Trend-setting and exciting food and beverage products aboard Princess Cruises’ ships start with laying down a strategy, according to Jonathan Wilson, vice president, guest food and beverage experience, product development and hotel analysis. “We like to think of it as a five-year plan of what our food and beverage should look and taste like, but the truth is that we keep updating and revising our plans as we develop new ideas. And we are constantly asking ourselves if it is good enough.”
Among Wilson’s contributions is the Horizon Court, which he described as a marketplace – “a fresh concept of the traditional buffet in a new environment.” He said he literally designed the marketplace overnight for the Royal Princess. It will be rolled back to the rest of the fleet during drydocks.
He continued: “Gastropubs are not new either, but they are trendy. We decided to do it a little differently, taking the gastropub environment and adding two elements. First, we added quality entertainment, then we added whiskey and bourbon selections. There is a shortage of bourbon worldwide, but we have contracted supplies for several years for 30 to 40 different brands. So if passengers want to enjoy good bourbon, one of the few places they can do that will be aboard our ships.”
Also on Wilson’s plate is a review of Sabatini’s and the Crown Grill from menus to service and look. For example, in the Crown Grill all the seafood will be freshwater fish.
Princess is offering regional dishes on menus, having started in the Caribbean. In the next few months, Alaskan dishes will be introduced on the ships sailing there. “We dominate the Alaska market and want to make sure we stay strong,” said Wilson, “that includes having excellent local food – fresh halibut, salmon, crab, berries and more.” Local dishes will also soon be rolled out on the ships sailing in Australia, and later in the year in the Mediterranean.”
Self-motivated, Wilson said most industries don’t change as much or as fast as the cruise industry. “Hotels and restaurants cannot pick up and move. There are so many opportunities in the cruise industry; there are no limits. As long as I can keep the guests happy, I can do what my imagination cooks up.”
And describing himself as a cook at heart, he added: “Princess is one of the few cruise lines that really produces everything inside. We have a full-blown, dedicated pastry kitchen, completely equipped and staffed. We have a dedicated bakery, making everything from scratch; a 24-hour full butchery, where we also filet our own fish; and vegetable preparation. This gives us complete control of every piece of the product based on the skill sets of our people throughout the culinary – from beginning to end on every single ship.”