A beautiful morning is in store for us today with our visit to one of my favorite ports, St. Maarten. I was fortunate enough to be allowed to interview the maitre’ d of the Lawn Club Grill, Jordan Bernstein, this morning in Cellar Masters. That interview will be up at a later date so don’t forget to come back to read it. Anna and I wandered off to the Oceanview Café to fight the breakfast crowds before heading off to Phillipsburg. This was Anna’s first time here and since we were only interested in a really relaxing cruise with nothing more than sun, beach, and sand, I knew exactly where I wanted to go. You might have read previously on my blog that I enjoy sitting in Taloula Mango’s and having a drink or two and that is exactly what we both agreed our day here would be like.
But first we were able to grab two chairs and an umbrella for $10 and we spent the day lounging under the sun and swimming in the amazing blue water. There is nothing better than this super buoyant salt water that is so blue and warm.
|TUI “Mein Schiff” (the former Celebrity Galaxy) next to the Grand Princess in St. Maarten|
At the next table sat Sascha, a DJ from the German cruise line TUI and the ship “Mein Schiff,” asked if he could join us. This was Sascha’s first contract on a cruise ship and we had the chance to speak with him as well as the production manager, Wilson, who was from Miami. Turns out that Mein Schiff 1 was the Celebrity Galaxy and Mein Schiff 2 was the Celebrity Mercury. I knew that ship looked somewhat familiar! If you don’t speak German, “mein schiff” means “my ship.” Cute, huh?
|Norwegian Epic next to the Celebrity Reflection in St. Maarten|
Before the afternoon was out, we had also talked with Elissa and Lori from Boston who were on the Norwegian Epic and then Jay and Cindie from New Jersey who were on the Grand Princess. There was some vague talk about organizing a girl’s cruise next year that involved shopping, a pub-type crawl, and fun so who knows?
|Zuppa di Cipolle (Tuscan Onion Soup)|
We were totally oblivious to the time and had no concept of how close it was to dinner. Our dinner reservation in the Tuscan Grille was at 6 pm and we had less than 15 minutes in which to shower, dress, and change. Needless to say, we showed up a few minutes late, but our server, Carmen from Peru, was more than accommodating. We were here on Sunday night and the meat entrees were excellent, but the rest of the items were good, but we weren’t as satisfied with the non-meat items. For starters, Anna ordered the onion soup and I had the Minestrone. The onion soup had an incredibly pungent smell and the description of the soup is as follows: “Creamy caramelized onion-leek soup with garlic croutons and provolone cheese.”
|Pomodoro e Mozzarella di Bufala|
Our next course was the Pomodoro e Mozzarella di Bufala (Bufala Mozzarella and Tomato), which was quite good. Made with extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, and served with a garlic focaccia, this little salad is a popular one and highly recommended.
|Ravioli ai Funghi Selvatici|
For the entrée, I had the Ravioli ai Funghi Selvatici (Wild Mushroom Ravioli) with Parmesan cream sauce and white truffle oil, which was good, but unfortunately, somewhat underwhelming in overall taste. I wish they could refine their menu and improve the taste of some of these non-meat entrees so that they could be on par with the rest of the items on the menu.
Anna had ordered the Melanzane Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan), which she tasted, but didn’t finish. The breading on the eggplant was coarse and the sauce was extremely sweet. I would say that this one was a miss for certain. Don’t get me wrong — the food in this restaurant as well as the other specialty restaurants is really good. I just think that they might excel in the areas of the staples such as the meat items over the probably less requested non-meat items.
For dessert Anna opted once again for the Tiramisu. She might be embarrassed that I say this, but she devoured the Tiramisu quickly and might have had a second if someone offered it to her. Her quote for this dish: “Yummy, yummy.”
|Tuscan Grille Signature Pistachio Marble Crème Brulee|
I chose the Tuscan Grille Signature Pistachio Marble Crème Brulee. My crème brulee was not as good as the first night as it seemed a little watery for some odd reason. The coffee is always great in the specialty restaurants so a strong cup of coffee can make everything taste great. Overall, I think that the specialty restaurants onboard cruise ships, especially Celebrity, are something you should try. Considering the nominal surcharge, yes, there might be a hit or a miss, but if you like trying something new and want a different experience from the main dining room, then you should absolutely be open to the specialty dining experience.