By Chris Gray Faust
Cruise Critic Managing Editor
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Dining

Celebrity markets itself as a line for foodies, and for the most part, the cuisine onboard is a notch above other mass-market lines. From the Oceanview Cafe buffet to Cosmopolitan, the main dining room, to specialty restaurants Qsine and Tuscan Grille, we found that while the food wasn't OMG-wow, there weren't a lot of outright misses either. A sommelier made an appearance at dinner -- and sometimes lunch -- in each restaurant, to discuss drink orders or make recommendations, which we found to be a fine touch.

There are only two specialty restaurants onboard; children under the age of 12 are generally not permitted to dine at either Tuscan Grille or Qsine.

Free Dining

Cosmopolitan Restaurant (Decks 4 and 5): The two-level Cosmopolitan Restaurant features sophisticated decor accented by La Normandie, a seven-foot-high bronze statue of a woman draped like the goddess Athena. Created by Art Deco sculptor Leon-Georges Baudry, this statue originally graced the first-class smoking room in the legendary liner SS Normandie. The dining room also has a sweeping staircase for grand entrances on formal nights and a two-level glass wall with panoramic views aft.

The restaurant is open seating for breakfast between 7:30 and 9 a.m. You'll find the usual offerings, including eggs Benedict, waffles and omelets. On certain days, Cosmopolitan opens for lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m.

There are two options for dinner in the Cosmopolitan Restaurant. Passengers can go with traditional set-seating at either 6 or 8:30 p.m. or opt for the more flexible Celebrity Select dining option. With Celebrity Select, passengers have the option to eat any time between 5:15 and 9 p.m. and to decide whether they want to eat with their own party or at a mixed table with other passengers. They can also make specific dinner reservations for each day of their cruise online in advance, make reservations onboard or simply show up when ready to eat (although lines can and will form if you don't make a reservation). If you choose Celebrity Select, you have to pay your gratuities in advance, meaning you cannot opt out.

The nightly four-course menu has two options: classics such as filet, salmon and escargot on one side and more modern dishes such as kale salad on the other. On one evening, this side of the menu was dedicated to dishes created by chefs from the TV show Top Chef; the braised short ribs we had that night (recipe by Ash Fulk of New York City's Hill Country Barbecue) proved to be the best meal of the cruise. Gluten-free, vegetarian, no-sugar-added and lactose-free menu selections are marked.

Blu (Deck 5): Blu, which is exclusive to passengers sailing in AquaClass cabins, features modern blue-and-white decor, soft lighting and a menu inspired by spa cuisine. Though the food does not seem overly healthy, the restaurant features smaller portions and dishes that are lighter than what you typically find in the main dining room or buffet. Options include grilled tamarind-glazed quail, sweet yellow corn veloute, blackened ahi tuna and a grilled salmon and endive watercress entree salad. A list of Classic Favorites is always available and includes a broiled Atlantic salmon fillet, roast chicken breast and grilled New York strip steak. Dinner is open seating between 5:45 p.m. and 9 p.m. Suite passengers have the option of dining at Blu if there is availability.

Blu also offers an excellent breakfast menu -- featuring yogurt parfaits, fruit smoothies, pancakes and tableside muesli -- to AquaClass passengers. Hours are 7:30 to 9 a.m.

Luminae (Deck 4): Shimmering in black, gold and cream, Luminae is the private restaurant for cruisers sailing in the suite stratosphere. Suite-class passengers can dine at Luminae for breakfast (7:30 to 9 a.m.), lunch (noon to 1:30 p.m.) or dinner (6 to 9:30 p.m.), every day of their cruise, without reservations. Meals seemed to be a step above even AquaClasss cuisine, offering an inventive rotating menu that might have Caribbean lobster salad in vanilla dressing, Alaskan halibut or a juicy cote de boeuf for dinner; creamy heirloom tomato soup, a lamb burger or ricotta ravioli for lunch; and a set menu for breakfast including huevos rancheros, Belgian waffles, smoked salmon, fruit and smoothies. Order dessert one evening -- a delicate buttermilk panna cotta or rich chocolate palet cake -- and prepare to be impressed. If a three- to four-course meal isn't enough, a whimsical dessert trolley is wheeled to the table, presenting you with an irresistible variety of truffles, French macaroons, homemade cookies, candies and cakes to close out the meal; it's certifiably a step above food found elsewhere on the ship.

Oceanview Cafe (Deck 10): On the casual dining front, the Oceanview Cafe serves buffet-style breakfasts, lunches and dinners. You'll find various carving stations, made-to-order omelets, pasta dishes, pizza and antipasti, and a slew of internationally inspired dishes, including everything from British bangers and mash to Indian curries. An ice cream bar sits at each entrance to the buffet. Treats include a selection of hand-scooped hard ice cream, freshly baked cookies and toppings like Reese's Pieces and Sour Patch Kids.

One surprising highlight of dining in Celebrity Summit's buffet is the view. The venue is spacious and features floor-to-ceiling windows all around; it feels much more like a cafe than a cafeteria. There are even "portholes" built into the floor so passengers can peer down into the ocean as they dine.

We had trouble keeping track of the various opening hours for different sections of the buffet. Breakfast, including the waffle and omelet stations, open at 7 a.m. and closed promptly at 10 a.m. Late breakfast, which ran from 10 to 11:30 a.m., had far fewer choices; you were better off waiting until the full lunch buffet opened at noon. In the evening, curries, Mexican, stir fries and other international options were served from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. -- but if you arrived a minute later, you were stuck with pasta, pizza and cold charcuterie. We found the pizza decent but not spectacular. (Still, at midnight, you can't be too choosy on this ship.)

