Seeing as I have previously experienced the dining options on the Regent Seven Seas, Celebrity and Holland America cruise lines, I was pleased to have the opportunity to see how Princess Cruises dining options measured up against competing cruise lines.
So last Thursday I took the opportunity to go aboard the Princess Cruises Grand Princess for a three day repositioning cruise that traveled from Los Angeles, California up the coast (with no stops) to our home port of Vancouver, BC.
After a ridiculously long day of travel with little eating made me very hangry. As a result, as soon as we were aboard the Grand Princess we did like everyone else on the ship – headed to the buffet. Massive, massive line up of cranky, hungry people. Me included.
So once I got up to the food choices offered at the buffet, although I was hoping to be impressed, I was not impressed.
The offerings on the first day buffet were quite boring and, in my opinion did not demonstrate much imagination from the kitchen staff. I would say that the buffet on the BC Ferries was more impressive than the Horizon’s Court buffet aboard the Grand Princess.
To be fair, I am NOT a buffet type of person and it is quite difficult to impress me with a buffet.
I much prefer the more traditional and formal dining options offered in a cruise ship’s dining room.
Knowing how I feel about buffet style dining, my travel partner booked us into the “set dining time” of 6pm in the formal dining room called the Botticelli. We chose the early dining option because we had our kids with us and wanted to be sure that they had a chance to experience a formal dining experience. Although with the kids there made our meals a little more difficult; little hands reaching in and touching the meal before the photos are complete is a serious no-no in our home!
As usual, I begin with the bottom line – overall, the food was excellent. Yes, there were a couple misses, but there were far more hits than misses. So let’s look at some of the highlight meals from this short cruise.
Our first dinner had big time hit and a miss – a plate of prime rib roast with a baked potato, cob of corn and horseradish. Bam. Out of the park. I asked for medium rare and got a perfect medium rare serving of prime rib.
The baked Idaho potato was good. A little under-cooked compared to how I usually like it, but good. And the corn was a take it or leave it affair.
The “miss” from this meal was the starter – a deep fried sushi roll. Living in Vancouver (or the burbs of Vancouver) we have wonderful sushi options so I am difficult to impress with sushi and I was definitely underwhelmed by the four thin slices of deep-fried sushi.
Funny thing is that on the menu they say that the sushi with Bacardi wasabi emulsion and spicy marinated cabbage is an award winning dish. Definitely not an award winner for me.
My dessert choice was the Black Forest chocolate cake. Excellent flavour and not at all heavy. Three brandied cherries that were on the plate looked tasty but I can’t say if they were or not because my dinner companion snuck them off my plate before I had a chance to try them.
The breakfast service in Botticelli was always exemplary. The meals were perfectly prepared – other than the baked hashbrown potato patties that were always under-cooked in the centre.
The best breakfast was the day that Eggs Benedict were on special. It is hard to imagine how a large kitchen can be pumping out so many breakfasts and still be able to have eggs cooked so perfectly.
As I cut into the yolk the creamy filling just started to ooze out and blended with the hollandaise sauce. Absolute perfection!!
Like every other breakfast I had, I ordered a rasher of bacon. I had no idea that meant a mountain of bacon. Each plate came with a massive serving of paper thin and ultra crispy bacon that was unbelievably delicious. Yummy!!
One of my lunch choices turned out to be a total disappointment. The menu said the Reuben sandwich was “piled mountain high with corned beef” but that was not the case. There were a few thin slices of beef, a layer of sauerkraut and a slice of swiss cheese between two very dry and difficult to bite through slices of rye bread. The “shoestring potatoes” were the same as all the fries that came with any other meal. Relatively boring.
So, my bottomline – the meals served in the Botticelli dining room were, all things considered, total hits. Yes, there were some service miscues when I asked for things and they were forgotten or at one point when a server dropped a wine glass beside our table and it took a surprising length of time for anyone to pick up the large pieces of glass on the floor even though it was in a high traffic area. But I was very pleased with the quality of the food, the presentation of the food and the freshness of the ingredients served in the Botticelli dining room.
Tomorrow I will discuss the meal that we had in one of the specialty restaurants aboard the Princess Cruises Grand Princess – the Crown Grill, a New York style steak house. Just a hint – it was a beef-feast.