Meet the Food and Beverage Director Serving Up Flavors and Memories

From his favorite meal to the Ultimate World Cruise destination he can’t wait to visit, Derek McKnight gives us the inside scoop.
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Visit more than 240 destinations on vacation with Royal Caribbean, from Caribbean isles to Mediterranean cities and beyond.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

From resort-style pools and idyllic beachside destinations to skydiving simulators and original productions across four stages, air, ice, water and theater, a vacation with Royal Caribbean checks all the boxes. Plus, the lineup of restaurants and bars on board—from hibachi and Italian to wine bars and those with Caribbean vibes—serves up flavors for everyone.

As a food and beverage director (and an executive chef before that), Derek McKnight is key to serving up the memories made over the dinner (breakfast, lunch and even brunch) table. Derek’s 15-plus years with Royal Caribbean have been filled with adventures around the world, and what’s next is his biggest yet—the Ultimate World Cruise on Serenade of the Seas. With the menu of restaurants, bars and lounges on board, behind-the-scenes kitchen experiences and activities like wine tastings and sushi-making classes, Derek has a full plate—literally!

Learn more about Derek, including his favorite spots on board, the destination he most looks forward to visiting, and of course, his number-one dish.


Derek is most excited to return to Sydney, Australia, on the Ultimate World Cruise, one of the stops on the ship’s Asia Pacific segment.

Credit: Derek McKnight

Q: Let’s get started with your travel experience. How long have you been exploring the world with Royal Caribbean? And what do you do?
Derek: I’ve been with Royal Caribbean for 15 years. My title of Food and Beverage Director is just what it sounds like—I manage the food and beverage operations aboard our ship.


Q: What’s your favorite part about what you do?
Derek: I love that this job gives me the opportunity to empower my staff and help make them even better people. It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly.


Q: What do you love most about living and working at sea?
Derek: I love being on the water and exploring new destinations—and on a cruise ship, you can do both at the same time! So it’s a perfect setup.


Q: What is the greatest memory from your career so far?
Derek: Being chosen as the Food and Beverage Director for the Ultimate World Cruise. Having started out as an Executive Chef for Royal Caribbean, it’s an honor to now lead the food and beverage program aboard this monumental voyage.


Q: As Food and Beverage Director, this may be the most important question: What is your favorite meal on board
Derek: The grilled branzino from our steakhouse Chops Grille is fantastic. We sear it to perfection. It’s a great option when you’re not in the mood for steak.

Pro tip: In addition to Chops, there are eight dining options aboard Serenade of the Seas, including Italian-style Giovanni’s Table, sushi at Izumi and global-inspired Windjammer.


While Derek’s favorite dish at Chops Grille is the branzino, the meat selections, including these lamb chops, are also superb.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

Q: What is your favorite thing to do on the ship?
Derek: Walking on the open decks. It’s one of those simple pleasures you can only enjoy on a ship.


Q: Do you have a favorite show or production?
Derek: Blue Planet on Allure of the Seas is really incredible.


Q: What’s your “secret spot” where you go to unwind?
Derek: Maybe not so secret, but I like to sneak away to the gym on quiet days and just walk on the treadmill.

Pro tip: Not a treadmill person? Get your steps in onboard by hitting the walking track, balling at the sports court or trying one of the many onboard workout classes.


Royal Caribbean offers countless activities to get you moving, including a rock-climbing wall with spectacular sea views.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

Q: What is your must-pack item for a cruise?
Derek: Sunglasses. We get a lot of sun out here on the open ocean.


Q: How long will you be on the Ultimate World Cruise?
Derek: Pretty much the entire time, other than a short break in March!


Q: What destination are you most looking forward to visiting on the Ultimate World Cruise?
Derek: I’m excited to go back to Sydney, Australia, and see the amazing Opera House again.


Q: Why is Royal Caribbean a great way to vacation?
Derek: We not only have the largest cruise ships in the world, but we also have private islands, award-winning entertainment, mouthwatering cuisine and endless itineraries to choose from. Best of all, our outstanding crew takes everything on board to the next level.


Q: Time for a quick fire round of “this or that” questions, starting with chill or thrill?
Derek: Chill.


Q: Night on land or sea?
Derek: Sea.


Q: Chocolate chip or ranger cookie?
Derek: Ranger cookie.


Q: Coco Loco or The Lime & Coconut (from The Lime & Coconut bar)?
Derek: The Lime & Coconut.


Q: Perfect Day at CocoCay in The Bahamas or Labadee in Haiti?
Derek: Perfect Day at CocoCay.


Ready to dive into your next adventure? Plan a Royal Caribbean vacation here.