It’s a bigger battle than MasterChef or My Kitchen Rules.
Cruise Passenger announced its Readers’ Choice Awards this week – with the biggest voting panel in our history at 10,700.
And while there were some surprises as our new and larger audience sent in their votes, none caused more of a stir than the Best for Food award.
While Princess Cruises took the top gong two years running, some cruisers felt that Oceania Cruises, a line renowned for serving the “finest cuisine at sea”, should have gobbled up the prize.
As thousands hit our website to see how their favourite line fared, the culinary claws were out in the comments posted.
Here’s a snapshot of what some of our readers’ had to say.
Sandra van Eyck “I have just had my first cruise on Majestic Princess and I gave them 9 ½ out of 10…the food was excellent and the service second to none.”
Here’s what one of our readers, Mark had to say: “Well done, Princess Cruises. Have sailed previously on 22 occasions and have three more booked. Never had a bad experience on board, best staff, well maintained ships, great food, entertainment pretty good, what more do you need to come back new.”
Donna Baker didn’t agree: “I really can’t believe that Princess Cruises won the best food section. Unbelievable. It’s time Australian passengers went on Oceania Cruises as then, they really would understand what excellence in food and service is all about.”
Lyn Hoare was even more critical, though she did present a logical rationale for the result: “Putting Oceania after Princess in the food stakes could only possibly be a reflection of the fact that less respondents have experienced Oceania. The comparison is ludicrous – Oceania’s food is so far ahead of Princess – it’s like comparing Coles cafeteria with Vue de Monde. Laughable.”
To get a better understanding of what the food debate is all about, we took a look at the restaurants and food served on board Princess and Oceania ships.
One of Australia’s favourite lines takes great pride in its speciality restaurant, SHARE by award-winning chef Curtis Stone. Billed as “an unforgettable dining experience”, SHARE is all about freshness of the ingredients over a six-course degustation meal with dishes like handmade pasta, charred New York strip loin steak or Alaskan King Crab. And guests can finish with a decadent dessert of cake with strawberry coulis, candid almonds and crème fraiche ice cream.
There’s also the Salty Dog gastropub offering a modern, gourmet twist to traditional pub favourites such as a savoury rib eye burger. Chef Ernesto Uchimura also does pale ale pork cheeks, wild mushroom sauté and beef short rib poutine washed down with a wide selection of international beers and ciders.Food
The line’s newest megaliner, Majestic Princess which calls Australia home for the summer season, has taken food up several notches with two Michelin-starred, fine dining restaurants.
La Mer on deck 7, is an open-plan French Bistro where Emmanuel Renaut, executive chef of Flocons de Sel in France (three Michelin stars in the last decade) serves up classic dishes such as escargot, duck, pork filet and crepes.
Two decks below, there’s Taiwanese chef Richard Chen aka the ‘Duckmaster’ behind the wok at Harmony restaurant. The former executive chef of Wing Lei, the first Chinese restaurant in North America to be awarded a Michelin star, cooks up a storm with his signature duck dish, seafood, noodles and soups.
Well travelled, food aficionados swear by Oceania Cruises’ impeccable choice of restaurants on board its four-ship fleet, Regatta, Insignia, Nautica and Sirena.
Legendary chef Jacques Pepin shows off his gastronomic wizardry and the best of French country cuisine at Jacques. You’ll find dishes like rotisserie chicken, which falls off the bone, as well as Sea Bass filet in a rich and silky Beurre Blanc sauce.
“Food, for me, is inseparable from sharing,” he says. “There is no great meal unless it is shared with family or friends.”
Fondly coined as the godfather of French cuisine, Chef Pepin has had a long standing partnership with the cruise line, since its inception in 2005 and has curated much of the cuisine that you will see on Oceania’s four ships.
There’s Toscana restaurant serving Tuscan cuisine like octopus carpaccio with champagne vinaigrette on custom-designed Versace china. Polo Grill is a classic steakhouse serving classic steaks, chops and seafood on crisp, white linen tablecloth tables against a backdrop of dark wood furnishings with high-back burgundy leather chairs.
For bold, contemporary Asian flavours, dine at the elegant Red Ginger restaurant all decked up in red with red chandeliers, red glasses against dark ebony wooden walls. Here you can take your pick from modernised and reinvented Asian classics like miso-glazed seabass wrapped in hoba leaf, lobster pad thai to bulgogi rib-eye steak. Even the chopsticks are personally picked by the waiter.
Tuscan Steak, a new speciality restaurant exuding a warm, Italian fare with a modern take on a traditional steakhouse. Here you can savour filet mignon, linguine cioppino and signature bistecca alla Fiorentina, all cooked to perfection. All-time favourites such as hand-rolled potato gnocchi is also available.
Oceania Cruises has no additional charge for dining at any of its speciality restaurants. Princess Cruises on the other hand, has a surcharge.