Food afloat: when culinary cool meets cruising

Remember when everyone thought cruising was all about standing in a conga line, waiting to serve yourself from a fairly ordinary buffet?

Well, not all cruise lines are created equal, with so many having now eschewed the wait-in-line mentality and given customers a really decent dining experience.

Most of the major and more popular cruise lines are way up on their culinary act, so for those who may still be a little nervous regarding a cruise ships’ food offering needn’t worry at all. Be warned: not every cruise line has put the time, patience and resources into making their meals rock (in some cases, quite literally). After a trip to the US to see how the Princess Cruises crew puts their entire food and event offerings together, which seems is no simple task, it’s clear that the effort is paying off in spades.

With the Southern Hemisphere cruise season well and truly upon us, it seems each day there is a mega ship or two docking in a harbour or port somewhere is Austalia. And, it was Princess Cruises who invited me to check out its international operation. With that, I spent some time at the Princess head offices in Los Angeles to meet the people who are working behind the scenes to elevate Princess Cruises’ on-board experience.

From working with a world-renowned sleep doctor to ensure a better night’s sleep for all its guests, to creating carefully curated menus with Michelin-Starred chefs, the Princess fleet wants to lead the pack in the world of cruising. It is also making sure its entertainment, suites, and, most importantly, food is top notch. The concept of ‘ordinary’ food seems to be a thing of the past as major cruise lines continue to partner with seriously good chefs.

The crew of us were lucky enough to meet some of the chefs engaged by Princess Cruises as we made our way to Los Angeles to see how the kitchen kinds work their magic. Here are a few whose tastes will tantalise ship ahoy taste buds.

Ernesto Uchimura

This LA-based gastro-pub has been turned into a star on the high seas with award-winning chef Ernesto Uchimura having joined forces with Princess Cruises. The chef is the name behind the original Umami Burger restaurant and also he also started Plan Check Kitchen + Bar in Los Angeles. So popular his offerings have been on land, his The Salty Dog Gastropub experience has been transferred to the the Wheelhouse Bar on board some of the cruise lines’ ships.

I mean, it must be quite an honour to have been voted as having the ‘Best Burger at Sea’ by Cruise Critic! The on-board Salty Dog Gastropub also has the ‘The Ernesto’ – a crafted rib eye burger created by the chef just for sailing. We had a taste on a gastro-tour, and yes, it definitely is worth a try.

Curtis Stone

Princess Cruises partnered with the award-winning chef Curtis Stone a few years ago when he created SHARE. As the name implies, it’s all about, well, sharing, and with dishes like a charcuterie starter course; butter poached lobster with caramelized endive; twice-cooked duck leg with fennel, bacon jus and parmesan crumb; tagliatelle with roasted alaskan crab, chili and parsley and potato gratin with truffles and cream available on the ships Ruby Princess, Emerald Princess, and Sun Princess.

Angelo Auriana

Another chef celebrating his sea-faring delights is from LA-based Italian chef Angelo Auriana, who has joined up with Princess to concoct a menu for six of the ships, including Golden Princess who is currently calling Melbourne home for the next 5 months. The restaurant, called Sabatini’s includes handmade pastas, risotto and seafood.

Emmanuel Renaut

Exclusive to the majestic ship, cruise-lovers who are wanting something a little more casual, with an atrium style vibe, are mad about French, bistro-style dining with a contemporary twist at Ranaut’s restaurant called La Mer.

The chef holds the title of ‘Meilleur Ouvrier de France’ (best craftsmen of France) and Chef of the Year by Le Chef. The chef’s locons de Sel restaurant has even received three Michelin stars. Now that, from any regard is mighty good form.

In addition to the ‘celebrity’ chefs, Princess has a venue in Santa Clarita where all of their Princess menus are tested and tweaked. It’s called the Princess Cruises Culinary Development Centre and it’s where all the menus are created in LA, then rolled out across the Princess fleet across the world.

The details:

Princess’ newest ship, Majestic Princess balcony fares for a 12-night cruise to New Zealand departing Sydney on Friday 25 January 2019 start from $2,689 AUD* per person, twin share. For more information visit, call 13 24 88 or see a licensed travel agent.

Melissa Hoyer was a media guest of Princess Cruises in Los Angeles to’ meet the chefs’.  

Source: delicious.

Stella Artois & dinner at Rae’s, Wategos

What an eye-opening & beautiful dinner. In what is a brilliant initiative, Stella Artois have teamed with Matt Damon & to assist the millions around the world who don’t have the access to water – the liquid so many of us take for granted.

And what better place than to host a dinner to unveil the campaign than with a night in Byron, dining under the stars at the famous Rae’s on Wategos.

As for the delectable dinner – created by Rae’s chef, Jason Barrett, let me tell you about that!

For the first course we had kingfish crudo, melon and mint followed by grilled sugarloaf cabbage that has been sprinkled with cashew and truffle. Yup. Amazing.

We moved onto saltbush agnolotti, oyster mushrooms and stracciatella before the big gun – Rangers Valley Wagyu MS5+ rump was served with winter greens and horseradish.

