Lavish First Meals served on the Titanic, QE2, and more
The first night of a cruise is one of its most thrilling moments. As the port disappears into the horizon, the air brims with excitement and anticipation for the journey ahead. One of the first onboard experiences passengers are treated to is their first cruise meal. This usually sets the standard for onboard dining, so it must be both tantalising and memorable. This means serving the best dishes made with only the finest ingredients, ranging from rare saffron to fresh milk sourced from the ship’s very own cow. But how have the first meals served on cruises evolved over the past 100 years?
Fine dining on the RMS Titanic
On its first and only voyage, the RMS Titanic carried 2,240 passengers and crew across the North Atlantic Ocean for four nights before fatefully striking an iceberg. During its short voyage, 100 staff prepared 6,000 meals a day across three galleys for first-, second- and third-class passengers. The first-class dining menu was inspired by the Savoy hotel’s head chef, Auguste Escoffier. Thanks to Escoffier’s popularization of continental cuisine in the UK, the RMS Titanic’s first-class menu heavily featured French cuisine.
On the first night of the RMS Titanic’s maiden voyage, first-class guests would have sat down for dinner between 6:30pm-7:30pm on April 10th, 1912. The 11-course meal served would have lasted until 11:30pm-12am, with guests then retiring to their staterooms. Dishes served over the course of the evening included various hors d’oeuvres such as consommé réjane and crème reine margot. These were followed by turbot with sauce homard, supreme of chicken à la Stanley, roast duckling in apple sauce, pudding sans souci and more. These dishes incorporated rare and opulent ingredients such as saffron and truffles for added luxury.
Dining like royalty on Queen Elizabeth 2
57 years later, on 2nd May 1969, Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) set sail on its maiden voyage. Throughout the four-day journey, 105 kitchen staff catered for 1,400 guests of first-, second- and tourist-class passengers across three restaurants. For this, she carried luxury ingredients including 150 lbs of caviar, 100 lbs of foie gras and 1,500 lbs of lobster. Unlike previous Cunard vessels, no livestock were brought on board QE2 for fresh milk, eggs, or beef.
On the first evening of QE2’s maiden voyage, first-class passengers were treated to an exclusive dining experience in the Grill Room, renamed the Queen’s Grill in 1970. The nine-course menu served included pan-seared scallops, butter-roasted halibut, lamb loin, Welsh rarebit, malt chocolate tart and more.
The QE2 was Cunard’s flagship vessel for 35 years until 2008, when it was sold to government-owned Dubai World. In 2018, the QE2 opened as a luxury floating hotel in Dubai. Here, the original 1969 nine-course menu can still be enjoyed on board the vessel at the Queen’s Grill.
Contemporary cruise dining
The number of ocean cruise passengers worldwide peaked in 2019 at 29.7 million. As more people begin to venture out on the seas, an average of 3,000 per ocean cruise, cruise lines are met with a new challenge of catering to a wide range of passengers with differing needs.
In 2000, Norwegian Cruise Line revolutionised cruise dining with its Freestyle Dining concept. This enabled passengers to choose when they ate and where, allowing for more freedom and flexibility. The freestyle concept also eradicated the need for dress codes, as it provided a more relaxed dining experience. This dining style has now been adopted across most cruise ships due to its rise in popularity and changing demands. To compliment this, cruise lines now offer a wide range of restaurants, grills and buffets per vessel, with up to 22 venues available on Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras. This allows passengers to choose between sushi, Italian, buffet-style, dining alfresco and more. Therefore, the first meal served on board is now in the hands of the passenger.
However, many cruise lines still offer traditional dining. Royal Caribbean’s traditional dining invites guests to choose between an early or late seating. They are assigned the same table to dine at for each evening, with the same dining time, table mates and waitstaff. On Oasis of the Seas, the first night menu offers guests a three-course meal. Unlike the RMS Titanic and QE2, passengers can choose from a variety of starters, entrees, and desserts. These include creamy wild mushroom soup, chicken Waldorf salad, horseradish-crusted salmon, aged prime rib of beef, New York cheesecake, crème brûlée and more.
The future of cruise dining
It is clear to see that as cruising has evolved, so has onboard dining. Many cruise lines now offer a more relaxed dining style to suit changing demands. Even traditional dining has evolved to provide passengers with more options per course. Therefore, with an increasing focus on freedom of choice, we are excited to see how cruise lines will continue to differentiate their dining options going forward.
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