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Review: Royal Caribbean Wonderland Restaurant

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When it comes to specialty restaurants on ships, I very much enjoy them… but don’t necessarily classify them as must-do. After all, I can eat at a steakhouse or an Italian restaurant back home. But there’s an exception to every rule, and for me that would be Royal Caribbean’s Wonderland. Because unlike the other specialty venues commonly found on cruise ships, Wonderland is so unique that it’s unlikely you’ll find a similar experience in a land-based restaurant in your hometown, or anywhere nearby.

In fact, Wonderland is so distinctive a dining experience that it calls for a review that is equally unique. So with that in mind, I’m going to offer you a brief, borderline generic description in the first section, and then issue a spoiler alert so that if you want to let Wonderland’s mysteries and delights catch you off guard, you’ll be able to.

Quick Facts

  • On Which Ships: Wonderland can currently be found on Anthem, Harmony, and Ovation of the Seas.
  • Type Of Food: Modern, eclectic with an emphasis on molecular gastronomy preparations.
  • Cost: Around $45 per person, although discounts can often be had if booking in advance.

READ MORE: 50 Anthem of the Seas Tips

Atmosphere

While each of the Wonderland eateries is slightly different, each pretty much defines the word “whimsical.” High-backed chairs, magical menus, and velvet-clad waiters dashing about with smoking, bubbling, colorful culinary creations immediately signal to arriving guests that this won’t be just another night in the main dining room. The menu is broken up into five “elements” – sun, ice, fire, water, earth, and dreams. Diners are given the option of choosing two from each category or allowing their waiter to put together a selection for them.

This is not a restaurant for those who are picky eaters or timid about trying new things. I would also say that, despite the decor and atmosphere, this is not a restaurant for children. More than any other restaurant on the ship – and perhaps even at sea – this is one that shouldn’t be booked for the entire family without careful consideration. I watched as a woman at a nearby table huffed, puffed, and sighed her way through the meal, refusing to even consider tasting anything that did not look familiar even as the rest of her group gasped with delight and insisted, “Try this… I promise, you’ll like it!”

Now, here’s where I tell you that fortune favors the bold, and recommend that – in order to experience all that Wonderland has to offer – you stop reading. What follows will contain details about my experience. In other words, consider this a meal-related “spoiler alert.”

A Culinary Journey

My playful and personable server Ivan walked me through the menu, although to be honest, it was Greek to me… even without his thick, Bolivian accent. So rather than figure out what a “bordelaise sauce” was or whether I’d like a “floral yuzu granite,” I opted to put myself in Ivan’s hands. He asked me a few questions about likes and dislikes, I admitted to being game for just about anything and a few minutes later, I was going down the rabbit hole thanks to a buffalo chicken egg and a crispy crab cone topped with an avocado mousse. As a sorta-kinda wanna-be foodie who only a few short years ago started exploring foods beyond those best classified as “fast,” the meal was an incredible experience. And because I was letting someone else select the food for me, it felt rather like being at a Chef’s Table with a pre-conceived menu, and I mean that in the best possible way.

buffalo chicken egg

After several rounds of appetizers came perhaps the dish I found the most intimidating and, ultimately, incredible. Dubbed “baby vegetables in a garden,” this gorgeously plated salad features various vegetables seeming to sprout from a patch of dirt (in reality, crumbled rye bread, if I’m not mistaken). Your server then covers the scenic vista with a white dressing, making it appear the garden is buried in snow. I’m about as far from being a salad person as it’s possible to get, and yet I would have licked the plate were it not impolite to do so. (And, er, actually may have when nobody was looking.)

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baby vegetables in a garden

Next up were the main courses… and I say courses because there were two, one representing the sea and one representing earth. I was dining alone, and can’t help suspecting that both the branzino in crispy bread and humungous slab of terroir beef were intended for two. I’d like to say that, mindful of the 10 pounds cruisers notoriously put on, I showed some restraint… but that would be a lie. The melt-in-your-mouth meat – deboned by your server – was every bit as I’d hoped, while the real surprise was the fish.

terroir beef

I’m not a huge fan of seafood, so when it arrived at the table I regretted not having been more vocal in my preference for meat. But any reservations I had melted away the moment I took a bite of the perfectly prepared branzino, served atop a tasty rice with a tamarind infusion. The fish was instead topped with a thin piece of baked bread which maintained its crunch much better than a traditional breading would have.

branzino in crispy bread

Full to bursting, there was simply no room for dessert. And yet, if there was one thing I knew, it was that at Wonderland, dessert was a must.

