While we had such a great time on the Celebrity Reflection, there was one inconsistent area: dining. For the first time on any cruise we’ve been on (imagine our surprise that it was a Celebrity cruise!) we didn’t love our main dining room experience & found we much preferred the specialty dining options on the ship. Luckily, the specialty dining options – even those that were most economically priced – were outstanding. Here’s a look at our favorite restaurants on the ship:
Best place for a quick al fresco lunch: The Porch
The Porch is a new concept, unique to the Reflection & Silhouette. We actually hadn’t planned on eating there, but missed regular lunch service at the Oceanview Cafe buffet on the last sea day, & wanted something other than pizza or burgers (which are pretty much always available). On the Reflection, the restaurant, which really does feel like sitting on the back porch of your favorite neighborhood cafe, offers fantastic views out the port side of the ship.
With only a $5 cover charge, this is definitely affordable luxury. The menu consists of salads & paninis with something sweet to top it off. I started with a mixed green salad, while B opted for a classic caesar salad – with anchovies.
Then it was onto paninis, which were made to order & pressed on panini grills lined up like soldiers. I ordered the grilled chicken pesto – not exactly the most exciting sandwich, but a reliable combination of flavors – & B had the Philly, which was more like a reuben than a Philly cheesesteak. For dessert we had carrot & chocolate cupcakes. Despite all the sweets available on the ship, these were the first cupcakes we had seen!
The service was very friendly, as it was everywhere on the ship, & the ambiance was perfect for a leisurely sea day. We had originally dismissed it because we couldn’t reason paying for a sandwich when there were so many free options, but this lunch was definitely worth a little extra.
Best place for a quiet indoor lunch: Bistro on 5
We were already big fans of Bistro on 5 from our time on the Celebrity Equinox & Celebrity Summit, so I was excited to eat there again. Since Bistro on 5 is an indoor restaurant (perhaps it’s only downside), we choose a gloomy sea day for our crepe extravaganza there. Creatures of habit, we knew exactly what we were going to order before we even sat down: I had the Mediterranian crepe & B had the chicken buffalo. For dessert, we each had a Nutella crepe (because you don’t share Nutella). At just a $5 per person coverage, this is a must-do on Celebrity’s ships. There aren’t nearly enough crepe restaurants in this world (okay, well at least in the U.S.), so the chance to get to enjoy one at sea means I’d pay $20 for it.
Best for the Best (& Most Fun) Meal of the Trip: Qsine
We already knew what to expect with Qsine, since it was the best meal we had on our Celebrity Summit cruise last August. Luckily, the unique restaurant was equally as fun on Reflection. Located in the specialty dining “wing” of the ship (Tuscan Grille, Qsine & Blu are all right next to each other), Qsine occupies the space where our beloved Silk Harvest lives on the Celebrity Equinox. We were both surprised how small Qsine’s dining room felt compared to the room on Summit, but it also meant a more intimate feeling. Large windows looked out to the ocean, where we watched a beautiful sunset. It was the first formal night on the cruise & diners were dressed to the nines for this great culinary experience.
Nathan, our server, promptly greeted us & handed us our iPad menus. We knew that we wanted to order some old favorites (how I’ve dreamed about those Doritos covered pieces of sushi!), as well as try a few new things. We made our selections & soon food started rolling out…
Not pictured are the lava crab (a fried crab ball in Old Bay sauce – SO. darn. good) & the chicken kabob (which was the last thing we had before dessert & was just ‘eh’ – but we might have just been too stuffed to enjoy it). B had the surprise dessert, which was a giant piece of chocolate cake. The overall experience was excellent. It’s something totally different than what you’d experience on land (I can’t think of any land-based restaurant doing what they’re doing – actually, I can’t think of any restaurant on any ship doing what they’re doing) & the whole 2+ hours of dining is laid-back & fun, which is just what you want on vacation.
Best Place for a Surprise Meal: Tuscan Grille
We had a bad experience at Tuscan Grille on the Celebrity Equinox – the food wasn’t anything special, the service was awful & it was really the low point of the cruise (which was hard to find, because that trip was so spectacular). But, since then, so many people have told me that Tuscan Grille was the favorite Celebrity specialty restaurant, so I knew we had to try it again.
From the moment we walked into the sprawling dining room, which occupies the entire aft of deck 5, we knew we were in for something special. The maitre’d, who we ran into elsewhere on the ship a few times, was warm & welcoming. The waiter was there within minutes, explaining the menu. The atmosphere was dimly lit & romantic & felt like an Italian steakhouse. Having spent the day snorkeling in St. John, we were starving & ready to dive in to a few courses.
B started with steak tartare, which he said was excellent (a real testament to Celebrity’s commitment to quality & freshness!); I started with crispy calamari, which was served in a fun basket lined with an “old” London newspaper. Second course was a fried goat cheese salad – very similar to what we had in Qsine, but just as delicious.
Next came the pasta course (when I got so busy stuffing my face I forgot to take photos). Any of the pastas on the menu can be served in a smaller portion as a pasta course or as an appetizer. It’s a great way to get to try pasta if you don’t want a giant plate of carbs (or if you want to try two pastas – hey, we’re not here to judge!). I got the mushroom ravioli, which was unexpectedly light & fluffy, while B had the lobster linguine alfrado, which was just as sinful & amazing as it sounds. For our entrees, B had the whole grilled branzino fish & I had the filet mignon. My steak was quite good & prepared by simply grilling it, which is a nice alternative to restaurants bathing their steaks in butter.
As if we weren’t stuffed enough, we rounded things out with dessert: B got their tiramisu, which is served deconstructed in a martini glass (the Italian snob in me frowns at this), while I got their signature dish, pistachio creme brûlée. This is perhaps the most inventive, sweet, crazy dessert I’ve ever had! On top of a very good, creamy creme brûlée was what tasted exactly like Pop Rocks. Remember those from your childhood? It was an unreal sensation: every time I took a bite, tiny sugar crystals exploded in my mouth. The table next to us had the same reaction, so I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a joke on me. It was a really fun way to end the meal & left me giggling all through dessert.
While Tuscan Grille may not be my favorite Celebrity specialty restaurant, I definitely came away impressed the second time around & would dine here again in the future. I can also see why people love this restaurant: if you don’t have access to a nice Italian restaurant or steak house in your hometown, this restaurant is truly a fine dining treat.
Note: Our meals at Qsine & Tuscan Grille were provided compliments of Celebrity Cruises. As always, all opinions are my own. The waitstaff & chefs had no idea we were on a comp’d meal & treated us as wonderfully as they treated every other passenger who dined along with us.