In the food world, this has been even more surprising. Paula Deen has hosted a cruise with Luxury Cruises and Tours for five years; Jacques Pépin has also been in the cruise business for a while, acting as the executive culinary director for Oceania Cruises since 2002. The latest to jump on the bandwagon is Nobu Matsuhisa, joining forces with Crystal Serenity to cook onboard and host cooking demonstrations.
"It started probably in the past five, maybe even 10 years," Ross A. Klein, author of Cruise Ship Blues and Cruise Ship Squeeze, told us. "In the early 2000s there was a wave of affiliating with celebrity chefs, implying somehow they’re cooking the foods in the galley. It’s a marketing tool, a way of getting people to go."
According to Klein, these celebrity deals are a win-win for the celebrity and for the cruise line. The line gets to enhance the travelers’ experience, plus charge a bit more for the activities, and the celebrities get to work on their brand, make a little more money, and usually get a free vacation out of it, too.
"Some people will see it as prostituting themselves," Klein said. For chefs such as Nobu Matsuhisa, however, the cruise is a way to reach new customers and fans. "Other people who maybe have heard of him but couldn’t afford to go to his restaurant will see it as a very positive experience," Klein told us.
So how do cruises choose a lucky host? "Anybody that has a good fan base," said Charlene Failla, president of Luxury Cruises and Tours. "We look at how many fans, what their fan base is, do they have followers on Twitter, email lists, and what the public is looking for."
Failla, whose company is also behind Kate Gosselin and Deena Nicole’s cruises, wouldn’t share how much these celebrities get out of the deal.
But since Deen has been doing this for five years, we can imagine it’s fairly profitable. For Deen’s cruise, Luxury Cruises and Tours was able to gather 500 fans to sign up for the special themed package, out of the some 3,000 passengers onboard.
"The majority of the people are going to book [a cruise] independent of the celebrity," Klein told us. "A number of people will be on it because they know who she is, and it’s that kind of thing where, 'I got to meet that person,' so people will be excited to shake their hands, be in the same room that they were in. But to me it’s just them marketing themselves and marketing their brand."