Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Travel Dining - Sapphire Princess cruise ship dining

New: Travel Dining - Sapphire Princess cruise ship dining
What’s up:  Strawberry coffee cake and must-have summer desserts , Cheap baking substitutes

I was recently invited on board the Sapphire Princess for a behind-the-scenes look of the ship’s kitchen. The last time I was on cruise ship was about 10 years ago, so you can imagine how much has changed since.  The Sapphire Princess recently had a face lift and I (along with a few other Vancouver foodies including Vancouver Foodster, FollowmeFoodie and Modern Mix Vancouver) was given the opportunity to try out some of their newest and tastiest items.

Luxurious poolside view of the Sapphire Princess.
Stepping into the ship’s Piazza, I was bombarded with tantalizing smells from Alfredo’s Pizzeria. While incomparable to the tastes of Famoso Neopolitan Pizzeria on Commercial drive,  Alfredo’s still held its own with handmade Neapolitan pizzas and fresh, tasty ingredients like prosciutto and basil.

Little bites and samples aboard the ship.

It was a foodie’s dream having an entire table of delicious bits and bites set before us.  We also sampled tender and juicy slices of prime rib, veal and tenderloin, all part of the $95 Chef’s Table option. This portion ended with a decadent dessert of molten chocolate lava cake set atop an isomalt dish and a beautifully crafted sugar sculpture.

Chocolate lava cake.

Moving on into the kitchens we were presented with the opportunity to see where all the magic happened. How a 150-person kitchen crew served 2,500 people every week.  We started off by braiding and designing our own bread loaves. While some turned out better than others, it was most definitely an entertaining experience, braiding and scoring the bread loaves and then of course tasting them during our next meal.

After baking the bread, we moved onto creating the ship’s signature dessert, the Love Boat Dream, a decadent chocolate mousse set atop a brownie crust with a side of berry compote.
Once the hard labour was over and we’d earned our keep, we moved on over to Sabatini’s, the cruiseline’s signature Italian restaurant. This is one of the extras on the ship. For an additional $20, you can reserve a spot in this popular restaurant during your cruise. For the main courses, we were served Sabatini’s handmade ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese, chives and truffle along with some rich, buttery lobster risotto.

Lobster risotto, beef tenderloin, prosciutto and olives, and fresh ravioli fillings. 

The multi-course lunch was capped off with the Love Boat Dream dessert and a shot of their homemade Limoncello.

Decadent chocolate Love Boat Dream dessert.

All the steakhouses and the Italian restaurant require you to pay an extra “cover” charge of anywhere from $20 to $25 on top of your original rate. With five other dining rooms, a buffet, a 24-hour cafe and a pizzeria, it’s unlikely you’ll need to spend the extra money for the optional dining choices.

It was comforting to see how much care and passion the culinary operations manager, Pierre-Marie LePrince, displayed while presenting the food and menus he created. Like on most cruises, the staff were incredibly friendly and the ship was spick and span. With rates starting at $599 per person for seven nights to Alaska, it’s definitely a good deal. However, the majority of travellers did appear to be of the retired variety so it wouldn’t be too much of a party ship.

Since ten years ago, the food on cruiseships have definitely had an upgrade. Now if only airlines would follow suit...

Photography by Elynn Chen

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