My first meal on the new American Serenade gave a hint of the delicious cuisine we would be enjoying on our weeklong Music Cities Cruise. After checking out of The Guest House at Graceland where passengers had stayed the night before the cruise, we took a morning motorcoach ride around Memphis.
We arrived at our ship just in time for lunch. The dining room on the Main Deck aft is large with plenty of room for even a fully booked cruise likes ours. No reservations are needed. No seats are assigned. Just walk in, sit down and be prepared to be pampered.
Dining room is light and airy with river views.
The dining room is light and airy with linen tablecloths and napkins, little battery-operated table candles and comfortable chairs. Tables for two and larger tables are available.
Since this is a river cruise, I like being able to see the river from almost any seat in the dining room. The centerpiece of the room looks like a miniature garden with corner frames. Pleasing sight.
As a solo traveler, I stood in the doorway of the dining room for a moment deciding where I would sit. That’s when a fellow passenger named Sarah asked if I was traveling alone. Sarah was cruising with friends she had met on previous American Cruise Lines voyages.
When I answered that I was indeed a solo traveler, Sarah said, “Good for you” and invited me to sit at her table. I’m accustomed to traveling alone and dining alone but appreciated the invitation.
That friendly offer was also made by other passengers and I never lacked for dining company. Most of my meals were with three delightful dining companions – Marie and Ruth Ann from Virginia. Later a charming man traveling alone named Ray from Maryland joined our table.
Our “arrival” lunch menu offered three entrees:
Cheesecake, fruit and pecan ice cream
Seafood salad with shrimp, crab, scallops, lobster, mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheddar crisp, citrus vinaigrette and lemon wedge. My delicious choice.
Or chicken salad sandwich with apples, almonds, croissant, lettuce, tomato, grape cluster, pasta salad and pickle spear.
Or red beans and rice with andouille sausage, red kidney beans, peppers, onions, celery, steamed rice and honey cornbread.
Crab claws served at cocktail hour.
Dessert was king cake or ice cream. King cake is that awesome Mardi Gras sweet blend of coffee cake and cinnamon roll. The cake is usually iced in yellow, green and purple – the colors of Mardi Gras. The name “king cake” comes from the Biblical story of the three kings who brought gifts to baby Jesus.
Complimentary Drinks on Cruise
Alcoholic drinks and soft drinks are complimentary. A great idea since it can get very tiresome signing expensive drink bills on cruise ships. I paid almost $5 for a can of Coke one time (price included port tax and gratuity). Never again.
The ship has a nice choice of beer, wine and custom-made cocktails. My lunch favorite is Abita lager beer since it is not easily available at home.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the dining room. Breakfast from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. and dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Plus snacks and other food are available around the clock on the ship.
My favorite lunch of chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, sautéed green beans and caramelized onions, gravy and honey biscuits.
A more casual breakfast and lunch are served in the open-air terrace Ellipse Café on Deck 4 aft. Just order what you want and have it delivered to wherever you are sitting – inside or outside.
Ellipse Café breakfast from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. features scrambled eggs, breakfast pastries, yogurt, fruit and berry salad, smoked fish platter, bacon or sausage, oatmeal or grits and the daily creation breakfast sandwich.
For lunch, the Ellipse Café serves from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for fresh baked pepperoni or four cheese pizza, hamburger or veggie burger, grilled hot dogs, chicken salad wrap, albacore tuna salad wrap, tortilla chips and salsa and nachos with cheese sauce or chili.
I had an Ellipse Café pizza and it was very good. Kept meaning to get one of their ice cream novelties but never had a time when I was hungry. Throughout the day, the Café Bar serves complimentary drinks, light snacks and water.
Cocktail Hour Like a Scrumptious Pre-Dinner
At 5:30 p.m., it’s time for cocktail hour in the River Lounge. There are so many hors d-oeuvres and cocktails offered that it’s easy to substitute cocktail hour for dinner in the dining room. A fellow passenger who often sits by me for the evening entertainment in the River Lounge does just that. The fresh seafood and other buffet choices are so yummy that he eats his dinner at the River Lounge cocktail hour and relaxes in the River Lounge before music starts.
Cocktail hour offers many delicious snack choices.
Then there is always something to eat available 24 hours a day in the Sky Lounge. The setup is very handy and unusual on a ship. A choice of boxes of cereal, packages of assorted nuts, candy and snack bars are always in the Sky Lounge. Fruit and pastries are often set out on the bar counter. In the self-serve fridge, passengers can always get cartons of milk, soft drinks, fruit drinks and water.
A fellow passenger told me that he had a yearning for a snack in the middle of the night. So he got up, went to the Sky Lounge and picked up some Cheerios and milk which he ate on the balcony of his room. Then he climbed back in the bed and slept soundly the rest of the night.
Plentiful Menu Choices
Every menu had good options and the food was delicious. Sometimes I ordered half serving of an entrée and it definitely was enough. Often, I split a dessert with dining companion Ray and it was enough for both of us.
My mid-afternoon pizza from Ellipse Cafe
For a sample dinner menu, here is one of my favorites.
Appetizers were chicken and sausage gumbo or organic spinach salad with roasted grapes, feta cheese, candied pecans and red wine vinaigrette. Can’t choose between the two? Our server told us to order both.
Entrees were herbed roasted prime rib with horseradish cream, blue cheese, scalloped potatoes and roasted asparagus. Or chicken and dumplings with roasted chicken breast, homemade dumplings, carrots and green peas. Or seared red snapper with sausage and pepper dirty rice, tomato butter sauce and roasted lemon zest asparagus.
Dessert was passionfruit coconut cake, New York style cheesecake with berry compote or ice cream.
Servers were friendly and did their best to serve food quickly. Everything I ordered was tasty and cooked the way I liked it. Chef and crew did a great job.
Bottom line: Food is an important part of any journey and I was pleased with the cuisine aboard the new American Serenade. Plenty of choices. Lovely presentation. Much appreciated complimentary cocktails, wine and beer, plus Coke products. Other diners must have been happy, too, because I heard no complaints.
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch
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