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Captain Hongo

Cruise Ship Food and Dining

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My 2 cents...

First (and only) cruise was on Norwegian Star from Seattle to Alaska.... I booked a top suite and looked forward to the reported wonderful meals...

Sorry to report I was disappointed. During the cruise, I realized how short sighted I had been. Of course, any "restaurant" that has to stock once a week, do 2000 meals at dinner and work in very limited space would be challenged to produce gourmet meals!

I did, however, love the sushi restaurant (required an additional fee) and I ate there for dinner so much that I OD'd on sodium via soy sauce! (Swollen ankles upon disembarkation!)

IMO, the lower cost cruises without gourmet themes are geared towards people who value quantity over quality. I did value the cruise for access to the parts of Alaska that only can be reached by boat or plane and the wilderness excursions that I participated in while in various ports-of-call. (Seeing an eagle grab a fish I caught about 10 yards off a tiny skiff was worth a week of bad eating!)

I also loved finding non-touristy places to nosh in ports - some of the best salmon I've ever eaten!

Julia


"Anybody can make you enjoy the first bite of a dish, but only a real chef can make you enjoy the last.”

Francois Minot

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We will be sailing the Atlantic aboard the QM2 at the end of the month. I'll post our impressions then...I've read good things though, keeping my fingers crossed.


"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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So the question for me is if I'm looking to go on a cruise and food for us is the #1 priority and places to see and do #2 which cruise is best? My family is vary partial to seafood and asian food (korean, chinese, janpanese, viet, etc).

Soup

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love the freestyle dining concept. was on the Norwegian Dawn recently(the one with the whole 70ft wave incident). days before the wave incident, i ate at what was their crown jewel restaurant, Le Bistro. had a lovely time. my favorite was the chocolate fondue with the fruits in a pineapple boat-shaped container. first course was escargots with butter sauce and herbs. second is a beef connsomme with julienned vegetables with a puff pastry dome. bit disappointed, the vegetables were really thin for my liking. main course was filet mignon, potato gratinee, vegetables, goose-liver sauce with a shaving of black truffles( :sad: they skimped on the truffles though). then dessert which was the chocolate fondue. surprsingly they didn't have creme brulee on the dessert menu. it was nice eating dinner next to a matisse painting. i ate at the main dining rooms aboard the ship and the places that you had to pay extra. the place that i truly avoided was the buffet areas. for breakfast each morning i had a croissant with brie and bacon bits, dark hot chocolate with extra whipped cream to wash it down. i ate at the asian fusion restaurant bamboo, they had good sushi though no japanese sushi chef :sad: . i ate at an italian themed restaurant called la trattoria, their pizzas tasted like frozen pizzas but appetizers were decent. i also ate at salsa, a tex-mex type restaurant. had the mesquite grilled fajitas, they were tasty. the ship had a chocolate buffet. having gone to the NY chocolate show, i was disappointed at the showpieces. it looked like they were using cheap chocolate to make the show pieces, though the ice scuptures were really cool. the offerings looked great, but a lot were misses. one of the chocolate mousse tasted more like a creamy chocolate jello. the drinks aboard the ship were ok, some were too sweet others were too bland. sold evian and pellagrino for 3 dollars a pop. one of the favorite things the dining staff did was that for breakfast, lunch or dinner, once you sit down, they fold out the napkin for you. that was indulgence right there...considering it's my first cruise and i don't spend much time going out to dinner in nyc. my favorite ice cream treat was the vanilla soft serve with chocolate syrup and roasted coconut. the going away bbq and most bbq's on the ship, they had burgers that were all pre-made. their ribs were good but the sauce needs tweaking. all in all despite the wave incident and cutting out nassau bahamas, it was a lovely cruise.

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But on the second night my husband realized you could order as much food as you want so if the menu said soup or salad options you could get both....I swear one meal he had soup salad 2 apps and 2 entrees.

I always get ALL the appetizers. That's where the big money is, so they offer you good food, fresh food, but just a little bit of it. So you get caviar, smoked salmon, carpaccio, pates, prosciutto and melon, lobster salad....and on and on.

So I get all the appetizers, and then a soup and dessert. Unless there's something on the entrees that really floats my boat.

So to speak.

:biggrin:


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I'm writing this from the internet cafe of the Grand Princess... we left Galveston on April 16th 2005 for a transatlantic voyage ending in Rome on May 2nd...

This is my 2nd Princess cruise, and my first cruise of such long duration (16days).

We'll be in port in a few hours at the Azores... so I've got a few minutes to talk about the food...

In a word I'd classify shipboard food as upscale diner food... remember how you enter a typical Greek diner and see all those desserts and a menu chock full of dishes ranging from breakfast eggs to steak... picture a cruise ship offering the same variety, not all at the same time, usually of better than average quality... all included in the price of the cruise, whether its lobster or aged steak.

For example, in the dining room Saturday night they served lobster at dinner. Every night one can have a cooked to order aged NY Steak or Filet Migon. There's always a fish item on the menu.

We're on the "anytime dining" schedule allowing us to take meals whenever we want to sit down vs. fixed dining early or late seating. I'm told by cruisees that some prefer the fixed seating on a long voyage like this to make friends with their captain and wait staff so their requirements are known after several days and the waiters know them on sight, eg, one lady I spoke to like her iced tea made from fresh by the waiter vs. taking the pre-made from syrup iced tea onboard.

One can chuck eating in the dining room at any time and eat at the buffets which run 24 hours rotating their menus...more on this later.

The 2 Princess ships I've been on each have 2 special restaurants which charge a cover per person for their special meals... one is Italian called Sabatini's serving a seven course dinner nightly for $20 cover pp. The other is a steakhouse serving aged beef of larger weights than the dining room for a $15 pp cover. The service and food quality are sightly above the dining room. For the money I'd say they're worth it. Alot of passengers I've spoken to refuse to pay a cover when so much food is available 4free..lol ... Dont expect on shore 5star equivalences here but 4 star service and 3-3.5 star food is usual... for me the cover is worth the extra bit of privacy these special on board resturants offer for special evenings alone with a loved one.

Buffet: hold your hat... if you like grazing then cruise ship buffets are for you. Lets start with brekkies... do you want to eat a pound of high quality nova salmon or gravlax but never had the desire to blow the bucks at Zabar's?? this is the place to do it... need to eat a 1/2 pound of prunes to get your system back to normal...this is the place to find them.... at dinner time do you ned 5 or 10 loin lamb chops this is the place to load your plate and no one will look at you funny....

The object is to focus on the items which are of better taste and quality and chow down... wait I'm wrong... foodie or not if you are in the mood to dine in mass quantity the buffet is for you. You sacrifice captain-waiter service for self-service but you get to look and choose whatever suits you at the moment... and go back until you drop.... waistline watchers, cruisin' / grazing the buffets ain't 4 U unless U R willing 2 suffer the consequences of clothing not fitting by the end of the voyage....lol

Frankly, I like a mix of the service with food of the dining room and the cafeteria zoo of the buffet... even after finishing a full meal in the dining room one can go to the buffet and graze for more... no one will ever stop you from eating except your own self control.

BTW, I'm onboard with some people who took this cruise for Passover. The ship had two Sedars led by a cantor. The food was kosher brought on board frozen and reheated/cooked. Some people were disappointed that the food wasn't kosher for Passover only kosher. Matzoh is available if you want to stay away from bread products during the holiday. If you keep kosher, your dietary requirement will be honored but your food choices will be significantly limited--if you want a kosher cruise go on one where they kosher the kitchen and cook a complete menu from raw food onboard.

I'll try to come back to this thread later in the cruise...I've got another week on board if anyone has any specific questions I'll be try to answer them...

I'm off to eat (again)....lol

Rich

PS... I just ran and got today's menus.... today's theme is Italian but here are the entree choices in the dining room (some are repeated on the buffet)

Luncheon:

- Salad Nicoise

- Cuban Sandwich

- Ossobuco alla Milanese

- Catfish in shredded phyllo

- Stuffed peppers

- Chicken Teriyaki

Dinner:

- Pappardelle al Sugo di Lepre (homemade wide egg noodles simmered with tender braised rabbit and roasted red and yellow peppers in a rich demi-glace and sage sauce)

- Pesce Spada alla Griglia (Grilled swordfish with herb butter, broccoli and steamed potatos)

- Gamberi alla Fra Diavolo (shrimp flambeed in brandy with pearl rice and a fiery tomato sauce)

- Costoletta di Vitello Piemontese (veal chop cut from the rack with sauteed mushrooms, served with fenel gratin and creamy homemade taglierini pasta)

- Brasato di Manzo al Barolo (beef pot roast braised in red wine with cornmeal cakes and tuscan fresh veges)

Just like I said, upscale diner food but very tasty :) :) :)


Edited by friedclams (log)

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So, eGullet's--maybe the web's--first sea-going food blog.

