Cruise lines (& cruisers) seem to be in love with specialty dining. While I still prefer to eat my nightly meals in the main dining room, sometimes a specialty restaurant is a nice bonus treat. On the Celebrity Summit, there are three specialty restaurants: Bistro on Five (an amazing crepe restaurant, which we fell in love with on the Equinox), The Normandie (the most formal specialty dining experience) & Qsine (a funky, small plate style restaurant). We dined at both Qsine & The Normandie, courtesy of Celebrity, & had two extremely different experiences.
We knew dinner at Qsine would be fun the minute our waiter, Henry (“Henry from Honduras!”) came bounding over to our table. “Welcome to Qsine, where sharing is caring!! Order everything! Share everything!”
The entire Qsine menu is on an iPad, baffling the older generations around us (“You swipe your finger?”), but delighting us who are more tech savvy. Each page on the iPad is a different, interesting twist on a traditional menu item.
We ignored Henry’s advice & ordered way too much food. It was all so good, it was hard to narrow down our choices! Soon enough after placing our order, a parade of food began arriving at our table.
*Not pictured: Spring Rolls (literally – they were served in giant springs): BBQ Pork & Spicy Vegetarian.. served with WTF sauce
As if this wasn’t enough food (&, lets be honest, it was more than enough food), we had to have dessert. Right? I mean, it’s a cruise. If you can’t have dessert after eating too much dinner on a cruise, when can you? The dessert menu came in the cutest form: a rubik cube! Blissfully unaware of how enormous it actually was, we finally settled on the chocolate tombstone. Wowsers. As if that wasn’t enough, Henry came zipping over with a huge tray of chocolate dipped fruit on a stick. Good thing I was wearing my stretchy dress!
Dinner at Qsine was fantastic, & was really the point on our cruise when things started to turn around for the better. Even though our dinner was comp’d, I absolutely, without a doubt, dine there & pay the $40 per person cover charge. While it’s one of the highest cover charges at sea it is absolutely worth every penny!
Like many things on this cruise, we really wanted to like dinner in The Normandie. We actually hadn’t even planned on eating there, having eaten twice at its sister restaurant Murano while we were on Equinox last year. But the Hotel Director raved about Normandie so much, that we took him up on his offer for a complimentary meal.
Normandie is modeled after a classic liner dining room – in this case, from the SS Normandie, a luxury French ocean liner which cruised in the 30’s & 40’s. We were seated in the middle of the dining room for our 8:30pm reservation, well after the dinner rush, a perfect place for people watching & attentive service (so we had hoped). Things started off well enough, with attentive service & a lovely wine selection from the sommelier. Our appetizers were brought out following an amuse bouche of BBQ chicken (a little strange!). Unfortunately, my scallop wellington was overcooked & nearly tasteless.
By now service had really slowed down, with our original waiter disappearing, only to reappear to serve the large table of the ship’s crew that was seated next to us. The second course was the highlight of the entire meal for both of us. A creamy lobster bisque, served with a side of creme & poured table side, was perfectly spiced & balanced.
We both ordered the lobster entree, prepared table side. We knew, from our meal at Murano, that this should be a highlight of the meal. Unfortunately, after a 30 minute delay after we finished our soup, both the lobster & the show-y preparation were disappointing. Never has freshly sautéed lobster in a dijon cream sauce been so disappointing, so bland & tasteless. The accompaniments to the lobster were an absolute joke: made from a mix mashed potatoes & frozen vegetables consisting mostly of peas.
By now it was pushing 10:30pm & we had to flag someone down to ask for our cheese course. The giant cheese cart was rolled over & unenthusiastically presented to us. By the time we finished the cheese course it was after 11:00pm & we didn’t really even want dessert – we just wanted the dining experience to end. A new waiter, Roberto, came over to see if he could offer us anything &, sensing our unhappiness, insisted that we try dessert. My gelato & berries dish was good, B’s chocolate mousse was unremarkable.
Thoroughly disappointed, & feeling a little awkward (why were we basically ignored when we were sitting smack dab in the middle of the restaurant?) we actually had to go up to the host stand to get the bill for our wine. With no apologies, the maitre’d handed us our bill & left the restaurant. Dejected, we paid & left.
How could the experience be so disappointing at what was supposed to be the best experience on the ship? It sounds snobby to say, but if you knew someone was dining on an invitation from the Hotel Director, wouldn’t you want the service to be extra special, not extra disappointing? We left scratching our heads & agreeing that Normandie definitely would not be getting our recommendation or our money in the future.