Posted May 14th, 2012, 12:11 PM
Riversanddale - I'm glad (I think
) that you raised the subject of food you experienced on your recent Viking cruise. Food (particularly on the River Cruises) has been an ongoing "hot topic" on this site for some time and I'm sure that plenty of folks are going to want to "weigh-in" on this thread.
After returning from my recent Avalon cruise (Imagery) in late March/early April - I expressed the opinion that I thought the food served on that cruise was "just Okay". And my "yardstick" for making that observation was that it wasn't any better (and in many cases - not as good or as appetizing) as the meals my DW makes for us at home for just a "normal everyday dinner". My comment, that I felt the meals were just "okay", really got the discussion going - with some folks sort of agreeing and others really disagreeing with me. I'll be particularly interested in hearing what "Keenmolly" thought about the meals served on her most recent Avalon cruise.
I would guess that you (Riversanddale) and I are probably in general agreement - even though we were on different ships, different companies, and different destinations about the rather "plain" nature of our respective meals. This isn't to say that I didn't enjoy the entirety of the river cruise experience. I did. But I thought the "meal part" of the cruise (particularly the dinners) where very "ordinary" and certainly not "elegant", "exquisite", or at a "gourmet level" - all the descriptors liberally thrown about in Avalon's advertising literature. Some argued that I should not have taken the company's advertising so "literally". Well - why wouldn't I?! Afterall, THEY are the one's that chose those terms to define, support, and justify the high cost of their cruise products. I don't recall a single dinner served during the 13 day cruise that I could say was a really "wow experience"! I'm not saying the food was terrible. No one (I don't think) went away hungry.
But - a few examples. In Avalon's own advertising, they show one particular picture of a lovely little lobster tail (or perhaps a European cray fish) sitting well-presented and garnished on a plate. The implication being, that THIS (along with that similar level of food) would be one of the items normally offered or served during the cruise. For the record - whole Lobster (or any parts thereof) was NEVER a menu item during our cruise. Neither was anything like "roast tenderloin" offered. The steak on the menu - which was always an available daily "default selection" was NOT a select cut by any means. I'm not quite sure what, exactly, it was but it certainly was not a Filet, a porterhouse, a rib eye, or prime rib. The "steak" that was offered was not nearly as tender, flavorful, or as well prepared as normal selections that can readily be had at your local Outback Steak House. In fact, the steaks I grill on my own barbecue in the back yard are of higher quality and taste BETTER than the "steak" that was served on our cruise!
As "Riversanddale" also experienced, the deserts that were offered were very ordinary - certainly by no means "elegant" (Avalon's adjective). They tended to be a Jello, a fruit cocktail, or a pudding, or perhaps some form of ice cream. Never at the level of a "Cherries Jubilee", "Bananas Foster", Baked Alaska, or even a "Black Forrest Cake" - those would more closely fit my definition of "elegant" deserts. I would have even gladly welcomed a rather ordinary piece of apple or cherry pie - but those were not to be, as well! I never recall a shrimp cocktail being offered for an appetizer, and there was never a "glimmer of hope" to even order the most pedestrian "loaded" baked potato to have with an entree. You could always order the "standard" baked salmon or the "standard" (tasteless) chicken breast. But after 6 dinners, I figured out that the level of meals that I had been lead (through the advertising) to believe would be served - simply wasn't going to happen.
I had no complaint with the "complimentary" wines that were served. They all tasted fine to me - ALTHOUGH I would have liked to have seen a few complimentary sparkling wines offered at dinner (like a prosecco or an Asti) they were NOT offered - only still wines (naturally, you always had the option to pay extra for one of those). Avalon leads one to believe that the dining experience on their boats is going to be a "5-star" experience. In our particular case, I would rate it a realistic "3-star".
Perhaps people have "talked themselves" into thinking the meals were better than they actually were/are - simply because they paid so much for these cruises. Perhaps they have "inflated" (in their own minds) their "meal memory" to a higher level than it actually was. Perhaps the meals served on some of the other lines (or even different boats within the same company) are actually better than what I encountered. I can only report on what I experienced. I do not consider myself to be a highy-trained food critic and certainly don't think of myself as a gourmet chef. But I've had quite varied meal experiences and choices throughout the world over my lifetime and I'm taking all those many meals into account in rating the food which was servede on our cruise.
And no, the food experience did not "ruin" the trip for me. But the advertising literature makes the meals in particular, along with the whole dining experience onboard, a BIG part of their "sell-job" to would-be customers. I stick by my previous critique that the meals were "Okay" - but nothing "special". Perhaps of interest - In July, I will be embarking on an Alaskan 7-day cruise with Regent Seven Seas (Navigator). It will be interesting to see how Regent's "elegant" meals stack up against Avalon's. I'll let you know. Regards to all.