As shimmering sunbeams animate the Mediterranean, distracting me from the array of mouth-watering delicacies before me, my senses are stirred further by dulcet French tones and the aroma of Earl Grey.
I’ve just been joined by charismatic master pâtissier and TV celebrity chef Eric Lanlard, hosting his eagerly anticipated, world-travel inspired afternoon tea in the Epicurean restaurant on-board P&O Cruises’ Britannia.
The ambiance mist he’s spraying to set the mood is effective. I could be anywhere in the world right now; a quaint patisserie in Brittany, a cake boutique in Battersea, but I’m about to embark with fellow guests on an exquisite culinary journey of afternoon tea on the high seas.
From pancetta and porcini eclairs inspired by autumnal walks in the Tuscan hills, to orange blossom and bee pollen scones with the sweet taste of Seville, Eric’s delectably cultured offerings are creating quite the stir.
“People always ask me how I feel about coming aboard P&O Cruises – I absolutely love it,” he says. “Being at sea, afternoon tea, meeting people, the whole experience. Being from Brittany I grew up by the seaside and just love cruising. In the evenings, I dine with guests in the main restaurant to meet new people and have a cheeky gin at the bar just to be a part of the atmosphere.”
Fabulous at 50 and world-renowned for his irresistible desserts, accomplished Eric – who owns alluring dessert haven Cake Boy by the Thames in Battersea – was mildly amused when P&O Cruises offered to ‘test his sea legs’ prior to him becoming a Food Hero on their fleet.
He explained: “Finishing second best apprentice of France, I was invited to do my National Service on the flagship of the French navy, the Jeanne d’Arc, as pastry chef to the captain.”
“Even though it was luxurious, effectively a floating embassy, it was still a navy ship with no stabilisers … and the kitchens were not as well equipped as the Cookery Club!”
Three years on from his debut P&O Cruises’ voyage, the amiable Frenchman’s extraordinary afternoon teas are flourishing, along with his sociable three-course hosted dinners and sea-day masterclasses where he showcases signature techniques which guests recreate at their own cooking stations before judging Bake Off-style.
Such is his love for the role, Eric has just signed with P&O Cruises for another two years meaning he’ll be serving up his sensations on new ship Iona - which sets sail in May 2020 - in the all-new Vistas Café Bar.
He’s hinting there may be an exotic Peruvian twist on afternoon tea too, so why not make time for cake time … and take your sweet tooth on the ultimate voyage of discovery.
There’s nothing quite like standing on an open deck, wind in your hair, gazing at the point the ocean meets the sky and thinking, ‘This is it what it’s all about’.
Atop Britannia on our first Mediterranean voyage, my family and I had an air of adventure and passionate expectations of fantastic food, sparkling entertainment and unforgettable experiences in diverse and exciting destinations.
With the sun-soaked ports of Alicante, Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Livorno, Rome, Cartagena and Gibraltar on the horizon, and a comfortable family balcony cabin from which to drink in the views, this stunning cruise ship, with her grandeur and enchanting glory, exceeded our every hope and dream.
Greeted on embarkation by Starburst – a shimmering mirrored glass centrepiece spanning the ship’s three atrium decks and setting the scene for splendour – images of elegant black tie evenings stirred the imagination long before our fellow passengers stepped out in their finery.
With 15 passenger decks, four swimming pools, hot tubs, sports courts, Oasis spa and shops aplenty, plus 13 bars, 13 restaurants, ocean-view gym, ballroom, cinema, library and casino – not to mention the Cookery Club and Food Hero Masterclasses – sea days shone with a confetti of choice for all.
Creating lemon meringue cupcakes and apple soufflé, Eric Lanlard inspired in his masterclass, enchanting guests at his hosted dinners with navy memories, quirky anecdotes and tales of the world’s finest monkfish over a relaxing glass of vino.
Our evenings were shared between the Headliners Theatre, the Limelight Club and the Live Lounge enjoying an array of Broadway class shows and acts, whilst the charming Crow’s Nest offered tranquil ambiance, unrivalled ocean views and mellow piano music perfect for a night-cap. Raising the bar on gastronomy, the exquisite Epicurean restaurant is the ultimate dining and service experience, whilst the menu at Sindhu is a mutli-sensory must.
- P&O Cruises is offering a 14 night cruise on Britannia (B923) from £1,746 per person for an inside cabin. Departing August 17, 2019. Price includes kids’ clubs, full board meals and entertainment on board.Departing from and returning to Southampton. Ports are Cadiz, Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Florence and Pisa, Cartagena and GIbraltar. Visit www.pocruises.com , call 03453 555 111 or visit your local travel agent.
WIN A MASTERCLASS WITH ERIC LANLARD:
P&O Cruises’ newest ship, Iona, will set sail in May 2020 with bookings being taken from Wednesday.
Iona’s stunning atrium spans three decks of panoramic sea views and the ship has over 17 places to dine. Its SkyDome on decks 16 and 17 is perfect for dining, relaxation and entertainment, whilst chic conservatory mini-suite cabins are the ultimate in stylish space.
Iona will sail exclusively to the Norwegian Fjords during the inaugural season.
To celebrate Iona’s booking launch Eric Lanlard is offering two readers the chance to each win a voucher for two to join him for a cupcake decorating masterclass followed by Champagne afternoon tea at his Battersea café, Cake Boy.
To be in with a chance of winning, simply answer this question:
Q) In what year will Iona take her maiden voyage?
All entries via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The closing date for entries is September 30 and winners will be contacted via email on October 1.
Full competition terms and conditions can be found at http://www.pocruises.com/cake-boy-terms
Enchanting castles, historic caves, palm lined-proms and white sandy beaches, the magic of the Mediterranean ignited in Alicante.
From the thriving Las Ramblas to the tempting tastes of the famous La Boqueria food market, bustling Barcelona is a hot bed of energy, vitality, architecture and culture which we savoured and truly enjoyed.
3) Monte Carlo
We explored the glitzy millionaires’ playground on foot from the harbour along with the intriguing old town, Monaco Ville.
4) Livorno, PISA and Florence
Torn between the lure of Pisa’s leaning tower and the striking architecture of stunning Renaissance Florence, we meandered sunny Florence’s Arno River and marvelled at the distinctive Duomo cathedral.
5) Civitavecchia and Rome
A short train ride from picturesque Civitavecchia took us right to the heart of the Eternal City of Rome where we visited Vatican City.
Flanked by a fortress and home to the original Carthaginian Castle in the old town, we took a walk on the wild side in Cartagena with a trip to Terra Natura Wildlife and Water Park.
A panoramic cable car ride to the Upper Rock, followed by a tour of the beautifully blooming Alameda Gardens.