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I cruised on Holland America's Oosterdam 13 years ago as part of a photography themed cruise.

 

When we sailed, there was a bit of fanfare to it, a party was thrown in the main area.

 

We ate as a group in the MDR every night. Service was spot on, the food was great. I've attached a photo of one of the desserts below. Fancy plate, nice cake with drizzle and garnish.

 

Toward the end of the cruise, there was a dessert party where the chefs showed off their skills. There were multiple ice sculptures, and fancy desserts with sugar art like I've only ever seen on the Food Network.

 

The last night at dinner, there was a presentation by the MDR staff and a special dessert of Baked Alaska with sparklers.

 

I went into my NCL cruise last month expecting the same type of thing, but was instead served food that I wouldn't pay for in a restaurant. The MDR had menus that sounded good, but the food was often unseasoned or overcooked. At the pub restaurant, the food was edible, but also lacking any sort of seasoning. We only ate at the buffet for breakfast and late night snack, both were pretty disappointing. My college cafeteria had better food. Even in MDR, I was served apple pie that was mostly gel, grocery stores that bake pre-made pies in-store have better quality than that.

 

Someone we cruised with said that NCL used to be good 10 years ago. So my question is, is this a decline of the whole industry, or just certain lines? Because I was really disappointed and want to cruise again, but want reliably good food. I read recent reviews of Oosterdam and it didn't sound good.

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I disagree I thought ncl food was bad even 10 years ago, now if you go back 20 or 30 then it was good. Food on all the major lines have went down in quality, in most cases need a specialty restaurant or a suite restaurant for a really good meal, we rarely eat in mdr.

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I agree with George C. One of the big problems is the pax that think the food is good. Most of them were raised on McDonald happy meals.:eek:

They will never experience the elaborate menus and two waiters to a table serving 7 course meals off of silver platters.

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I hate to say that we agree completely. While I wouldn't say that the MDRs are terrible, the dining experience back in the day (1990's) was far superior than today and made the MDR a memorable experience not to be missed. The specialty restaurants have retained some of the panache from the past but the extra charges really kill the deal for us.

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Is this a trend across the industry, or limited to certain cruise lines? I don't see a problem having premium offerings, but I think the base offerings should be at least what one would expect to get in a sit-down restaurant on shore, but preferably a cut above. Cruise ships got the reputation of having great food available at all hours... of eating way too much. But it wasn't really worth it on my cruise.

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I have enjoyed excellent MDR cuisine; I have experienced mediocre MDR cuisine. And, cuisine that fits between the two of my opinions.

 

Why? There is no doubt in my mind that the quality of the foodstuffs being purchased by the cruise line does have an influence as to what we experience on our plates. But, an important component of one's dining experience is the ship's Executive Chef. Some are better than others. Some cruise lines allow the Executive Chef to "tweak" the standard recipes produced by the Home Office. Some Chefs do; some are better "tweakers" than others; some don't "tweak" at all.

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I hate to say that we agree completely. While I wouldn't say that the MDRs are terrible, the dining experience back in the day (1990's) was far superior than today and made the MDR a memorable experience not to be missed. The specialty restaurants have retained some of the panache from the past but the extra charges really kill the deal for us.

 

Back in the 50’s and 60’s the meals were the main event so it was nothing to see 7 to 9 courses. The gala buffets were the offering of each nation as the lines were arranged by nationality. The French, Germans, Dutch, British, Italians, etc. all had their specialties and they were spectacular. I don’t even think the specialty restaurants of today come close to those incredible meals with fantastic service from years ago.

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Yea, but we don't dress up to fly anymore either... I definitely don't expect that level of service unless I'm going on an ultra premium cruise line that advertises as such. When I worked on the QE2 and family visited, I was able to get us lunch in the Princess restaurant which was the most formal restaurant I've ever been to, with the waiter standing just off to the side should we need anything, and during course changes, they turned the knives to face a specific direction, it was something. And that wasn't even the top restaurant there.

 

On the flip side, I don't expect cruise lines advertised as party ships to be as nice as what I saw on Holland America. I know some lines are more formal, and I'm willing to dress up for a few nights out, but I'm not looking to spend my whole cruise in a suit either. So I realize there is a balance, and it's quite possible I just need to know how the lines stack up in terms of food and I can select accordingly. There are many features of a cruise, for the most part they go to the same ports on a given journey, so need to distinguish themselves in other ways. Personally, I don't have kids so I'm not looking for rock walls and waterslides. I want good food and relaxation.

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NCL spends less on food per person than just about any other line. That should tell you something. Ever since they moved to their Freestyle concept, the food served in their MDR has been very basic (to be polite), dining in the upcharge restaurants is necessary to get decent food.

