Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cruise food - WHAT is the big deal??

Sorry guys, I had been gone for awhile because I went on a cruise to "Exotic Southern Caribbean". Yes, it was amazing - seeing tons of new places on a day to day basis, having your room be so conveniently located upstairs. But there are definitely pitfalls to cruise-ing...
...the constant rocking of the ship really gave me some queasiness the first few days, (thank goodness for ginger pills, thankfully given to me by fellow cruisemates), sometimes the ship feels like a floating prison as you are stuck on the thing for a good amount of time, the hidden charges (HOW can they charge $1.75 for a can of about highway robbery), the kids that ran around the ship like crazy and the older folks who would NOT MOVE any faster for ANYONE thank you very much.

I could deal with all of these things...however...the thing that was most disappointing was the food. I've heard many stories about how cruise food is the best in the world. The food is good...if you only eat at McDonalds, Arby's and Applebees (and love all three...all at the same time.) Me, I'm not a fan. I know that I am spoiled by all the good food I've had in my life, but at a cruise, they PROMISE good food. So here's a retrospective of some of the food I had on the floating island.
Here's a chocolate cake dessert that looks WAY better than it was. When I tried a little, the cake itself was DRY and almost crumbly, not in a good way. Not that chocolate-y, not much of anything. The pretty presentation is wasted on such mediocre dessert.
This tiramisu wasn't bad...definitely not as GOOD as I wanted it to be - super decadent, ladyfingers soaked and full o' flavor...this was not it. It was rather dry. And WHAT is that chocolate thing supposed to be the shape of?! A long crusty thing you leave in the toilet!? Yes that was gross. MOVING ALONG..!!
Also, here are some little appetizers that came AFTER we had finished our meal. Oh well, this was one of the things I actually really liked. Note the little crackers with a tiny triangle of brie, and half a red grape on top. And the shrimp toasts...and the shrimp cocktail....this was actually very very good. A shirley temple that I had at one of the restaurants on the ship (the restaurant was called "La Salsa".) Too much syrup. I should have expected as much. Gotta go easy on that syrup for me...
Here's some torilla soup that Owen had. It looks half digested already. There's probably a guy in the kitchen, whose sole purpose is to eat food, throw it up and plate it like this. At least there's some avacado in there...being slowly taken over by tomato substance. Not a fan of this.
Here's my tortilla salad. Really disappointing. Note the wilted and half melted/half cold orange cheese on top. Gross. Also, see that wilted little romaine leaf on top trying to escape the rest of the salad? It was trying to commit suicide for being in such mediocrity. Southwest Spring Rolls were up next. These things looked like severed finger props from the movie Hostel. Probably filled with the same stuff too. I've had WAY better at other places.
This is Owen's small little plate of nachos. I guess they really didn't mess this up too much. The tortilla chips were less than stellar though- really not up to par with tortilla chips I've had, oh, ANYWHERE else. Even store brand chips are better than these. The good part about this was the FAKE NACHO CHEESE...yes I have a soft spot in my heart for fake nacho cheese. I am a weirdo.

Owen and I had an order of a thing called "Ill Popo", which was blazenly served upon a BALL OF DEATH. I'm not kidding! The iron bell shaped thing with NAILS poking out of it, is superheated and arrives sizzling to the table, with pieces of chicken, steak and veggies hanging off of the hooks. Rice, salsa, sour cream, guacamole and cheese are displayed on little plates at the bottom, and tortillas accompanied this death meat. We got extremely full off of this.
This is Owen's dessert - coffee ice cream with puff pastry, drizzled with chocolate. This looks great...but it was really gross tasting. Bitter, not great coffee taste, syrup wasn't hot or melty, it was just...there.
Here's my trio of churros. Totally NOT what churros were supposed to be. 3 mini fried...things...not even covered in cinnamon. NO CINNAMON? What is with that?? A little bit of granulated sugar, vanilla...sauce...on the side, with 2 little bits of chocolate mousse squirted on the plate. Not satisfying. Thumbs down boo!!
I didn't get to eat these...but in San Juan, Puerto Rico, there was a bakery/cafe with these little pastries in the window...I couldn't help but take some pictures.

Oooo, cake rolls. Damn I could eat like a fistful of these.
Something is so comforting about a Neopolitan...the layers of flaky pastry nescled with custard cream, with a extra hard frosting top. Mmmmm....
Check out these pizzas!! I wanted one so bad...each piece looks loaded with toppings, and if you're lucky it looks like you'll bite into a sardine. Maybe we should have gone here to eat...but we ended up...At this cute little place down the street, outdoors. I had a pina colada (virgin, of course...damn me and my allergies to alcohol), and it was quite refreshing and good, although I spilled half of it on my pants, and when I asked for some napkins, the angry seasoned waitress snidely said, "We have a bathroom." Thanks for the help (bitter sarcasm on my part.)

After trying my best to wash off sticky pina colada off my pants, a basket of these amazing garlicy buttered pieces of french bread arrived at the table. These are dangerous, as they are so good I could eat a few baskets of these.
After waiting forever (it is Island time, after all) we got our meals. We all ordered fried rice, just different versions of it, so it all basically arrived like this in front of each of us. I got the Lobster fried rice, and I have to admit, it was really really good. The rice was tender and flavorful. The pieces of lobster tasted fresh and not frozen, and actually tasted like they came from a real lobster. There were at least 4 good sized pieces embedded in there, and the rice had soaked up some of the flavor as well. The only sore spot on the plate were the plantains...too dry and overfried, where it tasted like I was eating a scratch and sniff sticker on cardboard.
On Antigua, we stopped at a restaurant called Hemingway's. We were soooo hungry...and again with the island time...! It took forever to get anything done...order, get our food, bill....ah well, it shows how much of a city person I am. The bottled water that we got was kinda neat..."Loubiere"? It's no Crystal geyser...
This is my fish sandwich. It was alright, the fish was fresh enough, but definitely not the best fish sandwich I've ever had. The fries were decent. Again, nothing "out of the ballpark" kind of stuff, but I was so hungry at this point it really didn't matter because it was completely gone by the end of the meal.
This was Owen's club sandwich with salad. He didn't say too much about it. I liked that they had corn niblets in the salad...who doesn't like corn niblets? I can't think of anyone.

This was Alex's Jerk Chicken sandwich. I like that his sandwich came on a piece of french bread, and the seasoned chicken looked decent. Thinly sliced ed onions usually improve most sandwiches. More fries. I love me some fries.
This was some Austrailian ice cream we got right before we had to be back on the ship. I got the apple flavor...which was a mistake!! It was WAY too tart, almost enough to make your eyeballs pop out of your head! It was half melted when I got it, which, if you know me, is one of my huge pet peeves...I hate melted ice cream. So that was a bust. On Dominica, after hiking up to Trafalgar Falls, we stopped at the snack shop at the bottom of the hill...I got some blurry shots of some chicken pies...
...and some beautiful looking plantains. They're not mushy and sweet looking like I usually like them, but a huge pan of them is always interesting to me. After river tubing (really!! it was fun!) we got a complimentary rum punch or juice. No rum punch for me, unfortunately, so I tried the Tamarind juice. I have to say it just wasn't my bag - too sweet in the wrong way. At least it was cold.
Here's some weird looking snail like things that the waiter had left in La's stateroom. What are they? I have no idea. What's in them? Could be ground up innards for all I know. The best part of these, if I had eaten one, is probably the bread. They had AMAZING bread on the ship, I don't know how they did it. These were little pretzel rolls.

Moving right along to the Chocolate Buffet they had on one of the last days at sea. Basically, they make a whole bunch of chocolate related stuff - sculptures, food, etc and my guess is to stuff yourself silly, if you haven't yet by now. This is the beginning of the line for the chocolate buffet. I do like the white chocolate owls...unfortunately, NO TOUCHING. or eating those sculptures. WHAT IS THE POINT THEN?!!
So I guess you can eat this stuff. Chocolate cake...thing. It's like everything else on the ship...looks good, tastes mediocre. It wasn't that rich chocolate cake-yness that you WANT in chocolate cake...this tastes more like chocolate chalk brick with frosting.
Oh owls, I want to take you home with me and keep them as pets...until you melt from the summer heat.
More chocolate waste. Everything. Tasted. The. Same. Big Ben, in chocolate. I think it's to make the people from England feel at home. 5 to noon, huh? Why did they choose that time?
Here's some fruit...sushi?!! I mean, props on presentation, but when you put one of these things in your mouth you wanted to spit it back out again. Each little sushi was a mash of sugared old rice, and in the middle was a piece of fruit, with maybe some chocolate frostingy stuff on top. GROSS.
I think this spiny fruit-kabob is related to Sonic the Hedgehog. I really really would not like to trip and fall around this thing. This was at the end of the line at the Chocolate Buffet. A official fruit kebab dipper was the only one allowed to handle the fruit...
...they would then dip the thing in chocolate. Which was...okay. The chocolate they used wasn't top notch, as usual, so when the fondue dried a bit, the consistency was kind..gummy. Not what you want in a "decadent dessert". Is there ANYTHING to eat on this cruise? Well, there was one thing that never let me down...
...the fruit. Honestly, some of the best, consistently good fruit that I've had. A medley of melons, bananas, grapes, apples, oranges - this is what I would fill up on if things weren't looking too hot everywhere else.

