Celestyal Crystal Cuba Cruise: Cuban cuisine a cruise delight

ABOARD THE CELESTYAL CRYSTAL – I’ll admit it. One of the things I enjoy most on a cruise is getting to try various foods.  Even a standard steak can taste different according to which chef created the recipe.

Choosing from so many tempting menu items can be difficult but the Celestyal Crystal has a dinner option that makes my choices so much easier.

Called Chef’s Specialty, the dish is Cuban inspired with a bit of background information and a list of ingredients. So far, that is what I have ordered every night and I sure haven’t been disappointed.

For example, last night’s Chef’s Specialty was called Guanajo Con Quimbombo y Plantanos. The note says that okra may have been introduced to Southeastern North American from Africa in the early 18th century. In Cuba, it is called quimbombo.

Ingredients for this dish are roasted turkey, okra and banana plantain. Served with mashed buttered cassava and gravy. Delicious.

Here’s another Chef’s Specialty on our cruise:

“In the 1950s, when poultry was more expensive than either fish or beef, Arroz con Pollo was the preferred dish for special occasions and Sunday family gatherings. It’s a one-pot meal that’s still perfect for feeding a crowd,” the menu notes. The dish is chicken legs cooked with rice and vegetables in saffron broth.

But those are just the Chef’s Specialty choices. The ship’s dinner menu also features Starters, Entrées and Dessert. A bread basket and butter dish quickly appear on the table when we sit down.

Starter choices last night were fruit cocktail ambrosia in port wine with orange syrup and toasted coconut; vegetable terrine criollo with assorted vegetables served with diced root vegetable vinaigrette; arroz rellenas which is deep fried risotto balls filled with mozzarella cheese and parma ham and served in tomato sauce; crisp field lettuce with mint, apples, almond flakes and dressing; consommé bouquetiere served with diced vegetables; and Canadian seafood chowder. My chowder appetizer could have been a meal.

For entrees last night, other choices were grilled salmon skewer with golden maple syrup coated with sesame seeds and accompanied by Bhutanese red rice pilaf; lamb leg provincial marinated in herbs and olive oil and coated with bread crumbs, served with gratin potatoes and ratatouille; roasted duck with five spices served with stir-fried egg noodles; vegetables tempura with dipping sauce; or champagne risotto with mushrooms and Parmesan cheese.

Dessert choices were apple strudel with cinnamon sour cream and caramel; chocolate cake with custard sauce or a mini-banana split. Dessert options always include an assortment of ice cream, selection of fresh seasonal fruit and a plate of domestic and international cheeses.

Sugar -free dessert also is available as are gluten-free menu choices.

Since the presentation of the food is so lovely, I’ve created a short video of some of my dining choices so far. Remember, the cruise isn’t over yet so this is only a sampling – beautifully prepared dishes that taste great.

On the Celestyal Crystal, breakfast is served starting at 6 a.m. with the Leda buffet for early risers, an omelet station is near the pool from 6:30 to 9 and a big buffet is set out in Amalthia Restaurant from 6:30 to 9 a.m.

Lunch is a la carte at 12:30 in Amalthia Restaurant. A chef’s corner near the pool also offers lunch choices such as a pasta station one day and a stir fry wok the next.

Dinner is served from 7 to 9 p.m. in the ship’s two restaurants – Amalthia and Olympus. Both rooms offer great views of the ocean at lovely tables set with linen tablecloths, napkins and flowers.

Crystal also is offering two cooking demonstrations for Cuban cuisine on this cruise. I went to the first one and what the chefs created was yummy – a vegetable dish and a dessert dish.

As a smaller ship, Crystal does not offer the usual round-the-clock restaurants or multiple snack stands found on the larger ocean cruisers. But I certainly have never gone hungry on this cruise and am sure I will go home weighing more than when I arrived.

Photos and video by Jackie Sheckler Finch


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