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Bart Basi

Cruise Selection - Good Food Critical

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8 hours ago, Bart Basi said:

LHT28 - The menu's look great, now I worry about ingredients and kitchen leadership.

 

 

You lost me :classic_unsure:

 

good luck in your quest

 

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1 hour ago, Unibok said:

My advice, fwiw, try one of the small luxury lines this winter for a week and see what you think of the food. With your great attitude, you are sure to have a wonderful time regardless. Then, please do come back and tell us what you think! I’ll be eager to hear your verdict.

 

So would I!  Crystal is the only luxury line I've tried so far, but I have had some of my best meals ever - including those on land - in their specialty restaurants (Miso Black Cod, and Lavender Duck). 

 

From Epicurious:  https://www.epicurious.com/archive/diningtravel/restaurants/best-cruise-ship-restaurants

 

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On 1/21/2019 at 12:53 AM, Bart Basi said:

Hank, thanks - this is advice I can make use of as it helps me direct my expectations and energy.  If I'm not going to get close to a decent land-based restaurant (something that the New York Times or Michelin would give a star to for example) - then frankly I'll book another Royal Caribbean cruise with enough stops in ports to allow us to dine out and we'll pack some provisions for our cabin.  We loved the cruise and it exceeded all of our expectations except for the cuisine.

 

I would love to learn more about food on other cruise lines in order to understand why it is better or worse.

 

snip

 

This might be a good option for you.  It sounds like you really enjoy being on the water and not just the ports, or I would suggest a land visit.

 

I shared in another post that the main dining room of a cruise ship is much more similar to a banquet hall than a restaurant.  When I go to a wedding, retirement party, or other catered event I expect decent food but nothing that would wow me or be close to a high level restaurant.  Specialty dining venues do provide a more restaurant like experience and often have better ingredients than the MDR, but still have the limitations of being at sea.  The more intimate/small dining experience of Chef's Table and the like should provide the highest quality food options, but also generally at the greatest cost.

 

We love cruising and we love food, but I have learned to lower my expectations on cruise food.  There is some that is quite good, but realizing that they are preparing for 2000+ customers with often mid-level quality ingredients I don't expect to be wowed very often.  A land based restaurant that is serving traditional foods with traditional spices and cooking methods will almost always be better than a ship prepared (or private island prepared) meal with blander/wider appealing spices and flat grills and heating trays.

 

Enjoy the ocean, enjoy the service, but don't expect too much from ship food.

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So lets speculate about food on cruise ships.  On larger ships the galley must prepare thousands of meals per day.  At best, they can prepare decent banquet food...assuming they have the high quality ingredients and enough wait staff to quickly get the food to the customer, while its fresh and hot.  None of this exists on mass market cruise lines.  The cruises actually budget based on cost per passenger day and those dollar figures (kept very secret) have actually declined (in real dollars) due to the pressure to improve the bottom line and increased price competition.  And then there are the political/practical issues such as using "sustainable seafood" which in the cruise industry generally means tasteless farmed fish!  And consider a relatively simple product like eggs.  Up until a few years ago, most cruise lines used real eggs (still in their shell) to make breakfast omelets, scrambled eggs, etc.  Now, most use boxed pasteurized commercial eggs for their omelets and scrambled eggs...and the end result is just not the same in terms of texture and taste.  I recently cruised on the MSC Divina in their Yacht Club...and was pleased to note that when I went to the "One Pool" deck where we could get breakfast, the cook would take my omelet order, crack a few real eggs into a dish, beat them, put them right into a hot pan..and make my omelet.  It was like night and day compared to omelets we get on lines like HAL, Celebrity, RCI, etc.   Using commercial boxed eggs saves money, storage space, etc.  while sacrificing taste, quality and texture.  