 

Celebrity, Princess and HAL seem to consistently have the best food among the mass market lines. As to which is the best it can depend on the individual ship and on what your tastes are.

 

I've always thought Celebrity had good meat dishes, good bread, and some of the best plating. Princess does fish well and has good souffles, but their soups aren't so fabulous. HAL is variable but overall a bit less inventive than the other two. Truthfully none of the desserts (other than a few individual offerings) blow me away on any of the mass market ships.

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Totally agree on ncl , that was one of my favorite cruises in 80’s and 90’s sailed SS Norway 7 times , everything went downhill after they got rid of tradional dinning. But food was very good not great in 70’s and 80’s never was delmonicos .

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Totally agree on ncl , that was one of my favorite cruises in 80’s and 90’s sailed SS Norway 7 times , everything went downhill after they got rid of tradional dinning. But food was very good not great in 70’s and 80’s never was delmonicos .

 

Hi George,

 

The Norway was the SS France before it became the Norway. I guess you missed it...but the food on the SS France was second to none. Back around 1968 the world famous food critic, Craig Claiborne, was asked to name the best restaurant in the world. Without hesitation, he named the SS France and followed that up by writing an article in Playboy Magazine. The SS France boasted 180 French staff in the galley. IMHO...the SS France surpassed Delmonico’s. I have over 100 France menus in my ocean liner collection and they are spectacular.

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Hi George,

 

The Norway was the SS France before it became the Norway. I guess you missed it...but the food on the SS France was second to none. Back around 1968 the world famous food critic, Craig Claiborne, was asked to name the best restaurant in the world. Without hesitation, he named the SS France and followed that up by writing an article in Playboy Magazine. The SS France boasted 180 French staff in the galley. IMHO...the SS France surpassed Delmonico’s. I have over 100 France menus in my ocean liner collection and they are spectacular.

 

My first cruise was 1975 , so never traveled on a cruise before , but on the other hand delmonicos has been listed as one of the best restaurants for over 150 years, have you ever had dinner there? We did it two years ago and cannot wait to do it again. I do envey you cruising back then, my first job was in 1967 for US Lines which owned both the SS United States and SS America and talked to several people about taveling on them. I had a menu from Antoine’s in New Orleans which was also amazing my dad had eaten there in WW two and I went there 50 years later.

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Hi George,

 

I never ate at Delmonico’s but I have reviewed their menus from the past century. Too bad you missed some of the great ships...the America and the SS US included. Some of the best food was on the US Line. I have a slew of menus from those two ships. The dining room on the America was one of the most beautiful rooms ever.

 

There is a great book you might enjoy...”The Only Way To Cross” by The Dean of ocean liner history, John Maxtone Graham. You might also like to look at some of the old menus from the great ships. You can research them online. You will find the First Class menus to be very interesting. Cunard menus offered the choice of 4 different game birds in just one of the menu sections. We will never see their likes again.

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I guess I am in the minority because I love MDR food.

That's simply because we grew up on McDonald's happy meals Lenny!

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That's simply because we grew up on McDonald's happy meals Lenny!

 

LOL! So true for a lot of you under the age of 55. I am happy to say that gourmet food is still available on the luxury lines. Chef Jacques Pepin is actively advising Oceania. There are many upscale offerings on these lines. Of course you will pay for the Premium/luxury lines. The mass market lines are just that...mass market. Although the extra tariff restaurants do offer some fine comestible offerings...and then again...some of them are not what they are cracked up to be...lol.

 

 

I have found the mass market lines are all about the same food-wise.

 

 

RCI: We never sailed on RCI because of the food. You will not starve but we found the food to be basic...what I call nuts and bolts.

 

 

Princess: They make a good attempt and it looks like they have improved a lot in recent years compared to ten years ago. I never did like the layout of their buffet...too congested.

 

NCL: I never thought their MDR food was anything to write home about but they do offer a great array of specialty restaurants and some are quite good. The Parisian Cafe always stood out above the rest.

 

Celebrity: Celebrity started the right way. They had two of the greatest chefs in the world, the Roux brothers, advise them when they started way back in the 1980's. I was actually onboard the Galileo when the Chandris family planned the creation of Celebrity and turned that ship into the first of their new line: the Meridian. I was sitting in one of the quiet lounges one afternoon when a group of executives sat down at the next table and, I believe, it was John Chandris who unfurled a set of plans on the table and began discussing the renovations. I sat quietly and enjoyed spying in on their conversation. Celebrity was the first line to create two identical kitchens, galleys, onboard their ships: one for Breakfast and lunch and one for dinner. They also had express escalators and other innovations to improve the speed and quality of their food. Needless to say...the food was excellent...and a lot better than their competition.

