It’s a long way down the holiday road: Cruise 2012 (Cozumel and the Chef’s Table)

Today I will write about our stop in Cozumel and The Chef’s Table experience on the Carnival Legend. Cozumel was our first port, and I was really excited about it because I’d heard and read lots of great things. It seems like everyone goes to this port and there were a few other ships there that day.

Based on Cruise Critic tips, we booked the Kaokao chocolate factory tour. It’s not an excursion through the ship, but you can hail a cab outside the port for a small fee and go to the factory. The tours are held every two hours and cost $10- you have to book online.

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Now, the tour isn’t a real tour of a huge factory like Hershey’s. It’s a small, family run, business in the city of Cozumel. You won’t see industrial, huge, machines. During the presentation, the owner Joshua told us about the history of chocolate, the Mayans, and Cozumel. We got to grind beans and see how chocolate was made in the Mayan times, including tasting. DSCN4894

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The chocolates tasted incredible and weren’t overpriced ($3 a bar- and they cost more in port) so we loaded up before leaving the factory. Souvenirs anyone? Here are a few more pics.

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The world really won’t end later this month- a 2013 Mayan Calendar.

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Inside the factory.

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When we left the factory, Clay and I went to Mr. Pancho’s for some chips and salsa and he had a margarita. It was a super strong margarita, so let’s just say it only took one Smile.

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We did a little shopping and I bought a Christmas ornament for $5- had to continue my tradition of Christmas ornaments for everywhere we visit. Then we got back on board and ordered some room service sandwiches and watched the pier runners who were almost late for the ship. It was pretty interesting to watch- every time someone would walk up slowly, the staff would start pulling the gangway in to get them to walk faster. One lady was almost left but managed to get to the gangway just in time using a rickshaw, and when the rickshaw bike rider (err, driver?) was leaving, everyone cheered for him- hilarious and entertaining. It was honestly more entertaining than most everything happening onboard the ship.

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Pretty much as soon as the ship left port, we had to clean up and get ready for the Chef’s Table dining experience. This is on the Carnival ships and is a 7-course dinner with the chef and a tour of the galley. It’s limited to 16-20 people per sailing and sells out fast, so if you want to do it, book as soon as you get on board or before. We booked ours online before we even boarded the ship. You get to tour the kitchen and learn a lot about cruise ships and how the food is stored, prepared, served, and how wastes are disposed of. It costs $75 per person but is well worth the money- Clay and I both agreed it was one of the best meals we’ve ever had.

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They had personalized name cards for us at our table.

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I managed to sneak in a picture with the chef (we couldn’t take pictures in the galley). Chef Panda (Panda is actually his last name) calls himself the only animal at sea and is the head chef on the Carnival Legend. He told us his story about growing up poor and an orphan, how he didn’t always have enough to eat and how his key to success was being employed on the cruise ship and working his way up to head chef. It was a very inspirational story and some people with us were moved to tears by the end of it. It made me so grateful for my “first world problems” and all the opportunities I’ve had.

Now, for some pictures of the food. Since I’m vegetarian, the dishes were customized for me but looked pretty similar to everyone else’s- so I didn’t feel like a complete outcast. If you have any special dietary concerns, just let them know when you book and they will prepare something special for you- I really liked that.

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Best bread ever- and I’m a carboholic. It’s even baked in a little clay pot.

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Small tomatoes with various coatings. The white one was cocoa butter and the others were chardonnay poached- all were really tasty.

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For the meat eaters, this was tuna bahn mi. The sauces are avocado gel and miso crème, and mine contained mushrooms instead of tuna. It had the consistency and texture of a veggie burger but a much richer, better taste. I really liked it.

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Everyone else had Cornish Hen… this was some vegetables in phylo with butternut squash crème. I really liked it- sorry I don’t remember much about what it was, but I remember it contained mushrooms and eggplant and I really liked it.

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Here’s the Cornish Hen- Clay obviously had this.

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Bavarois soup with spinach. It was a twist on soup and salad, I guess. It was probably my least favorite course- it was tasty, but I’m not a fan of cream soups so I didn’t eat it all.

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For everyone else, this was salmon, but mine contained eggplant and vegetables and reminded me of an Italian dish. The white sauce that went with it was good too, although I don’t remember much of what it was. It’s garnished with carrots and beets- the carrots I ate, the beets… nah.

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Clay’s dish- obviously the salmon, but it shows how my dish still looked similar to everyone else’s even as a vegetarian.

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This was tasty. The little thing on the side is pumpkin fudge and it was delicious. Everyone else had beef wagyu that was made with kobe beef- I made Clay take a picture of his.

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Beef makes my husband happy!

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And the finale dessert plate was the delicious chocolate tarte in the middle. It was the richest chocolate ever but still so delicious. It’s garnished with sauces and other stuff, but it was obviously the best thing on the plate (hey, it’s chocolate- it would be!)

The whole chef’s table experience lasted a few hours- about four hours, actually. All those courses, plus the galley tour, plus eating dinner with the chef- it takes a long time. We were about to pop when our meal was finished so we pretty much just went to bed. The food was so good- so much better than anything else on the ship, and even though we like the dining room, the food there wasn’t the same after experiencing this.

More to come later!

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11 Responses to It’s a long way down the holiday road: Cruise 2012 (Cozumel and the Chef’s Table)

  1. pickyrunner says:

    Wow that dinner is incredible! Especially the bread in the pot… I need to find myself some of that, or go on a cruise 🙂

  2. oh man all that food looks so amazing. I am glad you had such a great time.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Yup, it was pretty tasty. I hate that I don’t remember all the details, but it’s been a few weeks now- although I’m sure Clay and I will talk about this experience for years to come.

  3. The guacamole and bread sound amazing! And what a cute little tour:)

  4. Patty says:

    Salivating over here, Amy! Looks so yummy! Not to mention you guys look so cute and happy 🙂 I have to get on scheduling a cruise (:

  5. Wow. Your dinner looks fabulous. I love that you got to try a little bit of everything!

  6. runwkate says:

    Wow! Look at that food! I am super jealous of the chocolate and hammocks…and…the dinner!

  7. allieksmith says:

    I love the idea of buying a Christmas ornament everywhere you go. That is a great way to remember your trips! Your Chef’s Table experience sounds so cool and FUN!

  8. jaml905 says:

    I loooove all your pictures! …especially that one of you laying on a hammock …by the beach …with a margarita! What’s more relaxing than that?! And all the food, they all look very good! I love the presentation too. Definitely worth the price! 🙂

  9. what a fun experience! and the food looks amazing!!!

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