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The Evolution of Cruise Ships, from 1975 to 2013: Drinking and Dining

February 4, 2013 at 1:04 PM | by | ()

Imagine a cruise. Now picture yourself on that cruise. Are you playing shuffleboard and gobbling rum cakes? God, let's hope not. Over the next several days, we're going to dig back into the era responsible for creating these cruise stereotypes—the fun-in-the-sun 1970s, when ocean liners turned into cruise ships and voyages into vacations. In sharp contrast, we'll look at cruising 2013-style onboard the newest ship on the seas, the Celebrity Reflection.

The Cruising 1975 vs. 2013 Series:

1. Activities
2. Technology
3. Dining and drinking
4. Cabins and suites
5. The ships themselves

Beef Wellington. Poached lobster. A tower of chocolate eclairs. Daisy-shaped pats of butter to accompany as many glistening dinner rolls as you care to eat. These are the usual suspects on a cruise ship's menu, and it's as true today as it was in 1975. The big difference is that, now, there are actually other options. The ships of 2013 offer healthy and light cuisine, cater to vegetarians and food allergies, and even employ sushi chefs to handcraft rolls to order.

Boiling it down, the decades have brought a needed shift to put quality over quantity.

Looking at deck layouts of the average ship from 1975, there's typically a main restaurant with rigid mealtimes, two casual cafe options and about three or four lounges/bars. Don't believe us? Here's a description of dining and drinking onboard a ship in 1975, taken straight from the brochure:

When we're at sea, you can sit down to a full-course meal in our dining room. Or relish a hamburger or hot dog at our outdoor Verandah Cafe. And when we're in port, we usually have a shoreside luncheon buffet.

And we have some of the most exotic drinks in the islands. May we recommend a Voo Doo Brew? Or a Ramos Fizz? Or a Chameleon, that's mixed to match the color of a lady's dress?

In sharp contrast we have the Celebrity Reflection, which, by our count, boasts six formal restaurants, five casual restaurants/grills and a whopping 14 bars/lounges. Among those numbers are a gelateria and specialty coffee bar, a Lawn Club, a restaurant just focusing on lighter cuisine, the usual two-story showpiece dining room, and a wine bar complete with self-serve pours. And whereas the "Chameleon" was the height of exotic drinking in 1975, 2013 now sees molecular mixology bars onboard, where "liquid chefs" mix up drinks with the likes of rose-infused foam and a fog of dry ice. We'd like to see Isaac from The Love Boat try that.

Jaunted tip: Now off to Deck 15, where you'll find our absolute favorite spot on the entire 126,000-ton Reflection: the Sunset Bar. Literally jutting out over the rear of the ship for optimal sunset viewing, the bar is completely open to the sky and stars. It easily became our favorite spot for a Mimosa in the morn and a nightcap at midnight.

We hopped onboard the Reflection's quickie preview cruise as a guest of Celebrity, but all photos and opinions are completely our own.

[Photos and Scans: Cynthia Drescher]

Archived Comments:


I remember my first cruise (around 1988) and I was fascinated with the cherries jubilee presentation and waiters running around the dining room with baked Alaska on trays over their head. It was all about the show. Happy to see it hasn't changed, only modernized.