Leave it to the French to up-the-ante in the "I've-got-superstar-chefs-onboard" cruise ship contest. France's Compagnie du Ponant deserves bragging rights for scoring three über-chefs - and one genius sommelier - for its five-night "Gastronomy: Coté Ouest" cruise May 9-14, 2012 on its mega-yacht Le Boréal. The voyage departs from Honfleur, France and winds through Belgium, Amsterdam and Hamburg, Germany before entering Copenhagen.
The guest chefs are head-turners for food devotees. Jacques Marcon is the chef and owner of Michelin three-star (the highest number awarded) Restaurant Régis et Jacques Marcon. Philippe Joannes won the "Best of Chef of France" 2000 award (a big deal when you think how many great chefs are in France). Jean-Marc Delacourt is the former head chef of swank Château de la Chèvre d'Or, a five-star hotel in Eze, France, between Nice and Monaco.
The guest sommelier, Philippe Faure-Brac, won two prestigious awards: "Worlds' Best Sommelier" in 1992 and "Best Young French Sommelier" in 1984. He has also published seven books, consulted for Air France and appeared on radio and television.
So what do you get at sea besides the chance to rub shoulders with French food and wine celebs? Expect cooking classes, lectures and wine tastings. The editorial staff of France's upscale lifestyle magazine, Maisons Coté Ouest, will also be onboard to join in on the tastings and classes.
As Compagnie du Ponant is a French line, it would be nearly sacrilegious to serve anything less than fine French cuisine - even when star chefs are not onboard. The 132-cabin Le Boréal has two restaurants (The Gastronomic Restaurant and the Grill Restaurant) and features both country and fancy Gallic cuisine.
I've yet to sail on any of the five vessels of this cruise line, but I've seen this particular ship and it is a stunner. Sleek and modern in design, it looks far more like a yacht than a cruise ship and stands out from the pack of small luxury ships. Visit www.ponant.us for more information on this upcoming sail.
About Le Boreal:
- From 224 to 264 passengers
- Up to 132 outside cabins
- Length : 142m (466ft) * Beam : 18 m (59ft)
- Average speed : 16 knots
- 139 crew members
- Elevators to all decks
- Dynamic positioning system
- French flag