The Eggs Benedict Test

Eggs Benedict

The “eggs benedict test” is my ritual go-to quality indicator when onboard a cruise ship. Let me explain: On every cruise I take that’s longer than a few days, I head down to the ship’s main restaurant and order the dish – poached eggs, slightly runny, served with Canadian bacon or ham, and with a dollop of hollandaise. It’s a treat (I only order it once a cruise) that I never make at home because the dish is a bit too fussy to get right.

Which is why eggs benedict is a great way to test a restaurant kitchen. Are chefs paying attention? It only takes a few seconds for the eggs to go from undercooked to overcooked.  Are waiters responsive enough to get the dish from kitchen to table before the hollandaise congeals? And, if the dish is not quite right, if for instance, the egg yolks are cooked too hard, does staff respond quickly and pleasantly?

On Westerdam, my eggs benedict test (the only score is pass or fail) took place yesterday in Vista, its main dining room. The dish was a huge pass (a new inspiration occurred to me: add one triangle of fried hash brown potatoes – hey nobody ever said this was a healthy endeavor —  and mix the potato up with the runny yolk and the hollandaise). Delicious!

The test actually was born out of a disastrous cruise dining experience  and has served me well in the years since. Traveling on Silversea’s Silver Wind, I’d ordered the dish. That it came so badly overcooked on a luxury line was a manageable disappointment, but what turned this into a lasting memory was the fact that the waiter balked when I asked for another try – and later engaged in a rather unpleasant argument, within ear-shot, with his maitre ‘d over who would tell the chef that his dish didn’t please.

I was appalled and embarrassed and the experience reflected the mediocre level of food and service experienced elsewhere on that journey.

Having reviewed some 150-plus cruise ships over the past 13 years, there are certainly other symbolic indicators that tell me more about the quality of that voyage than a particular incident would normally suggest. Do the majority of crew members say hello and look you in the eye when they pass by in corridors or bring you a cocktail? (On Westerdam, so far, check, check, it’s been a pass all around). If so, they’ll be personable all around. Does the cabin steward clean the balcony as well as your stateroom? It shows an attention to detail (so far, so good on Westerdam) as far as cleaning standards are concerned. On another recent cruise, my balcony never felt clean (cigarette ashes from other smokers on other verandahs were omnipresent, and dirty water pooled there every day;  frankly the lack of attention to detail was also reflected in other parts of the stateroom).

Do security officers smile and greet you when you return to the ship from a day in port? Actually this one’s mostly in jest – no one really expects security staffers to offer a smile or a sense of humor but on Azamara Journey a few weeks ago, I was startled when the men and women who man the screening machine would say “welcome home” when I came back aboard. It was a nice touch.

Before I leave for my cruise, I also look at Cruise Critic member reviews, particularly the most recent ones, to see what to expect. Ships do change personalities, often depending on which hotel director, who oversees everything from cuisine and housekeeping to entertainment and services like casinos, art auctions, and photography, is onboard at the time. Hotel directors typically serve four month contracts. Those who deftly manage their huge staffs typically run excellent ships.

What’s your go-to indicator for cruise quality? Share it with us.




Filed under Cruise Lines, Dining, Luxury Cruises, Opinion, Round-Britain Cruise

10 responses to “The Eggs Benedict Test

  1. john dixon

    Great blog and glad things seem to be ok on the Westerdam. Booked on it next August from Seattle so coming to have a look when it docks in the Tyne on the 12th and 24th of this month

  2. Aja

    My absolute favorite breakfast! I have a feeling that you get to indulge a lot more often than I do :). Even at once a cruise, since you cruise so frequently. Lucky!!!

  3. John Kemplen

    Mine is a fairly standard test: soufflés. On two Cunard cruises they were divine. On a Princess cruise they were awful (more like muffins – American not British). On a recent P&O cruise they were very good.

  4. Linda Mac

    Eggs Benedict – had from the sublime to the slime! Worst ever was on Brilliance of the Seas – nearly hard cooked eggs and Hollandaise was more like pure lemon juice (real mouth sooky-in experience!) Best of the best QM2 (but wouldn’t expect anything less)
    Souffles – never have a souffle on Costa Allegra – ordered the cheese souffle as a veggie option for dinner one evening – hard cooked dry scrambled egg doesn’t even come close to the description. Again got to be QM2 for the best .
    BTW – how many cruises do you take a year – and please can I have a job like yours!!

  5. Douglas Ward, author of Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising, has a similar “oatmeal factor.” His top rating? “Hot Scottish (large flakes, hand ground) oatmeal, water, sea salt, tahini, and nutmeg (grated at the table), high-quality cold-pressed olive oil and a layer of rare single-malt Scotch, served on small production hand-made china, with base plate and doily, and sterling silver cutlery. The waiter/waitress will ask if you’d like hot or cold milk (or anything else) with your oatmeal.”

    • McMagrat

      Tahini? – Olive Oil? – on porridge….words fail me

      • I’ve got to admit, the “oatmeal factor” pretty much bowled us over at Cruise Critic too! Good luck trying that out on just about every cruise line in the world. Maybe you’ll get oatmeal but don’t hold out for the doily, sea salt and single-malt Scotch layered onto your breakfast food.

  6. I was just on the cruise before you board: this was my 41st cruise and honestly spoken: best time I spend if I forget the ship’s management. There was a t-shirt: DAM good ship, DAM good crew, DAM good food, DAM good shows, DAM good cruise, DAM good vacations. It was a DAM good ship. My cruise before was NORWEGIAN EPIC. DAM good ship: yes… I had the impression to be on a ship and had space enough to breath… DAM good crew: if I would be a weak battery and need to be recharged: WESTERDAM and the outstanding crew would be the only place I like to be my recharging station. Just one smile, their attention, their friendliness: I loved the crew!!! Never experienced so much happy crew members before who gave me so much of their energy. Only disappointment: the ship management who did not see a need to speak with passengers to solve serious problems. DAM good food: everything was great. I think better food than cruise ship rated better than WESTERDAM. The only thing I did not like: Egg Benedicts. Not because of the eggs: because of the English Muffin. A Scottish Egg Benedict cannot beat NCL’s Egg Benedict on salmon. DAM good shows: I am conservative – I want my musicals – I want my Rock classics – I want my movie songs – I do not want any robe artists or entertainment where I need a degree from university before I understand. It was only too loud in the theater. DAM good cruise: beside the personal problems I had: it was the DAM best cruise and we booked ZAANDAM for China and Japan in 2012 again. DAM good vacation: yes – yes – and again yes.

  7. Interesting, Heinbloed! I agree that it was a superb ship.

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