In order for my review to have meaning to you, I think it is important to try and understand what type of person and cruiser I am. This is my eight cruise and second aboard Princess. I have done the Ecstasy 96, Galaxy 99, Mercury 99, Sea Princess 00, Millennium 01, Zenith 01, and Grand Princess 01.
In order to better understand my review, I think it is important to know the type of person that I am and the type of vacation that I like. I am a type A vacationer who likes to snorkel, sail, and walk and look at shops. I rarely use the casino, and I am not a big bar/disco person, so bars are not high on my list. My wife and I cruise to dine, meet other people, and to see the ports and relax. Service is important, but I do not expect people to be perfect all the time. I am not, so why should they have to be. I just expect them to try and give their best effort. I also understand the difference between 5 start cruise cuisine and Idon't confuse or compare it to 5 star restaurant cuisine. The ship has to feed 800 to 1700 people per seating where a restaurant only feeds 200 a night.
With that said, I will give my humble opinion of the Celebrity Summit.
This is our fifth Celebrity Cruise and second on the Millennium class ship. Princess is a great line and I would not turn my nose at cruising on them, but I still prefer Celebrity. We did the 11-night Ultimate Caribbean. We chose this because of the line, ship, and itinerary. We have never been on a cruise over 7-nights so we were looking forward to this cruise. Seven night cruises seem like you just get on and get relaxed and it is over, and I don't have the time to do a 14-day yet.
Pam and I are doing this cruise for our 10th anniversary and we were going with my brother and his wife who just celebrated their 25th anniversary.
Our cruise was on a Monday, but being in the Mid-west, flying through Chicago, we decided to go down on Saturday. Yes we suffered. Two days in Florida instead of Indiana in winter. We suffered. LOL. We flew American because I am Platinum with American.
We chose to stay at the Best Western Ocean Side Inn that is only a mile from the pier and it is on the beach on A1A. We had never stayed there but got the room for $95 a night.
Flew out on Saturday afternoon on American Airlines through Chicago. Everything went smoothly and both flights were on time. Arrived in Ft Lauderdale at 9 PM. Our checked bags made an earlier flight and they were waiting on us at baggage claim. Picked up a Hertz rental and we were at the hotel by 9:30 PM.
I would not include the Best Western Oceanside as one of my choice places to stay. It is okay. Here were the problems that we found. I provide this not to complain, but to give you and idea of what our room was like and whether you would want to stay there. First, there were nacho chips under the bed but very visible standing up. The cleaning person made no effort in her sweeping. The sink in the bathroom would not drain. The main thing is the noise. There were parties going on till 3 AM and the road noise from A1A was very loud. We take earplugs because we expect this, but even the earplugs would not block the noise enough to sleep.
We ended up moving to the Marriott Harbor View on 17th Street. This is a very nice facility. Next time, we will stay here and skip the rental car. You really don't need it. Most things are within walking distance.
We ate lunch at Bimini Boatyard. It is a great place for lunch. It is located on 17th St between the Embassy Suite and the Marriott. In that same area there are a couple of grocery stores and a couple of liquor stores. The Crown Liquor has the best selection of wines, beer and other liquor. We finished the day with dinner at the 15th Street Fishery. The Fishery is very good and we really enjoyed the breads.
We took the Marriott shuttle to the pier and arrived at 10:30 AM. The shuttle service is great because they take names/reservations. There was not a mad dash to fight on board the shuttle like the Amerisuites.
The pier was great. There was only the Summit and the Rotterdam in port that day so it was not crowded. When we arrived, Celebrity was still moving the bag handlers out, but we were through the curbside check in 5 minutes tops and into the embarkation area. You go in and they give you a returning form with your post cruise travel options to fill out. Suite and Captain's Club members go to the left and the rest go straight. They started boarding the suite and Captain's Club members at 11 AM. Took a few minutes to clear security and then they had a couple of dozen staff persons waiting to check you in. All in all, it took about 10 minutes and we were on the ship by 11:20 AM.
Our room wasn't ready, by Miguel let us put our carry on bags in the room. We wondered the ship and then went and made our Normandie Restaurant reservations and up for a pizza lunch. The pizza was the normal great Celebrity pizza and it was good and hot. I then had some desert at the buffet and we went to the grill for some fries. Celebrity has very good fries as long as they are hot and these were hot.
Went to our room at around 1:30 and 4 of our 5 checked bags where there so we started unpacking.
I would have to give Celebrity an A+. I'm not sure how it could have been done better.
Deck 2 (Continental) - all staterooms.
Deck 3 (Plaza) - Half of this deck is occupied by staterooms from mid-fore to mid-ship. The Celebrity Theater stage level is on this deck but there is no access to the theater from this deck. You have to go to deck 4 and deck 5 to enter the theater. The lower level of the Grand Foyer is here. Guest Relations is on this level as well along with Shore Excursions. The Cinema/Conference Center is on this level along with the Specialty Restaurant (Normandie). In comparing the Normandie to the Olympic on Millennium, there are several differences. The Olympic, wood panel front room on the Millennium is beautiful, but I found the back half plain. The wine cellar in the Olympic is very beautiful with all the solid wood shelves and racks. The Normandie is very elegant all over. It is not divided into two distinct rooms like the Olympic. The wine cellar is, well, just a wine cellar. Nothing special about the wine cellar.
Deck 4 (Promenade) - This deck is not even close to a true Promenade deck. It does not go around the front or back of the ship. It is rather disappointing because Pam and I always like to stroll around the Promenade before and after dinner. This is a very busy deck on most ships, but on the Summit it is not used much. The lack of Teak wood takes away some of the charm that you would normally associate with the promenade.
Starting from the fore of the ship is the main entrance to the Celebrity Theater. A main problem is it gets a little tight entering here because you have the Photo Gallery on the starboard side and Michael's Club on the port side. The Celebrity Theater is beautiful. In my humble opinion, it is the nicest afloat. The sight lines are very good and the seating is very comfortable. Moving toward mid-ship you then enter Fortunes Casino. The casino is very large and has all the standard slots and table games you expect on a ship this size. Celebrity did not make the Summit casino as crammed as the Millennium. I think that it has more style that it's sister ship. It was normally very crowded. You then enter the second level of the Grand Foyer. As you move toward the aft of the ship, you enter the Rendez-Vous Lounge. This is a wonderful place to meet and have a drink and listen to music before dinner, and is a main staple of Celebrity ships. The main entrance to the Main Restaurant connects to the Rendez-Vous Lounge. I love the Celebrity Dinning room. The large windows on the aft are wonderful to watch the world go by while you eat! We were seated at table 471, which was a table for ten. The key thing I hate is that it was up towards the entrance and our seats were right on the major traffic path for all the waiters. It was very busy and noisy. The bad part was that you could not see the central dinning area or the upper level. My opinion is you really want to be on the upper level. When you get your table assignment, if it is a 400 number you are on the 4th floor and if it is a 500 number you are on the upper level. If it is an odd number you are seated on the port side and even numbers are on the starboard side. The dinning room itself is very elegant especially the stairs that go up to the second level. One down fall in certain areas (we happened to be in one) is that they put the table very close together so when everyone is seated at both tables, it is hard for one server to get through and it is compounded when there are two staff teams assigned to the different tables.
Deck 5 (Entertainment) - This is another of the main traffic decks. The balcony level entrance to the Celebrity Theater is at the fore of this deck. Moving from the theater towards the middle of the ship, you enter the specialty shops. Celebrity allocates a large amount of space for their shops. At mid-ship, you enter the Grand Foyer. You can see down to the other two levels but there are no stairs going down to them from this deck. There are the glass elevators on the port side that can take you up or down from here. Moving towards the aft from the Grand Foyer, you will enter one of my favorite places. On the port side, you enter The Champagne Bar and on the starboard side, you enter the Martini Bar which is another staple of the Celebrity ships. There is a large, circular hole in the middle between the bars that you can walk around to get to the other. The whole allows the crowd and the music from the Rendez-Vous Lounge to come up to this deck from deck 4. It is great. The music is not as loud, so I found it a better place to hold a conversation.
Deck 6 (Penthouse) - This deck is completely made up of staterooms. The loan public area is the The Tower at mid-ship by the glass elevators. They do not have CD's here anymore but there are listening stations that you can select songs or albums and listen to them in there.
Deck 7 (Vista) - This is also made up of staterooms. Again, the lone exception is The Tower at mid-ship.Deck 8 (Panorama) - This deck is all staterooms except for Words at mid-ship.
Deck 9 (Sky) - This deck is the last deck with staterooms. Words is located at mid-ship on this deck as well.
Deck 10 (Resort) - During the sea days, this is a very busy deck. In the fore of this deck is the Aquaspa, Salon, Weight Room, and Treatment Center. The weight center is very nice and has a large selection of weights (a few free weights), treadmills, stationary bikes, steppers, and rowing machines. Right off the Aquaspa is the Aquaspa Cafe for those that are looking for a more health conscious lunch. Going from the Aquaspa, you go outside to the main Pool. The pool is normal size for a cruise ship and there are 4 hot tubs along with the standard lounge chairs and tables with chairs. Going from the pool area to the aft of this deck, you enter the Waterfall Cafe where buffet style breakfast and lunch are served. At the very aft is the Grill and you can take your food from either offering out on to the open air back area and eat, drink, and watch the world go by. You also get pizza and ice cream in the cafe area as well.
Deck 11 (Sunrise) - This deck has the Revelations lounge on the fore of the deck. It is enclosed by glass windows and is a nice place visit. Mid-ship on this deck is open to the pool below. The jogging track circles this opening and goes back to the aft of the ship. The Video Arcade and Ship Mates Fun Factory (for kids) is on the aft of this deck.
Deck 12 (Sports) - Not much of a deck. The basketball court is stashed away up here and that is about it.
Overall, I really enjoy the Millennium class ship. It fits me personally along with my tastes. It may not fit everyone's tastes but that is okay. Yes, they use artificial plants and flowers, big deal, I thought they looked nice. The art work is a little strange, but then, I am not there for the art. They had a much better selection in their Galleria than on the Millennium. This class of ship really puts the others that I have been on to shame.
The only time I felt crowded ones once on deck 4 coming out of the Celebrity Theater, it was hard getting through the casino. Otherwise, it rarely felt crowded and you could always find deck chairs somewhere.
We booked almost a year ago and took advantage of a great prepay deal. We booked a CAT 3 on the aft. We were in room 7199 on the Vista Deck. This room was in a great location. I found the sound of the wake very relaxing. There are rooms above and below so it is quiet. To get to the room, you go down a short hall and then turn left into the room. This helps keep the room very quiet.
This room is huge. I feel bad having this room for only two people for a few minutes, but that lasted only a few minute. Since Pam and I have been to three of the seven ports before, we were treating our room as several shore excursions. LOL
The room is really three distinct areas. There is the entry area with the closets and bathroom, the main sleeping area and the back sitting/sleeping area. Over all, the cabin measures 283 Sq. Ft. The entry is 86 sq ft, the main bedroom is 97 sq ft and the back area is 100 sq ft. The back room and the main room are divided by a partitioned wall with sliding door.
The closet space and drawer space is beyond belief! No joke. There are 5 (yes 5) closet doors. Four of them are for hanging clothes from hangers. We had a his and her space. The other is the area with drawers and the safe. The safe was great! You could use your room key to lock and unlock it or you can enter a code everytime. There were 20 drawers spread out through the main bedroom and the back bedroom. A huge desktop table was in the main room. This was the first time that I did not lack for counter space. I could type on the computer, sit the wine up on the shelf, Pam could plug in her curlers and have plenty of room left over.
The main bedroom had two twins pushed together as a queen. Pam is tall (5'8") and I am 6'1". Our legs were longer than the bed which was a very minor problem. It keep me awake about an extra 30 seconds. The main room has a Standard TV and there is a VCR along with the standard stocked refrigerator with food they charge you for. The back room had a two seat love seat and a three seat couch with a counter and a second TV. The room is a light wood color (not white). The carpet is burnt orange with white spots. It all seemed to fit very well.
Have to give our room an A+. My fear was we would get upgraded to a suite which I didn't want.
I found the staff to be the normal Celebrity staff, which I like. They are very efficient and are very willing to help you. They are not buddy-buddy with you, so many people think they are arrogant or unfriendly. Our cabin steward was Miguel. He did an excellent job. On our first day, we had several things we needed or wanted done and he did they quickly and efficiently. This continued through out the cruise. Probably one of the best room stewards we have ever had.
Our waiting staff was Joseph and Cinbar. They did an outstanding job. They worked very hard and were very friendly. Our table was a table for 10 and we were with a group of 6 that really wanted to be at a table of 6. They were fine, but I always had the feeling we were intruding so it was a little uncomfortable. Half way through, they changed to first seating and a table of six. This left Paulfredo, Dixie, Pam and I at a huge table for 10. This was great because we set by the window and we were out of the major path of the waiters in the aisle. I felt bad for Joseph and Cinbar with the group leaving because I don't know if they tipped them for the first half of the cruise. Again, the service was first rate.
The food is what brings us back to Celebrity. First, we have our expectations set correctly. It still amazes me that they can produce the quality of food when serving 1000 people per setting. This was the first time that we choose to take the 2nd seating for dinner. We like to eat about 7 but we hate missing the sail aways.
Upon arriving, you can choose between the buffet at the Waterfall Cafe on deck 10 or they have Pizza by the Waterfall Grill or there are hamburgers and fries on the grill by the pool on 10. The buffet looked good, but we opted for the famous Celebrity pizza. It was hot and is the best pizza at sea (sorry Princess fans, JMHO). We then had a helping of the French fries. They are excellent and they were hot. Hard to beat that. Finished the lunch off with the frozen yogurt cone which was great. Tasted like true ice cream.
Dinner was excellent the first night. The fish and the veal were excellent. Deserts were to die for as well. I love the traditional swan puff and the apple desert was great as well.
The breakfast buffet at the Waterfall Cafe is good. It is a standard buffet. I like the French toast. They have a very good selection of fruits, cheese, breads, hot dishes, and cereals. There is an omelet station back by the Rainbow Grill that makes fresh to order omelets as well.
Lunch's at the Cosmopolitan Restaurant were very good. We ate there on Key West Tuesday and the Rock Fish and the Thai dish were very good. Some may thing the Rock Fish is over cooked, but it wasn't. Rock fish has a firm to hard texture and it can come off as dry or over cooked. In this case it was prepared excellent. The mango cheese cake is very good as well.
In order to keep the review short (LOL), I will omit the other items. I found the meat dishes to be excellent especially the lamp and steak. I did not have any chicken so I can't really say how it was. The fish seemed a little drier than I remember it in the past. The sad part was I have now noticed a down grade in the Celebrity dinning experience. These are small points, but none the lease they have started cutting costs. In cruises past, the ice tea in the dinning room was freshly brewed. They have now switched to a mix from a machine in order to feed so many people they say. Right, that is cost cutting. The other thing I noticed was the bread in the dinning room was not as good. It was not as fresh and many times it seemed to be day old. Again, nothing major, just a change.
Okay, I have to eat crow (and if it is from the Normandie, I'll love it.) I have always made fun of those that dished out $25 a person to go here. I didn't go to the Olympic on the Millennium. My stance has been that I paid for food once, why should I pay for it again.
Now for the crow. We decided to try it on the first semi-formal night. After that, Paulfredo held me down and made me go back two more times after that! Honest, I really didn't want to go, they made me!
Ladies and Gentlemen, that was true, restaurant 5 star dinning. I have never been so pampered or entertained. The food was outstanding as was the service. I have heard that Celebrity really doesn't make any money on the fee the charge and I believe it.
You only get four courses. The first time, I started out being disappointed because you get 1) choice of soup, salad or appetizer; 2) main course; 3) choice of cheeses; 4) desert. There were so many items in course one I wanted to try, but couldn't. I thought I would leave hungry. Wrong! The cheese souflee is to die for. It may not sound good or appetizing, but it was out of this world. The Caesar salad is huge and is authentic. The onion soup was wondrous per Dixie and several others were outstanding as well.
The main courses were excellent. Some are strange like the vegetable lasagna. The sea bass was very good, but I think the best review was of the rack of lamb and the beef tenderloin. They were prepared excellent. I can still taste them!! The veal was excellent as well.
The cheese course was outstanding especially with good wine. We brought our own wine most of the time and were charged the $6 corkage charge. The deserts are out of this world! The vote was for Michael six desert sampler. The chocolate souflee was great but very rich! The crepes suzette were very good and they make them in front of you. The white and chocolate mouse that they served on the Normandie was outstanding. Yes, they had to roll us out of there three times and they knew us by name on the third night.
