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Cruising: It’s All About The Food

Chef Curtis StoneFor some of us, there’s an old (and probably outdated) saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach…i.e., good cooks get good husbands. The subjects may have changed but the principle has not.

Good cooking gets many cruisers.

As the year winds down, there are two more examples to validate that thinking.

1) Princess Cruises has been hyping the fact that Chef Curtis Stone has opened his own restaurant (SHARE) on select ships, such as the Ruby Princess and Emerald Princess, with more likely to follow. The “headlines” are “Chef Curtis Stone invites you…” and “Chef Curtis Stone shares his love with this special ingredient…”  and “A favorite family recipe from Chef Curtis Stone…”

2) The new Godmother of the Oceania Sirena — next year — will be Claudine Pepin, who has the right surname to be in the kitchen creating cuisines-des-spectacles. She is, of course, the daughter of the famous Jacques Pepin, who is Oceania’s master chef and The Pepinswhose restaurant is named after him and on two ships, the Riviera and the Marina.

See, it’s all about the food.

While we wouldn’t know Curtis Stone from Oliver Stone (we would know him from Sharon), it’s clear this Aussie “Celebrity Apprentice” grad has many followers and many exquisite recipes. He also has a restaurant in Beverly Hills called Maude, which means that a lot of the beautiful people enjoy his menus. And now a lot of cruisers will, too.

Claudine Pepin, also apparently, has some healthy credentials to go with her healthy food. Her Dad, who turns 80 before Christmas, made it big with Julia Child at his side on PBS and now Claudine’s stepping up in class with him at her side. She also had a PBS show — Cooking With Claudine — and this year has her first cookbook on the shelves for Christmas, Kids Cook French.

As generations of cooking go, both she and Curtis Stone represent a passing of the torch.

Or at least the spatula.

In the news…

• MSC Cruises offers 2-for-1 Caribbean fares for balcony guests starting April 23
• Flash from the past: Verandah Restaurant to open in June on Queen Mary 2
• Two sets of tourism students spend a day on Norwegian Epic in Cannes

Today at portsandbows.comSuite time with Celebrity

Carnival Fantasy
5 nights
January 27, 2016
Charleston (return): Nassau, Freeport
Inside: $409
Cost per day: $81

Norwegian, Zakarian Double Down

Those of us who live in North America are north-south driven. Check out our winter escape habits…West Coasters head for California or Arizona, mid-Westerners go to Texas, and Easterners seek the sun of Florida.

Once on a while, somebody crosses over, but the distance and time (changes) are deterrents.

It seems restaurateurs have a similar compass.

Like Geoffrey Zakarian.

Last summer, Norwegian announced that the celebrity chef would create and oversee Ocean Blue, the luxury seafood dining experience on the Breakaway, the new ship that will arrive in New York City in about three months. Norwegian's boss, Kevin Sheehan, paid tribute to Zakarian's "deep roots in New York City."

Everything about the Breakaway, to be permanently based in The Big Apple, has a New York motif.

Fast forward.

This week, Norwegian announced that Zakarian would do essentially the same thing on the Getaway, the new and sister ship that will arrive next February. Another Ocean Blue restaurant, another Ocean Blue on the Waterfront (more casual), and another seafood eatery known as The Raw Bar.

Did we mention that the Getaway will be permanently based in Miami?

Zakarian is basically a northerner, who was born in Massachusetts and who first became an acclaimed chef in New York, where the New York Times once proclaimed he "seems to have his finger on the pulse of Manhattan." That was 15 years ago.

By then, the Food Network and Iron Chef celebrity had already been an executive chef in South Beach, at a Miami restaurant called Blue Door. And this week's announcement was made at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, to which Geoffrey invited 100 of his chef and celebrity buddies.

So while his Miami roots don't run as deep as his New York roots, there is at least a connection.

It's that north-south thing again.

Carnival Sensation
4 nights
May 5, 2013
Port Canaveral (return): Freeport, Nassau
Inside: $249
Cost per day: $62

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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