Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Royal Feast- By way of Chris

Serenade of the Seas
March 2015 

Kellie and I are real "foodies" and "food snobs" when it comes to cruises and this being our 4th cruise it was no different than before. This was our 2nd Royal Caribbean cruise and we were able to have some of our favorites from the Navigator- August 2014 cruise as well as try some new things and go to multiple dining venues. This blog post will be about all of the tasty and some not so tasty options we had while aboard The Serenade of the Seas in March 2015. 

We will be using a 0-5 point scale with 5 being the absolute best and would signify it was the best dish (in it's category) we have had on a cruise ship or even in a land restaurant. The middle score of 2.5 would be average and what was expected. This is not a 2.5 in the realm of land food but what you would expect to get on a cruise ship

We will break it into our daily meals and score each menu item and at the end we will summarize with our favorite options within each category. We had a LOT of fun doing this on our 7 day Bahamas cruise and we hope you enjoy our review as well! Get ready for your stomach to GROWL! 

The Gumbo Shop- French Quarter, New Orleans, LA
Favorites Plate- 4.5
Red beans and rice, jambalaya, seafood gumbo and pecan praline pie... YUMMY!

Embarkation Day
Lunch- The Windjammer Buffet
My 1st impression of the Windjammer was better than previous trips and I decided to take it easy since we had early dinner reservations for that evening.
Random Buffet Plate- 3.0
I think the best item I had this day was the Honey Stung Chicken. The Chef carved meats were also very good throughout the week. 

Afternoon Snack- Park Café 
Egg Salad Sandwich- 4.5
This was surprisingly good and the best EGG SALAD sandwich I have ever eaten. This Park Café proved to be a trustworthy eating option the entire cruise.

Dinner- Main Dining RoomThe overall MDR food was much better on the Serenade than it was on the Navigator in August 2014; however, there was a significant drop in service which did not help improve the overall experience. Each night began with delightful bread options including my favorite “Savory Bites”. These little delicacies were small but delightful and we later learned on our galley tour that they are also Gluten Free.

The Mojo Menu

MDR Bread Options-4.0
These were all tasty but we especially liked the onion rolls and "Savory bites".

Smoked Fish Rillettes- 3.5

Escargots Bourguignonne- 4.5 
This appetizer was always “a winner”.

Horseradish-Crusted Fillet of Atlantic Salmon- 4.0
This was very tasty and the potato mash that went alongside was good as well; however, it was a drop in rating from the Navigator.

Slow Roasted Beef Strip Loin- 4.5
This is what I would call “perfection

Carrot Cake- 5.0

BBB Crème Brulee- 4.5
This was better than I remember it being and was excellent.

Day 2 (Sea Day 1)

Breakfast- Main Dining Room

Blueberry Muffin and Assorted Pastries- 3.0

Make Your Own Cereal Bar- 4.0
I love this concept and used it daily in the MDR Breakfast set-up

Create Your Own Omelet- 4.0
These were MUCH improved from the Navigator.

Eggs Benedict- 4.0
An improvement over the Navigator where this dish was almost inedible.

Lunch- Windjammer Buffet following our Cabin Crawl
Carved Turkey breast was “memorable”- 3.5

Dinner- Formal Night in the MDR 
Bay Scallop Gratin- 4.0

Lobster Bisque- 4.0

Carved Fillet of Beef Tenderloin-4.5
This was very well cooked.

Roasted Duck- 4.0

Pan Seared Fillet of Corvina- 3.5

Bittersweet Chocolate Souffle- 2.0
Royal Caribbean really missed the mark on most of the desserts but especially the soufflés.

Sky High Lemon Meringue Pie- 3.5

Day 3- Key West

Breakfast- MDR
Spanish Style Open Face Omelet- 3.5

Eggs Benedict-4.0 
This seemed to improve with each morning.

Lunch- Kermit’s Pie Shop, Key West, FL
Chocolate Covered Key Lime Pie- 4.0

Dinner- Chops Grille
The BEST meal on the ship. The service and food quality were superb and what is expected on a cruise ship. This was an additional cost from the cruise fare but at $30 per person I would highly recommend it to anyone traveling on Royal Caribbean. We wanted to try as much as we could so we literally tried almost everything on the menu and split it between the 2 of us… We wanted to get our money’s worth obviously; but more importantly we wanted to be able to try as much of the menu as we could and then make the best recommendations. 

1st Course- Soups and Salads 
The King Caesar (With Caviar)-4.5

Crispy Goat Cheese Salad- 5.0+
 The best salad I have ever eaten and I always go by the motto of “You don’t win friends with salad” but I won a friend with this one… Wow, it was good.

Forest Mushroom Soup- 5.0
The BEST soup of my life.

Three Cheese Roasted Onion Soup- 3.0
I’m not a big French Onion style soup but this one was “OK”.

2nd Course- Appetizers
Colossal Shrimp Cocktail- 5.0

Pan-Roasted Jumbo Scallops- 5.0+ 
Despite ordering EVERYTHING on the menu we asked for a 2nd portion!

