Wine expert Leslie Sbrocco is cruising the Danube today, raising a glass — or several — to the food and wine traditions of Central Europe as she tutors passengers on how to become connoisseurs.
She’s also being filmed raising those glasses for an episode of her new TV food and wine series, “100 Days, Drinks, Dishes and Destinations.” Her goal, she said, “is to explore the destination through the lens of its culinary traditions.”
Sbrocco, a James Beard Award winner and regular on the “Today” show, is one of an ever-increasing number of experts and actors promoting cruising through TV shows. She’s sailing this week with AmaWaterways, which offers dozens of wine-focused European river cruises annually. The Calabasas-based company is a firm believer in marketing its cruises using food TV shows that feature personalities such as Sbrocco.
The celebrity cruise phenomenon started with “Love Boat,” a fictional TV show that began in 1997 and ran for a decade, becoming one of the most-watched series of its time despite predictions that its corny vignettes would sink it.
“Love Boat’s” popularity is credited with introducing the public to modern-day cruising. Princess Cruises, the line associated with the show, still capitalizes on the pleasant memories it created.
Cruise TV is a growing phenomenon. But the stories that air weekly are nonfiction looks at life afloat instead of romantic and comedic tales. Viewers can learn to cook with famous chefs, explore foreign shores and get tips on how to plan a winning vacation on the water.
Carnival Corp. has three series: “Ocean Treks With Jeff Corwin” (ABC), “The Voyager With Josh Garcia” (NBC and Telemundo) and “Vacation Creation” (ABC). These shows, launched in fall 2016, are aimed at showcasing adventures, cultures and global destinations.
In one 30-minute show, naturalist/adventurist Corwin hikes to the top of an active volcano in Greece, rappels down steep cliffs in Montenegro and scuba dives off Croatia. The goal of the show is to build interest in seeing various cruise destinations — in this case the Mediterranean. He packs a lot into half an hour: Before the show ends, he also presses olives into oil and learns how to cook a culinary masterpiece on a snail farm.
Corwin’s show airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays as part of the KABC Channel 7 Litton Adventure package. “The Voyager With Josh Garcia” airs on NBC and follows Garcia, a video journalist, as he visits seaside ports.
“The ratings have been extremely positive,” said Roger Frizzell, chief communications officer for Carnival. “The shows are performing well for us.”
If you can’t get enough seagoing TV on broadcast stations, there’s now an app to help you find more.
In the fall, Carnival Corp. launched OceanView Mobile, which lets people explore popular Carnival cruise destinations whenever they choose.
The OceanView app, available for iOS and Android, offers more than 150 full episodes from shows such as “The Voyager” and “Ocean Treks” and 30 short-form episodes of the original series “GO,” which chronicles Venice-based artist Trek Thunder Kelly as he travels the world by ocean, and “Local Eyes,” which introduces viewers to destinations through those who know them best — local residents.
Foodie content is limited on the app, but travelers can always turn to AmaWaterways and public broadcast stations to find it. Before Sbrocco’ s show, which will begin airing this summer on PBS, Ama collaborated with Ming Tsai, the restaurateur and celebrity chef whose public TV series “Simply Ming” is in its 16th season.
Ming filmed seven episodes of the series during a Rhine River cruise in the fall. He visited well-known restaurants, held wine tastings, explored ports of cal and collaborated with AmaWaterways chefs on food and wine.
“Food and wine are a vital part of discovering a new place or culture,” said Rudi Schreiner, Ama president and co-owner. “Chef Tsai’s approach to immersive culinary travel parallels our own philosophy of river cruising.”