Carnival Cruise Line aims to provide high value and low fares, but taking advantage of a great deal in your next sea holiday doesn’t necessarily mean you have to resign yourself to nightly buffet or mass service dining experiences. Even on a contemporary and modern cruise line, there are opportunities to indulge in an extremely fine meal service and this comes at Nouveau, which can be found in Australia on Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend.
Part of the beauty of this elegant steakhouse is its secluded location. If you try to locate this venue without consulting the ship map, you can wander all day and not come close, yet in actuality walk beneath it multiple times in your search. As you walk through the central atrium, look up high and you may see Nouveau perched at the very top of the ship.
If heights aren’t a problem for you or you’re just feeling brave, consider taking on the see-through staircase from Deck 9 up to the restaurant’s entrance. Yes, through these stairs you can see a long way down, but there’s no question about the stability or safety of these stairs, so by all means approach with every confidence. However, if any feelings of vertigo take hold, the restaurant can still be accessed via an elevator and a more conventional entrance.
On arrival, the restaurant’s maître d’ will greet and lead you to your table, which needs to be reserved in advance. If you have your Carnival cruise booked and confirmed, can be done online prior to embarkation. Tables at Nouveau are spread over two floors and are set up for parties of two, seated by the window, giving you a great ocean view on those longer summer nights. Parties of six or eight are also easily looked after, with larger groups also able to be accommodated if needed, although this must be requested at the time of booking. The venue is charged at a flat $45 per person for food, while wine & cocktails are additional.
The venue is dimly lit but not so much that it is difficult to see. As the restaurant sits at the top of the central atrium, diners will enjoy periodic music floating up from the lower level which adds to the intimate and organic ambiance.
Your menus will be presented to you, but before you begin scouring this for your selections of the evening, take a moment to indulge your waiter as he or she wheels over a tray loaded with wrapped examples of the many cuts of meat available to tempt your palate. Your waiter will run through the different varieties on offer and will discuss the many garnishes and sides which will best complement each selection. Then, examples of some of the best wines to further enhance these steaks can also be detailed before you select a bottle to start.
If wine isn’t your thing, there is a decent cocktail list to get you started as well, while you can also order from the ship’s beer and non-alcoholic selection of beverages.
We began our Nouveau experience with the Ahi Tuna Tartare and a side of caesar salad, but before this arrives, we’re served with a delicate little wagyu beef burger which has to be seen to be believed. Granted, this photo presents the item as something of a slider or a canape-sized bite, however looking from above, the burger is tiny – no bigger than a 50-cent piece. It is a cute little accompaniment which teases at the quality of the beef on its way. At the same time, you will also be served a selection of breads including brioche & focaccia, served with butter, relish and our personal favourite, pumpkin butter, which melts over the brioche.
Nouveau is a venue worth dressing up for. On a nightly basis, you’ll find many passengers celebrating a birthday, anniversary or another special occasion with a meal here, so it is worth donning a nice shirt, jeans or trousers and maybe even a jacket. The restaurant does have a minimum dress code which is described as “cruise elegant”. While this is a bit vague, it basically means a tuxedo is too much but you also can’t waltz up straight from the pool.
One of the highlights and most popular dishes on the Nouveau menu is the Surf & Turf, which consists of a half Maine lobster tail and a grilled filet mignon. With no extra charge past the flat service surcharge, this can be ideal both for those with a healthy appetite and those keen to sample both the red meat and the seafood. Side dishes available with your main courses include steamed broccoli, mashed potato infused with wasabi and a baked potato along with a selection of trimmings including bacon bits and sour cream.
Dessert is another meal in itself. After a hearty entrees and main, dessert may be the last thing you’re looking for, however again, as there is no extra surcharge for it, maybe you can find some more room for it. Take warning though that the cheesecake with hazelnut biscuit is utterly enormous and will easily satisfy two people. If you’re having trouble selection, perhaps aim for the Chocolate Sampler, which is a small dose of four different desserts – the Bittersweet Chocolate Cake, Banana Pannacotta, Tiramisu and Chocolate Marquise.
Open nightly from 5:30pm until 9:30pm for dinner, Carnival passengers can enjoy dining at Nouveau for a per person surcharge of $45. Later seatings around 8pm can fill up quickly so if this is the time you’d like to book, get in early and secure your table online well ahead of embarkation. After submitting your table request, you’ll receive a response via email directly from the maître d’ either confirming your booking or suggesting an alternate time which you can either confirm or respond with an alternate request.
Sea days can be more popular than port days for a meal at Nouveau, so if you’ve left your table booking too late, consider returning early from your day in port in order to have dinner here. Keep your eye on the daily ‘Fun Times’ onboard guide as well, as some last minute availability may appear, although will usually be for an early seating right at opening time prior to 6pm. Sometimes, in order to fill up its remaining places, the restaurant may relax its dress code a little or may offer a bonus such as free bottle of wine. Bon appétit!