Search This Blog

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Carinval Dream

Everybody dreams, the exotic ports, the extreme sunsets or sunrises, food that makes one shiver because it’s so good. The vacation of a life time, but what do choose? That all inclusive hotel on a warm water beach, the Yucatan vacation that no one else has ever had or the cruise that just keeps you smiling day after day.
So after many long hard hours of work I chose the dream to come true for my family and booked a cruise on the Carnival Dream, one of Carnivals largest and most well appointed cruise ships.

Carnival Dream Highlights
•Gross Registered Tonnage - 130,000 •Length - 1,004 feet •Beam - 122 feet •Beam at Pool Decks - 158 feet •Maximum Draft - 27 feet •Number of Guest Decks – 13 •Passenger Space Ratio – 36 Capacity (2 persons per cabin) - 3,646 Capacity (including upper berths) - 4,631 Staff - 1,367 Speed - 22.5 knots

Wow what a ship is the feeling that you get when you first approach it docked at the terminal in Cape Canaveral Florida. (The above picture was taken in dock at Cozumel Mexico) This ship has it all no matter what the age of her guest there is always something to do 24 hours a day. As a low budget cruise you really can save huge dollars by choosing Carnival. There is of course the casino, live entertainment, a variety of musicians plying their trade (some whom were very good) a small variety of guest participation events, this ship has waterslides (the reason I booked it for the grandkids) and live entertainment in the main theatre (which lacked the entertaining part of the description). After the “Welcome the Board” show who really wanted to return?

This blog but however is about food and service. So let’s first begin with the service, the staff on The Dream are beyond excellent. Everyone seems to be truly concerned with the guest and that the guest is enjoying every minute of their stay upon the ship.

From the Captain to the bus person assigned to your nightly dining table they want you to leave with memories that will last your life time or at least until you want to cruise again and hopefully choose The Dream.

(Chef K and the Captain upon the bridge of The Dream).

The matire d’ can be found checking with every table at all meals being sure that each guest is receiving the service standard that Carnival has set as a minimum for their guests. You are sure to find exceptional service staff in all departments of the ship. Why we even had a server named Lady who actually got Dianna up and dancing in front of the entire dining room. Something I could not do after 35 years of marriage. But look and see isn’t she having fun on the “Fun Ship” with Lady the server?

Carnival is dedicated to the “Fun” on their ships so they work hard to give every customer and enjoyable experience. But seemly in doing so they forget the customer wants to partake in much of what is happening. They seem to believe it is better to entertain the guest than allow the guest to partake, they have karaoke for we who cannot sing but think we are the next American Idol (more like William Hung than Ruben Studdard). Waterslides for all, a variety of pools and hot tubs, special clubs for young children, tweens, teens and adults of all ages. Giant chess sets on either side of deck for those who need to relax and clear their minds (LOL).

So then when hunger strikes after all the fun where is the food, The Carnival Dream has many options for those hunger pangs. Upon the Lido deck you can find a deli and Tandoori buffet at the aft of the ship, and mid ship on the same Lido deck you’ll find two buffet lines, a pizza shop, and burger and hot dog barbeque as well as a pasta restaurant aft ship one deck up. Along with many bars to quench any kind of thirst. The food here is comparable to most QSR (quick service restaurant)restaurants and other than the Tandoori buffet most QSR restaurants far surpass the quality that is served on the Dream.

All the QSR’s upon The Dream use mostly prepackaged and frozen products, you’ll find heat and serve products at breakfast such as the breakfast sausage links (micro wave type sausages) powder eggs for the buffet line although you can get a fresh made omelette and fried eggs upon request. Premade frozen breakfast Danish the just bake and serve type.

The pasta house and buffet lines seem like the place to use up the leftovers from the two main dining rooms, The Scarlett and The Crimson. Here you have the option of having a set dinner reservation in the Scarlett or Carnivals “Your time dining” in the Crimson. Don’t try to have dinner in the Scarlett you will be turned away rather curtly as we were with a “Your not allowed to eat here” by the matrie d’ so you make your way up to the Crimson and wait up to an hour for a table. When booking on The Dream I made the false assumption the “Your time dining” was the same as NCL’s “Freestyle dining” unfortunately it is no where near similar. Your time dining basically means you wait until the reservation guests are served.

After experiencing the food you may want to wait. As a chef with a masters degree I clearly understand how very difficult it may be to feed a small city several times a day, no easy task. Some times quality must be given over to need to turn tables so all may be fed in a timely fashion. The basic attempt in both main dining rooms is to provide a three course dining experience. Menu’s feature standard selections from hamburgers and chicken tenders to comfort food selections to the usual dinner features, steak, chicken and salmon. There was a daily attempt at a more unusual appetizer, frogs legs, escargots or alligator.

I tried the alligator fritters on the second night they came raw in middle without the batter being fried, the apology given by the martie d’ “so sorry one out of five isn’t bad though” yes one bad meal is a bad meal, the same time raw chicken was served to one of my guest and not a word was mentioned regarding it. Feeding many people should never mean cutting corners or reducing the quality of service and never, never, never drop culinary standards to serve good and safe food. Consuming both the raw alligator and chicken could lead to serious illness and the standards should very high to assure this does never happen.

The dinning rooms main proteins (chicken, beef tenderloin, prime rib, etc. ) are by far the lowest of USDA Standard. (The steak house does offer a higher standard which we’ll discuss later) Having an opportunity to visit the main galley and inspect the freezers most of the proteins are USDA Standard many contains a 17% Neti Pot saline solution. This solution contains water, baking soda and salt and is injected into proteins to “tenderize” them. The original use of this “pump” was to give turkeys that self basting method and prevent the white turkey meat from drying while roasting. It has become popular with chicken producers as well and so too with beef producers to sell the much inferior USDA Standard cuts of meat. Often used in cow meat because of poor fat marbling within the cuts.

USA and Canada have similar rating for beef depending on fat marbling or content with the primal cuts. The finest in both countries is “Prime” going down the scale from there is USDA Choice or Canada’s AAA next is USDA Select or AA in Canada then USDA Standard of Canadian single A. In addition to the grades for youthful cattle, Canada also has quality grades for mature animals. Bulls are assigned an E grade and cows are placed into one of four D grades. Canada’s D1 grade requires excellent carcass muscling, firm white or amber fat and less than 15 millimeters (mm) or just over 9/16th of an inch fat depth. D2 requires medium to excellent muscling, white to yellow fat and less than 15 mm fat depth. The D3 grade is assigned to carcasses with low levels of muscling while D4 grades indicate a fat depth of greater than 15 mm. It is also possible to purchase ungraded Canadian beef.

The less the fat content the tougher the cut will be when cooked unless it is larded or tenderized through a marinating process or injected with a pump of some kind, as used in The Dreams cuts of beef.

So why is this not a good thing? The use of this pump is very similar to what the ancient Egyptians’ used to mummify bodies with. The results are the soda reacts with the beef and loosens the proteins leaving a mushy or gummy substance instead of a DELICIOUS TASTING piece of meat. Pump also allows the risk of bacteria growth, gives all proteins a soapy and salty taste, additional seasoning usually results in a food that is far too salty in taste. As was the case with my wife filet migon on our third dining night. As well as the prime rib on the last night. A perfectly cooked piece of pumped steak still becomes uneatable because of the chemical reaction. USDA Standard meat generally is good for braising or slow cooking other meat that may be pumped are the final USDA grades which are Commercial, Utility and Canner. To attempt to pass it off as a quality meal is by far letting your customer’s way down.
Breakfast in the main dining room The Scarlett also provided a far inferior experience.

Eggs Benedict a all time favourite , looks good!!!! The English muffins were left on a steam table until a knife could not cut them, the instant hollandaise sauce was placed beneath a salamander until the sauce was hard and dry and they were cold as well. Notice to the heat and serve sausages, the same sausages used in the buffet restaurant which they usually chopped and fried with over cooked onions. Breakfast menu in the Scarlett remains the same daily.

Now let us discuss The Dreams steak house called The Chef’s Art. Here the standard definitely was much higher. The primal beef cuts are USDA Choice equal to AAA in Canada. Only 2% of all beef slaughtered in the US are graded as Choice. There will be no need to pump such beef and The Dream does not.

All course are well presented, the Escargot Bourgogne presented on brioche with a creamy garlic dipping sauce.

Or the Sashimi style tuna tartare.

Both appetizers were excellent and any chef would be proud to serve these. The next course was a soup or salad. I choose the Lobster Bisque while Dianna and Tim both had the house Spinach salad.

So we are really happy at this point and I decided to book a reservation for all eight of us in our party for the next night. A little premature as we had not had our entrees at this point. After a 15 minute wait the entrees arrived and again they looked very tempting. Everything was good exactly as ordered and the flavours were blended with a professional steak house chef’s skill. Again Dianna and Tim both had the lobster and petite filet.

While I choose the rack of lamb.

Again this meal had all the making of a great dinner, but one mouthful changed the whole experience, everything was very cold, the plate themselves were as if they came straight from the refrigerator. The onions beneath the lamb medallions were cold slices (which are supposed to be grilled, see any grill marks)? The little crock pot again was cold as ice and the contents therein matched, Roasted potatoes and vegetables. This of course is an additional charge upon the Dream and should have been removed from our bill as no food was replaced with hot food. We did receive a phone call from guest services inquiring about the meal and when told they choose to do nothing.

The Dream offers many experiences and the service staff as I have said are very attentive and did all they can in their power to keep you happy, like “Lady” our Crimson server. But in my opinion they fail hugely in all they’re restaurants.

No comments: