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masscruiser2010

Comparing cruise line dining

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A year ago, after a decade of primarily sailing on the better mass-market cruise lines like Celebrity and Holland America, we decided to sample the six-star lines to see if they are that much better.

 

We have now tried Seabourn, Crystal and Silversea (still trying to find a cruise we want to take on Silversea), and while all three have pluses and minuses, the food on these generally is a serious cut above the larger ships.

 

But every time we got into a discussion back home of who had the best cuisine at sea, Oceania loyalists insisted the food on the Oceania ships was second to none.

So earlier this month, we tried a cruise on Oceania's Insignia.

 

To get the news upfront, there is no possible way one could assert that the food on Oceania is better than the food on Seabourn and Crystal.

 

The disappointments started at breakfast time.  Oceania offered someone wanting a dark or grain bread one (!) type of dark bread, frequently served slightly stale, and not the array of wheat, rye, multigrain and nut breads found on most other cruise lines.  The juice was even more pathetic -- grapefruit juice served out of a carton that was more or less brown in color, and did not come even close to tasting fresh.  And if you took breakfast in the buffet, the trays that held bacon and fruit slices were never refreshed until they ran out (how appealing is that) -- with the servers trying to serve you the last scraps rather than sending for a refill.  One morning, when we declined the tiny scraps of bacon and asked for some actual slices, we were told a half hour before buffet closing that they had run out (!). 

 

At lunchtime, while the dining room when open was a pleasant option though with a limited menu, the buffet was even more disappointing.  The food options offered each day did not even measure up to Royal Caribbean, much less to the luxury lines.  As a matter of fact, we would even rate the buffet of NCL -- Oceania's mass-market sister -- as better than the Oceania buffet.  The Insignia's sandwich choices were pathetic, the cheese selection was the same day after day, and the organization of the buffet -- with the grill clogging traffic in the middle -- was such that the scene was generally one of chaos.

 

The best of the dining on Oceania came at dinner in the main dining room, which we actually found better than the specialty restaurants.  The entrees in the main dining room were generally pretty good.  The best choice for those dining in the specialty restaurants is the veal chop in the Italian restaurant, which was excellent.

 

But the restaurants and specialty restaurants were certainly no better than those on Celebrity or Holland America.  And none of the restaurants was better than The Haven restaurant on the larger NCL ships.

 

None of this is to say that this was a bad cruise.  It wasn't.  The ship, though the staterooms and bathrooms are relatively small, has recently been tastefully redecorated -- and the staff of the ship on the whole was cheerful and had a wonderful, can-do attitude.  The shortcomings and problems we encountered were, as some say, First World problems.

 

But Oceania appears to have a cadre of loyalists who take cruise after cruise on its ships, and who have little or no recent experience with any other cruise line.  While that is just fine, all I can say is enjoy your cruises -- but stop telling people Oceania has the best dining at sea, better than any of the luxury lines.  It doesn't.

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I think I could be categorized as a loyalist but I will agree that unless someone has cruised on a fairly wide variety of lines he or she cannot claim that one specific line as "the best food on the sea".  Actually, I think it is more likely that Oceania says that ... and you aren't the first person to say that the dining experienced has declined recently.  We have occasionally sailed on other lines, but not recently, and once we realized that Oceania was our favorite we pretty much stuck with it.

 

Your descriptions do NOT match our experience, but even with Oceania our experience is now more than a year old.  And changes can happen pretty quickly.

 

In terms of some of your specific complaints about Insignia's buffet, the buffet space is much smaller on the "R" ships than it is on either Marina or Riviera and I would hazard a guess that this could explain some of the problems you encountered.  Not necessarily stale breads or too few choices, but perhaps trays not being refreshed often enough.  We've never had a problem with juice in ANY of the breakfast venues.  I could go on but I won't!

 

Actually, we tend NOT to have breakfast on any of the ships in Terrace.  If we have a tour that day, we'll order into our room, and if we don't we will go to the GDR.  So I'm not trying to shoot down any of your comments.  On the rare occasion when we had breakfast in Terrace we didn't have the experience you describe.  And given that it's two years (I think it's two, maybe three) since we had breakfast in Terrace on an "R" ship, our experience could be called meaningless.

 

I'm sorry Oceania didn't measure up to your expectations. 

