Inspired food and wines are often part of any upper premium or luxury cruise, however Atlas Ocean Voyages has taken this concept and gone one step further by dedicating its new expedition ship, World Traveller, to Epicurean Expeditions in the Mediterranean, British Isles and Northern Europe during the spring and summer months this year and next. Other times of the year, World Traveller, a purpose-built Polar Class C ship with an Ice Class 1B-certified hull, voyages to the Arctic, Antarctica, Iceland, and Greenland.
On its maiden season in the Mediterranean, sailing from Barcelona to Nice over seven days, I ate, drank, and learned plenty about food and wines with experts both onboard and ashore. Cruising the coast thus became in addition to the cultural aspects, a gastronomic and oenological pleasure.
A Yacht with all the Bells and Whistles
Since the ship only has 100 staterooms with a maximum of 200 passengers, embarking in Barcelona took less than 15-minutes. A welcome mat on the gangway stating, “Welcome Home,” was apropos of the feeling onboard. From the moment I set foot on the vessel until I disembarked, each one of the 117 crew from over 20 countries was kind, amiable, and sincere. More astonishing, within hours of embarkation, every crew member seemed to know all guests’ names.
Launched seven months ago, the 423-feet long World Traveller has a warm, nautical theme throughout and is decorated in hues of blue, with rich woods, and modern, comfortable public spaces. A great aspect of World Traveller is that everything was within easy reach. There are six passenger decks, but onboard time when not in one’s stateroom is spent on Decks 4 and 7. Deck 4 contains the main restaurant Lisboa and Alma Alfresco. Also Paula’s Pantry for delicious designer coffees and snacks, Atlas Bar Lounge for wines and craft cocktails, and Vasco de Gama Lounge for briefings and food demonstrations. The L’Occitane Sea Spa, Fitness Studio, Reception, and Boutique round out Deck 4, while Deck 7 boasts the large swimming pool, loungers, Jacuzzi, the Dome Lounge, and the inviting 7-Aft Bar, and 7-Aft Grill.
Nine categories of staterooms and suites ranging from the 183-square foot Adventure staterooms – great for solo travelers – to the 465-square foot Navigator suites. I stayed in a Horizon stateroom with 270-square feet decorated in shades of navy, taupe, and burgundy, and accented with gleaming woods. When lounging, a choice had to be made between the light blue velvet settee that had me contemplating the high seas or the comfortable club chairs to curl up with a book.
A good-sized desk area with USB ports and outlets, stocked minibar, and most importantly, both a Nespresso maker and tea kettle complemented the 60-inch flat screen television inlaid within a marine fabric backdrop. Whimsical ceramic drawer pulls on nightstands centered the very comfortable bed with high count sheets. Another design plus for the klutzy among us is that all furniture edges are rounded. Ample closets and an in-room safe ensured comfort.
The gray-and-white marble bathroom likewise had plenty of storage, shelving, and counter space. Textured, silver decorative sconces lent panache, and both sink and shower L’Occitane products were in environmentally friendly pump dispensers. The double-sized marble shower had traditional and rain shower heads. Plus unusual and fantastic for an expedition ship were built-in shower jets.
Foodies Will be Elated
To set the tone for those who like to relax, room service breakfast is served “whenever you wake up.” For those who venture to breakfast at Lisboa will be greeted by a breakfast bonanza. In addition to the buffet with a fresh juicing station, fresh honey on the comb, all manner of excellent European cheeses, a plethora of nuts and dried fruit, house made granola bars, charcuterie, there’s a bakery section to make a carbo loader swoon. There’s also a full made-to-order hot menu with daily egg special and other delights, think tapioca pancakes with chia.
Lunches at Lisboa likewise a delightful culinary affair, though when onboard I often ate by the pool at 7-Aft. Fresh salads, burgers, and the all-important ice cream cart with creamy confections dipped cones beckoned.
On this voyage, Belgium born Michelin-starred chef Rudi Scholdis was the guest chef. Scholdis has cooked alongside Alain Ducasse and has fed Queen Elizabeth II and President Bill Clinton, among other notables. Scholdis now owns Amandine Bistro in Santiago’s Hyatt Las Condes, Casa de Amalia in southern Chile, and caviar farm Kenoz together with his caviar master wife, Jennifer Meriño, who was also onboard to educate us on all things caviar during demonstrations and tastings of these edible black diamonds.