Pool Grill (Deck 10): Located in a covered area near the pool (natch), the Pool Grill is the main place for those in swimsuits (which are discouraged in Oceanview Cafe) to grab burgers, fries and hot dogs -- even fried chicken and waffles. We found the fries nice and crisp. Open from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Barbecue dishes were offered on the first sea day from noon to 2 p.m.

Spa Cafe (Deck 10): Within the enclosed solarium encompassing the thalassotherapy pool, the Spa Cafe serves up light breakfasts and lunches, as well as smoothies and juice mixes (for an extra cost). While we enjoyed the elaborate yogurt parfaits, we didn't think they were worth the $5.50 cost. (On the other hand, the complimentary chocolate beet muffins were so tasty, you'd never know they were healthy.) Open 7 to 10 a.m. for breakfast and noon to 2:30 p.m. for a light lunch buffet; cold fruit plates drizzled in yogurt and garnished with herbs made for a refreshing snack to have poolside during the hot afternoons. Made-to-order frittatas -- asparagus and potato or black bean and zucchini -- took a few minutes to prep, but were healthy and delicious, beating a wait in line at the buffet.  

Room service is offered around the clock, although there's a $3.95 charge for passengers in interior, ocean-view and balcony staterooms between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Breakfast can be ordered the night before, but we were also able to get a pot of coffee in a reasonable amount of time just by phoning in the morning. The standard menu, available from 11 a.m. to 5 a.m., includes a reasonable selection of appetizers, salads, desserts and stalwarts such as cheeseburgers, pizza and club sandwiches (accompanied by fries that were still crispy and toasty). For an extra cost, you can order premium items such as a caprese salad ($10), filet mignon ($20) and a cheese platter ($15).

Fee Dining

Tuscan Grille (Deck 3); $45 ($35 for lunch): In 2016, Celebrity replaced former restaurant Normandie with the Italian steakhouse Tuscan Grille. The change was strategic: trading out three-hour dinners with French service and fussy cuisine for homemade pastas and choice cuts of meat. Despite the high cover charge, we felt the quality of the food was worth the splurge and the ambiance was refined with dark woods and glass jars of various oils, rust-colored leather seating and paintings of the Tuscan countryside. A window to the kitchen presents a photo op as strands of pasta hang from the ceiling where it's made. Start with calamari or beef carpaccio and definitely split an antipasti board with house-cured olives, meats, cheeses, crackers and fig jam; don't miss the creamy burrata with a spectacularly marinated tomato; split a half-portion of pasta, made in-house, like ricotta gnocchi, short rib pappardelle ragu or a rigatoni with mussels, scallops and shrimp; then close out with a grilled branzino, rosemary snapper or filet mignon. A variety of sides and sauces customize your entree. If you're really looking to celebrate, an 18-oz. dry-aged New York strip is available for an additional $15, while a 22-oz. dry-aged porterhouse runs an additional $18. An Italian cocktail menu is on hand, in addition to a lengthy wine list, to match your meal. Ports, specialty coffees and Italian desserts like a tiramisu or spumoni doughnut are available to sweeten the palate. Drinks are an additional cost.

Lunch is offered on the final sea day of each sailing, with a scaled-down version of Tuscan's full dinner menu.

Bistro on Five (Deck 5); $10: The ship's creperie, open from about 11 to 11 daily on our sailing, is saying its last goodbyes as it will be the final location in the fleet to transition to Sushi on Five, an a la carte Japanese venue, in October 2016. In the meantime, the Bistro is a convenient option for passengers looking for something to nosh between meals and late at night; and is a nice alternative to embarkation day lunch in the buffet. The menu features both sweet and savory crepes, salads, paninis and flatbreads along with a soup du jour (listed for the entire week, so you can check which day will serve your favorite). While the crepes were enjoyable, everything was just a step or two below average -- our shakes and floats were a nice treat, but half-melted and not very thick; and a cheese plate and charcuterie advertised as having bread, nuts and honey came out with none of those things, instead looking like someone threw a few pieces of lunchmeat and hunks of cheese on a plate with reckless abandon.

Cafe al Bacio (Deck 5); a la carte: A mixture of for-fee and free, Cafe Al Bacio offers specialty Lavazza coffee beverages and complimentary pastries in a coffeehouse lounge that surrounds the atrium. Don't miss the housemade gelato in a freshly made waffle cone; it's worth the extra fee ($4 for a small, $6 for a large, $7 for a sundae). Plenty of offbeat but enticing offerings can be found on the menu, like espresso with blackcurrant jam and fresh wild berries with cream or hot chocolate with espresso, crushed amaretti biscuits and peaches. Cafe al Bacio is open 6:30 a.m. to midnight; the gelateria serves between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Qsine (Deck 11, midship); $40: Now a Celebrity fixture on most ships, Qsine is a super-sleek and inventive dining venue that offers a whimsical, interactive dining experience (if the upside-down lamps on the ceiling are any indication). The menu is presented on an iPad and features items inspired by cuisines from around the world, including disco shrimp, filet mignon with five sauces on a painter's palette, tacos with guacamole you prepare tableside and Kobe beef sliders. All are served in creative vessels -- you'll rarely see a serving plate; even the dessert menu resembles a Rubik's cube. We were impressed with the food quality, which was up to par with the creative presentation. Plates are meant to be shared, and portions are sizable, so if you're traveling solo or as a couple, you'll get full long before you explore most of the menu. That means Qsine is perfect for a group. Experience dinner here anytime between 6 and 10 p.m., nightly.

Chef's Table (Location varies); $199 per person, $279 per couple: This special event includes a private galley tour, a multicourse dinner and wine pairing, and a Celebrity Cruises cookbook. Expect the executive chef to make an appearance to see how the evening is progressing. It's typically held in an intimate venue like the Cellar Masters tasting room.

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