 

Mura

 

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Well, we occasionally take a cruise on HAL, most recently this past March on Eurodam. The food on HAL wasn’t bad and the Pinnacle Grill and Tamarind were very good but for those specialty restaurants a surcharge is required. The buffet in the Eurodam was frequently a zoo including a challenge to find a place to sit. 

 

Overall we feel the food is far better on Oceania, the limitless bowls of fresh berries at breakfast in The Terrace, the surf and turf at Waves, the grilled lobster tails and sushi in The Terrace for dinner and the surcharge free specialty restaurants.

 

Does O have the “finest cuisine at sea?” I don’t know but I think it is very, very good and I always look forward to every meal.

 

And then there is afternoon tea and the ship’s ambiance...

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37 minutes ago, masscruiser2010 said:

A year ago, after a decade of primarily sailing on the better mass-market cruise lines like Celebrity and Holland America, we decided to sample the six-star lines to see if they are that much better.

 

We have now tried Seabourn, Crystal and Silversea (still trying to find a cruise we want to take on Silversea), and while all three have pluses and minuses, the food on these generally is a serious cut above the larger ships.

 

But every time we got into a discussion back home of who had the best cuisine at sea, Oceania loyalists insisted the food on the Oceania ships was second to none.

So earlier this month, we tried a cruise on Oceania's Insignia.

 

To get the news upfront, there is no possible way one could assert that the food on Oceania is better than the food on Seabourn and Crystal.

 

The disappointments started at breakfast time.  Oceania offered someone wanting a dark or grain bread one (!) type of dark bread, frequently served slightly stale, and not the array of wheat, rye, multigrain and nut breads found on most other cruise lines.  The juice was even more pathetic -- grapefruit juice served out of a carton that was more or less brown in color, and did not come even close to tasting fresh.  And if you took breakfast in the buffet, the trays that held bacon and fruit slices were never refreshed until they ran out (how appealing is that) -- with the servers trying to serve you the last scraps rather than sending for a refill.  One morning, when we declined the tiny scraps of bacon and asked for some actual slices, we were told a half hour before buffet closing that they had run out (!). 

 

At lunchtime, while the dining room when open was a pleasant option though with a limited menu, the buffet was even more disappointing.  The food options offered each day did not even measure up to Royal Caribbean, much less to the luxury lines.  As a matter of fact, we would even rate the buffet of NCL -- Oceania's mass-market sister -- as better than the Oceania buffet.  The Insignia's sandwich choices were pathetic, the cheese selection was the same day after day, and the organization of the buffet -- with the grill clogging traffic in the middle -- was such that the scene was generally one of chaos.

 

The best of the dining on Oceania came at dinner in the main dining room, which we actually found better than the specialty restaurants.  The entrees in the main dining room were generally pretty good.  The best choice for those dining in the specialty restaurants is the veal chop in the Italian restaurant, which was excellent.

 

But the restaurants and specialty restaurants were certainly no better than those on Celebrity or Holland America.  And none of the restaurants was better than The Haven restaurant on the larger NCL ships.

 

None of this is to say that this was a bad cruise.  It wasn't.  The ship, though the staterooms and bathrooms are relatively small, has recently been tastefully redecorated -- and the staff of the ship on the whole was cheerful and had a wonderful, can-do attitude.  The shortcomings and problems we encountered were, as some say, First World problems.

 

But Oceania appears to have a cadre of loyalists who take cruise after cruise on its ships, and who have little or no recent experience with any other cruise line.  While that is just fine, all I can say is enjoy your cruises -- but stop telling people Oceania has the best dining at sea, better than any of the luxury lines.  It doesn't.

Of course, your perceptions are your perceptions. And differences of opinion can make for good discussions. It's odd though that you are one of a relatively few Oceania newbies who has ever posted on CC that the food was less than stellar. 

 

I must admit that it's hard to believe that an Oceania ship, which bakes everything fresh five times daily, would serve you stale bread (at any meal) or that somehow you missed the "a la minute" prep of lobster and beef filet sandwiches at lunch time in Waves.

 

In any case, it sounds like we may not be seeing you on an O cruise anytime in the near future. That's disappointing. But, there's nothing wrong with different strokes for different folks.

 

Good luck with your quest for the perfect cruise cuisine.

