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Cruise Ship Food: Dishes And Delicacies

Mention the word “cruise” and the word “food” is usually not far behind. Today, we’re giving you a “taste” of some of the dishes we’ve enjoyed on a variety of cruises and a variety of ships…

Crown dessert balcony dinnerThe presentation is as immaculate and tasteful as this Crown Princess chocolate raspberry dessert.

Riviera-red ginger diningSeafood delicacies like this from the intimate, upscale Asian restaurant known as Red Ginger on the Oceania Riviera.

Allure-IzumiHot Rock (525 degrees) is the name of this specialty at a specialty restaurant, Izumi, on Allure of the Seas.

Freedom-cheesecake steakhouseCheesecake (and wine to match) — the perfect postscript to a meal when dining in the renowned steakhouse on the Carnival Freedom.

Eclipse-elegant expressA treat that comes when you have “Elegant Tea” on Solstice Class ships like the Celebrity Eclipse.

Epic-slime cakesThis baby’s called “slimecakes” — the Nickelodeon spin on “pancakes” on the Norwegian Epic and, yes, it does taste better than it sounds or looks.

Coral-chef's tableOn the Coral Princess, the Chef’s Table includes an old standby — surf ‘n turf — or steak and lobster, exquisitely cooked and displayed, of course.

Reflection-dessert buffetEvery ship has them, the fabled dessert buffet, and this caloric delight is from Celebrity’s newest ship, the Reflection.

Epic Entertainment’s New Future

For anybody who has ever sailed on her, the “E” in Epic has always stood — unofficially — for “entertainment.”

Cruising is an industry that is all about “firsts” but in the big picture — the Epic picture if you will — time dulls the memories of which cruise line or ship first did this or first did that. Suffice to say, the Epic had its share of firsts, many of them in on-board entertainment.

We were fortunate enough to see the Epic when she was a baby, although it is awkward to call a 4,100-passenger cruise ship a baby. She was barely six months old when we Epicboarded her in November 2010 and after spending a week sailing in the Western Caribbean it was abundantly clear to us that she was “epic” in entertainment, at least.

There was Blue Man Group and Legends In Concert and the Nickelodeon set for little people, who had breakfast with SpongeBob, Dora and Diego. There was a bowling alley, of all things, and a cirque show and dueling pianos. There was an enormous screen on which to watch football, among other things, and a place to play Wii at a time when Wii is at its popularity peak.

That was then.

Now is now. For the Epic, that means a change in entertainment, a change necessitated more by geography than age, a change announced yesterday by Norwegian. Its former flagship is moving to Barcelona next year, permanently, and what entertains in the Caribbean is not necessarily what entertains in the Mediterranean. While there is some crossover in both markets, the majority of the demographic is different.

So here is what’s new on the Epic, or will be in 2015:

Burn The Floor — This high-energy theatrical dance show has already been a big hit on Norwegian’s Breakaway and Getaway, so the gamble here (if there is one) is that Europeans will take to it, too. Considering that the Vienna waltz is one of the ballroom dances that it updates, and that the Epic performance is “specifically designed for Europeans,” there’s a reasonable chance of success.

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert — This musical is based on a 20-year-old movie about drag queens and transexuals, and a bus named Priscilla. An Australian comedy-drama, it made Cavern Clubits big-screen debut in Spain and became a cult classic that won an Academy Award. The musical has been playing in several countries since 2006 and lasted a year on Broadway, where it won numerous Tony Awards.

The Cavern Club — In partnership with the famous Liverpool haunt that launched The Beatles, this figures to have wide appeal, just as the Fab Four did…and still do. The club still functions, 43 years after Yeah-Yeah-Yeah and 57 years after it opened. The club that has spawned a lifetime of entertainment (the band playing there Saturday is called The Cavern Club Beatles!) will be replicated on the Epic and feature appropriate music and international musicians.

Suffice to say, this trio figures to have the impact to make the “E” in Epic stand for "Entertainment in Europe.”

