A destination-focused dining experience

Elly Yates-Roberts asks Dietmar Wertanzl how CMI Leisure helps expedition and small-ship operators to take an artisanal approach to onboard dining

A destination-focused dining experience
CMI Leisure can help operators source fresh, organic and local produce

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Spring/Summer 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

While operators of larger cruise ships can offer their guests multiple dining options and experiences, those with smaller vessels that offer expeditions to remote locations have less space so they must deliver something more intimate. Often, they opt to create one speciality restaurant that offers lots of choice.

CMI Leisure, which delivers customised hotel management services for the expedition and niche cruise market, helps operators to curate destination-focused dining experiences. 

“Cruising is a destination-driven business and the best way to bring the destination onboard the ship is through cuisine,” says Dietmar Wertanzl, president and CEO of CMI Leisure. “The perfect dining experience for our guests is a speciality restaurant with dishes influenced by the region they’re visiting.”

Trends also influence the small-ship dining experience. “There are many trends that will be popular at sea over the next couple of years, providing cruise guests with choice, for example ‘eatertainment’,” says Wertanzl. “Sushi bars and teppanyaki, for example, continue to be well-received because they offer interactive experiences that combine serious, high-quality dishes with fun and entertainment.”

Cruise operators are also adapting to accommodate the increasing numbers of people that are choosing healthier, gluten-free, vegan and other meal options.  

“If our guests want to improve their lifestyle through their diet and consequently have more specific dietary requirements, we help our clients to customise menus,” says Wertanzl. “For example, we offer low-carbohydrate or low-sugar dishes.”

Another trend Wertanzl expects to become popular is the slow food, ‘taste of place’ movement. “People are turning away from the classic fast-food style menus and are more aware of where their food is sourced, so each ingredient must come from reliable local suppliers,” he says. “Guests are choosing to invest in fresh, organic and slow-cooked dishes of a higher quality.”

CMI Leisure recently worked with Adventure Canada to bring these trends together to create a varied and memorable dining experience for guests on its ship. 

“The dining experience is so important; it’s second only to seeing the marine wildlife,” he says. “The evening has the potential to be rather empty, especially after the thrills of the day’s activities. To prevent this, we created cocktail hours before the day’s debrief offering creative, hot and cold appetisers that combine ‘eatertainment’ with educational talks.”

CMI Leisure also incorporated the ‘taste of place’, slow food movement. “The ship was circumnavigating Newfoundland, so we purchased local, artisanal products from the local fishermen and even foragers to create real authentic dishes,” explains Wertanzl. “We had divers exploring for scallops – it was a real farm-to-table exercise in the spirit of slow food. Even the wines were locally and organically sourced.”

Although it was the first time CMI Leisure had done this, it was a great success. “The supply chain was particularly impressive; the local fishermen, foragers and farmers were incredible,” says Wertanzl. “We now have great contacts and we’re continuing this experience for a second time this year. The dining experience helped Adventure Canada to be named as the best adventure cruise line in North America by USA Today in 2018.”

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Elly Yates-Roberts
By Elly Yates-Roberts
22 May 2019

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