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Koliver63

Cruise food - better if trip costs more?

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We just returned from a 10 day trip to the Caribbean on the Crown Princess and I must say most of the food was really awful...barely edible most of the time.  Everywhere... the dining room, buffet, specialty restaurants, grill by the pool...just really poor quality ingredients and many times we wondered what we were actually eating. Here is the interesting part - we went on the Crown Princess Spring of 2018 (11 day trip to the Mediterranean) and the quality of the food was much better.   The Med cruise was more than double the price of the Caribbean cruise.  Does anyone know if cruise lines (specifically Princess) will change the quality of the food on board based on the cost of the trip or the destination?    It was such a noticeable difference - enough that it could prevent me from booking a Princess cruise again in the future.  We would like to go back to the Mediterranean again in 2021 but I am now leary to book with Princess because the food on this last cruise was so bad. If anyone has any insight as to what could make such a difference in dining experience on the exact same ship in only 18 months time,  I would love to hear.  Thanks!  

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most main stream lines have a small budget allocated for food PP

If you want to pay  for the Specialty restaurant you may get  better food  but  maybe not

 

If you want to go on  a Premium or Luxury line which may cost more  you might have a better chance  at getting better quality food 

they usually have a bigger food budget  but then they might charge more for the cruise  than Princess

 

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7 minutes ago, Koliver63 said:

We just returned from a 10 day trip to the Caribbean on the Crown Princess and I must say most of the food was really awful...barely edible most of the time.  Everywhere... the dining room, buffet, specialty restaurants, grill by the pool...just really poor quality ingredients and many times we wondered what we were actually eating. Here is the interesting part - we went on the Crown Princess Spring of 2018 (11 day trip to the Mediterranean) and the quality of the food was much better.   The Med cruise was more than double the price of the Caribbean cruise.  Does anyone know if cruise lines (specifically Princess) will change the quality of the food on board based on the cost of the trip or the destination?    It was such a noticeable difference - enough that it could prevent me from booking a Princess cruise again in the future.  We would like to go back to the Mediterranean again in 2021 but I am now leary to book with Princess because the food on this last cruise was so bad. If anyone has any insight as to what could make such a difference in dining experience on the exact same ship in only 18 months time,  I would love to hear.  Thanks!  

In general, you can expect that premium and luxury lines spend far more of your cabin fare on the type and quality of culinary ingredients than do mass market lines. Of course, that may not translate to better or more inventive/varied preparations. But, it's a good start to narrowing your choices for your next cruise. 

 

Some mass market lines basically admit that their MDR offering are lackluster by offering extra cost specialty restaurants (including some with limited access due to that line's "ship within a ship" concept, attempting to emulate the premium/luxury cruise experience). Even then, a great quality/value quotient may be a long shot.

 

If food quality is important to you, why not cruise on a line whose regular customers remain loyal, in part because of the food quality. 

 

With Jaques Pepin as its executive culinary director, consider Oceania. All of their dining venues offer very high quality ingredients/preparation and Oceania's specialty restaurants (never an extra charge) have dedicated cuisines in intimate settings (rather than the questionable  "better than the MDR" food you might find on a line like Princess).

 

 

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We were on the Crown Princess in August 2019 for a British Isles cruise and I thought the food was some of the best ever.  There were a lot more offerings that were tailored to the area we were cruising (Irish Stew, Shepards Pie, etc) and they were excellent. I ate the Irish stew several times.  Maybe the food was tailored to the demographic of the passengers on your cruise?  Or the area of world you were cruising?  We've been on many Princess cruises and while I may not have always loved everything I've tasted, I've always found many things I enjoy and we tend to eat mainly in the buffet.  

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To the OP...I have noticed much the same thing....longer sailings often cost more and the food is better.  An exception: Last fall at this time we took the Royal Princess (14 days) from Quebec City to Ft Lauderdale.  The MDR food was terrible.  So much so that, for the first time, we ditched the MDR and finished the trip in the buffet.

IMO, it is too bad that the tip pool doesnt include the chef or whoever is responsible for the low quality provisions that they tried to serve us.  Improved menus might result.

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The OP's question and observation is an interesting one and is one that I also have considered.  I have never sailed the cruise lines that are now considered to be the luxury lines.  So, no opinion about their cuisine.  But, I have sailed sufficiently to hold the opinion that whomever is the ship's Executive Chef is what makes the difference in my satisfaction with the food, in whatever venue, is served.  Not 100% sure that all cruise ships Executive Chefs, including the Seabourns, Silverseas, etc., receive corporate designed menus.  But, I do know that the mainstream cruise lines Executive Chefs do.  From Behind the Scenes tours that I have taken during my cruises, I have learned that these Chefs have the ability to "tweak" those corporate menus as they wish.  I have concluded that some are better "tweakers" than others.

