We entered the dining room with great expectations of wonderful Italian cuisine and continental dishes not typical of what we would eat on the other cruise lines. We left the dining room with full stomachs, but with little taste of interesting food. Did we somehow board a ship chartered for passengers on bland diets?
First a bit of background. We have traveled throughout the world and have eaten in both the northern and southern parts of Italy. There is a difference in cuisine in both parts, but we couldn’t figure out which part of Italy the food on the Lirica represented. We have never eaten bland food in Italy.
We usually ate in Bussola for breakfast. We tried most of what was on the menu in the interest of providing feedback on this blog. Don’t expect the selection of pastries that you would be offered on the NCL ships. What was offered was typical of an Italian breakfast – lots of breads. A cheese plate is a daily option for accompanying the breads.
Toast seems to be something unknown to the staff here. Although there are full-size pieces of bread on offer, these for some reason are not possible to use as toast. Whenever I asked for toast with my eggs, I received several cocktail-sized pieces of bread. These aren’t convenient for egg dipping. Even worse was the fact that I requested wheat bread, even tried calling it brown bread, but still never received anything but cocktail white, even though there were slices of brown bread on the tray that comes around daily.
The breakfast menu is a good one with pancakes, eggs, waffles, hot and cold cereals, yogurt, cheese and more. Most of the food was satisfactory, although the scrambled eggs that we had were watery, except for on departure day, when that is the only type of egg offered. Mine were acceptably firm on that day. The oatmeal leaves much to be desired and my request for brown sugar elicited a shocked response from the server.
We also usually ate lunch in Bussola, although we also had pizza, hotdogs, burgers and le Bistrot food as well. We especially liked the ice cream in the dining room. This is the only place where ice cream is free. The food was edible, but we occasionally encountered problems with the pizza and hamburger place.
On one day, the only meal option on a port day was the hamburger and hotdog place. I took my place in line and when I reached the bun bin I found that there were only hotdog buns. Wrongly assuming that the hamburger buns simply needed to be replenished, I asked the grill cook if he would get some more hamburger buns. He brusquely replied that there were no hamburgers. How could there not be hamburgers? People in line were not happy about this, not only because the line was getting long, but also because there were no hotdogs available at the time either. Those would take a few more minutes. We ended up having the hotdogs with fries, which tasted fine. We wondered how the one place that served food at this time would not be adequately supplied with food. It made no sense to us.
We also tried lunch in Le Bistrot. (We still don’t know why it is spelled this odd way.) Roast beef was the carving of the day, so I hesitantly tried it knowing my experience with beef on this ship.(Read about that in the dinner section.) I requested medium rare and wasn’t shocked when the only way that I could have the beef was well-done. I took some just to try it and of course, it was dried out and well-done. I also tried a cheese pasta. It was cold, so I didn’t eat more than the first bite.
The pizza place might be more popular if the staff behind the counter weren’t so surly. On that day we had just picked at our food from the buffet, so we decided to try the pizza since we were still hungry and didn’t think that we could survive until our second dinner seating. We found that there were a few types of pizza made and grabbed a piece of the cheese pizza, which was cold. We returned to see if anything else had been made and the guy behind the counter snarled saying that it would be out in 10 minutes. Now just the other day, this same guy was having a heated discussion with a person who appeared to be his boss. Certainly this should have been done outside of a public area, but management obviously feels differently. And from this guy’s attitude, it seems that he deserved a lashing.
We returned later for the fresh pizza and were disappointed to find that the pizza guy made one type of pizza only – bacon. BACON!!! This is surely the most popular flavor of pizza in the world. We grabbed a few pieces not wanting to see if he might make a different variety of pizza. We noticed that he had pulled all the labels from the counter that indicated which type of pizza was on the plate. We didn’t bother with the pizza again. It really shouldn’t be so difficult to get a warm piece of pizza with a more traditional topping.
Not being a fish lover, I usually opt for beef. Big mistake on this ship. It took me until almost the last day to figure out that if you want meat that isn’t well-done that you need to request that it is cooked rare, so that it comes out medium. Most of the cuts of beef were thin, which Bugsy said is how his Italy-raised mother prepared meat in her home. Well-done and thinly sliced made him hate beef and dread having to eat steak for dinner. The food totally lacked spices. One day I did try a lamb curry which was good and had some spice, but spice must be an expensive commodity for this ship.
Fish seems a good bet, although don’t expect the Cajun fish to have any spices in it. Another good bet, which consistently tasted good is the risotto. The portions are large enough to make that the main course and be satisfied.
My comments about the food and the fact that I rarely ate more than a few bites made our table mates think that I was a picky eater. I really am not, but I sure don’t want to ingest excessive calories when I am not really enjoying the food.
On the last formal night, lobster was on the menu. Not one person at our table enjoyed the lobster as it was tough. It would be better to not even put it on the menu if it is of inferior quality.
Overall, the food was disappointing. It was definitely edible, but certainly not notable. The presentation was always good. It’s too bad that the quality of the food didn’t equal the presentation.
I especially don’t want to waste the calories that come with dessert. I found most of the desserts to have odd textures, and I have issues with texture along with lots of other issues.
Ice cream is the best choice, although the chocolate pecan pie, which was a lunch choice was the best dessert that I had.
Food is a very personal issue and I did meet some folks on the cruise who thought that the food was very good. Perhaps they were on a bland diet. I was not.
Next Time: More on the food on the MSC Lirica