Ten of Our Best Port City Food Experiences

There’s pleasure in eating. There’s also a 1 + 1 = 3 effect when you enjoy the food that made the region famous at a local restaurant while enjoying local beer or wine. This article will focus on some great meals enjoyed in port cities. Your ship pulls up. You get off. You eat. What could be easier?

10 Memorable Meals

Let’s not recommend specific restaurants. They might be difficult to find. (It took us forever to find the one Samantha Brown visited in Venice with wine glasses the size of your head. We found it.)  They might not still be in business. Let’s look at food that’s easy to find walking off the ship.

  1. Dim sum in Hong Kong. It’s the local specialty. Many restaurants seat many and move upward. On one visit, we saw the ground floor room was crowded. Someone pointed to the stairs. We kept walking up until the big room had open tables. Dim sum is served from wheeled carts similar to bar carts. You point and choose. Pricing is by the plate. Tea or beer are the preferred beverages.
  2. Open faced sandwiches in Copenhagen. Denmark is expensive. At lunch time the local cuisine revolves around slices of bread with different sliced meats, fish or cheeses piled on top. Beer or akvavit are the local beverages, the latter similar in strength to grappa or eau di vie.
  3. Fish and chips in New Zealand. British customs have a way of sticking around. We came across a chip shop on a dock in the town harbor. They served other dishes, but fish and chips were the specialty. No indoor eating, which made sense because of the lines of people. You were given a huge platter with huge pieces of fish cooked in this long line of fryers. We sat at wooden tables dockside drinking wine from another local store.
  4. Tapas in Barcelona. They sort of invented bar food. The concept started as small bites served alongside your wine as you bar hopped. Today it makes more sense to find a place you like and point to dishes that look interesting. You order a bottle of local wine and another of mineral water.
  5. Steak in Buenos Aires. Argentina is known for steak. When we visited, they even served it at breakfast! Find a good steakhouse. Order one along with a bottle of Argentine Malbec. See if the universal rule is true: The best wines rarely leave the country.
  6. Cold seafood in Lisbon. The Portuguese do chilled shrimp, oysters, crab and barnacles well. Find a beachfront town near Lisbon or a Lisbon sidewalk café near the water. Order the featured daily platter with a bottle of local white wine. Maybe even two. You and your partner aren’t driving.
  7. Florentine steak in Florence. It’s not a port, but you shop should have a day trip. Search out a restaurant before the lunch hour. We associate Florentine dishes with the use of spinach. In Florence, it’s the local Ligurian beef, grill black on the outside, red on the inside. It’s seasoned and served with arugula on top, as I recall. They should have lots of Chianti on the wine list.
  8. Grilled octopus (or squid) in the Canary Islands or Madeira. I’m embarrassed that I got them confused. One had great octopus, the other wonderful squid. It makes sense they were local and freshly caught.
  9. Picnicking almost anywhere. It appears Europeans are more relaxed about drinking alcohol in parks than we are in the US. You get off the ship. You find a park or riverbank. Remembering the nursey rhyme about “the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker” you find a deli or supermarket. You buy sliced meats and cheese. You find a bakery and buy a baguette or sliced loaf of bread. You buy fruit from a greengrocer. Don’t forget chocolate or pastries. You buy water, wine or beer. These places have napkins, utensils and cups. Hopefully the wine has a screw top.
  10. Fresh fish in the Caribbean. Many cruises visit the islands. Obviously, they are surrounded by water. It’s pretty easy to find local places serving broiled fish that was caught that morning. Your crisp white wine likely came from someplace else. The islands aren’t known for their vineyards.

Many people worry about walking off the ship and getting stuck in a tourist trap. With a little thought, you can have a meal you will remember and tell your friends about. “Yes, it’s a good steak, but not as great as the one I had in Buenos Aires…”

Cover photo: Salade Nicoise, credit Bryce Sanders

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