Afternoon tea is, of course, a British tradition and, fortunately, it’s found its way on to cruise ships as a sea-going tradition, too. Pretty much all cruise lines offer some kind of afternoon tea, some better than others; the spread may vary from a few sandwiches and cakes on the buffet to a full, waiter-service extravaganza. For Brits starved of a decent cuppa, afternoon tea is often the best bet for finding a proper brew, with tea served from pots and supplied by Twinings, or similar, as opposed to the tea bags full of sawdust and not-quite-boiling water we often have to endure on ships’ buffets. Happily, all the cruise lines tried and tested below also pass the clotted cream test; as any self-respecting fan of afternoon tea would agree, whipped cream with scones simply won’t do.Here are 10 best afternoon teas on cruises that are not to be missed.
Cunard's claim to fame rests squarely on its upper-crust British heritage, and teatime aboard its ships is legendary. Tea is held between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. daily, with the exception of embarkation day, in various locations across its fleet, including its crystal chandelier-clad Queens Room and intimate Grill lounges for Grills passengers. There’s a more casual setting at the buffet, too. An enhanced afternoon tea, with champagne, is served for an extra charge in the Garden Lounge on Queen Elizabeth, the Laurent Perrier Champagne Bar on Queen Mary 2 and the Verandah Restaurant on Queen Victoria. Guests on Queen Mary 2 can also indulge in a Godiva chocolate-themed tea in the elegant coffee shop, Sir Samuel’s.
Teas on offer are from Twinings, and the onboard tea sommelier will help you decipher the menu. An enticing array of sandwiches is presented; offerings include salmon and cream cheese, roast beef with horseradish and shrimp salad. They're followed by scones with clotted cream and jam, and then it's on to pastries like Black Forest cake, fruit tarts and eclairs. Gluten-free options are available but you need to let the waiters know.The Champagne Afternoon Tea includes extra items, like feta and mushroom filo tart, or choux buns with passion fruit and mango. A glass of Laurent Perrier is included in the price but at $34.50, it’s not cheap.There’s more; at Sir Samuel’s, the coffee shop on Queen Mary 2, you can opt for a Godiva Chocolate Afternoon Tea. This includes one item of patisserie from a selection of decadent-looking cakes on display; white chocolate scones with lime jam and clotted cream; and two Godiva chocolates, washed down with Illy coffee or premium tea.
There is no specific children's menu, but the kids are sure to enjoy some of the pastries.
Standard afternoon tea is free. Champagne Afternoon Tea costs $34.50, while Godiva Chocolate Afternoon Tea costs $14.95.
Afternoon tea is enormously popular on P&O Cruises’ seven ships. There are two versions: a more standard offering in one of the main dining rooms and on Arcadia, Azura, Britannia, Ventura and from 2020, Iona, a gourmet version conjured up by master patissier Eric Lanlard, one of P&O’s Food Heroes. This is a meal in itself; try to avoid early dinner on the day you choose to indulge. The Eric Lanlard tea takes place in The Epicurean restaurant on Azura, Britannia, Iona and Ventura and in the Ocean Grill on Arcadia.
For the standard afternoon tea, waiters serve finger (crustless) sandwiches with fillings including smoked salmon, cucumber and cheese, as well as dainty cakes. A mini lemon meringue pie was especially delicious. Scones are served warm with jam and clotted cream. There’s a choice of tea, too, from English Breakfast to Earl Grey, green tea, peppermint, raspberry and chamomile.The Eric Lanlard tea, served on sea days, is a masterpiece. Waiters present cake stands laden with beautifully crafted items, which are often not what they seem. What looks like a chocolate éclair, for example, is a savoury choux bun with a cheesy, pancetta and porcini filling. The scones are infused with orange blossom. The salmon tarts are delicately flavoured with beetroot and vanilla. A chocolate sphere sprinkled with gold breaks open to reveal chocolate mousse and raspberries macerated in framboise liqueur. The West Indies chocolate tart is rich and decadent, infused with spices. There’s a selection of teas on offer and for more conservative tastes, plain scones (with clotted cream, of course) as well as the flavoured versions. Given that in a top hotel, you could pay upwards of £40 for afternoon tea, this is superb value and a real treat.
