Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Royal Feast- By way of Kellie

Serenade of the Seas
March 2015 

I LOVE eating... Especially on a cruise! 

Chris 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 but was still lacking in the cruise fare eating department! 

Chorizo Quesidilla- 3.5
This was surprisingly good and now wish I would have gone and gotten more throughout the cruise. 

Dinner- Main Dining Room
The 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-4.5
OMG.. the onion rolls were AMAZING!

Smoked Fish Rillettes- 4.5
This was like a seafood salad on bread and it was incredible!

Horseradish-Crusted Fillet of Atlantic Salmon- 5.0
This was so good and some of the best salmon I have ever had!

Seafood Spaghetti- 2.0
This was very dry and needed more sauce!

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

Vanilla Danish and Assorted Pastries- 5.0
The vanilla danish was perfect and I ate several each morning! 

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.

Lunch- Park Cafe following our Cabin Crawl
Create your own Salad- 3.5
I really enjoyed this concept and the salad ingredients were VERY fresh!

Dinner- Formal Night in the MDR 
Bay Scallop Gratin- 4.5

Lobster Bisque- 5.0
It was just as good as I remember and I LOVED it!

Shrimp Ravioli- 4.0
This dish was exactly what I would expect for a seafood pasta dish and had lots of shrimp meat inside! 

Pan Seared Fillet of Corvina- 2.5
This was not the best fish they prepared on the cruise. I felt it was lacking in flavor and overcooked.

Chilled Banana and Rum Soup- 4.0
Royal Caribbean does chilled soups VERY well! 

BB Creme Brulee- 4.5
Delicious... once again!

Day 3- Key West

Breakfast- MDR
Spanish Style Open Face Omelet- 3.5

Specialty Almond Pancakes- 2.5
These were... interesting (And kinda dry)!

Lunch- Kermit’s Pie Shop, Key West, FL
Chocolate Covered Key Lime Pie- 4.5
Ummm...WOW! The pie itself was perfectly creamy and the Belgium chocolate made it even better. I wish I would have gotten 2 pieces! 

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)-3.5

Crispy Goat Cheese Salad- 5.0+
 The best salad I have ever eaten and I eat a lot of salads!
Absolutely incredible!

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

Three Cheese Roasted Onion Soup- 3.5
This was very flavorful and I enjoyed the cheeses!

2nd Course- Appetizers
Colossal Shrimp Cocktail- 5.0
THESE WERE HUGE… and AMAZING! The chipolte cocktail sauce was incredible!

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

Charred Beef Carpaccio- 2.0
This is just not my cup of tea!

Dungeness Crab and Shrimp Cake- 5.0
Absolute Seafood PERFECTION.

Grilled Black Pepper Bacon- 2.5
I expected a great piece of bacon and instead I got a piece of steak!
It was too thick and almost gross. 

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)

Snapper Verecruz-4.0
This serving was HUGE and I was not able to finish even 1/2 of it. 
The capers and olives that topped it were perfect!
Another seafood win for RCI

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

Creamed Spinach- 3.5
This was not as good as it was on the Navigator

Grilled Jumbo Asparagus- 3.5

Truffle Corn-4.5
I love corn and just don't eat it as much anymore and this was AWESOME!

Roasted Mushrooms- 2.0
This was a let- down for sure. 

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… which usually I don't like but this was GREAT!

Red Velvet Cake- 2.5
This was a let-down as it was terribly dry!
My sister, Allison, makes it MUCH BETTER!

Cappuccino- 3.5
This was very strong and too coffee tasting for me.
The presentation, however, was priceless. 

Day 4- Nassau, Bahamas

Breakfast- MDR
Made to Order Omelet- 4.5
This one was especially good because I added onions and peppers 
(despite not being listed on the menu)

Specialty Strawberry Pancakes-4.0
Wow these were better than IHOP... Add the fresh strawberries from the cereal bar and I was in heaven. 

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- 4.5
This was so very good... Like a seafood ceviche and it was very spicy with fresh jalapenos too! 

Conch Fritters- 4.5
 This was an order of 10 and we were not expecting this much food.
They were perfectly cooked and you could tell they were fresh (Like caught 10 minutes ago). 

Fried Conch- 3.5
This conch dish was not as good as the previous two but we enjoyed it!
If you only get 1 thing... get the conch fritters!

Dinner- MDR 

Shittake Menu

New England Clam Chowder- 4.5

Escargots Bourguignonne- 4.5
Escargots are some of my favorite "cruise food" and these certainly did not disappoint!

Premium Angus Beef Sliders- 2.5
Chris and I shared this dish but the sliders at Chili's are better! 

Pan-Seared Fillet of Sole- 3.0
We eat a LOT of sole at home so I was hesitant to order this but it was good and WAY better than what I would cook at home!

