Culinary Cruising: Dining Like a Celebrity
Celebrity Cruises’ reputation for great cuisine is on full display aboard Celebrity Equinox. A new journey to discover on-board dining.
The Galley Tour on Celebrity Cruises‘ Equinox was well-attended despite this being a picture-perfect day in the Caribbean. Perhaps 300 people gave up their time in the sun to come see how Celebrity does it: For years, the cruise line has maintained the high ground for its culinary excellence, its passengers drawn back to Celebrity ships year after year for precisely that reason. Celebrity can rightfully claim that it started the trend in Cruise Ships hiring Celebrity Chefs.
The great Michel Roux, French-born owner of London’s Waterside Inn, came on board for 15 years directing the culinary offerings on board Celebrity’s ships. Roux made over 100 visits to coach the Chefs aboard each cruise ship. He even trained the most promising newcomers at his restaurant. Even though it’s been ten years since Roux departed, the standard of excellence he demanded remains intact.
Aside from the Dining experience, there are Cake Decorating demonstrations, Wine tastings and even a workshop run by Glassware maker Reidel. And everywhere you turn there are great things to eat.
Guests at the Galley Tour listened to the Hotel Director Christophe Belaubre rattle off a list of the quantity of food that had been loaded on the ship during its turnaround day in Miami: 14,542 lbs. of beef…12,450 lbs. of potatoes…32,652 lbs. of fresh fruit…12,000 fresh eggs…48,659 lbs. of vegetables…19,000 tea bags. On a single day at sea, the Celebrity Equinox Galleys will prepare and serve 16,000 dishes for the 2852 passengers and the 1246 crew members on board. This requires a brigade of no less than 650 people. 3 Executive Sous Chefs and 1 Executive Pastry Chef command 162 Sous Chefs and cooks, 85 kitchen cleaners and a waitstaff of 400 people. And heading up the entire operation is Executive Chef Christos Galanopoulos, a man perfectly suited to run all 10, count ‘em, restaurants aboard the 122,000-ton ship.
Born in Korinthos, Greece, Chef Christos studied Electrical Engineering. But his true passion was cooking in his family’s restaurant. He abandoned his engineering career to attend the prestigious Le Monde Culinary School in Athens. While doing his military service in Greece’s Airforce, he furthered his knowledge of cooking while attending seminars and training programs. From there, Chef Christos went on to work in 5-star hotels and esteemed restaurants in both Greece and Austria. The Chef joined Celebrity Cruises in 2012. Even on shore leaves, the Chef’s passion for the sea is apparent. He likes nothing more than exploring islands in his traditional boat.
Chef Christos has a passion for cooking with fresh herbs. Equinox does not disappoint
20 fresh herbs are brought aboard ship at Equinox turn-around from her home port of Miami. Some 20 lbs. of each are procured per 10-day voyage. Celebrity Equinox has enough climate-controlled food storage in place to assure freshness throughout each voyage. Nevertheless, there are challenges: A recent turn around in Miami left port without any yogurt whatsoever. Celebrity was not alone in this yogurt crisis. No cruise ship left port with yogurt. Fortunately, Celebrity Cruises was able to find yogurt at Equinox’s first port of call.
For a chef like Galanopoulos, a life of travel is an exploration of food, experiencing cuisine all over the world, incorporating it into his own repertoire. The Chef’s international experience makes him the perfect person to watch over all the offerings on Equinox and all the cuisines they cover from Japanese Sushi, to Asian Fusion to Steakhouse and Italian specialties.
On Equinox, Passengers have multiple choices as to where to dine.
Long ago, passengers on ships travelled in ‘classes’. And those classes dictated where, what and with whom you would dine. This was largely abandoned when Cruises replaced ocean crossings. To make the whole experience sound less like it belonged to the elderly few, Cruise ships put everyone together. But lately, options abound. On Equinox, passengers in Suites have their own dining room, Luminae, an oasis of calm at their disposal breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Then there’s Blu, a restaurant given over to passengers travelling in Aqua Class, with spa-themed perks and free access to the Spa. Blu alone may be worth the price of admission to Aqua Class. This superb restaurant is not only beautiful to look at, it serves Spa cuisine and a great deal more at both breakfast and lunch. Aqua Class should not be confused with Concierge Class, which has twice as many cabins all located in more desirable locations than standard balcony cabins.
Concierge Class and everyone else on the ship dines in the Silhouette restaurant, a vast two-story room with an eye-catching wine tower holding hundreds of bottles of wine. It’s a lively place which at least one suite passenger preferred over the more sedate Luminae.
For virtually all-day eating, Oceanview Café, high up in the ship has every conceivable cuisine all going at once. On a ship with a crew made up of 72 nationalities, there’s almost as much variety at its buffet stations. Indian, Mexican, Asian, Pizza, a Carving Station, Salad and Soup Bars are full of food freshened almost constantly. And if you feel peckish at any point, Room Service runs 24/7 although there is a small cover charge for deliveries between 11:00 PM and 6:00 AM.
Almost as constantly, the Pool Grill above the outdoor swimming pool produces hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs and French fries. In the serene, enclosed Spa pool is the Aqua Spa Café which is billed as Healthy Alternative fare at breakfast and lunch. At Caffe al Bacio on deck 5, pastries and gelato and specialty coffees are on offer and Gastropub food can be found at the Gastro Bar one deck below. Both operate from noon until 11 or 12 p.m.
Now to the Specialty Restaurants…
You would think that on a ship with as many options as the ones listed, there’d be no need for alternative dining of any kind. But Culinary variety and excellence are hallmarks of Celebrity. Aboard Equinox, there are four options—including two new ones added when the ship underwent Celebrity’s fleet-wide modernization of the 11-year-old ship. Each provides a smaller scale experience at table, kitchens devoted just to that one venue, and chefs who know their way around whatever culinary style they are cooking. So it is that Japanese Sushi chefs are on duty at Sushi on Five at both lunch and the dinner hour.
The popular Tuscan Grille is a glorious space overlooking the stern of the ship. This is Celebrity’s salute to Italy although it is likely best known for its steaks and abundant portions of beautiful pasta. The equivalent to any Fine Dining restaurant on land, Murano offers amazing menus and corresponding wine lists making this one of the most popular places on the ship. It’s also home to the Chef’s Table, an extraordinary experience which combines a galley visit and spectacular meal with course by course wine pairings.
The first of two new offerings, Craft Social features more than 40 craft beers, specialty cocktails and gourmet comfort food. The second is truly an extraordinary experience. Called Le Petit Chef tm At Q-sine, it’s truly a feast for the senses. An animated 3D character appears right on guest’s plates and prepares each delicious course for a truly fun evening.
The catch? All of the specialty restaurants require an additional fee.
These range from the cost of a Sushi roll to the full-on five course tasting menu at Murano with wine pairings at $279.00 per couple or $199.00 a person. Truth be told, many travel agents use passes to these restaurants as perks for their best customers. There are also Celebrity dining packages which allow access to several venues at a discount. With so much good food available on board, you can skip the Specialty Dining altogether. Although there’s no question Specialty Dining adds another culinary dimension to any voyage.
Passengers aboard Celebrity Equinox first marvel at how much food there is, in so many locales, for so many tastes. But what is really surprising to one and all is how incredibly good it all is, how the quality never varies from its perch of excellence. The food, the service, the selections all explain why Celebrity has one of the highest Repeat Passenger counts in the entire Cruise industry. For information on Celebrity Equinox and all other Celebrity Cruises go to www.celebritycruises.com