — bringing in awards from Conde Nast and the like. The new Esprit offers a more intimate experience by only allowing 62 guests on board.

The destination: Crystal Cruises offers destinations to various locations across the globe include treks in the Caribbean, South America, Mexico, and our focus here — the Indian Ocean. The majority of trips into the Indian Ocean and the Seychelles happen on the new Esprit ship and offer a 2-night overnight experience in the City of Gold, Dubai.

The dining: Crystal Cruises was one of the first lines to offer alternative specialty restaurants aboard their ships. The tradition is continued today with a variety of options aboard from fine dining to casual al fresco experiences. Celebrity Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa has partnered with Crystal Cruises since 2003 to offer his vision of Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine aboard the ships. Fine wine lovers will enjoy The Vintage Room that offers exclusive wines rarely found on land — let alone in the sea. At each port, the flavors of Asia and India delight travelers.

Written by

Laura Pattara is a modern nomad who’s been vagabonding around the world, non-stop, for the past 11 years. She’s tour guided overland trips through South America and Africa, travelled independently through the Middle East and is now, along with her partner in love and travel, riding a motorbike from Germany to Australia. Laura moonlights as a freelance travel writer and, between adventures, loves sharing her travel ramblings on her personal website:Laura's Travel Tales