Tuesday, March 17, 2009

MSC Orchestra: Dining Out

Food is a pretty personal subject and one that’s hotly debated amongst cruise passengers. This was good… That wasn’t...

I like Italian food, especially authentic Italian food. Unfortunately, many Americans haven’t had the opportunity to visit Italy and their exposure to “Italian” cuisine has been limited to Pizza Hut and Olive Garden where pasta is drowned in heavy sauces and garlic is the only identifiable spice—usually on crusty bread. The Italian food on MSC Orchestra was much lighter—particularly the spaghetti and other pasta dishes. Some people loved it and some didn’t. Mel and I often ordered more than one pasta to share and we particularly enjoyed a seafood risotto and cheese-filled cannelloni.

We set out to dine in each of MSC Orchestra's restaurants and, as a result, only had dinner in the dining room four times. We tried the Shanghai Chinese restaurant, the 4 Seasons for steaks, and even the casual buffet option for pizza.

Mel and I aren’t accustomed to eating a lot of Chinese food, but the generous portions in Shanghai were quite tasty. For two of us, the a la carte dinner was $34 and well worth it. What we do like is a good steak and the 4 Seasons didn’t disappoint us a bit. The filets were perfectly prepared and the entire meal was enjoyable in the aft-facing section of the buffet restaurant seating area (cordoned off in the evening). With a view over MSC Orchestra’s wake, the setting is divine and, for $25 each, we really got our money’s worth.

Now, about that pizza. Richard Sasso, President and CEO of MSC Cruises, claims it’s the best at sea and we aren’t about to argue. Baked in special pizza ovens at a temperature of approximately 600°, we always found piping hot pies available in the afternoon and evening. Slices went so fast that they didn’t have time to cool down. That says a lot.

Beneath the hot Caribbean sun, MSC Orchestra’s two ice cream options were poolside favorites—soft serve cones ($2) at the Barracuda Bar and a dozen flavors of gelato at the El Sombrero Bar available in cups, cones, or sundaes ($1.50-$4). While several lounges are designated “coffee bars,” specialty coffee drinks can be ordered ship wide.

In addition to restaurant meals, evening snacks were served in the wine-and-piano bar and MSC Cruises continues the tradition of lavish midnight buffets. The poolside buffet on Gala Night was truly a sight, with the kind of elaborate ice and vegetable carvings I haven’t seen in a long time.

We all know that it’s impossible to please everyone and Mel and I were happy to meet a fellow Georgian, Ken from Columbus who confided that he’s an avowed “foodie” and shared our enthusiasm for dining aboard MSC Orchestra.

(Cruise Diva is presently in Miami Beach for the Cruise Shipping Miami convention—formerly known as Seatrade—and will wrap up her MSC Orchestra review at CruiseDiva.com later this week.)

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