Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas
In May I set sail on my fourth cruise, this time to celebrate my mother-in-law's 70's birthday. The Royal Caribbean ship "Freedom of the Seas" is the largest cruise ship in the world and has a rock climbing wall, surfing pool, swimming pools, ice-skating rink, 9-hole miniature golf course, a huge gym and even a boxing ring. And of course many restaurants, cafes, Ben & Jerry's, Johnny Rockets, a pizza place, 24 hour cafe with food, a wine bar, a pub and more bars than I could count. I was amazed how much food they had to prepare when I did Regent cruise which has only 700 passengers. Freedom of the Seas served 3,634 people. It is just beyond my imagination.
The ship departed from from Orlando, Florida and stopped at Labadde, Haiti; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Cozumel, Mexico; and back to Florida in 7 nights.
Overall the food quality was better than I expected. Considering the restaurants must feed 3,000 people 24 hours a day, I think they do an amazing job. Sure their food was not the greatest but I never felt that I was eating bad food. The main dinning offers about 4 different dishes for each course every day. Besides the main dining and buffet, they also had two premium restaurants which you can reserve for an extra fee. One is Portofino Italian Restaurant (which we skipped) and the other is Chops Grille which we visited on our one adults-only night. There was a tense moment in the Chops Grille's dining room because our main course did not show up for almost an hour after our appetizer and they did not want to admit there was some kind of miscommunication. But the food at Chops Grille was quite good. I had fish for the main course while the others had meat dish. My mother-in-law had roasted rack of lamb and said it was really wonderful.
From Chops Grille
From top : Star Anise Cured Fish Trio; Alaskan Halibut baked in cedar; Chocolate Mud Pie
While we were eating at Chops Grille, my 13 and 10 year old nieces dined by themselves at the main dining room. They told us they were escorted to a window table and selected the meal from the menu. I think a cruise is a wonderful place to make your kids familiar with a fancy restaurant experience. They even tried blue cheese ravioli and escargot and ordered food like adult.
Some examples of the food from the main dining room were Escargots Bourguignonne, Oxtail Broth, Truffled Wild Mushroom Linguini Alfredo, Roasted Duck, Garlic Tiger Shrimp, Chicken Marsala, Lamb Shank with Rosemary, Asian Fried Tofu, Citrus-cured Salmon, Black Angus Top Sirloin, Kabuli Chana (Chickpea curry), Chilled GOlden Delicious Apple Soup, Cram Cake, Shrimp and Mahi Mahi Tempura, Chocolate Brownie Sandwich, Potato Gnocchi ... to name only few from the menu from whole cruise.
Besides eating, drinking, gambling and having a good time with family on the ship, I had one other goal: to eat "curried goat" in Jamaica. I have a great memory about curried goat from 15 years ago on my first cruise to Jamaica and I wanted to experience that moment again, even though I know it is hard to do especially in a town where the cruise ships stop. I asked many Jamaicans where I should go to get the best curried goat and they all said either "at my house" or to some city many miles from where we docked. Disappointing. I gave up finding the best but I found a couple local places had it on their menu. One promising place told us to come back in an hour. So one hour later we showed up and of course they did not have it. Of course. But we expected that would happen so meanwhile we scouted out a few other places and eventually we ended up at a place called Jolly's Take Out Restaurant.
They had all the Caribbean staples like grilled fish, fried chicken, jerked chicken, beans and rice. While I was waiting for our food, there were people coming in and out ordering their lunch. It took only a few minutes to get the food but it was nice and hot. My curried goat was really tender and the meat came off the bone easily. It had an amazing aromatic Jamaican curry flavor soaked deeply into the meat. I just can't believe I don't like meat but there I was eating goat like a monster. And of course, I had a red stripe to accompany it. My plate was the smallest size of all but it was plenty of food. And needless to say, it was extremely cheap. I would say it was not the best curry goat, but it still brought the taste back that I remember from 15 years ago. That's what I call happiness.