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

- Cavern photo by Ronald Saunders (Wikimedia)

Norwegian Jade
10 nights
February 4, 2015
Rome (return): OlympiaAthensEphesusIstanbulNaples
Inside: $659
Cost per day: $65
www.ncl.com

Some highlights from Cruise Year 2010

It was the year that…

Oasis of the Seas was replaced as the “biggest ship in the world” by Allure of the Seas, which won the competition by one-fifth of an inch, or five millimeters — the fact is the two Royal Caribbean siblings are identical in size when it comes to the number of passengers each can carry…about 6,000.

Norwegian’s star-crossed Epic arrived, surviving two fires in the shipyard in France in May and a few controversies once it hit the water with passengers in the summer (an aside here…while this ship is different from any other, our first-hand experience is that it’s a great ride).

• Cruising booms were felt in Australia, China, Europe and Cuba.

• New cruise ship godmothers (or godmothers-to-be) ranged from Queen Elizabeth to Reba McEntire to Mary Hart to Princess Maxima to Shrek’s wife Fiona…joining a list that already included Tinker Bell, Whoopi Goldberg and Sophia Loren, among others. Note: It was the second ship offspring for Queen Elizabeth.

Celebrity’s Eclipse, Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam and the Seabourn Sojourn joined new ships on the seas.

• Hurricane predictions threatened to be a record high, and there were 19, but none of them came close to rivaling the damage done by the earthquake in Haiti  and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, tragedies which both involved but didn’t threaten cruise ships.

• A fire on the Splendour left the Carnival ship drifting off the coast of Mexico, powerless for three days and helpless to a barrage of criticism that came mostly from the shore.

• The Splendour escaped with no injuries, 100 passengers were injured when Brilliance of the Seas rolled sharply after being caught in unexpectedly rough weather.

• The 100-passenger Clelia II was damaged after hitting massive waves on its way back from Antarctica, and a video shot from a rescue coast guard ship was all over YouTube.

Starbucks opened a cruise-ship store (Allure of the Seas).

• The controversial Alaska head tax was reduced from $46 to $34.50, which made everybody happy, especially people who believed it was going to severely impact cruises to the 49th state.

• Small-ship line Cruise West folded after more than a decade in business, leaving its flagship Oceanius in Newfoundland, and so much for that world cruise.

• Ship entertainment welcomed a cast of new characters from Dreamworks (Shrek) on Royal Caribbean and Nickelodeon (SpongeBob SquarePants) on Norwegian, leaving competitor Pixar (Toy Story) adrift.

• The most bizarre happenings were ash, of all things, from a volcanic eruption in Iceland delaying thousands of passengers trying to catch cruise ships…and a woman having a baby on the Carnival Paradise (doesn’t anybody check on these things in advance?).

President Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act, a list of safety requirements that must be upheld by all ships sailing into and out of U.S. ports.

Cunard broke with a 170-year-old tradition and put a woman at the helm of one of its ships, the Queen Victoria.

• The most controversial “float-out” of the year was when Carnival floated the idea of charging for steak in the main dining room, and the jury is still out on where that will go from here.

Did we miss anything?

Reflections on an Epic Journey

Here’s what we like about spending time on the third-biggest cruise ship in the world, the one-of-a-kind Epic

It starts with the entertainment, which came as no surprise. Whether you think Norwegian is leading the way in cruise-ship entertainment or not, NCL has much to do with raising the bar. At times, it felt like Vegas, because that’s where you would expect to see such professional acts as Blue Man Group, Legends in Concert and a “Cirque” show.

The food. The choice was one thing. On a week-long cruise, you will have 21 meals…if you exercise control. There are 20 different dining experiences, so the decision would be which meal do you repeat? If there were restaurant line-ups anywhere, we didn’t see them, and we were fortunate to get a taste of most restaurants (we’ve always said we live to eat, not eat to live). Then there was the food quality. About the only thing we didn’t like were the slime pancakes. Maybe it was the name.

Toast at O’Sheehans, a pub that serves breakfast, because it’s hot enough to melt the butter, and try to find that anywhere else at a sit-down, cruise-ship restaurant.

Being on a ship where boredom is never an opportunity. The pools and the bars are standard fare on cruise ships, and that keeps the sun bathers and party-goers happy. The Epic seems to have something for everyone…like Wii bowling for kids and 10 pins for adults…Nickelodeon shows with Dora, Diego and friends by day, dueling pianos and jazz sessions by night.