Not finished yet. We had a little palette cleanser – Stella Artois ice-cream (which some of us thought may be taking the brew theme a bit too far) until we tried it.

It was sensational and sprinkled with a dusting of cinnamon sugar, it was a triumph.

And dessert? Slow-roasted pineapple served with lime, rosemary and mascarpone. It was O.M.G indeed.

The 2 companies have combined for this worthy venture – Stella & – and are raising bucks by selling limited edition glass Stella ‘chalices’, designed by female artists from the Philippines, Mexico, India.

The whole concept highlights the fact that it takes six hours for 663 million people in the world to collect water for  their daily lives.

Think about that for a minute – and you realise how fortunate we are to pop over and turn on a tap in a matter of seconds.

There were a tonne of chefs who gathered, including Guillaume Brahimi and Shannon Bennett and style-meister and fully fledged home decorator, Collette Dinnigan (and now calling Rome home for a few years) were part of the eclectic and foodie fun guest list.

Some of the other guests included Bradley Cocks, Isabel Lucas, Adam Demos, David Moyle, Scott Pickett, Adam D’Sylva, Leonie & Craig Hemsworth, David Berry, Damon & Zoe Gameau, Tim & Kristina Ross, David & Bethwyn Trewern – Founders of Fliteboard and Larry Lim.

The initiative is using two hashtags – #givethemtimeback and #BALAD (Buy A Lady A Drink) – so I’d suggest we all try and help give something. And it’s all about water – which we often all take for granted.

For more information, visit

Private Jet love with Captain’s Choice.

Now THIS was a real experience.

Ok, we didn’t quite leave the private jet base in Sydney, but we did jump on board the 50 seat jet to hear about a seriously chic travel company called Captain’s Choice.

With Dom Perignon flowing and caviar served, a throng of travel media enjoyed what was an hour experience – where we wished that one day, maybe one day, we’ll make it into the sky and onto a destination like India, Iceland, Antartica and South Africa.

Here are a few of the facts….
Since 1994 the company (CC) have created the world’s most enriching journeys. They take their clients to all corners of the globe without compromise, whether by private jet, small luxury ship or a unique rail journey.

The clients appreciate the inspired moments can only be experienced travelling with Captain’s Choice. Through innovation and fresh thinking, CC continue to push the boundaries for clients, leading the market with high staff to guest ratios, genuinely all-inclusive tours and real and lasting engagement with many of the global communities they visit.

Thinking beyond travel, CC endeavour to curate fresh wonders, delivering inspired moments that money can’t buy.

Rob Tandy is the Executive General Manager of Captain’s Choice and a director of (and part of the family behind) one of Australia’s most important travel groups, APT.

Rob joined the group in 2012 as General Manager of the Kimberley and Outback Wilderness Adventures business and took on the role as head of Captain’s Choice in 2016.

He holds a Bachelor of Science and a Masters in Property and Construction and is also a Director and Co-founder of a leading Melbourne charity, the Snowdome Foundation.

About Lou Tandy
Lou Tandy (nee McGeary) is Director of Captain’s Choice and works in partnership with her husband Rob Tandy to drive strategies for growth of the brand. She has over a decade’s experience in product development, strategy and marketing with Australia’s largest locally owned touring company, APT, and joined its board of directors in 2005. Lou has grown up immersed in the travel business, as she is the daughter of APT founder and owner Geoff McGeary OAM.

For more info visit

Quay review: famous Sydney restaurant opens in fine style

Nothing more exciting than going to an opening night. And a restaurant re-opening night at that.

And while Quay, one of Sydney‘s best restaurants has been on hiatus since April, 3 mates and I decided to book a table to celebrate two birthdays on the opening night. And yes, we were always going to be in for a treat.

Quay – the restaurant on top of the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Sydney has been a culinary icon for years, expertly run by chef guru Peter Gilmore, who, in this incarnation, is supported by 35 extraordinary staff.

I could go on and on and on – and I would love to – but to be honest, instead of dissecting each & every course, I want to give you a feel and vibe of the place. Oh. And of course, we have to talk food!

Here are some of my take-home musings.(By the way the duck is extraordinary! )And that wine list – it was like a Bible with a couple of pages dedicated to just about every vintage of Krug champagne.

Have a look at the 10 course degustation here – but there is also a six course one which is what we decided on.

Take a look at some of the morsels from the either 6 or 10 course degustation menu – such as an Oyster Intervention (tastes and is oyster but just without the texture, of which chef Peter Gilmore has never been a fan.)

I’ll start with the lighting – when you first sit down the overhead down-lighting (a tad unflattering) is quite bright so you can peruse the menu comfortably – and with well over 500 wines to choose from you could be there for hours! Then, as your meal goes on, your above table lighting adjusts so the ambience feels cosier. Direct downlights are nobody’s face friend!

It is like fine dining has been deconstructed – the interior (by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer) is cleaner and leaner, seating 80 people, not 100 like before. There’s a private dining room and event space – all with that killer Sydney harbour view.

And instead of the famous & now retired Snow Egg dessert, Peter has created something called White Coral. Worth saving up just for that.

Quay isn’t inexpensive but It’s a true culinary experience with a staff who know their stuff back to front. Try a malted barley crumpet with truffle and you’ll get the picture. And all food requirements are catered to.

