Wednesday, March 2, 2011
There are many people who go on cruises that do not believe in paying extra for meals when they have already paid a boatload (ha, ha) for the vacation and there are establishments you can eat at for no additional cost.
I totally understand the thought process of these people – I do. But, my husband and I are not these people. Recently we have been cruising on Norwegian Cruise Lines where they do have a few dining areas that are included in the price, but most of the dining is “specialty” where you pay a nominal fee. Most of the establishments are fairly priced - $10 or $15 per person for all you can eat. There are two restaurants on most of the ships that are $25 per person – a steak house and a hibachi restaurant. Still $25 per person is WAY less than you would pay at these types of restaurants off the cruise, which is why my husband and I treat ourselves when we can get it for less!
A few weeks ago we took our first Royal Caribbean cruise together, on one of their… I’d say normal sized ships. This particular ship only had two restaurants that would have cost extra – one called Portofino, which is classified as Italian, but it is one of those ultra gourmet Italian restaurants that do not have staples like spaghetti & meatballs or chicken parmesan. We opted not to eat there due to most of the entrees being of a seafood entity and we do not like that.
So, we chose to treat ourselves one night to the steakhouse – Chops Steakhouse. We considered it our Valentine’s Day dinner since our Valentine’s Day this year would consist of flying home and then dealing with getting ready for work the next day after vacation – oh, and the surprise of having no heat and a leaky hot water heater too! Since we had picked “My Time Dining” (basically, you didn’t have an assigned seating for dinner, you could go when you wanted!), we got a $5 discount per person to Chops. Nice! So, for $20 per person, we had an incredibly delicious and fancy dinner. Much cheaper than Morton’s!
Our waiter must have thought we were crazy because we were ridiculously gluttonous that night. We asked if the cover charge allowed us unlimited food, and it did for everything but entrees. If you wanted a second entrée, there was a nominal fee. Luckily, we didn’t – we had our eyes set on a ton of side dishes because everything looked SO good!
We started with an appetizer and soup each. We both opted to try the Beef Tenderloin & Eggplant Tower for our appetizer. It consisted of thick eggplant slices topped with some beef slices in an Asian sauce, topped with some grilled vegetables. I’m not a HUGE fan of eggplant in that form, and I didn’t like the texture and avoided it, but my husband loved it. The beef, cooked more on the rare side, was fantastic, as were the vegetables that topped the dish. We concluded we could have shared the appetizer since we were planning on being utter pigs during the main course, but live and learn.
Our appetizers were followed by soup – Cheese n’ Onion for my husband (French Onion Soup) – and I tried the Forest Mushroom, which they told me was like a cream soup.
My husband devoured his soup in record time – he LOVED it. The mushroom soup – not so much. It wasn’t like a traditional cream of mushroom soup and while I like mushrooms, I did not like the taste of the soup, and I left it untouched. Did I feel bad for wasting the food? Sure, but you never know till you try.
It was time for the main course! My husband ordered the filet mignon, 10 ounces. Looking back after seeing how much we ordered, he realized he should have ordered the petit filet (7 ounces) instead, because he didn’t quite finish. Oops. I ordered the Herb Crusted Jumbo Shrimp and it was simply delicious. Perfect size too, since you only get two shrimp, with some vegetables on the side.
There were so many side dishes we wanted, so we chose 4 – all which fed like 3-4 people. We chose sautéed broccolini, steamed asparagus (which ended up being a mistake since my shrimp came with asparagus that my husband and I could have shared), roasted potatoes with prosciutto and parmesan (these were AWESOME!) and double whipped mashed potatoes. We also would have tried the onion rings, but we were already being gluttonous. If I had paid attention to the menu and realized mine came with asparagus, we would have opted for the onion rings!
After forcing down as much food as we could (with all the waiters snickering and basically calling us pigs!), we gave up. We honestly wished we could have boxed it all up and heated it up back in the room at a later time, it was that delicious.
Despite being stuffed, we couldn’t pass up dessert. I picked the chocolate mud pie and my husband ordered the Grannies Caramel Apple Slice. His slice of pie was nice and dainty, where as the waiter said “good luck” to me and plopped down this monster piece of chocolate cake. Being a chocoholic, I normally would have been overjoyed… but being super full, I groaned, but did my best. It WAS a delicious mud pie indeed.
All in all, it cost us about $60 for this special night “out.” It was $40 for the two of us as a base, and then my husband drank 2 beers while I indulged in a bailey’s & cream, plus we tipped our awesome waiter who was as polite as he could be as to how gluttonous we were!
We were there for close to two and a half hours – they warn you when you make a reservation that dinner could be between 2-3 hours. It was slow, but it was worth it. We debated going back a second time and not being as piggy, but we ultimately stuck with the main dining room and other dining areas.
For those of you cruises who don’t mind spending a little more occasionally, and you are on Royal Caribbean, check it out! You won’t be disappointed. Also, see pictures of the menu (as of February 2011), below.