When Celebrity Eclipse is launched in Southampton in April, UK passengers – who will make up 76 per cent of the total during the summer – will find a number of tweaks have been made to the facilities to accommodate British tastes.
The Sky Lounge, an elegant bar at the bow, will become the Sky Pub, with appropriate beers on draught and in bottles – but only on two or three nights a week. There will be a dartboard, too, despite health and safety concerns about sharp points – which have never been a worry for Cunard and P&O.
In the theatre, the Ovations show will contain music from West End productions like Les Miserables and We Will Rock You. Another show, Masque, is described as a “baroque-style party evolving into glam-rock with the music of The Beatles, Elton John and Queen.” Sounds intriguing.
The biggest changes are on the menus, but they appear to have been drawn up by someone with only a passing acquaintance with what we actually eat on this side of the Atlantic.
The Oceanview buffet restaurant will serve steak and kidney pies, pork pies, Cornish pasties (although they are described as beef and potato pasties) and something called “banger rolls” which I can only assume are sausage rolls.
There will be curries, chapattis and papadums in the cafe and in the main restaurant, and the bistro will be offering “Indian-style crepes” lentil soup, and lamb vindaloo paninis, surely a triumph of fusion cuisine.
Even the gelateria gets in on the act, although I can’t say I’m getting excited about the thought of curry and raisin ice cream.
The piece de resistance comes with the always-available options in the main restaurant, offered in addition to the daily-changing menu. These include a bizarre selection of beef stew, English chips (as opposed to French fries?), sweet carrots, beef Wellington, Yorkshire pudding and gravy, cod in parsley sauce . . . and mushy peas but not, apparently, battered fish. And there was no mention of malt vinegar.
Leading travel agents attending a presentation by Celebrity Cruises’ CEO Dan Hanrahan in London today were generally in favour of the changes – one even suggested a kebab shop on the ship, to stay open after the curry restaurant closed, so that passengers could really feel at home.
One thing Celebrity have definitely got right though: electric kettles and tea-making facilities in every cabin. That’s refreshing.