Last week, the Emerald Princess made her first visit to Auckland. Whilst she was there, I was given the chance to get onboard this elegant ship, the biggest and newest of the Princess family to sail from Australia - and to experience the line's fabulous new specialty restaurant, SHARE by Aussie celebrity chef Curtis Stone.
It was great to see Princess's most impressive South Pacific offering during a whirlwind tour, but the beautiful lunch in the fabulous SHARE was certainly the highlight of the day. It comes well-recommended by this cruise blogger.
Big, bold and beautiful: the ship
The Emerald Princess will spend a lot of time in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific this upcoming season, with a busy season planned Down Under along with five of her fleetmates. She was near the end of her maiden NZ visit when she called into Auckland, bringing thousands of cruisers from Sydney to see the sights and enjoy some of the recent good weather.
Onboard, the elegant Princess touches were evident in the dark wood, plush bars, teak pool decks and other public spaces. Especially spectacular is the custom designed amphitheatre-style pool lounger seating around the open-air cinema (for Movies Under the Stars) overlooking one pool, and the adults-only sanctuary space surrounding another.
It was also lovely to see the Christmas decorations being put up around the ship - the Piazza area looked particularly wonderful, with twinkling lights and greenery wrapped around the handrails of sweeping staircases. It might be my crazy love for Christmas speaking, but there's nothing quite like the sight of a ship dressed for the festive season. Interestingly, we learnt that there are two people employed full-time on the Emerald Princess with the sole job of replacing light bulbs around the ship as they blow - I wonder how much extra work the fairy lights will provide!
We also had a quick look at a short excerpt from Princess Cruise's new stage show by Stephen Schwartz, creator of musicals like Wicked and Pippin. Called Magic to Do, it is unique to the theatres of the line's fleet and looks to be a high-quality production and a great way to spend the evening onboard.
Delightfully delicious: a review of SHARE the restaurant
It's evident upon walking in to SHARE, located overlooking the stern high up on Deck 16, that this will be a special meal - the views from the windows are fantastic, and the space is beautifully set out with different sized tables, personal travel images from Curtis Stone on the walls, and a contemporary feel.
The service is very attentive, with friendly and well-trained staff. I appreciated the bit of respectful joking from the waiters which will likely appeal to Aussie and Kiwi cruisers! Pregnancy means I had a few food restrictions around rare and cured meats, and they found me alternatives and ensured my meat was well done with no worries.
As for the main event, the food, there's not much to say other than that it was wonderful. We tried four courses from a fabulous six-course menu, and each one was delicious and beautifully presented. The starter was a plate of bread and cheeses and cured meat (for those not gestating) which took me back to Europe and their knack for plain and simple but top-notch staples. In fact, I think this was my favourite dish - there's something about good cheese and bread!
After that came Ricotta Cavatelli pasta, complemented with brussel sprouts leaves and roasted beetroot which gave it some gorgeous streaks of colour. Pasta in creamy sauce really needs no words of explanation - it was excellent. The "land" meat course selection was a roasted lamb loin given a mediterranean treatment: harissa-scented israeli couscous and lime yoghurt set it off spectacularly.
The light and fluffy toffee cheesecake dessert sat on a red wine reduction with various fruit accompaniments including delightful crunchy slices of dehydrated pear. Although my heart was still with the cheese starter, this cheese-based dessert made a fabulous finish.
Overall, I would give SHARE two huge thumbs up, and would love to sample all of the other dishes on the extensive menu which take advantage of local produce from the region, as per chef Stone's design. They can be enjoyed solo or shared between family and friends as the title suggests, to make for an unforgettable dining experience with loved ones.
Chef Stone says of his vision for SHARE: "For me, great holidays mean escaping to new destinations and sharing stories and good times with friends and family over a delicious meal, so those are the values that have helped shape my SHARE restaurants on Princess. Each of my three SHARE restaurants features a different menu, which reflects where the ship is sailing and is inspired by the produce of the season as well as the region, so it's been incredibly exciting to develop a new menu for Emerald's maiden season down under."
There are also menu items designed by Curtis Stone on the menu in the main Princess restaurants, so keep an eye out for these if you are sailing with the line this season! The Emerald Princess has some fantastic itineraries ahead of her in our corner of the world for the next few months, along with her fleetmates the Golden Princess, Sun Princess, Sea Princess, Dawn Princess and Diamond Princess. Experience that Princess "Come Back New" feeling - and come back full too, with a meal at the fabulous SHARE!