The visual feast that comes to life in the pages of Celebrity Cruises’ new lifestyle book, Excite the Senses, has inspired a new series of food-and-wine-themed cruises that will offer guests a unique, behind-the-scenes experience and a rare opportunity to get to know the Celebrity culinary team through intimate demonstrations, tastings and dinners. Developed and hosted by the talent behind the cruise line’s award-winning culinary program, Celebrity’s “Excite the Senses Culinary Theme Cruises” will kick off on March 24, 2012, on a seven-night sailing headlined by Celebrity’s Master Chef and Vice President of Culinary Operations, the James Beard Foundation Award-nominated Jacques Van Staden.
“Every Celebrity cruise is a modern luxury vacation, and a large part of that is the culinary experience,” said Van Staden. “The culinary-themed activities at the heart of Celebrity’s Excite the Senses cruises are designed to appeal to everyone from the novice to the sophisticated oenophile – just like the book itself – and shine a spotlight on all the elements of Celebrity’s culinary experience, from outstanding service to innovative menus to cutting-edge trends and more.”
Each of the eight cruises scheduled for 2012 will showcase the various culinary disciplines featured in Excite the Senses – “Captivate” (dining), “Accentuate” (wine, spirits, coffee and tea), and “Illuminate” (entertaining). Each voyage will be led by a member of Celebrity’s culinary team, along with partners from Celebrity’s award-winning wine and spirits program.
The March 24 cruise, which will take place on the stylish, luxurious Celebrity Eclipse, will feature not only Van Staden, but also the other members of Celebrity’s culinary team who will later host their own cruises. Special guest “The Liquid Chef” and Master Mixologist Junior Merino also will share his expertise, along with various partners from a variety of wineries. The kickoff cruise will offer guests an extravaganza of special culinary-themed activities including an exclusive cocktail and Qsine pairing dinner hosted by Van Staden and Merino, a “Corporate Star Chefs” cooking demonstration and question-and-answer session with Celebrity’s food and beverage team, mixology demonstrations, hands-on cooking classes with chefs in the galley and an Excite the Senses book signing event, and more.
“The Excite the Senses cruises offer even more insight into the amazing operation here at Celebrity Cruises, where the food and beverage experience is an essential part of every guest’s vacation, and will help them discover ways to enhance not only their palates but also their home entertaining,” said Scott Steenrod, Associate Vice President, Food and Beverage Operations.
Activities during Excite the Senses Culinary Theme Cruises will range from exclusive dinners in Celebrity’s chic specialty restaurants, cooking demonstrations focused on the importance of using locally sourced ingredients, wine tastings, sessions on how to host elegant afternoon teas and unique cocktail parties, ways to enliven holiday traditions with modern twists, tips for creative table settings, and more.
Celebrity’s 2012 Excite the Senses Culinary Theme Cruises’ dates and hosts are:
•March 24 – 7-night Caribbean cruise on Celebrity Eclipse, roundtrip from Miami, Florida, hosted by Van Staden and team; activities will focus on food, wine, mixology, and entertaining at home.
•April 10 – 12-night Caribbean cruise on the brand-new Celebrity Silhouette, roundtrip from Cape Liberty (Bayonne), New Jersey, hosted by Celebrity Cruises Traveling Pastry Chef Thierry Houlbert; activities will focus on baking, pastries and sweets.
•May 5 – 8-night wine cruise on Celebrity Century from San Diego, California, to Vancouver, British Columbia, hosted by Celebrity Cruises Senior Traveling Executive Chef W. Thomas Szymanski; activities will build on the popular cruises with an even greater focus on food.
•May 27 – 7-night Bermuda cruise on Celebrity Summit – which will have emerged from an extensive drydock revitalization known as ‘Solsticizing’ several months prior – sailing roundtrip from Cape Liberty and hosted by Celebrity Cruises Traveling Executive Chef Steve van der Merwe; activities will be themed around culinary exploration and Bermuda culinary traditions.
•June 29 – 7-night Alaska cruise on Celebrity Infinity, which has just been “Solsticized,” roundtrip from Seattle and hosted by Celebrity Cruises Director of Culinary Operations John Suley and his wife and Celebrity’s wine expert Chanelle Duarte, who serves as Celebrity’s Beverage Development Consultant. Activities will focus on local ingredients, food and wine pairing and more.