Shows and Entertainment:
This is not something that we spend a lot of time with. Once you have seen a few production shows (doesn't matter what cruise line), you have pretty much seen them all. We did go and see a few of the solo performers and they where very, very good. The group Metro was very good The sound effects guy, Kirby St. Romain was excellent as was comedian Noodles Levenstein. The vocalist Les Lankhorst and Darbie Pope Korkmaz were both excellent.
Lots of big band and dancing in the Revelation Lounge. Most people that I saw were having a very good time.
Disembarkation was fairly easy. They disembark on the fourth deck for just in front of the casion. We started at 8:40 AM. We were off the ship by 9:10 AM and we were at the airport by 9:30 AM. Since we were the only ship in port, getting a taxi was easy. The only compliant is the passangers ignored the color codes and just went. How rude but then what do you expect. All of our luggage was together. All in all, it was pretty easy.
Ports of Call
Key West (Tuesday) - This was our fourth time to Key West. My main complaint is that you don't have enough time here. It would be great if you could be there until 10 PM. Oh well, maybe someday. We had supper weather. It was sunny and about 80 degrees. This was new in that we docked at the new pier and not the Navy pier. This was great because you could walk right to the downtown area and Duval Street with in minutes and not have to take the trolley. The town is great. Again, wish we could be there latter and longer. If you are looking for quality tee shirts, there are two Crazy Shirt stores on Duval St. The tee shirts are expensive $23 to $27, but they last for years (I have some that are 9 years old). There are shops right on the pier. I like Key West. May have to go back and stay longer.
Cozumel, Mexico - This was our sixth time in Cozumel. We took a cab to town and walked around. It was very windy and cool this day.
Puerto Limon, Costa Rica - This was our first time in Costa Rica. The pier has a shopping area right by it. The shopping is okay. The vendor's bother you but it is not overwhelming. When you leave the pier, there are very few tourist on the streets. I never felt unsafe, but it felt strange to not see other ship passengers. We walked by the Market and by the Cathedral. The Cathedral wasn't much. I wouldn't waste my time.
This was our only ship tour. We did the PL-5 Toruguero Canals tour at 8:45AM. I really enjoyed it. I found it interesting to see the canals, jungles, grasslands, and wildlife. Was it worth it, yes for me. I think Paulfredo, Pam and Dixie would disagree, but I did enjoy it. I am glad I did it once. It was an hour drive to the dock and there ARE restrooms on the buses. There are restrooms at the pier and the line can be long. There are no women's and men so it is a free for all for the 8 stalls. Try and make sure you get a two seat boat instead of the four seat wide boat. Much easier to view from the two seat wide. We had a great guide and he spoke very good English. The poverty is amazing in Costa Rica. You will see that on the ride to the pier. The ride back is only about 10 minutes.
Colon, Panama - Like Costa Rica, this was our first time in Panama. We went out on our own and found a cab that took us to the Gatun locks. This is a must. It was a 20 minute taxi ride there and back. We spent 25 minutes there and there were ships going into the lake and then ships would follow them into the lock. It was amazing. I will do the trip through the canal one day. Our drive did not speak English. Fortunately, Paulfredo knew a little Spanish. We made it there and back without incident. The shopping by the pier is good, but you are hounded every step for taxis, beggars, or people selling things.
Cartagena, Colombia - First time in this country and port. We had read mixed reviews about this stop. Security always concerns me my first time in a country until I get a feel for it. As it turned out, the concern were way overstated. I felt safe in Caartagena. As safe as in Chicago, Dallas, New York, or San Francisco. Yes you have to be careful, it is a big city. I recommend that you don't wear your jewelry. We took a taxi on our own and went to the Monastery and then to the Fort. We beat most of the tour buses. These were great sites and a must see. The only problem is the vendors mob you before you can open the taxi door. There is a white line as approach the Monastery that they cannot pass and they don't so going through the Monastery is hassle free. The only thing there is children beggars stand 12 to15 feet below the wall and hold sticks up with cut open jugs trying to beg dollars. There are restrooms at the Monastery worth using so go there. The fort is huge. There are swarms of vendors there as well. There is a bathroom, but women should not plan on using it. There was no toilet paper and you could not flush it. There were to 55 gallon Rubbermaid trash cans full of water to flush the toilet. It was very hot, but there was a breeze. It was not nearly as bad as many posters made Cartagena out to be.
Oranjestad, Aruba - This was the port that I was looking forward to and wanting to see. Was I excited. Is a seven year old excited on Christmas morning? Lol It was better than I hoped. It is now my second favorite island behind Maui. We rented a car in Aruba via Avis. I recommend that. They drive on the right hand side of the road and the island is small. We went to the North West side of the island to Malmok Beach. The snorkeling was not good. For those that rave about it, you need to go to Maui to see good snorkeling. We then went to the Lighthouse and sand dunes. This was very cool and worth the time. The island is a desert. If you like to golf, the Tierra del Sol course looked great.
We then drove to the north shore to see the land bridge. That is a must see. The restrooms are nice at the landbridge but you pay a quarter but it is worth it. The rocky shore with the water breaks makes for great pictures. Shopping in the main town is great. I would have given anything for 3 more hours there. Pricing is very reasonable. In fact, it was equal to pricing in Indianapolis for gas and food. We had lunch at a traditional Aruba restaurant, McDonnalds (LOL). The cost of a double cheeseburger value meal was $3.50. I would have guessed it would have been a lot more.
Georgetown, Grand Cayman - This would have been our fifth time in Grand Cayman. This is one of my favorite islands in the Caribbean. It was very windy this day and we were delayed getting into the pier by the local authorities. There were six ships anchored there that day. Finally, Celebrity told us that it was too risky to tender passengers and they were pulling anchor and heading to sea. You could see the other ships starting to tender. There have been many people complaining on the boards about that, but personally, it was the right decision. I am not sure that it was too rough, but it was about 11 AM when we could have started tendering and the last tender back was 4:30 PM, there is no way it was worth going ashore. We would have been competing with five other ships of space and we never would have gotten to shore or would have had limited time. by heading out to sea, it became another sea day. They opened the casino and the shops at noon. They gave free rum punch's and buy one get one free drinks from 4 to 5 as comp. Many people gripped, but give me a break, Celebrity didn't have to do that. I felt bad for those that had sting ray city planned for the first time, but heck, every ship goes to Grand Cayman in the Western Caribbean.
This was a fantastic cruise. I still love Celebrity although the food as started to slide a little. I have determined that I like the 11 night cruise over the 7 because it is relaxing. There were very few kids which was kind of nice. Yes the crowd was older (50's through 80's), but we expected that since it was an 11 night cruise when schools were in session. I enjoy the older crowd. Most followed the smoking rules and dress rules at dinner. Oh well, to make up for having to leave, we booked the Brilliance of the Sea for this time next year for 11-nights.
(Future Cruises: NCL Star 7/02, Maasdam 10/02, Brilliance 1/03)
We just returned from the 10 day Eastern/Southern Caribbean cruise on the Summit which departed from Fort Lauderdale. We chose it because we had bad experiences at the Miami cruise dock and also because we did not have to fly to Puerto Rico to enjoy St. Lucia, St.Kitts, and Barbados. First, the generalization: from checkin to disembarkation we absolutely loved the ship, staff and the cruise. We can cruised on Royal Caribbean and Princess previously and by far the Summit was the best cruise experience (all 5 in our family agree). The staff all went the extra mile in friendliness and making overtures to you about your day, experiences etc. We found the food to be very good with enough selections to accomodate everyone. Some small points that really scored big with us - full time availablity of beverages - O.K. not pop/soda, but juices, tea lemonade and the like - without charge; and a big hit was the availability of ice cream and sherbert. Not just once a day for an hour with one flavor or with an significant extra charge; but from lunch time on, without charge and witha whole range of flavors. Alcholic drinks were readily available but without aggressive promotion. The cabins were very pretty and the bathrooms I felt had the most room and were the most sensibly laid out. Cabin service twice a day kept us in plenty of towels. Shore excursion towels were luxurious. The range of shore excursions reflected not only older more sedate interests but mountain biking, hiking and lots of sailing as well.
Each time we have cruised in the past we felt that we had a good experience but nothing special that would encourage us to come back. But we can say that our next cruise will be with Celebrity without a doubt. We had not one glitch or hassle. It was clear that all areas were being subject to excellent supervision. The only complaint I heard was from someone whose breakfast tray had been cleaned off by an over zealous waiter while they were up getting coffee.
I saw no evidence of cost cutting because of decreased bookings - O.K. so we got key chains instead of mugs when we won the trivia contest. Otherwise the food was at least as good if not better than on our other cruises. We heard some negative feedback on the "Normandie" - special dining experience restaurant, but as we did not try it I refuse to pass on hearsay. I recommend this cruise especially for having two sea days to start and end with - it really helps to unwind or prepare for re-entry into the real world.
Embarkation: First, we'd recommend to all, if possible, to plan on arriving at your host port a day before sailing from two reasons: 1. with air travel, the way it is, you may not arrive in time for sailing, and 2. after spending a night in the home port city, your stress level is not the same as the 'day of,' and worrying about 'getting there.'
After a good night's sleep, and a relaxing morning at the Ft. Lauderdale AmeriSuites, we decided to go to the cruise terminal about 11AM, just to see if we'd be able to board early. Procedures started about 11:30AM, and was a bit confusing at first, but things smoothed out and we were on board the Summit before noon. Hint: If you are a 'Captain's Club' member, tell the host/hostess when they hand you a number, which allows you to go to the head of the line.
Cabin: #9040, cat. 1A, Sky Deck. This was one of the larger cabins we've had (other than suites) Very roomy (191 sq. ft), with two beds made into a queen, a sofa-sleeper/couch, more than enough storage space, plenty of spaceto move around, safe with a keypad to enter your own code, interactive TV, so you can access your shipboard account, book excursions, order room service, pay-per-view movies (also, newly released movie videos - no charge), dresser/desk with chair, large glass coffee table, plenty of mirrors and lighting, brightly decorated, carpeted, and accessorized, good sized bathroom and shower that is large enough so the curtain isn't attracted to your body, and a refrigerator which is actually set up as a minibar. Hint: we removed all the items and stowed them away and replaced at the end of the cruise - otherwise, you would be charged for "missing" items. Before you do this, count the number of bottles and snacks, and if anything is missing (there's a list) tell your room steward/stewardess right away. The balcony, though not huge, was a little larger than standard balconies on other ships, maybe because it's a new ship. The balcony measure approx. 4.9' X almost 9,' with 2 chairs and a small cocktail table.
Although stateroom #9040 was one of the best cabins we've ever had, the location was less than desirable, for several reasons. First, being on Sky Deck, we were directly below the Thalassotherapy Pool and the crew/staff started rolling the towel carts above us at 3AM.......... and it's like a train - you can hear them coming and hear them going........ all directly above your cabin! Second, we had a little rough seas our first 2 days out of Ft. Lauderdale, which in itself wasn't bad, but the location of our cabin's balcony (more toward the bow) prevented us from using it too much because of the salt spray. But the next 8 days were wonderful. And third, a problem for sun worshippers, because of the superstructure, there is about a 20' overhang above Sky Deck, so 90% of the day was shady, which didn't bother us. In hindsight, we would book an aft or stern cabin and, probably, on Panorama or Vista Deck.
Dining Room: The Cosmopolitan Restaurant is a very attractive, 2 level affair, with a beautiful mural curtain that covers the entire stern, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling picture window. There is also a center staircase between the two levels. Spacing of tables and chairs was uncrowded, and one could easily sit or leave without bumping into someone at the next table. Since we were on the second level, we didn't notice, but some guests said the first level was somewhat noisy, which kind of made sense, since it held almost twice the capacity as upstairs. A nice touch was the diner music provided by a pianist or a instrumental quartet.
Pools and Hot Tubs: The main pool has 2 parts, sectioned off for the deep end (approx. 6' deep) and the wadding end (approx. 4' deep). There are ample lounge chairs (many with cushioned covers), and easy to find on the Pool Deck or Sun(rise) Deck, except on sea days, when you get the typical lounge hogs, who 'reserve' their spot at 6:30 in the morning and don't show up until Noon, or later. There are 4 hot tubs spaced around the pool, and most of the time, 1 or 2 remained unoccupied until the afternoon. Hint: The pool is chlorinated salt water, and was comfortably refreshing for this Northerner, but for some with thin blood, it was cool.
The Thalassotherapy Pool is the latest fad on the Millennium Class ships, and a very nice one at that!. It's like entering a giant hot tub, but not too hot. There are jets of water shooting out from the sides and pool bottom, hugh faucet-looking jets overhanging the four corners (great back massage), and chrome, in-water, loungers on two sides, with bubblers underneath (can accommodate 6 easily). There are two hot tubs, one on either side of the pool, and neither was crowded at any time. Hint: This pool is off-limits to children, and, it is also chlorinated salt water........ but, warm. Surrounding the TPool area are very comfortable, pillowed (lower back and head), teak lounge chairs. Again, gets busy, as does the main pool, in the afternoon.
Celebrity Theater: We aren't into shows! But, this theater is something to behold. We were fascinated by the decor, sight lines, comfort, lighting, etc., of this venue. Just the "flames" on each side of the gallery is something to check out (actually, light silk scarfing, lighting, and a blower, give the illusion of a flickering fireplace - great affect). We 'visited' often, but didn't see any shows (sorry). But, through the grapevine, we heard, "fantastic," to "very good." But, the productions were as follows: "A Taste Of Things To Come," "Encore," "The Comedy Of Cary Long," "A Night of Stars," "International Showman, Craig Dahn (pianist)," "The Magic Of Broadway," "Celebrity Variety Showtime," "Celebrity Showtime" (comedy & song), "Classique - La Danza," "Celebrity Farewell Showtime."
Aqua Spa, Sauna & Gymnasium: Again, although we didn't use this facility, it is quite impressive. There are saunas for men, saunas for women, saunas for couples, and a fitness center and aerobics studio (treadmills, cycle machines, step/stair masters, weights, benches, etc.) that seemed to bring up, in my mind, 'Gold's Gym.' Again.......... sorry. I didn't do anything here, and I've never visited a 'Gold's Gym.' But, that's our impression.
Other Public Areas: While walking the ship, we frequented/visited the following:
*Rendez-Vous Lounge - on Promenade Deck - nice lounge where we got together with other members of various cruise bulletin boards.
*Reflections - on Sun(rise) Deck - deserted when we brought our (very) early morning coffee up to view the sunrise. Very nice! We're sure it was hopping late at night and into the wee hours of the morning, but we enjoyed it well after all that was done.
*Waterfall Cafe Bar (area) - stern. Again, another nice place to have early morning coffee and pastries. Outdoors, and predawn to dawn.
*Celebrity On-Line Room - Deck 4. Fun to play on the internet....... if you know what you're doing. You can send/get e-mail, surf, explore your favorite sites, check stocks, find out about upcoming ports, send postcards with a digital picture of you, or plan your next cruise. ($0.95 per minute for internet time; $6.95 to send postcards to up to 2 e-mail addresses).
*Notes- music library - very interesting. Headsets, computer technology, lots of bells and whistles. Never quite got the knack, but it was fun and entertaining.
*Conservatory (Floral & Gift Boutique) - Sunrise Deck - amazing plants and floral arrangements; some not real, but lifelike. Very interesting to see. Visited several times, and saw something different each time.
*Fortunes Casino - WE LIKE THIS ROOM. Got lucky!!! We only played the quarter slot machines, and came away.......... well........... not big losers. The machines were kind to us this sailing. This is very busy between dinner and shows, and after shows. But you can always find a machine, either quarter or dollar ones. The nickel machines are something else. You have to reserve one before you board (joke) or wait for someone to die. The tables were busy and got more active as the night went on. *Emporium Gift Shops - much like the same on most other ships, just a little larger and with a little more "stuff." Enjoyable to visit each day to see what's "on sale," (or what they want to get rid of).
Food: Cosmopolitan Restaurant (main dining room)
- Dinner: very good to excellent. Beef selections were outstanding, fish/seafood was very, very good, and poultry (duck) was good. Everyone seems to be interested in the dress code for evening dining. For the 10 day cruise, it was: Day 1 - casual, Day 2 - formal, Day 3 - casual, Day 4 - informal, Day 5 - casual, Day 6 - formal, Day 7 - informal, Day 8 - casual, Day 9 - formal, Day 10 - casual.
