By Eileen Ogintz
AT SEA ABOARD THE DIAMOND PRINCESS BETWEEN JAPAN AND RUSSIA — Sushi or Steak?
Like other cruise lines, Princess offers specialty restaurants on board for which you pay an extra fee.
“The dining room is like cafeteria food; if you want better food, you have to go to the specialty restaurants,” offered on veteran Princess cruiser.
I wouldn’t go that far but it is true that like on other cruise lines, the specialty restaurants offer an enhanced experience.
We had perfectly cooked filet mignon at Sterling Steakhouse where the waiter came to our table to show us the different cuts of meat. There were “loaded” baked potatoes and creamed spinach. Well worth the $25 surcharge, I thought. Other passengers must agree, as you need a reservation here.
When we had a hankering for sushi, we opted for Kai Sushi for lunch for $17 each. Sure we could have eaten for free in the dining room, the buffet, or grabbed a burger or pizza near the pool, but we are in Japan, after all, and didn’t have time this morning to hit the local fish market in Kushiro.
We weren’t disappointed as we dug in to an assortment of sushi, including Kabayaki (fresh eel), a mini bowl of Udon soup, salad and green tea ice cream with Red Bean Paste. You can also order Nigiri Sushi or Sashimi by the portion, as in any sushi restaurant.
For dinner, we opted for “Shabu Shabu” where we cooked beef, vegetables and tofu in a broth on an electric cooker on our table—for an upcharge. And today, they are serving grilled lobster on deck for lunch—as long as you are willing to spend another $15 or $20.
Another night, we choose the popular Sabatini’s ($25 each) where we have our choice of grilled eggplant and zucchini drizzled with olive oil, fried baby squid, seafood pasta or manicotti, Tuscan steak and lobster served three ways.
James Eaton, the ship’s Customer Services Director, notes Sabatini’s is especially popular with the Japanese who are seeking a Western experience just as Westerners want to learn more about Japanese culture.
He adds that as cruising is new to the Japanese, many stay on board during port days—to enjoy the ship. “They are learning cruising,” he said.
And this has proved a lucrative market for Princess. The company, which has three ships in Asia, two in Japan, has just announced that a new ship will be based in Asia.
Some passengers opt for every specialty dining experience they can—including cappuccinos ($2.50) soft drinks and more. Others prefer the dining rooms and Horizon Court, where given that we are in Japan and there are more than 1000 Japanese passengers on board, you’ll find a mix of Eastern and western cuisine—grilled fish and steamed rice for breakfast, for example, along with bacon and eggs.
Cruise Director Warren Smith suggests Western passengers embrace the opportunities on board to experience Japanese culture, not just when they get off the ship.
“Just be open to the opportunity,” he says.