Just this past weekend, booked a Saturday night dinner cruise for a friend's 60th birthday celebration. It was all pretty much a last minute thought to do the dinner cruise, as we wanted to do something different--not just a restaurant-type deal. It was nice to be able to make reservations on the phone, but also for a last-minute option, you can make a reservation on-line with ease, or purchase tickets right at the window, providing the cruise isn't sold out.
So, this was a SURPRISE birthday event, and the staff on the Nautica Queen was very accommodating with our plans. We blindfolded the birthday boy, all the way down the gang-way into the ship. They also accommodated us bringing on a birthday cake (no candles allowed), which was nice, that I didn't have to purchase a cake from them (if they even offered that).
We set sail right on time, and after a short safety briefing, the DJ gave us a nice little blurb on some Cleveland history along the river. Dinner service started soon after that, and it was very organized, for the most part. The tables are assigned a beverage server, and I must say that our server, Tom, did a phenomenal job. He was very prompt, efficient, and very attentive to our party, as well as the other tables he was assigned to. A nice touch was that after we filled our plates with the salad, he carried that plate back to our table so that we could just get our next main course meal in the buffet line without leaving the line.
So let's get to the food--I saw decent reviews, and not so decent, so I was trying to keep an open mind about the whole experience. Again, it was buffet style, and I'm not deterred by buffets unless I see something which warrants my deterrence, but in this case, it was all good. There was a nice variety of meats--chef-carved beef, a delicious boneless chicken breast, sliced pork with a nice, sweet sauce, and perch, also served in a white sauce. There was a nice selection of cold side dishes (pasta, potato salad, peel & eat shrimp, etc), rolls--I ran out of room on my plate!
How was the food? I would give the whole dinner about a "6.5-7" out of 10 rating....what made it nice, too, is that it was all-you-could-eat. The meal also included desert, which was a New York-style cheesecake, with raspberry sauce, and that was quite tasty, too! The food was served the perfect temperature, it was flavorful & plentiful. The only thing that maybe would've given this a true 7 rating would be the aesthetics of the decor of the ship. You're not dining on a fancy cruise ship--it is just a tad outdated, but that can be overlooked to a degree because the food really was pretty decent, and we had wonderful service from our waiter Tom--that truly makes a difference.
It was also nice to have the DJ spinning tunes throughout the evening, and he played oldies up to current songs, so it appealed to all ages--we danced to various songs, too. I would say this isn't something teenagers would enjoy so much, just because it seemed to be an older crowd (or maybe on this particular evening) & quite frankly, I was happy for the middle-age-on-up crowd that was on there.
We also were able to go outside on deck & take some beautiful sunset pictures & throughout the evening as we were sailing, we would go outside for some nice views of Downtown Cleveland, which by all accounts really is beautiful as you're on the water looking in at it.
So, the dinner/dance cruise came to an end, on schedule, and as we disembarked from the ship, we were able to view our group photo (I forgot to mention that--you do get your picture taken in front of the ship just before boarding), and for $20, you get a 5-piece package, and we did buy it (there was absolutely no pressure to buy, I swear), as it was a nice memento from our special evening of festivities!
All in all, we really had a nice time. The price was a total of $45 per person (that includes tax) and considering it's all-you-can-eat, our experience with the food was good, and you're sailing on a ship (albeit not a glamorous ship), but nonetheless, the scenery is good, add to that the great service, I feel the price was right. Granted, alcoholic drinks were NOT included (open bar & your server brings the drinks to you), and maybe that would be one thing I would change is that each ADULT ticket includes ONE drink only-- that would really make it fairly priced.
If you're looking for something different to do for a special birthday or celebration of some sort, I would recommend this. I know there are some reviews out there that aren't so positive, but I chalk that up to the fact that sometimes, people just have an off-experience for one reason or another, and some people just are hard to please.
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