For today’s Front Burner column, I wrote about the websites I usually visit in order to find great restaurant recommendations before I travel. The column was inspired by our recent vacation, which was a cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale with stops in the Bahamas, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos.
The very day we returned, the Carnival cruise ship Triumph suffered the engine room fire that stranded it in the Gulf of Mexico. The miserable conditions on board were all over the news, but that won’t stop me from taking another cruise. In fact, this was my second cruise and I can’t wait to take another.
I understand that cruises are not for everybody. I fell in love with this travel method because it’s a very affordable way to visit several different countries in one vacation. I don’t know that I could ever book travel to and between all those places, along with accommodations every night and food every day, for less money than a cruise. Even if I could, it would be a lot more work.
I still love traveling directly to one location and spending as much time as I want there, and I have stopped at ports where I wished I had several more days to explore (Dublin!). But getting a short peek at a destination helps me to determine whether I’d like to spend more time there in the future (Dublin!).
Before we get to the food, which is, after all, what this blog is all about, I want to address the comments I’ve heard from folks who say they’d never cruise now after what they saw happen to the Carnival Triumph and the Costa Concordia. My response is that there is risk inherent in any type of travel, whether it be in a car, a plane, on a train or on a ship. If you don’t want to take the risk, you don’t travel. I’d rather be on a cruise trip that’s in trouble than on an airplane that’s going down, but that’s just me.
A very good reason some folks don’t like to cruise is the food. The two cruises I’ve taken have been on Princess, so I can’t speak to the quality of food on other cruise lines. But I’ve been very happy with the food on board both Princess ships. I love being able to have something different for breakfast at the buffet every day, because I love it all — yogurt, granola, oatmeal, fruit, eggs, bacon, potatoes, bread, waffles, French toast, pancakes… oh, yum!
We had hits and misses in the sit-down dining rooms, but most dishes were great. Some that stand out in my mind are a delicious veal saltimbocca, sauteed scallops with citrus, cream of mushroom soup with sundried tomatoes, crab and roasted red pepper quiche, chicken and sweetbreads in puff pastry, and garlic shrimp. I will warn you that you should probably never order pad Thai on a cruise ship. I should have known better.
Of course, nothing on board compared with the two restaurants we visited on shore: Tropicana in Marigot, the capital of French St. Martin, and the Local Village Bar and Restaurant in Grand Turk. I wrote more about both of those restaurants in today’s column, so check it out.
If you will allow me to bore you with a few vacation pictures, check out the slideshow above. To experience this slideshow properly, click play and then immediately click the bottom right button with the four arrows to expand it to fill your screen, then click “Show info” at the top right of your screen to see the captions describing the photos.
I’d love to have a conversation with you guys on a variety of topics: How do you like to research restaurants before you travel? What are you looking for?
Also, have you taken any cruises and if so, what cruise line did you use and how was the food on that particular ship?