HAL and Le Cirque: The Early Reviews Are In

October 28, 2010

(9:10 a.m. EDT) -- Announced earlier this week, Holland America Line's new partnership with the chi-chi restaurant Le Cirque ups the ante for chowhounds looking for something different afloat.

Restaurateur Sirio Maccioni opened the Manhattan original in 1974, and the circus-themed spot became an instant celeb magnet and the launching pad for the careers of such renowned chefs as Daniel Boulud and Rick Moonen. It's since been moved to a new Midtown location, a Las Vegas outpost has been added and now, passengers can enjoy the Le Cirque experience onboard the HAL fleet.
"An Evening at Le Cirque" will be featured one night a week in the line's Pinnacle Grill specialty restaurant. Currently it's available on only a few ships (including Oosterdam; Holland America couldn't confirm the others), but it should be on all 15 by year's end. Besides cooking demonstrations and, uh, sales of Maccioni's autobiography, passengers can expect menu choices from the eatery, table settings featuring its iconic dishes (replete with monkey illustrations) and a special wine list.

Naturally, this comes at a cost: $39 a person -- or $59 with wine.

This may seem a tad costly, but then we checked out the Le Cirque Web site and were stunned to see that the Lobster Salad "Le Cirque," which can be found on the HAL menu, is $45 if you order it on terra firma in New York. The Cote de Boeuf? $58. It's enough to make your stomach growl.

So far, Cruise Critic readers who've stumbled upon the new bill of fare on the Oosterdam give it mixed reviews. "The food was great, but it would have been nice to get a little more variety," wrote rrizgod. Meanwhile, Spinner2 was less impressed, deeming the food "no better than what the Pinnacle usually serves" and expressing her hope that "before it goes fleetwide there will be improvements to what we experienced."

Then again, several of those interested in the concept echo m steve, who opines, "I know dinner at Le Cirque in NY or LV will be over $200 pp. so it is worth a try."

Wondering what all the fuss is all about? Join the conversation here.

-- by John Deiner, Managing Editor