•July 10 – 12-night Mediterranean cruise on Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity’s flagship vessel, sailing roundtrip from Barcelona and hosted by Corporate Executive Chef Rufino Rengifo. Activities will celebrate Mediterranean cooking.
•August 12 – 12-night Baltic cruise on Celebrity Constellation, the first of Celebrity’s Millennium Class ships to be Solsticized, sailing roundtrip from Amsterdam and hosted by Lorenzo Davidoiu, Celebrity’s Restaurant Operations Manager, who will focus on easy, modern entertaining tips.
•September 14 – 8-night wine cruise on Celebrity Millennium, which will be Solsticized in May 2012, sailing from Vancouver to San Diego and hosted by Celebrity’s Traveling Restaurant Manager and former star maitre d’ Dominique Gamba, who will focus on specialty cheeses from around the world, the art of tea service, table settings and entertaining tips.
Each cruise will feature an expert from the wine or spirits industry, in addition to Celebrity’s culinary team members. Participating beverage partners, who will offer talks on their products, include representatives from Jack Daniel’s, Jackson Family Wines, St. Francis Vineyards and Marchesi Antinori.
About the hosts
Jacques Van Staden is a native of South Africa who began his culinary career at the age of 14. He held positions at several Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas restaurants before joining Celebrity Cruises, where he has evolved the guest experience to a series of world class restaurant, bar and lounge experiences blending global influences, classic culinary fundamentals and contemporary trends with a keen eye for detail and artistic flair.
Top up-and-coming chef John Suley joined Celebrity in 2011 as Director of Culinary Operations. Previously, Suley worked at several highly regarded restaurants in New York, Miami and Las Vegas, alongside some of the world’s most well-known chefs. Among Suley’s accolades are being named 2010 James Beard Foundation “Rising Star Chef” nominee and 2007 “Rising Star Chef of American Cuisine.”
Renowned mixologist Junior Merino, who encourages people to “drink with all the senses,” began his career as a busboy at age 16. The potential to combine food and drink inspired him to pursue a career in the field. He formed “The Liquid Chef Inc.” with the mission of showcasing the artistry and mixability of ingredients and liquors. His “Molecular Bar” concept on Celebrity’s Solstice Class ships is one of the most unique beverage experiences at sea.
Rufino Rengifo received his American Culinary Federation Executive Chef Certification in 2002, and has since worked in restaurants in New York, Miami, Boca Raton, Caracas and Milan. Rengifo also represented Latin Fusion Gastronomy at The World Food Festival in Europe and opened several restaurants before becoming the Executive Chef for Celebrity Cruises.
Steve Van der Merwe learned what his true passion would be in a small pizzeria in South Africa, which eventually led to him working in all levels of culinary positions, to where he reached Master Chef as recognized by Chaine des Rotisseurs. Steve joined Celebrity in 2008.
W. Thomas Szymanski fell in love with the culinary arts while helping his grandparents in the butchery. Poland-born Szymanski grew up in Germany, joined Celebrity Cruises in 1997, and eventually became the chef responsible for traveling to ships around the world to train kitchen staff on the creation of Celebrity’s award-winning cuisine.
Thierry Houlbert discovered a passion for baking on his grandmother’s farm. After a dozen years spent baking in Paris, St. Tropez and Monaco, Houlbert joined Celebrity Cruises in 1994, and today is responsible for the fleet’s pastry and bakery departments.
Having previously worked with several luxury dining venues, certified sommelier Chanelle Duarte has successfully assisted in developing and implementing unique onboard beverage concepts, including the environmentally conscious Blu wine menu and the Michael’s Club craft beer experience that debuted on Celebrity Silhouette earlier this year.
A native of Romania, Lorenzo Davidoiu began his career with Celebrity Cruises as an assistant waiter. Fifteen 15 years at sea led him to his current role as Manager of Restaurant Operations. He supervises the execution of Celebrity’s impeccable dining experience, including crew training efforts as well as the design and development of Celebrity’s unique restaurant concepts.
Dominique Gamba attended culinary school in Provence, France, before working on a Seine river boat which offered gourmet dining. He took his career to land for an experience in a Michelin-star restaurant in Paris before joining Celebrity Cruises, where he has dazzled countless guests with his highly attentive focus on details and service delivery.