 

HAL used to serve high quality "Sterling Beef" in their alternative Pinnacle grill.  Now, they use a lower cost supplier and it shows in terms of quality and taste.  Years ago most cruise lines served pretty decent cold water lobster tail.  Now, many use tiny warm water lobster tails which lack the flavor and texture their cold water cousins.  On MSC (in the Yacht Club) we were often able to get freshly made pasta (one would expect this on an Italian cruise line) which is so much better then the dried pastas used on nearly all cruise lines.  We were also surprised on MSC to get some terrific veal....not the cheaper over tenderized stuff used on most cruise lines.   And it was nice to see both fresh squeezed OJ and Grapefruit Juice on a ship.  We used to get fresh squeezed OJ on both HAL and Celebrity...but that has disappeared from those vessels.  Celebrity actually now charges extra for what they call "premium OJ" which is a lousy substitute for the fresh stuff they used to make from real Oranges (imagine that).  HAL quietly eliminated fresh squeezed OJ from their Lido Buffet.  One HAL senior staffer explained it was because of "health concerns" although this does not seem to be an issue on MSC and some other higher end cruise lines.

 

There is still some decent cuisine to be found on mass market ships, but its few and far between and usually found in the higher priced alternative restaurants.  In the past, we have found the quality of food in Celebrity's Murano restaurant to be of high quality.  Having a whole fish (sole) filleted and finished at tableside is a real treat when compared to what is usually served in the MDR.  And then there was the very high quality Chateaubriand (you could cut it with a fork) carved tableside and prepared perfectly..as ordered.  

 

To be honest, despite cruising 70-100+ days a year on a multitude of cruise lines...we cannot even remember the last time we had consistently good (not talking great) food in any MDR!   We have again started to expand our search by booking new (for us_ cruise lines.  MSC's dedicated Yacht Club restaurant did have some moments of near greatness....but also lacked consistency.  We will soon try one of Seabourn's smaller vessels, but some recent reviews have us wondering if that will be worth the extra money.

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It all depends on what you are looking for. One great thing about the internet is a lot of people can come on here and complain about why you can't get a cruise at Carnival prices with Seabourne food. In reality, there exists a cruise line that will meet pretty much every need, except that one. Some people say they will pay extra for an entree. When push comes to shove, paying that premium for two people, for every meal, every day, becomes a different story. So instead they default to the cheaper cruises, and complain about them.

 

I'm glad you enjoyed your cruise overall. I'm also really glad you enjoyed the food in Nassau. That island gets so much undeserved hate. It does seem like you have a palate where you may enjoy a different level of food. Lots of fine examples were given in this thread, but they will cost a good chunk more. They also may provide a bit of a different experience than you encountered on Royal. That could be either good or bad. If you aren't trying to break the bank, might I suggest MSC. I personally haven't been one on yet. However, I hear for the mass market line, they have a pretty good food quality. Also, maybe you prefer the specialty restaurants more with the other lines. I would bounce around until you find something you like.

 

Personally, I put most cruise food around the level of a decent chain restaurant. Certainly not inedible, and better options exist. If I don't have to cook, and it is very affordable, that is a huge win in my book. A decent omelet for breakfast, decent burger for lunch, decent dinner entree. I don't need to spend more. At least not overall. We may enjoy a nice meal at the specialty restaurant one night, or even on land the night before we embark as a nice little treat. The quality of food in the mass markets is not going to change. The only thing that will change, will be the number of specialty restaurants. One of the best parts about these lines, IMO is the choice. For as much as the people on this site complain about "cutbacks", the current model is more about lower barrier to entry and choice. Cruising grew into the model it is in for a reason. 

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50 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

So lets speculate about food on cruise ships.  On larger ships the galley must prepare thousands of meals per day.  At best, they can prepare decent banquet food...assuming they have the high quality ingredients and enough wait staff to quickly get the food to the customer, while its fresh and hot.  None of this exists on mass market cruise lines.  The cruises actually budget based on cost per passenger day and those dollar figures (kept very secret) have actually declined (in real dollars) due to the pressure to improve the bottom line and increased price competition.  And then there are the political/practical issues such as using "sustainable seafood" which in the cruise industry generally means tasteless farmed fish!  And consider a relatively simple product like eggs.  Up until a few years ago, most cruise lines used real eggs (still in their shell) to make breakfast omelets, scrambled eggs, etc.  Now, most use boxed pasteurized commercial eggs for their omelets and scrambled eggs...and the end result is just not the same in terms of texture and taste.  I recently cruised on the MSC Divina in their Yacht Club...and was pleased to note that when I went to the "One Pool" deck where we could get breakfast, the cook would take my omelet order, crack a few real eggs into a dish, beat them, put them right into a hot pan..and make my omelet.  It was like night and day compared to omelets we get on lines like HAL, Celebrity, RCI, etc.   Using commercial boxed eggs saves money, storage space, etc.  while sacrificing taste, quality and texture.  

