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Friday File: Food More Than A Thought

Food is such a focal point of cruising, for at least two reasons. One is that the quality and/or amount of food consumed justifies the cost of the cruise. The other is that cruise lines traditionally have special events for food lovers — sometimes at an extra cost (specialty restaurants) and sometimes free. The photos today give you a taste (ahem) of a little of both those options from our cruises…

1-Millenium-Andrew Harris

Staff often gets personally involved — as Celebrity Hotel Director Andrew Harris did here on the Millennium,


Kids love all things Seuss, including the most unusual ice sculpture we’ve seen, on Carnival Freedom's Seuss at Sea.

3-Riviera-Kathryn K

Cookin’ with Chef Kathryn Kelly on Oceania ships is an experience worth the modest cost.

Crown-chef's table

Radishes never looked so appetizing as during this Chef’s Table experience on the Crown Princess.

5-Epic-Teppenyaki Michael-1

At Teppanyaki on the Norwegian Epic, Michael from the Philippines was so quick his hands were a blur.

6-Eclipse-elegant tea

What’s ‘elegant tea at sea?’ This is what it looks like on the Celebrity Eclipse — and it tastes better.

In the news…

• Carnival's 'fathom' designed for cruisers who wish to participate in 'social impact travel'
• Celebrity Infinity returns to Nanaino (Vancouver Island) for first time in four years
• Vietnam's six-day 'cruise of a lifetime' to visit disputed reefs and islands

Today at portsandbows.com: Carnival unveils its '10th brand'

Royal Caribbean Splendour of the Seas
3 nights
November 14, 2015
Port Canaveral (return): Nassau, CocoCay
Inside: $381.50
Cost per day: $127

Cruise Food's Ever-Changing World

Food has always been challenging for cruise lines, which have developed an amazing ability to handle just about everything. In the early days of cruising, the challenge was to make sure the customers didn’t refer to “cruise ship food” the way patients refer to “hospital food.”

From those pre-historic culinary times, you can now dine in restaurants that are often the equal of the finest of fine dining in big cities, and that’s become pretty much industry-wide.

But there are always glitches.

Today’s world includes more food allergies than ever before, and cruise lines have to cope. It doesn’t matter what makes the customer unhappy with their food so, while the onus is always on the person who is allergic, cruise lines want happy, satisfied clients. A big one these days is gluten…or more specifically, no gluten.

A couple of decades ago, it sounded like a word lifted from a German dictionary. Today, grocery stores have sections of gluten-free food. Restaurants in growing numbers serve gluten-free food — and that means food that has not so much as touched anything containing gluten. The reaction can be devastating for the sufferer.

We’ve started to notice more and more gluten-free items on cruise-ship menus, in part because we have a granddaughter with Celiac disease. It’s the old story, isn’t it? You don’t pay attention to things like this until it touches you.

The same goes for cruise lines. Years ago, they probably would have thought gluten might be from a German dictionary, too.

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Celebrity Reflection
7 nights
December 13, 2014
Miami (return): San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71

Work On The Buffet Waistlines

It’s that day again, isn’t it? Monday. The go-on-a-diet day. It comes around every week, of course, and is overshadowed only by January 2…the ultimate GO-ON-A-DIET day.

This Monday, Labor Day is a good name for going on a diet, because it is laborious. It’s also a good time to bring up what’s happening at Celebrity Cruises.

Smaller plates.

We’re talking cruise buffets. You know what it’s like, cut from the all-you-can-eat part of the menu. In trying to help passengers be more calorie responsible, Celebrity is Eclipse-buffettrying to serve everything as individual portions, on individual plates, instead of leaving it to us to serve ourselves (as much or as little) as we choose. It’s only being tried on one ship…so far.

Will it help?

““Guests are eating less, it’s all psychological,” Chef John Suley told the Cruise Industry News. “It was human nature with a large plate to take the things you wanted to try. Now they are portioned and our guests are also thinking about the health conscious aspect.”

