You're on a cruise, in the middle of the ocean, visiting foreign ports of call and having the time of your life. There's only one thing that's missing: a burrito. If you're a Mexican food addict, you know what it's like to sample haute cuisine on a cruise but secretly hanker for chips and guac or good ol' rice and beans. These cruise lines have you covered with tableside avocado mashing, Cuban delicacies at breakfast and a salsa bar so comprehensive there's a solid chance you'll overdo it (in a good way). Read on for the five best Latin American and Mexican food venues on cruise ships.
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1. Carnival Cruise Line's BlueIguana CantinaBurritos in the morning, burritos in the evening, burritos at suppertime -- this could be the motto of Carnival's BlueIguana Cantina, a burrito (and taco) haven that's complimentary to all passengers. The pool deck outpost serves free, made-to-order Mexican food morning, noon and night with options like chicken, steak or shrimp burritos; chicken, fish or pork tacos; jalapeno tortillas; and toppings like crema fresca sauce and pico de gallo. Side salads, such as watermelon jicama slaw, are offered over at the salsa bar, which will tempt you with mild to outrageously spicy sauces and toppings. Our favorite part? Breakfast burritos are available from about 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. each day, featuring Mexican-style eggs, beans, salsa and hash browns. Maybe a hair past 10:30 a.m., enjoy a refreshing margarita at the cantina's counterpart, BlueIgunana Tequila Bar. (It's five o'clock somewhere after all.) BlueIguana Cantina is currently on 22 of the fleet's ships: Breeze, Conquest, Dream, Ecstasy, Elation, Fantasy, Fascination, Freedom, Glory, Horizon, Imagination, Inspiration, Liberty, Magic, Paradise, Pride, Sensation, Sunshine, Triumph, Valor, Victory and Vista.
2. El Loco Fresh on Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the SeasMexican food is now complimentary on Royal Caribbean's newest Oasis-class ship, Symphony of the Seas, with the addition of this (covered) outdoor Mexican eatery. At Loco Fresh, bright and cheery decor invokes a sense of "fiesta," whether you're indulging in breakfast, lunch or a late-afternoon snack. In the mornings, don't miss "las mananitas," consisting of breakfast burritos and quesadillas, hash browns, scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon. In the afternoon, the menu changes to chicken or beef burritos, cheese or chicken quesadillas, nachos, corn on the cob, and beef, chicken or pork tacos with fresh, soft corn tortillas. What makes the meal is the salsa station, where you can take your pick from homemade guacamole, fire-roasted tomatoes, pico de gallo and many more toppings. For dessert, try one of the parfait cups in flavors like tres leches, chocolate dulce de leche or flan.
3. Los Lobos Cantina on Norwegian Cruise Line
With its debut on the totally refurbished Norwegian Dawn, Los Lobos Cantina became the first upscale, a la carte Mexican restaurant of its kind across the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet; it's now on the line's newest ship, Norwegian Bliss. Replacing a small part of the Garden Cafe, this quirky venue features dishes such as a nopales (cactus) salad with tomatoes, avocados, jalapenos and cotija cheese; or grilled skirt steak marinated in chilis and tequila and served with rice, beans and corn tortillas. Even dessert is authentic, with bunuelos -- a Mexican version of crispy fried dough -- plated with a brown sugar syrup and guava dipping sauce. Decor is modern and funky; if the brightly painted luchador masks-meet-Dia de Los Muertos-skulls along the wall don't grab your attention, the ornate and eye-catching cow skulls hanging above the restaurant's yellow booths probably will.
4. Princess Cruises' Mexican ItinerariesIf you're sailing the Mexican Riviera aboard a Princess ship, you're in for a treat. The line, known for its destination-immersive programming, has teamed up with Bon Appetit for culinary excursions -- and the one in Ensenada is particularly fabulous. Developed in partnership with James Beard award-winning author Bill Esparza, the exclusive tour showcases five stops on the port's surprising food and wine scene. The highlight is a pilgrimage to La Guerrerense, an unassuming little street cart operated by Sabina Bandera, celebrated by chefs and foodies on both sides of the border ranging from Rick Bayless to Anthony Bourdain. Back onboard, Princess incorporates Mexican specialties in its main dining venues during sailings throughout the region, with dishes such as mole, ceviche, fajitas, and desserts like coconut cocadas. Tequila tastings, along with tortilla chips and salsa and endless margaritas, can also be found throughout your ship while you're sailing the Pacific. Salud!
5. Bayamo by Jose Garces on Norwegian EscapeWe couldn't help but feature Iron Chef Jose Garces' first restaurant at sea, found on Norwegian Escape. Bayamo delivers seafood with a Latin twist, drawing from Garces' Ecuadorian roots and popular Cuban flavors. A location with alfresco seating along Norwegian Escape's Waterfront ensures a leisurely vibe to accompany dishes such as berenjenas (roasted eggplant with tomato rice and saffron) and bacalao carbonizado (black cod with squid ink glaze, saffron, tomato and chorizo rice). An associated tapas bar called Pincho serves the traditional Spanish small plates. A highlight is the imported ham prepared on a la plancha (iron) grill, tableside, as diners look on.