Eclipsed by Culinary Delights
Cruise: Celebrity Eclipse - 14-Night "Exotic Southern Caribbean"
(Jan 12 - 26, 2013)
For a couple from Vancouver, BC (Canada), this 14-Night Caribbean Cruise was a 'winter escape' to warmer clime, offering some additional interest by its focus on southern islands with some natural and cultural content. It was enlightening to observe socio-economic differences among islands of different governance and historical backgrounds. We especially enjoyed two island tours: (1) a Barbados island tour, "A Barbadian Delight" (sponsored by Vacation Vignettes) and (2) a ship shore excursion on St. Lucia - a comprehensive island bus tour to the volcano at La Soufriere. Each of these well-guided tours included historical stops of interest as well as experiencing the natural beauty and vegetation.
Of course, for many fellow passengers, a Caribbean Cruise means 'Beach Time' - they can hardly wait to leave the ship for the day to spend time at a beautiful sandy beach and bake in the sun, to return home with that chocolate brown body color.
For us, along with the enjoyment of Caribbean island culture, sun and warmth, a cruise should also provide a special culinary experience, a step above the ordinary. So, to put it simply, on this cruise "we were eclipsed by culinary delights" - the enjoyment of experiencing the Specialty Restaurants (SpR) on the Eclipse: (1) Qsine, (2) Blu (the main dining venue for Aqua Class clients), and our two favourites (3) Tuscan Grille, and (4) Murano (two times).
(1) First night onboard is one night on which cruise lines often encourage clients to visit Specialty Restaurants by offering a discount. Along with another cruise companion couple, we decided on Qsine as our first SpR outing. We were most warmly welcomed by Ms Fresi, the very capable Maitre D' of the Qsine and given Apple iPads to peruse the informative and colourful menu. We had a lot of fun viewing, discussing, and ordering from a most interesting and diverse selection of global cuisine. Being four diners, enabled us to broaden our selection - eleven choices turned out to be a most generous quantity for four to consume. These were followed by surprising and delicious dessert selections. So ... how to characterize Qsine ... dining there was a memorable and enjoyable experience - in many ways, Qsine defies categorization - it is a very creative, innovative restaurant with whimsical, unusual and fun presentations.
(2) The Blu restaurant with its 'clean cuisine' is the specially assigned 'home-base dining' for Aqua Class patrons. The service was highly attentive with extra effort to give diners a somewhat exclusive experience with breakfast and dinner only seating. Everyone is made to feel special when greeted by the Maitre D'. Seating is mostly at tables for two, close enough to strike up great dinner conversations with neighbours as desired.
(3) Tuscan Grille represents an outstanding Italian dining experience, serving not only great steaks but providing a broad range of great appetizers, pasta dishes, and superb seafood selections. We would gladly return any number of times - it is worthy of the designation 'special restaurant'. Oh, yes - get off to a good start with their offer of putting together a wonderful antipasto plate including freshly shaved prosciutto.
(4) Last is one of our favourite specialty restaurants on cruises, the Murano (or similar on Millenium ships) - truly "exquisite fine dining in a distinctive setting with stellar service" - we have always found it to be so! The starters, the entrees, the desserts are all first class and measure up to the finest restaurants anywhere in the world. To the dismay of my wife, at least once on every Celebrity cruise, I relish the experience of lingering through the 'Five Senses with Wine Pairing' - it truly is the ultimate in fine dining. For Foodies, the Murano is a Must.
Eclipse as one of the Solstice Class ships of Celebrity, is a wonderful vessel with all the amenities one would look for to experience a great cruise - generous space so as not to feel crowded, great crew to passenger ratio, and the renowned Celebrity emphasis on providing excellent service to achieve high levels of customer satisfaction. Beautiful art work can be found throughout the ship but one living piece of art stands out - the Ficus Benjamina Tree suspended high in the main elevator cluster (see photos). A unique Celebrity Life presentation on the Eclipse were the Glass Blowing demonstrations - a live learning experience of art produced by the science of "Working with the Corning Museum of Glass ... a traveling exhibition called the "Hot Glass ShowSM." ... the first-ever glass show at sea".
Although we have sailed with other cruise lines (Royal Caribbean, Holland America, etc.), Celebrity continues to excel in that category and remains one of our favourites.
Walter Behnke - (Cruise Critic - wwb_ca)