Savoring The World

While there are several desserts on the Wonderland menu, I went into this meal knowing that there was really only one true option: The World. Perhaps no other dish on the menu so perfectly reflects the restaurant’s playfulness as this dish; as decadent as it is delightful. When presented by your server, it is a seemingly solid ball of chocolate atop a bed of rice krispie treats. Your server then pours warm caramel sauce over the globe, which dissolves to reveal peanut butter ganache and salted caramel ice cream. By the time I’d gorged myself on the tasty treat, I’d determined that its true name should be (The Best Dessert In) The World.

The World

Final Thoughts

If you’re a fan of shows like Top Chef and have marveled at Wylie Dufresne-inspired creations – heck, if you know who Wylie Dufresne is – you’re going to want to book a table at Wonderland. The restaurant definitely is not going to be for everyone, but for those looking for something about as far from run-of-the-mill as it is possible to get, this will prove to be an unforgettable meal.

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FOOD

10 Reasons to Visit Carnival’s Coffee Bar

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No matter what you call it – the coffee shop, the café, the “Java Café” on some ships – the coffee shop on Carnival Cruise Line’s serve up so much more than coffee. It’s true that the coffee here may cost a few dollars (unless you have the Cheers! package), but it’s well worth a visit.

1. Someone else makes it.

Sure, you can grab your own coffee on lido deck or have it sent to your room via room service. But why go to the trouble when someone else will make your coffee for you? Some may call this lazy, but you’re on vacation! I drink boring black coffee every day at home. When I’m a cruise, I want those tasty lattes.

2. Specialty coffees and teas

Of course, being a coffee shop, you’ll find an assortment of specialty coffees on the menu. On several ships, they’re even brewed with Starbucks coffee. Options include espresso, cappuccino, lattes, iced coffees, and a “mochachino.” And if you want some extra flavor, there are several different syrups to choose from. The coffee shop also sells an assortment of flavors of specialty hot teas, plus a chai tea latte.

3. The loyalty punch card

For those who don’t purchase the Cheers! package, be sure to pick up a loyalty card at the coffee shop when you visit. The barista will sign it or hole-punch it each time you order. After 6 coffees purchased, number 7 is free!

4. Daily crosswords

If you like brain teasers, the coffee shop puts out a daily crossword puzzle and sudoku game card for free play. There are pencils (albeit without erasers) provided too, so you don’t even need to worry about bringing your own writing utensil. Just bring your best thinking cap and be sure to find a comfy seat nearby with an ocean view to fully enjoy the puzzles.

5. The friendly baristas

My favorite part of cruising is getting to know the crew members, and that includes the friendly baristas at the coffee shop. While most of us come to the coffee shop with feet dragging, eyes still drooping, and bodies desperate for caffeine, the baristas are already wide awake, smiling, and happily ready to serve. My day always starts better with a smile and a friendly chat with them.

Read More: Pros and Cons of Carnival’s CHEERS! Program

6. For an “extra shot”

Hey, you’re on vacation. Why not add more “fun” to your coffee? You’ve probably heard of making your coffee “Irish” (coffee + Bailey’s), but what about Caribbean coffee (Tia Maria-infused coffee + Appleton rum) or Mexican coffee (cappuccino + Patrón)? Or, if you really have a sweet tooth, you could try the Chocolate-Lovers Coffee: chocolate cappuccino with Cruzan rum and crème de cacao. Nothing like starting your day with an extra buzz.

7. Milkshakes

After a hot day in the sun, a milkshake can really hit the spot, and the only place you’ll find them onboard is at the coffee shop. Choose from chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, neapolitan, or a “black and white” (chocolate and vanilla mixed). Best enjoyed with a cherry on top.

8. Boozy milkshakes

Just like the spiked coffees, the baristas also make what I like to call “boozy milkshakes” – that is, milkshakes with a shot of alcohol. However, these spiked milkshakes aren’t actually listed on the coffee shop menu. Simply order a milkshake and ask the barista to add a shot of your favorite liqueur, and they’ll be more than happy to do so. Keep in mind that unless you have the Cheers! package you’ll be paying a little extra on top of the regular price of a milkshake.

