Imagine traveling to the Mediterranean, indulging in all the sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and touches of this sunny destination.
The aquamarine hues of the water, the sweet florals of lavender, the melodious tones of a Greek lyra or Spanish guitar, the tanginess of lemon, and the warmth of the sun. They all contribute to the magical atmosphere of this corner of Europe. Yet, this experience doesn’t require a long flight overseas or extra costs if you are booked on a suite with Princess Cruises’ Discovery Princess. Just look for your special invitation and enjoy this wonderful side trip to the western Mediterranean Sea.
I recently boarded the Discovery Princess in the Port of Los Angeles a few months ago, where nineteen other travel writers and I spent two hours on 360: An Extraordinary Experience. Guests were already present and enjoying the start of their vacation to the Mexican Riviera, with the expansive marble-floored and crystal chandelier-adorned atrium adorned with sparkling holiday decorations.
The Princess staff gathered us together in the atrium bar, then guided our group into Sabatini’s, their specialty Italian restaurant. They explained what to expect from this special lunch event, and how it was by invitation only to suite guests and those who were VIP casino participants.
We then headed into a corridor that led to a theater in the round room with a ring-like table in the center. Blank white walls – a 360-degree screen – hinted at the spectacle of what we were about to witness.
The host walked to the center of the space encircled by the table and explained what we would experience in the next hour or so. Our location was Southern California, but we would be transported to destinations in the Mediterranean – specifically Greece, Italy, France, and Spain. With the immersive sensory presentation, along with the incredible cuisine, we believed that our party was halfway around the world in this fabled sun-drenched paradise.
Here are five reasons why you’ll love 360: An Extraordinary Experience if you get one of those coveted invitations.
1. An intimate gathering
Unlike going to the ship’s main dining room or even in the smaller specialty dining venues, the capacity at 360 will never be more than twenty guests. Hosting a relatively small group allowed the serving staff – with a two-to-one server-to-guest ratio – to personally attend and the host to answer any questions about the food or wine offered. The setting also provided a terrific simulation of the destinations. With just under two dozen diners in the room, we were highly encouraged to interact more easily with our fellow guests.
2. Brooke Shields, our virtual travel companion:
The longtime actress portrayed a traveler recalling her adventures through her journal, and this served as the frame for the entire 360 experience. Through her vivid descriptions of the jewel-blue Aegean in Greece, terraced seaside cliffs in Italy, fragrant French lavender fields, and Barcelona’s vibrant culture, she became a fascinating storyteller. Shields also introduced us to the foods that we enjoyed throughout the meal and their vendors and creators, who had their own stories to tell. With Shields as our guide, the narration added to our enjoyment of the multicultural event.
3. Multimedia entertainment at your table
From the moment we sat down at the circular table, we enjoyed surprises at every turn. In addition to the high-definition video projected onto the screens, with postcard-worthy scenery, we listened to music that accompanied the images. There was an added surprise – the table itself was an interactive presentation, starting with our names on the place settings and continuing with blooming flowers, animated characters, and colorful designs that changed with the touch of a finger.
4. A culinary education
In addition to the impeccable service, the most enjoyable aspect of 360 was discovering the origins of the foods and drinks served over the seven courses. For instance, before sampling linguine al limone with cream, fresh herbs, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, we heard from an Italian farmer about the lemons he grows on the Amalfi Coast. Before this dish, we dined on a Caprese salad with creamy burrata and heirloom tomatoes and learned about the fruity white wine that accompanied the dish, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio, as well as the winemaker who has lovingly crafted it for decades.
5. Bringing your heartiest appetite
Naturally, when a seven-course lunch is in store, you practically avoid breakfast so you can enjoy it all. Getting through the assortment of Greek olives, yogurt sauce, and mini-pitas and the bruschetta with jamon and chorizo was easy; moving on to grilled octopus with feta, filet mignon with shrimp, eggplant, and truffles was more challenging. Saving room refreshing finish with honeycomb cake, lavender, and raspberry coulis is highly recommended.
Hopefully, the 360 experience will soon open to anyone who wishes to pay for this incredible meal and a virtual trip to the Mediterranean. But for now, do consider booking your suite accommodations on Discovery Princess, so you can enjoy this beautiful locale on any cruise itinerary.