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Total Food Snob - Is Oceania Right for Me?


All_About_Food
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Hello! I've been poring through this board, hoping to get a real sense about the food. But the pictures I've seen lead me to believe that it's not quite up to what I'm looking for. However, pictures can be misleading so I thought I'd ask this wonderful group of people what you think!

 

I grew up in San Francisco, recently moved from the City by the Bay to New Orleans, and am in my 40s. I adore food and used to be a pastry chef. What are the chances that Oceania is able to produce food of world-class quality on a ship of hundreds of people? I know I sound horrid, but food is really, really important to me and I want to make the best choice I can for a cruise on the other side of all of this difficulty. Perusing cruise lines is keeping me sane. I have spreadsheets with every little detail to compare. 

 

Any insight you could provide would be greatly appreciated!

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Oceania is about as good as it gets on cruise ships in many people's opinion. It sounds like cruising might not be for you though as most people in the know agree that Oceania simply can't compare to fresh ingredients prepared in a small setting. Being a dumb country boy I find it quite enjoyable. Not as good as the farm and Southern country cooking I grew up with, but still pretty good.

Edited by ORV
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agree with the above.  you will not find what you are looking for on any cruise ship.  Perhaps you will be better served by chartering a yacht and hiring a professional chef who meets with your expectations.  Oceania is excellent food (arguably the best on a cruise), but it cannot compare to what you seem to be looking for.

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First you have to accept the concept that cuisine at sea is different from that on land.

You can't always go to the the market daily to get the freshest ingredients like chefs can on land.

Even on Oceania ships, which are smaller than mass market, you are cooking for 1200 people and the kitchen staff is larger and more varied and less well trained than it would be at French Laundry.

Once you accept those limitations, IME Oceania has the best overall food at sea (at least that was the case before COVID).

Sure, other lines, especially the luxury ones, have excellent meals but taken overall, Oceania beats them all IMO.

You have to sail on Marina or Riviera that have 4 specialties and offers wine paired special dinners that are truly outstanding.

After having said all this, you already know that food is one of the most subjective and least objective topics discussed here.

All of this is just my opinion having sailed on just about every major or minor cruise lines.

Alternatively, as others suggested, why not take a trip to France and visit a few Michelin star restaurants of your choice?

Edited by Paulchili
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I understand what you are saying... honestly, it is by no means Michelin star quality but (and I echo others when I say) that it is excellent by cruising standards. I love food. And love really good high quality food - have been lucky enough to eat at top restaurants and, through philanthropic work, had some of the best chefs in the country cook for me. By enlarge I am pleased with the food - especially in the specialty restaurants. There are definitely some big hits and some misses... My SIL, however, is a total food snob and I know she would find fault - thus we have never suggested she join us... I will also say, some of the food shots I have seen on the board do not do Oceania's food justice. 

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1 hour ago, All_About_Food said:

...I grew up in San Francisco, recently moved from the City by the Bay to New Orleans....

.......What are the chances that Oceania is able to produce food of world-class quality on a ship of hundreds of people?....

As a lifelong NY/SF "3-4 star" diner who will occasionally fly to NOLA just to eat my way across town, I can assure you that, overall, O's food is exceptionally good. 

A decent comparison would be solid/better, "tourist oriented" restaurants like Carmine's in NYC, Scoma's in SF, Commander's Palace in NOLA. What O's food is not is French Laundry, Jean George or one of my NOLA favorites - Brigtsen's

In addition, and unlike many other cruise lines, O's quality is consistent across venues. Specialty restaurants aren't "better" than the GDR. Rather the specialty restaurants have focused menus, decor and ambiance.

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43 minutes ago, ORV said:

Oceania is about as good as it gets on cruise ships in many people's opinion. It sounds like cruising might not be for you though as most people in the know agree that Oceania simply can't compare to fresh ingredients prepared in a small setting. Being a dumb country boy I find it quite enjoyable. Not as good as the farm and Southern country cooking I grew up with, but still pretty good.

 

That's really good to know, thank you! Nothing like Southern home cooking, that's for sure.

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15 minutes ago, Flatbush Flyer said:

 

As a lifelong NY/SF "3-4 star" diner who will occasionally fly to NOLA just to eat my way across town, I can assure you that, overall, O's food is exceptionally good. 

A decent comparison would be solid/better, "tourist oriented" restaurants like Carmine's in NYC, Scoma's in SF, Commander's Palace in NOLA. What O's food is not is French Laundry, Jean George or one of my NOLA favorites - Brigtsen's

In addition, and unlike many other cruise lines, O's quality is consistent across venues. Specialty restaurants aren't "better" than the GDR. Rather the specialty restaurants have focused menus, decor and ambiance.