 

Food quality is, of course, important.  A select grade piece of beef served to a guest is going to be disappointing if that guest expected a prime piece of beef.

 

 

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 We have cruised on six cruise lines - Azamara twice, Celebrity four times, Disney once, HAL twice, Oceania twice and Princess once. When I talked to my husband about your question we both agreed that the best food we have enjoyed were, in order: Disney, Celebrity, Oceania, Azamara, HAL and lastly Princess. We always do MDR and specialty dining on all cruises for the variety of selections and atmosphere they offer. Disney was excellent in both the MDR and specialties and we consider them to the the best. Celebrity and Oceania would rate second and third in both MDR and specialty, being very close to each other with Celebrity a slight edge. Azamara and Holland were fine in the specialty, but just OK in the MDR. Princess was hit or miss in the MDR and a complete disappointment in the specialties. 

 

Food is subjective. We aren't "foodies" who must have over rated foo-foo gourmet menu items to choose from. For example, some of the selections on Celebrity, Azamara and Oceania were too over the top for our tastes and seemed to be conjured up more for the appearance of the presentation than for good flavor and taste. But we always found something excellent to eat at every meal on these three lines. Disney was less pretentious, and always excellent. It seemed that everything they offered was appealing and desirable. It was always difficult to choose which meal to order. HAL was OK - not great, not awful. I guess I would have to say it satisfied, but not amazed. Unfortunately, with Princess, "amazed" was nowhere to be seen. It was more often disappointing than not. 

 

Please note that the higher priced cruise lines weren't necessarily the best in food quality and taste. The lowest priced, Princess, WAS the worst, however, so that may be something to consider. 

 

I hope this helps.

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Duplicate post. Not sure how I did it, but it did. 😉

Edited by PTMary

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1 hour ago, PTMary said:

We aren't "foodies" who must have over rated foo-foo gourmet menu items to choose from. For example, some of the selections on Celebrity, Azamara and Oceania were too over the top for our tastes and seemed to be conjured up more for the appearance of the presentation than for good flavor and taste.

(FWIW, those of us who are 'into' food really don't like the term "foodie.")  But I'm into food and I find the term "foo-foo" offensive actually.  The best food may be the simplest prepared.  Could you give an example please of one that was "too over the top"?  We're traveling on Oceania for the first time soon and I've pored over their menu and see nothing that "foo-foo."  Please expand.

And, yes, I'll say that if you're paying more then there are going to be certain things that are going to be 'better.'  Food maybe.  Or something else.  I think this site is excellent for helping people make those decisions.

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All great responses and I appreciate all of the comments.  Please keep them coming.  We do love good food but don’t require anything fancy.  Even if the meals on the ship were dry and lacked flavor, they were for the most part presented nicely.  A couple of examples just so folks know what really kind of put us off...the Crown Grill is a specialty restaurant on Princess.  We ate there on our first cruise last spring - loved it and thought it well worth the $29 pp up charge.  This time, the steaks were thin and gray...literally gray.  We should have sent them back but didn’t want to be a bother.  The server could barely cut into the baked potatoes...his knife almost couldn’t pierce the skin.  And it appeared as though it had been cooked at least 24 hours earlier and had been sitting under a heat lamp or something for at least a day.  It was old and tough.  Most of the meat was “mystery meat”...truly we thought maybe it was soy product or something else.  We kept trying the buffet and finally stopped because we felt we were being wasteful with plates of food that we just couldn’t eat because it was so bad.  We just had such a different experience on our first cruise last year and I really wondered if anyone knew for sure if the overall quality of the food on the ship would/could change based on how much folks paid for tickets.  This Caribbean cruise was a very good deal (meaning inexpensive tickets for all) so I wondered if they loaded the ship with lower end food for preparation. Thanks again for taking the time to comment. 

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1 hour ago, Koliver63 said:

 We should have sent them back but didn’t want to be a bother.

I read this and it annoys me.  You PAID for that meal whether included or extra.  If it's not right, you're not being a bother.  SEND IT BACK.  PS:  I'm 72 y.o. and so perhaps a bit more bold 🙂

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7 minutes ago, clo said:

I read this and it annoys me.  You PAID for that meal whether included or extra.  If it's not right, you're not being a bother.  SEND IT BACK.  PS:  I'm 72 y.o. and so perhaps a bit more bold 🙂

You are right...we should have returned it. We thought of it afterwards and knew we should have nicely asked them to make it right. I will work on being bold, lol 

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2 hours ago, clo said:

(FWIW, those of us who are 'into' food really don't like the term "foodie.")  But I'm into food and I find the term "foo-foo" offensive actually.  The best food may be the simplest prepared.  Could you give an example please of one that was "too over the top"?  We're traveling on Oceania for the first time soon and I've pored over their menu and see nothing that "foo-foo."  Please expand.

