Guests are spoilt for choice with a new dining concept being introduced on Celebrity ships, writes Greg Fleming.
You don't build a billion-dollar cruise ship without paying special attention to the food.
Great design and cutting-edge tech is fine, but if the food doesn't match up, your guests not only won't return, they'll hit social media to spread the word.
No worries of that here.
What I'll remember from my brief sojourn on the Edge is one of the best meals I've ever had on a cruise ship (at Luminae), and a range of dining options that will impress even the most jaded cruiser.
Celebrity has taken cruisers' feedback into account and introduced a new dining concept that will be rolled out to all Edge-class ships as they arrive.
There are four main dining rooms on board — rather than the usual one — with dishes that change nightly.
I loved the big main dining room on the Australasia-based Celebrity Solstice when I travelled on her recently, but after a few nights inevitably grew a little bored; but here you have four (slightly different) menus, new decor in each and of course a variety of wait staff. Each night a different experience.
Guests can choose traditional dining (the same table and waiter each night at selected times) or Celebrity Select Plus, which allows you to pick any of the four restaurants on any given night.
Head to the Cosmopolitan if you want new American food, the Tuscan for Southern Italian delicacies, the Cyprus for Greek seafood or the Normandie for contemporary French cuisine (which has ties to the Murano restaurant on other Celebrity ships) — all complimentary.
Each restaurant has its own decor as well as "exclusives" that can be found only in that restaurant. If you want raspberry coulis with chocolate for dessert head to Normandie, if you fancy carrot cake go up a deck and dine at Cosmopolitan. Vegetarians are also more than an afterthought, with dishes that change daily — including organic roasted red beets, porcini mushroom orecchiette pasta and a delicious vegetable tart with pesto.
Each of the restaurants has a design that reflects its culinary style.
The Normandie, for example, has a colour palette reminiscent of cherry blossoms, evoking the romance of a springtime in Paris.
Meanwhile, up on deck 14 is the buffet-style Ocean View — I ate lunch here when I boarded and the most difficult thing was deciding among the many dishes on offer — everything from Indian curry to Japanese food to some beautiful sliced-while-you-wait lamb. There's a bakery, fromagerie and a popular salad station which, like all salad stations on cruise ships, became more popular as the cruise went on.
Nearby is the Mast Grill and a juice bar where you can grab hamburgers and hot dogs (and they're great hamburgers) or health-conscious smoothies to enjoy pool-side.
The food was good throughout but a highlight was dining at Luminae — a restaurant reserved for the Suite Class guests — my Alaskan halibut with baby bok choy, sesame sticky rice and ginger broth a culinary high-point of the trip and service was on-point — considered without being obtrusive.
The most memorable meal was the one I had at Eden, (which has a $95 charge per dinner).
The food — courtesy of Spanish chef Nicolas Bejarano who has worked at acclaimed Spanish restaurant Paco Roncero — is worth every cent but the theatrics that accompanied it — a flashy retelling of the Adam and Eve story, complete with aerobic theatrics, strobe lighting and a troupe of scantily clad performers — won't have universal appeal.
But then that's part of the charm of this ship; it has the confidence to take chances, and while the theatrics left many in our party puzzled, the Eden space — which spans three decks — is quite remarkable. Come back in daylight and it's transformed into an open, airy event space.
Other specialty dining options include the Rooftop Garden Grill (American barbecue), the Fine Cut Steakhouse and Le Grand Bistro inspired by classic French bistros — which was busy throughout the cruise. Maybe that's because on selected nights Le Grand Bistro transforms its tables into hi-tech 3D displays, where you can watch animated characters prepare your dishes.
And if that isn't enough there are also six complimentary cafes as well as 11 bars and lounges.
Of course, the table to get on the Edge is the one on the Magic Carpet — that movable tubular steel deck which hangs off to the side of the ship, an engineering feat of some magnitude.
It offers diners spectacular views and a one-of-a-kind sea-faring experience — that really lives up to the Edge's claim of giving guests "the best of modern luxury at sea".
The lucky one in our normally hard-to-impress party of travel journalists who secured a spot there one evening returned from the experience glowing. "Sipping champagne, eating oysters and watching the sun set over the Bahamas — what's not to like?"
A 7-night Western Caribbean cruise, departing November 24, is from $3039pp, twin share. Airfares additional.