 

This is just what I was looking for! Thank you so much for providing real world examples, as it helps me calibrate. I quite enjoy Commander's Palace so this is very encouraging. I've just been burned before by cruise marketing regarding food so am a bit wary. Thanks again!

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41 minutes ago, Paulchili said:

First you have to accept the concept that cuisine at sea is different from that on land.

You can't always go to the the market daily to get the freshest ingredients like chefs can on land.

Even on Oceania ships, which are smaller than mass market, you are cooking for 1200 people and the kitchen staff is larger and more varied and less well trained than it would be at French Laundry.

Once you accept those limitations, IME Oceania has the best overall food at sea (at least that was the case before COVID).

Sure, other lines, especially the luxury ones, have excellent meals but taken overall, Oceania beats them all IMO.

You have to sail on Marina or Riviera that have 4 specialties and offers wine paired special dinners that are truly outstanding.

After having said all this, you already know that food is one of the most subjective and least objective topics discussed here.

All of this is just my opinion having sailed on just about every major or minor cruise lines.

Alternatively, as others suggested, why not take a trip to France and visit a few Michelin star restaurants of your choice?

 

That's an excellent point, the lack of getting the best ingredients of the day is a completely understandable limiting factor. I have been considering a land-based trip but honestly, I love the pace and ease of cruising. I guess, fundamentally, I'm hoping to find a cruise where the food won't drag down the trip, if that makes sense. It is, as you say, completely subjective. It's why I tried to provide some context because my tastes reflect my history. Unfortunately I think my attempt at poking fun at how I could be perceived as a snob backfired spectacularly. Ah, the joys of internet communication.

 

Thank you for such a thorough and thoughtful response!

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42 minutes ago, clairol said:

I understand what you are saying... honestly, it is by no means Michelin star quality but (and I echo others when I say) that it is excellent by cruising standards. I love food. And love really good high quality food - have been lucky enough to eat at top restaurants and, through philanthropic work, had some of the best chefs in the country cook for me. By enlarge I am pleased with the food - especially in the specialty restaurants. There are definitely some big hits and some misses... My SIL, however, is a total food snob and I know she would find fault - thus we have never suggested she join us... I will also say, some of the food shots I have seen on the board do not do Oceania's food justice. 

 

Really helpful response, I so appreciate you taking the time. I don't need Michelin star quality, not many of those to be had in my new hometown and the best meals I've ever enjoyed weren't in Michelin level restaurants. Your answer really helps me gauge what to expect and I'm encouraged. I can almost always find something to enjoy wherever I am, as long as it's not, well ... Carnival. But for this trip I want to splurge and find the best food available so that I can pair my love of cruising with my love of food. It sounds like Oceania isn't overselling their quality of offerings.

 

Thanks again! 

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42 minutes ago, StanandJim said:

I can't say that the food quality is any better-

but Crystal, for example offers Dining which is much more formal than Oceania.

 

That is If the bells and whistles of french service float your boat....  

Not really   unless you are there for some included drinks 

We found Oceania much better

Just saying

 

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We are not foodies  & have no idea what a Michelin star meal is like

 but  for the most part  Oceania  has quality ingredients & if the cook does his job well the food is very good

 

I would try a short cruise on the O class ships  Marina & Riviera  (more choices)  & decide for yourself

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I have not seen the following suggestion -  try a port intensive 7- 10 day Oceania European cruise, especially if you can compromise on lunches for local food.  Consider any foods you especially like in the cruise schedule choice.

 

My wife loves duck breast and had two excellent lunches outside Tallinn Estonia and Riga, Estonia.  Both were at a local resort (seaside) location where the big city locals would spend on good/ great food.  Another tip is to be nice to the top Oceana food and beverage officer on your cruise.  I was and she gave us a excellent restaurant reference for our over-night stay in Bordeaux France.

 

Finally, Oceania O class ships offer cooking classes.  If you are lucky, you could learn how to cook and modify a personal favorite dish.

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All About Food.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,    The food on Oceania is undoubtedly the best food at sea.  However it is Mass Catering as the ships carry between 600 and 1200 passengers.   I don't think it will be quite good enough for you.  Have you  cruised before.   Maybe cruising isn't for you at all.

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2 hours ago, Jay23 said:

All About Food.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,    The food on Oceania is undoubtedly the best food at sea.  However it is Mass Catering as the ships carry between 600 and 1200 passengers.   I don't think it will be quite good enough for you.  Have you  cruised before.   Maybe cruising isn't for you at all.