 

HAL used to serve high quality "Sterling Beef" in their alternative Pinnacle grill.  Now, they use a lower cost supplier and it shows in terms of quality and taste.  Years ago most cruise lines served pretty decent cold water lobster tail.  Now, many use tiny warm water lobster tails which lack the flavor and texture their cold water cousins.  On MSC (in the Yacht Club) we were often able to get freshly made pasta (one would expect this on an Italian cruise line) which is so much better then the dried pastas used on nearly all cruise lines.  We were also surprised on MSC to get some terrific veal....not the cheaper over tenderized stuff used on most cruise lines.   And it was nice to see both fresh squeezed OJ and Grapefruit Juice on a ship.  We used to get fresh squeezed OJ on both HAL and Celebrity...but that has disappeared from those vessels.  Celebrity actually now charges extra for what they call "premium OJ" which is a lousy substitute for the fresh stuff they used to make from real Oranges (imagine that).  HAL quietly eliminated fresh squeezed OJ from their Lido Buffet.  One HAL senior staffer explained it was because of "health concerns" although this does not seem to be an issue on MSC and some other higher end cruise lines.

 

There is still some decent cuisine to be found on mass market ships, but its few and far between and usually found in the higher priced alternative restaurants.  In the past, we have found the quality of food in Celebrity's Murano restaurant to be of high quality.  Having a whole fish (sole) filleted and finished at tableside is a real treat when compared to what is usually served in the MDR.  And then there was the very high quality Chateaubriand (you could cut it with a fork) carved tableside and prepared perfectly..as ordered.  

 

To be honest, despite cruising 70-100+ days a year on a multitude of cruise lines...we cannot even remember the last time we had consistently good (not talking great) food in any MDR!   We have again started to expand our search by booking new (for us_ cruise lines.  MSC's dedicated Yacht Club restaurant did have some moments of near greatness....but also lacked consistency.  We will soon try one of Seabourn's smaller vessels, but some recent reviews have us wondering if that will be worth the extra money.

 

I'm not remembering if you've ever mentioned being on Oceania...?

 

As recently as last month, they were still filleting the sole at tableside, in the MDR, not just in s Specialty.

And the prime rib in Polo (steak Specialty)... well, that is getting harder and harder to find anywhere, unfortunately.

 

On our first Oceania cruise, we weren't all that impressed with the MDR, but I guess we just hit it wrong (and it was a full, holiday cruise, so that may/may not have had any effect).

But this last time, we actually chose to eat in the MDR rather than a Specialty, because of specific menu choices, which did not disappoint.

(We started bringing our own wine, however.)

 

GC

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3 hours ago, GeezerCouple said:

 

I'm not remembering if you've ever mentioned being on Oceania...?

 

As recently as last month, they were still filleting the sole at tableside, in the MDR, not just in s Specialty.

And the prime rib in Polo (steak Specialty)... well, that is getting harder and harder to find anywhere, unfortunately.

 

On our first Oceania cruise, we weren't all that impressed with the MDR, but I guess we just hit it wrong (and it was a full, holiday cruise, so that may/may not have had any effect).

But this last time, we actually chose to eat in the MDR rather than a Specialty, because of specific menu choices, which did not disappoint.

(We started bringing our own wine, however.)

 

GC

Although we have cruised on 15 different lines, Oceania has not been one of them :(.  They are on our "to do list" if and when we can find an itinerary/price that gets our interest.   We do have some friends that cruise "O" quite often and they have told us the food is very good, the entertainment in NOT, and the drink prices are ridiculous...so we should get a drink package.   As to wine,  that is an issue on most cruise lines but we usually manage to live with drinkable wines.  On our recent MSC (Yacht Club) cruise we were fine with the included wines until one evening when our waiter suggested Mondavi Woodbridge after I asked for a Cab.  And you are right about decent Prime Rib....which seems to be missing from just about every cruise line.  When we hear some cruisers rave about the Prime Rib on HAL, we just cringe and wonder if they have ever had the real thing.  Nothing wrong with HAL's offering, but its not what I consider to be Prime Rib.  Here is an interesting standard for fellow cruisers.  When you are having your MDR dinner ask yourself, would you be willing to go to a land restaurant and pay for that food?

