An Epic Culinary Adventure on Norwegian Cruises
By Candace Boggan
There are so many reasons why travel is important. There’s the opportunity to interact with other ethnicities, the chance to immerse yourself in different cultures, the thrill that comes with uncovering new territory and the chance to try some awesome new cuisine. I’d have to say that while I’m completely thrilled over the idea of connecting with fellow travelers and natives, it’s often the epic food affair that awaits me that piques my interest. I marvel even now, over the thought of finding some spectacular salver of gourmet goodness to satiate my craving. Though my diet (roughly 80% vegan) limits my selection, I still manage to locate some magnificent finds while on my holiday adventures. I typically use the time as “cheat” days, utilizing my 20% non-plant based portion to the fullest. No, I don’t fall off the deep end and sample a smorgasbord board or anything, but my sweet tooth often kicks in, and my longtime pescatarian lifestyle has been known to resurface.
During my time on board Norwegian Cruise Line’s Epic (NCL) this past summer, I was fortunate enough to try a variety of international dishes. I was able to visit a sundry of restaurants on this massive vessel, fulfilling my gastronomical dreams. During the week of culinary activities on the ship, I indulged in everything from Asian to French cuisine, savoring every moment. Norwegian coined the concept of free-style cruising, where guests have the ability to eat whenever and with whomever they desire. I found this refreshing, considering a past escapade involved me having to select a dedicated dining hour at a previously assigned table. Norwegian’s flexibility allowed me to freely roam the Epic in search of my next palatable treasure.
The mega-vessel has it all, from a buffet-styled dining hall to complimentary and specialized (for a fee) dining, to lounges and bars. I enjoyed tantalizing veggie delights at Shanghai, a superb Asian restaurant, which also has a noodle bar onsite. I also relished crisp and simple salads at Manhattan Room and Taste, alongside the featured catch of the day. The latter two restaurants have similar menus with delectable dishes including entrées such as pasta, fish or meat.
Centrally located within the casino area is a 24-hour pub named O’Sheehan’s, equipped with bowling, pool tables and an energetic and lively crowd. I also spent a good bit of time at Garden Café, the ship’s buffet-style dining room that is open to all guests without a reservation. During each sitting, I relished over a bounty of comestible options amidst the backdrop of breathtaking panoramic views. I would also watch as fellow passengers rushed the surplus of stations each time, in search for something spectacular to fill their plates. It was an international food affair, complete with fruit, salad bars with all the fixings, delectable breads, carving stations adorned with all types of meat, ethnic dishes featuring an amalgamation of flavors used in tantalizing rice and mixed veggie dishes, as well as pizza and a profusion of desserts that could compete with any bakery. The Garden Café even hosted themed nights during dinner hours, including Chocolate Night. There was so much to choose from that diners wouldn’t have to press the repeat button unless they wanted to. Just steps away from Garden Café is Great Outdoors, which is an extension of the café. It stretches out to the pool area and offers what I like to call “backyard barbeque” offerings.
One of my most memorable dining experiences was at Le Bistro. The salmon was succulent, while the chocolate finale was utter delight. Aside from Le Bistro, the Norwegian Epic also houses other upscale restaurants for a fee, including La Cucina, Wasabi, Teppanyaki, and Cagney’s Steakhouse. There’s also the Atrium Bakery, featuring desserts by Buddy Valastro of TLC’s Cake Boss and Carlo’s Bake Shop, room service, 24-hour pizza, Bliss Ultra Lounge, SVEDKA, Inniskillin Ice Bar and Waves Pool Bar. The ship also has the Epic Club for the swanky temporary residents staying in Norwegian’s private villas, the Haven. I think it’s safe to say that my culinary experience was one epic event while afloat on the Mediterranean Sea.