I was thrilled to learn that Windstar Cruises is going to use some real estate on the top deck of its stretched Star Breeze to introduce Star Grill by Steven Raichlen, starting next year.
My excitement was twofold. I am a griller, and Raichlen is a name any serious grill master is familiar with. His cookbook "How to Grill" is a soup-to-nuts primer on the subject, and the recipes in it, from pulled pork to pizza, have almost always been a hit with my family. (Besides, Raichlen is a fellow Miamian.)
But secondly, the Star Grill represents an expansion of a concept found on Windstar that I've always enjoyed immensely: the once-a-cruise Deck Barbeque, during which every guest can dine alfresco on a feast of delicacies, not all of them grilled.
It can be a tough night for the kitchen crew. I've been at Deck Barbeques that have had to move indoors at the last minute because of deteriorating weather. But on the right night it can be an enchanted evening.
Now guests will have a chance to enjoy the deck atmosphere and good grilling every day, and not just once a cruise, and at lunch as well as dinner.
Windstar isn't alone in offering more dining on the deck.
I recently enjoyed a fine poolside dinner on the Seabourn Ovation at Earth & Ocean at the Patio, which specializes in braised and smoked meats. Entrees included Peruvian pepper-spiced roasted salmon, 72-hour bone-in beef short ribs and a Madras vegetable curry.
Seabourn saves the "grill" moniker for its fancy, reservations-required indoor restaurant by Thomas Keller. Earth & Ocean is a conversion of the poolside restaurant on the Ovation and is Seabourn's most casual dinner option.
Another restaurant along the same lines is found on Silversea Cruises, which calls its evening deck venue The Grill. The cooking is part of the show, as The Grill uses oven-heated volcanic rock slabs at each table, giving guests the opportunity to cook their own steak, fish or vegetable dishes.
The slabs, heated to around 750 degrees Fahrenheit, produce a nice sizzle and are a clever way of bringing hot food to an area on the ship that doesn't have a nearby galley. I've seen it done indoors, and the cooking smoke turns the restaurant into a hazy mess. Outside, that smoke dissipates easily.
Of course, the pioneer of DIY grilling is Celebrity Cruises, whose Lawn Club Grill was introduced over a decade ago on the Celebrity Solstice. On the new Edge-class ship, the concept has morphed into the Rooftop Garden Grill, which still has grilled favorites from bratwurst to seafood kabobs, but has dropped the interactive grill-your-own aspect.
But any way you slice it, there are more alfresco, deck-centric dining options at sea than ever before.