Children are welcome to afternoon tea on P&O’s family-friendly ships, but there are no special dishes on offer. Kids’ tea is featured at the buffet, though, including fast food such as fish fingers and pizza.
Regular afternoon tea is free. The cost for Eric Lanlard’s Epicurean afternoon tea is £15.
Saga Cruises presents its afternoon tea as a buffet in the main lounge and it’s a very impressive spread indeed. This is also a very sociable time, people coming back from shore excursions and chatting over scones and cakes. The menu changes daily, too, which is an excuse to keep coming back.
You’ll find real British classics on the buffet, sometimes with a contemporary twist. Long-forgotten gems like Battenberg cakes and Chelsea buns might be on offer, as well as Victoria sponges piled high with strawberries, or, from further afield, glossy Sachertorte. Mini pavlovas and bite-sized chocolate brownies are favourites, too. Sandwiches might include cucumber, smoked salmon, cream cheese or roast beef. What’s impressive is that a whole section of the buffet is dedicated to gluten-free and diabetic version of the cakes, so nobody need miss out. The tea is special, too; it comes from the Tregothnan Estate in Cornwall, grown and picked in the UK.
Saga’s ships are for over-50s only, so no.
Afternoon tea is included in the cruise price.
Each of Marella’s ships serves afternoon tea in the buffet restaurant, usually between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. While it’s a decent spread, you may not have the sense of occasion that you would on a waiter-served tea.
Expect hot sausage rolls, cheese rolls, open sandwiches, filled brioche buns and daintier finger sandwiches. The selection changes every day. You’ll also find an array of iced cakes and scones, which come with jam and clotted cream.
Certainly, on the family-friendly ships, although there are no dishes specifically for children.
Afternoon tea is included in the cruise price.
CMV’s ships serve their afternoon tea at the buffet, from 3.30 to 4.30 p.m. daily. It’s very popular, especially on sea days.
Expect a mixture of finger sandwiches and filled rolls, followed by cakes and cookies and excellent scones, warm and crumbly, with jam and individual pots of clotted cream. Tea onboard is proper English Breakfast, so good and strong. If you want the Whittard teas, though, there’s an extra charge from the coffee shop.
Children will enjoy the cakes and scones, no doubt, although there are no special offerings as such.
Afternoon tea is included in the cruise fare.
Fred. Olsen offers two versions of afternoon tea on its four ships. There’s a simple take on tea at the buffet each day, with cakes, filled rolls and sandwiches, as well as scones with jam and cream. The main event, though, is Traditional Afternoon Tea, served a few times per cruise in the light-filled Observatory Lounge, with white-gloved waiters and background piano music adding to the ambience.
All the stops are pulled out for the enhanced Traditional Afternoon Tea. Taylors of Harrogate tea is served in porcelain pots, with a choice of Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Imperial Gunpowder or China Rose Petal. Sandwiches, scones and cakes are presented on pretty cake stands. A typical spread might start with smoked salmon, cucumber, shrimp and avocado and egg mayo sandwiches. Scones come with clotted cream, jam and honey, while cakes include mini eclairs, fresh berry tarts and a different pastry for each occasion.
Fred. Olsen doesn’t carry many children, except in school holidays, so there’s nothing specifically for children, but anybody would enjoy cakes, scones and sandwiches.
The tea served at the buffet is free. Traditional Afternoon Tea costs £8.95.
On all Viking ships, afternoon tea is held daily in the Wintergarden, a beautiful, light-filled solarium with comfortable easy chairs and couches. Seat yourself in the open, central space for a more social atmosphere, or seek out a nook along the side windows for a more intimate cuppa. Live music often accompanies teatime. If it's crowded, seating will spill over onto the pool deck.
Three-tiered trays hold crustless finger sandwiches, macarons and other miniature pastries, and warm scones with clotted cream and jam. Passengers can select from a huge tea menu, or order Champagne, wine and other spirits for an extra fee.
Viking Ocean Cruises does not welcome children under 18.
Tea is included in your cruise fare.
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