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Milestone celebrations call for Celebrity Specialty dining

Normandy group

Photo: Dining at the Normandie (from l to r) David Budnik, Sondra Shapiro, Lauren and Michael Grossman.





By Sondra L. Shapiro

When it comes to milestone events, cruising is the way to go. We recently celebrated several occasions during a seven-night cruise aboard the Celebrity Summit leaving from San Juan. My husband, David, and I were marking our 25th anniversary and our friends Lauren and Michael were celebrating their 30th anniversary and Lauren’s 60th birthday.

I have done several types of cruising options over the years, and when it comes to large-ship trips, Celebrity is among the best. This is especially the case with it specialty dining, with each ship offering a number of dining establishments.

Qsine is Tapas on Steroids

We decided to make this trip extra special by booking two of the ship’s specialty dining options: Qsine and The Normandie, saving the later for our last night.

Since Lauren and Michael wanted a romantic evening alone, David, and I dined at Qsine. This is truly a unique destination dining experience, to say the least. Perhaps it’s because after consuming course after course of whimsically presented dishes in very inventive serving pieces, one is too full to engage in other activities — or perhaps from the moment you sit down and are given an iPad from which to order, you just know you are in for a culinary adventure.

Menus are presented on iPads

Menus are presented on iPads

As a person who is glued to her iPad, I felt quite at home when our waiter presented us with our menus. He also let us know that we would be “sharing” our choices. Right from the start, we were intrigued by the colorful category blocks representing 20 various menu items from around the world: Pictures of test tubes, fish, an artist pallet, barbecue grill and fish … Where to begin?

Let’s just say that this place is tapas on steroids. My husband, the bottomless pit, wanted to order everything. I, more of the grazing type, encouraged him to edit our choices.

We started with Disco Shrimp and Sushi Lollipops and went on from there. We were delighted when playful renditions began appearing on our table. The Disco Shrimp, with poached tiger shrimp, avocado, tomato and celery dressed in aioli, resting on a blinking light bowl; Turkey With Cranberry and Sage Gravy, a nod to David’s favorite holiday meal; Sushi Lollipops; Painters Mignon, filet with

Sushi Lollipops

Sushi Lollipops

five sauces on a painter’s palette; Lava Crab, Alaskan king crab with sweet yellow corn and scallions; and finally the show stopper — M’s Favorites, arriving in a shadow box with 12 compartments displaying small portions of mixed olives, tzatziki, eggplant tabbouleh, hummus, chicken kofta, lamb chops, kibbeh, mediterranean chili, falafel and goat cheese cigars.

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We tried to skip the dessert, but our enthusiastic waiter wouldn’t hear of it. As he slipped us our dessert menu, in the form of a Rubik’s cube, he suggested we at least try the chocolate tombstone. After two bites of this sinfully delicious, rich concoction, we apologized for wasting so much and quickly made our way out the door to take in numerous spins around the deck.

The Normandie Celebration Dinner

For most of the cruise, the four of us stuck to the main dining room. But we saved the best for last.

The Normandie is modeled after the SS Normandie, a French luxury ocean liner that cruised in the 30s and 40s. As you enter the vestibule, there’s a small exhibit featuring items from the ship, a model of the Normandie and pictures of some of the famous people who cruised the liner.

The Art Deco styling added to the dining room’s elegant, yet surprisingly comfortable environment. The centerpiece is the gold panel grouping that once graced the front of the smoking room at the entrance of the Normandie. Today, they are worked into the walls of the restaurant.

Service was what one would expect from a finer dining establishment — friendly, yet a bit formal, not at all intimidating. The wait staff was more than patient with our incessant picture taking. But, when it came to the food, it was all business.

The wine list would satisfy amateurs and oenophiles alike. David and I chose a bottle of French Burgundy.

Our party started with the Twice Baked Goat Cheese Soufflé, Escalope of Foie Gras “Normandy,” Smoked Salmon with Tuna Carpaccio and Lobster Bisque.

normandy prep

Chateaubriand prepared tableside

For entrees we all were drawn to the Châteaubriand for two accompanied by delicate baby vegetables and side sauces of Béarnaise and Cabernet. Prepared tableside, our beef was perfectly cooked — tender, buttery and rare.

In keeping with the French inspired theme, after dinner a cheese cart was wheeled out before us, featuring an array of lovely cheeses and dried fruits.

Then it was on to dessert.

Lauren Mike anniversary

Michael and Lauren were surprised by their special desserts.

David, and I ordered a chocolate soufflé; the dessert sampler seduced our friends Michael and Lauren. It was a pleasant surprise when our waiter also brought over three chocolate mousse cakes with candles in honor of our group’s various anniversaries and birthdays. It was the perfect way to end our trip aboard the Celebrity Summit.

As with most onboard specialty dining venues, there is an extra charge. For more information go online to


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