Star Dinner Cruise Shines

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - May 24, 2006
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Star of Honolulu chef Eric Omick and cruise director Mark Sandoval
Star of Honolulu chef Eric
Omick and cruise director
Mark Sandoval

Tricia Masaki first contacted me about four years ago to see if I would be interested in going on the Star of Honolulu’s dinner cruise. I wasn’t. Don’t ask me why, there was just nothing about the menu that made me want to go. So, I politely declined.

She called back three years ago and asked me again. This time I had a good excuse. Pregnant. Not possible to cruise, eat certain foods or drink alcohol.

In 2004 she called and e-mailed, and started sending me delicious details of the new menu on the ship. I still didn’t go, though, and when she called last year in February, well, I was pregnant again.

Last week she e-mailed me. You’ve got to hand it to her for being persistent. “There’s a new spring menu that we’d love you to try,” she wrote. I called her up and she did a good job of not sounding surprised or falling off her chair.

To tell you the truth, though, I was going with a whole bunch of doubts about the food. I mean, how good could it really be?

As it turns out, just about perfect.

Star of Honolulu was just voted Best Dinner Cruise in Hawaii, and in one evening you can easily see why. The five-star dining experience is definitely for those who’re looking for a different way to celebrate one of life’s special occasions. It’s good, it’s efficient and it’s really, really expensive. The kamaaina rate is $123.75 per person. That entitles you to canapés and cocktails on the top deck, a commemorative photo with the captain, a seven-course dinner with wine and cocktails, and depending on your timing, a glorious sunset, rainbows over Waikiki and a full moon rising over Diamond Head. We lucked out and saw all three.

But $123 is a lot of money for dinner. However, if you can wrap your head around the price and you’re celebrating a really special occasion, I think you will feel that you had a fine-dining experience worth the money. Certainly there’s nothing else quite like it.

The upper deck, where dinner is served, is quiet, beautifully refurbished and has the feel of a private cruise liner. At one point, we were the only couple on the deck. The food is remarkably good, and Chef Eric Omick, whose past experience includes a stint with Russell Siu at 3660 On the Rise, does a masterful job of incorporating local products into almost every course. I spotted local corn sprouts, Nalo micro greens, Hamakua tomatoes and Kula strawberries amidst the spring menu, which, with its English pea soup, filet mignon, Maine lobster and prosciutto-wrapped scallops deserves every one of its five stars. Eric’s tomato salad - with local heirlooms, greens, a little guacamole and light balsamic dressing - was up there with the best I’ve ever had. The dining room is in the more-than-capable hands of Mark Sandoval, a native Californian who speaks flawless Japanese and who is well-suited to his job as cruise director. Skip the wine for now, though. There’s almost nothing on the short list that’s worthy of the food.

So, was it worth the wait? Yes, it really was. The ride was unbelievably smooth, the ocean at sunset is just a glorious and romantic place to be, and the fine-dining experience is immensely enjoyable. There’s a nice, speedy pace to the service, and food comes hot and quickly to the table. Star of Honolulu offers lots of different dining options and kamaaina dining packages start at around $54.

Next time Tricia calls with a preview of the seasonal menu, you can bet I’ll be calling right back.

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