- Breakfast: had breakfast in the main dining room 4 days; eggs benedict every time for me, fried eggs over medium for Barb; all with hash browned potatoes, bacon, toast and bagels, juice, coffee, and pastries. Everything was done perfect.
- Lunch: never made it to the main dining room. A first - only cruise in 16, where we didn't experience lunch in the main dining room at least once.
- Dinner: alternative dining - main entree is ordered, appetizers, salads, desserts, are all buffet. Limited menu, but very good. Reservations are requested for dinner seating. Anyone with a late shore excursion (like us) might want to consider the Waterfall Cafe, especially if they have early seating.
- Lunch: Buffet style, much of the same items every day, pasta bar different every day and ice cream bar (good stuff, i.e. nonfat free, goes fast). Also, there is a theme food bar in the aft section of the Waterfall Cafe, which varies daily - Italian, Mexican, etc. Most food items are portioned out by the servers, and if you want a little more of something, you have to ask; but that's not a problem - they're just programed to give one scoop!
- Breakfast: Fair to good. No changes in the menu items from day 1 to day 10. Most items are warm when you get them, but then you have to wait forever (seems like it) for toast or bagel, and then move on to another station for eggs the way you want them (usually a line). Everything is lukewarm, at best.
Waterfall Grill - Lunch: very, very good hamburgers, good hotdogs, and pretty good pizza.
Normandie Restaurant - alternative dining with reservations and an additional charge. Jacket and tie are required all the time. A more upscale dining experience. Plan on dining for at least 2 1/2 hours. Minstrels visiting your table. Ambiance. People who dined in the Normandie compared it to the finest dining they've ever had. Rated 5-star by everyone.
Shore Excursions: On other cruises, we do no excursions or just one or two. This time we did three!
*St. Maarten - Catamaran ride to a deserted island, on the Golden Eagle ($69pp). Nice, invigorating sail to and from the island, with all the beverages you could consume (this was an older crowd, so not too many took advantage of this), and a nice 1-1/2 hour stay on a pristine beach, with just us (small boatload of people), and another small group later on. Crystal clear, warm, water, pure white sand, and, oh, yes, more liquid refreshments. Also, you were entitled, if you dared, to get a mud bath done with the assistance of the crew. The sail back to the dock included sandwiches, all you could drink champagne, as well as other drinks. It sounds like a lot of liquid was consumed, but the operator made money on this excursion - most of the booze stayed in the bottles, and they didn't get carpal syndrome, by opening too many beers. This was one of the best excursions yet, and we will do the exact same thing next time. The Golden Eagle staff did everything right and enhanced this pleasurable trip.
*St. Lucia - North Coast and Beach Tour ($35pp). Nice narrated bus ride through the Castries area, visited the Caribelle Batik Shop, Pigeon Island Park and then about 1 hour beach time at Reduit Beach. Nice bus ride and nice beach (some hawkers) but next time, we'll do it on our own. *St. Thomas - St. John Safari/Snorkeling ($48pp). Fun trip, but also one we'll do on our own next time. We've visited St. Thomas about 9 times, but have only been to St. John once, so we booked this excursion (on the internet, about 1 month before sailing). We, and passengers from the Dawn Princess boarded the Island Girls (a ferry/tour-type boat for the ride to Cruz Bay. Nice narrative/informative ride over. Once there, we boarded an open-air taxi bus for our ride over (this must have been the 'safari' part) to Trunk Bay. Trunk Bay was our very first Caribbean excursion ever, and this beach hasn't changed - it's still as beautiful as ever. Anyone who hasn't visited this beach at least once, should do so, whether by an excursion or on your own.
*Our cabin stewardess was excellent. She knew we were out (early) in the morning and, as most of them do, when we're gone for diner. We didn't see much of her, but she and her assistant did a great job of taking care of our cabin.
*Dining room waitstaff -waiter, assistant waiter, head waiter - fair at best. Got the job done, sort of, but not with much enthusiasm, except for the sommelier - she was one of the best we've had the pleasure of dealing with. Again, talking to others, they gave their waitstaff rave reviews. We just happened to get a combination of duds. *Rest of the staff and crew - all were pleasant, smiled, said "hello," but not overly friendly. Can't really put our finger on it, but would have to say they were a little standoffish, but not offensively so.
Since most longer sailings attract an older crowd, this cruise was no exception. A very rough breakdown is as follows: About 62% of the passengers were 50+ years old, the 30 - 50 year age group was about 27%, and then a big dropoff, to 8% for young adults (20 - 30 yrs. old), and about 3% teenagers or younger.
This was probably the friendliest group of passengers we've come in contact with. Most everyone struck up conversations with total strangers, whether it was in or around the pool areas, Waterfall Cafe, out on deck, in the hallways, on excursions, or cabin neighbors. People just wanted to chat. You could tell everyone was there for the same reason - to enjoy.
Disembarkation: The Summit arrived back in Ft. Lauderdale around 6AM and was cleared by customs very early (a formality, since everyone had to 'visit' a customs official on board ship in St. Thomas). Since we had made air reservations almost a year in advance for a 10AM flight, we didn't think we'd have a prayer in making that flight. But, midweek, we spoke with the staff at the Guest Relations Desk (Purser's Desk), about our predicament, and they assured us that there wouldn't be a problem. We would be issued (and received) the appropriate colored tags for early disembarkation. The started the process about 8:20AM for those who needed assistance, and then our color was called, and we were off the ship by 8:35AM. We zipped through the terminal, grabbed our luggage, hailed a van taxi ($6 per person) who whisked us to the airport, dropped us off at the curbside checkin, and were at the gate with about 25 minutes to spare........ and that's even with all the tight security. We made it, and probably broke a record doing it!
Ship Impressions: Overall, this 91,000 grt ship is very attractive and pretty well planned out. One drawback, in our opinion, is the lack of a centrum area. Of the 15 other cruises we've been on, most of the ships had a central atrium or centrum. The Millennium Class ships have a 2 deck area, with a staircase in the middle and there is a closed-in feeling to it. Also, the "Guest Relations Desk," aka 'Purser's Desk,' area is not as open and inviting as on most ships. And, finally, there are bursts of "art," or "art deco," throughout the ship that make you say, "Why?" An example is outside the casino near the middle of the ship. The wall is filled with squiggles of color and two plastic chairs are placed against the wall. We weren't alone in wondering why this would be here.
Everything else about the ship is beautiful, from the cabins, public areas, pools, spa, sauna, gymnasium, shops, the Conservatory, to the the lounges, and the open-air deck space. The itinerary appeals the those that like to island hop AND enjoy days at sea (2 days at sea, followed by 5 islands, and then 2 more sea days). The food was excellent, she sailed nicely, even though the first two days had rough seas, the ship was spotless and still had that 'new smell' to it. And the entire cruise went without a single glitch - smooth sailing, so to speak, from embarkation to disembarkation.
If anyone has questions about the Celebrity Summit, feel free to ask. The next best thing to sailing is talking about it......... and planning the next one.
Overall, this cruise on the Summit was terrific. I certainly wouldn't mind returning! It certainly was better than the last cruise I took on the Grand Princess on every point except for the issue of having a nightclub (more below). I tend to agree with most of the posted reviews on this cruise and ship about rooms, food and etc. I would just like to add my thoughts on certain subjects that I think needed more treatment.
I was especially pleased with the level of staff effort expended on ensuring we had a good cruise. At almost every point the staff, was friendly personable and helpful with only a few exceptions. It was refreshing to find people who are willing to carry on a conversation with you and try to get to know you personally even when there are so many people on the ship. The activity directors Peter and Rani did a terrific job throughout the cruise. A favorite event sponsored by Peter and Rani was playing volleyball on deck 12. By the end of the cruise, we had our own volleyball club going with people we had met. Ourwaiters in the main dining room, Zoran and John, were the best. They never missed a beat. The level of service here especially was top notch. I preferred the Summit's dining room experience to the Grand Princess's smaller rooms. In addition, Celebrity seems to have done a winning job of matching people at tables. We made some great new friends this way. Many of the drink waiters were friendly, personable and competent.
Shore excursions during this trip were enjoyable. They were well coordinated and I met many friendly people on this part of the cruise. The 12 metre racing in St Maarten I feel deserves special mention here. The people who are running this operation have it down to a science. The run a tight ship (no pun...) but are relaxed enough to have fun. They even provide free drinks of all kinds-what a thought! Actually, crew members are very professional, friendly and expert in their way of handling both the people and the boat. Having raced sailboats for many years, I felt their sailing skills were top notch. I had one small problem during one of my five shore excursions but it was handled to my satisfaction by the staff, both quickly and efficiently.
Of course the food was wonderful. I agree with what all the other people who took this cruise posted in their review. I respectfully disagree about the pizza. I thought it was much worse than average and there was always a long line for it. Unfortunetly, there were gap periods were food of any kind was unavailable. If you woke up at 11:15 (and some people do this being a vacation) and didn't want to wait in your inside cabin for room service for example, you were out of luck till 12:00. Another gap was between 3 and 5-just when shore excursions are returning. Finally, I thought that the cost of drinks was a bit too high.
I had only a few minor problems during this cruise. First, I felt that average age of the passenger list had to be over 60. One could only meet people in their 20's on shore excursions. In addition, there is no true 'discotheque' or nightclub. The Revelations lounge exists solely as another sedate showroom. It was dark and gloomy and even the cruise director acknowledged problems getting people to go up there. When it was in the nightclub mode, it just didn't succeed. I must say I was appalled at the behavior of many of the seniors. There was more than one instance of people being pushy in general and being unreasonable with the staff that I witnessed. What happened to common courtesy? Second, I doubt I will every purchase any service from any of the spas. Although the staff was generally friendly, the prices are quite high and do not include the 10% service fee. As a ski instructor, I would love it if the resort management automatically charged 10% on every student's lesson for my tip but sadly, in the real world, this doesn't happen. In addition, the treatment rendered was quite below my expections. Overall, dealing with the spa was like purchasing a used car at an upscale dealership. Next, the artwork decorating the ship added up to less than its sum total. In other words it was incoherent, uncordinated and mostly uninspired. This however is a minor point. Overall, an excellent cruise that generally exceeded expectations.
We flew to Ft. Lauderdale two days early. I had procrastinated on the airline reservations and this time it paid off. JetBlue offered $49 one-way flights from Washington to Ft. Lauderdale, so my wife and I got to the ship and back for just under $200 total.
We rented a car and spent our time in Florida mostly visiting relatives. On Monday morning we slept in, took the car back to the airport at about 11:30, and boarded the car rental transfer bus for Port Everglades. The busses do go directly to the piers on cruise days, and this is a nice convenience. We'd heard that traffic into the port was a mess since the added security was put in place, but we had no problem. A military guard sniffed around the bus for a few seconds but caused no real delay, and we were at the pier within about 12 minutes of leaving the rental car lot. However, after our cruise we noted an extraordinary traffic tie-up entering the port as we were leaving at about 9:30. This was apparently caused by incoming passengers jumping the gun and arriving muchtoo early, while debarkation was still in full swing. A good arrival time for our cruise (4:30 departure) was around noon.
Our Captain's Club card got us directly to a check-in counter literally within seconds of walking into the building. Check-in was completely uneventful, and despite several added passport checks and the few moments it took for the digital security photos, we were in our room within 15 minutes of arriving in front of the terminal. There was plenty of time for lunch, for exploring, for making Normandie reservations, and for a drink on the balcony before the parade of the orange monsters to the lifeboat drill.
We had booked a 2C guarantee, and were upgraded to a 1A well before the cruise, cabin 9051. We thought that the much-maligned "overhang" of deck 10 was wonderful, since it kept us out of direct sunlight, which neither of us tolerates very well. And despite the noise problems others have noted, we had virtually none. This may be because we were under the AquaSpa, which is a pretty sedate place. It did occur to me that the overhang might be annoying in Alaska, where so much of what's beautiful is above you at a pretty steep angle. The room itself was exactly what we expected, since we were on the Millennium last year in Europe in the same category. I think these ships have some of the most thoughtfully designed cabins afloat, and the design features make it easy to keep the room ship-shape.
The Big Flood
On the morning of our first sea day, we slept in late. At about nine I was vaguely aware of a knock at the door, and thought it was our steward, the always-attentive Desmond. I grunted that we'd be in the room for a while longer, but this served to get me up and moving around. A bit later we discovered that the knock wasn't Desmond, but our traveling companions (my wife's cousin and his wife), who had been in the cabin two doors forward of us. Well, I had slept through it all, but evidently a glitch in the automatic steering system had caused the ship to make a sudden and severe turn to port. Some people were thrown out of bed and apparently some crockery was smashed around the ship. Our cousins, unfortunately, were awakened by copious amounts of saltwater pouring down on them from the ceiling of their room. Now, you've got to admit that if you're on the 9th deck of a ship, and you wake up being drenched in saltwater, it would give you good reason to pray quick and pray hard. However, the problem was actually the AquaSpa pool just above, which had been partially emptied by the sudden turn. Some sort of drainage fault had caused lots of water to pour into this one cabin through the light fixtures, audio speaker, etc.
Desmond was on the scene within seconds of being called, and with some help from his friends had everybody and everything moved to another room a few doors aft within a few minutes. Before we knew what was going on, it was all over, and our cousins were laughing and making the obligatory "wet dream" jokes. A bottle of champagne, delivered to their room that evening was a nice touch. It was fortunate that the flood was confined to only one room, and that no real harm was done to anybody or anything.
First of all, I'm a New Yorker born and bred. I was born in the shadow of LaGuardia airport and grew up just across the Hudson in New Jersey. In my mid-50's now, I still consider New York my town in many ways, and have been back to visit twice in the few months since September 11, to pay my respects and to visit relatives. I love New Yorkers, and I think I understand them and appreciate them better than most.
But I must say that something bizarre happens to them after they retire to Florida, then descend on cruise ships en masse. Our cruise was absolutely teeming with them. Many reminded me of the very funny impressions that Billy Crystal and Jerry Seinfeld do of their aging relatives. You know you're cruising with senior New York/Floridians when they call the first seating the "early bird special."Many were consistently unable to find their way around the ship. The elevators provided ample material for a standup comedy routine (in fact one joke from the on-board comic was, "have you hung around the elevators to hear the conversations? "'What floor is deck 3 on?'") But the reality was a lot funnier, or sadder, depending on your mood at the moment.
The unprecedented parade of wheelchairs, electric carts, walkers and canes sometimes made the ship feel like a nursing home. And I did occasionally wonder if the sheer number of them would create special problems in the case of a real shipboard emergency. There were a number of medical problems, beginning with a woman who collapsed on deck before we even left Fort Lauderdale. And at least twice I saw ambulances waiting to carry away the fallen as we pulled into ports. The good news is that it's really wonderful that the new ships are so accessible to the disabled. We even found out that you can rent an electric cart before your cruise, and it will be waiting for you in your wide-doored room. And watching the wheelchairs go by I realized how great it is that there are no longer raised sills at the waterproof doors in the corridors or at the deck entrances.
Unfortunately, it's also quite true that many of the elderly passengers (not all of them) were utterly and disgustingly rude. There are anecdotes, but I won't write them down. "Please" and "thank you" were not in most vocabularies. Boorishness was the norm. And virtually everything was cause for whining complaints. Most of the time you can simply sidle away from people who behave this way, but on this cruise you were likely to just bump into another one. Whether consciously or not, we managed to frequent the parts of the ship that didn't appeal to these folks. Places like the martini bar, the Cova Cafe, the Normandie restaurant and the late-night spots, along with our balcony, provided pretty reliable refuge.
We have decided not to take any more cruises out of Florida, even though the Caribbean in the wintertime has its charms.
We really didn't take this cruise for the ports. We enjoyed the Millennium so much last year on a port-intensive itinerary in the Mediterranean that we wanted to spend some time on a Millie class ship without worrying too much about "missing something" ashore. We did take two ship tours: the canal boat "eco-tour" from Puerto Limon, and the "Coast to Coast" rail trip in Panama. They were both very, very good. The guide on the canal boat was top-notch, and pointed out wildlife that we would never have noticed without his sharp eyes. We were glad we brought our binoculars, and advise you to do the same, along with the longest lens you've got for your camera. The railroad ride along the Panama Canal is wonderful, made more pleasant by the stunningly restored Pullman rail cars, with beautiful rosewood paneling and spacious leather seats. It was fun to see the canal locks from shore, having gone through them a few years ago on Galaxy.