And, yes, I'll say that if you're paying more then there are going to be certain things that are going to be 'better.'  Food maybe.  Or something else.  I think this site is excellent for helping people make those decisions.

 

Oceania? Hardly "foo foo." Rather, just world class cosmopolitan cuisine (many being traditional standards). For example, enjoy French?

 

 

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Edited by Flatbush Flyer

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16 minutes ago, Koliver63 said:

You are right...we should have returned it. We thought of it afterwards and knew we should have nicely asked them to make it right. I will work on being bold, lol 

YAY!  🙂

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8 minutes ago, Flatbush Flyer said:

Hardly "foo foo." Rather just world class (often traditional) cosmopolitan cuisine:

 

Totes 🙂 I think one can be intimidated by the the description.  But pare it down to "chicken with juice."  Etc.  

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39 minutes ago, Flatbush Flyer said:

 

Oceania? Hardly "foo foo." Rather, just world class cosmopolitan cuisine (many being traditional standards). For example, enjoy French?

 

Oceania? Hardly "world class". I have had as good, and at times even better, at local restaurants!!!! I felt that Oceania was good, not great. The "cosmopolitan" descriptions may appear to be "world class" on the menu, but the result on the plates in front of us certainly didn't measure up to the expectations the menu promised. Many of the meals on Celebrity were just as "foo foo" (go ahead foodies, let yourself be offended again!), but they delivered on the expectations better than Oceania. And I speak from experience of having been on Oceania twice. 

 

BTW: For those of you who bristle at being called a "foodie", look up the description and you will see it is a common and positive description of people who are into gourmet food. Being offended is your choice alone. 

Edited by PTMary

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4 minutes ago, PTMary said:

 

Hardly "world class". I have had as good, and at times even better, at weddings!!!! I felt that Oceania was good, not great. The "cosmopolitan" descriptions may appear to be "world class" on the menu, but the result on the plates in front of us certainly didn't measure up to the expectation the menu promised. Many of the meals on Celebrity were just as "foo foo" (go ahead foodies, let yourself be offended again!), but they delivered on the expectations better than Oceania. 

 

BTW: look up the description of the word "foodie" and you will see it is a common and positive description of people who are into gourmet food. Being offended is your choice alone. 

As I wrote before, I wish you would give an example.

 

" too over the top for our tastes and seemed to be conjured up more for the appearance of the presentation than for good flavor and taste."

 

As has been shown and talked about above there doesn't seem to be anything that would fit our description.  And I can assure you that if things don't overall measure I'll discuss it.

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6 minutes ago, PTMary said:

 

Oceania? Hardly "world class". I have had as good, and at times even better, at local restaurants!!!! I felt that Oceania was good, not great. The "cosmopolitan" descriptions may appear to be "world class" on the menu, but the result on the plates in front of us certainly didn't measure up to the expectations the menu promised. Many of the meals on Celebrity were just as "foo foo" (go ahead foodies, let yourself be offended again!), but they delivered on the expectations better than Oceania. And I speak from experience of having been on Oceania twice. 

 

BTW: For those of you who bristle at being called a "foodie", look up the description and you will see it is a common and positive description of people who are into gourmet food. Being offended is your choice alone. 

 

So, I am not the only person who has been underwhelmed by Oceania's food? Good to know I am not alone. 😁

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Mass market cruise lines have been building ever larger ships and trying to hold fares down in the effort to fill the thousands of new bunks coming on line every year.  For years they have continually shaved expenses wherever possible - knowing that the new cruisers will have nothing to compare things with and that many of the repeat cruisers seem to seek lowest price above all.  This is a formula guaranteeing continuing degradation of the on-board experience;  partially offset by the offer of alternative (additional cost) food options.

 

It is a virtual certainty that any year-to-year comparison of included meals on lines like Carnival, NCL, Royal Caribbean, Princess, HAL, and Celebrity will show deterioration —- the lines will not give up a business plan which apparently works.  OP should not be surprised.

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6 hours ago, Koliver63 said:

We just returned from a 10 day trip to the Caribbean on the Crown Princess and I must say most of the food was really awful...barely edible most of the time.  Everywhere... the dining room, buffet, specialty restaurants, grill by the pool...just really poor quality ingredients and many times we wondered what we were actually eating. Here is the interesting part - we went on the Crown Princess Spring of 2018 (11 day trip to the Mediterranean) and the quality of the food was much better.   The Med cruise was more than double the price of the Caribbean cruise.  Does anyone know if cruise lines (specifically Princess) will change the quality of the food on board based on the cost of the trip or the destination?    It was such a noticeable difference - enough that it could prevent me from booking a Princess cruise again in the future.  We would like to go back to the Mediterranean again in 2021 but I am now leary to book with Princess because the food on this last cruise was so bad. If anyone has any insight as to what could make such a difference in dining experience on the exact same ship in only 18 months time,  I would love to hear.  Thanks!  

