Cruisin' food -- the good, the bad, or do you want to make the cooks 'walk the plank'?
Headed on a cruise ship to Alaska in a couple of months, and am wondering what to expect...The old stories are a mixed bag ranging from some rating the buffets at the peak of gastronomic excellence to the main dining rooms being a cut below Denney's... The truth must lie somewhere in between.
oh my. i wonder where you heard this... i have been on a cruise with Princess, and the food was sooooo good. honestly. so good.
my party was fortunate enough to get an hour with the food and beverage manager, and he explained that on a cruise ship, everything is made from scratch except the yogurt and boxed cereal. stocks, soups, sauces, you name it! all made from scratch. he said that cruise ship cooks are masters at recycling cooking leftovers (i.e carrot tops and meat carcasses for stock), because of storage restreints on the ship.
we had a night with lobster that was fresh and delicious. the desserts we always fresh and not too sweet. only once had a sauce been too salty for my taste... but hey. i would go back just for the food!!
I've been on many cruises, and it depends on the cruise line. Just remember, they want you to be happy, and they don't mind if you order two entrees or send something back that's not to your liking. I've found the simpler the better,and the salads and fruits are almost always great. I know some people who are happy just with the desserts!
Norwegian Dawn (2002) has 12 different restaurants and "Freestyle Dining," which means you have different choices of where to eat and when you eat. There are a couple restaurants where you pay an extra fee to eat at, but only if you want. I think on our ship it was the sushi restaurant and the steak house. Unfortunately the Norwegian Dawn website doesn't list what those restaurants are. But all Norwegian ships have basically the same restaurants if you can find a listing.
When we were on Norwegian Wind (older ship-now retired from Norwegian) we had a party of 6 and made sure we had dinner reservations every night at the restaurant we wanted to eat at (we like to eat early), otherwise you have to wait to be seated after the reservations. I'm satisfied with eating the buffet for breakfast, always plenty to pick and choose. Some people prefer to eat in in the dining rooms and be waited on. The food and service is good.
We are not cruise folks, and have only done two. One is the Hurtigruten, the boats that go up and down the Norwegian coast, carrying passengers and freight. Food was typical Norwegian, very practical, potatoes twice a day, plain meat and gravy type stuff. The other was a high-end trip from Barcelona to Nice on the Sea Cloud, the one-time yacht of Marjorie Merriwether Post, a sailing ship. Gorgeous, to be sure. But neither the food nor the wine lived up to expectations. It wasn't bad. It was just unimaginative and far too safe.
Which cruise line are you taking?
If its what I call "middle of the road" like Royal Caribbean, Princess, Norwegian, Holland American, the food is going to be good. It's not going to be 5 star dining. They all do a good job when you consider they're cooking for 2,000+ people. Surprisingly many things can be cooked to order like eggs, omelettes, steaks are now cooked to order so you have it the way you like.
You aren't going to experience any dining room thats a cut below Denny's. Even on Princess they have the best pizza I've ever had at their pizza stand by the pool. Everything they make from the baked goods to the deserts are made from scratch and fresh everyday.
I was on the Princess Ruby last month and loved that pizza they had by the pool (and I live in NYC so I don't feel particularly deprived when I'm home, but I sure miss their pizza).
For the OP - I was really surprised at the quality of the food especially given the mass production aspect of it; this was my first cruise. I really enjoyed just about everything I ate except I found the fish to be really overcooked so I just avoided it and found something else I liked. When that happened, I just sent it back and had them bring out something else. I became oddly addicted to their fettucini alfredo which I promptly ordered as a side dish with my dinner, much to the amusement of my fiance. We ate at one of the specialty restaurants too - the steakhouse and had a great meal.
One special treat we were able to take advantage of was that we were selected for the Chef's Table which is only available on some Princess cruises (not sure if other lines have a similar thing). You have to sign up once you're on the ship and cross your fingers that you get picked. We were part of a group of 10 and received a tour of the galley, where we were served champagne and appetizers with the maitre d' and the executive chef and then had a special dinner which started with lobster risotto that was absolutely amazing.
The one aspect I was less impressed by was the wine lists in the dining rooms, especially the by the glass offerings. I thought they were pretty boring. We brought on one bottle we wanted to have when we ate at the steakhouse and if I wasn't so worried about packing more in our suitcase, I would have brought more bottles. But the cocktails were fantastic and I was so happy that they had Hacker Pschorr hefeweizen and was not stuck with the usual Bud/Miller Lite offerings.