By Michael Coleman
PALMA de MALLORCA, Spain — An Italian owned and operated cruise ship is making its culinary mark, somewhat oddly enough, with classical French and Mexican dining options.
MSC Fantasia, a 3,900-passenger vessel which arrived today on this famed, sun-drenched Spanish island, still offers excellent Italian fare throughout its main dining rooms and buffet venues but the French and Mexican specialty restaurants are also big hits with passengers.
L’Etoile, the ship’s a la carte French restaurant, an intimate 136-seat venue on Deck 15, features refined fare and a stellar wine list. Look for fois gras terrine, snails in garlic butter and traditional gratinated onion soup as starters plus lobster medallions, roasted rack of lamb with garlic cream and wine reduction or filet mignon with mushrooms, sautÃ©ed vegetables and truffled Madeira sauce as main courses. Splendid desserts and cheeses, plus exceptional service, round out the gastronomic offering.
Meanwhile, on Deck 7, the 108-seat El Sombrero restaurant offers standard Tex-Mex fare with a twist. Tacos, quesadillas, burritos, fajitas, steaks, lamb, spare ribs and even hamburgers have an extra kick. The secret’s in the kitchen where a fusion of friendly Asian, Philippine and Mexican cooks blend a series of spices plus a palate-pleasing Adobo marinade to most dishes. The friendliest servers onboard, bar none, work this special venue.
But, if French cuisine and Mexican fare doesn’t float your boat in the Mediterranean, chefs will offer a host of Italian gastronomic choices in various other dining venues culled from Genoa, Rome, Naples, Palermo and Cagliari region recipes.
And, without question, the best pizza on the high seas is offered nightly aboard Fantasia between 8 p.m. and midnight in – where else? – La Pizzeria on Deck 14. MSC pizzas — fleet-wide – rival many of Italy’s great, family-owned pizzerias across the country. Yes, folks, they’re that good.
Fantasia, at 133,500 tons, features 13 passenger decks, 13 indoor bars and lounges, six restaurants, five pools and four outdoor pool bars. There’s even a private, VIP area — the MSC Yacht Club – with suites adjacent to the ship’s spa. Yacht Club members also enjoy a host of high-end perks, from around-the-clock butler and concierge services to a private lounge and pool.