Food on the NCL Star

Food is such a personal matter. Consider that the night that we had prime rib in Versailles, a woman seated at our table gushed over it and said that it was so much better than the gristly piece of supposed prime rib that she had eaten in Cagney’s the night before. Although my piece of prime rib came cooked as I had requested, it also was a very thin slice of meat, which just doesn’t seem right for prime rib. Although definitely edible, it just didn’t meet my expectations. This incident really sums up any review about any cruise. Unless a ship is full of clones, it is very unlikely that anybody will be in agreement about any one thing. The secret is to try to read between the lines and figure out if the reviewer has similar tastes to yours. That definitely isn’t easy. So, take my evaluation of the food with a grain of salt, as you should any review; that is, unless you are my clone.

First, I will note that we did not eat in any of the restaurants that require an additional fee. We correctly assumed that there would be plenty of food in the other restaurants. We rarely ate in the buffet, but we did have a few breakfasts there when we wanted to get off the ship and into port and we also had pizza once when we returned from port after Versailles had stopped serving lunch. We ate the majority of our meals in Versailles.

The restaurants:
Versailles

This dining room is nicely decorated and reminded me of one of the hotel dining rooms of days gone by. There were plenty of tables for two as well as tables for larger groups. NCL prides itself on its Freestyle concept. For dining, there are no specific seating times as there are on many ships. For dinner on this ship, we could go any time between 5:30 and 10:00pm. No reservations are necessary; however, if you have a large group, it would be a good idea to reserve a table.

You enter the dining room at the top of the staircase where you are greeted by a hostess who will ask how many people are in your party and if you would like to share your table or have your own table. We shared on several occasions and luckily had cordial dining partners. Well, once at breakfast, the host did try to seat us at a 4-topper with two women already seated. Upon seeing us, they told the host that they did not want to share. Yep, we are scary. We ended up sitting at the next table over and by ourselves and thoroughly enjoyed our own company, so there. Well, there are interesting people on every cruise.

Another couple we met relayed the story of somebody wanting to be seated by the window. Now, when it’s dark, you really can’t see much out the window, but they still wanted a window. As the story goes, a window table became available and somebody else was seated there as somehow this couple was overlooked. A major tantrum ensued, with the couple screaming, yelling and doing everything to berate the service personnel. These incidents are few and far between, but don’t be surprised if you see some memorable behaviors.

The Versailles menu, which is exactly the same as the Aqua menu, a smaller dinner-only restaurant consistently offered a variety of choices of food, including some items that were available on a daily basis. They also offered a Cooking Light® menu, which Robert decided to choose. He stuck with that for the majority of the meals on the cruise and found the food tasty and unlike the bland diet food that he expected. In general the food presentation was attractive, but the food preparation didn’t equal its presentation. That is definitely not to say that it was bad; it just wasn’t anything special. We thought at one point that perhaps somebody had stolen all the spices from the kitchen.

On the first breakfast aboard, I ordered ONE fried egg and received just one fried egg. Ordering this reminded me of our cruise on the NCL Spirit that no matter that I had ordered only one egg, I always received two. They insisted that it wasn’t possible to have only one egg. So, I was amazed that I got just the egg that I ordered. I should have taken a photo of it because I was never again able to get just one egg. We tried to eat a variety of things on the menu and the majority were very good including the pancakes, waffles and oatmeal. Robert could never get decent scrambled eggs (always watery), so he switched to omelets, which were an improvement although they rarely contained the exact fillings that he had ordered.

The service in Versailles can get awfully slow and sometimes we spent almost two hours at a meal. Lunch seemed particularly bad. Occasionally we were surprised and were finished in less than an hour.

Cappucino at meals in the dining rooms is complimentary on NCL. This is a real bonus, however, the cappucino wasn’t uniform in quality, sometimes being watery or lukewarm or almost all milk.

