AIDA features a traditional German-style Brauhaus.Interactive dining experiences, sustainable seafood, fresh local products, healthy options, and creative solutions to rising food costs characterize the latest developments in cruise line food services. Interactivity takes various forms.

At AIDA Cruises, “all restaurants are connected by one idea: our guests should see what we serve. Therefore, we prepare dishes right in front of their eyes,” said Frank Meissner, culinary manager.

A popular hands-on eating venue on the Oasis and Allure of the Seas is the cupcake store, which offers decorating classes. Due to its popularity, it has just been installed on Liberty and Freedom of the Seas, too. Many additional eateries on the two newest ships will be introduced fleetwide, according to Frank Weber, vice president of food and beverage.

Another form of interactivity at Carnival Cruise Lines is its Chef’s Tables, which feature detailed explanations of meals by head chefs. On the Carnival Magic and Dream, the Chef’s Table is in the galley, while on the other ships in the fleet, the event is in a room near the kitchen, explained Carnival’s Corporate Executive Chef Peter Leypold.

Celebrity Cruises’ Jacques Van Staden, vice president of culinary operations, said: “Our major focus is to change guests’ perception from the norm while featuring cuisine that people resonate with – but with a twist. For example, tacos are rectangular and guests are given a mortar, pestle and avocado to make their own guacamole.” Another new Celebrity restaurant being launched is the Lawn Club Grill, where guests choose items they want and then grill them. “This creates a backyard grill atmosphere. We provide professional chefs at each grill to help guests if they want it,” Van Staden said.

For passengers in a hurry, Costa Crociere is adding a sandwich bar on the Costa Favolosa. “This is a great alternative to buffets, especially for younger folks who want to grab a sandwich and go. We are always looking for food concepts that are easy, yet satisfy the needs of passengers of many nations and ages,” said Hans Hesselberg, food & beverage and hotel operations director.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Vice President of Food Operations Karl Muhlberger said the line unveiled its Moderno Churrascaria first on the Epic. This South American-themed restaurant features waiters walking around with large cuts of meat on skewers where passengers can eat all they want. It is now being rolled out on the other ships.

Ozer Balli, vice president of hotel operations for Disney Cruise Line, said that the brand is different, because “our chefs are artists; therefore creativity plays a big part of the food and beverage experience.”

Comfort food is becoming increasingly popular and Crystal is combining trends by offering Chinese comfort food that is based on noodles and dumplings. Toni Neumeister, vice president of food and beverage, said that he has four chefs from Taiwan onboard to train Crystal’s chefs, and has also installed special kitchen equipment.

Holland America Line’s Culinary Council is feeding menu ideas to its ships. “Two new menu items a day are featured on our ships from the Council,” said Steve Kirsch, director of culinary operations. “We are the only line to have a council of this nature. The chefs who work with the council will sail with us and provide a tie-in for our culinary kitchen events.”

This coming September, Van Staden promised that Celebrity will be making an announcement regarding how it plans to change the main dining room experience on its ships. “How passengers receive their meals will be completely different from other cruise ships,” he noted. “Our new main restaurant experience will be a trendsetter in the industry,” he asserted.

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Summer 2011