Familiar foods—burgers and fries, pizza, steak, pasta, salads, and ice cream—are plentiful on most cruise ships. But those with curious taste buds can also try some unusual menu items you won’t typically find back home. After all—isn’t that what traveling is all about? Here are nine to try on your next cruise adventure.
Norwegian Brown Cheese
If the idea doesn’t sound appealing, just try it. This tasty Nordic specialty, offered in Mamsen’s restaurant (onboard all Viking Ocean ships), is called gjetost. Served with Norwegian waffles and cream, topped by fresh berries—yes, this combo sounds a bit odd—it’s not to be missed. The rich and mildly sour caramel-like flavor of the cheese is offset by the sweetness of the waffles and the tartness of the berries. It just might become your favorite onboard nibble.
Poisson Cru & Moonfish
There’s no better time than cruising between the magical islands of French Polynesia in the South Pacific—especially when aboard ms Paul Gauguin—to try these Tahitian specialties. To make poisson cru (French for raw fish), the chefs in La Veranda and Le Grill mix cubes of fresh sashimi-grade tuna with coconut milk, lime juice, cucumber, carrot, tomato, and onion, then serve it for lunch. Not a fan of raw fish? You can try moonfish (aka opah): a large, round silver and orange fish that, when cooked, has a rich, creamy texture. It is grilled at least once for dinner during the voyage.
Plantain and Yucca Gnocchi & Grilled Paiche
You don’t need potatoes to make superb gnocchi, as the chefs onboard Aqua Expeditions’ Aria Amazon prove with their regional Peruvian version that uses mashed yucca root, also known as cassava, and plantains. You’ll probably dine on grilled paiche, too: an extremely large and serpent-like river fish that’s actually quite mild and is often called the “chicken of the river.”
Made from the juice of the yuzu fruit, this creamy Japanese desert is served at Bonsai Sushi, which is currently a dining option (at extra cost) on six Carnival ships (Carnival Breeze, Carnival Dream, Carnival Legend, Carnival Pride, Carnival Sunshine, and Carnival Vista) and will also be onboard Carnival Horizon debuting later this month. What does it taste like? Citrusy, savory, and sour—prepare to pucker.
If you love garlic and don’t mind the texture of mushrooms, find out what snails—escargot in French—taste like while onboard a number of cruise ships with French restaurants or special-themed menus. These include Oceania Riviera and Oceania Marina (you can try them in Jacques), Disney Cruise Line (they’re served au gratin in Lumiere’s), and Royal Caribbean (an option in the main dining room on many ships).
These are meatballs, but as you can probably tell from the name, they’re not your typical Italian meatballs. This German dish, which originated in the city of Konigsberger, is served at the lunch buffet on many of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise’s ships. It takes about 17 ingredients to create these tender beef-pork morsels that are served in a white sauce made with butter, flour, capers, white wine, lemon juice, sour cream, and a pinch of sugar.
Alligator & Mudbugs
In the Bayou Café specialty restaurant (bookable at extra cost) aboard Princess Cruises’ Coral Princess and Island Princess, you can chew on a Cajun classic. The New Orleans-inspired eatery serves up a Smothered Gator Ribs dish that’s barbequed over seasoned fries. But beware: the meat can be dry so have a tall, cold drink nearby. If gator isn’t your thing, try the mudbugs (aka crawfish) that come in the N’Awlins Crawfish, Mudbug Bisque.