The TV screen that NCL says is 300 inches wide, but doesn’t 25 feet sound better? It’s in Spice H2O, the adults-only area at the back of the ship, and offers a great outdoor setting for watching TV movies or sports. Kind of like being at a drive-in theater, but with digital HD.

The large balconies.

The captain. On a trip to the bridge, we were entertained by Staff Captain Pelle Fredriksson, because Captain Trygve Vorren prefers it that way. The master captain of the Epic is a little shy, and media sessions aren’t his favorite pastime, but he was informative, enlightening and entertaining on two occasions we had to talk to him at length.

The panoramic view over the bow from the Garden Cafe, which is indoors, a far superior place to watch the sail-away than the pool deck, which is outdoors.

Here’s what we didn’t like…

The sink. Some people think they’re too small; we just thought it was in the wrong place, restricting the traffic flow past the end of the bed. We did hear rumors the sinks are going to be changed, so if they’re larger they’ll have to be moved, too.

No promenade that allowed us to walk the perimeter of the ship in the great outdoors. That, too, is going to change.

That’s 8 out of 10. And like report cards and golf scores, anything that starts with an 8 is pretty good.

Cruising Notes from the Norwegian Epic

The right price…………………………………………………………$499
May 7, 2011:
11 nights Ship: Norwegian Epic
Departure:
Miami to Barcelona (re-positioning cruise)
Bonus:
A real chance to see the ship bow to stern with only one stop in 11 days
Contact:
Norwegian Cruise Lines 1-866-234-7350
* * *
The thought of getting “slimed” — or even seeing somebody getting slimed — was so far from our radar that we thought there was no chance we’d even give the Nickelodeon slime show on the Norwegian Epic a second look.

As people much younger than us might say: “Like, ugh!”

Well, we went. Happy to be the slime-watchers and not slimees, we enjoyed watching the kids as much as the performers. Two families volunteer (presumably) to be on stage, knowing one of them will be covered with green yuck, and the Slime Guy who is the voice of reason (?) picks kids and adults from the audience for less messy roles. What’s amazing is how quickly the kids can answer questions about Nickelodeon stuff while adults are still trying to figure out the question.

The climax is messy but Slime Guy is entertaining, and fast on his feet, which is a good idea when there’s slime involved.

What’s slime? Ask kids. They’ll know.

* * *
This was a pre-Thanksgiving Day cruise so Dora and friends weren’t the only reason the Epic was carrying lots of kids. The tip-off was an embarkation, where line-ups were long to buy “soda packages” for unlimited soft drinks.

Asked one dad: “They charge for soda?”

First time on a cruise ship for that dad.

* * *
Trygve Vorren, Captain of the Epic, is like most people in the cruise business. He reads what the critics have to say about his still-new ship.

“Sometimes,” he says, “I think I am not on the same ship.”

* * *
The critics have their say in print and on the web. The passengers have theirs face-to-face with Norwegian. The complaint NCL officials hear most often is about the promenade.

That should be the non-promenade.

There is a jogging track, up one side of the ship (and back the same side), but no place for walkers to do any kind of 360.

“The next ship,” said Andy Stuart, NCL’s Executive Vice-President for Global Sales and Passenger Services, “will have a promenade.”

Norwegian has two ships under construction, or about to be. The first arrives in 2012 and the second a year later. Both with promenades.

* * *
Bowling is available in three places on the Epic, with three genuine lanes for 10-pinners next to O’Sheehans Pub on one deck and adjacent to Bliss on another. In the event you’re planning an Epic cruise and you think bowling’s included, it’s not. The cost is $5 per person per game.

The third venue is on the big screen, where Wii bowling for up to 1,000-pinners is available. That’s free.

* * *
While the Epic’s capacity is listed at 4,100, according to Staff Captain Pelle Fredriksson, the actual capacity (including staff and maximum guests in staterooms) is “just over 6,900.”

* * *
The most elite part of this elite ship is called the Courtyard, the opulent 60 suites and villas that sit above the bridge. This is the cruise ship within the cruise ship, and residents pay up to $2,500 a week to be there and have private everything.

The one exception is the bar, the appropriately named Posh. It’s available to anybody on the Epic…who wants to pay $60 a day for the privilege.

* * *
That’s it, we’re done.

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