Many travelers enjoy experiencing different foods and tasting different dishes from around the world, and cruise lines are renowned for their delicious culinary offerings in the various regions they sail, from pastas in Italy to seafood in Alaska to tropical tastes in the Caribbean.
In addition to curated menu offerings, many cruise lines offer full gastronomical experiences, and none is more popular than the intimate Chef’s Table of Carnival Cruise Line.
About Chef’s Table
By early January 2011, the culinary experience was featured across the entire Carnival fleet, and continues to be popular with each new vessel.
The Chef’s Table experience is an selective, exclusive event onboard Carnival ships, with just 12-16 guests at each opportunity enjoying a multi-course meal. The event was first introduced aboard Carnival Dream and Carnival Ecstasy in 2009, with great success, and was rolled out to an additional six vessels in 2010 – Liberty, Sensation, Imagination, Inspiration, Pride, and Fascination.
On older ships and when the Chef’s Table was first introduced, the meal was prepared and served in unusual locations, such as the ship’s library, conference center, smaller lounges, or even the galley itself. Newer ships, such as Mardi Gras, feature an exclusive space for the event and are able to offer more seatings for the wildly popular experience.
One of each ship’s Executive Master Chefs hosts the VIP event, beginning with a private champagne reception, cocktails, and hors d’oeuvres. A private tour of the galley is typically included, followed by an elaborate and mouth-watering full-service meal with the best of the best taste creations and superb dish presentations.
Different specialty chefs participate throughout the meal, sharing their insights and signature dishes.
Chef’s Table Menus
The Chef’s Table meal includes several appetizers, entrees, and desserts that are not part of the ship’s regular menu, and each course is carefully curated and prepared for exquisite taste and visual appeal.
While the Chef’s Table menu varies depending on the individual ship, sailing region, and season, popular options include:
- Mango Sphere with Rosemary Biscuit
- Spring Peas & Matcha Soup
- Beef Carpaccio on and Air Pillow with Chocolate Bacon and Apple Ribbons
- Crab Stack with Corn Custard and Passion Caviar
- Olive Oil Poached Sea Bass
- Sirloin Aged 36 Days with Almond Potato Puree
- Pan-Grilled Duck with elderflower cider onion and dark cherry glaze
- Veal with Crushed Green Apples and a Light Cheese Broth
- Citrus Cream with Lime Snow and Elderflower Caviar
Guests who have food allergies, specific preferences, or other special dietary needs and are interested in Chef’s Table should contact Carnival Cruise Line before booking to ensure their needs can be met appropriately without sacrificing the quality of the experience. The chefs do make every effort to accommodate dietary needs during the event.
Wine is included with the meal, with different options to suit different courses as needed.
During a Chef’s Table Meal
Throughout the Chef’s Table meal, guests are not only treated to amazing tastes and exclusive menus, but also insights into how different dishes are prepared, as well as fun trivia about cruise ship culinary operations and training, from ordering massive quantities of food needed for the length of the cruise to how so many meals are prepared each day.
The Chef’s Table meal is prepared right at the event, giving participants an intimate look at the skills involved in crafting such outstanding treats.
On some occasions, a hands-on cooking lesson gives guests an interactive treat as part of their Chef’s Table experience, depending on the dishes planned, available space, and current protocols. Often the cooking lesson is for Carnival’s famous warm chocolate melting cake, the cruise line’s most popular dessert!
Another event that may be part of a Chef’s Table event is a table presentation by a traveling magician, performing intricate sleight-of-hand for guests and challenging their perceptions of tricks just as much as the evening’s food challenges and delights their taste buds.
Group photos are often taken to commemorate the experience as well.
The event can take 2-4 hours, so guests should be prepared for a longer, more luxuriant meal that is truly an experience and not just ordinary dining. The recommended attire is cruise casual, but guests can feel free to dress up for a more elegant experience if they wish.
One note on attire – close-toed, flat shoes are required, as the event includes an active galley tour and the floor may be slippery.
Reservations for Chef’s Table
The Chef’s Table is a specialty experience and ranges from $90-150 per person, depending on the ship and the menu involved, and an additional 18% gratuity will be added to each reservation.
The price was raised early in 2022 and again in late 2023. Chef’s Table is limited to guests age 12 and older.
Because the experience is so exclusive, reservations do fill up quickly and guests interested in Chef’s Table should book early to secure their space. Reservations can be made online prior to sailing, or at the Guest Services desk once travelers have boarded their ship if any space remains.
If guests must cancel their reservations after booking, they may be charged a $25 fee if the cancelation is within 24 hours of the scheduled Chef’s Table event.
Is It Worthwhile?
Guest feedback on Chef’s Table has always been phenomenal. Even Carnival cruisers who aren’t self-proclaimed “foodies” have enjoyed the experience, and it is a great way to taste unique foods and flavor combinations that might not be found elsewhere, as well as to see, up close, the outstanding presentations of truly five-star, top-notch dishes from some of the best chefs on the seven seas.
Beyond the food, however, Chef’s Table is a complete event where you can interact with expert chefs and get behind-the-scenes insights into cruising, meet new people with similar interests, and make amazing memories of your cruise vacation.
While every individual needs to decide whether or not Chef’s Table is of interest and should be part of their Carnival cruise schedule, it is certainly an event to remember and enjoy, no matter what your food preferences or tastes.