Carnival is the largest parade in America, and attracts over 2.5 million people each year. Shaq was hired to play “Big Chicken” as part of the festivities for Carnival 2018, which takes place from February 10th-19th in New Orleans. Big Chicken will roam around with a giant chicken suit and give out free McDonald’s food to those who want it during Mardi Gras season
Carnival is the largest festival in North America and has had a lot of changes over the years. One of these changes was when Shaq’s Big Chicken became part of the Carnival experience.
Shaq debuted Big Chicken in Las Vegas in 2018 and then on a Carnival Cruise Line ship the following year. On Mardi Gras, we got down and assessed this new free eating place.
This shot was taken in Las Vegas at Shaq’s Big Chicken.
I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t overjoyed when Carnival Cruise Line announced that Big Chicken would be joining their list of free locations.
It’s not that I dislike chicken; it’s just that I couldn’t understand how a restaurant specialized in chicken sandwiches could compete on its own. I was mistaken, as it turned out.
Shaquille O’Neal’s Big Chicken
- 16 aft on the Lido Deck
- Breakfast and lunch are served at a counter and are included in the cruise fee.
Shaquille O’Neal, the cruise line’s “Chief Fun Officer,” created a modest menu, but the chicken is fantastic. Shaq’s chicken is tender, crispy, fresh, and made-to-order, making it a Carnival slam-dunk.
Shaq’s Big Chicken is built out similarly to Guy’s Burger Joint, one of Carnival’s most popular restaurants. Employees at Big Chicken, like those at Guy’s, are continually creating sandwiches and fries so you can go up to the counter and get your order immediately.
Carnival has built up a back-and-forth barrier system here — and in numerous other locations around the ship — to handle any queues that may arise. It’s clever, it works, and it seems to reduce social distance.
The menu is mostly comprised of chicken sandwiches, with one unusual addition: a cheese omelet.
Shaq’s Big Chicken offers three breakfast options: a chicken-and-biscuit sandwich, bacon (or sausage), an egg and cheese biscuit sandwich, and an omelet. The biscuit sandwiches are both delicious.
Keep in mind that I’m from Jersey… Someone from the South, where biscuits are almost a religion, may have a different opinion.
Unless you just want cheese on your omelet, I don’t suggest it. You couldn’t, as far as I could see, add anything more to it. It comes off as a bit of an afterthought. If you must have an omelet here, I recommend buying a plate from the Lido Marketplace first (it’s difficult and strange eating an omelet out of a square bowl) and then heading over to the BlueIguana Cantina’s toppings bar to get a decent sauce for it.
Breakfast is offered from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., allowing you to have breakfast well into the lunch hour, which isn’t typically the case on cruise ships.
The remainder of the cuisine is available every day from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., including embarkation day. Yes, you can order fries before 10:30 a.m., unlike at McDonald’s. These fries aren’t like the ones you’ll get everywhere on the ship. They don’t seem to be anything exceptional, but they’re really rather excellent. They’re similar to steak fries in that they’re sliced broad yet thin enough to retain their crispiness.
As a consequence, even those who dislike steak fries, such as myself, will like them. What do you think about them? It’s good enough that you should go to Shaq’s just for the fries, even if you don’t want anything else on the menu.
At Shaq’s, the fries aren’t the only thing that’s good. The menu is small — there are just four sandwiches and chicken tenders to choose from — yet everything I tasted was delicious.
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There’s a sides-and-sauces bar with pickles, jalapeo slaw, and potato salad to pair with your chicken, as well as four sauces: Memphis BBQ, Shaq sauce, buffalo hot, and BBQ ranch.
The jalapeo slaw was excellent, and the pickles were just what you’d expect from pickles, but the potato salad was disappointing. The sauces were all unique, but delicious in their own right, and the french fries are a great chance to sample them all before deciding which one to put on your sandwich.
Before you attack Big Chicken, here are a few pointers: Before coming here, get a dish from the Lido Marketplace, like I indicated previously.
You’ll be pleased you did, particularly if you want to sample a few other sauces. Also, if you buy chicken tenders, request a double amount since a typical order only comes with two, and you’ll want more.
Finally, I wouldn’t ask for dark meat on the Big Aristotle sandwich if you’re going that way. That one has cheese, bacon, and fried onions on it… When you add dark meat, it all comes together in an overly oily manner.
The dark meat, on the other hand, tastes fantastic on the other sandwiches.
I enjoy that Shaq’s Big Chicken is open earlier and after most other lunch spots since it gives me more options if I don’t want to eat from the buffet.
The only time the meal isn’t “quick” is when you want dark meat, which is an option on the menu. Each time I requested dark meat, I was informed that I would have to wait seven minutes or more.
MENU: Carnival Cruise Line’s Shaq’s Big Chicken Restaurant
I haven’t received proof that this is always the case, but it seems to be the case. This is a pity since the (relatively) lengthy wait time effectively discourages people from ordering dark meat, perpetuating the idea that it should only be made when asked.
Perhaps they’ll have it ready to go when the ship reaches maximum capacity. However, the black flesh is wonderful, rich, and juicy, so if you’re not in a hurry and want dark meat, the seven-minute time investment is well worth it.
Take a look at some of our other Mardi Gras content:
Frequently Asked Questions
What Carnival ship has Shaqs Big Chicken?
Where is Big Chicken on Mardi Gras?
A: The biggest chicken in the world is the one that lays the golden egg!
What ships is Shaq chicken on?
A: Shaq is a retired basketball player and currently an actor. He is the co-owner of the Miami Heat, alongside his former teammate Alonzo Mourning.
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