I had heard a lot about the “cruising” lifestyle and contemplated if this would be a vacation style that would suit the foodie in me. I couldn’t imagine not loving boating around the ocean with exotic ports to choose from, nightly entertainment already planned for me and thousands of people who could potentially turn into friends. But, for me, travel is at least fifty percent about the food. Could a self-proclaimed, culinary snob, be satisfied with buffets and other boat bites?
For my first ever cruise, I booked the Western Caribbean tour with the Carnival Glory Funship, due to it’s adventurous itinerary (because the other fifty percent of travel is about new experiences). Also, It was one of the only companies that had my desired route of Belize, Honduras, Grand Cayman & Cozumel. The 7-day cruise was $650.00 per person and included all the food I could eat. Watch out.
When it comes to food, cruises promote gluttony. I saw children double fisting their dripping ice cream cones, adults ordering three dinner entrees each and plates coming out of the buffet that looked like a game of Jenga. The finger is pointed straight at me too, I am also happily guilty of indulging in dessert every night, filling my dish with foods I had not much intention on eating and enjoying hourly snacks at the pizza booth.
The rumors about the buffets were all true; they are plentiful, packed with people and promote over-indulgence. Breakfast always consisted of a selection of fruits, cheeses, meats and the morning staples. The pancakes were usually on the rubbery side, many of the fruits from the can and roasted potatoes were always cold. To the ships defense it is hard to serve great food to thousands of people going through a buffet line. I am not a breakfast girl anyway, just give me a cappuccino and call it a day. But, being that it was free, every morning I settled for a child-size box of frosted flakes, a piece of honeydew melon and a bagel. Perfect.
For lunch, many of the daily choices rotated amongst different nationalities; American, Mexican, Mongolian, Italian. You could nosh on nachos, paninis, pasta, fish & chips, etc… The Mongolian Wok ended up being my favorite and consistently had the longest wait. Why was it so popular? Probably because you were able to fill your bowl with all the fresh vegetables that would fit and they would skillfully saute it to your liking. It was one of the few times that you felt like you were eating healthy even though your veggies were going to be slathered in Teriyaki BBQ sauce.
Eating in the dining room proved to be a degree above the other dining, offering such things as mahi mahi, leg of lamb, escargot and southern fried chicken. The plates were all dressed up really pretty and above average, even though just a little salt or sauce would have kicked everything up a notch. There was no limit to how many items you could order which I wasn’t aware of until the third night. The third night is where managing my caloric intake went seriously awry.
So, can a cruise fill the foodies need? Yes and No. It really depends on your expectations. Unfortunately, when it comes to food, mine are usually very high. We did enjoy the elegant plating, even learned a few tricks for our restaurant. But, what the food lacked was seasoning, sauces and a bit of traditional culture. It seems as if they didn’t want to offend anyone with rich sauces or too many spices, which is understandable when you are trying to please the masses. But, a simple ranchera sauce for my dry Chile Rellanos would have made all the difference. With that said, I could understand why thousands of folks love the cruising dining experience, it’s way better than having to cook at home every night.