Cruise cuisine: what South Africans can find on their plate out at sea

Local cruises are becoming increasingly popular with South Africans seeking an-all inclusive holiday where they only have to unpack once. One of the biggest draws is of course, the unlimited food, but if a buffet is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about breakfast, lunch and dinner on a cruise ship, think again.


These days, mealtimes at sea are an exquisite experience, where the quality of the experience triumphs quantity. On a recent visit to South Africa, Eamonn Ferrin, Norwegian Cruise Lines Vice President & Managing Director South Africa, dished on what cruise lines have in store for South African foodies looking to book a local cruise.


On a Norwegian Cruise Line sailing, it’s about freedom, flexibility and choice. “Cruise passengers are no longer bound to eating same thing, served the same way, every day,” Ferrin insists. 


With as many as 27 restaurants on a single NCL ship, I asked Ferrin to narrow down his top five: 


Dinner à deux


If you’re a fan of French cuisine or plan to celebrate a special occasion or romantic date night on your cruise, Le Bistro has that quintessential romantic setting. 


The service is outstanding, says Ferrin, and meals are prepared with care and attention to detail. “Dine like a Parisian on favourites such as succulent bouillabaisse and classic côte de boeuf, but don’t forget to start with the Escargots à La Bourguignonne appetiser. It’s, you guessed it, diced snail baked in garlic herb butter,” he says. 


Miso hungry, miso happy


Flying shrimp. Onion volcanoes. Twirling knives. The sizzles and surprises never seem to cease at Teppanyaki, the authentic Japanese hibachi restaurant with a lively atmosphere and tables in full view of skilled chefs who slice, chop and sizzle steak, seafood and chicken on a large steel grill right before passengers’ eyes. 


Ferrin describes it as the real “dinner and a show” and recommends the chilled, sake-infused Wasabi Cocktail paired with Asuka, a tender filet mignon dish served with grilled shrimp.

Teppanyaki on the Norwegian Gem

Bienvenido a Los Lobos!


“For some authentic Mexican, make your way to Los Lobos,” urges Ferrin. “You’ll soon find yourself sipping on handcrafted margaritas, and savouring the most unique flavour combinations.”


His top dish here is the carne asada marinated in guajillo chilli, and, for dessert, the Ibarra chocolate ice-cream topped with dulce de leche sauce. “If you find yourself seated here more than once, you’ll also have to try the Enchiladas de Mole, two chicken tinga enchiladas in a traditional mole poblano sauce,” he adds. 

One more pint


The pioneer of ‘freestyle’ cruising, passengers on an NCL cruise can eat whenever they want and wherever they want, at a variety of different venues, including O’Sheehan’s, says Ferrin. 


The venue is a Norwegian standard, says Ferrin, who describes the fare as hearty, English pub-style. Think battered fish, chunky chips and roasted chicken pot pie. “Named after the former NCL president, O’Sheehan’s is available on just over half the ships in the fleet and is just the place to kick back and grab a beer with friends and family. If you’re in the mood for some casual onboard dining at any time of the day, or night, this is just the place to go.”

O’Sheehans on the Norwegian Gem

A bite of Brazilian


Ferrin suggests we stick to the salad bar for starters at NCL’s authentic Brazilian steakhouse, with a large assortment of roasted meats presented table-side. 


“Make sure you save a little space for the Picanha,” he adds. “It is Brazil’s signature cut of prime sirloin. Finish your dinner with a generous slice of roasted pineapple dusted in cinnamon sugar. Not only is it a light dessert but pineapple contains bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme which helps break down food…”


Many first-time cruisers prefer to stick to the first onboard dining experience they like, rather than explore their way through any new and never-tried culinary territory, says Ferrin. His advice: “Whether you’re a first-time cruiser or an experienced traveller, make it a goal to savour something, anything new, every day of your cruise.” 


If you’re ready to head out on a local cruise for your next holiday NCL offers a wide range of African and South African cruise itineraries.