Bourdain Flirts with His Final Frontier

February 12, 2014

By Karen

Anthony Bourdain’s final frontier is ocean travel. Sure, we’ve seen him chugging up fetid rivers, snorkeling, and catch a few stunt fish, but he’s never filmed an hour of TV on the ocean.

At the upcoming South Beach Wine and Food Festival, Anthony Bourdain is hosting “An Evening Aboard the S.S. Wolfsonian” with Azamara Club Cruises on February 21 at the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum. At $1,500 a plate, it’s already sold out, but the proceeds go to the Wolfsonian and the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, so it’s all for a good cause.

According to Azamara’s press release, this was Bourdain’s idea, and he got inspiration for dishes from the Wolfsonian ocean liner menu collection. He’ll be overseeing the dinner, prepared by Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert, and other celebrity chefs.

Bourdain will share hosting duties with one of Azamara’s captains.

Didn’t Tony make at least one transatlantic crossing to France as a child, possibly on the Queen Mary? Unfortunately, true ocean liners have passed into history, and in his career as a globe-trotter, I’ve never heard Bourdain be anything but dismissive of today’s cruise industry.

Could that be about to change?

Azamara is a relatively unknown, more upscale brand of Royal Caribbean Cruises. Azamara has only 2 ships, and its sister lines most familiar to Americans are Royal Caribbean and Celebrity.

Azamara ships are smaller, and feature a casually elegant experience, with an English butler’s services available to suite passengers. Fares are higher, yet more inclusive than mass market lines (most alcohol is included), yet not as inclusive as top-tier lines like Crystal and Seabourn, who also throw in airfare and most shore excursions.

It’s far from the first time a cruise line has used a celebrity chef to embellish their brand. Jacques Pépin is executive culinary director for Oceania Cruises, another top-tier line.

Norwegian Cruise Line has adopted Cake Boss Buddy Valastro and Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian to design menus for its newest ships, Getaway and Breakaway.

And even Carnival has a celebrity chef — Guy Fieri. He’s perfect for the line that attracts the diners, dives, and drive-in set.

But I don’t see Bourdain planning Azamara’s menus. I see him as their spokesman.

Speaking of Carnival, who could ever forget Kathie Lee Gifford and Richard Simmons dancing on the decks, singing about “Fun Ships?”

If Azamara could get Bourdain to become the face of their more refined brand, he could potentially kick the whole industry’s reputation up a notch (well, not Carnival’s — he’s only human).

Bourdain could help the cruise industry shift the focus away from its ships being floating amusement parks, back to the time when a sea voyage was considered the most special way to visit exotic places.

I could see Royal Caribbean and Norwegian grabbing that life preserver, quickly following suit to distance themselves from the “Do Whatever — We Don’t Care” attitude they’ve foolishly promoted of late, to the detriment of their ships and their reputations.

But Azamara has one big hurdle ahead: They’ve got to get Bourdain on a ship.

I’d love to see a Parts Unknown episode filmed on Azamara. He’s always talking about wanting to make each episode unlike anything he’s ever done before. So…?

Wining and dining Bourdain is a good first move, Azamara. Keep it up.


Weight Watching on a Cruise

April 11, 2013

By Karen

Feeling pretty svelte after losing 48 lbs., I went to San Juan last week for a sail through the Southern Caribbean on Royal Caribbean’s lovely Brilliance of the Seas.

Yes, it’s the same ship from which honeymooner George Smith disappeared in the Mediterranean in 2005. His blonde bride, Jennifer, pounded the talk show circuit for a while.

My cabin was 2 decks below theirs, and I didn’t run in to George’s spirit.

I cut ties to Weight Watchers® online before I left, but I still follow PointsPlus® because it won’t take much more to get myself into a size 8.

I wasn’t about to let that ruin my vacay. There’s no shortage of healthy options on a ship. I ate cereal, fruit, yogurt, and salads. OK, one morning I had eggs Benedict.

They bake the breads and pastries fresh every day, with real butter for spreading.

And did I mention there’s liquor?

So I cheated. But no fried chicken or pizza. I haven’t had a decent slice of pizza since early 2012, and feared I’d lose it and binge because it’s always available.

One lunch I splurged on a hamburger and fries. Pasta twice, once Bolognese and once Asian. Two cookies.

Even being fairly careful, most days I’d pretty much blown through my daily points by mid-afternoon — if I were counting.

I watched plenty of morbidly obese passengers loading heaping plates of stuff buried under mayonnaise and gravy. They were my best motivation — particularly when they hung out around the pool later.

At dinner, I ordered mostly grilled fish or pork, with one lobster tail. I had quite a few chocolate desserts, but didn’t always finish.

Probably worse than the eating and drinking was not doing my usual 10,000 steps a day, although you’d think on a 958-ft. ship it would have been easier. But I usually fell far short.

When I got home, I’d gained 2 lbs.

I’d laid in some Lean Cuisine® to ease myself into “normal” eating until I could hit Food Lion. The only fresh produce I had in the house was an onion.

So now it’s 5 days later and one of my ill-gotten pounds is already gone.

I’m hoping the week-long shock of eating more fat and animal protein will propel me further into the 120s and the coveted size 8s. Before the cruise, I was hopelessly plateauing.

But back to my initial question. Yes, you can watch your weight on a cruise, but you don’t have to go overboard about it.


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