ABOARD THE CARNIVAL VICTORY – I remember the first time it happened to me. I had enjoyed clam chowder many times, particularly when I lived near Cape Cod and worked at a Massachusetts newspaper.
But on a long-ago cruise when I ordered clam chowder, I received a big white bowl with some chopped clams in the bottom. Mighty skimpy.
Then the dining room waiter poured a small pitcher of clam chowder over the clams. That’s more like it, I thought.
On my Carnival Victory cruise, I saw the same look on the face of a newlywed bride at the dining room table next to mine. She had ordered chilled peach soup.
What she got was a big white bowl with a blob of chopped peaches. Then the dining room waiter poured a pitcher of soup over her peaches. I could hear the bride and her husband laugh as they realized how puzzled they had been.
Cruises are a wonderful way to try something new. In fact, Carnival encourages that yearn to try unusual food.
On our Carnival Victory dinner menu under appetizers is an item called “Rare Finds.” The food listing goes on to explain that these are “foods you always wanted to try but haven’t yet dared.”
Very cute idea. And very popular judging by my dining companions on the Carnival Victory. I must be an adventurous eater because I have already tried most of them.
It’s a safe bet that if you don’t like that night’s choice, a Victory server will be sure to bring something else that you do like. A couple of times I have not finished my appetizer or entrée – certainly not that it wasn’t good, just that it can be food overload on a cruise. Invariably, my server would ask if the choice wasn’t to my liking and if I would prefer something else.
Some ‘Rare Finds’
In case you are curious, here are Rare Finds choices on my cruise.
- Frog legs with Provençale herb butter served with warm brioche
- Braised rabbit in puff pastry shell with red wine sauce
- Braised ox tongue with onion marmalade
- Cured salmon and candied tomato with dill cream, grapes and lemon dressing
The salmon was great. Frog legs and rabbit, I didn’t need to try. I ate both rabbit and frog legs plenty of times as a child when my father caught them and my mother cooked them. Ox tongue I have never knowingly eaten and don’t intend to eat, even though the server said it is quite delicious.
Also as part of Carnival’s new American Table style is a different place setting than many passengers are accustomed to seeing. There are no tablecloths except for the formal Captain’s Dinner. Instead, the lovely wooden tables get to show their shine.
Doesn’t bother me at all not to have tablecloths. Just think about all the laundry that saves. So much more environmentally friendly. On other cruise ships, I have seen servers changing tablecloths as soon as diners get up to leave so the table is ready for the next diners.
On the Victory, servers respond quickly to clean tables and set them anew. We do have cloth napkins, plus a big carafe of ice water sitting on the table.
Part of the dinner table décor for American Table is cute little bread plates with images of American city landmarks. For dinner my first night, I had a plate with the Hollywood logo sign.
Each table has a wine bottle with a stone on a rope around it with the table number. I don’t have a reserved table but have been escorted to a window dining table every night. That’s because on the first night when asked where I would like to sit, I answered “window” and the dining room staff remembered that.
Diverse menu to please everyone
The menu is long and seems to offer something for everyone. It starts with about 10 appetizer choices, including fried calamari, chilled Vietnamese roll, cream of ripened tomatoes, shrimp cocktail, smoked chicken quesadilla, corn chowder, heart of lettuce, kale or romaine Caesar salad or lychee bisque. That’s was our first night’s dinner.
Next on the menu is entrees – slow cooked prime rib, spanakopita and stuffed bell peppers, grilled jumbo shrimp, teriyaki salmon fillet, spiral pasta with mushrooms and aged parmesan or the featured vegetarian of Indian style vegetable dish with lentils, basmati rice, pickles, papadam and raita.
Each evening, diners can also select “From the Grill” entrees such as salmon fillet, flat iron steak, chicken breast and pork chop.
For an extra $20, diners can choose one of the following: broiled filet mignon, New York strip loin steak, broiled Maine lobster tail or surf & turf.
All the entrees come with side dishes but those also can be ordered separately. Side dish options include mac & cheese with bacon, creamed spinach, ratatouille, baked potato with all the toppings, sautéed green beans and french fries.
‘Port of Call’ cuisine
A fun section of the menu deals with each “Port of Call” on our cruise itinerary. For example, in Cozumel, the menu notes that “Mexico is famous for producing some of the sweetest and juiciest corn in the region as well as grass-fed sustainably raised livestock. And, of course, tequila.”
The “Port of Call” offers a special cocktail, appetizer and entrée. The Cozumel cocktail was a margarita made with El Jimador Tequila, Patron Citronge and lime juice. Appetizer was tortilla soup with braised chicken. And entrée was steak tacos grilled over an open flame and topped with fresh pico de gallo, cilantro and avocado-arbol chili.
Desserts have included Carnival’s signature melting chocolate cake, crème brulee, chocolate hazelnut cake, apple crumb pie with ice cream, baked Alaska, cheese plate, tropical fruit plate or ice cream.
On the featured wine list are several choices, including Carnival’s special Gifft wines by celebrity winemaker Kathie Gifford – a chardonnay and a red wine blend. Carnival Cruise Line began offering Gifford’s wines in 2015.
Before that, the “Today” show host and former Carnival spokeswoman had joined the cruise line in the 1980s where she sang and danced her way through several ad campaigns.
That’s a fun thing about cruises – a chance to try something different and learn something new.
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch