Celebrity has found its groove offering a mainstream cruise experience for those who appreciate a focus on wining and dining. Celebrity Cruises' Taste of Film is a new event targeted at those foodies; it brings the culinary arts out of the dining room and into the playful arena of entertainment. We gave the film-and-food pairing a try on our recent Celebrity Summit sailing.
One night per cruise onboard Celebrity Summit, Infinity and Millennium, passengers are invited to head all the way up to the top deck to take in a unique pairing of small plates and alfresco cinema for $20 per person. (Our event took place the second port day of a seven-night Bermuda sailing.) Held at the Rooftop Terrace, a brand-new sun deck on Deck 12 at the back of the ship, the Taste of Film event shows a movie centered on cuisine on a large outdoor screen, while related dishes are passed to the audience throughout the film. Padded couches and cabanas offer cozy seating, with small wicker tables to hold the small plates, and crew come around offering fleece blankets and taking drink orders before the show starts.
The culinary offerings consist of a set tasting menu of seven courses. Because the menu is predetermined, dietary restrictions could get tricky; if you know you have an allergy or aversion, it might be best to skip event, depending on how many courses you will have to avoid. The movie starts just after sunset, weather permitting. On our sailing, that meant a showtime of 8:30; while the dishes were satisfying, they were only a few bites and could be supplemented with an early (light) supper.
"Hundred Foot Journey," a film about neighboring (and competing) Indian and French restaurants in a small village in France, was the feature during our cruise. About 40 people -- a mix of couples, families and friends, all adults -- came to see what it was about. My friend and I got to the Rooftop Terrace early as all seating is open and first-come, first-served. Not only did we secure a more secluded -- and loungey -- cabana, but we caught one of the most spectacular sunsets we've ever seen, right from the top of the ship. After taking a full gallery of the sun dipping into the Atlantic, we grabbed some towels and settled in for the movie. (Even though the night was perfect, it had rained earlier that morning, and parts of the loungers were still soaked. About five towels and a blanket on top later, our bottoms were much more comfortable.)
Our cruise director introduced the event, along with the executive chef, who oversaw all of the plates on the evening's menu. To match the Indian/French cuisine explored in the film, the dishes included a curried chicken salad; savory artichoke veloute; truffled porcini risotto (a favorite); loup de mer (seabass); lobster faille de brique (lobster in a puff pastry with a samosa); beef rogan josh served with mango pickle, tomato chutney and grits; and for dessert, a creamy orange-blossom panna cotta with a red berry coulis.
The dishes were spaced evenly apart, about every 20 minutes or less. The exchanges were always very quick and quiet, limiting interruption of the movie, but we recommend reading the menu ahead of time -- once the sun sets it's hard to tell what you might be eating, even as the waiter whispers it to you. With a palate excited about both Indian and French cuisine, I ate everything with gusto -- I also chose to have a late lunch and skip dinner, although ship personnel will probably recommend a light meal before the movie.
While the dishes seemed carefully thought out, we suspect some patrons might have expected more of a direct interpretation of food from the film. Toward the beginning of the movie, a board of cold vegetables, cheeses and bread is presented to the main characters -- it would have been easy to re-create something similar to pass around, but it took another 10 minutes to be handed our first course. While the pace of the plates was steady, we could see how hungry moviegoers would get antsy for their next bite. (The lesson here: Don't come on an empty stomach.) With so much Champagne flowing around the ship at art auctions and other free events, we feel a glass to kick off the evening would have been a nice touch, as well.
Even while docked, the satellite picture felt a tad glitchy at moments, but those moments were very brief and typically toward the end of scenes, so the movie didn't feel disrupted. Another odd interference -- while not an outright disruption -- was music wafting in from other areas of the ship. We only heard it here and there, but a female singer belting "Eye of the Tiger" during a quiet moment in the movie was a little distracting. Not long after the film ended, a late-night screening of "Star Wars," open to everyone, was getting ready to begin on the same screen.
If you like food, and you like film, it's worth the Andrew Jackson. The two-hour event definitely makes for an easy date night or a way to break up the evening with the travel posse. If you have concerns about what might be on the menu -- it's a touch more adventurous than in some restaurants onboard -- make sure to mention that before booking (which only requires a quick phone call -- there was still plenty of room at our showing to gain admission at the door).
As the foodie affair gains momentum, we look forward to seeing what other visual/edible combinations Celebrity and its team comes up with; they intend to expand the offerings, but only the "Hundred Foot Journey" film/menu is available now. The food is key, and what makes the event worth the money. We imagine as long as Taste of Film participants are being fed and fed well, the visual -- while still important -- is secondary.
The stairway up from Deck 11 to the terrace where the movie is shown is steep. A lift has been installed just next to it to accommodate wheelchairs and those with mobility issues.
Also worth noting -- especially for those with tiny bladders -- bathrooms are not easily accessible. The closest restroom to the Rooftop Terrace requires climbing two decks down, to the facilities near the Oceanview Cafe (on Summit), or heading down just one deck but walking all the way forward to the bathrooms near the Revelations Lounge on Deck 11.