The 5 Best Cruises for Culinary Shore Excursions

Global Tastemakers is our first-ever reader’s choice awards, celebrating the best culinary destinations in the U.S. and abroad. F&W readers voted based on travel completed within the past three years, on categories including restaurants and bars, cities, hotels, airports, airlines, and cruises. Due to the limitations of pandemic travel, this year’s Global Tastemakers winners reflect a smaller portion of the globe. In many categories, we’re including an editor’s pick to shout out some more culinary destinations in places you can’t miss. See all the winners at

For travelers who want a taste of one or more regions without the hassle of coordinating multiple stops and hauling their luggage around, cruising is the way to go. And for many travelers, the best part of cruising is getting off the ship and exploring the port. Shore excursions can range from tours of iconic monuments to hiking and biking, but when it comes to gastronomic experiences, these companies are the crème de la crème.

Unsurprisingly, Viking Cruises claimed the No. 1 spot on this list thanks to its incredible programming, which ranges from market visits to gourmet meals. Though they originally focused on river cruising, Viking has expanded to offer ocean cruises and expedition cruises with the same great programming that guests on their river cruises have come to love. The No. 2 spot on this list goes to a river cruising company that specializes in wine-focused trips to Europe’s great wine regions. Occupying the Nos. 3, 4, and 5 spots are companies that offer a range of itineraries that let guests immerse themselves in the local cuisine everywhere, from the French Riviera to French Polynesia. Below, the five best cruises for culinary shore excursions, as voted by our readers.

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Viking Venus cruise ship
Also voted the No. 1 best cruise for food and the No. 1 best cruise for onboard culinary experiences, Viking Cruises offers a wide range of engaging gourmet shore experiences. Every itinerary is designed to delve into the local culture, so shore excursions might include a visit to a family-run olive oil mill in Provence, a port dinner at Graham’s in Porto (the preferred cellar of the British royal family), or a visit to a windmill and Dutch cheese farm on the Rhine. On all ocean voyages, guests can participate in Kitchen Table shore excursions, which visit local markets with the culinary team, who then use the ingredients bought on shore to prepare dinner on the ship.

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AMASTELLA river cruise ship from AmaWaterways
Beloved for its river cruises that take guests to explore Europe’s most iconic wine regions, AmaWaterways is ideal for enophiles and anyone who wants to learn more about wine. The ships sail the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers on the “Taste of Bordeaux” itinerary, offering guests a chance to visit Champagne cellars and discover Calvados on the Seine, sip rosé, Hermitage, and the “Pope’s wine” on Rhône River sailings; learn more about port and the wines of Vinho Verde while sailing Portugal’s Douro River; and try Rieslings, Cremant d’Alsace, and Kölsch beer on Rhine River sailings, among others.

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Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Regent Seven Seas Voyager
Guests on Regent Seven Seas Cruises can not only enjoy gourmet dining and culinary experiences onboard, but can choose from chef-led shore excursions that include market tours, vineyard visits, and meals in incredible restaurants and villas. In Barcelona, for example, guests can opt to visit the famous Boqueria and Santa Caterina markets, then have lunch at a two-Michelin-starred restaurant and get a peek at the kitchen. In Tuscany, you could visit a local market followed by a cooking demonstration and lunch at a villa.

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Oceania Cruises
Oceania cruise ship
In addition to offering tours of the world’s iconic landmarks, Oceania has a range of Culinary Discovery Tours designed to immerse guests in the local gastronomy. These shore excursions bring guests to traditional markets, chef-selected restaurants, acclaimed cooking schools, and more. On the “Allure of France & Iberia” itinerary, for example, guests can join a chef-led Cadiz market tour and tapas lunch in Seville. Other shore excursions include a cooking demonstration at a Venetian master chef’s private villa and a visit to tropical fruit plantations in French Polynesia.

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Princess Cruises
Princess cruise ship
Guests on Princess Cruises voyages have ample opportunities to delve into the local culture in the destination they’re visiting with the company’s award-winning shore excursions. You might learn to cook Norman specialties at the countryside home of a renowned French chef, go on a food walk in Stockholm designed by an award-winning chef, or try Indigenous specialties prepared by a celebrity chef in Darwin, Australia.

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Editor’s Pick: Silversea
Silversea cruise ship
Silversea’s S.A.L.T [Sea and Land Taste] program offers some of the most compelling and meaningful culinary shore excursions we’ve seen from a cruise line. Who else can score you a private audience with Italy’s most famous pizzaiolo, Franco Pepe (yes, from the Netflix series Chef’s Table: Pizza, who will make you at least eight pizzas!) or an afternoon with some of the chefs, bakers and gardeners of the three-Michelin-starred Mirazur in France (which ends with dinner in the private tasting kitchen of its celebrated chef-owner, Mauro Colagreco). Curated and led by experts including food writers, cookbook authors, and wine professionals, the program delivers exclusivity and access to incredible culinary experiences not otherwise available to the public. - F&W Editors

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