 

Hank

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Or maybe you should ask 'what would you be willing to pay for that food in a land restaurant? '  EM

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For us, Seabourn had the best food followed by two small ship lines, UnCruise and Alaskan Dream. After that it was Oceania and Cunard.  We’ve never had better service then while on Seabourn. Oceania service was no better than any of the main lines although they do serve lobster in the buffet every evening which was a treat.

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To get better cuisine, you will need a "luxury" line, I'm afraid.  Used to be, the food, both taste and presentation was awesome.  It's totally degraded in the last 10 years.  You won't go hungry, but it sure is nothing special!

 

I'd recommend a Vegas vacation...there are some AWESOME restaurants in Vegas.....and you'll get a much nicer room than on a ship!

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If you desire great food then a Royal Caribbean cruise is for you.

 

The pizza in the Windjammer is excellent,better than anywhere on shore.

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33 minutes ago, lenquixote66 said:

If you desire great food then a Royal Caribbean cruise is for you.

 

The pizza in the Windjammer is excellent,better than anywhere on shore.

Perhaps you have more then made my point.  If folks are going to rate cuisine based on pizza in a buffet then perhaps all is lost in the world of haute cuisine.

 

But if pizza is your goal, then for many years a lot of cruisers thought that Princess had the best pizza (by far)...partially because they inherited that legacy when they bought Sitmar Cruises (which had their Italian crew making great pizza).  Recently we were on MSC (a privately owned Italian cruise line) that has great pizza in their buffet and you can get it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even between meals.  I do not think that the Windjammer serves breakfast pizza, which actually has eggs on top :).  

 

Hank

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The negative about dining on a cruise ship is that people tend to stuff themselves.They desire to eat non stop. I would venture to say that the majority of men who cruise are overweight.

I try to eat as healthy as possible. I am in the gym every day of the cruise and never leave the cruise with more weight than when I board.

 

I am 6'5 and weigh 185.

 

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4 hours ago, Hlitner said:

Although we have cruised on 15 different lines, Oceania has not been one of them :(.  They are on our "to do list" if and when we can find an itinerary/price that gets our interest.   We do have some friends that cruise "O" quite often and they have told us the food is very good, the entertainment in NOT, and the drink prices are ridiculous...so we should get a drink package.   As to wine,  that is an issue on most cruise lines but we usually manage to live with drinkable wines.  On our recent MSC (Yacht Club) cruise we were fine with the included wines until one evening when our waiter suggested Mondavi Woodbridge after I asked for a Cab.  And you are right about decent Prime Rib....which seems to be missing from just about every cruise line.  When we hear some cruisers rave about the Prime Rib on HAL, we just cringe and wonder if they have ever had the real thing.  Nothing wrong with HAL's offering, but its not what I consider to be Prime Rib.  Here is an interesting standard for fellow cruisers.  When you are having your MDR dinner ask yourself, would you be willing to go to a land restaurant and pay for that food?

 

Hank

 

Yeah, about "prime rib"... it's harder and harder to find *anywhere* these days.

I can't remember when I first saw this, but a "personal favorite" has been the menu item (often a "special"!) of

"Roast Prime Rib of Choice Beef".  Uh, right.... :classic_ohmy:

 

But the wines have been a real disappointment, including on Oceania, and that was indeed a surprise.

They have a "special wine pairing dinner" (more than one menu, even) in a private setting, offered just a few times each sailing.

The food was superb.  But the wines were... so disappointing.  Nothing special.  We had planned to go to all 3 (different menus/wines) on our first Oceania trip.  After the second, we cancelled the third.

