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Chef’s Table: Carnival Liberty, 10/31/2011

Chef’s Table:  Carnival Liberty, 10/31/2011

We are foodies.  We love new tastes, new restaurants, and new food experiences.  When the cruise lines announced Chef’s Table experiences, we couldn’t wait to be among the first to experience one, and we’ve now had Chef’s Table or similar experiences on Princess ships, Carnival ships and Norwegian Spirit.  So far, the hands-down winner of the best Chef’s Table experience in Princess Cruise Line. 

Our first Chef’s Table experience was on the Caribbean Princess, and that experience is still our favorite.  We were escorted into the Galley, where we jackets like those doctors wear, and then we were served champagne and multiple appetizers that were presented so beautifully, it was a shame to even eat them.  We were given a brief tour of the Galley in action during the evening meal, then we were escorted to a large table in the corner of one of the main dining rooms, where we were served course and after course of food paired with the appropriate wines.  Spigots of meat were flamed tableside, turning all eyes to our corner.  Our table was attended by chef and maître d’ the entire evening, as well as a few of their best servers, and the evening wrapped up with complimentary pictures of each of us with the chef and the Princess cookbook autographed by the chef.  No meal on other cruise lines has exceeded this experience for us. 

We enjoyed an “Enchanted Evening” aboard the Norwegian Spirit, not a Chef’s Table, but more like a really nice date night.  It was held in the special Art Gallery aboard that ship, and we had amazing food and service, with live entertainment from a wonderful musician we’d already been enjoying during our cruise.  This was our second best experience. 

Carnival is our least favorite, but if you’d never experienced these other meals, you’d probably love it.  Our Chef’s Table aboard the Carnival Liberty last week was an improvement over the Chef’s Table experience on the Carnival Dream.  On the Dream, we were escorted into the Galley, served appetizers and champagne, enjoying watching one person mix up the wonderful Chocolate Melting Cake, then we were seated at a long table in the Galley for our meal.  The meal and service was wonderful, but we felt like stepchildren, eating in the kitchen instead of a beautiful dining room.  At least on the Liberty, we were escorted from the Galley back into the Golden Olympian Dining Room where we seated in a private dining room just off that dining room.  In both these experiences, the wine was not paired with the foods.  We were simply offered a choice of red or white wines.  More importantly, all of these meals cost $75 per person, so it’s interesting that there are such large differences from one to the next.  Unfortunately, on this cruise, we also had to choose between dressing for the Halloween festivities or attending the Chef’s Table.  Our choice demonstrates we really are foodies!

If you enjoy interesting food experiences, I’d still highly recommend these on any ships and cruise line.  Here’s the menu from our Carnival Liberty Chef’s Table: 

Executive Chef Frank Fernando, Aboard the Carnival Liberty, October 31, 2011


Parmesan Core & Olives

Chorizo & Dates, Piquillo Sofrito

Focaccia, Mascarpone Cream & Proscuitto Crudo

Langoustine & Sundried Tomato Jam Fritters



Tomatoes Our Way

Aerated Tomato Juice, Cocoa Butter Coated, Chardonnay Poached


Tuna Banh Mi

Lemon Bread, Sesame Crisp, Miso Cream, Avocado Gel


Cornish Hen

Caramelized, Butternut Squash Sofrito



Spinach, Green Peas, Warm Turnip & Apple Juice



Herb Pesto, Cured Tomatoes, Carrots, Fava, Mushroom Earth, Condensed Beets


Short Ribs

Slow Stewed, Potato Pebbles, Pumpkin Fudge, Tomato Dust



Chef in a Candy Shop


The Tomatoes Our Way were really tasty, and, interestingly, the men enjoyed the cocoa butter coated tomatoes more than the women.  The Cornish hen was just half the breast, but that was the taste I enjoyed the most from the whole evening.  The short ribs were melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and I can’t say enough about that small taste of pumpkin fudge.  Just … WOW! 


We watched the Chef and his assistants prepare this dessert for 30 – 45 minutes during our meal, and it was so beautifully presented, we hated to eat it after all the time it took to prepare.  During the meal, a magician slipped in to dazzle us with a few tricks, and a photographer slipped in as well to snap a picture of our table with the chef.  At the conclusion of the evening, we each received a copy of the picture, which is a fun keepsake from the evening. 


The Chef’s Table is usually only offered to only 10 guests per night, on only two nights in a 7-night cruise.  You usually need to book this as soon as you board the ship in order to reserve one of this few seats, but John Heald offers to pre-book Chef’s Table reservations if you contact him on his blog.  (Here’s the link – – you need to tell him the ship, sail date, and your booking number.)  Even though this wasn’t our favorite experience, we still give Chef’s Table a Thumbs Up! 

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Luggage Express After Your Cruise – Thumbs Up!

Luggage Express – Thumbs Up!

We’ve just returned from our latest Caribbean cruise, and I promised to tell you all about it when we got back. It was wonderful, as always, but the last best thing about our cruise is the first thing I want to tell you about.  Luggage Express is a program where you put your bags outside the door of your cruise stateroom, and you don’t handle them again until you’re at your home airport.  Additionally, you are checked in for your cruise and receive your boarding pass, so all you have to do following your cruise is pass through airport security.

We’ve seen this program offered for a while, but we usually stay in port a day or two following the cruise, so we weren’t eligible for the program.  You have to fly home the same day you disembark the ship in order to participate in this program.  Since we were flying home as soon we disembarked this time, we decided to participate in the program.

About mid-week during our cruise, we received a flier about Luggage Express. The flier showed what airlines agreed to be part of this program and explained the program. Since we were flying home the same day we disembarked the ship this time, and Southwest Airlines was part of the program, we decided to sign-up. The cost with Carnival Cruise Line’s Luggage Express is $20 per person, plus the airline’s cost per checked bag.  Our cost was only $40, since “our bags fly free” on Southwest Airlines.

Additionally, Carnival completed our check-in and provided us with our boarding pass before we disembarked.  All we had to do at the airport was clear security.  We were traveling with another couple, who also used Luggage Express, and we both agreed this was going to be a great program … as long as our luggage arrived with us in Little Rock.

We had four bags, and our friends had two bags.  We waited with nervous anticipation as the luggage carousel started, but we had all six bags and were happily headed home.  Without a doubt, the airline could lose or delay a bag with Luggage Express, the same as any other time, but it sure was nice to know this program works great.

Thumbs up!  If you have a chance to participate in Luggage Express, it was so nice to not have to search for our luggage in the cruise terminal, drag it through customs and to a waiting taxi, then drag it into the airport to check it for our flights.  We highly recommend this program.

Stay tuned with more highlights of our recent trip!