I don’t think I have mentioned here what cruise line we took for our Alaskan trip but it was Princess. Specifically, the Coral Princess. This was only our second cruise, first one on Princess. The only other cruise we had to compare it to was Royal Caribbean International, which we sailed about three years ago.
As far as food is concerned, I have heard many people say Princess and RCI are pretty comparable. For the most part we found this to be true but we had a couple of dining experiences on this cruise that were definitely above and beyond. One in particular was the Chef’s Table.
The Chef’s Table, we were told, was something created to woo travel agents but word got out about the experience and others wanted in on it. Now, it’s limited to the first 10-12 people who sign up. You can’t sign up ahead of the cruise, and there is only one per cruise. It’s basically a chance for the executive chef to cook specifically for you and to create and an unforgettable dining experience that not only includes great food, wine and champagne but also a tour of the galley and a few other extras.
I learned about the Chef’s Table before the cruise by reading someone else’s review in Cruise Critic. I thought it would be a nice surprise for Brian but learned I had to wait until we boarded the ship to sign up. I, honestly, had forgotten about it but the first night on board the ship after a minor hiccup with the dining room staff, the head waiter spent some extra time with us and mentioned the Chef’s Table. We told him we were interested but we had to wait until the next day to find out if we got in. We did, and the dinner took place our third night on the ship, the day we spent in Glacier Bay.
We had to wear closed-toe shoes, something I didn’t bring in the dress shoe variety so I had to change in and out of my running shoes. Then we had to put on white lab coats and scrub down like we were going in to surgery. They then paraded us through the dining room on our way to the galley. I’m sure others in the dining room thought we were food inspectors.
Once in the galley, we got a tour from the executive chef and an elegant little reception with an ice sculpture and a nice glass of champagne ( the real stuff from France – fancy!) We then noshed on some amazing appetizers that I would never order on my own but was so glad to have tried: escargot (snails), caviar ( fish eggs), and steak tartar (raw beef). They were all outside the comfort zone of things I would order, but they were all absolutely de-lish. But the thing I learned about this evening right away was that despite the high bar at which we started, each course was better than the last.
After the reception inside the galley, we were led to a private table near the back of the dining room. It was here, we realized an amazing evening can be made or broken by the company you hold. Our evening wasn’t broken, but only because we both have a good sense of humor.
Remember Kristion Wiig’s Penelope character on Saturday Night Live? The one-upper who took bragging to whole new levels?
We had the male version of Penolope at our table. The conversation was something like:
A fellow table mate: So, you went to Denali before coming on the cruise?
Us: Yes. It was amazing.
Fellow table mate: did you see any wild life?
Us: Yes, actually, we got so lucky. We saw lots of wildlife including a mama bear and her baby cubs.
Male Penelope: I saw Bears at Denali, too. Yeah, I actually wrestled one and won. So. Yeah. My time at Denali was better that yours, so …
Ok, maybe not THAT bad, but he did tell us that he got to co-pilot a fighter jet once even though he was not actually a pilot, or even in the aviation industry. One of our tables mates, however, was a retired American Airlines pilot. See what I mean … Penelope.
Again, we have a sense of humor so instead of him annoying us, we found it somewhat entertaining. In fact, the guy provided hours of entertainment as Brian and I spent the rest of the night after dinner imitating him. Yeah, we’re mature and classy that way.
Anyway … Back to the food. The main course was a roasted veal shank and beef tenderloin served with a portabella mushroom sauce and mousseline potatoes. (I just cheated and had to look at the menu they gave us to confirm the potato name. Ok, yes. And then I Googled it. Mousseline potatoes = Potatoes cooked in milk & garlic, pureed with olive oil, cream & seasoning. So, basically, facy mashed potatoes. All I know is there were awesome.) I am not a food blogger therefore I am not one of those people who photographs food and posts the pictures on Facebook. I made exceptions this time.
Here are the chef and kitchen staff preparing our meal table side:
And then there were, literally, three desserts with this as the grand finale:
I don’t think I mentioned half of what was included in the dinner. The food just kept coming, each course paired with a wine. Each participant also got pictures with the chef and a signed cookbook of Princess recipes.
The event was a highlight of the cruise. It was truly a memorable meal and worth every penny ($98/pp). It was also worth the extra workout I had to do the next day to balance it all out.