But although we don't drink much "booze" (perhaps a cocktail at sailaway sometimes, etc., or if we are with others who are having a drink), we really like nice wine.  So obviously any "drinks package" is unlikely to work for us, unfortunately.

And even the bottled wine list is usually a disappointment, with most being not appealing.  IF there is something we are pretty sure we'd like, the prices are pretty outrageous.  So it's *very* nice that one can bring on whatever one wishes.  IF one wishes to drink it in a public area, e.g., with dinner, there is a $25 corkage fee.  That works just fine for us!  (And interestingly, no charge whatsoever if one wishes to drink in one's cabin.  When we've had a nice dinner served en suite, we've occasionally opened a nice bottle there, too, but we usually did that in one of the Specialties (which themselves have no additional charge).


Note that to have dinners served from the Specialties, it is indeed "en suite", meaning those are served by one's Butler, which is suite-level.  If one cannot get extra reservations in the Specialties, then this is another way to enjoy those wonderful meals!

 

We haven't sailed on O's smaller ships.  In part, it's because even cabins are really small, and even the PH suites are small on those ships.  It's also because they don't have the same Specialty restaurants, and we'd miss those.

But thus far, the larger ships (which aren't "large", compared with "mass market" lines) are "just right", for us.

And the entire ambiance is very gracious and peaceful.

We'll still travel on other lines, for the right itinerary or adventure, but Oceania seems to hit the sweet spot for us.

Maybe we'll find something we like better; we are certainly open to that.  But we aren't "seeking" something "better".

 

GC

 

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6 hours ago, lenquixote66 said:

The negative about dining on a cruise ship is that people tend to stuff themselves.They desire to eat non stop. I would venture to say that the majority of men who cruise are overweight.

Why is that a negative for you?

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Welcome to CC.

As previous posters stated food is subjective. Thank goodness everyone isn't like me.

 

We just completed our 16th cruise and mutually agreed that we would not dine in the MDR.  We took appropriate clothing to do so, but due to an unexpected recent surgery we both thought I would feel better if I continued the 6 small meals and I did that.  Another perk was making new friends.

 

HAL has provided excellent choices in the LIDO buffet our last 3 trips with them.  Our lamb chops were excellent and the guys at the Asian station looked for me daily.

We don't dine in the specialty restaurants but was gifted one and it was excellent.  The salad bar was wonderful (to us) and we had some of the best prime rib we have ever had while cruising.  However, a lady beside us cursed and moaned about her 'raw' cooked to order steak.  

 

We are excellent cooks, seniors (not that it matters) and cook most meals at home.  We do not like mass produced meals.  When someone tells us a particular cruise line had the best food and we try it and think it was disgusting does not necessarily mean that it was disgusting, just that we didn't like it.

 

Good luck on your next trip.

 

We cruise to enable ourselves to travel more easily and hopefully safer.  

 

 

 

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14 hours ago, cb at sea said:

To get better cuisine, you will need a "luxury" line, I'm afraid.  Used to be, the food, both taste and presentation was awesome.  It's totally degraded in the last 10 years.  You won't go hungry, but it sure is nothing special!

 

I'd recommend a Vegas vacation...there are some AWESOME restaurants in Vegas.....and you'll get a much nicer room than on a ship!

 The mass market lines are aiming at the American mass market - largely by holding down costs, which necessitates limiting expenditures for food, food preparation and food service.  

 

How can anyone expect superior food, food preparation and food service in such an environment?  The tradition of fine dining on cruise ships developed at a time when the cruising market, when dining ashore, ate at places like Delmonico’s, The Four Seasons, etc.  The bulk of the cruising market, when dining ashore, now frequent Olive Garden, Outback, Red Lobster, etc.  There is nothing wrong with what is served (or how it is served) at such places, but to expect anything much different from that benchmark just because it is at sea is nuts.

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5 hours ago, calliopecruiser said:

Why is that a negative for you?

Being overweight has always been a negative to me. I endeavor to eat healthy ,exercise and be happy. 

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On 1/20/2019 at 4:13 PM, Bart Basi said:

So - if you happen to be the sort of person who like us really loves food, then please let me know your thoughts.  

We love good food.

