Carnival Breeze’s Punchliner Brunch mixes comedy, great food

ABOARD THE CARNIVAL BREEZE –  The voice of George Lopez brings chuckles to our Punchliner Brunch on the new Carnival Breeze. Take your time making menu choices and enjoy the wide variety, the comedian advises.

Thomas Brown and Tony Esposito enjoy brunch and laughs at the Punchliner Brunch.

Thomas Brown and Tony Esposito enjoy brunch and laughs at the Punchliner Brunch.

“When I was a kid, my grandma only gave me two choices – eat or don’t eat,” George says.

Of course, the famed comic man is not actually on our cruise. What we are hearing is a taped welcome and a couple of jokes by George. But he did help create the brunch menu and serves as Carnival Cruise Lines “curator of comedy” for hiring both established and up-and-coming comedic talent.

On our cruise, the comedy headliners in both the brunch and in the ship’s Punchliner Comedy Club are the hilarious Thomas Brown and Tony Esposito. They offer two shows at night– a family-friendly one and an adults-only one. They also stop by the Punchliner Brunch to liven up the delicious breakfast/lunch with five or six minutes of humor.

Along with being a funny man, Tampa resident Thomas is the author of an interesting cookbook – “From the Stage of the Stove.” Featuring a collection of tasty recipes, the book shares a bonus side dish of jokes from 100 of the best national comedians, including Thomas’ mentor, Jeff Foxworthy.

Comedian George Lopez lends his name, jokes and cooking expertise to the Carnival Breeze.

Comedian George Lopez lends his name, jokes and cooking expertise to the Carnival Breeze.

When I was chatting with Thomas, he noticed where I live and says he has fond memories of my hometown in Bloomington, Indiana, and our local Bears Place where he did a comic stint. “Great people. Great pizza,” Thomas notes.

Right on both counts.

Based in Orlando, “Big” Tony Esposito bases many of his jokes on his real-life experiences of being the neighborhood “fat kid.” Growing up with both Italian/American and Southern roots, Tony regales listeners with instances like the time his mom tried to make both sides of the family happy by creating “Catfish Cacciatore.”

Guess Tony gets the last laugh on his childhood chums who didn’t know the “heavyweight” would grow up to be a popular cruise ship headliner.

The Breeze’s Comedy Brunch is served from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Sapphire Restaurant every day that the ship is at sea. That’s a really nice option. I prefer brunch over breakfast any day. Since we are dining in Blush for the cruise, it is nice to sample Sapphire. Both dining rooms are lovely, just feature different color schemes to suit their names.

The Punchliner Brunch has no extra charge and offers a funny menu with great variety. Make sure to read both sides of the menu before ordering. Many of the items are inspired by George’s Mexican heritage, including Carne y Huevos – filet mignon topped with two eggs and béarnaise sauce and Hen Alla Diavola, grilled chicken with lemon and pepper.

Some of the menu descriptions are sure to start your day with a chuckle.

Eggs Benedict is one of the popular dishes at the Punchliner Brunch.

Eggs Benedict is one of the popular dishes at the Punchliner Brunch.

For example, the Huevos Rancheros choice notes that it is one of George’s recipes with the description: “Better than Nana used to make, delicious chicken quesadilla, topped with fried eggs, manchego cheese and mucho mas Mexican flavors and other words you wouldn’t understand.”

Or the Mexican Churros:  “You guys have donuts. We have churros. Cinnamon-sugar fried dough served with a chocolate sauce for dipping. iQue Rico!”

For those who want some vegetables with their brunch, the Punchliner offers a big Bloody Mary Bar “that will have your taste buds saying ole.” Among the concoctions are a Bloody Maria made with tequila. Priced at $7.75 and $8.75, the drinks have tons of garnish choices, including several very spicy hot sauces, such as Iguana Fearsome Five Hot Sauce. Think I will stick with my orange juice.

Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch

About Jackie

Jackie Sheckler Finch fell in love with cruising 35 years ago when she rode the magnificent Mississippi Queen riverboat in its inaugural 1976 voyage. A newspaper reporter, photographer and travel writer, Jackie has cruised on large and small vessels on numerous rivers and oceans. Read more...

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