It’s a widely-recognised fact – one of the best things about a cruise is the food! If you travel on Emerald Princess, be sure to bring your appetite because you’ll find a total of thirteen restaurants to choose from.
Princess Cruises is the leader when it comes to Australia and New Zealand excursions. In fact, two-thirds of the cruise passenger traffic between Australia and New Zealand is done on a Princess ship.
One of the Grand Class of ships in the Princess fleet, Emerald Princess is one of the largest ocean liners to sail in Australian waters. Her size though isn’t what makes this ship so special.
While she is indeed grand, it was the sophisticated charm and stylish interior that I found most appealing. I felt that same welcoming embrace that I have found on other Princess ships, which to me, made Emerald Princess instantly familiar.
On this recent voyage across the Tasman, my goal was to sample a dish (or two) from each of the 13 restaurants on Emerald Princess. I had 11 days to complete my mission, and I am happy to say, I achieved my goal!
Beyond consumption, I was equally curious about the overall food and beverage operation on board. This is after all a large cruise ship catering to thousands of passengers, so I wanted to hear a bit about the logistics of feeding so many people.
I spoke with Emerald’s head of food and beverage, Dieter Welt, as he escorted me around the ship’s galleys for a peek behind the kitchen doors.
“On this cruise, an average of 18 tonnes of food will be served each day,” Dieter said. “Add to this around 9,000 bottles of wine and I like to say my department is busier than the captain’s!” he added with a chuckle.
“Behind the scenes, we have 205 people working a 24-hour roster. This includes 67 dishwashers, our own butchers working in a chilled meat processing room, along with separate white meat, seafood and fresh vegetable rooms.
“The teams are constantly prepping food around-the-clock and while one team is cooking the orders for that day, another team is prepping for the following day’s menus.”
Dieter went on to explain how the menu varies depending on the destination or market. On our cruise, he explained how the staff plans ahead of time for the foods that Australians and New Zealanders prefer – items like beef, lamb, fresh beetroot and pumpkin are high on the list, including the one extra-special requirement as Dieter explained, “that interesting breakfast item you call vegemite.”
“And there are always little nuances depending on the nationality of the guests,” he added. “For example, when there are a majority of Americans onboard, we offer more filter and drip coffee instead of espresso which Australians prefer. In Asia we have more Chinese breakfast items on the menu and so forth.”
Emerald Princess’ dining options.
- Three main dining rooms – Michelangelo, Botticelli, Da Vinci
- SHARE by Curtis Stone
- The Salty Dog Gatropub
- Crown Grill Steak and Seafood
- Café Caribe – small bites and casual dining
- Vines Wine and Sushi Bar
- Horizon Court – buffet restaurant with themed menus
- Trident Grill – hamburgers and hot dogs
- Prego Pizzeria – Poolside pizza
- Scoops Ice-Cream poolside
- 24-hour room service including Ultimate Balcony Dining
Main dining rooms
Emerald’s three main dining rooms – Michelangelo, Boticelli and Da Vinci offer a three-course menu that changes daily. The main dining rooms offer traditional set meal times plus the popular anytime seating option.
Even with the changing menu, you’ll always find a selection of favourites to choose from – like salmon, steak and salads.
Verdict: Enjoyable. A classic cruise dining room with large shared tables for groups, or smaller tables for couples and families. I always enjoy these dining rooms for lunch, as they are generally less crowded and you can sit by the window and enjoy a leisurely meal.
Paid speciality restaurants
The real stand-out feature on cruise ships these days is the specialty restaurant, especially ones with a celebrity chef connection. Mixing stylish ambiance with exclusive menus and exceptional service, these celebrity restaurants have become a popular fixture on Australian based cruise ships.
SHARE – by Curtis Stone
Emerald Princess’ go to restaurant would have to be SHARE, by Curtis Stone. A stylish venue, the 125-seat SHARE dining room offers spectacular ocean views through its floor-to-ceiling windows, but it was the food and the service that were the stars.
Like a perfectly choreographed performance, our waiters served up a six-course degustation menu with matching wines. Chef Stone has created a fine dining experience in a formal, yet relaxed atmosphere.
Guests can select from at least two choices per course, and there is always a vegetarian menu option available.
Recommendation: Don’t miss the lemon poached prawns, beetroot and ricotta ravioli, butter poached lobster tail and the duck leg confit. Finish with the citron tart – simply delicious! Also check out the small private dining area available for group dinners, for an original Curtis Stone’s Grandmother recipe hanging on the wall.
Verdict: For a $39 cover-charge (wine pairing additional), this was quite possibly my all-time favourite speciality dining experience I’ve had at sea over 30+ cruises. The service was flawless and the setting and ambience was just spot on.
Salty Dog Gastropub
It wasn’t long before we discovered more celebrity chef dining options; this time at the Wheelhouse Bar. A pub with dark wood panelling and heavy furniture, this nautically themed pub offers up a menu that’s as unique as it is delicious.
Inspired by award-winning LA chef, Ernesto Uchimura, the grill fires up nightly to serve classic pub dishes with a twist. Don’t leave without trying the aptly named ‘The Ernesto’ burger. This burger has a rib-eye and short-rib beef patty, stacked high with spicy kimchi, beer battered jalapenos, onion aioli and gruyere cheese.
