Friday, December 26, 2014

Cruise Food

Thirty-seven years ago, Doug and I took a honeymoon cruise from NY harbor to beautiful Bermuda. We were told by well-traveled family members that the food onboard is delicious, and constantly available. That wasn’t the case on our trip. In addition, the ship’s stabilizers weren’t quite up to snuff. Suffice to say, the cruise didn’t leave a very good impression in our minds.
Friends who are avid cruisers, mentioned to us last month that they were taking a cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Mexico, and that we should give cruising another try. They assured us that that ships and the cuisine have improved tremendously since our earlier trip.
Doug and I took the leap and signed up for the same cruise as our friends, and are we glad we did! We sailed on the Caribbean Princess to Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico.
We could write endless about the experience, which was overwhelmingly positive, but we’ll stick to the food for now.
It was truly awesome, in a number of ways.
With more than 3,000 passengers and about 1,100 crew to feed, the ship’s dining operation produced 12,000 meals daily plus a seemingly endless array of snacks and deserts. And if we just couldn’t wait for the next meal, we didn't have to. We could graze the buffet, order a hot-pressed sandwich or stroll over to an on-deck pizza stand for a hot slice straight from the oven.
Succulent Cioppino on board the Caribbean Princess
The food was uniformly good-to-excellent, with just two disappointments. The first was that getting meat cooked as ordered turned out to be hit or miss. Most attempts were either underdone or overdone. Yet somehow the seafood was always succulent (including fork-tender calamari) and the pasta perfectly al dente.
We got a special treat midway through the cruise when the head chef hosted a culinary demonstration and answered questions about the floating feast that he has overseen for more than 30 years. We were most impressed to learn that nearly everything was made onboard from scratch, including the soup stock and ice cream.
To top it off, we toured one of the ship’s seven galleys and were happy to see that every surface gleamed.
Our shore excursion time was limited, so we used it to observe local culture and tour magnificent Mayan ruins. Along the way, we watched plenty of hungry fellow tourists flocking to familiar restaurant logos, such as Hooters and the Hard Rock Café.
Awesome shrimp fajitas at El Coctelito, in Cozumel, Mexico
We passed them all and ate our one on-shore meal in Cozumel at El Coctelito, an open-air sports bar of sorts on the waterfront. It sure wasn’t fancy: No roof, no walls, no booths. Just plastic patio furniture, palm trees and a limitless view of crystal blue water.
The food was fabulous, including great, green mounds of butter-smooth guacamole that the chef mashed by hand as we watched. And those fat, juicy shrimp! Wonderful.
Sadly, there was indeed a second dining disappointment during our nearly week-long cruise: Nothing Armenian or Middle Eastern showed up on any menu. Despite that, we both showed admirable discipline in not skipping any meals. It was the least we could do for our readers.

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