At the other ports we simply shopped, walked around, beached, or drank copious amounts of alcoholic concoctions at Carlos 'n' Charlie's. We didn't get off the ship at Cartagena since we've been there before.
We really felt that the food overall was somewhat better than last year on the Millennium. This could be due to US vs. European provisioning, or maybe things have just gotten better. But we didn't have anything close to a mediocre meal. Our dining room staff, maitre d' Eric, waiter Arif, and assistant Satish, along with sommelier extraordinare Rynee, were about as fine as you could hope for anywhere on land or sea. Rynee, a classy, funny Lebanese/Croatian lady by way of Australia (wow!), kept us well supplied with good recommendations, good wine and good cheer ("no worries!"). And she presided over the informative wine tasting session during the cruise. Maitre d' Eric came by for a visit just about every night. He calls Poland home, and that gave my Polish wife and her cousin a lot to chat with him about (some of which I couldn't understand). Bemoaning the fact that he couldn't supply the classic Polish pierogi, Eric nevertheless sent us special orders of ravioli one night as "the next best thing." He's also very funny, and a real pro. Arif and Satish, both from the Indian subcontinent, couldn't have been more efficient or more helpful. Arif would occasionally steer us away from a dish that had not been well received at the first seating. An amateur magician, he had us in hysterics on several nights over coffee, practicing his magic to a gullible and appreciative table. Overall, the best food and the best, warmest, friendliest service we've ever had in a main dining room on any cruise.
After being blown away last year by the Olympic on the Millennium, we looked forward eagerly to our evening at the Normandie, and we weren't disappointed. The Olympic's Edwardian paneling is a historic treasure and absolutely gorgeous, but I think the Normandie works better as a unified and coordinated room. I'm also a drop-dead sucker for art deco, so I fell in love with the room the moment I saw it. And once again, the food and the staff more than lived up to the billing. If you sail the Summit, just go. Order anything that appeals to you, and rest assured it will be wonderful. The staff exhibits the perfect combination of formality to suit the room, and casual friendliness to make you comfortable. There's not a trace of stuffiness, there is genuine pride in the establishment, and there's some very good food and wine on the table.
After a long and wonderful meal, we had a quiet chat with assistant maitre d' Pedro. He told us that the restaurant is not as popular as the Olympic was in Europe last year, where we had first met. Apparently many of the Florida retirees aboard don't book tables, partly because they object to paying $25, partly because it isn't a place that appeals to them, and partly because many of them never discover it is there (or simply can't find it). Pedro was a little melancholy about this, because he is so proud of the restaurant and really wants to share it. But the fact is that you could have gotten a table most any night, even on short notice. It's a sure thing we'll be back on our next Summit cruise. And I think when the ship's itinerary draws passengers who are a bit younger and a bit more diverse, tables will be in short supply.
The Waterfall Cafe buffet restaurant was always reliable for breakfast and lunch (don't miss the daily pasta special at separate stations near the stern on both sides), and the little buffet line in the AquaSpa is a hidden treasure for a wonderful light lunch. The pizza on deck was good for "emergency" food after a day ashore. Finally, we were never more than five minutes away from a very serviceable plate of cheese and fruit, delivered to the room by Desmond, to accompany evening cocktails.
If you like the ubiquitous production shows that are the staples of cruise ship entertainment, those on the Summit are as good as any I've seen. We're not fans of these prepackaged extravaganzas, although we're great lovers of musical theater. Unfortunately, as the theaters aboard the newer ships become more technically sophisticated, these shows emphasize creative production values over creative content. To some extent this is happening in New York and London as well, but it's not our cup of tea. The stagecraft is great, the performers are OK at worst, excellent at best, but the shows are still flat and predictable. I know I'm in the minority and that most people love them, so if you do, go by all means. The show band is really very good.
The individual acts in the theater were not as strong as I've seen, but they change all the time so specific reviews don't do much good. I will say that comedians should get combat pay on the Florida runs. I can only imagine what it must be like to work your heart out and have hundreds of gray heads just stare back at you. Comedian Noodles fought the good fight on our cruise, and actually got a few laughs (which I think surprised him). I tend to laugh out loud easily, but I found myself being self conscious about it when nobody else around us was so much as cracking a smile. He did occasionally actually thank people individually for laughing, which seemed to be sort of an inside joke.
The pool band, Onyx, really deserves its stellar reputation. From time to time I would go out on deck specifically to listen to them. They're good players and singers, but they've obviously worked very hard to come up with really fine arrangements, and that's what sets them apart. Their Christmas set was a knockout, and their arrangement of Elvis' "Can't Help Falling In Love" is a lot of fun. They've also now thrown in "America the Beautiful," with a nod to the Ray Charles arrangement. Many have commented about their trademark song called "Conquest of Paradise." It isn't one of my "Top 10," but for those who like it and don't know, it's from 1492 (the movie, not the year), and you can hear a clip by going to the CD Now site and searching on 1492.
The other musicians around the ship were also enjoyable.
What we'd really love to see are some good cabarets in the Deck 11 lounge, with talented individual performers who can hold a stage and an audience with minimal lights and production. That would be a real treat.
This went very smoothly. For those who haven't cruised recently, there's a new wrinkle that requires everyone to report for a passport check before the ship can be cleared. They send you a letter with staggered reporting times to prevent a big mob scene. I got to the theater entrance promptly at 7:45 as requested, and found that the line extended well back into the casino. When I got to the end, I encountered one of the Florida contingent complaining long and loud about the line, and what an imposition it was, and how "they should have more people." Well, by then I'd about had it. I wheeled on her and explained that a) this was being done for the good of us all; that b) it was being done by the Immigration Service, not the cruise line; and that c) the Immigration folks were probably doing it with the same staffing levels as pre-September 11, and that these people have been working their brains out and didn't need grief from her.
Sorry about that, but it did shut her up. In spite of the long line it was exactly 17 minutes from my arrival on deck 4 to my entering the Waterfall Cafe upstairs for breakfast. And that included a stop in back of the theater for a quick cup of coffee, which was thoughtfully provided at that point. The immigration officer who checked my passport did a genuine double take when I thanked him for helping keep us safe.
We were off the ship shortly after breakfast and on our way to the airport. Surprisingly few people there, but then we realized that the bulk of the cruisers were local and were not flying. We were home and opening our tub of accumulated mail by dusk.
Despite some of our fellow passengers, the cruise experience overall was terrific. It was good to see Cruise Director Jim Cannon and Social Hostess Amanda Reid again, who are old friends now and who were much-needed bastions of civility on this run.
Late in the cruise the Pentagon released the long-awaited videotape of Osama bin Laden bragging about his vile deeds. Later, our room steward Desmond apologized to our cousin Bernie for being away for a little while; he said he was watching the tape. When Bernie mentioned how nice it was to have an international staff, and how they obviously all got along so well, Desmond paused.
"Yes," he finally replied. "I wish the world was like a cruise ship."
We look forward eagerly to more cruises, but with departures far from the state of Florida.
SUMMIT made her first appearance this year in October. She is sister ship to INFINITY and MILLENNIUM and like her sisters, she is gorgeous. She holds 1,950 guests with an excellent guest to staff ratio of two to one. SUMMIT is 965 feet long with a beam of 105 feet. We selected this cruise because of the 11-night itinerary.
We flew to Ft. Lauderdale without incident the day before the cruise. I recommend flying to the port at least a day before a cruise to allow some extra time in case of bad weather or other delays. We stayed at the Amerisuites near the port in Ft. Lauderdale because it's clean and has reasonable room rates. After getting our luggage at the airport, I used the nearby hotel courtesy phone to arrange for their free shuttle. Their shuttle service wasn't running that evening (driver absent), but the hotel desk clerk said to get a cab and bring them a receipt for reimbursement. Cabs are readily available just outside the luggage retrieval area at the airport; it's a 10 minute ride to the Amerisuites, and at check-in we were reimbursed in cash forthe cab. The rooms at the Amerisuites include a separate living room area with a sofa bed, and there's a kitchenette with mini refrigerator, microwave oven, and coffee maker for your use. In the cabinets and drawers there are a few plates, cups, and silverware. There's a grocery store and liquor store within a few blocks' walking distance from the Amerisuites, just ask for directions at the hotel desk. Next door the hotel is an Outback Steakhouse, always good food. In the morning, the hotel has a continental-type breakfast in an area near the lobby. Since this was a Monday, there were only a few people milling about. On weekends, this place is bustling with activity and full of cruise passengers. The hotel's courtesy shuttle was running that morning but we decided to take a cab, total cost for two about $10. The taxi stopped at the security check point at the port to show ID and then was waved through.
Day #1, boarding SUMMIT in Ft. Lauderdale:
We arrived at the terminal about 10:30 AM and had porters take our luggage. There were plenty of Celebrity representatives around, checking paperwork to make sure everyone had all the required documents completed in order to make check-in quick and easy. We sat in the designated area for Captain's Club members and Suite guests. We were on the ship quickly after first going through the metal detectors and having carry-on bags checked by x-ray. Celebrity has really made things comfortable for early embarkation; your cabin is ready by Noon. Until that time, guests can relax in public areas on the ship, some bars are open, and there's a 'Welcome Aboard' buffet at Noon in the Waterfall Cafe. We peeked in at our cabin shortly after embarkation and it was ready for occupancy, so we dropped our carry-on bags there and headed down to the specialty restaurant, Normandie, to make our reservations.
The Normandie Restaurant:
The Normandie is SUMMIT's specialty restaurant, honoring the ship, SS Normandie that made her maiden voyage in 1935 from Le Havre, France, to New York City, US. The specialty restaurant seats about 150 per night in lovely surroundings, complete with original wall panels from the SS Normandie. Spend some time in the restaurant's foyer where you can learn about SS Normandie and see original menus and other interesting ship articles. We made our dinner reservations with the Maitre 'D, Dario Salinovic. A $25 per person fee is charged to your shipboard charge card. You will be served by three or four persons, sometimes simultaneously, as they do things with flair! Attire for the Normandie is dressy, a jacket and tie for men is required. The dinner is four courses and each has a suggested wine from the Normandie's extensive collection. Be sure to see where the wines are stored; the Sommeliers enjoy explaining about the wines. Some wines are reasonably priced and others, well, if you have to ask, you can't afford them! You will have an appetizer, a main course, a cheese course, the entree, and the dessert. For an appetizer, the goat cheese souffle is highly recommended. There is also lobster veloute, Caesar salad, onion soup, boned quail, and others. The entrees include rack of lamb that receives rave reviews, Chateaubriand that is fork-tender accompanied by fresh duck liver and sauce Perigourdine or Bernaise. Other choices include sea bass, Dover sole, shrimp Scampi wrapped in pancetta, and several other selections. All dishes are made to order and most are finished at the guests' table. Take your camera! Desserts are decadent. The chocolate souffle is totally yummy, and there are other temptations including a few bites of each of Michel Roux's favorite surprise desserts. To enhance the enjoyment of your 2.5 to 3-hour dining experience, live dinner music is provided. All this makes for a very memorable evening.
Back to the cabin:
Our cabin was a Category 3, located aft. These cabins are few in number and have generous space, a 271 sq. ft living area and 242 sq. ft. veranda. The bedroom is separated from the living room via a frosted glass and wood sliding door panel, very nice for privacy if two couples or a family are occupying these cabins. In the living room there is a full sofa that makes into a single bed, plus a loveseat that makes into a double bed. A television, coffee table, night stand with drawers, end tables with drawers, and storage cabinet with drawers and shelves are all located in this area. In the bedroom, the twin beds make up into a queen size bed with firm mattress. Extra pillows and blankets are stored at the top of the large, multi-door closet where drawers and a pull down rod for men's trousers, plus a tie rack, are found. A safe with key pad is in the closet and written instructions are provided for use of the safe. A very nice vanity area with more storage, and a corner hutch with glass shelves and decorative pieces (affixed to the shelf for safety), plus more shelves behind wood doors were located in this cabin. There is a television set and VCR. The bathroom is small, wll-lit, with a shower. Nice quality shampoo/conditioner and vanilla-scented skin lotion are found in the bathroom in dispensers. There is ample storage on shelves and below the sink and vanity. A waste bin is also discretely provided below the vanity and pulls down like a bin for use. A hair dryer and shaver receptacle is in the bathroom. (Many veteran cruise passengers take along a multi-plug strip and extension cord for use in their cabin.) The veranda had a shaded area and a large and small table, two chairs, and two chaise lounges. Part of the veranda area is shaded. The colors in the cabin were blue carpeting and orange plaid bed spread, orange print draperies. At first, the orange seemed a bit overwhelming but as time passed, the color scheme seemed appropriate; probably just a sign that we were truly relaxed and enjoying everything! Our cabin steward, Lourence, introduced himself shortly after our arrival. He and his assistant, Munir, did a superb job of keeping the cabin and bathroom pristine, and a fresh supply of Egyptian cotton towels at the ready. Shower caps and vanity packs are supplied. There is a mini-refrigerator in the cabin, stocked with beverages and snacks for purchase; if you ask your cabin steward/ess to remove them, they will do so. A carafe of water and ice are provided twice daily or more if you ask.
The Celebrity cabin attendants and Butlers all wear pagers/phones and respond immediately to your calls. If you want to dine in your cabin, you have many options. You may request the restaurant menus from your cabin steward/ess and be served from this menu during restaurant hours, you may order from the items on the cabin service menu, or you may place an order for a light breakfast from the cards at the back of the book you'll find in your cabin. You simply complete the card and place it on your door to have the light breakfast delivered at the specified time the following morning. They even call you several minutes prior to the delivery being made. The cabin service food was hot and tasty; we sampled these meals on several occasions. All of this, of course, is provided to you at no extra cost.
The Waterfall Cafe:
Our luggage arrived shortly after we returned to our cabin so we unpacked and then headed up two decks to the Waterfall Cafe for the 'Welcome Aboard' buffet. Celebrity's white-gloved staff carries your tray to the table, a hint of how pampered you will be for the entire cruise. They will also bring you tea, coffee, water, or juices. These people really want to please you with their smiles and excellent service. Trays are lined with linen. There were many tempting salads, homemade dressings, raw and cooked vegetables, fruits, cold cuts, breads and rolls, various entrees, carved-to-order meats and poultry, fish, etc. Save room for the desserts! You will find some of the best pastries on Celebrity, not only tempting to the eye, but delicious. All foods are fresh, not frozen, and made on board the ship. That includes the delicious ice creams and sherbets in exotic flavors like coconut, passion fruit, guava, mango, banana and others. You must taste these! Frozen low fat vanilla and chocolate yogurt is available each afternoon along with 'tea'. The tea time on Celebrity is a misnomer since a wide variety of garnished finger sandwiches, fresh fruits, luscious cakes, pastries, and cookies are available. There are also sugar-free dessert selections. Oh yes, pizza is prepared fresh in the ovens at the grill just outside the Waterfall Cafe. You can also call to have a pizza (sized like a 'personal' pizza) delivered to your cabin at no charge, in a Celebrity pizza box. The Waterfall Cafe was a very popular place for buffets at breakfast and lunch. At the aft of the ship in the Waterfall Cafe, there is a separate buffet offering different foods each day, e.g., Mexican food, Alaska seafood, Oriental, American, Italian, and so on. Don't forget about the omelet stations; selections change daily and you can also go here to have your eggs freshly scrambled or fried to order (say hello to Tyrone Aiken, Omelet King!) These same areas at lunch turn into pasta stations; pasta selections and sauces change daily but the tomato marinara sauce is always available. Note that the buffets and the omelet/pasta stations are identical in their offerings on each side of the ship.
Leaving Ft. Lauderdale:
Back to the first afternoon and evening on board SUMMIT, the muster begins at 4 PM and lasts about 20 minutes. All passengers are required to take part in the drill; instructions are provided in writing and on the television in your cabin. The place where you go with your life jacket to meet for muster is in the area assigned to your cabin. The crew reviews important safety information and shows everyone how to properly wear the life jacket. After this, you're led to the lifeboat deck with your assigned group until the drill has been completed. Don't forget your sunglasses as you may be assigned to muster on the sunny side of the ship during this drill.
The best Caribbean band on the seas, Onyx, began playing at poolside after the muster. At about 4:30 PM, the ship leaves port and sets out to the Atlantic past the houses and high rise condos from which people wave, horns blow, and Celebrity flags fly! Bar wait staff walks around to offer special sail-away drinks, but some of these are in souvenir glasses you keep, so be aware of this and ask if you aren't sure or you may be buying something you really don't want.
Shortly after leaving Ft. Lauderdale, the casino and the all the shops open. During the cruise there will be various tournaments held in the casino and many sales in the shops. You can buy anything from toothpaste to diamonds! There's also a cinema on board; however, the free movies shown were not recent releases. Pay-per-view movies are available on your cabin television. The free cabin television choices include the ship's information channels, CNN, music channels, and a couple of movie channels. Often, movies were dubbed over in Spanish. On your cabin television, you can also order wine for dinner, preview and book shore excursions, play casino games, order from the cabin service menu of food, and check the status of your on board charge account.
Main seating for dinner was at 6:30 PM, with late seating at 8:30 PM. The Cosmopolitan Restaurant is lovely, a two-level room aft, all non-smoking. Just behind the Captain's Table is a spectacular wall of windows. At night, it's covered with different 'scenes' on draperies, but if you dine there for breakfast or lunch, the windows are not covered. Note that there is an intermittent vibration felt if you are sitting on the lower level of the dining room. This was not bothersome to most I spoke with. We were seated with friends at a table for four on the upper level. We had the best Waiter, Ercan, and the best Waiter Assistant, Deniz! Matter of fact, Deniz was serving as an assistant for the last time, having just received a promotion to Waiter. Always trust the judgment of your Waiter and seek his advice about what's best on the menu that evening. The first few nights, the fish dishes were overcooked, but for the remainder of the cruise, fish was delicious and prepared to perfection. One menu item to avoid is the sirloin strip steak. On every Celebrity ship we try this, and on every ship, it's tough. The menus are changing in January, and hopefully the strip steaks in the restaurant will just go away. I should point out that all the other steaks and beef dishes on board are just fine.
There was a Welcome Aboard Show and Introductions in the main theater and later there was an Italian midnight buffet; we did not attend either. The show was called, 'A Taste of Things To Come' and featured the vocal styles of the a cappella group, Metro, and the Celebrity Orchestra, singers and dancers.
Day #2, Key West, Florida:
Key West has arts, crafts, souvenir shops, restaurants, bars (including the famous Sloppy Joe's), water sports, and marine museums. For a small charge, you can take a trolley to tour the town but you can also cover a lot of ground in the downtown area by walking. Excursions available include catamaran sailing and snorkeling, kayak adventures, etc. Check out the Key West Aloe stores for great aloe lotions and similar products. Go to the Key Lime store and have a frozen, chocolate-covered key lime pie slice on a stick but be aware, they are very, very rich.
Always take your Celebrity ID card and a photo ID when you leave the ship, as it will be checked upon your return. Bags are subject to hand examination and x-ray.
Late afternoon, I met with Nestor, the Assistant Food Manager of the Buffet. This nice gentleman is in charge of the Alternative Dining area, held each night in a roped-off area of the Waterfall Cafe. The menu changes every two days or so. I have menus and will be happy to give you more information if you send me an e-mail. Celebrity has realized that more and more cruisers are enjoying the option of no formal or dressy attire for dinners. One can call to make a reservation here and there is no charge for the meal or service. The entree is prepared to your specification; this and your beverages are served by wait staff. You go to a small buffet area to select and pick up your appetizer, salad, and dessert. I spoke to many passengers who ate here, and they all said the experience was very good, some returning several nights during the cruise.
This is the night of the Captain's Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party, held in the grand foyer on decks 3, 4, and 5. The Scherzando String Quartet provided music.
The show tonight was 'Encore!', a production show featuring the Celebrity Orchestra, singers, and dancers. There were some very nice vocals. I still think Celebrity has a way to go with providing great entertainment. Not that the singers and dancers don't give 100%, it's just that Celebrity remains weak in this area by not providing more headliner entertainment.
Day #3, Cozumel, Mexico:
There is a lot to do in and around Cozumel including shopping for all kinds of souvenirs and liquors (buy your .925 or higher silver jewelry at great prices), water sports of all kinds, excursions to ruins, adventure tours, dolphin encounters, etc. We were in port with five other ships that day; oh yes, the town gets very busy. Taxis are abundant and cost about $5 per person from where most of the ships dock to the downtown area, a bit more to go to beaches.
I had the pleasure of meeting today with Mr. Daniel Elias, Hotel Manager on SUMMIT. He was recently promoted to this position, and one can understand why immediately. This man leads by example, shows attention to detail without any fuss, and he is very charming and warm. His job is to provide Celebrity's guests with an exceptional cruise experience from a hotel perspective. He supervises all personnel and ship functions except, of course, for the Captain and the food and beverages. These things he accomplishes with perfection and sincere Greek hospitality.
Tonight's show was 'The Hilarious Comedy of Noodles Levenstein'. We missed this show, but others said Levenstein was entertaining and they enjoyed his performance. The Tex-Mex celebration was held poolside beginning at 11 PM, with Onyx playing. There was also a Mexican buffet.
Day #4, At Sea:
A day to catch sun or sit around the pool or take part in any of the on board activities including organized sports, culinary demonstrations, bingo, arts and crafts, wine tasting, etc. I have copies of all the scheduled activities for each day on board SUMMIT, so let me know if you would like specifics. Remember to read your daily ship's newsletter to keep informed of each day's events because Celebrity has a policy of making no announcements on the PA system. Don't try to go to everything or you will ruin your cruise!
I think it was this morning that the ship had a problem. We decided to eat in the Cosmopolitan Restaurant for breakfast to sample the Eggs Benedict and the banana pancakes (the only things not available at the buffet). Suddenly, the ship began to list to one side and there was a pronounced shudder. The silverware and some plates and glasses slid off tables, and the sounds of breaking china could be heard from the galley. An announcement came on the PA system that the ship had suffered a loss of power in the electrical steering system and the technicians would be working on it. We were told that the ship would proceed slowly on course until the problem was resolved. This took about 30-45 minutes, and another announcement was made saying everything was once again normal. Over 700 souvenir mugs in the gift shops, Lalique crystal bowls in the suites, numerous pieces of china and glassware in the galley, were all lost due to sudden and severe listing.
There were a large number of elderly guests on this cruise and most of them seemed to be enjoying themselves but unfortunately, there were a few who needed medical evacuation from foreign ports (a good reason to buy trip insurance!). There were many New York and Florida residents on board. And yes, there were some guests on board who seemed to find fault at every turn. So, if you happen to be on a cruise with one or more of these people who may be speaking out loud in the negative, remember that they are probably not very happy even when they're home. I believe that a cruise vacation is what you make it. If you ever encounter a situation on board any ship that you dislike, go see the staff at Guest Relations. You can believe it, no cruise line would purposely make a guest unhappy about their cruise experience.
This morning I met with 'Sam' who is the Assistant Maitre D' in the AquaSpa Cafe , located forward in the ship in the thelassotherapy pool area. Sam can also be found in the Normandie Restaurant. He was obviously proud of the AquaSpa Cafe and encouraged us to be sure to feast on the poached salmon served with grilled asparagus and ratatouille for one of our on board lunches. (We did so and it was delicious!) In this cafe, you select from light and lean cuisine. A chef stands by to prepare your entree as you wish. If you don't like poached salmon, simply ask for it to be grilled. The menu here changes every couple of days. They also serve a spa cuisine breakfast. All of these offerings are well worth exploring, so don't miss them.
The thelassotherapy pool on board SUMMIT is in a lovely indoor area, and use of it is included in the price of your cruise. The warm sea and mineral water bubbles up to soothe you. There are Jacuzzi tubs and saunas in this area, too. The teak deck chairs with lumbar supports and head rests are very comfortable, and one would see guests snoozing here or enjoying the quiet area with a good book. Soft, pastel blue towels are provided for use after the thelassotherapy pool or Jacuzzi, or to place on the deck chairs.
The spa on SUMMIT is an amazing place and well-recognized as being one of the best and largest at sea. For spa enthusiasts, you will be in sensory heaven here with a wide choice of treatments including Rasul, aroma stones, salt rubs, aromatherapy wraps, massages, etc. Some 'ceremonies' take about 5 hours to complete and are advertised for 'guests who desire complete rejuvenation'. Spa treatments are not included in the price of your cruise, but are charged to the credit card you gave for on board charges. SUMMIT's gym contains state of the art equipment. It is at the forward portion of the ship, allowing for an unobstructed sea view while you walk or run on treadmills, or use the bicycles.
We only saw about a dozen or so children on board SUMMIT for this sailing, but all of them had happy faces as they were escorted by the ship's children's program staff to various organized, age-specific activities.
Tonight we dined at the Captain's Table, a large table all the way aft on the lower level of the Cosmopolitan Restaurant. We met first with Amanda Reid, Social Hostess, in the Champagne Bar, to enjoy a cocktail with our other tablemates. Amanda is truly gracious and makes all guests feel special. Shortly after the main restaurant opened for second seating, she led us all down the restaurant's grand staircase to the Captain's Table. Excellent wines, great food, and interesting conversation were had by all. What a special formal event to enjoy and as always, long stemmed red roses were presented to the ladies upon conclusion of the meal. The ship's photographer had delivered the complimentary Captain's Table photograph to our cabin by the time we returned there that evening.
The show tonight was 'A Night of Stars!', featuring the Celebrity Orchestra, singers, and dancers.
Day #5, Limon, Costa Rica:
To appreciate the beauty of Costa Rica, you have to book an excursion! Some excursions take you into the interior sections to view the rain forest; other excursions were available including sightseeing tours and white water rafting. Local vendors had set up tables and booths outside the small port terminal building. Handicrafts and souvenirs of all kinds were available for purchase and haggling over price was expected. Outside the fenced-in terminal building, you will be approached by local taxi drivers and tour operators. We walked a few blocks to the market area just to have a look. The area is dirty. The people here are obviously poor, but we were not approached by panhandlers. From the market, we walked along the sea wall. There's a city park near the market area, quite lush and overgrown with tropical plants and trees. Coffee is a recommended purchase in Costa Rica and if you have any questions, the ship's Port and Shopping Guide is available to assist you. Her talks run continuously on the ship's television in case you don't want to go to the Celebrity Theater to sit and listen. Of course, she does give away nice door prizes at these talks! Coupons for discounted merchandise in all the ports are available at her talks as well as at the ship's gangway when you exit for your day in the ports visited.
As on other cruises, art is auctioned almost daily for those interested and free art is sometimes given away along with champagne, just for attending. This is in the area of SUMMIT where the Cova Cafe de Milano is, so stop by and enjoy some hot-from-the-oven croissants and pastries (no charge), and specialty coffees, liquors, and teas. Pleasant harp or other music is played in this area.
The guest participation 'Newlywed - Not So Newlywed' show was held tonight in the Celebrity Theater. In the Revelations Club, Metro and Onyx performed.
Day #6, Colon, Panama
The port terminal building is fairly new and clean. A group of Panamanians performed as we exited the ship, dancing and playing their musical instruments. They were interesting to watch and hear. Tips were being placed in the hat of one member of their company. There are many excursions available, but we had arranged a private tour with Giovanni Smith, a tour conductor. His supervisor is Raul. Both speak English. Giovanni first drove us the 15-20 minutes to the Panama Canal Gatun Locks. It was of great interest to see this in person, up close, how the huge and heavy ships are moved along the Canal. Don't miss this tour! Full transit through the Canal takes 8-9 hours and ships have paid over $200,000 to do so, still less money than having to sail around South America. SUMMIT was built to Panamax standards, allowing her to go through the Panama Canal, but she barely fits with only inches to spare all around! After the Canal tour, our driver took us through what he called the 'rich' neighborhoods, homes he said were mostly occupied by Americans, with burglar bars on all windows and doors and lush, tropical landscaping. We also saw the Hotel Washington and El Catedral. We then went with him through the downtown area, an extremely busy and very noisy place. We didn't shop here, but waited until we were back at the various shops and vendor stands at the terminal building. Again, haggling for price is expected here.
Back on the way to the ship, a troupe of Panamanian children in brightly-colored dress performed dances and sang for the crowd.
SUMMIT has an internet cafe where you can connect for 95 cents per minute. For $6.95 you can have a photo taken and send it with two e-mail messages. On board, there were classes available for how to use Word, Excel, etc.
The show in the Celebrity Theater tonight was 'The Magic of Broadway', featuring the Celebrity Orchestra, singers, and dancers.
Day #7, Cartagena, Colombia, South America:
Book an excursion to see Cartagena and surrounding areas. It is not advised to go out on your own here. Friends went to the Monastery and the Fort and enjoyed these tours, but said they were surrounded by hundreds of children panhandling and asking for American dollar bills. The excursion buses stop for a brief period of shopping on the way back to the ship. Coffee and emeralds are big sellers here. The ship's Port and Shopping Guide can provide valuable information. At the new terminal building, several shops and a bar have set up business and this is within walking distance of the ship. A wide variety of souvenirs are available here.
While on SUMMIT, visit the Conservatory Floral and Gift Boutique where you will find a peaceful setting and beautiful Emilio Robba silk floral arrangements, orchids, plants, and candles. For formal nights and other special occasions, corsages and boutonnières are available for purchase.
For cigar and pipe smoking guests, Michael's Club offers a private lounge that is well-ventilated and very comfortable. Enjoy a cognac here.
Hannakuh services were held on board SUMMIT this week in the Celebrity Theater.
For those interested in board games, cards, listening to music on CD's, or reading, all of these are available on SUMMIT in Words (the library) and Notes (music library).
Tonight, the show features Metro and Kirby St. Romain, the 'sound effects' guy. Big Band dancing follows the show in Revelations, with music played by the Celebrity Orchestra.
Day #8, Oranjestad, Aruba:
This is one happy island, really! That's what it says on their car license plates! Walking into town for shopping and a casino takes only a few minutes. There is a mall in which you will find designer clothes and various items. There are beautiful Dutch handicrafts and collectibles available in shops located a few blocks away from the immediate downtown. All kinds of souvenirs are also available from local vendors set up all along the main walkway. Many of us took excursions or tours to see the beautiful beaches and other island areas.
Tonight in the Celebrity Theater, we are treated to the piano performance of international recording star Antonio Salci. Later, there is the fun 'Island Night Celebration' and be sure to take your camera to capture your favorite 'melons on parade!' Onyx plays at poolside for this event. Enjoy the tropical fruit and sherbet buffet (yes, there are lots of other things to eat at this buffet, too!)
Day #9, At Sea:
Lots of deck chaise lounges for sunning were available on this cruise. Pool and deck chair towels are available pool-side. Your cabin attendant will put large, nice quality beach towels in your cabin each time the ship goes to a port. They ask that you return the towels to your cabin for pick-up. The towels are available for purchase for $29 each. The cotton, waffle weave bathrobes for use in your cabin are also available for purchase at $49 each.
A lovely surprise tonight, chocolate-covered strawberries and fine wine, are delivered to our cabin! We very much enjoyed these as we sat on the veranda with only the sound of the ocean and the beautiful night sky full of stars.
In the Celebrity Theater, comedian Noodles Levenstein entertained along with vocalist, Darby Pope.
Day #10, Georgetown, Grand Cayman Island:
SUMMIT and all ships visiting Grand Cayman Island anchor off the island and tender (boat) service is provided to shore. Tenders run continuously throughout the day; it only takes about 10 minutes to accomplish. If you are not on a shore excursion purchased on board, you will go to the Celebrity Theater to get a tender ticket and in a matter of minutes, you'll board the tenders.
Once on the island, we took a taxi ($3 per person) a few miles out of town to the part of Seven Mile Beach that's wide and has soft sand (towards Conch Beach). Close to town, the beach is narrow, the sand is very coarse and full of shell bits, and there are rocks immediately off shore. Although the beach is public property, there are some motels and hotels that have staff posted at their alley-way entrances charging $3-$5 per person to allow you to cross over onto the beach. This is supposedly because you might use the 'facilities' at their properties. These places also charge extra for chairs, umbrellas, etc. Some taxi drivers may take you to these places, so clarify this point with the driver if you want these facilities or not. If not, tell the driver to drop you at a public access.
Grand Cayman Island, like Cozumel and Aruba, has an abundance of shopping and excursion activities. If you have never snorkled with the stingrays, this is your chance! The excursion boat takes you out to a sand bar where you can stand in shallow water to watch or snorkel with the stingrays. Remember to take along a disposable underwater camera. Buy plenty of film and your disposable camera before you leave home. On board, a roll of 36-exposure Fuji film for 35 mm cameras is over $12. In the ports, it's not much less. If you are a fan of the Tortuga Rum Cakes available at the stores in Georgetown, they cost the same on the ship as they do in the stores.
