Ever since our first cruise over 15 years ago, Viv and I have never felt the need to eat at the buffet much other than the initial lunch and for breakfast. However, we finally hit up the Aloha Cafe for both lunch and dinner just because we wanted variety. Oh and yes, the kids had something to do with it. It just gives them more options. There were the usual stations which included hot entrees, Asian food, made-to-order pasta, pizza, burgers, hot dogs, steak, chicken, sandwiches, fruit and dessert.
For lunch, the highlight of my first plate of food was the actually the Steak as it was a perfect medium-rare. Although the exterior was a little grey rather than the classic sear, the meat ate well. As much as fish can be horrible in a buffet, the Apricot Tilapia was actually flaky and moist while only mildly seasoned with the benefit of toasted coconut on top. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Veal as it was dry and one note in flavour. The same could be said about the Cottage Pie as the meat was dry while the mashed potato topping was dense and stiff.
My next plate consisted of the Shrimp Fried Rice, Mushrooms in Teriyaki Sauce, Bean Poriyal and some curly fries (I just wanted curly fries...). Well, the rice was pretty mushy due to the fact they were using induction burners to cook it. That wasn’t nearly enough wok heat to prepare the dish. With that being said, it did taste good though with a certain smoky savouriness. Consequently, the mushrooms suffered the same fate as they were watery. Surprisingly, the bean poriyal was pretty good with crunchy green beans and an aromatic coconut curry that was a bit spicy.
The best thing we ate at the buffet by a country mile was the Pecan Buttermilk Fried Chicken. It was so good, I had seconds. No joke! The boneless chicken thighs were well-brined so that they were succulent and flavourful. The batter on the outside was firmly crunchy and slightly sweet while not greasy at all. I got some fruit to keep my plate balanced as well as some cheesy cauliflower (well, it was still a vegetable!).
Okay, with an overnight in Maui during our NCL cruise, it would seem like a good idea to take advantage of that by heading out for dinner right? Well, after a long day in nearly 100 degree temperatures, we just didn’t have it in us to go out again. In fact, we couldn’t even be bothered with any full-service restaurant aboard the ship. We resorted to eating at the Aloha Cafe for their buffet dinner.
The main item for the night was their Roast Whole Turkey which looked quite good. In fact and surprisingly, it was moist and tender, even the breast meat. For me, it was all about the thigh and it was tasty on its own, but the salty gravy with onions helped things along. I found the side of yam stuffing to be overly mushy and wet, but it did taste good though with a hit of starchy sweetness. The brussel sprouts with cranberries was actually decent being just cooked enough that it still was firm inside. The same could be said about the cauliflower and asparagus. With cubes of potato retaining their texture and shape, the cheesy potatoes were definitely creamy where it benefited from the addition of leeks.
My second plate of food included the Laikai Koftka which tasted decent with the usual curry flavours while slightly spicy. The balls themselves were rather soft and mealy though. Surprisingly, the Fried Noodles with Pork was okay for non-authentic whatever it was supposed to be. It was balanced in flavor without being reliant on salt where the noodles were still toothsome and the meat was well-seasoned. I wasn’t too sure of the Pork, Beans and Cranberries as it was rather weird tasting and dry. The same could be said about the Cottage Pie too. On the same theme, the Blackened Mahi Mahi and Moroccan Chicken needed moisture and impact too.
Of all the things that could’ve been eaten, my son went for his standby which was the Cheeseburger and Curly Fries. Not a whole lot to talk about here other than the burger patty was aggressively grilled where it was pretty dry. Fries were good though being crispy. Overall, the buffet was acceptable and served its purpose. There was the usual duds to go with some surprising items. I wouldn't say that this buffet was any better or worse than the other cruises we've been on.
- Edible and sometimes decent
- Food was refilled fast
- Separate cute little kid's buffet
- Fairly average selection of eats
- Not the most spacious of setups
- Staff tried, but dropped things constantly