Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ruby Princess: Post 2

People often ask us which cruise line has the best food, and our standard and accurate answer is that two travel agents can get off the same ship with different opinions of menu items. What tastes wonderful to us might not please your palate nearly as much.

Food on the Ruby would likely garner the same type opinions. We have thoroughly enjoyed some menus and not others, but Italian night in the regular dining earned our highest marks. Having lived in Northern Italy back in the 70s while Ben was active duty Air Force (and as frequent return travelers to Italy), we can be hard to please when it comes to Italian food. Offer San Danieli (by name) prosciutto con meloni (cantaloupe), however, and you’ve got our attention. San Danieli is a town not too far from Aviano, where this brand of cured ham gets it name, and we tended to favor that prosciutto over the more widely known version from Parma. Interestingly, the Princess alternative restaurant Sabatini’s, for which passengers pay an additional $20 per person service fee, features Parma prosciutto as one of its appetizers. We enjoyed a lovely dinner there one evening with new friends, and that ham tasted good, too. I confess, though, that I actually appreciated the larger portion of both prosciutto and cantaloupe served on Italian night.

Back to the rest of the Italian night menu. Next up for us was traditional pasta é fagioli (bean soup), which was thick, rich, and delicious. We shared a dish of eggplant Parmesan that Ben loved and I declared a bit too salty, but the salad of mixed greens, baby spinach and crisp bacon bits and pine nuts was perfectly blended and dressed. We chose the same main course of Classic Veal Scaloppine in Marsala Sauce accompanied by creamy mashed potatoes. Excellent. For dessert, Ben selected his favorite tiramisu, while I could barely make room for the light and tasty limoncello sorbetto. Finally came our server with the anticipated bottle of limoncello liqueur for those wishing to spring for it. Twist our arms. Hungry, anyone?

In case you’re wondering, no, we do not eat like this every night during our cruises! Some nights we don’t even go to the dining room, opting for something lighter and quick in the buffet or International Café. Those of you who cruise know it can be pretty easy to put on a few pounds if you’re not careful. Our caution to our clients is that cruising should not be about eating your way through the week to “make the most of your vacation dollar,” but rather about choices. That dangerous, generous buffet usually features food selections for various international palates such as breakfast offerings of beans for the Brits, fish for Scandinavians and Asians, and grits for us Southerners, but that doesn’t mean you have eat it all! Conversely, a cruise does present the opportunity to try items you might not risk purchasing in a restaurant, knowing you can select a different item if you don’t like the first one, even in the main dining room.

I should spend a little more time on Sabatini’s. We first tried this restaurant on the Island Princess a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Alternative restaurants offer a slower-paced dining experience with excellent food choices. Yes, you pay additional, but the enhancement to your cruise experience is well worth the price. Sabatini’s offers a “tasting menu,” meaning you only need to order the main dish, while everyone receives samples of both appetizers and pastas. A great way to try several different items in smaller portions. The Parma prosciutto was followed by assorted “antipasti,” and this chef put a lighter twist on the pasta é fagioli with very nice flavor, though not as thick and rich as is our custom. Two pastas came next that were good, but cooked a little beyond al dente. For my main course, I ordered the stuffed chicken that was good and moist, but Ben’s dish of grilled jumbo scallops paired with a colorful salad won the prize for both presentation and flavor. We arrived around 6:30 and didn’t leave until 10, making for a relaxing evening with friends, and a more elegant dining experience.

Have there been some misses? Of course. The baked red snapper I ordered in the main dining room one evening was undercooked and not that tasty. If I’d been hungry, I could have re-ordered, but opted to let it go. The casual Caribe restaurant (no charge) next to the Horizon Court featured an Indonesian Rijstafel Buffet one evening which another couple claimed to enjoy, but was not our favorite. On the other hand, the Wheelhouse Lounge offered a one-time, traditional “pub lunch” with bangers, shepherd’s pie, and fish and chips. All were excellent and a very nice change of pace.

Next up: our two site inspections at Sandals resorts on St. Lucia and Antigua.

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