There’s a moment of collective amusement and wonder among the other journalists and myself in Viva’s Metropolitan Bar when, on the ship’s maiden voyage, Luis Ortega, Director of Beverage Operations and Development, explains that one of Viva’s signature sustainable cocktails is, in part, made from waste croissants. Does that mean the eponymous ingredient in the Croissant Mai-Tai is foraged from passengers’ breakfast plates, we wonder. In which case, which crusts, and buttered pastry bits would make the grade?
This, and other gourmet discoveries, is what I’m on board to find out, on a five-night voyage from Rome to Lisbon. And what I quickly realise is that it is NCL’s culinary daring that makes a cruise on Viva, (a floating city with over twenty bars and restaurants) such an effortlessly digestible foodie experience. Here are four Viva indulgences that impressed me and which I’m confident will leave your inner foodie wanting more. Now, back to those croissants…
1. SUSTAINABLE COCKTAILS
No croissants used in the making of Croissant Mai-Tais were tested on passengers first. Rather, the baked goods unfit for plating (too small, too pale, too irregularly shaped – haven’t we all had moments feeling just so?) are supplied to the ship’s mixologists, who create a syrup from the pastry for inclusion in the rum cocktail. With an estimated 8 500 croissants used onboard weekly, there’s no shortage of syrup. Same goes for the El Padrino, a vodka cocktail in which waste pineapple is key. Viva’s kitchens go through over 2 000 kilograms of pineapples weekly, meaning there’s plenty of the fruit fit for repurposing. It’s all part of NCL’s efforts to offer passengers sustainable beverages, and feels right at home at the Metropolitan Bar, where sustainable alcohol brands are proudly favoured. They share shelf space with NCL’s recently launched and equally eco-friendly ’66 Gin, the brand’s own label.
2. INTERACTIVE DINING
Whether you’re analogue at heart or au fait with all things digital, Viva offers an equivalent dining experience. Keen on a bump of technology with your meal? The Indulge Food Hall is a marketplace with eleven eateries, including the Airstream-housed Latin Quarter and Indian street-food spot Tamara. Do what I did by opting for a healthy lunch (like a blackened tuna mesclun salad), freeing up calories for indulgent desserts. Whichever cuisine you choose, and whether you’re seated indoors or out, place your order through tabletop iPads and they’re speedily delivered by tech-savvy waiters, freeing up time for the pool. For even more engagement with your dinner, stylish Hasuki offers teppanyaki dining. Sit at shared counters around steel grills while theatrical chefs turn on the charm. Doing so includes displays of spatula-wielding prowess, singing their own takes of anything from Bon Jovi to Disney tunes, and in the case of my chef, joking about how his job interview was a song and a dance! It’s at Hasuki that you’ll fully comprehend singing for your supper.
3. SOPHISTICATED SPACES
The occasional slightly rushed dining experience can be excused given how stylish (never intimidatingly so) Viva’s restaurants are. The ship’s interiors are crafted for anyone with an eye for design by international studios, including award-winning Studio Dado, the global guru of cruise liner interiors. There’s colourful Los Lobos Mexican restaurant with its glossy hot pink booths, and French eatery Le Bistro complete with floor-to-ceiling chandeliers. 24-hour casual eatery The Local deserves a mention, its dark interiors offset with cheerful island-style décor including hanging chairs and patterned mosaic. Up on the sixteenth floor, the poolside Surfside Café & Grill is a reminder that terrazzo remains de rigeur, especially when paired with a Memphis-style combo of sky blue and candyfloss pink. My favourite? Cagney’s Steakhouse, a moodier dinner spot with a subtly brutalist interior inspired by 20th century starchitects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier.
4. GLOBAL FLAVOURS
There are those who board a cruise intent on disembarking only once, at its conclusion. To those I say, Viva will serve you well (quite literally) for its culinary offering is vast. You will find ingredients and flavours from around the world in baos and burritos, crudos, crèmes glacées and more. But for hungry adventurers, for whom a cruise simplifies whistle-stop introductions to unknown ports and cities, Viva’s shore excursions include tasting opportunities aplenty. They’re mostly at the tail-end of sightseeing experiences, like mine, a wine-pairing and shared plates meal at a hillside winery near the walled city of Lucca. On a sweltering Tuesday afternoon, at the crowded Fattoria Il Poggio, six wines were tasted, accompanied by homegrown olives, authentic nonna-made pesto, and the region’s cinghiale (Tuscan boar) ragù. When docking in Ibiza, there’s bullit de peix (the island’s popular fish stew); in Split, it’s the chance to help prepare Croatia’s famous soparnik, or Dalmatian pizza. Whatever the choice, you’ll be back on board in time for sunset and that Croissant Mai-Tai.