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Ritz-Carlton Is Reinventing Cruise Cuisine Without a Buffet in Sight

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection rolls out some of the most luxurious and delicious hospitality on the high seas.

<p>Courtesy of Ritz Carlton Yacht Collection</p>

Courtesy of Ritz Carlton Yacht Collection

When I boarded Ritz-Carlton’s elegant new ship Evrima this past April, I was quickly convinced of two things: that this stately vessel was not The Love Boat (there’s a reason we waved it goodbye in the ’80s) and that my personal concierge might be an overly enthusiastic sleuth. “Congratulations on you and your husband’s new restaurant,” he said cheerily as he led me down a hallway to my two-story loft suite, chatting knowledgeably about my latest side hustle.

It turns out Sammie had just done his homework, like so many good hosts often do, including many of the ship’s team I encountered over the coming days while sailing from Antigua to Puerto Rico. (Like the senior maître d’ who addressed me in fluent German, knowing I could respond in kind.)

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I witnessed the same personable interactions with other guests, too, and each time, it felt sincere and engaging. This shouldn’t come as a surprise from the school of Ritz-Carlton, whose curriculum is centered on the notion that knowing your guest well is the ultimate show of hospitality. This valuable lesson would have served me well in reverse — it pays to know your host, too. Earlier that day, transiting from the airport to the ship anchored in Antigua’s Falmouth Harbour, I had mistaken the friendly man in the Ritz-Carlton-logo-embroidered vest outside the terminal for our driver. It was, in fact, the company’s then-CEO and founder, Douglas Prothero. I turned a deep shade of red, we laughed awkwardly, and he invited me to dinner anyway. (I still carry a deep sense of shame about the incident, the kind borne of strict German parents with impeccable manners; sorry, Mom and Dad.)

<p>Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton</p> One of the ship’s amenities is the Wine Vault, where guests can organize tastings, particularly of private reserve wines

Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton

One of the ship’s amenities is the Wine Vault, where guests can organize tastings, particularly of private reserve wines

It’s thanks to Prothero’s vision and the style of hospitality on board Evrima that Ritz-Carlton is differentiating itself in many ways on its long-awaited foray into the world of cruising. In fact, part of the experience — and for many, the appeal — is feeling like you’re not really on a cruise at all.

I came to think of Evrima less as a cruise ship and more as a luxurious floating villa. There are no restaurant buffets, no onboard announcements, no central pool, no nightclubs, and no bingo. Instead, there is privacy (cruises are limited to 298 passengers at any one time) and attention to detail. There are Nespresso machines, Fellow-branded tea kettles, and refillable metal water bottles in all the suites. Fine bone china and handcrafted ceramics grace the restaurant tables, and the main pool is a haven on the back of the megayacht-like ship rather than a focal point in the middle. The more diminutive size of the ship also means it can dock in smaller harbors than large cruise lines, offering guests more varied and intimate shore experiences, too.

<p>Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton</p> Cured fish at Talaat Nam, which has a strong focus on seafood

Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton

Cured fish at Talaat Nam, which has a strong focus on seafood

This is all a very deliberate play to introduce a new breed of passenger to the open seas. Many of the guests who had joined this sailing were first-timers, including some of the ship’s crew, such as the general manager and the food and beverage director (who both came from the hotel arm of Ritz-Carlton). One of the major culinary concepts on board is also making its oceanic debut: the aptly named S.E.A. It’s spearheaded by chef Sven Elverfeld of the three-Michelin-starred Aqua, the fine-dining restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Wolfsburg, Germany.

The food on board is very good indeed, from the flavorful shakshuka with lamb merguez, spicy chickpeas, peppers, feta, and eggs I had for breakfast in the Evrima Room to the fiery Thai green curry with prawns, bok choy, and string beans I enjoyed for dinner at Talaat Nam. At S.E.A., I marveled at a clever “upside-down” vitello tonnato, a jewellike slice of tuna dotted with a punchy veal mayo and capers. But don’t just take my word for it; on my first night sitting at the sushi counter at Talaat Nam, a diner gleefully yelled, “The food is excellent!” across the dining room to the staff.

A day later, while we were moored in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, I bumped into Sammie, about to leave the ship for a few hours to celebrate a colleague’s birthday. “You’re most welcome to come along,” he said without hesitation, ever the good host.

<p>Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton</p> Dinner at the Evrima Room might include entrées of roast venison, wild mushroom risotto, or poached halibut

Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton

Dinner at the Evrima Room might include entrées of roast venison, wild mushroom risotto, or poached halibut

2024 at a glance

Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection's Evrima

  • 45 itineraries, from 4 to 11 nights

  • 5 restaurants

  • 6 bars and lounges

  • 298 passengers

Our picks

  • 10-night Barcelona toTenerife, Canary Islands, from $8,700

  • 7-night Bridgetown round trip (including Bequia, Grenada, and St. Lucia), from $6,900

Book these shore excursions

  • Wines & Vineyards of Tenerife

  • Savane des Esclaves Museum & Rum Tasting, Martinique

  • Chocolate Making at Howelton Estate, St. Lucia

Global Tastemakers is a celebration of the best culinary destinations in the U.S. and abroad. We asked more than 180 food and travel journalists to vote on their favorites, including restaurants and bars, cities, hotels, airports, airlines, and cruises. We then entrusted those results to an expert panel of judges to determine each category’s winners. In many categories, we’ve included a Plus One, hand-selected by our expert panel, to shout out more culinary destinations we don’t want our readers to miss. See all the winners at foodandwine.com/globaltastemakers.

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Read the original article on Food & Wine.