But how is this relevant to cruising? If the industry's detractors are to be believed, cruise passengers aren't interested in sampling local cuisine, preferring to return to their ship to eat the same food they would eat at home, with a particular bias towards American tastes and portion sizes. In reality, more and more cruise lines are showcasing local flavours both on board and ashore, with a proliferation of innovative culinary offerings.
We are particularly excited about Silversea's new S.A.L.T. (Sea and Land Taste) programme, debuting on new ship Silver Moon this summer in the Greek islands. Overseen by Adam Sachs, former editor-in-chief of Saveur magazine, the programme aims to immerse guests in the culinary traditions of each region. Local chefs, producers and authors will come on board to share their expertise through talks, demonstrations and hands-on cookery classes at the S.A.L.T. Lab, while a new restaurant, the S.A.L.T. Kitchen, will serve an ever-changing menu of locally-inspired dishes. There is also a S.A.L.T. Bar where you can enjoy local wines, spirits and cocktails, along with guided wine tastings and mixology classes.
The programme is not limited to the ship either, with special S.A.L.T. shore excursions in selected ports. Highlights this summer include a day learning about the history of wine in Cyprus with local journalist Florentia Kythreotu, featuring winery visits and a hearty Cypriot lunch, and a visit to local food markets in Split's gorgeous old town with local chefs Alma and Zeljko, shopping for ingredients which you'll then use to cook a traditional Croatian lunch.
Silversea is not the first luxury cruise line to explore the concept of foodie tours ashore, with Regent Seven Seas Cruises offering a range of fabulous Gourmet Explorer tours on board their newest ships Explorer and Splendor. A tantalising menu of options includes a private lunch and cookery demonstration hosted by Michelin-starred chef Réné Bérard in Provence, a trip to Helsinki's oldest food market to stock up on ingredients for a Nordic cookery class, and a tour of Bilbao to sample local pintxos (Basque tapas) before returning to the ship to prepare your own in the Culinary Arts Kitchen.
Of course, cooking your own lunch won't appeal to everyone - you're on holiday, after all! - but that doesn't mean you have to miss out on trying the local grub. Windstar lay on a fantastic beach barbecue on their Caribbean itineraries, complete with local classics like jerk chicken and rum punch, while closer to home, Hebridean Island Cruises offer special voyages focused on the food and whisky of Scotland's Western Isles. What's more, every Hebridean cruise includes at least one Gala Dinner, when the crew don their kilts and the evening's feasting is preceded by a stirring rendition of Robert Burns's 'Address to a Haggis'.
If Scotland doesn't appeal, how about a gentle cruise through the South of France with your own private chef? The luxury hotel barges of European Waterways are a wonderful option for families and groups of friends, accommodating between six and twenty guests.
Each meal is an adventure in itself, with carefully selected local wines and cheeses introduced by your host or hostess, and foodies will love going market shopping with the chef to select the best ingredients for that evening's dinner. Do call us if you're interested in chartering a barge this summer.