Celebrity has discovered its overall food consumption has dropped, the chefs are enjoying make their dishes more visually appealing and fewer passengers have been freed from doorways in which they were stuck…just kidding.

There is one flaw.

What if you take a second helping?

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Carnival Splendor
7 nights
September 20, 2014
New York (return):  Boston, Portland, Saint John, Halifax
Inside: $369
Cost per day: $52

Scaling Back on the Food Issue

So you're worried about packing five extra pounds, are you, after a just-completed holiday season of over-eating?


"So you're going on a one-week cruise?" said the dentist, his fingers and instruments making it impossible to answer. "I went on a cruise once and I wasn't worried about putting on weight. You know what the experts say?"

Again, no answer.

"They say — and 'they' are the experts in gaining weight — that's it's physiologically impossible to add more than two pounds in one week. It's also physiologically impossible to lose more than two pounds in one week. Physiologically impossible!"

There's another reason to relax, one that didn't come from the dentist.

Cruise lines understand passenger concerns about obesity. Their menus are increasingly health-conscious. Check any dining room menu on a ship and you'll find what's low-cal, low-carb, low-fat, vegetarian, gluten-free…items marked to cater to just above everybody's dietary concerns. When we were on the Celebrity Reflection last month, on one evening's menu 16 of the 21 items were gluten-free.

Besides that, portions are smaller. You can still eat as much as you can fit down your throat, but not usually in one serving. Two main courses? Go for it. But the cruise lines have really thrown the guilt complex back at the passenger, where it should be, of course. 

Dessert? You don't have to chow-down on all the chocolate you can find because desserts are smaller, too. Sometimes, three or four bite-sized desserts is better…and better for you.

If all else fails, naturally, you can hit the gym and work it off.

Or…just take the dentist's word for it.

Norwegian Breakaway
7 nights
April 30, 2013
Southampton, New York
 Inside: $749
Cost per day: $107

Celebrity Dining: Two Opposites


This is a tale of two restaurants that happen to be on a cruise ship.

The restaurants are called the Tuscan Grille and Qsine, and the ship is the Celebrity Reflection, which made its North American debut last week in Miami.

The Tuscan Grille, as you might ascertain, is of Italian lineage and costs $30 per person. The first time we tried it was on the Celebrity Eclipse a couple of years ago, and it is a staple on all Solstice Class ships. The problem is that, despite its name and obvious cuisine, it strikes us that this is a restaurant with an identity problem. Start with billing it as an "Italian steakhouse" which could be taken as something of an oxymoron.

Long-time lovers of Italian food, we were convinced by the waiter to have steak on our Eclipse visit. Last week on the Reflection, it happened again…although the steak was much better the second time than the first. Must have been the aging. Its authenticity as an Italian restaurant is undermined by not having "primo piatto" and "secondo piatto" — pasta or meat/seafood, not a little of each as the Italians do. You CAN have both, but they're both main courses.

One of the appetizers (goat cheese) was on the menu two years ago, then it was gone, now it is back. The menu seems to be fluid, which is not necessarily bad, but at the Tuscan Grille you get the idea it is ever-changing. Is it truly Italian or not?

Qsine is another story.

Introduced as a quirky kind of place where you order tapas-style dishes from an iPad, it's also a Solstice Class staple. We never considered ourselves to be quirky people — we have friends who might disagree — but we loved this place on the Eclipse and again during a brief sampling on the Reflection. You pick five to seven dishes (seven is usually too many) on your iPad by scrolling through and picking your list of favorites.

Everything comes in small bites and anybody of our vintage appreciates that. The food was worldly, not to mention out of this world. Popcorn fish and chips came in a popcorn box. Lobster was teamed with escargot. Disco shrimp had flashing lights. It was introduced on Eclipse but is spreading fleet wide. The specialty price is $35, but that's probably going to change.

And here's the kicker…the menu has not changed at all.

No identity problem here.

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
7 nights
February 2, 2013
New Orleans (return): Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Falmouth
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

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