Those following the news on Celebrity Solstice -- Celebrity Cruises' hotly anticipated new-build debuting in December -- already know where they'll stay, what innovative if peculiar day-time activities they'll enjoy, and how they'll fritter away their nights. But yesterday, on an unseasonably warm evening in New York City, Celebrity gathered a group at the chic Per Se restaurant to present details on a weightier subject: Solstice's onboard cuisine.
A line highly touted for its cuisine -- Celebrity Century was the highest rated "big ship" for dining in Cruise Critic's Cruisers' Choice Poll -- Celebrity is looking to up the ante with Solstice. The aim with the line's newest prototype is to bring eateries onboard with the quality and feel of the classiest Las Vegas establishments -- a blend of trendy style and top-notch cuisine. The Bellagio and the Wynn were mentioned as inspiration, and Celebrity designer Adam Tihany (of Le Cirque fame), was called upon to design three of the ship's venues.
Guests will find a broad range of cuisine types in the 10 onboard eateries, including Silk Harvest's contemporary Asian-fusion options; the French crepe-focused Bistro on Five; Tuscan Grille, a traditional Italian steakhouse; and Blu, a venue reserved for Solstice's new AquaClass guests, serving light and fresh West Coast options dubbed by Celebrity as "clean" cuisine.
Editor's note: With the exception of Murano (for fee), Celebrity has not yet determined which venues will be complimentary and which will require an additional fee. As of now, at least one other restaurant (apart from Murano) will incur an extra cost.
The spots to consume onboard (with the exception of room service) include:
Grand Epernay, one of the venues designed by Tihany, is Solstice's main dining room, with traditional set seating. The visual centerpiece is a dramatic two-story glass wine tower. The menus may include such offerings as peppered bison filet with red onion preserve; and smoked filet with lentil stew, sultan caper and beef jus. Food will be served on square plates.
Bistro on Five is a casual venue offering crepes, sandwiches, soups, quiche, fish and chips, baked ziti, chicken pot pie, sweets and specialty coffees, all available either dine-in or take out. Open nearly 24 hours, the oceanview spot will take care of the late-night munchies.
Oceanview Cafe and Bar (another Tihany design) is Solstice's newer take on Lido dining, with the focus moving away from buffet lines toward a variety of stations and more individually plated portions rather than self-serve hotel pans. The design is inspired by a traditional indoor/outdoor European marketplace, and there will be plenty of alfresco seating available.
Blu is the venue connected with Solstice's new AquaClass cabin category. Note: Celebrity has said, unequivocally, that this isn't a spa restaurant (the spa cuisine will be left to the AquaSpa Cafe, mentioned below). For Blu, Celebrity's used to word "clean" to describe the fare, defined as a mix of Mediterranean and nouveau Californian. The clean feel will be achieved by avoiding cream sauces -- using reductions and vinaigrettes instead -- and through a general focus on lightness and freshness. Thus: pan-seared filet; blackened ahi tuna; herb-crusted rack of lamb; roasted beet salad with goat cheese.
AquaClass guests will have right of seating in this 130-seat venue, but Jaques Van Staden, Vice President of Food & Beverage, was confident that other guests who wanted to sample the food would be able to do so -- perhaps not on the first or second night, but at some point in the cruise (when AquaClass passengers would want to venture out and sample the other dining options).
Introduced on Celebrity's Millennium-class vessels, the AquaSpa Cafe, positioned for maximum effect in the ship's Solarium, will offer the healthiest fare -- salads, grilled chicken breast, fresh fruit and vegetables -- available onboard.
The Mast Grill & Bar is Solstice's straightforward poolside venue serving, burgers, dogs, tacos, gyros, reubens, and fries and onion rings.
Murano, a specialty restaurant that's already a favorite on Millennium-class ships, is coming to Solstice. Solstice's Murano will be similar to the Murano of older ships, with tableside service and elegant French cuisine -- but with an all-new menu, designed for Solstice, sans Michel Roux. Choices may include warm goat cheese pancakes with sweet bell pepper nage; or spice-roasted duck with raisin-apple compote.
Tuscan Grille is an "Old World"-style Italian grill designed by Tihany to look like a Napa Valley wine cellar. Menu options include Kobe beef, antipasti, homemade gnocchi and ravioli and tableside Caesar salad preparation. Each meal is complimented by an extensive wine selection.
One of the more intriguing venues is Silk Harvest, a pan-Asian venue which will feature a blend of Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese and Indian cuisines, including sushi, hot curries and stir fries. In line with the general theme, the restaurant will serve a variety of sakes, Asian beers and cocktails (such as a drink created with ginger root and acai berry).
Cafe al Bacio & Gelateria is an authentic Italian cafe serving gelato and Italian ices, fresh-baked pastries, chocolate truffles, and of course, cappuccinos, espresso, coffee and tea.
Celebrity Solstice will make its maiden voyage December 14, 2008, a seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruise roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale visiting San Juan, St. Kitts and St. Maarten.
We'll continue to post new details as they're revealed, so check back often.
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor