That is the question!
Celebrity, like most of the larger cruise lines, have ratcheted up the quality of cuisine in recent years with the introduction of on-board specialty dining restaurants. The bigger the ship, the more restaurants will likely be there to tempt you.
And that focus on cuisine has come with a price: you pay extra to dine in the elegant digs where the service and the cuisine, well, simply, is haute.
I’ve written in early posts that our dining on the Solstice transatlantic cruise might have been the best – at least right up there in the top two – we’ve had on a cruise. And that was in all the restaurants; inclusive, as well as those requiring an extra fee.
Although our dining room’s food was excellent,( note that plate above!) and included in the price of the cruise, we also dined at Murano and the Tuscan Grille, two of the ship’s three specialty restaurants.
We were guests of Celebrity at Murano so the $35 per person charge was waived and our cost was $20 for a bottle of wine, plus tip. Both of our meals were culinary works of art; my fish is pictured above.
We paid $137 in Tuscan Grille, $70 of which was for food. Here, as with Murano, so many courses were offered that we had no room for dessert (which was good for our D2G, Diet to Go effort). This is my heirloom tomato salad, large enough to be a meal in itself, but was served between the antipasti platter and the filet mignon.
This week the blogosphere's cruise writers and readers went nuts with Celebrity's announcement that beginning September 1, 2011 the price of those alternative dining venues would increase from $35 to $40. ($30 to $40 at the Lawn Club on the newest ship, Silhouette.)
“Enough,” cried cruise passengers, “we’ve had enough fee increases!” And their point is well taken. But. . .
In Las Vegas we've noted fine dining menus offering a filet mignon for $45 - $50 and then adding $11 - $12 for the potato that accompanies it and another $11 - $12 for the asparagus, not to mention the cost of appetisers, salads and desserts. Tasting menus, those multi-course offerings created by the chef,begin at $59 and head into the three-digits.
While dining at a Seattle waterfront restaurant this week, I noted that a fish filet dinner (halibut or salmon) was in the high $20’s – salad and dessert, extra.
So the question cruisers must ask themselves is, “To Pay or not To Pay?" And, thankfully, the cruise lines still allow them to make the choice.