As food is key element that enriches our vacation experiences, a good place to start in considering a Celebrity cruise is with the line’s cuisine. We consider Celebrity a “premium” cruise line -- something below “luxury” cruise lines, and a step above more popular lines. Certainly the dining experience bears this out. The cuisine is better and more varied fare than on a Royal Caribbean or Princess cruise, though not the same level as on top-end Crystal or other luxury cruise lines.
On our cruise aboard Celebrity Equinox, we enjoyed dining in three of the alternative restaurants (each with a small cover charge): Murano, Tuscan Grill and Silk Harvest, in addition to the main Silhouette dining room. As we weren’t staying in the AquaClass category, we were excluded from dining at Blu, yet another venue, and we by-passed Bistro on Five, a creperie with a $5 cover charge.
The French-cuisine inspired Murano offers a high-end dining experience, with table-side cooking for some dishes, such as the cognac-flambeed lobster tail with applewood smoked bacon and Dijon cream sauce or, for dessert, the fabulous Crepe Ballon Rouge (pictured), with balsamic strawberries, vanilla ice cream and Chambertin sauce. A good starter was the phyllo baked amjou pear and Roquefort cheese and port reduction sauce. You get the picture. Service here is almost overly attentive.
The Italian themed Tuscan Grille steakhouse is beautifully situated aft of the vessel with large windows overlooking the sea. As we dined we watched spinner dolphins following behind, swimming in the ship’s wake. Service was excellent, as was the food. Italian starters included fresh tasting fried calamari, grilled eggplant cannelloni, aranchini and a wonderful braised beef ravioli with wild mushroom truffle sauce. The leek onion soup was noteworthy. We passed on pastas and went straight for the seafood and meat entrees, which include Branzino, seafood risotto, veal scaloppini and rib eye, among other selections.
Silk Harvest is a pan-Asian dining experience, offering some good sushi dishes and tasty Chinese and Thai-inspired fare, ser ved family style. Not as exceptional as the other dining venues above for those well versed in Asian cuisine, but a nice diversion.
In the main Silhouette dining room, each evening offered a different menu, with most entrees nicely presented and tastily prepared. Soups were served hot, the bread basket offered a variety of fresh and tasty baked goods. The kitchen isn’t afraid to use spices as called for, which was appreciated, as some onboard cuisines can be a bit bland in trying to accommodate to more conservative taste buds. We had no complaints about the fare here, and our service was excellent. Our sommelier also was helpful and always on the ball.
Noteworthy on board, too, was the bar scene and the excellent array of wines, cocktails, plus vodka, martini and scotch tastings. Enomatic wine machines offer world-wide wines by the taste or the glass, and the wine menu in the dining venues is nicely varied, with lots of options. At the Molecular bar you can have a unique cocktail created just for you, on the spot, based on what type of taste you might be craving.
If I have criticism of the cuisine, it’s largely a disappointment that on our Mediterranean cruise to several Greek ports, there were hardly any Greek dishes, nor a Greek themed dinner offered. Throughout the day, varied cuisine is offered in the Oceanview cafe buffet, from Indian cuisine available daily, sushi in the late afternoon, and occasional British fare like bangers and Scotch egg. While ice cream was readily available free in Oceanview Café, the Italian-themed Gelateria has an additional charge.
When it comes to value and cuisine, Celebrity Cruises delivers the goods pretty well.