9. The treats

Carnival coffee bar

In addition to the extensive beverage menu, the coffee shop also serves up some sweet treats. In fact, when visiting the coffee shop you can’t help but drool over the window casing of desserts: chocolate-covered strawberries, cheesecakes drizzled in fruit, chocolate cake, carrot cake, red velvet cake, mini cakes, cupcakes… you name it! And you may be wondering why pay extra for a dessert when the lido buffet has plenty of sweets. It’s a fair question. But these desserts look (and taste) like they came right from the Chef de Cuisine, and they’re never more than a couple bucks. Plus, the size of one slice of cake is so large, it’s practically three meals worth of dessert! You can also order an entire cake with a specialized message like “Happy Birthday” or “Happy Anniversary” if you’re celebrating with someone on your cruise.

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10. Other drinks too

The coffee shop sells more than just espressos and desserts. You can also purchase bottled water, sparkling water, hot chocolate, or a Rockstar energy drink here. I In fact, the ship’s café is my go-to spot for grabbing bottled water, because it’s usually less busy than the bars and lounges.

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FOOD

6 Delicious Norwegian Cruise Line Desserts

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A couple of months ago I took my first European cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Star. While I could do many posts on the delicious food we had both on land and sea during the trip, I just want to focus on the delicious desserts. If you want to see what I thought of the food onboard overall, check out my 5 first impressions of the ship.

Delicious Desserts on Norwegian Cruise Line

1. Brownie Cheesecake

norwegian star cruise o'sheehan's desserts

Venue: O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill

Can I just say OMG yum! Best of all, this delectable, rich dessert is found at one of the complimentary restaurants onboard – O’Sheehan’s. A brownie base is topped with a layer of cheesecake and then caramel sauce and marshmallows, it’s seriously so many good things in one! Since there were so many venues and desserts to try on the ship, I only ended up ordering this once. But if I had a longer cruise I would totally get it multiple times. It’s also great to share if you just want a light dessert and don’t want anything feeling too heavy in your stomach.

2. Green Tea Cake & Ice Cream

green tea cake ice cream norwegian cruise

Venue: Teppanyaki

Teppanyaki is a hibachi-style specialty restaurant experience that only allows 12 guests per time slot. Everyone sits around the two side-by-side flat top grills while the chefs work their magic – and create a lot of laughs – along the way. The menu is simple and gives two options for dessert – a fruit plate and green tea cake and ice cream. Me wanting to keep with the Asian theme and try something I normally wouldn’t have, chose this. Despite the deep green color that may throw some people off, both the cake and ice cream were delicious and had a nice green tea flavor without being overpowering. Two thumbs up!

3. Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake

lemon ricotta cheesecake norwegian star dessert

Venue: La Cucina

Being the lemon fanatic that I am (seriously, you should see how many things I own that have a lemon print or are lemon-themed), the ricotta cheesecake with lemon curd on the dessert menu at Italian specialty venue La Cucina caught my eye. Honestly, it caught me off guard when I took my first bite. It was much lighter and more textured than I thought it was going to be. This is the type of dessert you’ll want if you are stuffed full from the pasta and want something that won’t weigh you down too much more. It was great for that, and I think it just slightly disappointed me because I was expecting something rich and smooth. But still, I would eat this anytime and it really was delicious.

4. Chocolate Tart

norwegian star dessert chocolate tart cruise

Venue: La Cucina

If we’re being honest, the chocolate tart with raspberries also caught us off guard at La Cucina. I guess this restaurant was full of dessert surprises! Doug ordered this and he is not a huge chocolate fan. He’ll eat it, but in most cases chocolate desserts wouldn’t be his first choice. Obviously the menu description did not quite relay to us that this was the darkest, richest chocolate dessert that has ever touched my tongue. For me, it was a dream come true. I could not get enough of the chocolate tart and would eat it every week if I could. As a result, we sort of shared desserts and then I ended up eating the majority of both! This is a five-star dessert for me, no question.

5. Warm Chocolate Lava Cake

chocolate lava cake norwegian cruise dessert

Venue: Main Dining Room

Okay. So I hear that Carnival has some to-die-for chocolate melting cake, and I will be able to try that for myself very soon (Hello Vista!). But based on Norwegian Cruise Line’s chocolate lava cake, I’m straight-up saying ahead of time that I think it gives Carnival a run for its money, and may be better. I’ll report back once I’ve been able to try Carnival’s. This warm lava cake is so rich and ooey-gooey; a perfect little dessert with ice cream and strawberry compote to round it out. I could not get enough and ordered it three times throughout the course of our voyage. Never take this off of your main dining menu, Norwegian!

