Think a strict diet will limit your options for a vacation? Our Travel Expert Merissa Schultz shares why Norwegian’s Freestyle Dining is perfect for those who love food, and those who have certain dietary restrictions.
A weekend getaway; no alarm clocks, schedules, deadlines and in my mother’s case, no children. My mother and I recently had a great opportunity to take a re-positioning cruise along the West Coast from Los Angeles to Vancouver. The only “issue” that I could foresee was the food. I had recently made the switch from eating a traditional North American diet to eating a very strict protocol based on anti-inflammatory foods. No wheat, sugar, tomatoes, peppers, rice … the list was endless. I thought I would be subjected to a salad bar and cold meats to sustain myself on the trip.
The first day on board, my mother and I were welcomed with a lunch in Cagney’s Steakhouse as they served a simple salad with greens, asparagus and prosciutto. Not only were the greens fresh, the asparagus was just tender and wrapped in the prosciutto making each morsel a delicate dance of salty, flavourful and paleo-friendly. After polishing off my salad, I was resigned to my idea of being a green girl. The powerful flavours and textures convinced me that it would be alright. I could just keep eating at Cagney’s if all else failed.
Boy was I wrong (and in the best way possible). That night we decided to try eating at the Summer’s Palace; another great sit-down restaurant. Now, before I go any further, lets talk about cruise dinners in general. Most cruise lines will have you seated at a particular time, and perhaps have a set menu for the night. Or your other option is usually to eat at a buffet. Norwegian had the great idea to create a “Freestyle” cruise, and with that comes their amazing dining options. There are many things about the cruise that were definitely freestyle, but the main attraction for me was the food and restaurant selections. You could choose to eat when you wished, the kind of food you preferred and the variety you wanted.
Summer’s Palace offered great seafood dishes, a few Italian inspired, and a few great appetizers. After a little bit of conversation with our waiter, I was able to find out what meal items were gluten free. I ordered grilled prawns as an appetizer and it was succulent, juicy and marinated with garlic and lemon. This was followed with lamb served with bacon wrapped asparagus (what can I say, I love asparagus). The top of the lamb was even crusted with an onion fried crumb.
The Summer’s Palace soon became my favourite place to eat in the evenings. Mornings were spent eating at the Garden Cafe, where I could watch Ramon crack fresh eggs on a skillet with vegetables and meats. With freshly cut fruit and yogurt, the simple fares were delicious and totally paleo! I soon became confident and started to seek out different restaurant menus to see what I could try. Everything from seafood buckets, to chicken with tossed veggies, were all full of flavour, followed my protocol and never left me feeling like I was running on salad alone.
The last night I decided to eat at the Lotus Garden; an Asian inspired restaurant. I have a special place in my heart for Thai, Japanese, Indian, Chinese and Korean foods; I love the fresh flavours and special attention to ingredients.
One of my favourites is ramen, or pho. I ordered the BBQ pork ramen, without the ramen, much to my hearts sadness, and just extra bean sprouts instead. Chopsticks in hand and a smile on my face, I delved into the fun concoction. The soup had a rich clear broth, the kind only made from hours of simmering bones, and the BBQ pork was so tender. My expectations again were exceeded.
Now no matter how strict your life may be, you are meant to enjoy a treat or two. Thankfully chocolate is still something on my protocol. I was grateful for chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate and walnut cups and chocolate and cranberries. Sweet and delicious, they pretty much ended each one of my dinner meals each night.
This experience was one for the books. I had a relaxing experience with my mom, felt pampered with a great room, awesome staff, and food that not only was delicious but was exactly what my body needed. If I could go again tomorrow I would be on the boat and enjoying prosciutto wrapped asparagus, and BBQ pork soup happily.