Market Cafe
This is the buffet and we just prefer not to eat at buffets, which is a personal choice. We did get some cereal up there for breakfast a few days. We slept late and wanted to get onshore quickly, so opted not to have a leisurely breakfast in Versailles. The pre-made omelets were good. I did not see an omelet station, but they did have the Danish that they passed out in Versailles. After being on shore, we arrived when Versailles had already closed for lunch, so we went up here to get some pizza, which was decent.

The Market Cafe strongly resembles a high school cafeteria with all the ambience that one would expect in such a place. The tables are lined up in long rows and the buffet is mostly a long, continuous counter, rather than spread out in different stations like some ships have.

For some reason, I couldn’t resist looking at what people had on their plates as we passed through the area as we navigated Deck 12. I guess that you need to pile your plates full to get your money’s worth for the cruise.

There is an area with tables for kids, but we never saw anybody using them, not that we were in the Market Cafe that frequently. Down the hall toward the kids’ area and the gym, there is a little window that connects to the Juice Bar in the gym that doles out ice cream cones. We tried to get ice cream one day, but they were all out of flavors except for rum raisin. We couldn’t figure how they could run out of ice cream when it magically appeared at dinner later that day. And why is rum raisin one of the choices? The other choices were vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.

Aqua
This restaurant has the same menu as Versailles, but is located in a smaller more intimate area. We ate here only once because the room reminded me of a hotel banquet hall nearly bereft of any decorative atmosphere. Obviously decor has some affect on me. On the NCL Spirit, we usually ate in The Garden, the comparable smaller dining room, because the atmosphere was much more pleasing than that of the Windows dining room. Again, this is a personal issue.

Endless Summer
We made reservations here for our first night on the ship. Few people were seated when we arrived, but the service was excruciatingly S-L-O-W. I thought that I might fall asleep and considered leaving before dessert, which in retrospect would have been a smart idea.
We ordered the specialty of the restaurant, which is for two people. We never figured out why two people had to order something that consisted of a few pieces of steak and chicken. We couldn’t figure out why it was the specialty of the house, either.

They claim that they serve Tex-Mex food in this restaurant so we weren’t expecting authentic Mexican food. Our nachos were served with something like Cheez-Whiz (I haven’t really had Cheez-Whiz, but the stuff on these chips is what I think Cheez-Whiz is like) on them. The entire meal was a disappointment. We recommended to a few people who asked that they avoid going there. One of those couples said later on that they had met somebody who enjoyed the food in this restaurant so much that they went back a second night. Perhaps the food improved or more likely we have eaten in authentic Mexican restaurants too many times and have different expectations.

Very interesting about Endless Summer is that it isn’t really a self-contained restaurant like the others. It’s basically two spaces on each side of the Deck 8, where anybody can pass through on their way from the front to the back of the ship.

La Trattoria
We knew from the NCL Spirit that the Italian restaurant was simply part of the buffet dining area closed off in the evening and decorated with an Italian flair. In this case, I think that they used an Italian flare. The tables in this area were still set up in the cafeteria style. Although we had a table for two, all the tables were still in a line. If they would only angle them or break the line, the place might look a little less like a school cafeteria, with red, white and green table runners on the tables.

I had pizza, which wasn’t bad, for an appetizer and spaghetti bolognese as my main. The pasta was just bland as was the fish served on risotto that Robert had, although both dishes were certainly edible. We ordered desserts, but along with our desserts, the waiter also brought the tiramisu as directed by the chef. Tiramisu is a funny food; it comes in many variations and you never know which version to expect. This one was particularly good and a nice finish to the otherwise fairly ordinary meal. But who needs fancy food?

The Grill
We had heard that the burgers at the Grill were great. Guess it depends on how hungry you are. They are your basic frozen patty, but you can put a variety of toppings on it to dress it up. Now, the fries on the other hand were very good. We only ate here once when we returned late from shore. We sat around the pool and watched some of the activities and listened to the music. On days like these, we were happy for the FreeStyle option because we could have a very late lunch and then compensate by having a late dinner. On another late day back on the ship, we opted to skip lunch and have an early dinner. One thing is for sure: You will never lack for food on a cruise ship.

Sail Away

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