IMG_5180.JPG

Edited by Flatbush Flyer

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Still waiting to see if our next O cruise will be less good foodwise (last was 2 years ago) and I will say that the food on the Marina in all venues was better a few years ago than on the Nautica where we will cruise next year.  But I am sure that the food over all has always been better than on RCL which we like okay but sorry O is better.  No experience on the much exalted Seaborn, Crystal, Regent (?), and Silversea (though our Galapagos cruise was the last on a ship that became the Silverseas ship there on the next cruise-food was very good but similar to O not better) but RCL no way.  I have no idea at this point whether O is " best at sea" but the food has always been very good and I will be disappointed to find it less so on our next cruise. 

 

Unfortunately, food is very objective and personal.  I believe your review of less than great food on your Insignia cruise but to rate the veal chop in the Italian Restaurant as the best offering in the Specialty restaurants as the best offering cannot be  accepted without  comment.  It was fatty and just okay on both the Marina and Nautica!  Toscana is my favorite restaurant!

Edited by tvmovielover
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56 minutes ago, masscruiser2010 said:

We have now tried Seabourn, Crystal and Silversea (still trying to find a cruise we want to take on Silversea)

Have you or have you not sailed on Silversea?

 

56 minutes ago, masscruiser2010 said:

But Oceania appears to have a cadre of loyalists who take cruise after cruise on its ships, and who have little or no recent experience with any other cruise line.  While that is just fine, all I can say is enjoy your cruises -- but stop telling people Oceania has the best dining at sea, better than any of the luxury lines.  It doesn't.

While we are approaching our 30th cruise on Oceania, we have cruised several times on Silversea & Seabourn as well as Azamara, Regent, Crystal, Viking Ocean and every single mass market line (enough on Princess to be Elite) + P&O Australia, Voyages of Discovery, Marco Polo & Star lines out of Singapore,  (and probably others that I am forgetting).

I am listing these lines to give you an idea of our perspective on cruise line food.

While I realize that food is excessively subjective, I still insist that in our experience Oceania DOES have the best food at sea overall. We’ve had wonderful meals on all “luxury” lines but OVERALL Oceania beats them for us, despite the fact that Oceania today is not the Oceania of 2006 when we first cruised on her.

JMO.

Glad that you have found cruise lines that you prefer to Oceania - nice to have choices.

Edited by Paulchili

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I apologize for the typo in the original post.

It should have said, We have now tried Seabourn, Crystal and Regent (still trying to find a cruise we want to take on Silversea), and while all three have pluses and minuses, the food on these generally is a serious cut above the larger ships.

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Don't quite know what to say here.  We were on Silversea Muse in May 2018, on Seabourn Ovation this May, 2019, and  on Oceania Marina last Oct/Nov 2018.  We were on HAL on the Zuiderdam in 2017.  We haven't sailed Celebrity since they shed the Century, nor will we.... we just don't do big ships.

 

HAL was a huge fail, with the exception of the Pinnacle grill (breakfast, lunch and dinner - at was all good, and had seasoned, professional wait staff).  I don't even want to discuss the MDR.  What a disaster - in both service and food for two whole weeks.  It was shameful.

 

Silversea.... loved the breakfast buffet, not so much the lunch buffet, and found the dinner venues to be very inconsistent - quite disappointed.  Not to mention we disliked having to plan ahead to reserve each evening far ahead of time.  Sometimes you just want to decide where you are going to eat on the spur of the moment.  No afternoon tea.  They have the Arts Cafe for that. And while the Arts Cafe was excellent.... it just wasn't the same as "afternoon tea".  Best pizza at sea at Spacconopoli... if you are into actual Naples-type pizza.  It was, honestly, exactly like eating pizza in Naples.

 

Seabourn:  Breakfast was a huge fail in the MDR, the Verandah and room service.  (why can't they figure out how to toast something?  This didn't used to be a problem for them.)   Lunch in the Verandah was chaotic, dinner in the MDR was excellent all the time... as was the service.  This was a new experience for us... service in the MDR has not always been as good as it was 2 months ago.  We were pleasantly surprised.  Earth and Ocean was.... the best and most innovative food we've had on a cruise.  Unfortunately, the whole venue is a prisoner to the weather, as it's solely an outdoor venue.  We didn't get out there but twice.  in the Med you fry, in the Baltics, you get wet or freeze.  Afternoon tea was not as good as Oceania, not the tea selection, not the savory, not the sweet.  We ate once at Sushi, it was very good,and very limited menu.  Service was exceptional.

