Around The World In 80 Meals
Introduction - The History of Cruising
The history of pleasure cruises spans about 50 years, but in the early 20th century, passengers needing to cross the Atlantic travel on the only vessels available, mail ships. With decades of upgrades they became ocean liners, the most famous being Lusitania, Titanic, and the first Queen Mary. Today, the competitiveness of the cruise industry demands that cruise lines top each other with larger, taller, grander luxury ships with amenities found in the most luxurious resorts. Far from being a means to an end, the crowded, treacherous, often dangerous ocean crossing in a mail ship’s hold, cruising today is the ultimate in luxury with staterooms rivaling 5-star hotels and cuisine matching the world’s top restaurants.
The first Transatlantic cruise took place in 1840 on a Cunard mail steamship. These ships crossed the ocean faster than older vessels. Eventually passengers became more demanding of their fare, and amenities included a cow providing fresh milk.
The first vessel built strictly for cruising, a yacht named for Kaiser Wilhelm II's daughter, the Prinzessin Victoria Luise, had her maiden voyage 1900 from Germany to the Mediterranean. She had first class cabins, a library and darkroom. It ran aground six years later.
By the early 20th century, cruise lines such as White Star and Cunard competed fiercely for rich passengers who could afford the rising costs of an Atlantic crossing and were used to being served in style. In 1912 Titanic was the first true luxury liner. Her maiden voyage from Southampton, England was her last. She and comparable ships such as the Mauritania and Lusitania boasted luxurious cabins with hot running water in first class, fine dining and entertainment, and strict barriers between the classes.
Passenger jets began crossing the Atlantic in the 1950s, and the cruise industry suffered accordingly. Jetting replaced cruising as a means to cross the ocean, so cruise lines sent their ships to the Caribbean, opening a new market, cruising the islands as a vacation in itself.
With all these ships cruising the islands, by the mid-60s, a Caribbean getaway was within the reach of more travelers. In 1965, Princess was the first line to offer an affordable itinerary on the Princess Pat, sailing from California down the Mexican coastline. The following year saw the birth of Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) whose ships contained affordable cabins for budget-conscious travelers. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line followed in 1970, and in 1972 Carnival’s "Fun Ships" gobbled up many existing lines such as Cunard, Holland America, and Seabourn. Today, cruising can accommodate any budget large or small, and over 200 cruise ships circle the globe, with several more in the making, always grander, offering more, making the cruising experience second to none.
A huge part of the cruising experience is the cuisine. Gourmet chefs prepare lavish onboard meals, and kitchens are open 24 hours a day for passengers’ dining pleasure. The early luxury liners offered menus that rivaled the world’s top restaurants, and they still do.
Browse this 1907 menu from Cunard’s RMS Mauretania. At the time this represented the finest cuisine that ships had to offer. This book contains menus from today’s cruise lines, offering a huge variety of appetizers, soups, salads, entrees and desserts, featuring healthy low-fat and sugar-free alternatives. Cruising has come a long way in the last 100+ years, and menus have expanded on the same scale as the ships themselves!
Embarkation – Queen Mary 2
In times gone by, before jumbo jets and mass transit, travel was leisurely. Trains and ocean liners were the primary sources of long-distance travel, and catered to the well-heeled, with opulent compartments, dining cars, staterooms, and restaurants. An ocean voyage was the highlight of the ‘grand tour of Europe’ and the ships were as sophisticated and elegant as any European capital. Naturally, the first choice for a transatlantic carrier was the Cunard Line. Cunard’s fleet of ocean liners was the world’s grandest, affording passengers all the luxury and comfort of a five-star Paris, Rome, or Vienna hotel. Rivaling royal palaces in grandeur and sumptuousness, Cunard liners transported wealthy robber barons and moguls as well as world leaders and movie stars, who wined and dined in the elegant restaurants and strolled the promenade decks in tie and tails, evening gowns, and glittering jewels.
Now modern travelers can re-live this opulent era on Cunard’s Flagship Queen Mary 2, and like our forebears, enjoy the same luxury and splendor that made the journey transcend the destination. Queen Mary 2 had her maiden voyage from Southampton, England in April 2004 and emerged out of the mist in New York Harbor just before 8 a.m. six days later. Queen Mary 2 is reminiscent of the grand ocean liners of old, including her predecessor the Queen Mary, which was retired in 1967 and is now docked in Long Beach, California. Queen Mary 2 is four football fields long, and is three times the size of the Titanic.
You just don't spend $800 million on a ship and leave it to chance that dining will be anything short of stellar. Cunard stacked the deck on Queen Mary 2, decorating her dining rooms in the tradition of the ocean liners of times gone by, whose restaurants rivaled New York’s early 20th century “lobster palaces” such as Rector’s and Murray’s Roman Gardens. These lobster palaces, with grand staircases and Louis XIV furnishings illuminated in thousands of electric lights and reflected in floor-to-ceiling mirrors, made the millionaire patrons feel like royalty in the court of Louis XIV, as period-costumed waiters in ruffled shirts and silk stockings brought their sumptuous meals to their linen-covered tables graced with crystal and genuine silverware. The 3-story Brittania Restaurant, Queen Mary 2’s main dining room, most closely resembles Gilded Age dining salons and lobster palaces.
Cunard also enlisted heralded New York chef Daniel Boulud to be the ship's culinary adviser and celebrity chef Todd English to create his own 156-seat, Mediterranean-style restaurant on board. As a Cunard ship, Queen Mary 2 has a grand dining tradition to live up to. The dining experience on Queen Mary 2 is the main attraction of the voyage. Waiters trained in the fine art of Cunard White Star Service serve culinary delights created by a team of experienced chefs in the ten restaurants. The menus have been greatly expanded since the old Queen Mary made her voyages, offering a wide range of delicious selections to please every palate, and the largest wine selection on the seven seas.
And so our virtual fantasy cruise begins as the world-famous Queen Mary 2 commences her maiden transatlantic crossing. You leave London’s Waterloo station and enjoy a scenic train ride through the lush English countryside. Transferring at Southampton you can only gape in astonishment at your first glimpse of this magnificent vessel. You haven’t felt this awestruck since your first breathtaking view of Egypt’s pyramids. Formalities over, you settle into your sumptuous stateroom, catch your breath and then eagerly explore from prow to stern. As you reach the top decks you feel the faintest thrumming of high powered engines beneath your feet and the ship begins to move. You peer down at the distant passersby as they wave and cheer you off.
After leaving its home port of Southampton Queen Mary 2 steams majestically through the Solent, past the Isle of Wight, and into the English Channel heading for the Atlantic Ocean. That evening finds you sitting in the Britannia restaurant. A white gloved waiter hands you a glorious full color menu that you’ll treasure as a collector’s item for years to come.