Try to keep up with me here: I learned how to make a crème anglaise (English dessert sauce) from a French chef from Brooklyn while crossing the Equator on a trip from Tahiti to Los Angeles.
Actually, it sounds a lot more complicated than it actually was. I enrolled in the Cordon Bleu Cooking School at Sea on a Regent Seven Seas ship and spent an hour or two each day watching New York-raised French chef Gregory Steneck prepare gourmet dishes, and then copied him with a group of fellow cruise-students. Maybe it sounds odd to you that I went all the way to Tahiti to learn how to make crème anglaise, but we international, jet-setting cruisers just do things like that.
Cooking demonstrations and classes have become big on cruise ships. Regent does the Cordon Bleu schools, Holland America built demonstration kitchens in a bunch of its ships, and Silverseas just installed Viking ranges on its ships for hands-on cooking classes and demos. You can hardly go on board any ship these days without bumping into some poor celebrity chef or sommelier who has been lured from his hot kitchen for the week to conduct food and wine classes and demos on a ship. The poor guys usually never see the light of day, and suddenly they're thrust into the spotlight for a week in the Caribbean.
As for me, I can now make a lobster bisque that could make you weep, with tournedos Rossini and a lovely soufflé for dessert. I'm not saying that I ever actually DO make these things; I just can. Have you ever learned anything useful on a cruise (I mean, besides how to gain ten pounds in seven days)?