by Patricia Mack
To embark on a Royal Caribbean International cruise is to embark on a culinary voyage. This month the line unveils its new main dining room enhancements with an extensive and innovative menu on its entire 22-ship fleet.
The new dining program, the result of a multi-million dollar investment, focuses on freshness, contemporary preparation, increased dining choices and dishes inspired by regional flavors found in many of the cruise line’s ports of call. It is a veritable passport to some of the world’s best foods.
The majority of onboard provisions are sourced from local suppliers, including some items that are “signature” to the ship’s region — such as salmon in Alaska, galangal in Singapore and mushrooms for traditional English breakfast in the United Kingdom.
“In today’s food-aware culture, the palates of our guests have evolved and they have come to expect, not only a variety of choices, but cuisine of the highest quality made with the freshest of ingredients,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Royal Caribbean’s vice president, operations.
A sampling of the fare was rolled out to journalists last week in New York City with the line’s top chefs on hand.
The carte du jour or “card of the day” allows guests to enjoy a different menu of appetizers, main-course entrees, entrée-portion salads and desserts every day. Guests can choose from a selection of nine appetizers, three soups, ten entrees and seven desserts on the main card. Among the tempting offerings are dishes such as mojo-marinated grilled pork chops served with roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli with cumin-orange-lime reduction; from the starters list, seafood ceviche; and from the dessert menu, strawberry kiwi Pavlova.
Seems impossible, but if a guest can’t find something appealing from the menu on any given night, he or she can peruse the “chef’s inspiration” menu, a three-course dining suggestion which might suggest chilled banana and rum soup, pan-fried fillet of barramundi with saffron-infused cauliflower, fondant potatoes, tomato, capers, sultana grapes and pine nut relish, and a bittersweet chocolate soufflé lightly napped with espresso sauce.
Still can’t find something to savor? Then perhaps a dish from the “classics” menu comprised of favorites that have character, history and proven worth over the long history of the cruise lines’ kitchens. These are dishes such as escargots bourguignonne, shrimp cocktail, Manhattan strip steak, and Caesar salad — available every day.
Desserts figure in the upgraded selections with a new “hot from the oven” blueberry peach crumble, sticky bread and butter pudding and sumptuous carrot cake.
Dishes to please vegetarian diners are given new prominence. They are much more than a salad or a bowl of steamed vegetables that so often passes for “vegetarian fare”. The same creativity and imagination that infuses the main menu touches these offerings as well with options such as soft-shell tortillas filled with grilled vegetables and served with soy chili; artichoke-filled crepes au gratin with fontina cheese, piave vecchio (the nutty, Venetian pasteurized cow’s milk cheese) and mascarpone cheese reduction; Greek vegetarian moussaka made with chunky tomatoes, onions feta and oregano salsa. These dishes are noted on the new menu with the official symbol of the European Vegetarian Union.
Catering to the increasing demand of heart-healthy, gluten-free and lactose-free options, the line enlisted a registered and licensed dietitian and nutrition consultant to evaluate the menus and create new offerings for guests with dietary restrictions. All low-calorie, gluten-free and lactose free options are now clearly identified with menu icons. In addition Royal Caribbean has introduced new daily gluten-free bread offerings which are available on request in all venues, including its specialty venues.
Preparing and presenting such an array on a daily basis requires a larger staff and more modern equipment on every ship. As part of the investment, Royal Caribbean is also focusing on training which includes a sous chef certification program with the American Culinary Federation and a new wait staff training curriculum targeting the new menus, standards training and an allergen and dietary program.
“While keeping up to date with new trends, most of our new concepts derive from comments and suggestions our guests have made,” said Josef Jungwirth, fleet culinary operations director. “From conceptualization to creation, development is a creative collaboration among our talented team of senior executive chefs and onboard culinary team members — all with the goal of providing the most trendy, popular offerings and dining experiences, using only the freshest ingredients available.”
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