On which night does the buffet feature AYCE fried Ipswich clams?


"To Serve Man"

-- Favorite Twilight Zone cookbook

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I will be going on a cruise in June and have not been assigned a table (we did get the requested 2nd seating) so can anyone say if they've greased the Maitre D' before sailing to get assigned a table for two? If so, how much?

We'd also prefer not to take clothes for the 'formal night' and I was wondering if anyone has given their waiter a little extra to get the lobster in-room that only seems to be served on the formal nights.

Any other advice is also welcome.

Thanks very much,

Kevin


DarkSide Member #005-03-07-06

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We'd also prefer not to take clothes for the 'formal night' and I was wondering if anyone has given their waiter a little extra to get the lobster in-room that only seems to be served on the formal nights.

Just call room service and order. In fact, order as many orders of it as you want.

They'll deliver.

--Dave

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We'd also prefer not to take clothes for the 'formal night' and I was wondering if anyone has given their waiter a little extra to get the lobster in-room that only seems to be served on the formal nights.

Just call room service and order. In fact, order as many orders of it as you want.

They'll deliver.

--Dave

Thanks Dave. I got the impression from all the info I've read that the 24 hour room service was kind of a limited menu, but based on your suggestion, I'll certainly give it a shot.

Thanks again!

Kevin


DarkSide Member #005-03-07-06

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We'd also prefer not to take clothes for the 'formal night' and I was wondering if anyone has given their waiter a little extra to get the lobster in-room that only seems to be served on the formal nights.

Just call room service and order. In fact, order as many orders of it as you want.

They'll deliver.

Thanks Dave. I got the impression from all the info I've read that the 24 hour room service was kind of a limited menu

It depends on the cruise line. I think that if you get "Concierge Class" on Celebrity you may get the option to choose anything from the menu for room service.

I'm not sure about room service options on Radisson Seven Seas but definitely Princess, and most likely Carnival, Royal Caribbean etc. - the main stream non-premium lines - have more limited room service menus. They'll have a soup, a basic salad or two, some sandwich options and a simple dessert item but not the dining room menu.

Seabourne, Crystal, Radisson and SeaDream all seem to get fairly high marks for food. The Cunard QEII gets a similar rating for "premium level" but they have two distinct service classes, room levels and separate dining rooms.

I thought the food on my first Princess cruise two years ago was better than expected - good diner food gussied up is an accurate way to describe it. I even had a few surprise like some rack of lamb that was truly outstanding. I sailed with them again more recently and was less impressed with the food offerings. Far more misses this time but the Italian specialty night was good and one night the buffret had caribbean style stewed goat that was quite possibly the best goat I've ever had.

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The majority of our cruises have been on Royal Caribbean. They do have a "limited" room service menu, but they are generally pretty happy to try to help you out whatever your order. Because they have printed menus for each evening, including the formal nights, you can always ask your Maitre D' to let you see the formal night menu, explain that you would prefer to eat in your room that night, and give him your order. He'll make sure you get it.


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Thanks Dave.  I got the impression from all the info I've read that the 24 hour room service was kind of a limited menu, but based on your suggestion, I'll certainly give it a shot.

At least on Holland-America, you can order from the dinner menu during dinner.

In fact, if you want, and you have the second seating, you can order the lobster during the first seating, then change into formal clothes and join your tablemates for something less messy during the second seating.

--Dave

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My husband and I will be doing the Mexican Riviera trip with his family on the Golden Princess over Thanksgiving week 2007. We're really looking forward to it, and hope to get some glimpses "behind the scenes": my MIL works for Cruise Line Agencies in Juneau, AK and is acquainted with several of the captains, and the Golden Princess is up there right now for the summer Alaska cruise season, so she's made arrangements to work that ship before it departs for the south.

Does anyone have any recommendations for the Golden Princess? This will be the first cruise for my husband and me, so we're just looking forward to the experience more than the specific destinations, but any Riviera recommendations are appreciated as well.

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We took a family cruise around the Hawaiian islands last March on the Pride of America (Norwegian Cruise Line). The food was pretty dreadful, even at the places that charged extra, and watching already overweight people load their buffet plates with junk was very depressing.

NCL was not our choice, and if we ever take another cruise we will look into a different line.


Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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I'm going on three or four different trips this year and one of them is a cruise around the Caribbean... Not my choice, I assure you -- something my sisters' families are doing and it is the first time I have ever been invited along on a family vacation. I'm going for the family and not the food, but I will certainly report back.

Oh yeah - and I'll probably bring my own wine...

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Depending on the cruise line, you may or may not be able to bring your own wine. ON Royal Caribbean, you can't bring any alcohol on board at all. On others, you can.

The food on Royal Caribbean has been slipping dreadfully lately. We're about to take our last two cruises with them before we move to another line. We'll probably try Celebrity to start with. I understand they have a sushi bar, and in their specialty restaurant, they actually have seared foie gras for an appetizer.

Most of the mainstream lines, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival have lousy food. HAL does good food, as does Celebrity, and then you are into the really upscale ships.


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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I've been on three cruises, all on Celebrity, and found that it was possible to get good food if you choose carefully. The prepared breakfast and lunch buffet food ranged from so-so to appalling (and I say this as a person who can enjoy a meal at Golden Corral without much difficulty.) The trick with breakfast and lunch is to get to where food is being made fresh; on Celebrity there's an omelette station and waffle station at breakfast, and sandwich station at lunch. Also, the breakfast pastries are excellent. Dinner in the main dining room is profoundly mediocre, about what you'd expect when they're serving 2000 people. Edible if you think of it as catering food rather than fine dining. We usually skipped it in favor of the early evening sushi, noodle, and stir-fry service (this was located in the buffet and was quite good.) There was 24-hour room service with a limited menu, and you could get meals from the main dining room menu during mealtimes. We were underwhelmed by the additional-fee "specialty restaurant", but it really wasn't bad, just not great.


"There is nothing like a good tomato sandwich now and then."

-Harriet M. Welsch

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We did a 60-day cruise a couple of years ago. I would have to say that I probably ate better (and healthier) during four years in the navy.

For most, cruise means "treat" and treat means all the lobster you can gouge yourself on. Believe me, even lobster gets old after while. They even used to feed it to prisoners. Also, consider the median targeted age for the cruise market is probably 65 and you on track for an otherize bland diet.

On our most recent cruise and table-mates were Israelis. One night we elected to try the ship's "fine dining" at an extra $25 per person. That translated into steak, - American style- with lots of potatoes and sauces.

My friend ,who was a Kosher wine producer in Israel, and I knew we were in trouble when a fine French wine came to the table and the label was in Chinese. Not to worry about sulphides. The wine steward, who was a very accommodative practicing Muslim, couldn't tell us much about the bottle's history. Neither could we.

Our suspicion was was our wine was probably like Heinekens: "The largest Heinekens brewery in the world is said to be in China. Heinekens just doesn't know about it."

I would suggest, if you are real interested in fine dining, on a cruise you check before you book as to where your ship replenishes while at sea. You may just find yourself 15 days at sea and eating thawed Seattle salmon rather than fresh barramundi or parrotfish from nearby waters.

Dave

PS - on the subject of wine we took a case with us and replenished in ports where French was spoken. The ship's list was marked up about 4 times and quite average. the cheapest bottle was probably $32 for an on-sale bottle of $6 wine/

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I've cruised quite a bit, most recently 102 days around the world. My experience has been that many of the prepared dishes are pretty average, but if you stick with items that are prepared simply, like rack of lamb, prime rib, crab, lobster, good cheeses, fresh fruits, etc., you'll dine swell. And the appetizers are often the best offerings. If the main courses didn't look that great, I'd just have several appetizers and a salad.

I miss it, frankly.


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I cruised for the first time ever this August, a 5-day jaunt to Bermuda and back on Royal Caribbean. I thought the buffet was mediocre, but the dining room was pretty darn good. Sometimes things were more salty than I would prefer, but that's a common complaint I have with any restaurant. There were some staples on the menu every night, namely a strip steak, a caeser salad, and a vegetarian Indian dish. My dad tried the Indian dish twice (I don't think he's ever had Indian food before), which endeared him to our Indian asst & head waiter. :) Generally, I liked everything, and you know what? There was always pizza and sandwiches to be had at the 24 hour cafe.


Joanna G. Hurley

"Civilization means food and literature all round." -Aldous Huxley

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I'm sailing on the QM2 in three weeks. I'm told there is seared foie gras on the Grills menu. I'll let you know!


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Please do! I'm doing a 15 day cruise soon, and I'm curious. It's seems like an awfully stretch for diner food - even good diner food.

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