Four Delicious Days and Two Ports of Call Aboard the Ruby Princess

This is definitely not your grandparents cruise ship of yesteryear. Fifty years ago cruising was a far different experience than what exists in today’s mega industry. It was not uncommon to pack a large steamer trunk full with evening gowns and formal attire and for those traveling in first class, dining was always an extravagant event where tuxedos and glittery gowns filled the elegant dining room and dining at the Captains table was a coveted invite. Most all options for dining were limited to the first-class dining room and the standard cafeteria-style tourist-class dining room, while traveling for weeks through the Panama Canal to South America, Transatlantic to Europe or ports through Asia. 

Though formal dining at the Captains table is still offered on select cruises, it is not nearly as common with the dining diversity now offered on todays “supersized cruise ships” from the casual to elegant celebrity chef style cuisine. 

With an invite from Princess Cruise Lines, NVL Publisher, Kari Ruel, and I joined their 2nd Annual Culinary Cruise aboard the Ruby Princess. Jill Whelan, who portrayed “Love Boat” character Captain Stubing’s daughter, Vicki, for nearly a decade, served as Princess Cruise Lines Celebrity Ambassador and was very involved in many of the culinary events, including celebrating her birthday, during the four days aboard the Ruby Princess. 

The Ruby Princess has 882 passenger cabins, four pools, seven spas, fitness area, seven lounges, an expansive theater, duty free shops and a plethora of other passenger amenities. The expansion of their on-board dining offerings was truly impressive with three elegant grand dining rooms serving a variety of dining options for any palate. The most recent additions to the Princess Cruise Line specialty restaurant portfolio added last year are the two celebrity chef venues – Curtis Stone’s Share and The Salty Dog Gastropub featuring the cuisine of Ernesto Uchima.

Share is Stone’s first restaurant at sea which offers an exclusive dining experience showcasing a menu of signature dishes created by Chef Curtis specifically for sharing in an atmosphere designed for creating memories. The menu we shared offered such signature dishes as a Charcuterie starter course; Butter Poached Lobster with Caramelized Endive; Cooked Duck Leg with Fennel; Fresh Tagliatelle with Roasted Alaskan Crabs with sides like Melted Leeks and desserts of Dark Chocolate Cremeux with toasted Hazelnut Feuilletine and Burnt Vanilla Ice Cream.

The Salty Dog’s “piece de resistance” is the award-winning “Ernesto Burger” from chef Ernesto Uchimira, who was recently awarded “Chef of the Year” from LA Magazine. This amazing burger presents a rib eye and short rib beef patty, grilled pork belly, caramelized kimchi, beer battered jalapeno, charred onion aioli, topped with cave-aged gruyere cheese, all making my taste buds scream for more.  The Salty Dog also offers a gastropub menu featuring new twists on classic pub food in a casually elegant inviting atmosphere of which we sampled many of them.

Another savory treat onboard our Ruby Princess cruise was the opportunity to partake in the exclusive “Chef’s Table” experience. We found it to truly appeal to any cruising gourmand. Adorned with our own chef coats, we began with a private tour of the galley in full swing. We sipped champagne and indulged in a delicious array of appetizers served of foie gras terrine and asparagus risotto with lobster while in the midst of the ship’s chefs busily preparing the evenings fare. Our specially crafted dinner followed at an intimate dining table elegantly set in the signature DaVinci dining room. We were presented with a beautifully inscribed multi-course menu unique to our dining experience by the ship’s head Chef, who visited our table personally during each course describing the dishes in detail along with the wines paired. We also received a photo of the group along with an autographed copy of the Princess cookbook, Courses, A Culinary Journey. 

Though the “Culinary Cruise” event is only offered annually during September, this four-day itinerary to Santa Barbara and Ensenada is offered with six upcoming dates slated through March 2017, with fares starting at $299 per person. Also offered are a variety of excursions in ports of Santa Barbara and Ensenada that will expand your epicurean adventure such as wine tasting and gourmet picnic lunches. With so many dining options aboard the ship and at port, you will surely make this your own culinary delight!     NVL


Highlights of Our Recent 4-Day Culinary Adventure

Day One:
• Delicious lunch in the Da Vinci dining room
• Toasted the disembarkation from the Port of San Pedro atop the bow deck with a lovely glass of champagne while cruising out to sea in the afternoon.
• Evening cocktails at the Adagio Lounge with our group
• Dinner at the Salty Dog Gastro Pub. Don’t miss the Ernesto burger!

Day Two (At Sea):
• Celebrity Chef Cooking Demonstration presented by Los Angeles celebrity chefs: Joel Miller, Executive Chef at The Wallace and Ted Hopson, Executive Chef/Owner of The Bellwether was hosted by Jill Whelan.
• Afternoon massages in the Lotus Spa
• Maître d’ Wine Tasting
• Dinner at Curtis Stone’s Share

Day Three – Santa Barbara:
• Dynie and Kari’s daily vigorous morning walk around the Promenade Deck – 10,000 Steps
• Bus tour from the Port of Santa Barbara to two wineries for tastings and a picnic lunch in the vineyard at Buttonwood in Solvang, then off for more wine and tasty treats at Sunstone in Santa Ynez.
• Most memorable dining experiences at the “Chef’s Table”

Day Four – Ensenada:
• Shore excursion to various local dining haunts around Ensenada and ending with wine tasting South of the Border style. A memorable stop was at Sabina el Restaurante, where their innovative tostadas are a favorite of celebrity foodie, Anthony Bourdain.
• Jill’s birthday celebration and farewell dinner in the Crown Grill was a lovely end to our journey at sea.