The Dessert Menu

Kid's Menu Brownie Sundae- 4.0
The brownie was AWESOME! 

BBB Creme Brulee- 4.5
If it ain't broke... don't fix it!

Day 5- Coco Cay, Bahamas

Breakfast- Park Cafe  
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- 5.0
The seafood was absolutely PERFECT! Wow... it was good!

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc- 3.0
This was one of my favorite wines of the trip.
 Fruity, light and crisp! 

2nd Course- Soup Trio
Porcini Mushroom Soup- 5.0
Almost as good as Chops mushroom soup. 

Double Oxtail Consomme- 3.5

Green Pea Bisque- 3.0
I don't like peas too much so this was just weird!

Pinot Noir- 4.5
 A red wine I actually liked!

3rd Course
Chinese-Style Duck Roll- 4.0
I thought this was FANTASTIC and enjoyed the crispness of the fried roll. 

Sake- 3.0
I do not like Sake too much but this was not that bad. 

Main Course
Petite Filet Migon- 5.0
Easily the best steak I have had in my lifetime. 

Oberon Cabernet- 4.0

Warm Granny Smith Apple Pecan and Pine Nut Torte- 3.0
Butter Almond Ice Cream- 3.0
Calvados Whipped Cream- 4.5
I could have eaten a bowl full of the whipped cream. 

Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc- 5.0
The best wine I have ever had.
Very sweet but good.

Assorted Candies and Desserts- 4.0

Chocolate Sensation Anniversary Cake- 2.5
The presentation was SUPERB but the cake was just so-so!

Day 6 (Sea Day #2)

Breakfast- MDR

Classic French Toast- 3.5
This was good but still a little under cooked. 
If it would have been fully cooked I would have scored MUCH higher!

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.

Bread Options- 3.5
These were not near as good as the MDR dinner options
but I liked the olive karte that came along with it! 

Tutti Salad Bar- 4.0

 This one had shrimp and lots of veggie inside a tortilla bowl! 
The overall Tutti- Bar experience is really neat and love the FRESHNESS!

Seafood Soup- 2.5
I was expecting a cream based chowder and got a broth based soup. 
The scallops inside were incredible though. 

Pan-Seared Atlantic Salmon- 3.0
This was not near as good as the 1st night and was a let down.
It was flavored with citrus juices and they didn't blend well. 

Brazo de Mercedes- 2.5
Believe it or not this was almost TOO light for me!

Warm Rum Cake- 3.0
I liked the ice cream especially!

Dinner- Formal and LOBSTER night in the MDR

Jasmine Menu

Royal Seafood Salad- 4.5
If only I could make and eat this daily! It was delicious!

Wild Cream Mushrooms- 2.0
I enjoyed these on the Navigator but these were COLD and limp. 

Fisherman’s Plate with 1 additional lobster- 4.5
Royal Caribbean really achieves the WOW they are looking for in the seafood department. These lobsters lived up to this standard and were PERFECT! 

Three Cheese Tortellini- 3.5
This was perfectly cooked and I enjoyed it!

Ivory Chocolate Mousse- 5.0+
Still the best dessert I have EVER had!
The flavors and textures all come together and it is PERFECT! 

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
Still not as good as Chops!

Main Course
Lobster Tails - 4.5

Ricotta and Mushroom Chicken- 4.0
Surprisingly good, especially for chicken.

Orange Rum Canoli- 5.0
Mud Slide Pie- 4.5

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

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

Seafood Tomato Risotto- 5.0+

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

Tomato and Baked Feta Cheese Salad- 4.0
The flavors blended together VERY WELL! 

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

Dessert- Personalized Butter Cream Cake from the Captain for our Anniversary- 5.0
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- Strawberry Pancakes 
Best Lunch Main Course- Seafood Tomato Risotto 
Best Dinner Main Course- The Chef's Table Petite Filet Migon

Best Dessert- Close one but Ivory Chocolate Moose
Best Starter- Another close one but.. Chops Grill Shrimp Cocktail 

Best Side- Scalloped Potatoes at Chops Grille
Best Breads (Offered at all MDR dinners)- Onion Bread and Pretzel bread at Chops Grille

Biggest Disappointment
I was looking forward to the Barramundi fish the entire 7 months of waiting to get back on board a Royal Caribbean ship and I was disappointed.

Chris and I REALLY enjoy eating and trying out new and interesting foods on a cruise! We are so lucky to be able to take extravagant trips such as this and owe all of that to The Lord for blessing us with the means to do so! A special thank you to my parents, in-laws and Grandma Juanita for taking care of our children for us. And of course, thank you Lord for this and the many blessings you continue to provide!

God is good... ALL the time!

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