This review will focus on our food experiences on our recent cruise on the Infinity.
As others have reported the dining room was excellent, with the best dishes in our opinion being the cold soups and the desserts. And breakfasts in the cafeteria were fine, especially the omelettes. We usually had our breakfasts on the open deck at the back of the cafeteria. I’m surprised more people don’t use this area. It’s marvelous to eat in the open air there and look out over the port being visited. The availability of this back deck for meals and just coffee is one of the reasons we return to Celebrity.
But our best meals and snacks were in the specialty areas.
First there was the ship’s specialty restaurant, S.S. United States. I had taken the advice from this discussion board and gone earlier to pick what I thought would be a good table and it was. We liked it so much we used it again Friday. The food and service were unbelievable. Each course was presented in unison by the staff. They were always interacting with each other so that things would move smoothly. They even carried flowers in gel in glasses on their trays, just to add a touch of further beauty to the evening. The preparation tables were right across from us and there was a nice window behind us to see the islands as we departed, and from which we also later on Friday saw the Summit as it sailed alongside us, a very dramatic sight.
Our meal that night started with a chef’s surprise of escargots in a divine butter based sauce. Then we both had the Goat Cheese Soufflé, which was superb. Then on to our mains of Rack of Lamb en Croûte for Grace and Flambéed Scampi for me. I’ve never been completely happy with what restaurants do with shrimp and scampi, so I was more than pleased with this dish the way they prepared it, just as Grace was pleased with hers. Then to the cheese course, where we had a chance to sample some very fine cheeses.
For dessert Grace had Crêpes Suzette, two crepes in a nice strong sauce prepared tableside (across the aisle). I had heard about the Zabaglione flavored with Marsala, which internet reviewers had said was the best they’d ever tasted so tried it, and just as they reported it was hand whipped for about 20 minutes. Even though I’m sure it was hard on the assistant waiter given the task, the result was well worth it, it was magnificent. They then gave us a tray of sweets, but that for us proved to take us over the top and we were then very full. A surprise was the coffee, which proved to be the weakest on board. Don’t know what happened. But even with this slight reservation the meal equaled any we have eaten at any restaurant and the service was the best we have had.
When we were leaving we chatted with one of the staff and they mentioned that they were going to a special training session the following morning that would be given by the staff of Michel Roux, the man responsible for menus and food preparation of the Celebrity fleet and for the design of the kitchens and serving facilities. It was good to see that he and his staff were continuing to be actively involved.
The following afternoon in Barbados when we were returning to the ship along the long pier, a gentleman strolled past us carrying a singe piece of luggage. I had an intuition, so when we got on the elevator at the same time I asked him if he was Michel Roux and he answered yes. He was a very gracious gentleman. While chatting with him I tried to put in a plug for the Aquaspa Café, because I’m worried that if Celebrity looks for places to cut back, this café will be tempting to them as they will feel it is not essential, although I certainly found it to be.
We had discovered it the same day and it was literally an oasis (as was the Thalassotherapy Pool). What made it so special, besides the lovely salads and the California (vegetarian sushi) rolls, was the two entrees that were offered each day for lunch, the lemon garlic chicken breast, and the Talepaii (sp?) fish. They each were cooked to order. You placed your order and it was brought to you about 20 minutes later. They were exceptionally flavourful and satisfying. And then to top it off with a bit of irony, this healthy diet alternative café featured a marvelous but light apple strudel, if apple strudel can be called light. There was also very nice banana bread.
Wednesday was a day at sea. But we didn’t see that much sea or sunbath that much. There were too many interesting options. First at we went to a cooking demonstration by the executive chef, which was very interesting. Then we went to a wine appreciation session, which was also very interesting and insightful. Now I can look to see if a wine has “legs.” Then on to their weekly high tea, with some fine scones.
Later, docked in Antigua, we stopped by our favorite snack place, the Cova Café de Milano, to have their excellent pastries and cappuccinos. Michel Roux was there, having coffee with two of his staff. He later passed by our table and stopped to chat for a minute. We mentioned how much we enjoyed the café and its pastries, including the croissants. He said he agreed and was going back to the pastry counter for two more. So that was the ultimate stamp of approval.
The pastry section of the Cova Café is open in the mornings from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. It is also open with very fine cakes and other fine confections during the afternoon hours from 3 to 5 p.m. One word of caution/advice. Be patient and give the cake slices and pastries time to come down to room temperature. The difference in taste is astounding. At room temperature the tastes are a kaleidoscope of pleasure, both in their individuality and in their interaction.
We returned to the United States restaurant Friday for our final supper aboard ship. We had already left gratuities with our waiter and assistant waiter for the same amount of course we would have given if we had eaten all 7 days in the Trellis restaurant.
The last dishes at the United States restaurant had been so great it was tempting to repeat them, but we boldly decided to explore other facets of the menu, which remained the same throughout the week, and were glad we did. Grace had the Russian salad, while I enjoyed the Lobster Velouté, a creamy lobster broth. I liked the way they showed and then placed the lobster chunks in the soup dish before ladling the broth over them. I also enjoyed a second ladling, although found the second portion might not have been a good idea as it was very rich and I was already getting full. But we gamely moved on to the entrees. Grace tried the Chilean Sea Bass and I went for the Steak Dianne. Both were excellent. My Steak Dianne was a 10 ounce strip loin. They flambéed it (the flames were two to three feet high, in fact they tried to make sure they didn’t hit the sprinklers, which would have been interesting) then used the juices in making the very fine sauce. Then on to the cheeses. We both sampled what they called, “The Monster,” but didn’t find it that strong, although we enjoyed it, and the other cheeses. For dessert Grace tried the Waldorf Pudding which was different than she expected, but was quite enjoyable and I had the Chocolate Souffle, which was a highlight. It had a lovely soft centre into which they poured a coffee sauce. Another memorable evening and a marvelous way to end the cruise.
P.S. If any of you are interested I also have written a review focusing on the wheelchair accessibility of two San Juan hotels, the Infinity and the islands it visits. I’ll post the review in the “Disabled” section.
Thanks so much for affirming my desire to eat in the USS United States. Everything I have read has said it was wonderful. We set sail for our second cruise on February 23rd. There will be three couples who have traveled together before. Our first cruise was on the Grand Princess and I thought that was wonderful. Now that I am reading all about the Celebrity lines I am pleased and anxious to get aboard. Can't wait for the big day.