Tonight, 'Classique, La Danza' was the show in the Celebrity Theater. Also performing were Antonio Salci and the Chinese Acrobats, Ming Li and Guidon Xu. After the show, 'Le Grand Buffet' opened at 12:15 AM for guests who wish to take photos. Shortly thereafter, it reopens for those wanting to indulge in the impressive buffet. If you haven't seen this buffet, it's worth attending.
Celebrity has done away with every night Midnight buffets. It was explained to me that there are so many opportunities to have food (this is an understatement!), the second seating dinner guests don't finish up their meals until 10-10:30 PM, and the amount of buffet food that they were discarding was enormous. On nights when there are no Midnight buffets, wait staff circulate throughout the ship's lounges serving 'Gourmet Bites' from Midnight until 1 AM. These are delicious tid bits of various kinds including excellent Beef Wellington and crab puffs. Dessert items such as chocolate truffles and lemon tarts are also brought.
Day #11, At Sea:
A somewhat cloudy day, probably reflecting the gloom of knowing the cruise vacation is about to come to an end. Tonight, it's customary to tip those whom you feel have given you excellent service. Last night, envelopes were left in your cabin for this purpose. Tipping is by nature a very personal matter, but suggested guidelines for tipping are as follows: $3.50 per person, per day for the Waiter and Cabin Attendant, and Butler, if you had one; $2.00 per person, per day for the Waiter Assistant. There are other suggested tip amounts that are less, for the Chief Housekeeper and the Maitre 'D. This is the packing day and tonight before midnight, you will place your packed luggage outside your cabin for pick-up. Colored tags will be provided to you by your cabin attendant to affix to the luggage. The color represents when you will be leaving the ship the following morning. Captain's Club and Suites, and those with the earliest flights, leave the ship first. Don't forget to leave something out to wear tomorrow morning, plus medications, valuables, and any airline and other documents you need!
The Farewell Show tonight featured comedian Kirby St. Romain, vocalists Metro, and the "Our Cruise in Review" video. Tonight is also the final jackpot bingo. The amount won on this cruise was well over $2,000 to a lucky retired woman. When asked what she would do with the money, she quickly replied, "go on another cruise!"
Day #12, return to Ft. Lauderdale:
Since the tragic events that occurred on Sept. 11th, each cruise passenger including children are required to report in person this morning to US Immigration Officers on board the ship. A letter of instruction is provided to you by your cabin attendant the night before. You take this letter with you, along with proof of citizenship and photo. The times for reporting were staggered; we reported at 7:45 AM, our Canadian friends reported at 6:30 AM. The line was long, but the entire process moved right along and only took 15 minutes. Afterwards, we ate breakfast in the Cosmopolitan Restaurant with our friends. It's open seating (meaning you may be eating at a table other than where you were assigned for dinners, and you may be seated with strangers). Ercan, our Waiter, saw us and escorted us to 'our' table in his section, a very thoughtful gesture. If you wish to have breakfast elsewhere on the morning of debarkation, you may arrange for Cabin Service or go to the buffet in the Waterfall Cafe. We waited in our cabin until about 8:30 AM after breakfast, and we were off the ship by 9:15 AM. You'll locate and fetch your luggage down in the terminal building. It will be placed in the 'yellow' area if your colored luggage tag was yellow, red area if tag was red, and so forth. Porters are available to assist you with your luggage. Plenty of taxis are available outside and if you arranged transport via the cruise line, a bus will be waiting for you (and others) who've made such plans. A taxi ride to the airport is about $10 for two persons. There will be plenty of Celebrity staff to help you this morning.
This cruise was wonderful! Please feel free to contact me by e-mail or at www.cruisesinc.com/kmajor if you have any questions or would like further information. This was my seventh cruise on Celebrity.
The ship is great. So far embarkation was good. The lunch was good and the ship is beautiful. Net2Phone works from the ship, so ship to shore calls can be made for nothing or as little as 3 cents per minute.
Looking forward to a great cruise. The weather so far has been great. Embassy suites in Fort Lauderdale was good. They honored the $50 priceline bid, which included a cocktail party and a full breakfast. Also shuttle from airport and to port.
Well, let's finish the first day. Dinner was just fair. Service was good, but not the greatest choices for food. I had double shrimp cocktail, Oriental broth with Asian vegetables, no salad, and half a chicken. Entree choices were hake, pasta w/smoked salmon, half chicken, veal piccata, and roast beef. I had creme brulee, and apple turnover of some sort and rum raisin ice cream. The desserts were fair. My wife had the roast beef, and it did not look great. She had a pastry swan filled with whipped cream and on a chocalate sauce.
The Welcome show was pretty good. A couple of numbers by the Celebrity singers anddancers, and a few songs by an acapella group named Metro. They had an Italian midnight buffet, that looked better than dinner, but since we had just finished dinner at 10:35PM, we had no room. Went to the casino and broke even (lucky I had a full house with a bonus coin) playing Caribbean Stud poker.
My wife is unpacking now, and I'll probably press my Tux tomorrow. We hadn't unpacked yet because BW was hoping for another upgrade to a Royal Suite (snicker, snicker). Well that's it for yesterday. We now start day 2. The ship reached Key West about 7AM. There was some vibration as we docked, but nothing uncomfortable. We went to the dining room for open seating breakfast. It was very good with lots of choices. The waiter brings everything, one at a time, but you must give them the entire order including juice, fruit cereal, pancakes, french toast, eggs, bacon, etc. Also there is no syrup on the table, so you must ask for it when you order, or your food will get cold while you wait. BW had kadota figs, broiled Scotch kippers, eggs benedict, grits and coffee. I had orange juice, smoked salmon, cream cheese and toasted bagel, a spanish omelet with bacon and sausage. We then left the ship for Key West. We walked to Hemingway's house and did the tour there. It's $9/pp, but you can get discounts with AARP, AAA and many others. It was very interesting. We did not take the conch train or the trolley tour, as they were $20/pp, and we felt it wasn't worth it. We walked around town, and saw the main landmarks, which was OK. Had a slice of key lime pie, and conch fritters. Pretty good. Did some shopping in a Coach outlet and did about 2 hours of walking.
We went back to the ship, and I had lunch, but BW was feeling stuffed, so she passed. Buffet lunch in the waterfall cafe was OK. Nothing great except for nice flavored gelatos. Then down to our balcony for sailaway at about 2:30PM. We then went to the T-pool and hot tub for about an hour. BW had to drag me kicking and screaming, but once I got there, stayed in for about half our in the T-pool, and 15 minutes in the hot tub. Buth were great and very relaxing. No kids in sight. They must have closets they are hidden in. Then we went up to deck 11 for some sun and we managed to miss all the activities, trivia game, etc. After about a 30 minute nap, at 4PM, I went down and got a couple of slices of pizza, one seafood, that had shrimp and squid, and the other, a vegetable slice. Grrrreat. BW woke and saw me eating, so she had to have some. loved it. I then went and got some soft ice cream, yummy, and fruit and some very tasty mocha cheese cake. They also had these small tea sandwiches that looked pretty good, but by then, i figured, hey dinner at 8:30 and the Captain's cocktail party at 7:30. So at 5PM we went down to the cabin to shower and get ready. I had a rum and lemon twist diet coke, which I brought on board in Key West, with no problem, while I did this post.
Net2Phone is more than adeqate, as is the internet connection. It's a very slow connection, and there is about a 2-3 second delay. The parties have to give each other a couple of seconds to finish their thoughts before replying, but it's live and you are connected for less that 3 cents/minute. I just spoke with my 89 year old mother in law for 15minutes (BW can't take her for that long while on vacation), and it went very well. See if you can test it a few times before you leave, with different people around the country. BTW, the dryer is adequate. BW has shoulder length hair, and it was fine for her. OK for me too.
Day 3 and balance day 2
We left off talking of the Cap's Cocktail Party. Well I neglected to mention that I had my tux pressed (same day service cost a penalty of $1.25), otherwise $3.50). I had a drink in the cabin, and then we headed down at about 7PM. The party was scheduled for 7:45. Well we had a little time left before the party, so we took our pictures and went to the casino. Together we won about $100, but more about that later. You could order bar drinks at the cocktail party, and there were some nice canapes. Dinner was better last night. Started with a double order of escargot, then a salad, and for my entree I had shrimp scampi and Tournedos Rosselini (filet mignon) which were both pretty good. The side dishes were just fair. BW had the same, with the exception of duckling l'orange instead of the steak. Desserts were OK. Warm apple tart, pear souffle. cherries jubilee. We opted for the tart, souffle and a side of butter pecan ice cream. We rolled out of the dining room and went to the show 'Encore' that started in the large club at 11PM. Got there just in time. Late seating left plenty of seats. We were first row center. The show was great. Don't miss it. Entertainment so far was better than the last Celebrity cruise.
OOPS, forgot to mention that BW HAD TO GO BACK to the casino. She gave back about $25 and I gave back about $75. Went back to cabin about 1:30AM. BTW, no midnight buffet, just snacks. Service still continues to be good. Weather is great and seas calm, as is the ship's motion. We just docked in Cozumel, so I'll just go tickle BW awake, and head off for breakf ast, and a day of 3 esses. Sun, sand and SHOPPING.
We decided not to go to Playa Sol. Instead, spent the day shopping in Cozumel with a couple we met at breakfast that seem to have a lot in common with us. Got some good deals and some nice souveniers, and some things I don't want to talk about on this board, but you must know what I'm talking about. Had a snack of some pizza and fruit when we got back. Now I'll make a drink, and sit out on my xtra large verandah. It's a hard life, but I could get used to it. Back to cabin at 5PM Wednesday for sailaway and drink. Ship is moving around a bit. Very windy, rock & roll. Tak'em if you've got'em. If not go to cabin steward and get some bonine. Dinner, just fair. Poor choices, like a second class diner. I wouldn't recommend any choices. Try pasta, as that was the only thing we didn't. I had the 'lamb steak', a roundbone overcooked lamb shou8lder chop. BW had roast sirloin, phehh. Show, just fair. Comedian Noodles Levenstein, old jokes. Singer, part of Celebrity singers. Tex-Mex midnight buffet outdoors. Stupid. Very windy, food blowing off plates, and did not look good. Many people sick. Country line dancing, very little participation. More to come. Off to breakfast and day at sea. Sorry if this disappoints, it did me. Hopefully it gets better.
Day 4 at sea began with breakfast in the dining room. I don't like the buffet if I can help it. Our waiter last night gave us a window to come in for breakfast from 8:45-9AM. If we weren't there during that 15 minute window, he said we would have to eat in the buffet. I think there should always be open seating for breakfast, but that will be for another thread. While we were eating breakfast, the ship was moving very quickly and was rocking a lot. Then strangely, the ship startyed to make a sharp turn, and listed to the side at what seemed a 45 degree angle. Dishes clattered to the floor, people started to get frightened and the engines cut off completely. After about a half hour of drifting, there was an announcement that the ship had experienced a problem with its steering system, and we would proceed slowly using the manual steering system. Then about an hour and a half later, it was announced that the system was repaired, and the ship resumed speed. There was no longer that rocking motion. Had hot dog, hamburger and taco for lunch today. It was OK. Desserts and ice cream as usual at the buffet. I did not go inside to check the buffet today, but they are usually pretty good, except for the stuff on the steam trays, which look and taste like the food you had in your high school or college caf.
Sat out on deck 11 and listened to the band. Very good. Got some sun. Then went to the T-pool and sat in the pool for a half hour, and had a long nap. That was great. BTW, there are a ton of activities going on all day long. You need to have a watch and the daily sheet, in order not to miss those things you want to see. As you can tell, I'm trying not to get away from my rep as a champion couch potato.
At about 4:15 I went to a slice of pizza and some fruit, and the BW got a cookie and a soft ice cream that she said was very good. They also had tea sandwiches and lots of other goodies. The service continues to be excellent, and the staff is very friendly. Now it's time for a drink and some more rest before dinner and show. Informal night, to tie or not to tie, that's the question. I think I'll tie tonight, no socks, however, and I'll see how it goes.
Dinner was fair last night. Best entree was filet mignon cubes. Desserts were OK. Show was singers and dancers again doing famous singers. Pretty good. Costa Rica - town is poor, don't waste your time in town. Shopping area just before town has better prices. Shop in the morning and take an afternoon tour if possible. We did the Tortuguero Canals, it was OK. We saw lots of wildlife and had a closeup of the banana plantation. OK, some detail on Tortuguero Canal excursion. There are 2 per day, morning and afternoon. We elected to do this in the afternoon, as we wanted to shop in the AM. The excursion started at 1PM (had lunch onboard)with a nice A/C bus ride through nice countryside and banana plantations, with the guide giving a short course in Costa Rican history. Then when we arrived at the canal, and there were clean restrooms (go now, none on boat), a spread of cut up melon, pineapple, coconut, whole bananas, sodas and coffee, all free. The boat left about 2:45PM our time. We saw some nice wildlife. Crocodiles, snakes, monkeys, sloths, and a lot of different birds. We got back to the ship at about 5:15PM. In time to get some pizza and........ Had a drink in cabin, took a shower, called my brother, who was back from Vegas, and my mother-in-law. Reserved a shore excursion for the $25 Gatun Locks tour. No real shopping here, as the ship advises against it.
Went to dinner. Here we go again. Appetizer pasta was OK. Soup was OK. Salad OK. Entree of prime rib was best choice, and was OK. Seafood brochette was not too good. Had chocolate mousse pie with cinnamon ice cream for dessert. The assistant head waiter made the rounds and asked if there was anything he could do. We asked that he have a bowl of mints ant toothpicks at all the exits, not just at the 4th floor main entrance. He did not agree, but got us some mints. (None for the rest of the passengers)
On to the 'entertainment'. In the Celebrity lounge, they had the Newlywed, not so Newlywed game. It was a hoot. After that, we went up to the Revelations lounge for a 50's, 60's Sock Hop. We were picked for a twist contest (came in 5th, out of 5). It was a lot of fun. Went down to the casino. Broke even, BW lost some, no major damage. A woman won $4,800 on a one dollar slot the day before yesterday (I don't know if I mentioned that). Otherwise, slots are not paying off. We are now in Panama, and I'm going to get dressed for Breakfast and go on the 11:30 tour with friends we met.
Some additional word on the steering problem. Many of the cabins on the 9th deck were flooded when the ship heeled over. All these guests were given free cruises. I had switched cabins, because I had been aware of a problem like this on the 9th floor. We took the $25 Gatun Lock tour, and it worked out well. We got to see 2 ships going through the locks, and the operation of the locks. We also found that we could have gotten a cab with a driver to take us there and back for $40 round trip for the whole cab. You could have 4 people, and it would cost only $10/per person.
There was some good shopping at Colon2000 at the pier. BW got some nice craft stuff, and I picked up cigarettes for a friend @$13/carton for Marlboros. Also got some Skye vodka for $8/liter. It was cheaper than the ship or our other stops. Also, I was not stopped when bringing it aboard, and I got a refill on my rum, which was running low. I do save a lot by having that drink in my cabin.
Dinner tonight had the much heralded rack of lamb. It lived up to its reputation. It was perfectly cooked and delicious. For appetizer, I had frog legs, which were also good. Then Chicken, corn velvet soup. Belgian endive salad, and a flan type dessert. BTW, the only other entree this meal that prople enjoyed, was a sirloin steak. The quail were overcooked, and the fish was left on the plate by another guest at our table. Last night was the second formal night. The Broadway show was pretty good. A medley of Broadway show songs with some glitz and lots of dancing. About 45 minutes long. The T-pool was broken yesterday, when we got back from the locks tour. Hope it's fixed today. We decided to take the Deluxe City Tour in Cartegena today. It starts at 9AM and goes to 1PM. The ship sails at 2PM. BW would like to get some extra time shopping, so we may stay another 30 minutes and take a cab back. More on that later. Re T-pool broken.
It's fixed today, and it had nothi8ng to do with the flooded cabins. That was caused by a steering problem, when the ship listed about 25 degrees and the water rushed out of all the pools, in some cases with people in/out of them. There were some injuries and some cabins on that side of the ship were flooded. All affected got mfree4 cruises, and Celebrity never announced anything publicly. BTW, this ships rocks from side to side in slightly high seas and winds. Better bring your Dramamine, etc.
