Celebrity Summit: Specialty Dining

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.

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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.

cocktails
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the menu
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tap the icon for a description of the menu items
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how could we not order everything?
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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.

“Disco Shrimp! We call it disco shrimp because there’s a flashing light!”
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“This is the lava crab – it has Old Bay seasoning, which is where you’re from! I cut it in half & give the little half to the little girl & the big half to the boyfriend!”
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“Lobster & escargot – a match made in heaven!”
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sushi lollipops – & yes, that is a tuna roll covered in Doritos
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two pieces of filet mignon cooked to perfection with mini-sides of creamed spinach, super cheese mac n’ cheese & garlic mashed potatoes
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& then a lot of spoons arrived
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turns out they were for the Chinese-tinis: Chinese served in stemless martini glasses. Sweet & sour chicken (eh), beef peppercorn (good), sesame veggies (eh), orange chicken (very orange-y), kung pow shrimp (surprisingly good!)
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vegetable de jour: pureed vegetables… so basically baby food
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*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!

dessert menu
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our choice
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B: “Oh wow, that’s like 14″ long!”
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post-dessert chocolate covered fruit on a stick
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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

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.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

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.

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About christina

Christina is a 30-something D.I.N.K. travel writer & photographer who travels the world often wedged into the middle seat. Follow her on Twitter & Facebook.

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6 Responses to Celebrity Summit: Specialty Dining

  1. Christina @ Packed Suitcase September 3, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    Oh my lordy! Who says you can’t eat five star on a cruise?! This all looks AMAZING!! Qsine looks whimsical and delightfully delicious. Lava crab? iPad menus?? Sign me up :)

  2. B.K. Agarwal March 25, 2014 at 2:22 am #

    WOW! I am thoroughly amazed that you had such a poor experience at The Normandie. I have eaten there probably a dozen times. We seem to travel a lot on Summit, although we have also traveled on a half dozen other Celebrity ships. I have always had a stellar experience at The Normandie, whether I’m with a group of other forty-somethings, or with my wife and two sets of octogenarian parents, or on a date with my seven year old daughter (yes, they will allow younger kids if they are behaved and if you ask politely, even though the listed minimum age is something more like thirteen — my daughter who is now eight has eaten at least five times at The Normanie or at Murano on Eclipse).

    PLEASE note that I personally traveled on Summit in August 2013 and in November 2013, i.e., immediately before and shortly after your experience. On each cruises I dined at least twice at The Normandie. All of my experiences at The Normandie were PHENOMENAL. There is no possibility whatsoever that The Normandie has had any type of drop in quality — if anything, the food is better each time I’m there. Considering how accommodating the crew is on Summit, and considering how the staff at The Normandie is amazingly accommodating, I can only suggest with the utmost respect that YOU may have been the problem, although I can’t imagine how you might have managed that. You might (if you ever go back to The Normandie) consider asking the waiter for a recommendation on what to order (BTW, I’ve had that scallop appetizer and I agree that it sucks, but I ordered it despite the waiter’s recommendation that I order the salmon and Peekytoe crab tian, which was out of this world when I ordered it the next time). Regarding the desserts, you should have listened to the waiter who (I guarantee) suggested that you order either the chocolate or the Gran Marnier soufflé, both of which are fabulous.

    In short, I would ask you to consider that your singular experience there was perhaps an aberration, because over the course of a dozen years of dining at The Normandie I only want to go back with greater enthusiasm than before. I would urge everyone to dine there (not because I want more competition for tables, but because the place is usually not completely full, and I don’t want Celebrity to put a bingo parlor or something idiotic like that in its place). I will be back in June 2014 and will again eat at last twice at The Normandie — which is always a very high point on the trip.

    • christina March 25, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

      B.K.,

      Thank you for your very impassioned comment! I’m glad that your experience has been different than mine and 100% agree that I’d rather have The Normandie in that space than something less desirable. I’m sure that we just caught Normandie on an off night (or an off-hour), as most of the other specialty dining experiences (really, dining experiences period) we’ve had on Celebrity have been fantastic. In fact, we’ve been to Murano, Normandie’s sister restaurant, several times and really enjoyed it. I love souffle and wish the waiter had suggested it – that sounds like the perfect way to end the meal!

      Should we ever find ourselves on a ship with Normandie again, we’d absolutely try it again – we are big believers in second chances!

      Happy cruising,
      Christina

    • Zeus Willard November 11, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

      We sailed on the Constellation in 2012 and had a very similar experience as the author in the Ocean Liners restaurant. Poor service, slo-o-ow service, the dessert was awful and the waiter did not offer an alterative when we complained. No cheese course was offered. Once the crew from the ship arrived we were virtually ignored. I had the much touted lobster…please, in the future just give me a lobster tail with lemon and drawn butter and quit torturing the poor thing. I would only go back if offered a free meal.

  3. Ejan May 30, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

    Qsine on the Summit…I truly like a traditional, hand-held, printed menu. I felt that the e-menu was a colossal and confusing waste of time. It was like playing a game of concentration. Now just what was behind that screen that I looked at? I asked for a traditional menu and it was unreadable. The rubic’s cube dessert menu block was also ridiculous and uncessarily confusing. For heaven’s sake, just say what a food item is! Now as for the food…I didn’t eat much because the menu was so confusing. (The wait staff were patient and tried to explain how the restaurant operated and what the items were, but dang it, I couldn’t understand a word that they said. AND STOP BEING SO PATRONIZING. I DO KNOW HOW TO USE A COMPUTER!) What I did have was not good. The vegetable spring roll was mush and the lamb chops were so overdone a person could crack them on a plate. I didn’t have dessert because I was so annoyed by the whole experience. I complained, and they didn’t charge me.

    • christina May 30, 2016 at 3:26 pm #

      I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it! It is certainly a different dining experience and some of the food is a bit adventurous. We had fun with the iPad and dessert cube, but I can see how it could be frustrating. Luckily, Celebrity offers a lot of more traditional dining options! Hope your cruise was otherwise enjoyable.

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