Cruising with the locals: how ships are showcasing the best of Australian food and wine

Australian produce features heavily on board and on excursions.
Australian produce features heavily on board and on excursions.

On land and at sea, cruise passengers are enjoying the best of local food and wine.

They are calling it the other great Australian bite... food and wine are among the hottest tourist experiences thanks to our clean and green reputation.

Now homeported cruise ships are catering for guests who want to know where their food comes from and meet the farmers, fishermen and producers.

Most cruise lines are now favouring local, sustainable produce whether they are serving it on board or visiting food destinations. They are calling at regions like the Barossa Valley in South Australia and Marlborough in New Zealand so guests can sample regional foods and connect with local producers.

From wine to chocolates, pickles to pork, food tours offer a great insight into local culinary specialties. Cruise lines often stock up on local produce while in port so passengers can savour the food and wine as they sail. It makes dinner a piece of theatre and a local education as well. Here's a sample of the tasty tours on offer by leading lines.

P&O Cruises

P&O ships head to a number of Australia's top food regions, including the Margaret River, Barossa Valley and Kangaroo Island.

The line recently replaced the traditional buffet with a variety of food outlets, known as The Pantry. The idea is to promote local produce available on board.

P&O sources much of its food from Australian producers - the beef is from Goulburn Valley and Gippsland in Victoria, the chicken is from Cordina Farms and lamb from Dubbo in New South Wales. The line also offers many food and wine tours around the country, so guests can see the wide range of Australian produce.

One of the new tours introduced when P&O started sailing to Eden on the NSW South Coast is the Sapphire Coast Food Festival cruise (departing March and November). The Sapphire Coast's fertile land and crystal-clear water make for outstanding dairy products and seafood.

P&O also offers small group tours of the Margaret River in Western Australia, which includes a visit to the award-winning Aravina Estate for a five-course degustation lunch with wine pairings. And in the Barossa Valley in South Australia, the line runs excursions to Jacob's Creek winery. Back on board, cruisers sample local cheeses and dried fruits, paired with matching wines.

Explore more: pocruises.com.au

Royal Caribbean

For those who love good wine and cheese, Royal Caribbean International offers excursions through the Hunter Valley when its ships dock at Newcastle, NSW. The tour includes visits to three of the regions' best wineries as well as sampling Hunter Valley cheeses. Some of these wineries have been around since the 1800s.

The line has a long and extensive list of culinary shore excursions both in Australia and New Zealand and the line has said that often the culinary tours feature in the top-five shore excursions for Royal Caribbean International and the line's sister brands, Azamara Cruises and Celebrity Cruises.

Explore vineyards in the Barossa Valley.

Explore vineyards in the Barossa Valley.

In Adelaide, one of the most popular shore excursions the line offers are to the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and the Adelaide Hills. Here, cruisers will find rolling vineyards with very special restaurants attached.

In Hobart, the Countryside and Winery tour takes you to some of Tasmania's best vineyards like the Coal Valley Estate.

And over in Western Australia, Fremantle boasts a Swan Valley Food & Wine Trail that features in the top five. In Melbourne, the Wallabies & Wine tour pairs local wine tastings with the best local produce.

Explore more:royalcaribbean.com

Princess Cruises

When Princess Cruises heads to regional destinations in Australia and New Zealand, the focus is on local wine and food. From Picton, New Zealand, the line runs the Iconic Wines of Marlborough tour visiting local vineyards for tastings. Sauvignon blanc put Marlborough on the map, and the region produces 79 per cent of New Zealand's wine.

After wine-tastings, guests will visit boutique Makana Confections; watch the chocolates being made and sample the truffles and macadamia-nut candies.

Back in Australia, Kangaroo Island is one of the world's oldest bee sanctuaries and is home to the only pure strain of Ligurian bee in the world. Here, you can take a culinary tour to Clifford's Honey Farm where you'll try some of the honey. You'll then head to the Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery on this full-day excursion before stopping to sample lavender scones and local apple cider and beers at the Drunken Drone Brewery and wine tasting at a local cellar door.

Explore more: princess.com

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises has continuously worked with world-renowned chefs and has a lovely list of curated shore excursions which include opportunities for cruisers to meet and share a meal with local families from all around the world.

The Basket of Plenty tour of Tauranga, New Zealand, includes visits to artisan bakeries, the fish market, a coffee roaster and a kiwi fruit orchard. The idea is for cruisers to pick and choose what they want in their basket, whether it be Manuka honey, olive oils, spirits, meats, seafood, cheeses or breads.

In Adelaide, Celebrity Cruises offers tours of the McLaren Vale region, famous for its wide variety of wineries. The eight-hour tour includes tastings, a two-course lunch and an opportunity to purchase wines to take home.

Seabourn

The line has specialty tours where chefs lead guests on tours to farmers' markets to shop for local produce. In Wellington, New Zealand, Seabourn's walking tour takes guests to visit a local gelato-maker, as well as chocolatiers and candy-makers.

You'll also visit Moore Wilson's Fresh, a hidden gem in Wellington where local foodies and chefs shop for cheese, bread, meat and seafood. The tour ends with a three-course tasting lunch with selected wines at leading Wellington restaurant Logan Brown.

Explore more: seabourn.com

Regent Seven Seas

Ultra-luxury line Regent Seven Seas' food offerings are not just decadent on board, but also ashore. With the world's most luxurious ship heading Down Under soon, the line has paired its shore excursions to match with the decadence of the Seven Seas Explorer.

In the Barossa, you'll hop from vineyard to vineyard sampling wine and savouring lunch in one of Australia's premier wine-producing regions. At one topnotch winery, you'll settle in for a sumptuous two-course lunch - served in its highly regarded restaurant.

Western Australia's oldest wine region, the Swan Valley, boasts lovely heritage buildings as well as a rich history in wine and beer production. On a shore excursion of this fertile farmland, wineries and breweries take the spotlight. The tour will take you to selected producers, such as Houghton, Sandalford, Little Creatures, Elmar's or Ironbark. You will stop for a barbecue lunch at a local Swan Valley restaurant. Be sure to leave room for dessert, as you will also visit the Margaret River Chocolate Factory.

Explore more: rssc.com

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