Cruise lines are very keen to tempt chocolate addicts like myself with a dizzying range of indulgent offers. I'm proof it works!
While most cruise lines have dedicated pastry chefs well versed in working with chocolate, several up the ante with speciality desserts, chocolate cafés, and even cacao spa treatments.
Both Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line seek to claim the title of the best chocolate desserts at sea.
Princess Cruises recruited chef Norman Love° to figurehead its chocolate culinary options. Trained in France, he specialises in creating decadent chocolate treats and desserts.
His creations often appear on main dining room desserts menus, as well as those at speciality restaurants Sabatini’s Italian Restaurant, Crown Grill, Sterling Steakhouse, and the Chef’s Table Experience.
Even the Horizon Court Buffet benefits from chocolate pastries during breakfast and chocolate cakes in the evening. The 24-hour International Café boasts a variety of chocolate treats too.
Meanwhile, Carnival Cruise Line's Warm Chocolate Melting Cake is a dessert surpassed by few dishes. The souffle-style presentation masks a molten chocolate core. It is often imitated but never duplicated. It is everything you could ask for in a pudding: thick, gooey, sumptuous, and satisfying.
When you crave a sweet treat, chocolate bars are the perfect remedy.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines' Bookmark Café stocks a dizzying array of chocolates. With an assortment of milk, dark, and white chocolate pralines filled with favourite centres, there is something for everyone.
Flavours are very subtle, and while they are perfect to accompany a cup of coffee, they are not quite as delicious as those found in Belgian destinations included in the cruise line's Northern European itineraries.
The Bake Shop on Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Escape stocks a significantly smaller range, with a focus on safe and quirky flavours. Pralines here, small square bites, have much more pronounced flavours, although the chocolate used appeals more to American palates. Admittedly, the focus of The Bake Shop is on beautiful cupcakes and French macarons.
La Patisserie onboard Royal Caribbean's Quantum class ships stock an array of beautiful pralines.
Italian cruise line MSC Cruises launched a Jean Philippe chocolate bar and cafe on its high-tech ship, MSC Meraviglia. The shop sells a variety of chocolate (including loveable chocolate models of the ship), but it's the workshop behind the glass that is more inviting. Here you can watch chocolatiers craft a variety of chocolate treats, from truffles and pralines through to display pieces and literal chocolate boxes.
The chocolate art is an attraction in its own right, with incredible pieces boxed in front of the shop. When I sailed on this ship, a turtle, octopus, and jellyfish scene flanked the shopfront.
Chocolate spa treatments
Think chocolate massage, and you may picture lying on a table smothered in masses of creamy milk chocolate. Rightly or wrongly, this is not the case.
Cacao lends itself to a range of beauty products thanks to its antioxidants and minerals.
Princess Cruises' Chocolate Body Indulgence treatment in the Lotus Spa includes a chocolate renewal scrub, a whipped chocolate body mask, and a massage with chocolate oil. 75 minutes of sheer chocolate heaven costs [exchangerate rate="USD"]195[/exchangerate] while the far more tempting 100 minute option costs [exchangerate rate="USD"]259[/exchangerate].
Chocolate cookery lessons
Award winning London-based chocolatier, Paul A Young, hosted a four-night Amsterdam and Bruges mini cruise on P&O Cruises' Ventura in February 2016.
The chef, who concocts outlandish pralines including ‘Goats Cheese with Lemon and Rosemary’, ‘Black Pudding with Rye and Sourdough’, and ‘Marmite Truffle’, hosted a presentational masterclass, a Q&A session, and a book signing onboard.
In 2019, Paul takes to Britannia to host more chocolate masterclasses.
Ports of Call for chocoholics
The ship is only one part of a cruise holiday. Chocolate adventures continue on land, especially if you've got one of these destinations on your itinerary.
- Belgian chocolate is arguably the finest there is, and chocolate fans will want to head to Bruges, Brussels, and Antwerp for their cocoa fix. Bruges boasts a high concentration of tiny chocolate shops in a small area, enabling a crawl from one to another.
- Brussels has a diverse range of chocolate shops from the sublime to blatant tourist traps. Many visitors head to Grand Place, but for the best chocolate experience, you will want to head further afield. Planning to take home some souvenirs from your travels? In Belgium, budget around [exchangerate rate="EUR"]1[/exchangerate] per chocolate truffle for small bags or around [exchangerate rate="EUR"]60[/exchangerate] to [exchangerate rate="EUR"]100[/exchangerate] per kilogram for larger boxes. Remember, good quality hand-made chocolates from an experienced master chocolatier are not cheap.
- Antwerp blends the best of Brussels and Bruges. It too boasts a diverse variety of chocolate shops in a smaller footprint than Brussels.
- St Lucia is home to Hotel Chocolat's Boucan Hotel on the Rabot Estate. Join a Tree to Bar Tour tour°, enjoy the many walks through the groves, or head straight to the spa for cacao treatments.
- Part of Fathom cruise line's legacy is the feel-good opportunity to help with a women’s chocolate cooperative in the Dominican Republic. Chocal is a small factory where you can assist in the complete production cycle of organic chocolate bars. Experiences are available on selected itineraries by companies within the Carnival group of cruise lines.
Do you think there are too many options for chocolate lovers or not enough? Let me know in the comments below.