 

I have cruised before, on Celebrity, 15 years ago. I greatly enjoyed the pace and ease of the trip and have always wanted to try it again. However, the only thing that I didn't particularly care for was the food, so I'm hoping to mitigate that as much as I can. That being said, I totally understand the limitations of the number of people dining and certainly wouldn't expect the best meal of my life. I just don't want to be eating to simply survive whilst on vacation. 

 

Thank you for taking the time to respond!

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6 hours ago, All_About_Food said:

 

 

I grew up in San Francisco, recently moved from the City by the Bay to New Orleans, and am in my 40s. I adore food and used to be a pastry chef. What are the chances that Oceania is able to produce food of world-class quality on a ship of hundreds of people? 

 

 

I fully understand where you are coming from. I too have enjoyed many a New Orleans dining experience. The food and service at Commander's  Palace is sublime , and starting dinner at 5:30 and not leaving till everyone else has left from the main dining room at Galatoire's after 11 PM is somehow magical. My most recent Birthday was celebrated at Arnoud's  on Lundi Gras, and I'm not quite sure how many Sazeracs were downed. I'm not sure anything at sea though can quite compare.

 

 With that being said, the  best dining experience that I have ever had  while on a cruise was in Queens Grill on the  M/V QUEEN ELIZABETH. Both the food and service in the dining room were exceptional. There was no need to rush; your table was yours from arrival till you left.   Special request were honored. I asked once while in Queens Grill for Crab Sardou for dinner and it was prepared.  But it is not an inexpensive cruise.

 

During  my only experience with Oceania last December on the SIRENA the food was good to excellent but in no way did the service compare to the Queens Grill, or one of the top French Quarter restaurants.  I did have veal marsalla for lunch in the SIRENA's main dining room  and I must say though it was absolute perfection. In a fine San Francisco or New Orleans restaurant it would have been priced over $30.00 for dinner. As it's open seating in  Oceania's main dining rooms you don't get to get to know one waiter. As the wait staff did not expect an individual tip, I would say the service was perfunctory. It got the job done, but not with any flair.

 

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Depends on your definition of "world class quality". We've cruised only twice, both Oceania, & would be afraid to try a different line because the food was so good on both our Caribbean & Med sailings. Our son is a CIA grad & we have eaten at Michelin-starred restaurants, so we are foodies, tho not food snobs. I wouldn't compare Oceania dining with Benu or Grace, but agree Commander's Palace is equivalent. Not only would Marina or Riviera give you more specialty options, but one of the wine pairing or Dom Perignon dinners, which would come as close as possible to a Michelin experience. Try a short cruise at first.

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We have a friend who was an officer with Oceania. He had also been employed by most of the upmarket cruise ships. I asked which one in his opinion had the best food.  Answer - Oceania. We continue to cruise with Oceania as the food is exceptional. We did try Viking but it did not compare favourably. My passion is cooking so the standard of food when travelling is important. 

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Marina and Riviera both have excellent and varied restaurant options, as do the new Regent Seven Seas shops. We always particularly like Jacques and Red Ginger. You may well enjoy the price fixe supplement Wine Spectator option included on these two ships, La Reserve.

 

We are foodies and went to French Laundry multiple times both before and after Thomas Keller took over; the price fixe was about $45 when he started there. We think it’s become horrifically overpriced and boring, though the vegetarian option is pretty good.

 

if and when it reopens,  Dominique Crenn’s Atelier Crenn in San Francisco is far better, fully meriting its three Michelin stars...the first every three star award to a woman restaurant owner/chef. You will never get cuisine like that on any cruise ship...

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I think you have at least 2 possible cruising strategies- try Oceania on a shorter itinerary, or go lower market with an itinerary that allows you to ignore the ship's food in preference of land-based lunches/dinners.

Edited by babysteps
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Everyone's experience will differ, but in my experience on my only O cruise in Sept of last year on a 21 day Miami to San Francisco cruise, I would rate the food as marginal.  There were three dinners that I sent the entree back as unacceptable. They ranged from salmon that was overcooked to the point that it was hard to cut with a knife to snapper that obviously smelled spoiled (three others at the table shared my opinion) and other more minor issues in between.  Other meals were edible, but not memborable.  If your primary goal is world class cuisine, my experience would not say this is it.  I should also note that we had a great time on the cruise, but unlike experiences on other lines (e.g. Viking) food was not a highlight. BTW, I am not a food snob, just like good food.

Edited by ropomo
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