 

Oceania.... while the selection of breakfast food/fruit was not on a par with Silversea, the cooked items were consistency the best we've had.  Didn't matter what the venue was... room service, MDR or Verandah.  They got it right, hot and well prepared.  The food in the MDR was essentially as good as Seabourn, and they have many more choices for specialty restaurants. (Thomas Keller on Seabourn was kind of a yawn.... not a 5 star restaurant IMO).  We were "meh" about Polo, but Toscanna and Red Ginger were just super.

 

Do I think that Oceania is "the best food at sea"?  No.  But it was overall very consistent, and with enough variety that after a month on board... we were still not "bored".  We eagerly await our next cruise on Marina, in 125 days. I was really disappointed with Seabourn at breakfast, and frequently at lunch.  You can't just get one meal  out of three correct and expect me to rave about the food.

 

Clearly - everyone's mileage will vary.  That's why these "foodie reviews" are so difficult to judge on a level field.

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4 minutes ago, Kate-AHF said:

That's why these "foodie reviews" are so difficult to judge on a level field.

I'm on a food site.  Imaging what it's like there!!!!! 🙂

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Count me as one who agrees with the OP. We were also on the Insignia July 11th and we too found the culinary experience to be a big disappointment. In fact, it wasn’t until the last night that we had an enjoyable meal, and even that was marred by a serving of mixed greens when the menu clearly stated iceberg lettuce. The explanation from the waiter was ‘it is wrong on the menu!’

 

I have outlined the problems I had throughout the cruise getting a simple glass of San Pelligrino on at least six or seven occasions only to be offered Perrier or even Vero Sparkling instead, only to find SP become available at another time. The kicker was being offered Perrier in the Italian restaurant!

 

I could go on but I think I made my point. We will be on the Celebrity Eclipse in a little over three weeks and I’m looking forward to comparing the two. One thing I know is that I’ll be able to get a Bloody Mary at breakfast without being told I’d have to pay for it despite my drinks package!

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While Oceania food is far from perfect, I believe it is certainly even with Crystal and other premium and luxury cruise lines and to say it is not significantly better than ANY of the mass market cruise lines is absolutely ridiculous, IMHO. The most ludicrous point the OP makes, however is that he finds a bunch of Oceania loyalists on the Oceania board. What in the world do you expect to see on the Oceania board...a bunch of folks who dislike the cruise line? Each cruise line board's participants on Cruise Critic are made up primarily of folks who either cruise that particular cruise line frequently or are seriously considering doing so. It is not a big leap to therefore assume that people who cruise with a particular cruise line, do so because they like that cruise line, so naturally you will see much positive input as well as some (usually constructive) criticism.

Edited by edgee

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3 hours ago, Guindalf said:

I’ll be able to get a Bloody Mary at breakfast

What time do you have breakfast?  I can see bars not being open 24/7.

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No earlier than 8AM.

 

I was told they could get it for me but I would have to pay (on top of my prestige drinks plan).

 

Never had an issue on Celebrity or NCL, where I have also had drinks plans.

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Once again, this is a matter of not being able to please all of the people, all of the time.   The food on Oceania did not please the OP.  Fair enough, the OP must cruise with the Company that serves the food s/he likes best.. We were not impressed with the food on Regent.  I don't think it was bad food, but consequently we have not cruised with them a second time.  .   We will be on our second Nautica cruise next month and we have been on Riviera twice and also on Seabourn three times so I can make comparisons and Oceania is perfect................ for us.

..    Stale bread?  Poor quality fruit juice? Grill clogging the middle of the Terrace ?(buffet it ain't).  The OP seemed to like the GDR and speciality restaurants a bit better so that's good.   I wish the OP well on his/her future cruising . J    

 

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5 hours ago, Jay23 said:

Once again, this is a matter of not being able to please all of the people, all of the time.   The food on Oceania did not please the OP.  Fair enough, the OP must cruise with the Company that serves the food s/he likes best.. We were not impressed with the food on Regent.  I don't think it was bad food, but consequently we have not cruised with them a second time.  .   We will be on our second Nautica cruise next month and we have been on Riviera twice and also on Seabourn three times so I can make comparisons and Oceania is perfect................ for us.