Well, we were convinced to take the Deluxe City Tour at Cartegena today. A wastye of $29 per person. The total cost was $39, but four friends grabbed a cab for $40 for all of them, and we met them every place we went. Their driver just followed the tour. The cruise people scare you into taking the ship's tours, when you would be better off on your own. We did some shopping in Cartegena, but almost everything was overpriced, and you can really haggle. Collared Cartegena shirts can be had for 5/$10. They originally asked for $10 each. Tablecloths for $5, cigars cheap. Cigarettes $10 carton. Haggle, haggle, haggle. If you don't like to, you'll be viewed the fool by them. Tonight is past cruisers party and first night of Hannukah candle lighting. There is a Rabbi on board who has been doing daily prayers for those interested. BTW, breakfast is much better in the dining room than in the waterfall cafe. It's just as fast if you know what to order. If you have to see the food first, by all means, stick to the cafe. Day 8 - Went to the past cruisers party 5:15-6. Wow, capacity crowd in the Celebrity Theater, probably some crashers, they didn't check invitations. Order any drink you want, or take from the trays they walk around with. No canapes as in previous parties we've attended. After the party, went to the casino for a bit. Broke even, BW won some. 7PM - showtime for late seating. Metro - very good, Kirby St. Germaine, we've seen him before, I think on Celebrity, just fair. Hannukah candle lighting after show was very nice. They had a very long show, so we did not have time to part5ake of the wine and latkes. Dinner was supposed to be very good according to people we met at the Hannukah service. They said Filet Mignon was very good. I started with escargot and mushrooms in puff pastry, pretty good. Skipped soup (cream of cauliflower, chicken broth with salmon quenelles, and cold black cherry soup) and salad. In its place I ordered an entree (pasta with shrimp and scallop scampi, very good) as my soup/salad. For my main entree, I ordered thye Filet medium rare. It came medium well. I did not want to wait for another, so I just5 had some of it, and went on to dessert. I had another flan type dessert and butter pecan ice cream.
After dinner, they had big band in the Revelations nite club, not very well attended. They had oriental buffet at 11:30. The only things that were edible, were the noodle dish with nuoc mam sauce, and the white rice, and a couple of desserts. Everything else was way off the mark in authenticity. Tandoori chicken and poek satay were mushy. Egg rolls were greasy and tasteless, shushi was smoked salmon, or cooked tuna or shrimp, no raw fish, but then who would want to eat raw fish after 7 days at sea. Back to casino and BW won a t-shirt. Tapped out the nickel machine she was playing on. She needed an attendant to carry the nickels to the cashiers. Time to get ready for breakfast. Dining room today, open seating. No more Waterfall Cafe for me. Then it's off to Aruba beach, lunch and shopping (of course). Aruba story. We did not take a tour. I wanted to go to Baby Beach on the other side of the Island (best for snorkeling and swimming, as per the natives), but we found out that the facilities there are closed Monday. We took a bus ($4 round trip) to the Hotel Allegro (Palm Beach), where they had free chairs, changing room, swimming pool, or beach, water sports, including but not limited to kayaking, parasailing, etc. We stayed til about 12:30, then headed back to the ship for lunch. Skipped pasta bar, but behind the pasta bar they had American lunch. BBQ ribs, chicken, corn on cob, cole slaw, potato salad. My ribs were tough (BW agreed), and BW's were tender. Went to front of Waterfall Cafe and they had a regular spread, which included braised lamb shanks that were great, + much more that looked good, but was filling up rapidly, so I saved some room for dessert. Flan and bread pudding w/chocolate sauce.
After lunch, we walked off the ship and the BW managed to anger every jewelry salesperson in Aruba. Needless to say, she didn't buy anything. She said for sure in Grand Cayman.
Dinner last night had some good choices. Shrimp cocktail, I ordered a double, and my waiter Omer (a very straight-faced Turk, who is now very smiley) brought me 2 doubles, as I had no soup or salad. Salad choices were OK, as were soups, but the shrimp were enough for me. The entrees that I tasted were sauteed scallops, very good, and roast duck w/green peppercorns, also very good and moist, but not with crispy skin as advertised. Tablemates who ordered veal Oscar said it was good and tender, while people at early seating said it was tough and chewy. The tablemate who ordered the wahoo (fish) said it was good, but only had 2 bites, and 2 desserts. I can only assume she did not like it, even though she told Omer it was good. Desserts were good as usual.
BW went to the show in the Celebrity Theater, a pianist, Antonio Salsi, I think. She said he was great, standing room only. Not my cup of tea. I went up to deck 10 for the Onyx group dancing the usual, Hot, Hot, Hot, Macarena, Electric Slide, etc. The deck was full of people, lots of participation. There are many more people our age group than I had noticed earlier. The event up on this deck included the 2 ice carvers doing 2 ice sculptures in 10 minutes. Great to watch. Then a waiters parade of carved watermelons, and the buffet then consisted of ribs, fried chicken and many varieties of tropical fruit and desserts. I seem to have a minor cold, so as we picked up some cold medicine in Aruba, I was tired and went to my cabin. BW stayed to enjoy and the to the casino to lose some money. BTW, the ship is rocking a lot, and I would suggest taking something if you're prone to seasickness. The seas are not too rough, but the ship does rock. It's also rather noisy and does vibrate. Perhaps it's just this cabin. BW seems to sleep very well (like a baby in a rocking cradle).
Today is a day at sea. Let's see if I can answer a couple of questions.
seadaisy - Just order in advance the things you want, ie. Juice, fruit, cereal, fish, eggs and sides. Order all at once, because everytime you have an additional request, you add time to your stay.
J33JWA - I've never closed the casino, but I'm sure it's the last to close on the ship. At least 2AM. They don't give anything away. You pay for drinks. On the nights with gourmet bites, they come around with salty treats that will make you buy drinks at regular prices. I think I'll go back to sleep until my 8Am wake up call. Wow, this ship is really rocking, and the sun is shining brightly, maybe I'll go out on the verandah. (Sounds like Allan Sherman, Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah).
I'm using my own laptop in my cabin, and I've downloaded Net2Phone, so that I can make calls from my PC to a phone anyplace in the world for less than 3 cents/minute. I've been able to stay in touch with my office and family for pennies a day. The cost of the internet connection in the cabin was $100 for unlimited usage for the entire trip. I've been connected for at least 12 hours already. At 99 cents/minute, you can figure out what it might have cost.
And now the saga continues. We've been invited to a Captains Club cocktail party at 11:30AM today. After breakfast in the dining room, we were approached by Antonello, the Asst. Maitre de, and he asked us to speak with the Restaurant Manager. Apparently, my criticism of the food had been heard. We've been offered dinner for 2 in the Normandie this evening, and I've accepted, even though the menu does not appeal to me. I hope I'll be able to find something that works. More about this later. I guess that old saying, 'the squeaky wheel gets the grease', is true.
Well it's out to the balcony for an hour of sun until the cocktail party. It's a hard life, but I'm trying to get used to it.
I just got back from the elegant tea, which had white glove service and was a little different than the regular tea. This is the only day it was held. Don't miss it. In addition to the regular tea sandwiches, they also had scones with clotted cream and jam. Very good.
Tonight the showtimes are reversed with late seating having the show at 7PM and main seating having the show at 9PM. It's Noodles Levenstein tonight, and I'll probably miss it because of dining in the Normandy. Saw the begining of the show at 7PM last night. One of the singers from the Celebrity troop, very good. Then Noodles Levenstein. A young guy, but very old jokes, which are, of course, still funny if you've not heard them before.
Went to our 7:30PM reservation at the Normandie Restaurant. They treat you very well. As good as any restaurant I've been in. We had a nice table with a view of the entire room and the kitchen. We started with a little extra amusee that was not on the menu, cantaloupe balls and cantaloupe sorbet. They came around and offered bread which was all very good. The sommolier came with wine list and asked us to choose wine. Unfortunately, because I had taken a cold pill, I could not have any. He then said that the dinner was being paid for by Celebrity, and wine was included, so we should choose a bottle and BW could have some and the remainder of the bottle would be sent to our dining room table tonight. As we were eating light, he helped us choose a Cakebread Chardonnay, 1999 @ $90/bottle. That was one of the least expensive on the menu. When it was uncorked, BW said it was delicious. I smelled it, and it had a great aroma. We wanted to share our dishes, so we ordered different things. The chef does not permit the waiters to share the dishes, so you must do it yourself. We didn't mind at all. All the service in the restaurant was wonderful. We chose a Ceasar salad and the goat cheese souffle to start. Both were very good. BTW, there are no seconds in the restaurant, and it is a four course meal. Soup, salad or appetizer for the first course. Entree for the second. Cheese and fruit for the 3rd, and dessert and beverage for the last. For the entrees, as I stated before the choices are not of world class caliber. We chose shrimp scampi, which, in this version is shrimp wrapped in pancetta, and sauteed at the table in olive oil and Balsamic vinegar, with arugola added to the pan just before serving. The 6 shrimp are arranged around the pile of arugola on the dish. The vegetable side dish consisted of asparagus risotto, , with some mini vegetables. I like this dish, except for the risotto, which BW told the waiter tasted like wallpaper paste smelled. The waiter thought the remark hilarious, as he had never heard that expression. He said the 4 other people that had been served the risotto before us, did not comment, but when we asked him, he said they did not eat it. My wife thought the shrimp had an aftertaste. The other entree was the rack of lamb encroute, which is like beef wellington, but with a rack of lamb. The lamb was delicious, and it had a covering of minced mushrooms under the baked crust. Both of these dishes, in the past could have been served in the regular dining room, as I'm sure some of you past cruisers will attest. The next course was the cheese and fruit (apples and grapes) with thin slices of bread and celery. There is a large selection of cheese, and you can taste as many as you want. This and the coffee and tea are the only thing you can have unlimited seconds of. By this time we were so full, we could not even think of seconds. All the cheeses were delicious. Next was dessert. Chocolate souffle and crepe suzettes were our choice. You must order the souffle at the begining of the meal. These both were delicious. I just had a taste of the souffle, BW finished it, and I had one crepe, BW finished that also. Then the waiter brought out petit fours which were a selection of cookies and candies. All in all, I would definitely recommend that you try this one night. The entrees might not be the best choices, but the presentation, ambiance, and service are great. After dinner, we caught the balance of the show we walked out on earlier, and then went to the casino, which was good to me for a change.
We went to sleep early, and woke to the sight of Grand Cayman. The seas are calm, so we should start to tender shortly. I think we will wing it today. BW wants to see 7 mile beach and shop. That's OK with me. Dinner on the last formal night lived up to expectations. Started with double shrimp cocktails, and then double lobster tails. Baked Alaska for dessert was OK if you like tri-color ice cream. I preferred a dessert with Irish whiskey, don't remember the name right now. This was the only night the waiters and assistants paraded around the dining room. It was nice. We had the some of the wine from yesterday, and I was able to taste it. It was a very good choice.
Last night was the Grand Buffet. I was beautiful. I only wish I was in early seating, so that I could have tasted some. Great ice carvings and terrines. The lobster was out of shell as was the shrimp. The cakes and pastries looked amazing. We took some pictures and went to the casino, where I hit a small jackpot on a quarter slot machine. Final formal show had the pianist, acrobats and singers and dancers. It was pretty good. Some people would not like it, as it seemed geared to an older crowd. Tonight is Metro & Kirby St.Germaine again. I pass.
Debarkation talk - Breakfast is open seating, 6-8AM in DR, and 6-8:30AM at buffet. Everyone, including US citizens are required to report to Celebrity theater at 7:45AM for an immigration check. There will be random custom checks of luggage. The weather is very warm today, and I'm beginning to look forward to debarkation. Tonight the talent show is at 5:15PM, and final jackpot bingo is at 10:30PM. I've packed most of our clothes already, and we'll probably just relax for the rest of the day. We thought we would try the dining room for lunch, but the menu did not look too enticing. We had some good snacks at the buffet, and the BW had a candy apple that she said was great.
I bought a 12 pack of diet-lemon-coke and a six pack of Evian on board in Ft. Lauderdale, and I also had 2 liters of rum that we finished with friends at balcony parties. It would not be right to dr4ink these in public, but there seems to be no objection in the privacy of your cabin.Last night we missed the show which was at 7PM. Kirby St.Germaine and Metro - Went to the casino, and recouped some money. Lost some over the length of the cruise, but not much. Dinner the last night was not bad. Do the rack of lamb. It's consistently the best choice. Desserts were OK. You'll definitely find one you like. Went to final jackpot bingo, lost. Winner was a nice older woman who played all cruise. She She won $2800. Not much for a cruise this long.Debarkation- breakfast in DR, 6-8AM, Waterfall Cafe, 6-8:30AM. You must be completely out of your cabin by 8AM. No room to finish.
This was our fourth cruise but our first with Celebrity, having cruised on Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise lines in Alaska and the Caribbean respectively. This was by far the best cruise experience we've had.
EMBARKATION & DISEMBARKATION: We arrived at the Canada Place in Vancouver at 11:30am for an official boarding time of 2:00pm. The process was the most disorganized event we experienced throughout the eleven-night cruise. Incorrect information from the supervisors and staff was rampant and the entire embarkation process gave the impression that this was the first time they had gone through this seemingly routine procedure. This caused a great deal of frustration and frayed tempers among the waiting passengers. It was close to 2:00pm when we finally boarded the ship and from that point on it became a vacation that exceeded our expectations. Getting on and off the ship from that time on was a breeze. Even with the heightened security measures put in place the process was seamless.
ABOUT THE SHIP: The first impression upon boarding is of understated beauty. There is no stunning seven plus level atrium however the 3 level Grand Foyer leaves the impression of aclassy entrance for the first time cruiser of a Celebrity Millennium class ship. The Plaza deck has the first level of the Grand Foyer, fabulous Normandie Restaurant (more on that later), movie theatre and conference centers. The Promenade Deck has a small scale Bellagio-like casino, the Rendezvous Lounge for pre and après dinner dancing, (if you're into swing/ballroom dancing) and the first level of the memorable Cosmopolitan Restaurant. The other main activity decks Entertainment, Resort and Sunrise all exude quality. The many lounges are tasteful and comfortable. With 1800 fellow passengers this ship did not appear congested. The Revelations disco is a very attractive venue. You have a long wait for the modern music to be played which doesn't begin until the wee hours.
DINING: Virtually ever meal in the Cosmopolitan Restaurant was superb with excellent service from our Waiter (Croatian), Assistant-waiter (Indian) and Headwaiter (Croatian). . Nothing was too much bother, right down to the extra Brie on our cheese plate every night. We didn't have to ask for this, our waiter noticed the Brie was always eaten up and offered.
As so many others have mentioned the specialty restaurant, the Normandie, stands alone for any meal we've had at sea. In fact, the Chateaubriand was unequivocally the best we have ever had. Other standouts were breakfast at the Aqua Spa and lunch at the Waterfall Café where the food quality matched that of the Cosmopolitan Restaurant. There was also a pasta station where the sauce was tossed in with the pasta while you wait. There was simply not enough time to enjoy everything offered as we missed out on most of the high teas and the freshly baked croissants from the Cova Café Milano. Recommendation - upon embarkation be at least 5 pounds under your normal weight if you prefer your current wardrobe!
ENTERTAINMENT: The Broadway-type shows put on by the Celebrity Dancers were impressive in their colorful costumes and lively performances but as would be expected, lacked the refinement of Broadway. Also, the volume was far too loud. The comedian, Noodles, was one of the funniest we'd seen. He had everyone in stitches. The overall job done by Cruise Director Simon Weir was excellent and he particularly outdid himself on the final night of entertainment. His endless energy and genuine enthusiasm added to the overall success of this cruise.
SPORTS: We had lots of fun playing basketball, table tennis and shuffleboard and were surprised that these were available almost every time we decided to play. The Gym was spacious with plenty of equipment available. Only complaint here would be the lack of laundry facilities. We do realize that laundry service is available for a fee. We were thinking that it would be great if workout shorts and tops would be provided at the gym, use them once and pick up fresh ones the next time you go for a workout. We would be happy to pay either a one time charge or daily fee for this. We also thoroughly enjoyed the variety of pools and particularly the Thalassotherapy pool/Jacuzzi.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: The Celebrity Summit is a classy vessel. We found it spotless. The crew and staff were all extremely friendly and greeted us with warm smiles and conversation. At eleven days, this was the longest cruise we've been on and found it perfect in length. We are already scouring through brochures to see where we'll go on our next Celebrity cruise. Needless to say, we highly recommend!