Charred Beef Carpaccio- 4.0
This was the least impressive of the appetizers but still very good and better than anything in the MDR or elsewhere on the ship.

Dungeness Crab and Shrimp Cake- 5.0
Absolute Seafood PERFECTION.

Grilled Black Pepper Bacon- 4.0
This was so thick it felt more like a steak instead of bacon but was delicious nonetheless.

Main Entrée
(You were only allowed 1 entrée per person or there would be an additional $10 charge and since we were ordering 1 of everything on the Salad AND Appetizer menus we had no room)

Veal Chop Parmesan- 5.0+
INCREDIBLE… The Best tasting item on the ship!

Breads and Sides
Pretzel Bread with spicy mustard butter- 5.0
I still crave this... it was incredible!

Creamed Spinach- 4.0

Grilled Jumbo Asparagus- 3.5

Truffle Corn-3.5
This was incredible as far as corn dishes go!

Roasted Mushrooms- 3.0
This was a let- down but still tasty.

Mashed Potatoes- 4.5
The best mashed potatoes on the ship.

Cheesy Scallops Potatoes- 5.0+
The biggest SURPRISE of the evening and were FANTASTIC.


Mississippi Mud Pie- 4.5
LOTS and LOTS of Chocolate… Just the way I like it.

Red Velvet Cake- 3.5
This was a let-down as it was terribly dry!

Day 4- Nassau, Bahamas

Breakfast- MDR
Made to Order Breakfast with Fried Eggs and the works- 3.5

Salmon Benedict- 2.0
Salmon and Eggs do NOT go together in my opinion.

Lunch- Light Windjammer Buffet before getting off in Nassau
Buffet Plate- 3.0
The Onion Cheese Tart was surprisingly good but the rest of just average.

Late Lunch- Casa del Mar at The Fish Fry at Nassau, Bahamas
This was a small “shack” were the locals eat that came HIGHLY recommended on Trip Advisor and it was well worth the 1+ mile walk along the beach. Not to mention it was romantic.

Conch Salad- 3.0
This was not my style of eating shell fish.

Conch Fritters- 3.5
 This was an order of 10 and we were not expecting this much food.

Fried Conch- 3.5

Traditional Bahama Mama in the Bahamas- 4.5

Not going to lie... It was strong!

Dinner- MDR 

Jasmine Menu

New England Clam Chowder- 4.0

Royal Shrimp Cocktail- 3.0
MAJOR let-down from Chops.

Premium Angus Beef Sliders- 3.0

Marinated Grilled Chicken Breast- 3.0
Not typical “Cruise Fare” but was better than most grilled chicken breast.

The Dessert Menu

Royal Cheese Plate- 1.0
This was BAD!

Low-Fat Panna Cotta- 3.5
This included a Greek yogurt style dessert and was pretty unmemorable.

Day 5- Coco Cay, Bahamas

Breakfast- Park Cafe
Breakfast Sandwiches- 4.0
We loved breakfast sandwiches and wish we would have found them sooner!

Fruit and Yogurt Parfait- 3.5
Breakfast Burritos with Chorizo-4.5

 Assorted Breakfast Pastries-4.0
I am craving these pastries really bad right now!
The vanilla one is AMAZING!

Lunch- BBQ on the island.
This was a pretty neat experience as it was prepared by RCI staff and was localized in the center of the island. This included options such as BBQ ribs, jerk chicken, BBQ chicken, traditional hamburgers and hot-dogs with all the fixins, red beans and rice, mac-n-cheese, corn on the cob as well as multiple salad choices, fresh fruit and desserts as well.

Overall Island Lunch Experience- 4.0
 The hamburgers and hot-dogs were surprisingly good.

Dinner- Anniversary Celebration at the Chef’s Table
This was also an additional cost but had a limited number of seats and the table only held 12-14 guest. Our specific table was composed of other members of our Cruise Critic group which we met online and then personally on Day 1 during the sail-away party. There was another couple that shared the SAME anniversary date with us which made it even more special. The chef explained and then prepared all of these dishes in front of you and it was very intimate. This also included a wine pairing that went alongside the food which made it even more intimate and intriguing. More about this experience HERE.
1st Course- Appetizers
Lobster and Alaskan King Crab Leg Salad- 4.5

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc- 3.0

2nd Course- Soup Trio
Porcini Mushroom Soup- 4.5

Double Oxtail Consomme- 3.5

Green Pea Bisque- 5.0
This was delightful and playful.

Pinot Noir- 5.0
 Besides the CAYMUS we had in Vintages this was the best wine of the cruise.

3rd Course
Chinese-Style Duck Roll- 3.0
I thought this was going to be better than it was.

Sake- 2.0
 Way too sweet for me.

Main Course
Roasted Double Lab Cutlet- 4.5

Oberon Cabernet- 4.5

Warm Granny Smith Apple Pecan and Pine Nut Torte- 3.0
Butter Almond Ice Cream- 3.5
Calvados Whipped Cream- 4.5

Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc- 4.0  

Assorted Candies and Desserts- 4.0

Chocolate Sensation Anniversary Cake- 3.5

Day 6 (Sea Day #2)

Breakfast- MDR
Make Your Own Cereal Bar- 4.0
I LOVE the experience of this and Royal does it well.

