June 17, 2024


Travel Adventure

TV Cooking Show Stars Host New Chefs Making Waves Cruise

4 min read

My guilty-pleasure escape from my hectic life is watching cooking shows. So, when Sixthman, a company known for its music festivals at sea, announced that several celebrity chefs would be headlining a new four-night food-and-wine cruise, I had to be there. And I wasn’t alone.

Like me, more than 2,000 passengers on the sold-out Chefs Making Waves cruise from Miami to the Bahamas on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl ship came on board to pick up cooking tips from the pros, enjoy the open bar, and totally geek out on all things food. The cruise fare included the opportunity to eat food created by the chefs on board—a major bonus.

Stacey Cunha, a passenger from Cleveland, joined the cruise in the hope of meeting chef Robert Irvine of Food Network’s cooking challenge shows Restaurant: Impossible and Dinner: Impossible. “Day 1, my dream came true,” Cunha gushed.

Out and about on the sailing, the chefs enjoyed rock-star status. Getting a selfie with smiling Italian chef Scott Conant (of the reality cooking competition Chopped) was a popular goal; he even offered to help snap the photos.

On her first-ever cruise, chef Maneet Chauhan (of Chopped and The Next Iron Chef)—who, like several of the chefs, brought her family along for the sailing—said her kids were shocked to see that people were treating her like such a celebrity. One woman left Chauhan teary after telling Chauhan about her experience of getting a liver transplant. “You guys got me through it,” she told the chef. Chauhan said, “I was hugging her. To me, this is why I do what I do.”

Guests could sign up for standard cruise-ship activities such as salsa classes and spa treatments, or they could opt for encounters that were unique to this sailing, such as chef Anne Burrell, co-host of Worst Cooks in America, leading Bloody Mary Bingo. At night, theater productions were replaced by such events as a karaoke contest hosted by Burrell and Andrew Zimmern (of Bizarre Foods) and a challenge that saw Irvine making a meal from guest-chosen ingredients such as lobster, pickled pig’s feet, and Cheetos. Elsewhere on board, Cake Boss’ Buddy Valastro drew a crowd for a dessert-themed disco party.

A cooking demonstration is broadcast on a large screen to a cruise ship audience

Cooking demonstrations hosted by Food Network’s popular chefs were among the daily activities on board.

Courtesy of Chefs Making Waves

Out on the sunny pool deck, backed by a giant screen, hundreds of fans eagerly watched demos by chefs cooking while sharing aspects of their lives. Chef Marcus Samuelsson (winner of Top Chef Masters and Chopped All-Stars) talked about his upbringing and family (born in Ethiopia, he and his sister were separated from their birth family during the Ethiopian Civil War and adopted by a couple in Sweden) while making a complicated multi-ingredient brown-butter lobster, black rice, and mushroom dashi (a Japanese soup stock). And Mexican American chef Aarón Sánchez of MasterChef and MasterChef Junior showed the audience how to make shrimp mojo de ajo (Mexican garlic shrimp), while paying tribute to his grandmother’s influence on his cooking. Creating a martini-cup tiramisu, Valastro revealed that his favorite baked good is not cake, but flaky Italian lobster-tail cookies.

Tasting opportunities included some chef creations that were integrated into the buffet lunch each day (such as Conant’s Wagyu meatballs with baby tomato sauce), but the daily showstopper was a set four-course menu representing a collaboration between two of the featured chefs, served ship-wide at dinner. Chauhan’s “Naan-zanella” citrus chaat salad (a playful take on the Italian bread-infused panzanella salad), part of a collaborative menu she created with Irvine, was a fan favorite, a bit to her chagrin. “I mean, it’s a salad,” she laughed.

No deviations in the set menu were allowed, which caused controversy when short rib was the main course two nights in a row, one version by Irvine, the other by Burrell, followed by Conant’s wine-braised beef the third night. Marc Murphy (of Chopped) and Michael Symon (from Burgers, Brew and ‘Que) avoided the fray by offering a choice of salmon or roasted pork. Sixthman organizers took to the active Chefs Making Waves Facebook page to say “short rib-gate” would not be repeated next year.

Surrounded by cruise passengers, chefs Maneet Chauhan and Robert Irvine smiling in a side hug while Chauhan holds a glass of white wine

Chefs Maneet Chauhan and Robert Irvine collaborated on one of the four-course dinners served to guests during the cruise.

Courtesy of Chefs Making Waves

While enjoying beach time at Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas, guests were treated to BBQ, including smoked chicken served by Zimmern and French onion soup burgers created by Murphy. The ship also spent time in Nassau, where passengers could book excursions such as snorkeling experiences.

For Irvine, being on the ship was a trip down memory lane, as he had done a stint as a chef with Norwegian. He applauded the work of the galley team, saying, “It’s like a big restaurant, and the service here is exceptional.” Samuelsson also had previous shipboard experience, having worked for Seabourn.

Jett Tanner from Tampa, a veteran of Sixthman’s music-themed cruises, was impressed by the company’s first-ever chef-driven cruise experience. “They have been so down-to-earth,” she said. “It’s given me a greater appreciation for every one of them.”

The next of what is expected to be an annual Chefs Making Waves cruise will take place on the 2,344-passenger Norwegian Gem, May 5 to 9, 2025, on a Western Caribbean itinerary. (Rates are not yet available, but the 2024 cruise started at $1,300 per person for a shared inside cabin.)


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