If you want to stick with the mainstream lines (like we do - can't afford the luxury lines, but we can afford 2-3 mainstream cruises a year for the 3 of us), do try Princess (Regal and Royal Princesses in particular) and Celebrity.

 

We have just found NCL's food quite subpar, but critics here say it's better than RCI's food. We go on RCI and NCL for family activities with our 7 yo, but neither of them has good food. Some specialty restaurants on NCL ships do have good food, but not MDR or the buffet.

We sail on Regal Princess for food, but posters on CC are reporting that they changed the menu this summer, and it may have tanked a little bit in quality. But no worries, we are still cruising with them this fall.

 

Perhaps, you should also post your review on the RCI's subforum. I am sure people will appreciate it.

Edited by Itchy&Scratchy

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On 1/21/2019 at 8:09 AM, Texas Tillie said:

Everything on Crystal is so much better than Royal Caribbean. The sheets on the bed, the furniture all over the ship, the amenities in the cabin...

but the price is much higher as well.

For example, the 3 of us are going on the Allure of the Seas for Spring break, inside cabin for a total price of $1,600+gratuities.  While the food is below average, Allure offers great entertainment and family activities, and my entire family can't wait.

 

Can the 3 of us sail on Crystal for $1,600+tips? I think not: fares start at $4,900 pp for a 7 day cruise. We can go on 6+ cruises instead of 1....

 

We also cannot cruise 70-100 days per year, because we are mere mortals, who work every day, and the kid is at school...

Edited by Itchy&Scratchy

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14 hours ago, Hlitner said:

But if pizza is your goal, then for many years a lot of cruisers thought that Princess had the best pizza (by far)...partially because they inherited that legacy when they bought Sitmar Cruises (which had their Italian crew making great pizza). 

I hear pizza at Alfredo's on Regal/Royal Princess is wonderful (but we never actually made it to Alfredo's), while we found the poolside pizza to be awful. And I am comparing this pizza to Domino's and Pizza Hut, for goodness sake.

The kid liked it, but he is a kid.

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3 hours ago, Itchy&Scratchy said:

I hear pizza at Alfredo's on Regal/Royal Princess is wonderful (but we never actually made it to Alfredo's), while we found the poolside pizza to be awful. And I am comparing this pizza to Domino's and Pizza Hut, for goodness sake.

The kid liked it, but he is a kid.

The pizza and Calzone at Alfredos is quite good, indeed.  As to the pizza on deck, Princess went through a rough year (perhaps a bit less) when they obviously changed suppliers for their cheese and those, and that once wonderful pizza, became quite awful.  But when we returned to the Golden in April and the Regal in Oct and Nov....it was back to its old style which is similar to DW calls New York Pizza.  That is the kind of pizza you can fold, feel the oil run down your arm, and love.   And I am no kid :).

 

We had heard a lot about pizza on MSC, which is served in two different venues, their Lido Buffet and also a specialized restaurant (at extra cost).  The restaurant version was truly outstanding (but we were underwhelmed by the other offerings in that same restaurant).  The pizza in the Lido was also good and DW and I found their white pizza excellent.  On MSC this is a big thing so all the pizza is hand made (it is also hand made on Princess) with at least 6 versions available day and night.  Those of us in the Yacht Club (the upscale ship within a ship) could even order room service pizza from the restaurant (Eataly).

 

A few years ago we noticed that the pizza on Celebrity had really improved and it is also now hand made.  Certainly not in the class of MSC or Princess, but still decent.  The worst pizza we have had at sea has been on HAL....although they have improved it in the past few years on ships after they introduced their small pizza place (the really bad stuff used to be served in the Lido).

 

So why does an old as dirt couple care about pizza on a cruise?   Because there are years when we spend over 100 days on ships, and there are just times when we crave basic stuff like pizza and burgers :).

 

Hank

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You need to upgrade your line.

 

most if the “mainline” copanies spend about $10 pp pd on actual food, and serve up conference/ reception quality food, Good not Great.

 

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19 hours ago, lenquixote66 said:

If you desire great food then a Royal Caribbean cruise is for you.

 

The pizza in the Windjammer is excellent,better than anywhere on shore.

 

You ARE kidding, right?

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