Food - 2006 Carnival Valor Wine Cruise

Food quality is an extremely personal judgement. If someone lives on McDonalds, they will find the buffet to be amazing. If they tend to eat at four star restaurants, they will be disappointed in the buffet. It's a matter of your expectations and your level of typical eating.

The Fish & Chips is what most people rave about on the Valor / Liberty set of ships. A key here is that it's only open during lunch hours and is "hidden" up above the buffet line. Many people never even find this restaurant. It has fried oysters, lightly seared tuna, fish stew and much more. When we had this on the Liberty in Dec 2005 we found it simply amazing. We ate here pretty much daily. We thought it was very good on the Valor, but not nearly as good as the Liberty had been. The amount of "stuff" per serving was less. The quality of the oysters was less. There were strange things in the tuna. All sorts of little issues. It's still worth finding immediately, when the lines are low. After a few days people figure out where it is and the lines get longer. But it was a disappointing slide down in quality from last year.

We ate buffet for breakfast and lunch - so see, just like the people who refused to eat formal for any meals, we certainly understand that mindset for breakfast and lunch. We wanted to grab random foods and go sit by a window, not deal with menus or waiters or any of that. In fact for breakfast Bob would usually go down, get me some melons and raisin bran, and bring it back up to the room for me. I'd then eat it in bed while we chatted. I think I only ate *at* the breakfast buffet twice - once early on, and once when he was off playing golf.

For lunch, I'd go through the salad area, getting lettuce, mushrooms, cucumbers, bacon bits, eggs, and a bit of potato salad. I also would go in the deli line for some tuna fish. That was my lunch, and was quite filling. I went with water as the drink, although one of the lunches I did get a glass of sparkling wine from the back bar. Bob went for more of the full buffet options and ended with an ice cream soft serve. He did try the deli and oriental options a few times and liked them. So for us both breakfast and lunch were casual, in Rosie's area, and quite good.

For an afternoon snack we sometimes had the sushi - but I was always disappointed that it's really not sushi. Apparently they're not allowed to have raw fish. So it's always a cooked roll of some sort. I actually love sashimi - i.e. just the raw fish - so to have rice around cooked stuff wasn't quite the same for me :) They offered one sake which was served *super* hot.

We were lucky in that between the wine club offerings and other ship offerings we had free cocktails and appetizers before pretty much every dinner. So we really didn't have to look for food or alcohol between lunch and dinner. In fact I think the only one drink outside of dinner that I ordered the entire week was that one glass of sparkling wine to go with lunch. For dinner, we bought a glass each for the first dinner, then over the next few nights we bought two bottles (a Jekel pinot noir and a Fuaillette Champagne) to supplement those we'd brought and our table-mates got.

The dinners are itemized each day. I had *adored* the chocolate melting cake on the Liberty last year, and looked forward to it eagerly on this trip. I was happy to see it was an option every single day. I got it every single day. Only one day was it actually great. The other times it ranged from sort of liquid to completely solid. It seemed to be based on how long your dinner service took. The longer you waited, the more solid it got.

The filet mignon was really good, and the chateaubriand was really good. The instant potatoes with the chateaubriand were really bad. Other than that, all the food was tasty. The rolls were always fresh and delicious. The butter was soft and easy to spread. The fresh cracked pepper was worth waiting for.

We had a bottle of port in the room so we swung by the Java bar to pick up a slice of black forest cake before heading back to the room a few times. This made a perfect evening snack while we hung out on the balcony or in the room.

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