I just returned from a weeks cruise on the Norwegian Pearl to Alaska and would like to share some of my experiences with those who are considering a cruise independantly and not with an organized Kosher cruise with Kosherica , Suite Life, etc.
A large part of cruising is the food and as can be expected the Kosher cruiser comes up very short in this point. The food served was pre packaged and reheated, from Webermans Foods of Miami (more on that later on) and in no way came close to the level of food served to the regular guests. On a scale of 1 to 10 it probably was a 2. I really did not expect much and knew what I would be getting but still there were many sursprises and not for the better. I will attach below a copy of a letter that I am sending to Weberman's which is self explanatory.
The ship's crew was extremely helpful and in most cases knowlegable of the needs of the Kosher cruiser and things went fairly smoothly. We were presented every evening with a list of items that were on the ship and we picked and made our menus for the following day. The Pearl had two main dining rooms (where the Kosher meals were served) and a few buffets.
We found it better to eat breakfast at the buffet as there were Kellog cereals, Dannone yogurt (OU D), bagels (OU) , orange and apple juice (OU) and milk (the chocolate milk did not have a Hechsher) You can ask for prepackaged Smuckers jelly (OU) to be brought up from the main dining room as the jelly on the buffet is in large bowls
There were prepackaged dairy breakfast dishes available in the formal dining room but we chose to eat it as supper and have a meat lunch instead. It consisted of waffles, cheese blintzes and Vermont style French Toast, all very good There was also two types of omelttes which were not.
The hard ice cream served at the buffet was OU as were the cones ( I asked the server to lift up the drums and to see the original box for the cones) There is also soft ice cream in two machines in the buffet . The Maitre D at the buffet was Mr. Mark Evelyn who when asked went into the store room and brought me the boxes from the soft ice cream mix and arranged with the chef to let us have whole uncut fruits such as pineapple and melons
Of course one should always check the current Hechshers as suppliers can change.
Of special mention is the Maitre D in the Summer Palace main dining room, Mr. Adonis Perez, who went out of his way throughout the week to see to it that we enjoyed as much as possible our "culinary experience" He also offered to have double wrapped fresh salmon prepared for us.
There were of course a few negative points. The plastic cutlery given was of the lowest possible quality something which really shames the image of NCL. I took this up onboard with the Hotel Director and the Head of Food and Beverage Service and they said that they would look into it. (He sent me a bottle of Maneshewitz wine to my cabin, maybe as a peace offering)
Additionally a few times the wait from when we sat down until when the food was served was close to 20 to 30 minutes. You should be prepared for this and we sometimes sent one person down to get a table and get the "ball rolling" and the rest came later. Most times however the wait was about 10-15 minutes
All in all the cruise line tried to be accomodating and since the purpose of the trip was to go to Alaska and not necessarily eat my way there, I can sum up, subject to my following letter to Webermans, that it was a pleasant experience
May 26, 2011
I have just returned from a weeks cruise on the Norwegian Pearl where your food was served.
I must write and say how disappointed I was with the food especially after looking at your website before the cruise and expecting to be served what I saw there.
As an experienced traveler I know that frozen, defrosted and reheated food suffers along the food chain but still it is possible to present a good tasting and maybe even more important, a good looking meal. One only has to look at Hermolis of London or Regal/Borenstein of New York to see that it can be done. My Regal meal on Delta on the way home was far and away better than anything I was served on the ship
Sadly this is not what I was served by NCL. The food ranged from inedible to fair and nothing really above that. Certain foods to do not take well to this type of handling and should not be served . Of special mention in this category is the eggs rolls and croquettes. Other dishes like the lamb stew and roulade, while edible were not pleasant to look at.
Do you have a quality control department? Do you test the meals to see what they look like and taste like when served on a cruise ship?
Of special mention is the packaging of the soups. While they were tasty they were impossible to open and to transfer to a disposable bowl or cup. How is one expected to do it? We had soup spilling and squirting out in all directions. The only normal packaging was the Matzoh Ball soup. Why couldn’t all the soups be packaged like that?
Additionally no bread or rolls were served all week. Is this standard or just that NCL did not order it?
If after eating twenty one meals over the course of a week, all I can say is that the best food item that I can think of is the apple strussel cake, then I think that you have to improve your game tremendously. On the Kosher Chowhound board and the Cruise Critic board I gave your meals a rating of 2 out of 10. Is this the message that you want to be out on the internet?
I would appreciate receiving your reply to this letter with the hope that improvements will be made.