These F&B innovations are at the helm of the cruise guest experience.

Following two years of occupancy declines, the volume of cruise bookings among global travelers is on a fast and promising incline. Cruisers once again feel safe, confident and filled with excitement to hit the high seas, visit their favorite destinations and discover new horizons. While guests are eager to be re-immersed in traditional aspects of cruising they know and love, their expectations for innovative offerings that cater to more recently developed interests has increased tenfold.

In a world of post-pandemic travel, there’s a hunger for a reimagined cruise experience. With six leading cruise lines accounting for a more than $2 billion share of the global food and beverage market, innovations in shipboard drinking and dining are taking centerstage.

While cruise lines are in a race to meet demands of the new discerning traveler, three essential trends emerging in food and beverage are reshaping the blueprint of the industry.

1. Sailing a sea of sustainability

Conscientious travelers are spiking the demand for a holistic approach to sustainability, impacting their dining decisions from hyperlocal food sourcing to plant-based options. For cruisers all over the world, immersive and regenerative travel experiences that connect and give back to communities are more important than ever. Cruise lines are rising to the challenge by working with independently owned small businesses to offer dynamic shore excursions and source endemic ingredients to incorporate in shipboard menus. Offering an authentic touch, whether it be glacial ice in an Old Fashioned in Alaska or sake and yuzu cocktails on an East Asian cruise, adds quality, culture and depth to guests’ experience.

According to recent data published by Seatrade Cruise, sustainable seafood and meat substitutes or plant-based proteins rank within the top three dining trends predicted to gain steam in the coming years. We’ve seen aquatic food consumption double since the 1960s and faced by current global supply-chain challenges, cruise lines are eager to amplify procurement of responsible seafood to meet consumer demand.

In the past five years, plant-based foods and protein sources have become important for vegan and non-vegan diners alike and continue to influence menu decisions for chefs and restaurateurs. Across the board, consumers have developed an appetite for expanded protein choices that value positive nutrition, sustainability and exploration.     

2.  A thirst for more nutrition, and less libation

Perhaps one of the most innovative trends on the horizon is diners’ newfound interest for lower ABV, sugar-free, vitamin rich beverages which has resulted in the popularity of zero proof cocktails. Consumers are increasingly focused on nurturing the mind-body connection and focusing on their health by choosing nutrient dense, functional foods, beverages and supplements that support physical and mental wellness. 

For mixologists, it’s an exciting challenge to reinvent classic cocktails and develop new, creative recipes that push the envelope. As we’ve done with the reimagined cocktail program onboard Princess Cruises, farm fresh, local produce, herbs and spices are the star ingredients that shine through and pay homage to our many beloved ports of call.

In the post-pandemic era, consumers are driving a shift at bars, lounges and social gatherings from heavily focusing on imbibing to homing in on perhaps the most quintessential element—human interaction. Across the Princess fleet, our Cocktails with a Story program features a number of thoughtfully crafted non-alcoholic cocktails and beverages that truly focus on bringing passengers together to create moments remembered long beyond the last day of the voyage.

3. Tech-driven convenience is king

While some pandemic trends dissipated, consumers remain focused on convenience—contactless, no hassle, app-based ordering and delivery services continue to thrive. Foodservice technology is on an upward spiral and cruise lines are met with demands from passengers to mirror their preferred land-based platforms at sea.

As outlined in Seatrade’s recent Cruise F&B Trends E-report, ordering and menu apps; AI for predictive ordering and waste management; contactless capabilities, lead as technologies anticipated to expand on-board cruise ships in the coming years. Proactive personalization, facilitated by smart tech, will also be of increased importance to the new-age consumer no longer interested in a “one size fits all” approach. Going hand in hand with travelers’ growing focus on health, wellness and sustainability, tech-based solutions will play an essential role in providing highly personalized solutions, services and recommendations tailored to the individual needs of consumers.  

It’s a pivotal time for innovation in the industry—while cruisers are more enthusiastic than ever to sail again, their renewed perspective brings about new challenges for cruise lines tasked with exceeding expectations. Tap into the latest updates and emerging trends as the industry gathers for F&B@Sea, an immersive two-day experience and the world’s first cruise event dedicated to dining and drinking, March 28-29, 2023 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 

Rob Floyd is one of the most recognized names in the cocktail industry. He has been named, “Bartender of the Year,” and is featured on TV shows like Kelly Clarkson, Access Hollywood and Bar Rescue. Rob is cited in publications worldwide including Esquire, Maxim and People Magazine, he has also written and appeared as an industry expert for a variety  of  media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, Times of London, CBS and Fox. Rob’s company Rob Floyd Entertainment currently amounts to over 300 million in beverage sales around the world with incredible partners such as Princess Cruises, Good Spirits, Carnival, Pepsi and VAI resorts. Rob has carved out a distinct niche in his ability to create luxury cocktails that are all delectable, inspiring and accessible. His focus on history and storytelling, combined with under-the-radar ingredients, create not just a cocktail, but an adventure in a glass and a feast for the senses.

Bar Management, Beverage, Consumer Trends, Expert Takes, Feature