Made to order Omelet- 4.0

Eggs Benedict- 4.0
Once again, this kept improving all week.
Still not as good as Carnival but improving none the less.

Lunch- MDR
We really enjoyed the MDR lunch on the Navigator and some of our favorite dishes came from these menus. That was not the case on this particular day… “I stopped laying out and left my deck chair for this” was my initial thought.

Royal Beef Burger- 3.0
It was no “Guy’s Burger Joint” on Carnival and the burger on the island was better.

“Fancy” Cheese from the Tutti Salad Bar- 3.5
I was feeling like a snob that day… I fit in well, trust me!

Brazo de Mercedes- 4.0
Light and delicate and one of the better desserts on the ship

Warm Rum Cake- 1.0
YUCK! I had 1 bite and said “NOPE” and passed it Kellie who enjoyed it.

Dinner- Formal and LOBSTER night in the MDR
Royal Seafood Salad- 3.0

Royal Shrimp Cocktail- 3.5
I wanted to try again to see if it could match Chops but not even close.

Fisherman’s Plate with 2 additional lobsters- 4.5

Slow Roasted Prime Rib- 5.0
This was VERY good and cooked to perfection.

Grand Mariner Souffle- 2.0
 Royal Caribbean just does NOT do soufflés well.

Baked Alaska- 3.0
Better than Carnival’s!

Ivory Chocolate Mousse- 5.0
This was Kellie’s favorite and I tend to agree with her... It. Was. Delicious.

Day 7 (Sea Day #3)

The Captain's Champagne Brunch
This was a private tour of the galley with one of the executive chefs followed by an intimate brunch inside Chops Grille. The food was superb and some of the best of the cruise. This also included intricate morning cocktails which were some of the best of the trip.

Shrimp Cocktail- 4.0

Caviar- 4.0
I took a heaping amount and it was AWESOME.

Assorted Cold Cuts- 2.5

Main Course
Lobster Tails (6)- 4.5
My only complaint was they needed more butter.

New York Strip Steak- 4.5
Perfectly Cooked... especially for a buffet!

Ricotta and Mushroom Chicken- 5.0
Surprisingly good, especially for chicken.


Orange Rum Canoli- 4.0
Mud Slide Pie- 4.5

Peach Martini- 5.0
The best drink I had on the cruise.

Cranberry Champagne- 3.5

Late Lunch- MDR
We expected the best lunch menu on this day which had one of Kellie’s favorites from the Navigator cruise, Seafood Tomato Risotto, we finally chased it down on Day 7.

Sea Day Lunch Menu

Daily Pasta Special (Linguine with Tomato Sauce)- 3.5
My wife makes better Spaghetti!

Seafood Tomato Risotto- 4.0
Worth the hassle!

Harissa Charred Barramundi Fish- 2.5
One of the biggest disappointments of the entire cruise.

Caramelized Banana Mille- Feuille- 4.0

Warm Cherry Custard Crepes- 4.5

Dinner- MDR Pomodoro Menu 
Pan Seared Sea Scallops and Chorizo- 3.0
These were supposed to be served warm but were cold.

Escargots Bourguignonne- 4.5

Fish, Seafood and Mash- 4.0
I enjoyed the seafood and especially the mashed potatoes

Aged Hand-Cut Manhattan Strip Steak- 3.5

Dessert- Personalized Butter Cream Cake from the Captain for our Anniversary- 4.5
One of, if not THE, BEST dessert of the cruise. Thank you Sir Captain!

All of the food on this cruise was amazing and significantly better than what we had on the Navigator in August 2014; however, I think overall Carnival is more consistent with the higher rating foods. We are cruising with Carnival in less than 3 months so a true SIDE-BY-SIDE and back to back comparison with be the final testament of which cruise line is superior in the food industry! 

Best Breakfast- Customized Omelet
Best Lunch Main Course- Stuffed Ricotta Chicken Breast from the Brunch
Best Dinner Main Course- Veal Chop Parmesan from Chops

Best Dessert- Carrot Cake
Best Starter- Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail and Scallops from Chops Grille 

Best Side- Goat Cheese Salad from Chops, Scalloped Potatoes from Chops Grille
Best Breads (Offered at all MDR dinners)- Pretzel Bread from Chops Grille, Savory Bites and Blueberry Muffins

Biggest Disappointment
The baramundi which I enjoyed so much on the Navigator was a huge let down on this ship.

Best Surprise
The Savory bites in the MDR and the eggs benedict for breakfast

We are so incredibly lucky to have been able to take this special anniversary trip and cruise and get to experience all of these amazing dishes! Thank you to my parents and in-laws and Kellie's Grandma Juanita  for taking care of our children. And we can never forget God for allowing us to take this adventure. It has been fun cruising and BLOGGING! 

God is good... ALL the time! 

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