A revolving menu Mouth-watering destinations beckon vacationers who have no intention of leaving their taste buds at home

Cruises: Once known for calorie-laden foods, cruise ships now go the low-fat route.

November 23, 1997|By Judi Dash | Judi Dash,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Responding to demand from health-conscious repeat passengers, and trying to attract a new clientele among younger vacationers, most cruise lines -- especially those plying the youthful Caribbean and Mexico markets -- have lightened up their menus while beefing up athletic activities.

Salad bars have become standard luncheon fare on the buffet deck, vegetarian entrees and simply broiled chicken and fish dishes have joined the mix of red meats in the main dining room, and menus proliferate with asterisks denoting low-cal appetizers, entrees and desserts. Most cruise lines use as their guide the American Heart Association's recommendations that meals provide less than 30 percent of their total calories from fat, and menu listings often include counts for calories, fat grams, cholesterol and sodium.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, for example, offers a vegetarian entree as one of its Ship Shapelow-calorie spa selections at every lunch and dinner aboard the line's 10 ships. The company's dietitian, Donna de Souza, who spent five years with Southern California's ultra-heart-healthy Pritikin Longevity Center, uses spices in lieu of oils in her curries, and soy mozzarella cheese in her eggplant Parmesan.

"I steam the vegetables or stir-fry them in broth, with lots of ginger and garlic for flavor," she says, adding that she replaces sugary sauces with a light lemon juice glaze and, whenever possible, eliminates oils from recipes.

Windstar Cruises takes a different approach to healthful eating on its three sailing ships -- which feel like big yachts. Jeanne Jones, a pioneer in gourmet spa cuisine and author of 30 cookbooks on light fare, eschewed a rigid, fat-free stance when she recently developed Windstar's Sail Light alternative menu.

"We're aiming for moderation, not deprivation, because this is a vacation and if you don't love the food, you won't eat it," says Jones, who also designed the spa cuisine for Tucson's Canyon Ranch fitness resort and the Four Seasons Hotels.

Breakfast might be oatmeal creme brulee -- cooked oatmeal served in an au gratin dish, sprinkled lightly with brown sugar and topped with a blenderized, low-fat ice milk/raspberry cream that's run under the broiler until caramelized. For lunch, you might get a fresh seafood paella with an oil-free tomato sauce, while a dinner favorite is salmon en papillote with herbed couscous and fresh veggies served with an herbed wine sauce.

Three-star French chef and London restaurateur Michel Roux takes a similar approach with his Lean and Lite menus for Celebrity Cruise Lines. "I am not going to abandon all oils and starches," says Roux. "Food, like life, must have balance to be rich and interesting. But I am using less oil and more fresh spices, and an abundance of fresh fish, vegetables and fruit."

Carnival Cruise Line's low-calorie Nautica Spa selections at lunch and dinner have been drawing rave reviews from the young, health-conscious passengers who keep the line's four- to seven-day Caribbean cruises at full capacity. Vegetarian selections also are offered, and there's a huge salad bar at lunch (with fat-free salad dressing options) and a pasta station with made-to-order entrees and a dynamite marinara sauce for those who can resist the Alfredo.

Among other lines' innovations for healthful eating afloat.

* Princess Cruises: Extensive salad bar and light pasta options at lunch. At dinner, light cuisine choices, such as skinless chicken breast, grilled salmon, veggie selections. Sorbets and fresh fruit desserts.

* Radisson Diamond: Vegetarian entrees, grilled fish and chicken dishes and low-cal pastas highlight the Simplicity selections at dinner.

And there's no midnight buffet. "We actually had people thank us for that," says company vice president Robert Lindsay. "They said it was one more temptation they didn't need."

* Costa Cruise Lines: Heart-healthy menu items with an Italian accent.

* Crystal Cruises: On both the Crystal Harmony and Symphony, light-cuisine choices at all meals, as well as extensive salad bar selections at lunch.

Calling cruise lines

Carnival Cruise Lines: 800-327-2058

Celebrity Cruises: 800-437-3111

Costa Cruise Lines: 800-462-6782

Crystal Cruises: 800-446-6620

Radisson Seven Seas Cruises: 800-333-3333

Princess Cruises: 800-421-0522

Windstar Cruises: 800-258-7245

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line: 800-327-6700

Pub Date: 11/23/97

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