Traveling and eating go together like chips and salsa. You have to eat while you’re on vacation, so you may as well enjoy it, right? I’ll be honest, I get bummed when I have a bad meal while traveling. Actually, let me rephrase that. It’s not the bad meal that bums me out, it’s the fact that I settled for a bad meal. And by that, I mean not doing a little bit of research to ensure that I was getting (or at least trying to get) the best meal for my budget.
One of the things I like about taking a cruise is that it takes the guess work out of finding a good meal. Like America itself, cruise ships are a melting pot of cuisines—you’ve got everything from fine dining to Indian fusion, depending on the cruise line. And best of all, most of the dining on the ship is all inclusive—every last mouthwatering morsel. Throw another shrimp on the Barbie, my good man. Actually, make it 10. What I like most, though, is that the cuisine on a cruise isn’t just limited to the ship. Each day can bring a new country, and with it new foods to try. Here are five of my favorite dishes from our Carnival Western Caribbean cruise.
Jerk Chicken –Jamaica
Jerk Chicken is to Jamaica what hamburgers are to the States. Jerk is a cooking style indigenous to Jamaica in which the meat, usually chicken or pork, is dry-rubbed or wet marinated with a hot spice mixture and then slow smoked over pimento wood. Montego Bay is full of jerk chicken stands—even the ATV tour site had one. On our way back to the port, we discovered we no longer had time to explore the Hip Strip, Montego Bay’s main shopping area, where I had planned to try the Jamaican staple.
Since we arrived at the port with a couple of hours to spare, we grabbed a taxi with a couple of other cruisers and went to the Pork Pit, which is about 30 minutes from the port (traffic can be heavy in this region). Pulling into the lot reminded me of the summer barbecue chicken stands in western Pennsylvania, except it was larger and had more offerings in terms of sides. Tapping the driver for her recommendations, we ordered and then waited, watching patiently as our introduction to the world of jerk unfolded in front of us. When the smoke cleared, our plate was ready and did not disappoint.
Salad Bar – Carnival Dream
A long held misconception about cruise ships is there’s no fresh food available. But, the truth is, the biggest issue isn’t the lack of fresh food—there is plenty of that—it’s choosing fresh options when all you really want is another helping of mac and cheese. We were pleasantly surprised about all the fresh fruits and vegetables available for each meal on our cruise. Personally, I hate chopping vegetables, so it was nice to be able to put together a healthy plate, pretty much anytime I felt like it.
The Steakhouse – Carnival Dream
Being in a relationship with a vegetarian has its challenges. The biggest being that if there’s two meat related items on the menu I want to try, we can’t share it. Ironically, because I am pretty open to different types of food this works to Beth’s advantage (and my overall health), because we’ll often share vegetarian dishes. That being said, she’s great about taking one for the team so I can try out a steakhouse or barbecue joint. And for her it’s a real sacrifice, since she doesn’t like Portobello mushrooms, which meat-centric eateries love to swap in for meat.
The Steakhouse on the Carnival Dream feels like the kind of place you’d find in Manhattan. The menu blends steakhouse classics like Broiled Prime New York Strip Loin Steak as well as a nice selection of seafood entrees. I went with the Surf and Turf—Main Lobster Tail and Grilled Filet Mignon—and a Manhattan to wash it all down with. I loved every minute of my time at the Steakhouse. Since it is a premium dining option—a theme that is becoming more and more popular on cruise lines—there was an additional charge of $35 per person for the four-course meal. If you have a little extra money to spend, I’d definitely recommend doing one of your dinners at the Steakhouse. It was delicious and a nice change from the larger dining room.
Brunch – Carnival Dream
When it comes to the best brunch cities in the States, Denver, Colorado, is number one, in my opinion, with New Orleans coming in a close second. Denver brunches, which usually feature some sort of bottomless adult beverage, are the thing of legend. Well, I’m here to tell you, the SeaDay Brunch we had on our Carnival cruise was right up there with the one I experienced in Denver. The big difference being Denver brunches have bottomless mimosas, while the cruise ship has bottomless eats. I did a true brunch—breakfast and lunch—and it was huge and oh so glorious.
Taco Plate – Mexico
When it comes to my favorite cuisine, Mexican food tops the list. So, after a day of swimming in a freshwater cenote (say-NOTE-ay) in Riviera Maya, Mexico, and then snorkeling at Akumal Bay with sea turtles, I couldn’t think of a better way to cap off our shore excursion than with a buffet full of traditional Mexican fare and bottomless margaritas. Oh wait, I can. Put the buffet on the beach next to the Riviera Maya’s famous turquoise water. Yeah, that’ll do it. From the hot sauce to the carne asada and guacamole and beans, everything was freaking delicious. It’s hard to find authentic Mexican food in Massachusetts, so this was a real treat.
So, as you can can see, taking a cruise really gives you a chance to sample lots of different cuisines without having to spend a lot of money. When it comes to dining on and off the cruise ship, I say mix it up and step out of your comfort zone. There is a whole world of cuisine just outside your cabin door.
This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind.