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Shaquille O'Neal has a chicken restaurant on a cruise ship, and it's excellent

Aug. 01, 2021
4 min read
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"Can you dig it?" reads a sign near the entrance to one of several new restaurants onboard Carnival Cruise Line's newest ship, Mardi Gras. But this isn't just any eatery. It's Shaq's Big Chicken restaurant -- the brainchild of former NBA basketball star Shaquille O'Neal, whose likeness happily smiles down from the wall next to the query. Like Shaq himself, it's over-the-top good.

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What you need to know

(Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

The first at-sea outpost of O'Neal's land-based Big Chicken chain, this location is found on Deck 16, aft, near the Tides Pool, which makes it the perfect place to grab lunch if you're spending the day splashing or sunbathing.

The window-service counter serves Naked Truth chicken, raised without cages, hormones or antibiotics. You can choose from a selection of white or dark meat crispy (or grilled, on request) chicken sandwiches or white meat chicken strips with fries. Want to start your chicken feast early? Big Chicken also offers breakfast (until 3 p.m. for super late risers).

(Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

One of the best parts of the whole experience is that the food is included in the ship's cruise fares, so you won't pay an extra cent. Plus, you can go back as many times as you'd like. (For reference, sandwiches and chicken strips at Shaq's land-based restaurants, found on the U.S. West Coast, run roughly $7-8, while sides are in the $3 range.)

The venue has tables nearby, but because it's outside, it's not climate controlled. You can snag a seat in the air-conditioning at the Lido Marketplace buffet next door, however.

Big Chicken is rumored to be open all day, but check the Carnival Hub app or the printed daily schedule for hours of operation.

The menu

(Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

So, what, exactly, will you find on the Big Chicken menu? Here's the rundown.

Most Dominant Ever (M.D.E.): crispy or grilled white or dark meat chicken sandwich, Shaq sauce, pickles, fries

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Shaq Attack (spicy): crispy or grilled white or dark meat chicken sandwich, pepper jack cheese, jalapeno slaw, spicy chipotle barbecue sauce, fries

Uncle Jerome (spicy): Nashville hot chicken sandwich, lettuce, mayo, pickles, fries

The Big Aristotle: crispy or grilled white or dark meat chicken sandwich, muenster cheese, crispy fried onions, bacon, sweet and smoky Memphis barbecue sauce, fries

(Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

Chicken strips: crispy, hand-breaded white meat chicken strips with fries

Sides: choice of potato salad, house-made sweet and spicy pickles and/or jalapeno slaw

Sauces: choice of barbecue ranch, Memphis barbecue, Shaq sauce, buffalo hot and/or ketchup

Chicken and Biscuit (breakfast): crispy white-meat chicken breast on a biscuit with chili honey glaze syrup

Biscuit and Egg (breakfast): egg on a biscuit with choice of cheese and either sausage or bacon

Three Cheese Omelet (breakfast): egg omelet with cheddar, Monterey Jack and Swiss cheeses

Bottom line

(Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

I'm super picky when it comes to meat. At the first sign of gristle, tendon or anything remotely similar, my stomach turns. In fact, I once went completely vegetarian for about a year after a particularly unpleasant fast-food experience (until I realized I missed bacon and can't stand tofu). So, when I tell you the chicken at Big Chicken is good, you know you can trust me.

Not only was I able to eat every single bite without incident, but I went back for seconds and then the next day for breakfast. (Seriously, try the Chicken and Biscuit. You can thank me later.)

The selection isn't huge, but what's available is tasty, filling and high-quality, which is amazing, given the fact that it's free. If you're someone who's a meat-eater, definitely check it out if you're onboard.

Featured image by (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees