A couple of weeks ago I finally embarked on my much needed and eagerly anticipated holiday – A week’s cruise stopping in Italy, Greece and Turkey and bookended by stays in Rome and Athens. I was hoping, among other things, to get experience some great regional food and to luxuriate in not having to cook for a few days.
Unfortunately things did not get off to a good start as my first meal in Rome (some very tasty spaghetti carbonara followed by roast veal) ended up giving me food poisoning! As a result I didn’t eat much for the rest of my Rome stay apart from Gelato!
Luckily I was feeling much better by the time we made it to the ship and ready to explore all the different food options. I was travelling on the Ruby Princess, whose dining venues included hot dog, burger, pizza and ice cream stands by the pools, a couple of buffet style casual dining venues, a café, three formal dining rooms (all serving the same food) and two specialty restaurants (one of which I never actually stumbled across) so there was plenty to choose from.
Mass catered food is always a bit hit and miss and this proved to be the case with the food on the ship. Breakfast was a mixed bag with a superbly tasty and meaty range of sausages and fresh English muffins countered by the wateriest beans I’ve ever encountered and horrifically overcooked eggs in the buffet section. You could get freshly poached eggs in the formal breakfast section but no sauce or beans and due to time constraints, service was very “relaxed”, I only visited this once.
Lunch was always a large and varied affair with a huge range of different choices available at the buffet, the pizza and burger stations and the café. As with breakfast, the buffet had highs and lows. Some dishes were delicious and some were disappointing, but the extensive choice meant that you could always find something that suited your tastes. The pizza section provided perfectly crisp slices which made a great lunch option or afternoon snack.
For our evening meal option we had gone for “Anytime Dining” meaning we could go at any point between 6pm and 10pm rather than being tied to the same time each night. This flexibility worked really well and despite its popularity we never had to wait more than 10 minutes for a table whenever we did turn up. In the evenings the starters and desserts were consistently great, I didn’t have a bad option on the entire cruise. Particular highlights were a fragrant and light crab cake and a wonderfully fresh ceviche.
Similarly beef main courses (all cooked to order) were always spot on. Hot juicy and perfectly rested these never failed to please. Unfortunately all the main courses that weren’t beef tended to be both overcooked, cold and lacking in flavor.
My biggest overall disappointment with the food was that it was not possible to try any sort of local cuisine. The choices available, while varied, were always quite traditional and US centered and while I accept that this is probably what most of their customers were after, it would have been nice to have at least one local dish as a possibility for the more adventurous diner.
Another niggle was the service in the formal dining venues. Particularly that if one diner finished before the other their plates would be removed while the other was still eating. While I understand that the staff were very busy and under pressure this seemed very rude and intrusive and became a real annoyance.
Despite some of the criticisms above I enjoyed a lot of the food on this cruise (how could you not enjoy free ice cream all day!). I think that if I had had longer on the ship I would have been able to make better choices as it took a few days to figure out what was good and what wasn’t. For example, it wasn’t until our last full day that we finally tried out the 24hour café which, it turned out, served really tasty salads and scrumptious little desserts that I really wish I had discovered sooner! They also cooked fresh egg and bacon muffins in the morning, something I would have indulged in every morning had I known!