Cruises open up the way to many destinations that still enjoy afternoon tea; a remnant of the British Empire which have each now put their own twist on the ritual. A cruise of Britain is your best bet for the most authentic cup of afternoon tea, but Boston in the United States also has a proud history of upholding the tradition.
Afternoon tea has really taken off in Australia too in the past couple of years, although there’s a distinction to be made here between the traditional variety and the modern interpretation, which is something closer to an evening drink. India’s imperial centres also boast a long-standing tradition of enjoying afternoon tea; the perfect place to try a spicy cup of chai, or a cup of Darjeeling fresh from Bengal. Or, if you’d love to break away from tradition and try a very different kind of ceremony, you could always choose to sit back with a cup of green or jasmine tea in China or Japan.
But you don’t need to step ashore to enjoy a classic afternoon tea. Today there are many cruise lines that take their on-board afternoon tea very seriously. Afternoon tea is an institution that harks right back to the earliest beginnings of cruise holidays, when luxury voyages were little more than straightforward ocean crossings from one port to another. The tradition of afternoon tea followed the upper classes aboard ocean liners, and even after these crossings had grown into the cruises we know today, the tradition for afternoon tea endured as a passenger favourite. A number of our cruise lines stand out for their complementary afternoon tea service:
Silversea gives its passengers the choice of open-seating afternoon tea in its ships’ lounges, bars and terraces – or you could sit back and enjoy it in the comfort and privacy of your own suite. Head down for afternoon tea and you can expect live piano music to accompany the proceedings; where you can choose from a wide variety of leaf and herbal teas and a range of light meat, fish and salad options before pastries and cream tea. If you’d prefer to enjoy afternoon tea in your suite, your butler could bring you caviar, foie gras and a cheeseboard, although a full menu could be on offer and is well worth asking about during your cruise. Sun, sea and afternoon tea – the perfect combination for a luxury cruise.
Seabourn afternoon tea is quite an occasion, complete with fine china and silverware to give passengers a timeless tea service to remember. This is afternoon tea for those who want comprehensive choice when it comes to the menu – your options could range from acai black to mint and ginger; Himalayan Darjeeling to African varieties. Even the snacks are first-class gourmet affairs – you could be choosing between roast beef, seafood focaccia sandwiches or a rich remoulade; but be sure to make some room for a will-destroying choice of cheesecakes and tarts.
Oceania Cruises review their menus regularly for afternoon tea. Each ship has a team of pastry chefs on board, changing up the dining options to keep the emphasis on variety for diners. Expect a wide selection of ever-changing cakes, pastries and scones delivered to your table on tiered dishes, served alongside a choice of sandwiches and desserts to accompany a wide choice of teas. Afternoon tea is served in the ships’ panoramic lounges, for some magnificent views of the sea and your port destinations. As with Seabourn ships, expect the full treatment of china and silverware – and even the presence of a string quartet or a trio, to lend some classical overtones to your afternoon tea.
Regent Seven Seas puts a slightly different twist on afternoon tea. Depending which ship you’re on, you’ll find that afternoon tea is served in various lounges during your cruise. Where Oceania cruises have a classical quartet to accompany proceedings, Regent afternoon tea is a little less formal and tends to involve live guitar or piano by the ship’s resident performers – or even a quiz held by the resident staff; the perfect opportunity to team up and make some new friends (or some trivia nemeses, of course). Imagine helping yourself to a colourful cupcake buffet, or a hearty crepe folded on your plate with chocolate or ice cream beside it. If you’re looking for something a little more substantial to tide you over until a late evening meal, there’s also a great choice of sandwiches and pastries available too.
Crystal cruises specialise in themed tea ceremonies in both the Symphony and the Serenity, which is held in the ships’ main courts and served by waiters in a variety of dress (anything from Georgian frills to bow ties). With a great choice on their afternoon tea menus, this is a great opportunity to find your new favourite tea – the choice ranges from herbal teas and spicy ginger to Continental black-leaf varieties, and plenty of options in between. Of course afternoon tea wouldn’t be afternoon tea without a choice of treats to indulge in, especially aboard a luxury cruise – so how about a sticky slice of chocolate cake, a steaming cut of apple strudel or a choice of cheese and crackers to go with your pot of tea?