..    Stale bread?  Poor quality fruit juice? Grill clogging the middle of the Terrace ?(buffet it ain't).  The OP seemed to like the GDR and speciality restaurants a bit better so that's good.   I wish the OP well on his/her future cruising . J    

 

 

Well said.....once again  " beauty is in the eye of the beholder".... how can you argue with perception, its individual and unique to that person..  We all are different from each other.

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15 hours ago, masscruiser2010 said:

 

 

 

The food options offered each day did not even measure up to Royal Caribbean, much less to the luxury lines.  As a matter of fact, we would even rate the buffet of NCL -- Oceania's mass-market sister -- as better than the Oceania buffet.  The Insignia's sandwich choices were pathetic, the cheese selection was the same day after day, and the organization of the buffet -- with the grill clogging traffic in the middle -- was such that the scene was generally one of chaos.

 

 

I have sailed on Royal Caribbean and will continue to. I like it for various reasons but their food is not one of them. Their food choices are monotonous and the buffet is something we try to avoid. Although there is usually a line at the grill in the Terrace buffet on O, the food that is offered there is not something you will find on Royal Caribbean. Sorry to hear of your bad experience on Oceania.  My experience has been quite the opposite. 

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13 minutes ago, happy cruzer said:

They do not have the to order grill but they do have grilled items which were good. NCL buffet on the larger ships is very good, 

Do they have lobster tails and jumbo shrimp every night like Oceania does (as well as several other choices at the grill)?

Edited by Paulchili

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11 hours ago, Paulchili said:

😁 Plus imagine how much the OP can save by sailing on NCL instead of Oceania since he prefers NCL’s buffet anyway.

The plain  simple truth is that everybody is right  for their tastes  It is their reality and you can not argue with a persons reality, mine yours, who ever.    If you adore NCL  or Carnival...cool your right  for you.. and only you.

 

 I once read a review of the French Laundry  in which the writer said the food was not as good as he could get in his home town diner....     Clearly to him, that is what he liked and if the French Laundry served  a bunch of other stuff  he was not pleased     

I  AM reminded of the Late great Jean Sheppard who wrote of his father  who said,"    Everyone really only likes meat and potatoes, and they only eat other stuff to impress each other"...

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Interesting handle the OP has. Are they from MA or a Mass Market fan?

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1 hour ago, Paulchili said:

Do they have lobster tails and jumbo shrimp every night like Oceania does (as well as several other choices at the grill)?

Large shrimp every night - grilled or peel and eat or skewers, etc.  No lobster.  Made to order crepes each night were popular as well.

 

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3 minutes ago, happy cruzer said:

Large shrimp every night - grilled or peel and eat or skewers, etc.  No lobster.  Made to order crepes each night were popular as well.

 

The crepes sound good but the last thing I want to do on a cruise is peel shrimp😊

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There have now been 25 posts of opinions on food on different cruise lines. and that's all they are, folks....opinions. I happen to think he food on O is very good but nowhere near as good as Seabourn where the ingredients are of a higher quality and I can get decent caviar anywhere I want as often as I want. But that's just my opinion. Yours will differ. That's why God created so many cruise lines.

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It's my opinion that NCL has some of the worst food at sea.  Their buffet was absolutely disgusting.  In fact, when sailing NCL, we found ourselves eating in one of their countless specialty restaurants every single night of the cruise to be able to find an edible meal.

 

Perhaps that is their gimmick...make the included (in the fare) offerings so awful to force passengers to pay more for their upcharge restaurants.

 

I will give credit to NCL for their entertainment being top-notch.  Perhaps that's where a larger portion of their budget is allocated, because it sure isn't the food.

 

Hey, some may like what they pass off as sustenance.  Different strokes for different folks.

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1 hour ago, wripro said:

There have now been 25 posts of opinions on food on different cruise lines. and that's all they are, folks....opinions. I happen to think he food on O is very good but nowhere near as good as Seabourn where the ingredients are of a higher quality and I can get decent caviar anywhere I want as often as I want. But that's just my opinion. Yours will differ. That's why God created so many cruise lines.

 

Yup  its all about what people like, dosen't matter on age, education, position  its all personal taste.

Hey, Walt Disney when he traveled abroad used  to bring a case of  chili and beans...   And staying at the Dorchester in London  asked the staff to  cook  em'     He used to judge a place on how they fried their potatoes...  He preferred  lunch counter diners to haute cuisine.... that was him.  good old Kansas City MO  home cooking...

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