Destination Tea: Star Princess Cruise

Where:  Alaska
Style:  Elegant Traditional
Tea Selection:  Black tea
Teatimes:  Days noted in the daily newsletter, 3:30-4:30
Reservations:  Walk-ins welcome
Contact:  800-774-6237
Cost:  Included with your stay
Destination Tea Tip:  It will likely be many years before we at Destination Tea are able to review every cruise lines’ afternoon tea service (#dreamjob). In the meanwhile, if you are researching your next cruise, check out these pictorial reviews of afternoon tea at sea:  “Best Afternoon Tea on Cruises” from CruiseCritic.com and “Best High Tea at Sea” from CruiseDeals.co.uk.

Destination Tea Notes:  First a little history from Andrea M. Rotondo of CruiseCritic.com: “The aristocratic pleasure of afternoon tea naturally found its way into the first-class sections of the great ocean liners. As cruising replaced crossings in the 20th century, the ritual was retained as an example of the sort of tradition one might not have the time to keep up on land, but that could still be enjoyed aboard ship.”

While taking afternoon tea overlooking glacial waters is a certain luxury, we found the pace and style of the meal on Star Princess to be very different from a traditional tearoom on land. Crisp linens and servers in formal attire greet guests, who have begun gathering outside the dining room 15 minutes before it opens for tea service. Small parties are sat together communally, which actually was the highlight of this experience because we were paired with a lovely Australian family. As there are no coincidences (right?), it made perfect sense that the wife had once run her own tea business and was very well acquainted with traditional afternoon tea customs.

The main frustration in getting to know our new friends was the continuous parade of servers to our table throughout the meal. The Star Princess’ format for afternoon tea is very much like a Brazilian charrascaria, without the green/red table marker to signal to the servers when you have had your fill. From the moment you are sat, tea is poured and servers begin making the rounds with silver trays of sandwiches, scones, preserves and cream, and desserts, a few of which we would recommend. We love that Princess ships treat their guests to afternoon tea, and would have found it more enjoyable if they altered their service style to allow guests to converse at their leisure, offered a small variety of quality teas, and baked lighter, more airy scones and desserts.

Waiting outside the Portofino dining room for afternoon tea to begin
Tables are set for the arriving tea guests
Nothing fancy, dishware is utilitarian white stoneware

Tea Service

Our resident tea aficionado couldn’t get more than “black tea” as an answer to her question about the type of tea we were served from silver pots, but she wondered if it might have been stewed (ha!). It was a strong, slightly bitter brew.

Scones & Spreads, Savories and Sweets

Scones on Princess prompted our new Australian friends to give us a free lesson: traditionally scones across the pond are akin to the U.S. Southern biscuit, light and fluffy.
Cream, preserves and tea condiments make the rounds
Changing daily, sandwich offerings are generously portioned and tasty. Princess does their breads very well, with a nice crust and soft inside.
The egg salad and tomato sandwiches were delicious and despite appearances, not too heavy on the mayonnaise.
Desserts are more visually appealing than tasty, par for the course at the Princess buffet as well. Standout desserts can be found at dinner seatings in the formal dining rooms.
For a more crunchy, less sweet final course, a variety of cookies and thinly sliced breads
DestinationTea
Tea Voyageuse, discovering the world of afternoon tea, based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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