Cruise shiprestaurant review - - Celebrity Summit - - Celebrity Cruises - - The Normandie Restaurant
Richard H. Wagner
Naming a shipboard specialty restaurant "The
Normandie" requies a great deal of confidence. The
Normandie was one of the first ocean liners to exceed
1,000 feet in length and took the Atlantic crossing
speed record on her maiden voyage. Beyond her
technological attributes, she was built to be the pride of
France and her interior was an Art Deco palace.
Everything was designed to be superlative. Her
reputation for elegance and luxury in her own day
exceeded even her contemporary, the first Queen
Mary. As great as it was in the 1930s, over time, her
reputation has become legend. A cruise ship restaurant
that invokes her name makes an implicit promise to its
patrons that they will enjoy the same level of
experience when they dine there that the first class
guests on the great liner experienced.
Of course, restaurants both at shore and at sea often
bear names that have no real connection to anything
else. However, the fact that the name of the specialty
restaurant on Celebrity Summit is the same as the name
of the great liner is no coincidence. Celebrity has
created a mini-museum just outside the entrance to the
restaurant complete with artifacts from the ship. Inside
the restaurant are floor-to-ceiling golden lacquered
panels from the first class smoking room of the
Normandie. (Another set of panels from Normandie is
in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City). These
escaped the fire that destroyed the ship in 1942 when
she was in the process of being converted into a troop
ship. (See article about the Normandie fire).
The décor of the rest of the room harmonizes with the
Normandie panels. There are two rows of rectangular
fluted columns with an Art Deco styling that is
reminiscent of the Normandie's public rooms. There
also is extensive use of deep gold on the walls, which
together with the earthy red and orange carpeting give
the room a warm sumptuous feel.
This is not a large room. It can only accommodate 134
diners at a time. However, it is not crowded. In
addition, a series of large windows along the port side
lets in natural light in the early evening which further
opens up the room.
Thus, Celebrity has created an elegant atmosphere for
Summit's specialty restaurant. But does the service and
the meal itself live up to the Normanide legend?
This is a fine dining venue in the continental tradition
and thus one does not expect the staff to become ones
buddies during the course of the meal. At the same
time, the caricature disdainful waiter can ruin what
should be an enjoyable evening. On the Summit, the
staff successfully walks the line between the two
extremes. They were friendly but respectful. Attentive
but do not fall into the trap of incessant inquiries into
whether one is enjoying the meal.
The dining experience begins when a cart with a
selection of champagnes rolls up to the table. These are
champagnes that are available by the glass. They are
not sparkling wines but rather are quality French
champagnes, fermented in the bottle not in a giant
stainless steel vat. The flavor and the after-effects bear
no relation to what is often passed off as champagne at
large receptions. The choices range from Mumm's
Cordon Rouge ($13 a glass) to Pommery's Brut Rose
($22 a glass) up to Perrier Jouet Fleur ($28 a glass).
Rarely offered by the glass either at sea or ashore, these
champagnes are worthy of the Normandie legend.
The Normandie offers two approaches to the dining
experience. (See menu). First, it offers "The Five
Senses," which the menu describes as a "gastronomic
and vineyard tour." This is a five course meal
(including dessert) with each course paired with a wine.
Guests may choose between two selections for each
course. There is an $89 cover charge for the Five
Alternatively, guests can order a la carte. This is a
four course approach with at least six selections for
each course. The cover charge is $30. One can also
order Golden Osetra or Sevruga caviar at "market
price." I decided to take the a la carte approach
because of the wider selection.
Prior to the first course, a small serving of mango
sorbet arrived. This is not designed to quench ones
appetite but rather to clean the palate so that one can
enjoy the full flavors of the dishes to come.
The first such dish was pan seared foie gras that
offered soft, flavor explosions. The roasted ginger
sauce had a subtle flavor.
Next, I went for the Maine lobster bisque. It was a
premium soup with chunks of lobster and cognac
cream. As with the first course, the bisque was full of
subtle flavors. It was something one had to savor and
Often when I dine in a cruise ship specialty restaurant,
I have the filet mignon as the main course. It is a
flavorful cut of beef and it makes it simpler to contrast
one restaurant versus another. However, in discussing
the menu with the assistant maitre 'd in the Normandie,
he noted that one could have filet mignon anywhere.
Impressed by this confidence in the menu, I selected a
much more difficult item, the venison.
Venison can be tough and it can be flavorless if not
accompanied by an interesting sauce. Here, however, it
was a center loin cut, not overdone or underdone. This
tender meat was enhanced by a sauce with red cabbage
marmalade and lingonberries that presented a balance
If there was anything disappointing about the venison it
was that it is not prepared at the table. The Normandie
prides itself on its table side preparations and several of
the main courses are prepared by the maitre 'd or his
staff as you watch. A little theater always adds to the
Following the main course an excellent array of
cheeses arrived on their own trolley. These provided a
foundation for the sweet to follow.
The dessert was a dark chocolate soufflé. This was
light and moist and ranks high in the pantheon of
* * * *
All in all, the Normandie Restaurant lived up to its
namesake. Relatively few people had the experience of
dining in the first class restaurant on the Normandie
during her brief four-year service career. Thus, it is
difficult to say what it was actually like. However, one
would like to think that this was the type of experience
that they encountered.
The Normandie Restaurant on Celebrity Summit is for
people who enjoy a fine dining experience. It is elegant
and somewhat formal. It is better suited to a romantic
evening than to a family outing. The food is often
subtle rather than overpowering. The menu contains
both classics and more adventurous items. It is not just
a typical restaurant experience but because of its
historic associations, one that appeals to the
imagination thus broadening the mind and spirit as
The anteroom outside the
entrance to the Normandie
Restaurant is a mini-museum
dedicated to the restaurant;s
Inside the restaurant are golden
lacquered panels from the smoking
room on the Normandie.
Above: Therestaurant has an elegant continental
Below: Table-side preparation in a specialty.
Above: The dark chocolate souffle.
Below: Too large for the specialty restaurant, La
Normandie, an epic statue that once a focal
point in Normandie's first class public rooms
now graces the main dining room on Summit.
Summit has already been equipped with Apple
computers and the computer classroom has
become the iLounge.
Above: The Normandie Restaurant.
Below: A painting of SS Normandie