Posted April 13th, 2015, 09:25 AM
I'm no coffee expert but I do like good coffee so here goes.
The coffee card essentially buys you 10 espresso shots and they'll make any coffee drink they are able to. I say 'able' because barista quality varies in my opinion. The coffee menu card has all the usual suspects lattes, cappuccino's, etc. available in small and large.
For example I prefer double shot's with a little steamed whole milk, sort of the Starbucks flat white approach. I don't like a single 1.5oz shot with 4.5 oz. of milk which is oftened served as a small cappucino, this just ends up tasting like a latte IMO. Asking for a dry cappuccino is a total waste of time because they simply cannot seem to serve any milk containing coffee drink without filling it to the brim.
I've also learned to avoid asking for a double shot as 50% of the time the barista will ding you for two x's on your coffee card; one barista told me that it was cheaper to drink double shot espresso's w/o the coffee card because it was less expensive.
I have the best luck asking for an 'extra strong' small expresso or macchiato because they seem to recognize this request and alter their dosing in some small way, though how is unclear. The fact that they use the same portafilter for singles and doubles is the first sign that things are a little gray.
Do not necessarily expect well pulled shots. Often times they start the process by banging out the old grinds from the portafilter, or start with a cold portafilter, and I've never actually seen a barista properly clean the portafilter between shots. And try to avoid timing the shots, sometimes they take 5 seconds and sometimes 45sec! This is a shame because they have beautiful machines. The coffee (beans) itself is of good quality.
Beware ordering specialty coffee drinks at some of the smaller bars around the ship; here the espresso drinks are of the push button automatic type only, more like the type you'd see at a quick stop (not that this necessarily means they are of lesser quality); I suspect this is how the espresso/cappuccino's are prepared in the MDR as well, but here they are complimentary so that's very fair.
The house coffee in the dining rooms/Lido is fair in total, decent flavor and color but pretty weak. The best coffee on the Queen Victoria IMO was in the Verandah specialty restaurant, an excellent french roast probably prepared in a french press. It was truly a great cup of coffee.
I know, probably too much information. In short the coffee card buys you 10 espresso shots/coffee drinks without paying the 15% gratuity. I advise that you buy one and give it a try and see if you can find a good barista who will prepare drinks as you like them.
P.S. the little almond biscotti that they serve with the coffees hit the spot!