 

I've wondered sometimes if this issue, along with other common complaints,  happen more in Caribbean itineraries.  I think fares may be lower there in general so maybe that is it.  I really don't know.   I do think that, in general,  meals we have had on European cruises have been superior to ones we have had on Mexican Riviera or Caribbean itineraries.   Not much help I'm afraid. 

 

BTW, I was looking on Oceania's website recently and thought it funny that they even talk about their brochures as being "award winning".    

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55 minutes ago, Koliver63 said:

You are right...we should have returned it. We thought of it afterwards and knew we should have nicely asked them to make it right. I will work on being bold, lol 

I'm very proud of you.  xo mom 🙂

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1 minute ago, ldubs said:

BTW, I was looking on Oceania's website recently and thought it funny that they even talk about their brochures as being "award winning".    

 

Award winning brochures? Seriously? Now, that is what I would call pretentious. 🤣

 

 

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2 hours ago, Koliver63 said:

All great responses and I appreciate all of the comments.  Please keep them coming.  We do love good food but don’t require anything fancy.  Even if the meals on the ship were dry and lacked flavor, they were for the most part presented nicely.  A couple of examples just so folks know what really kind of put us off...the Crown Grill is a specialty restaurant on Princess.  We ate there on our first cruise last spring - loved it and thought it well worth the $29 pp up charge.  This time, the steaks were thin and gray...literally gray.  We should have sent them back but didn’t want to be a bother.  The server could barely cut into the baked potatoes...his knife almost couldn’t pierce the skin.  And it appeared as though it had been cooked at least 24 hours earlier and had been sitting under a heat lamp or something for at least a day.  It was old and tough.  Most of the meat was “mystery meat”...truly we thought maybe it was soy product or something else.  We kept trying the buffet and finally stopped because we felt we were being wasteful with plates of food that we just couldn’t eat because it was so bad.  We just had such a different experience on our first cruise last year and I really wondered if anyone knew for sure if the overall quality of the food on the ship would/could change based on how much folks paid for tickets.  This Caribbean cruise was a very good deal (meaning inexpensive tickets for all) so I wondered if they loaded the ship with lower end food for preparation. Thanks again for taking the time to comment. 

Spent almost 40 years with P&O/Princess and found the catering experience has been in decline for many years. Started with the elimination of silver service to the current practice of galley plating and delivering the entire plate to the table. At least the menus and food quality was maintained.

 

The next change was cheapening of the menus, with more expensive items being added to the same menu - classic with Princess was including lobster & beef wellington on the same night. Then for Lobster, Princess went from 2 tails to 1 tail accompanied by a prawn/crayfish.

 

With respect to the length/price of a cruise affecting the quality of the victuals & preparation, that has not been our experience. Our last Princess Cruise was a World Cruise in 2015 and the meals in the MDR, buffet & steak house were terrible - both the quality of meats, preparation and serving temperature.

 

In addition to mainstream lines cutting the per pax cost for food, I also believe the Executive Chef is similar to the Captain. Quality & standards start at the top, so an effective Captain sets the standards and runs a tight ship. This is the same for most of the departments and an effective Executive Chef runs a good galley. On our last Princess Cruise, the Executive Chef was spotted being one of the first crew going ashore in many ports with one of the waitresses. Chef was more interested in play, so galley standards were exceptionally low.

 

In the almost 4 months aboard we have never sent so many meals back to the galley. Recall one night, over half our table had the lamb chops and they all went back. All adjacent tables also sent them back. Couldn't even cut them with a chain saw. 

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"Couldn't even cut them with a chain saw." 

 

Now that right there is a tough lamb chop!   Lol

Edited by ldubs

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1 hour ago, sloopsailor said:

 

So, I am not the only person who has been underwhelmed by Oceania's food? Good to know I am not alone. 😁

I doubt that a few underwhelmed customers will hurt Oceania's stellar food reputation. After all, the experts at pro food outfits like Wine Spectator, Bon Appetite, Saveur and, most recently, Dom Perignon have chosen to partner with Oceania on a number of unique onboard culinary undertakings. 

 

Then there's the praise from publications like Town & Country, Fodor's, etc. Even Forbes (well known for its "spot on" reviews) praises O: www.forbes.com/sites/carriecoolidge/2017/12/11/oceania-cruises-is-best-cruise-line-for-foodies/amp/

 

Of course, however, food preferences can be very subjective. And anyone who doesn't care for Oceania's food certainly has lots of other cruise lines to consider/frequent. 

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