In addition to delectable 35-ounce Tomahawk steaks prepared in a Josper hybrid grill, mussels in white wine and wild jumbo shrimp – no doubt swimming that morning – sautéed lobster tails, and spinach ricotta ravioli with truffle sauce, Scholdis wowed guests with his signature dishes, like caviar-topped spaghetti.
Nightly the menu changed – including German, Swiss, Portuguese, and continental fare – so food boredom wasn’t possible. One night excellent Indian food was offered. An added plus, an inspired plant based/vegan menu was always available from which I often ordered despite my carnivorous tendencies as dishes were artistic, satisfying, and delicious.
Excellent wines specifically selected to complement dining also changed nightly. One afternoon, French Sommelier Patricia Hedge came onboard bringing elixirs from small, regional vineyards producing remarkable wines that generate 1,500 to 6,000 bottles annually. All were divine, though the standout was 2017 Cuvee Honorat Syrah made by monks living on a small coastal island near Cannes.
Food, Wine, and Cultural Excursions
Excursions in every port added to my personal food fanaticism. In Palamos, Spain, right by the pier in a stone building is the Palamos Fish Museum, likely the only one of its kind in the Mediterranean. A short introductory film laid the groundwork of regional fishing in Costa Brava and what it takes to get fish to table with its mission to dialog about environmental issues to ensure fishing’s future.
In Sete, France’s first fishing harbor in the Meditteranean, we walked to Les Halles – its grand food hall – for tastings. There, the freshest oysters from producer Simon Julien were devoured with crisp white wine and tielle– a local squid and tomato tart. The tasting ended with zazettes – flavorful, hard French cookies often dunked in the aforementioned wine. One must wholeheartedly admire the French for figuring out yet another way to enjoy white wine.
Near St. Tropez, another excursion brought us to Domain du Bourrian. With 62-acres under vine on this 148 acre-estate, this winery produces 120,000 bottles of 100-percent biologically organic wines. The full-bodied vintages were deeply enjoyed with charcuterie and local cheeses.
Thirty minutes from St. Raphael, in the medieval village of Roquebrun, St. Peter & Paul gothic Church built in 1535 was impressive, but my heart was stolen by Philippe Vienay, the hilarious proprietor of La Chocolaterie du Rocher. Here the rich, house made grand cru chocolates of one’s dreams are enough to swear allegiance to this French Willy Wonka.
The Serene Sea Spa
The Sea Spa by L’Occitane was a huge surprise. Offering facials, massages, and targeted treatments, I was a bit skeptical as treatments on ships can often be lacking and overly expensive. Not so at the Sea Spa. Not only did I have two excellent massage treatments onboard – indeed one of them was delivered by one of the most talented therapists I’ve had on land or at sea, but the prices were the same as one would expect in any U.S. city.
Treatment rooms have dark blue walls and blue-and-white floor resembling the ocean and white caps lending a dreamy ocean escape. The adjacent blue-and-white Serenity Lounge has a large, infrared Sauna and impossibly comfortable furnishings in the sitting area reflecting another oceanic haven.
Say Adieu to Weight Gain
Eating – and drinking good wine – is pretty much my favorite thing in the world to do. As soon as I’m done with breakfast I’m thinking about lunch. As lunch ends, I’m contemplating dinner. Once dinner is over, I’m thinking about breakfast. Such is my world, but that said, I also like to fit into my clothes.
Deck 4’s Fitness Studio is large for a ship its size and has all that one needs to counter the food and wine of World Traveller. Three-quarter windows keep it light and airy. There are two Technogym treadmills, a Technogym spinning bike, Technogym recumbent bike, free weights, bench, and stretching area with yoga ball. Happily, despite all I ate, on disembarkation the scale reflected the same weight as on arrival. No small feat.
Whether you’re dreaming of Mediterranean vistas, talented chefs indulging you in their culinary visions, sommeliers sharing some of the best vintage finds, or simply want to be on a lovely yacht with some of the industry’s best crew, you’ll want to take an Atlas Ocean Voyages Epicurean Expedition. Then you can start plotting your next adventure with Atlas to one of the Poles. Happy travels!
Julie L. Kessler is a journalist, attorney, and the author of the award-winning memoir: “Fifty-Fifty, The Clarity of Hindsight.” She can be reached at [email protected]. This cruise line hosted the writer, however content was not reviewed by it prior to publication and is solely the writer’s opinion.