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Dining Out At Sea

If eating fine food is your pleasure, a cruise vacation is for you. If you get up early enough, go to bed late enough and catch the elevators on your ship just right - you can eat up to 13 times a day on board. And that does not count 24 hour complementary room service.

Fine cuisine and five star dining has always been a part of the cruise experience. On board, you'll be treated to more options than ever before. As soon as one serving is ending, somewhere on the ship another is beginning. Today the on board dining experience rivals almost any land based restaurant.

Celebrity Cruise Lines cuisine, for example, is acclaimed by food experts, travel authorities and the most discriminating connoisseurs of all, their passengers. Whether the succulent, broiled lobster tails and coquilles Saint Jacques served on the finest china or fresh pastas and omelets "made to order" from the buffet, an array of exotic dishes and familiar favorites are yours to enjoy.

Menu offerings on Celebrity are created by master chef, Michel Roux, a Michelin three star restaurant owner, and are as outstanding as the setting in which they are served - grand, multi-level dining rooms, with a piano played softly in the background. Imagine Smoked Salmon Claudine, Pheasant Mousseline with Blueberry Vinaigrette, Consomm? with Vegetable Brunoise, Broiled Lobster Tail, Veal Medallions, Coffee Profiteroles with Jamaican Sabayon and Swan Puff with Chocolate Sauce.

The price? Includedwith your cruise as is all dining on board your floating resort. And there is virtually no limit on what or how much you can order!

If what I just described is too formal for you, how about breakfast in bed, sunrise coffee and pastries on deck. Of course there is always a full breakfast in your ship's dining room or a relaxed buffet in one of the alternative dining areas. French toast. Spanish omelets made to order. And Danish, of course. You'll find them all at breakfast, along with such traditional fare as ham and eggs, fresh fruit and yogurt, a choice of toast and rolls, pancakes and home fries Lunch? Casual, poolside lunch or full menu in the dining room and on some cruise ships the between meal most popular attraction, 24-hour pizzerias and ever present ice cream bars or buffets.

While the 24 hour room service on some ships is restricted to snacks, cold sandwiches and sometimes hamburgers, other cruise lines offer you a full dining room menu in your cabin during regular dining hours. Princess Cruises now offers true 24-hour dining in their Horizon Court restaurants featuring their own galley which allows it to stay open ALL day and ALL night, offering a full menu of both hot and cold meals. Your dinner is served tableside by waiters from 7:30p.m. through 4:00a.m. and all other meals are available buffet style from free-standing islands designed to eliminate lines.

I do not want to panic the health conscious crowd, so you will be secure in knowing that most ships can accommodate salt-free, low-carbohydrate, kosher or other diet preferences. The variety of healthy and guilt-free choices will astound your eyes and your taste buds. Almost all Cruise lines offer a "heart smart" section on their menus, including vegetarian entrees at lunch and dinner and fresh fruit and other natural snacks are always available. And then there is always the expansive fitness areas for you to use and remain ship-shape.

On mainstream cruise lines, you'll have to choose your dining time when making your cruise plan. There are usually two dinner seatings, one between 6:00p.m.- 6:30pm and one between 8:00p.m. and 8:30p.m. depending on your ship itinerary. The 6:00p.m seating will allow you to work up an appetite for the mid-night buffet. But some ships have a 1:30a.m. buffet so you can be comfortable going to the late seating. Your table is reserved for you for the entire cruise and your waiter and busboy will become like family, dedicated to making your cruise a dream vacation.

Table size is usually, for 4, 6, 8 or 10 with the occasional table for two. If you are traveling in a group or with friends you'll want to ensure that your seated together at the same dinner seating.

My suggestion is to always ask for a large table. What a great way to meet new friends from around the world. Unless, of course, your stateroom has a balcony and your significant other wants a private dinner for two!

Best of all, the one thing you'll never see on a cruise ship menu is a price! Bon Appetit!

Mr. Kaplan has an extensive travel background and opereatd a large cruise only travel agency in Canada. He and his wife are both in the Cruise travel industry.

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