'Dining is the single most-talked-about part of the cruise experience,' said Dietmar Wertanzl, president, DRW Hospitality and panel moderator.
He discussed the on-board culinary revolution and the impact of more specialized venues as tastes evolve. The panel agreed that celebrity chef culture has had a major impact on the shipboard culinary landscape.
Panelists credited the popularity of chefs and 'eatertainment' with the evolution of a more educated consumer with discerning preferences.
'Today people are exposed to more,' said Christian Sauleau, evp, fleet operations, Silversea Cruises. 'It’s not just French and Italian restaurants that are great. You can have great food and service anywhere.'
The industry continues to produce more focused experiences capable of producing the quality of shoreside restaurants that passengers are accustomed to. Sauleau said that includes a push toward more social service, and noted that guests are less concerned with the technical aspects of the experience.
Technology improvements facilitate that demand. Brian Abel, vp food and beverage operations, Royal Caribbean International—the man behind Royal Caribbean’s buzzed-about Bionic Bar—discussed the introduction of tablets to take orders in on-board restaurants. The tablets free servers to interact with patrons.
Abel noted that balance is key to satisfying new cruisers and traditional cruisers. Servers must feel confident with the technology and be able to maintain eye contact with guests or the social aspect of service suffers.
'The idea is to leverage technology to improve service,' Abel said. 'It needs to be an enabler to provide a better guest experience.'