We are always looking for the finest in food, wine and travel to bring to our readers. Several weeks ago we set sail aboard the beautiful Celebrity Eclipse from Miami to the Caribbean for one of their food and wine specialty cruises, Savor Your Destination. These culinary cruises take place several times a year on board select ships and include a cruise full of cooking classes, wine dinners and other special events like the Star Chefs Cooking Competition (think Iron Chef). Celebrity Cruises are known for their “Modern Luxury” and I would say that is what we experienced while on board this ship.
I will be writing several articles over the next few weeks about this trip which include interviews with the ship’s Executive Chef German Rio and guest chef Dena Marino. I will also be sharing photographs from the beautiful ports of call we visited and some recipes for dishes from the trip.
There is something special about a cruise. No matter how many times you board a ship and get ready to sail away, there is always a sense of excitement. Standing on the deck of the ship, pulling out of port and watching land fade into the distance is exhilarating.
Maybe it’s the thrill of the vacation that you are about to embark on, or perhaps the wonderment of places you are about to go and the new adventures that you will experience. There is also something about being at sea. It is calming and mysterious at the same time.
This ship, the Celebrity Eclipse, one of the Soltice Class ships, was launched in 2010 and is truly stunning. With 2850 passengers, 1041 feet in length (just over 3 football fields) and 15 stories (decks) high, it is the largest ship we have been on. On past cruises, we really enjoyed the smaller ships. They ranged in size from as small as 187 passengers to as large as 1350 passengers. I did not know what to expect from a cruise with this many passengers. However, once on board, you would never have the sense that so many people are traveling with you as they quickly spread throughout the ship, finding their own sense of space and interests.
The advantage of a ship this size is there are so many beautiful public areas to relax in, pools to enjoy, a spa, jogging track, Casino, library, Lawn Club, boutiques, seminars, restaurants, bars, nightlife and entertainment, all known as Celebrity Life activities. We found more to do and participate in than we had time for.
In the evenings, we found that our favorite part of the ship was where the premium specialty restaurants and several quieter lounges were located. On a ship this size, passengers tend to gravitate to those activities that they enjoy most. This was certainly the case in this specialty area. We encountered people with similar tastes to ours.
There are four premium specialty restaurants in this area. Murano serves Contemporary French Cuisine, Qsine calls its offerings “Uniquely Unordinary” and it is best described as delightful small plates and tastings from around the globe presented with a dramatic flair. Tuscan Grille is their Italian Steakhouse with beautiful views of the sea while you dine. Blu offers a lighter and healthier spa menu and is exclusive for those guests with their special AquaClass package. All of the menus for the ship are created by James Beard nominated Chef Jacques Van Staden. We dined at three of the four specialty restaurants and found the food and service was excellent. The wait staff was incredibly attentive to each guest’s needs and made every effort to create an enjoyable dining experience.
The stunning main dining room, Moonlight Sonata, covers two levels with a sweeping staircase and is home to an impressive wine tower by renowned designer, Adam Tihany. This tower holds 1800 bottles of wine. This outstanding collection includes selections from every major wine-producing region in the world; among which are Rare Vintages, California Rare Cult Wines, and Grand Cru Champagnes.
Since we were on board to experience the Celebrity Savor Your Destination activities and dining, most everything we did revolved around food and wine. There were culinary displays and cooking demonstrations with the guest chef, Dena Marino and the ship’s Executive Chef, German Rijo. We also attended a cooking class with Chef Marino at Murano (more to come on that) and a Connoisseur Wine Dinner one evening starting at Cellar Masters wine bar and proceeding to Tuscan Grill.
We became quite partial to Michael’s Club, which is an intimate bar very close to these specialty restaurants. It was elegant and clubby and perfect to enjoy a glass of wine before dinner or an after dinner drink later in the evening. In addition, there were a number of scotch, bourbon and Irish Whiskey tastings at Michael’s Club. Maila was quite knowledgeable and led us through the various tastings. We enjoyed being able to stop in and visit her in such a warm, quiet and inviting atmosphere.
Cellar Masters was another favorite and host to several special wine events. This beautiful wine bar offers a wide range of wines from around the world. The selection is quite impressive from value wines to Premier Cru’s served from Enomatic machines. One afternoon we attended a wine tasting with wines from several different countries. They also had a Riedel Comparative Wine Crystal Workshop, explaining and comparing the difference between drinking wine served in Riedel crystal versus other stemware.
We were invited to some special activities by Captain Panagiotis Skylogiannis while we were on board the Celebrity Eclipse. We toured the Navigation Bridge which was quite an experience. It was very impressive to have a glimpse of the sea from the Officer’s perspective as well as to see the high tech navigation equipment that controls this massive ship.
We also had an invitation to dine at the Captain’s Table in Moonlight Sonata on the last formal evening by the Hotel Director of the Eclipse, Mr. Bernhard Stacher. We met another one of the officers from Greece, Ms. Fani Kechagia, who is the Financial Controller of the Eclipse. We had a delightful evening meeting everyone at our table.
We found that there were certain people that we kept seeing at the events we attended because we shared a common interest. The appreciation of great food and wine is a common thread that brings people together. These people also wanted to learn new cooking techniques or taste wines that they were not familiar with. Most of all, they wanted to have fun and enjoy some exceptional food and wine and we very much enjoyed learning, laughing and being with them.
Thank you so much to the staff on board the Celebrity Eclipse for your hospitality, in particular, everyone in the food and beverage areas. I also have to mention that the staff, crew and Officers on the Eclipse were truly delightful and their service and attentiveness was outstanding.
Disclosure – We received a media package from Celebrity Cruises to experience the Savor the Destination culinary cruise. I am not compensated in any way for any articles written about the trip and the opinions expressed are my own.