I loved the sustainable solid spotted gum tables which were devoid of linen – & you are surrounded by materials derived from nature including some stingray patterned divides, volcanic lava stone with a pattern that looks like cracked bark and there is a series of blue carpet pools, referencing the ocean, of course.

Put it on your edible bucket list. And even better it wasn’t all quiet, reverential and serene: while our table was probably the loudest (sorry) it also proved that having fun, laughing (a lot) and fine dining are able to go hand-in-hand.

*Melissa and her table were paying guests at Quay restaurant

Why the plight of the 12 Thai boys trapped in a cave captivated the world

NOTHING has captivated all of us more in the last few weeks than what went on in the dank and waterlogged underground caves in Thailand.

As the mother of 16-year-old — the age of a couple of the boys rescued from the dark, dingy and dangerous, water-soaked caves — it has been a very sad but riveting rescue. It has also extracted every kind of parental emotion possible.

We have been inundated with news of each tense minute of this extraordinary rescue and now, at last, the thrilling news that all 12 and their coach are safe.

We should not forget, of course, the tragic loss of the life of one former Thai Navy seal, a hero named Saman Kunan, 38.

The fact he died while helping rescue the young soccer players and their 25-year-old coach, is something that should never, ever be forgotten. And he will, no doubt, be rewarded posthumously by the Thai government.

Picture: Thai Navy SEALs via Getty Images Source: Getty Images

Picture: Thai Navy SEALs via Getty Images Source: Getty Images

With the euphoria of the miraculous rescue still kicking in, what I cannot stop thinking about is how the parents of the boys would have been feeling up until they knew for sure that their precious kids had been saved.

They would have been constantly nauseous. Would not have slept. Hoped and prayed. Put their lives totally on hold. Would possibly have been working out the worst and hopefully, the best outcomes for their flesh and blood.

Via the wonderful world of technology, and even though the parents knew their children were still alive (although perhaps putting on a brave face for video footage beamed all over the world), they would have been, quite simply, scared to bloody death.

It has been emotional for so much of the world — and we don’t even know these children or their coach, Ekapol Chantawong — but the resilience and strength they all showed over the last 18 days is something that has resonated with all of us.

I have often thought of the To Kill a Mockingbird moment when Atticus tells Scout: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.”

Picture: Thai Navy SEALs via Getty Images Source: Getty Images

So I did. And I can honestly say that their plight over the last few weeks is totally unimaginable.

As a mother, I found it all heartbreaking. How the parents of the boys were going to get through it, I will never know or fathom.

Even though the boys are out, there is still a long way to go in terms of physical and mental rehabilitation.

The whole rescue mission has totally put everything going on in the world — from Trump to local politics (ho-hum), the World Cup and just about anything else — into perspective.

The fact these boys’ plight captivated us for days gave many of us a sense that humanity, passion and pure kindness really does reign. Most of us can’t even imagine being without our phones or device for 24 hours, let alone being stuck in a lifeless, labyrinth of a myriad caves, not knowing if we will ever leave.

One of the amazing elements of the last few weeks has been the brilliant support team from around the world who made their way to the ledge where they were living for the last two-and-a-half weeks.

Picture: Linh Pham/Getty Images Source:Getty Images

Picture: Royal Thai Navy via AP Source:AP

The mindsets of the boys would have very grounded before they took their plunge to get out of the cave. There would’ve been some who were panicked and anxious while others would have been more confident.

Their rescuers attempted to calm their minds, with some reportedly given sedatives to help steel their nerves for the journey out.

Meditation — a standard of Thai culture — is about getting the mind to the “right” place. Their coach, a former monk, is thought to have led the boys in some calming exercises.

While that may sound like hocus-pocus to some people, those with an interest in eastern culture will know the importance of stilling the mind and not panicking or becoming too anxious about dire situations.

It is not the sole reason the boys in their coach survived. It would just be ludicrous to say that. It was, much more practically, the work of the incredible divers who physically got the boys out, who did the job.

But having the right mindset was certainly something the boys needed.

The entire rescue seemed even more captivating and emotional because it involved kids.

Passionate, sporty young boys whose love of soccer and camaraderie ultimately left them trapped in the overflowing caves in the first place.

Many of us remember when Australian miners, Brant Webb and Todd Russell, were miraculously rescued from the Beaconsfield Mine collapse in April, 2006.

Of the 17 people who were in the mine at the time, 14 escaped immediately following the collapse, one was killed — Larry Knight — and the remaining two were found alive using a remote-controlled device.

The two miners were rescued on 9 May 2006, two weeks after being trapped nearly a kilometre below the surface.

This Thailand rescue was very, very different to Beaconsfield.

It involved children who could not swim; had never been cave-dived in their lives but somehow, with the impressive skill, experience and help of diving SEALs, they slithered their way out and back onto terra firma.

At the end, this was a good news story. But it was this close to being a very different tale.

Good news stories, these days, are very, very hard to come by. I get the feeling that they would’ve been many families across the world giving each other a big hug when the boys came out.

And let’s face it, what better feeling is there than that?

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