Recommendations: Each order comes with a selection of two dishes and crunchy bread sticks with smoky cheese dip. The pale ale beef cheeks were tender and delicious, as were the spicy stout short ribs and lobster mac’n’cheese. Wash it all down with a matched craft beer or a shot from the well-stocked whiskey bar.
Verdict: All-in-all, well worth the modest $18 surcharge per person and ‘The Ernesto’ is one burger you will want to go back for.
Crown Grill is Princess’ New York inspired steak and seafood restaurant. Think huge, succulent steaks, mouth-watering seafood and side dishes galore.
While waiting for our drinks, the waiter asked us to accompany him to the open kitchen to review the various cuts of meat. Back at our table, we continued the difficult task of selecting what we wanted for dinner.
I can never go past a rib-eye steak. For side dishes, we were happy to go with the waiter’s recommendations. We came away satisfied on every front.
A real highlight is the salt menu. Three different salts were offered with each meal:
- Hawaiian Black Salt – Combined with activated charcoal, this solar evaporated Pacific sea salt has a stunning black colour, silky texture and natural saline flavour
- Smoked Applewood Salt – Sweet Applewood from the Yakima Valley fuels the fire that flavours this smoked sea salt with a subtle fruit and wood taste
- Himalayan Mountain Pink Salt – Experience this exotic ingredient that boasts a robust salt and mineral flavour, which is said to provide many health benefits and remove toxins from the body.
Recommendation: Start with the pan-seared scallops with Moroccan glaze, shrimp and pancetta bisque, the rib-eye steak was huge and succulent, finished with the Crown Dependance – a sampling of all the desserts for those who can’t decide.
Verdict: At only $29 per person, the meal won’t break the bank, but it may just burst your pant buttons! I highly recommend the experience, and it may just be the closest thing you’ll find to a 1920s style New York supper club environment.
If you prefer a casual family night or couple’s evening with a movie, then Movies Under the Stars is just for you. Snuggle into a deck chair with a blanket as you watch one of the double-daily Hollywood blockbuster movies on a gigantic screen overlooking the pool deck.
During the movie, waiters deliver pizza, popcorn and the drinks of your choice. The sea breeze, incredible ocean sunsets, pizza, popcorn and a good movie. It doesn’t get better than this!
Recommendation: Arrive about 15-20 minutes before the start of the movie to secure your seat. There is a small area overlooking the pool deck which has the best views. Once you have your preferred seat, duck into the buffet and create your own gourmet cheese plate to enjoy during the movie.
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Located in the atrium next to the gangway, a selection of daily changing salads, desserts, sandwiches and casual fare are available 24-hours a day. Skipped breakfast? Grab a ham and cheese croissant on your way through. Need a shot of coffee and slice of cake for a quick snack? Then this is your place.
Verdict: Great for a casual small-bite, but not somewhere you would have dinner, unless you wanted a snack or were looking for something very casual. There is a great selection of food and it’s a popular place to congregate in the evening to enjoy the nightly lounge singers.
Although a wine bar, Vines offers a selection of fresh sushi products from the counter, made to order. It’s a small and cosy place to meet fellow travellers for a pre-dinner drink in a casual atmosphere.
Recommendation: Try the wine flight – a small taster of various wines. A wine flight is a great way to help decide which bottle of wine to purchase over dinner.
The traditional cruise ship buffet is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Evening meals are often themed and a coffee and tea bar are open 24-hours.
Recommendation: Create your own cheese plate from the buffet and take it to the upper deck to watch the sunset. Pull up a chair and watch Mother Nature at her best.
For a quick snack on the go between swims in the pool, or for a casual lunch or dinner where you can grab a hot dog or hamburger with the all the trimmings.
Hang around the main swimming pool for any length of time and the aroma of freshly baked pizza becomes irresistible. Prego Pizzeria serves a variety of pizzas throughout the day – and they’re available by the slice.
Recommendation: The perfect snack or casual dining option while hanging around the pool. It goes well with Movie Under the Stars too.
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Enough said. 🙂
Recommendation: Sample your way through all the flavours over the course of your cruise.
24-hour room service and ultimate breakfast or dinner
For those times when you’d rather lay in bed and relax in the privacy of your stateroom, room service is a great treat. There is a small room service menu available all-day. Passengers booked in a balcony cabin or suite have two additional paid options available – the Ultimate Breakfast and Ultimate Dinner packages.
The Ultimate Breakfast includes a half bottle of sparkling wine accompanied with smoked salmon with bagels, pastries, cereal, quiche, tea or coffee and toast. It’s all served on your balcony with your own waiter to set up your table and pour the bubbles. Cost is approximately $45 per couple.
The Ultimate Dinner, like the breakfast option setup, includes a three-course meal with choice of starter, main and dessert, with tea or coffee and a half bottle of sparkling wine. This option runs for approximately $75 per couple. The menu includes delights such as steak and lobster, so the fee is well worth the experience if wanting to splurge a little or celebrating a special occasion.
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