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Thursday, July 16, 2009

On Board the Carnival Victory: Feeding The Hungry

From March till June, we survived on a diet of cheap fast food (2 MacD's cheeseburgers being a standard meal) and treated ourselves at IHOP once in awhile. With the exception of the 3 weeks when my folks were in town and creating home-cooked wonders like wanton soup and chicken rice, our daily meal options usually revolved around MacD's, KFC or Taco Bell. And Ben & Jerry's.

The food situation was even worse when we hit the Bahamas where fastfood hardly made a beep on the cheap food radar and local food cost more than a BK Budget Meal. We survived on 16 packets of instant noodles, a loaf of bread, a pizza, 10 chicken wings and FOC breakfast.

So, as you can imagine, being on a cruise opened up the Golden Gates to Food Heaven. There are various buffet stations at which you can stuff yourself silly at and fine dining at the dining rooms every night.

Our first dinner at the Atlantic Dining Room was open-seating - meaning you just get slotted in at any table with other guests. We joined a large family and their friends who hailed from Florida and New York for a yummy 3-course dinner. The daily selection of dishes is pretty good - I just focused on the seafood, the seafood, and the seafood.

Fresh fruit as an appetizer

Fried tiger shrimp and yes, that's Char Bee Hoon!!! Dan was jealous

As mentioned in Dan's earlier entry, we were on a mission to gym twice a day - once before breakfast and a lighter workout after dinner. We tried to keep breakfast a healthy affair so as not to undo all the good done in the gym. I was very pleased with the selection of cereals, milk, yogurt, fresh fruit, oatmeal and real fruit juice with pulp (not orange sugar water.)

Dan fell in love with Lucky Charms breakfast cereal on this trip

Have I mentioned before how much I LOVE breakfast cereals? By mid-week, I was working through 2 boxes each morning.

For lunch, there's the main buffet comprising a salad bar, cold cuts, soup, bread, pasta, hot meats and a fall-of-the-chair heavenly dessert station. The side stations churn out hot dogs, burgers, fried chicken, fries, coleslaw and Chinese food. I made a beeline for Yangtze Wok for our first lunch on the cruise and asked for everything they had - springroll, stir-fried veggies, stir-fried beef, tofu and fried rice. It was a huge disappointment. Everything tasted the same, being cooked in black bean sauce throughout. The spring roll and fried rice were so salty my tongue felt numb. Anyway, later that evening at the gym, the surging movement of a moving ship coupled with the up-and-down movement of the ellipical machine invoked a bout of nausea, which resulted in the black bean meal going down the toilet.

I avoided the Chinese food station like plague for the rest of the trip. The other guests in the queue didn't seem to realise that if the real Chinese aren't queuing up along with them, there must be something wrong with the food.

My not-so-nice Chinese meal

I loved the East River Deli which churned out hot and cold sandwiches from 11am to 11pm. It was a hot favourite with the other guests too, judging from the long queues, no matter what time of the day. The grilled ham and cheese, and the hot turkey on country roll were tops!

Bread, I love bread.

A 24-hour pizza station? Sounds crazy! Plus a 24-hour ice-cream bar? Sounds divine! But true! We only succumbed to one slice of pizza each but knocked back quite a few soft serves. It's not Ben & Jerry's, but it tastes pretty darn good after a hot walk about town.

Melting together with our ice-cream in the hot Caribbean weather

And finally, even though we boarded this cruise not knowing anyone else on the ship, it's inevitable that food brings people together. At the fixed-seating dinner each night, we dined with a lovely family from Michigan - yummy mummy Minna and 4-year-old Aidan. We had a great time exchanging info about our lives back home and our daily shore excursions. Aidan was a riot! This cute little boy is so chatty and bubbly and entertained us with his doodlings of his mummy and Dan with lopsided ears, big noses and funny bodies. And he eats all his veggies cos he likes all things green! Isn't that cute? Too bad my favourite colour was blue for the longest time and my parents gave up on feeding me veggies until I was 16.

With Minna and little Aidan. The chicken nuggets make a daily appearance at the table too, for Aidan.

Our dedicated dining staff who took care of us were wonderful too - Oleks from Ukraine and Sumi from Indonesia (from Bali!) Oleks makes the best recommendations on the daily selection and he was right - the beef, grouper, ribs and dessert dishes he chose for me were tops! He even sent dessert to our cabin when I was feeling too tired for dinner one evening. Sumi makes the most amazing puppet creatures out of cloth napkins, sending Aidan into fits of laughter each time.

2 of the dinners on the cruise were designated Elegant Dining nights. Guests had to be formally attired, which meant no jeans for guys. Needless to say, our travel wardrobe wasn't catered for these rules and when we saw people dressed to the nines in suits, ballgowns and tiaras, we shyly hid in the buffet room where it was casual dining still. When Oleks and Sumi missed us on the first Elegant Dining night, they kept encouraging us to just come for the second one, nevermind our dressing. They made us feel at ease (Oleks even helped by pooh-poohing at the other overdressed guests) and served up a great dinner as usual.

With Sumi & Oleks

We're suffering withdrawal symptoms from the good food and great service already. Thankfully, food in Colombia is muy delicioso and not expensive, so we're exploring new eating options here. But more on that later!


Lint said...

DAMNIIITT!!!!!! FOOD HEAVEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
the food there looks better than the meals i'm having everyday :(

Yi Lin said...

What! Get out of the office and go treat yourself to a buffet please!

Dale said...

Hey, both of you actually do look a little more nourished aka plumper in these pics...haha. My wife and I had a different strategy when we went for a cruise. Room Service for breakfast, skip lunch and gorge ourselves during the sumptious dinners. Double gorge ourselves during the formal nights, cos we could unbutton our bottoms but let our jackets cover the bulge. Hee...O yah and exercise...we read somewhere that thinking about exercise helps, so we thought a lot about it....in fact we even dreamt about exercising...seems to be working better for the wife than for me though...

Yi Lin said...

Dale! I know you mean well, but never tell a girl she looks plump... or plumpER! *wail*

I hope all the huffing and panting from walking uphill in hilly Bogota will help us shed some post-cruise weight. I think my pants are looser around the waist already....

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