 

 

MSC: I have followed the creation of the MSC passenger division since the days when they were running 3 used liners...one of them was the Atlantic from Home Lines. Remember, MSC started as a freight shipping line. They are really amazing when you think of what they have done in the past 17 years or so. A lot of their stellar growth is attributable to CEO, Gianni Onorato, who heads up the family interests and Rick Sasso, CEO MSC America, who works out of Fort Lauderdale and has expanded the US passenger segment over the past 12 years from a few thousand to a million plus! Rick was originally the President of Celebrity when the Chandris family owned it. MSC has built 17 major ships since 2001 and has one more one more starting construction. They went from a few hundred employees to a projected 20,000 personnel in the coming year or so.

 

MSC food is a bit erratic...due to the training and implementation of personnel on their new ships. They are "a work in progress" The one thing that is constant is their ability to keep improving their food and service. They are quickly becoming a major competitor in the American Cruise Market...a feat that the experts said "could not be done". MSC buffet food is steadily improving and shows some interesting alternatives to the usual buffets of the other mass market lines. The MDR food and specialty venues are also quickly improving with high marks for their Italian specialties and especially their pizza. The food served in the Yacht Club is quickly becoming a strong point of MSC and a big competitor to the upscale suites on the other mass market lines.

Edited by CGTNORMANDIE

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Seems like cruises are going to a two class system , many lines and ships have separate restaurants for suites, now msc has separate areas and pools , new celeberty ship edge has the same, last cruise we did small suite on celebrity really enjoyed restaurant and lounge, next oasis in a owners suite, next year msc yacht club. Food and service was excellent on celebrity luminae.

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CGTNORMANDIE,

 

Thanks for your review of cuisine from the companies you listed. Particularly interested in your comments about MSC because I am tempted to try them when I am next in Florida for some time.

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Hi George,

 

What did they serve in Lumanae?? What did you like the most??

 

Only thing I remember was first night the filet was excellent, service was amazing we were only on a 5 night cruise and did luminae first 3 nights. You also can order off the mdr menu. The suite lounge micheals which is eleagant with free drinks all day till midnight has all the menus so we would look at luminae and mdr if that didn’t fit our taste we would do a specialty, we were on a music charter , next year we added a 4 night cruise before our music charter so we have 9 nights on celebrity, first 4 have celebrity suite next 5 we are next door in a sky suite.

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CGTNORMANDIE,

 

Thanks for your review of cuisine from the companies you listed. Particularly interested in your comments about MSC because I am tempted to try them when I am next in Florida for some time.

 

Thank you rka,

 

By all means try MSC. Both Divina and Seaside are spectacular and offer a great cruise for a very reasonable price. Try the Yacht Club if you can or the Aurea experience.

 

The Y C Yacht Club, INHO, is the biggest advance in cruising in this century. The YC is a cruise experience that harkens back to the First Class of years ago and the YC offers a separate dining room with an upscale menu that rivals specialty restaurants.

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CGTNORMANDIE,

 

The Yacht Club experience is what I would consider. An upcoming cruise on Royal Princess will be aboard the largest ship I have yet to sail. Sailing a ship the size of MSC Seaside might be a somewhat disorienting experience for me, I am thinking. Thus, this "ship within a ship" concept of The Yacht Club appeals to me.

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My next cruise is our largest the oasis, have a huge owners suite 550 sq ft with a 250 sq ft balcony , again much larger than an of our 60 previous cruises, doubt we will book anything that size again.

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Hi George,

 

I know how nice the O Suites are on RCI. I have spent 33 days total in the Royal Suite...sweet. I a man waiting to hear from a good friend of mine who is in one of the duplex suites on Oasis.

 

Back to food quality. One of the best companies that catered some of the ships was Apollo Catering. Some of the old lines, now defunct, used Apollo and they really knew how to produce great food and service.

I think Dolphin and Regency used them with great success. Their food was some of the best I have ever had. Regency had some of the best food at sea when they first started and then they were taken over by a greedhead who destroyed the company. They had a French theme on Regency and it was great. Every week they did a buffet magnifique and it was one of the best I have ever experienced...complete with a 140 lb roast pig! The formal nights featured beluga caviar and some of the best steaks and prime rib I have ever had on land or sea.

Edited by CGTNORMANDIE

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Have not done any high end lines, we both love caviar, one of my favorite ships was sovereign of the seas in late 1980’s fabulous entertainment, also very cool champagne bar which sold caviar, of course they served much lower end caviar in mdr, we had a tiny inside cabin and no ships had balconies back then.

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