If you’ve been a reader of this [travel] blog for sometime, I may have convinced you about the benefits of cruising. You might even think that I’m lobbying for a job with one of the major cruise companies… and seeing as how I’ll need to resume gainful employment sooner rather than later, you may just be right. If I haven’t yet convinced you to book your next vacation on a massive floating wonderland, let me quickly state my case once again. Cruising offers you the opportunity to be pampered day and night while visiting far-off locales in multiple countries without unpacking more than once. You can soak up culture, splurge on shopping, enjoy theatre, gamble in the casino, relax in the spa or simply sit in your room and enjoy room service while taking in the most magical of views.
On top of all that, you will enjoy delectable cuisine any time of day or night. In my opinion (which, I’ve found is more fact than opinion since I’m right 98.8% of the time… just ask Jen), one of the best things about cruising is the food. I once read that the weight gain for your average cruise-goer can be up to a pound a day (do the math for a two week cruise). If the food can be the star of the show, truth be told – it can also be the downfall of your vacation if you’re served meals that are no better than bad banquet food (and you thought you had a lousy meal at Moritz Rosenstien’s bar mitzvah?). That is why careful research about your cruise line (and more importantly, the specific cruise ship) is of the utmost importance. We chose our most recent Mediterranean cruise on one of Celebrity Cruises newest ships, the Silhouette based on the itinerary and overwhelmingly positive reviews of the food. We were not disappointed.
It works like this; your per person cruise fare includes all the food in most of the ship’s restaurants. It will not include alcohol or soda, but you can purchase these “extras” with a drink package or à la carte as you go. Most ships have one or two main dining halls, where you can opt to eat your sit-down breakfast and dinner, paired at tables with other guests or by yourself (the choice is yours). This is where you will have your “fixed” dining time for dinner, although it is entirely up to you if you want to show up. Some cruise lines (Norwegian Cruise Lines) opt for a “freestyle” type of dining, so you just show up whenever you want. Nowadays, even the “fixed” dining times are fairly flexible on most ships. If you don’t want to slip out of your wife-beater and into a collared shirt, you’ll want to meander to the buffet on the upper level of the ship. Here you can serve yourself breakfast, lunch and dinner from the vast array of options (anything from contemporary American to Indian). At peak meal times you’d better have a “table-holder” and a “food-runner” who is not afraid to “throw bows“; it does get crowded. Don’t let any of those little old blue hairs fool you – they get serious about being next in line at the omelet station! Finally, you’ll have another casual restaurant near the pool deck – a pizza and/or burger joint. This is the basic formula for most cruise ships. Beyond that, larger ships have a few extra “free” options and then their “specialty dining” options.
The specialty dining restaurants usually range from $15/per person to $50/per person (not including gratuity). We found that on our Holland America cruise last summer onboard the Nieuw Amsterdam, their specialty dining was a steal. For $60 total (including tip), we ate at the Pinnacle Grill, a fabulous steak house – a meal that would easily approach $300 in any major city (that story is at the bottom of this post). On our next cruise this past winter on board the Silhouette, our ship offered more dining options, but at more of a premium. At $110+ per meal ($45/pp plus tip) we knew that we wouldn’t be able to enjoy all their fabulous specialty dining options – many of which feature James Beard chefs (Qsine, Blu, Murano, Tuscan Grill, Lawn Club, Bistro on Five and Bacio Gelateria). We had to choose carefully among them… and I think we nailed it!
Since this is not only a travel blog but also a food blog (identity crisis, much?), I have used this post to feature two of the “specialty dining” restaurants on the Silhouette. This post is dedicated to two fabulous (is there a stronger word than fabulous? If so… insert it please) meals that we enjoyed at Qsine and Murano. I have included a description of each restaurant, copied directly from the company website.
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Qsine® offers a culinary journey that delivers elements of surprise and delight. Our James Beard featured Master Chef created Qsine to give you something you’ve never experienced before—on land or at sea. Leave any preconceived notions behind. Dig in and try new things. It’s time your palate got a wakeup call. Our iPad® menus make your dining experience even more fun and interactive.
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Impeccable service, classic design, world-class cuisine and comfortable sophistication are celebrated to the utmost in Murano. Experience tableside lobster presentation, an expansive selection of artisanal cheeses from around the world, or the extensive American and French wine list.
Charming and timeless, Murano transports you, through palate and décor, to a modern and sophisticated level of dining.
We were drawn in by the fun food-play in Qsine and the ability to order our meal on iPads. The food and ambiance did not disappoint. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Murano because we had a built in surprise. My parents wanted to give Jen this meal for her birthday and even included four hours of “in-room” babysitting for Julia, which was even sweeter than the restaurant’s jaw dropping desserts. And in case you were counting, yes – that was four appetizers and three desserts in Murano (and countless dishes in Qsine). I mean, once you pay the price of admission… it’s all included, after all!
I hope you enjoyed taking another culinary voyage with me (this time on the high seas). I hope your taste buds were satisfied. Tune back in soon when we conclude our cruise with visits to Montenegro, Croatia, Sicily and Naples. Ciao tutti!