Working on a cruise ship for eight years was a unique experience that gave me the opportunity to see some incredible places around the world. The crew food on board, however, was often less than delicious, and I was always on the lookout for great places to eat while ashore. Finding truly authentic dining experiences in the tourist-heavy areas visited by major cruise lines can be harder than you expect; the prices can be high and authenticity sacrificed to satisfy tourists’ palates. A true foodie, I persevered, and enjoyed some amazing food experiences on my travels. Here are some of the most memorable…
Choripan – Montevideo, Uruguay
Near the pier in the South American city of Montevideo is Il Mercato del Puerto, a market filled with local crafts and restaurants serving barbequed meats of every description – a mixed plate might include local favourites like grilled brain and intestine. Opting for something a little less daunting but still deliciously authentic, I sampled the local specialty of Choripan, which is far more basic but truly delicious – a seasoned chorizo sausage on a fresh roll with a herb dressing…simple and tasty!
Pavlova – Roturua, New Zealand
From the port of Tauranga, I went on an excursion to Tamaki Maori Village. Here, costumed Maori performed a welcoming ceremony, taught us about Maori life, and showed us how to dance the Haka, followed by a performance of traditional singing and dancing. Afterward, we were treated to a Hangi feast, a meal of meat, potato, and vegetables slow-cooked with heated rocks in a hole dug into the ground. The most incredible part of the meal was the dessert – a pavlova. Named for the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, it’s an incredibly popular treat in New Zealand and Australia. A meringue base is filled with whipped cream and then topped with fresh fruit. This pavlova was
the tallest I’d ever seen, and covered in strawberries, kiwi, and best of all –passion fruit. Though not really a dessert person, I had two monstrous slices, and regretted nothing.
Greek Platter – Athens, Greece
Beneath the Acropolis, in the heart of La Plaka market, sits a little outdoor cafe overlooking the Monistiraki rail station. The find here was an unbelievably delicious Greek platter big enough for four of us, for an incredibly reasonable price. The plate was huge, featuring a variety of grilled meats – chicken, pork, herbed sausage, and of course lamb, served with potato salad, vegetables, and goat cheese dipping sauce. It was amazing food with an unbeatable view, and a real taste of Greece.
Savoury Crepe –Marseille, France
You know a meal was memorable when the friend you shared it with messages you to reminisce about it – five years later. The deliciousness that was still on our minds was an incredible savoury crepe we’d had in Marseille, sitting out in the sun on a gorgeous day. Not the typical crepe stuffed with filling then folded in half, this one had only the edges folded to create a large crispy square, with the toppings piled in the middle – sausage, potato, and onion in a tasty creamy sauce, with cheese melted into the folds of the square. Incredible.
Korean Barbecue – Busan, South Korea
It was with this same friend that I had perhaps my most authentic dining experience. Wandering the streets of Busan my first time in Asia, we found a nice-looking barbecue spot with a giant pig sign beckoning us inside to sample him. Though the owners spoke no English, they were eager to help, offering us a menu with pictures. We ordered just a basic plate of the pork (the piggy told us to!), and out came all the side dishes and condiments we could ask for. We started to cook our meat on our table’s self-service grill, only to have the owner shake his head at us and take over. He showed us how to grill the pork properly, how to wrap it in pickled root vegetables, and what to add. I never would have thought to eat it like that, and it was not only a delicious experience, but a cultural one too.
The Coconut Master – Hong Kong, China
My ship was docked in Hong Kong for two days, which meant I could visit the incredible Temple Street Night Market. Within the many stalls selling all kinds of knick-knacks and souvenirs, the
restaurants, and bars is the Coconut Master, a tiny hut where you can blend fresh fruit with coconut water. I chose mango, and after one sip, I was instantly regretting getting one to share with my friend. It was without a doubt the most delicious drink I have ever tasted. The next day, heading back to the ship we passed the area where the night market had been set up, and I had one thought –the Coconut Master. But we were running late, and didn’t know exactly where the little stall was. We had to keep walking, and it was sad.
|Mango Coconut Juice|
Tacos – Ensenada, Mexico
Ensenada is not the most attractive of cruise ports – it’s pretty much the place that ships dock on California or Hawaiian cruises to officially leave the United States. In fact, our ship usually only docked there from 4pm-8pm, and there was one place that crew members wanted to go – the Taqueria. An unassuming little restaurant, Mexico Lindo makes the best tacos I have ever had.
My favourite were the grilled steak tacos with cheese, topped with the guacamole, onions, and cilantro from the platter offered to each table free of charge along with several kinds of homemade salsa. Three tacos and a Coke came to about $5, and were worth every penny.
The World’s Best Burger – Ketchikan, Alaska
I know that calling Burger Queen’s burgers the world’s best is a big claim, but I stand by it . Another crew favourite, we would all flock to the tiny four-table shack or the collaborating bar across the street to
stuff our faces.
My Burger Queen burger was the Tropical – a flame grilled beef patty with grilled pineapple, Swiss cheese, onions, lettuce, and Thousand Islands dressing. Every single bite of this burger is heaven. They also serve incredible onion rings, and dozens of flavours of thick milkshakes, but the burgers are so big that all I ever needed with mine was a Cherry Pepsi. Burger Queen is not cheap, and it’s not fast. But for me, it’s the World’s Best Burger.
Have you had any incredible world food experiences that will make us all hungry?