There are restaurants that consistently rank at the top of every nearly every critic’s list. The highest among them comes from Thomas Keller — chef and mastermind behind New York City’s Per Se, where the multi-course tasting menu starts at $310, and the San Francisco-area French Laundry, where the prix fixe is $295. Reservations at these top tables open a month in advance and, more to the point, sell out as soon the line opens.
Have a hard time getting your name into the books? Try heading for the high seas. Thomas has signed a contract with Seabourn Cruise Line to first bring his menu dishes to the line’s various restaurants before the end of 2015 — and then to introduce his namesake restaurant onboard Seabourn Quest in the spring of 2016. Booking this restaurant onboard the cruise ship could be easier than getting a table at Per Se, and meals are included in the fare. (Previous Seabourn Quest sailings have started at $2,999 for seven nights.)
Keller isn’t the first chef to lend his name to a cruise ship restaurant. Book a cabin on one of the following vessels to get a front row table to award-winning, celebrity chef restaurants.
Crystal Cruises: Nobu
Sushi chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa began his sushi-South American fusion empire in New York City and slowly expanded around the globe. No matter the location, the Nobu name has long attracted the glitterati set. Although dinner reservations can be had that day at the flagship Nobu 57, diners won’t spot the bold-face names dining at 5:15 p.m. Onboard Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, the line’s renovated ships, Nobu-trained chefs bring the same raved-about dishes to the Silk Road and The Sushi Bar restaurants, including the must-have black cod with miso. A 12-night sailing starts from $5,320 per person sailing between Lisbon and London — and includes two omakase dinners among other exclusive dining experiences.
Carnival Cruise Lines: Guy Fieri
This Food Network star is known for introducing America to the best diners, drive-ins, and dives that they’d been overlooking. His name has become synonymous with restaurants specializing in burgers, wings, and — of course — “donkey sauce.” So it’s no surprise that when the Dive King partnered with Carnival Cruise Lines, he opened a poolside burger joint. The lunch-only menu is included with guests’ reservations, meaning anyone can load up on hand-cut fries and burgers slathered in that famous sauce. With enough advance planning, a cruise can be booked for as low as $279 for five nights. (That’s the equivalent of 15 bacon mac n cheeseburgers from Fieri’s Times Square burger joint.)
Celebrity Cruises: Top Chef
If just one dining experience isn’t enough to satisfy a cruise guest, they can book one of Celebrity Cruises’ themed Top Chef at Sea journeys. On these seven-night cruises through the Eastern Caribbean, Celebrity Reflection hosts six former Top Chef contestants who participate in TV-inspired quick-fire challenges, chef-led onshore excursions, and more — allowing guests to see the chefs’ abilities in action rather than via prepared menu. Some sponsored events are complimentary, while hands-on and one-on-one classes are at additional fees. Fares start from $649, and while the upcoming November 14 departure is already sold out, a few more to-be-announced sailings are planned through June 2016.