6. Raspberry Crème Brûlée / Oreo Cheesecake

norwegian star desserts steakhouse cheesecake food

Venue: Cagney’s Steakhouse

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So this is actually two desserts, which we took to-go from the steakhouse because we were so stuffed from dinner that night! The raspberry crème brûlée was excellent – that hard top “shell” we all love and the smooth creamy inside, in this case with a light raspberry flavor. I definitely recommend this for anyone who loves crème brûlée. The Oreo cheesecake was also wonderful, and comes as no surprise since by now you’ve discovered my deep love of chocolate and cheesecake. Also can I mention that I actually love how most portions on cruise ships are pretty small compared to what we are used to in landslide restaurants? (At least in the United States!). It gives you a good taste and dessert satisfaction without filling you up to the point of exploding or feeling guilty for wasting half your plate.

Without a doubt, I had some delicious desserts during my cruise on Norwegian StarThe good news is, these venues are not Star-exclusive and can be found on some other Norwegian Cruise Line ships as well. Chances are no matter which ship in the fleet you’re sailing, you’ll be able to find at least a few of the sweet treats I mentioned if you’re wanting to try them for yourself. Happy cruising and happy dessert-eating!

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BEFORE YOU GO

Review: Lunch at Carnival’s Cucina del Capitano

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Pre-Meal Thoughts

When I first tried the Cucina del Capitano venue 4 years ago on Carnival Magic, I wasn’t particularly overwhelmed. I had no complaints, but I also didn’t leave feeling overly eager to go back. That’s why on my recent sailing on Carnival Breeze, Cucina del Capitano wasn’t at the top of my food list.

But it was still on my list. Although I wasn’t planning to pay the $15 per person charge for dinner service, I knew that the restaurant is free during lunch hours and planned to take advantage of that. However, the days of my 7-day cruise flew by, and I kept eating elsewhere, in part also because of other online reviews that reflected my past experience: Cucina del Capitano is good, but not worth the charge at dinnertime. But Carnival Breeze just has too many good places to eat, and I kept passing Cucina del Capitano up.

On the fifth night of my cruise as I was indulging in The Chef’s Table, the sous chef asked the 10 of us there if we had tried Cucina del Capitano. When only 2 people raised their hands, he made it a point to mention Cucina del Capitano several more times throughout the night. He seemed very proud of it.

With that recommendation, I finally went the day we docked in Cozumel. (Tip: Go on a port day; the restaurant was nearly empty!)

The Restaurant

The hostess sat us down at a table with a lovely view of Oasis of the Seas docked next to us and handed us our ordering cards. We checked whether we wanted bread, what type of salad, and then selected our pasta, sauce, vegetables, and meats on the card and placed them on a counter by the kitchen. A waitress brought us water straight away and then came shortly afterward with our salads and bread.

The caesar salad (the first salad I had ordered the entire the entire cruise, believe it or not) was refreshing and perfectly dressed, and the bread was warm, buttery, and super soft with only a touch of garlic.

I ordered linguini with alfredo sauce and shrimp and mushrooms. The pasta was cooked perfectly, and I could tell that it was fresh – not something that had been sitting in the kitchen for an hour or two. The sauce tasted great too and was the perfect consistency – not too runny but not thick and clumpy either. The shrimp were cooked well but not really seasoned, which I personally would’ve preferred; however, I realize not everyone wants that, which is why they probably only lightly salt them. Finally, the mushrooms were also cooked perfectly.

Final Thoughts

All in all, it was a delicious bowl of pasta and meal as a whole. I found myself surprised, impressed, and regretting that I hadn’t come earlier. In fact, I would even be willing to try it for dinner, as the dinner is served family-style rather than through checking cards and the menu is much larger than just pasta bowls.

Long story short: My opinion was completely changed, and now I’m a big fan of Cucina del Capitano. Don’t believe all the “meh” reviews you read online. I believe it has improved since its first debut. Just try it out for yourself!

Cucina del Capitano can be found on Carnival Vista, Breeze, Magic, and Sunshine. It will also be on the upcoming Carnival Horizon.

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Hi, this may be of interest to you: Review: Royal Caribbean Wonderland Restaurant. This is the link: https://cruiseradio.net/cruise-review-anthem-of-the-seas-wonderland-restaurant/