On our last evening on the cruise, we had made reservations for the "premium experience" steakhouse, called Cagney's, on the ship. Each person was an extra 15 or 20 dollars, but at least they didn't feel like they skimped out on anything. These were Owen's crab cakes - cute little guys. They were surprisingly tasty.

This was Owen's lobster bisque - with a thing in the middle he described as "lobster flavored mousse". The soup itself was thick and rich, but not something I would choose to eat, personally...i.e. if I'm going to have lobster anything I might as well ACTUALLY have lobster.
These are my oyster rockafellers. Very very decent. Oyster anything is usually good in my book.

This is Jamey's shrimp cocktail. It was alright- a skimpy 4 shrimps, but I guess he could have asked for another if he wanted to. (that is the nice part about the cruise, I mean, you can really be a glutton, but I usually didn't...I was usually too disgusted or too full or both.)
Here's Owen's usual order of Caesar salad. It was okay, like every other caesar salad that had been ordered on every other meal on the ship. I think they slather too much dressing on.
Here's my wedge salad - iceberg lettuce wedge, with green onions, blue cheese, bacon, slivers of tomato and a red vinegar dressing. I liked everything but the red vinegar - it made everything taste too bitter.
The first, and only clam chowder I had during the whole time onboard. And I have to say, it was pretty decent. Very creamy. Wish there were more clams in it.
Here's my New York Strip Steak - that LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE A MALE ORGAN. Despite appearances, this was a very decent cut of meat, and very flavorful. Just don't ah, look at it while you're eating it.

This is Caitlynn's roasted chicken. A full half a chicken, she didn't finish. I'm sure it was fine- after all, you mostly know exactly what you're getting with a roasted chicken.
Cagney's fries - they touted that these were cooked in truffle oil, and were "special". Well they were alright, but I didn't taste anything extremely different in this batch of fries other than the sprinkling of cheese and parsley on top.
This was Owen's filet mignon, the big size. This was an amazing piece of meat. Flavorful, juicy, perfectly grilled. If only the rest of the meals on the ship were of this quality. The crappy chocolate desserts, times two! These things were COMPLETELY FROZEN. You had to use a KNIFE to try to shave pieces off of this thing, and even then your utensils got stuck in it. THEY ALWAYS LET ME DOWN.
I got the apple pie a la mode, which was pretty cute. The ice cream was good, the pie itself was more like apple crumble on top of a mini pie crust, with crappy chocolate sticking on top of it. Not enough apples inside, but passable as an "okay" dessert.
Bananas Foster, ordered by Jamey. This was probably the winner of the dessert wars, although they couldn't light it on fire next to the table like they do at other restaurants. I guess no flames - good policy for a rocking-in-motion ship. The bananas were sweet, the ice cream melted, oozing and mingling with the bananas mix.

So the cruise was definitely more about looks than actual decent food, in my opinion. But I know I'm spoiled by all the good food I have around Los Angeles, so I have extremely high expectations when cruises tout their special foods. They didn't deliver about 80% of the time, but I still had fun...when I wasn't seasick!


Dr. Alice said...

Wonderful review, you had me laughing out loud more than once! I'm sorry you were stuck with such mediocre food, but at least you got a great blog entry out of it. I hope you enjoyed the cruise.

heysandra said...

Thanks Dr. Alice! Yes, I had a good time otherwise (the first time I've ever snorkeled or did "snuba" diving, where they run a line of air from the surface) so it was a great experience otherwise. Thank you for reading!!