Having sailed on the Infinity on her maiden voyage and now having sailed on the Summit I can definitely say that there are details "missing" on the Summit in comparison to her sister.
A great deal of the artwork is missing from the Summit. Gone are the sculptures that graced each side of the elevators on each floor. This could almost be excused by the presence of the beautiful bronze woman by the thalasotherapy pool, almost. Gone is the wonderful mosaic inlay on the floor in front of the casino. Most of the walls in the Waterfall Cafe on Infinity were covered with large pieces of art, gone on the Summit.
The other missing details we noticed were that there was no music in the halls and that the ceiling in the main dining room did not change colors for each meal as it had on the Infinity.
by far the biggest difference we noticed was that Summit "rocks" quite a bit. You rarely felt Infinity moving. In fact Summit rocked so much that I had a hard time staying on the rowing machine in the gym. To have a shiprock this much leads me to think that something is not quite right with her. Another reviewer mentioned that Summit rocked a good 25 degrees and dumped water out of the thalasotherapy pool, flooding the ninth floor. He referred to this as a "steering" problem. I think that Summit has a major problem with her stabilizers. I don't see how they can send her off to Alaska with this problem. I bet they have to take her somewhere and fix her first.
We had a B-2 stateroom, which was very nice. Not so nice was having a balcony and being on the port side of 3 out of 5 ports. I've had more than my share of trucks beeping while backing up and looking at the tops of sheds with corrugated tin roofs. Not so nice was our stateroom attendant. We had a woman this time and there was much sighing and eye rolling whenever we asked for anything. Mostly she just acted like a hotel maid.
Food quality and drink quality was excellent. Some people at our table complained about their meat being overcooked but everything I ordered was cooked perfectly. I wish I could say our wait staff was perfect. I realize that you get the luck of the draw with staff but ALL of our personal staff was bad on this trip. Our waiter was not personable at all. He did not interact with us except to take our orders and deliver our food. Our assistant waiter did not have a good enough grasp of English to be able to do his job. We were seated next to the Captains table. What this means is that you get served dead last. Most nights we had to wait 30 minutes before receiving our first course. While waiting I found myself envying other tables with attentive staff, especially the fellow singing opera to his tables. Waiter envy - never a good thing. On the bright side our Sommelier was excellent. It was a pleasure to watch her doing her job. Our cocktail waitress was also very nice. Drink quality was excellent.
All of this said we did have a wonderful time. Caribbean ports were beautiful. Excursions were for the most part very good and well organized. I do believe that you could probably use the rum they serve as a gasoline substitute. Horseback riding on the beach in St. Kitts was a blast. In St. Thomas, take the cable car ride to the top and get a drink called a "bushwhacker" at the bar there. The view is spectacular!
I will definitely sail with Celebrity again, still the biggest bang for your buck!
There's something about the anticipation of a cruise that's always the same. It's fun, it's exciting and after 15 cruises, we still look forward to arriving at the pier and getting that first glimpse of the ship as much as ever. I'll start by telling you that we all had a fantastic time on this cruise. We shared plenty of smiles and laughter and created wonderful memories. Isn't that what vacations are for?
This has become our "annual" January jaunt to the Caribbean. For the past several years, we have been joined by business colleagues, family and friends for our escape from the ice and snow. This January, from the 4 - 14th, found us onboard the beautiful new Summit, a member of Celebrity Cruise Line's growing fleet. Before we set foot on board, we knew we're going to love it. After all, we've never had a "bad" cruise.
I spent a considerable amount of time on cruise message boards (particularly www.cruisecritic.com) researching ships and ports. St. Lucia and St. Kitts were going to be new islands for us and one of the reasons we liked this itinerary. One of the thingsthat was a lot of fun about planning this cruise was that we had already met so many people who were going to be sailing with us. In addition to the eight people in our group, we had met another 20 - 25 on cruise message boards. It made the anticipation that much more fun. Plans were made to get together on the first sea day so that we could all meet each other.
Since we sail every January, we booked this cruise more than nine months prior to sailing and were able to get our choice of cabins. We selected a CAT 3, cabin 8181 for ourselves, while others in our group were in a CAT 1B and 1C respectively. The size of the cabin and the oversized veranda of the CAT 3 was so appealing that we went ahead and held the same cabin for a future cruise to Alaska.
Like many veteran cruisers, we now always arrive in a departure city the day prior to sailing. The risk of bad weather and airport and airplane delays make it well worth arriving a day early in the departure city. Fortunately, our trip to Ft. Lauderdale on Jan. 3 proceeded without incident. The snowstorm that paralyzed the Southeast missed us and it only took us 35 minutes to check our bags and get through security at the airport. Even the 2-hour wait at the gate for our flight flew by. We booked the AmeriSuites on 17th St. in Ft. Lauderdale for price and convenience. Many other cruisers were staying there as well.
While the AmeriSuites did provide a shuttle to the ship, we opted to take a cab since the hotel shuttle driver was insisting he couldn't drop passengers off at the pier prior to 11:30. We hopped in a cab at 10:30. It was $10 per cab load to the pier. We reached the pier by 10:45 as porters were just beginning to accept luggage for boarding passengers. As we walked into the terminal, a Celebrity employee greeted us to give us an embarkation number (which was #1). I mentioned that we were Captain Club members and she exchanged our #1 ticket with a #0. Be sure to tell the staff member if you are a Captain Club member since they don't ask. We were handed an additional departure form to complete and our #0 was called. It took another 10 minutes to go through the pier security (same procedure as airport security). After that, you enter the terminal where counters are set up. There is a Suite/Captain Club counter however, several other counters were empty and the Suite/Captain Club counter had about six people in line. Go to any empty counter to turn in your boarding forms and receive your keys.
They did not activate our credit card for our ship board account on the pier. You had to visit Guest Services (the Purser's Desk) once on board to do this. While this created another line at Guest Services, the process did not take much time. The only challenge is that the Guest Services crew also has to answer the phone at the same time. It would be great if someone in the Guest Services office behind the "scenes" was answering phone at Embarkation instead of the staff out front who were trying to help people in line (more on this in the Comments section at the end). We were on board by 11:15 and had dropped our hand luggage in our room and were ready to explore the ship.
Cabin 8181 - CAT 3 (Deck 8). I'd love to tell you that we hated this cabin and that no one should ever book it (so it would always be available!). However, I'm not good at telling a lie. We loved this cabin. It was one of our two all time favorite cabins. It was roomy, had a wonderful veranda and was extremely quiet. I'm not sure that the CAT 3 cabins above us were as quiet since the outdoor dining area of the Waterfall Cafe was directly above them. We learned a long time ago that it is best to be between passenger decks instead of above or below public spaces. The cabin included a king bed, plenty of closet and drawer space, a comfortable bathroom with shower, a wooden wall divider that separated the bed from a parlor area that contained a couch, love seat and coffee table. The veranda included a table, two stationary lounge chairs and two regular chairs. Can't wait to be back in this cabin on a future cruise!
Dora was our cabin attendant and she took excellent care of us throughout the cruise.
The ship is what we would term as elegant. It's not glitzy with lots of chrome and lights. It is subtle with pretty woods, lots of glass, soft or muted softgoods (bedspreads, carpet, chairs, etc.).
The Atrium was more intimate than most of the new ships. There is no large open area. It consists of three levels of intimate lounges and sitting areas. On deck three you'll find Guest Services (the Purser's Desk on other ships), Shore Excursions, the Bank, and Future Cruises office. From deck three you can climb a large open staircase that is lined with Gold draping to the fourth deck with a piano and seating. Just above that you'll find Cafe Cova Milano with a coffee bar on one side and a pastry corner on the other.
To the rear of this area on decks four and five, you'll find the Rendez-Vous Lounge and Martini/Champagne Bar respectively. You can sit in the Martini/Champagne Bar on deck 5 and hear the music from the Rendez-Vous Lounge below because there is a large opening in the middle of the Martini/Champagne Bar that overlooks the Rendez-Vous. Both of these lounges were very popular spots for the pre-dinner crowd. Both lounges were "walk-through" on both sides of the ship. Michael's Club, the cigar bar, is the only lounge on the ship that actually has "doors" that you have to actually walk "into". Michael's is a beautiful room, dark wood and big comfortable chairs and couches. When we visited pre-dinner one evening, the smoke was not too bad. On the Summit, in the lounges and pool deck, the port side of the ship is smoking.
You'll find the Celebrity Theater at the front of the ship on Decks 4 and 5. It is a beautiful theater with fabulous sound and sight lines. There was always plenty of seats and unlike the pool deck, there didn't seem to be a lot of "seat saving."
The pools on the Summit are terrific. However, the chair hogs discussed on the cruise message boards are prevalent. I did see a deck attendant picking up towels that were left on chairs if nothing else was left behind but the chair saving has gotten ridiculous (and this isn't just a Celebrity issue..it's a cruise industry issue). Here's what I don't get. If you go sit on a deck chair and leave when you're finished instead of trying to save it all day, there would be plenty to go around. Half of the time a fair amount of the chairs that were saved didn't have anyone in them for hours. Finding a chair actually wasn't as bad on this cruise as some previous cruises, except perhaps right around the pool. We like the upper pool deck with a view of the ocean better anyway.
The Spa Pool area (Thalassatherapy Pool) on the Summit is also beautiful. It was always crowded, especially on the first two sea days (day one was kind of chilly). The cafe in the spa pool area is very nice and a great alternative place to have breakfast. But remember, when they say they serve a lighter menu, they mean it..no regular coffee, no cream, no butter, etc. There is no charge to use this pool on the Summit.
The Pizza served on the Pool Deck is pretty darn good. The burgers and hot dogs are OK and the fries are top notch! Didn't have any ice cream from the ice cream bar this cruise, but I'm sure we will next summer. It, too, looked terrific.
The spa and health facilities on the Summit are terrific. Lots of planned classes and a wide variety of spa services. My husband and I each had a one-hour massage. Both of our therapists were great but the pricing in the spa continues to creep upwards and the cost for an hour massage is now $109 !!! That was one of the least expensive services available. This will likely be an area where we cut back in the future.
The Cosmopolitan Dining Room was lovely and we had a great table on the upper level in the middle of the room. Our waiters, Roy and Gabor were outstanding. We like traditional dining (eating at the same table with the same group of people every night). Let's face it, everyone seems to think that dining is a big part of cruising. Beyond the food, which for the most part was excellent, the friendships you form with the waiters (and other staff for that matter) can make your cruise truly memorable. Roy and Gabor definitely made dining on this cruise a fun adventure. The fact that Celebrity continues to offer traditional dining is one reason we'll keep coming back. We did dine in the Normandie alternate restaurant one evening (more on that later).
It had been two years since we had cruised with Celebrity. I didn't recall the entertainment being good or bad on our last cruise. But in reading the message boards, many people think that the entertainment is an area that was lacking. If it was, it isn't any longer, at least not on this cruise. The production shows with the Celebrity Singers and Dancers were all outstanding (we made it to almost all of them); the comedians were all pretty funny and several of the other acts were outstanding. METRO, the vocal group that specialized in barber shop and a cappella harmony were incredible. They continuously packed the Cafe Cova Milano where they sang regularly and they garnered a standing ovation when then performed in the Celebrity Theater. Their rendition of "Somewhere" from West Side Story brought chills! The group "Family Duo" offered terrific pre- and post- dinner dancing music in the Rendez-Vous lounge. The lounge and the dance floor was always packed when they were playing. Additionally, the harpist that played in the atrium and the combo that played in the Normandie were also delightful.
CRUISE CRITIC GET TOGETHER
Approximately 25 cruisers who posted on the Cruise Critic message board gathered in the Rendez-Vous lounge on the second afternoon to meet and have drinks. It was great to meet people we chatted with for months prior to the cruise and it was fun to see people as we went along throughout the cruise. After introductions and chatting for about 30 minutes, the cruise staff showed up for "Battle of the Sexes Trivia." So we split the into men versus women laughed a lot! Of course, the women won (at least this round!).
Before moving into the ports of call, I want to briefly discuss shore excursions. For the past several years, I have been researching and booking our own shore excursions. I find them to be much more personal and often get you off the beaten path that so many of the ship excursions take the masses to. I'm not against ship-sponsored excursions. In fact, if you are new to cruising, I'd recommend taking the ship-sponsored tours. There is a comfort level in taking a ship tour. The ship will wait for you if you are on one of their tours. They won't if you are on your own. We often took them when we first began cruising some ten years ago. However, we now feel comfortable arranging for our own tours with local people and we love the more personal attention and information you receive from a private tour. We always allow enough time to return to the ship and we've yet to have a personal tour that wasn't outstanding. That proved true on this cruise as well.
THE PORTS OF CALL
ST. MARTIN/ST. MAARTEN
We had been here several times before but never to Orient Beach. We decided this was the trip to do it. It was a $5 per person cab ride (approximately 20 minutes) from the pier. It is a VERY pretty beach, filled with small restaurants/bars that dot the landscape. It's a great beach for walking and despite the hype that this is a "nude" beach, I'd say 98% of the people had their swimsuits on. When we returned from the beach, we shopped for a camera lens for my 35mm camera (I recently broke a lens and needed a replacement) and then stopped for a cool daiquiri at Everything's Cool before heading back to the ship. This is a great little spot among the shops that has a great view of the ship and great drinks. This is always a popular island and there is much to see here. There is a water taxi from the pier to the heart of the shopping area in Phillipsburg. It was $3 each way or $5 for a day pass.
Without a doubt, this was our favorite stop on this cruise. I began researching private tours somewhat late in the game, but I located a company called Jungle Tours and booked them about two weeks before departing. This was probably the best overall shore excursion we've done in 15 cruises. To start, everyone in our group of 8 decided to take this tour. The cost was $70 per person and it included 7 hours of island exploration, all entrance fees and lunch. Our tour guide's name was Shal, owner of the company. He picked us up shipside (he was waiting for us when we walked down the gangplank). The first thing I said to him was that we wanted to have fun. He took that to heart! He turned on the music and began singing as we boarded his open air Land Rover that accommodated 8 passengers. There was a padded bench on either side and roll bars that could be leaned against. We began by sitting but before long we were standing and singing along, marveling at the spectacular scenery. We quickly departed Castries (the port city) and headed to the country. We drove through banana and cocoa plantations on our way to our first activity..a hike to a waterfall. A word of caution to everyone taking shore excursions - Be sure to wear the proper shoes for your excursion. Exploring an island like St. Lucia (where there is a lot of rain forest to hike) includes a great deal of walking, sometimes through uneven terrain. We were amazed how many tourists wore sandals and open-toed shoes to hike. Wear rubber-soled shoes (sneakers) or hiking boots if you are going to take these excursions.
Just prior to arriving at the rain forest for our trek to the waterfall, we stopped was at a roadside stand for bananas and fresh fruit and to get a glimpse of our ship in the port far below.
The walk to our first waterfall was what I would consider moderate hiking. Some uneven terrain, walking over rocks in streams, etc. Shal was very cautious with the eight of us, waiting and helping each person as we went. Our group ranged in age from 30 - 59. We did come across several other tour groups in this section of the rain forest and Shal had to stop and help them because their guide was far beyond them and not paying attention. The waterfall was a great backdrop for a group photo!
Our next stop was at a "bakery" where they made Cassava bread. It was delicious and you could watch them make this island specialty at this roadside bakery. Cassava is a root vegetable that is grated to make a sweet or salted bread.
Next stop was The Volcano to view the steam vents and watch the earth "bubble." This was the only spot on the daylong tour that was crowded with other tourists. Our stop here was short.the sulfur smell is overwhelming.
Back into the Land Rover we headed to what was to become our favorite stop. A hike (easier than the first hike) to a natural mineral spring and waterfall. Here, you could (and all the women did) smear yourself with volcanic mud, dry in the sun and then rinse in the warmth of the natural spring waterfall. There were only a handful of other people at this spot and it was special. The laughter began when the mud went on and the photos were taken. More singing ensued. We are still laughing.
Our final stop was at a beautiful beachside restaurant (Still's) for lunch in the town of Soufiere at the foot of the Pitons, St. Lucia's landmark mountains. The food was delicious and the scenery spectacular. We could have sat here all afternoon!
A couple of important notes: Shal was a very cautious and courteous driver. He had a cooler filled with water, soft drinks, beer and rum punch for consumption throughout the day. Shal's enthusiasm and love of his island was apparent throughout the day. It made all of us look forward to returning in the future and exploring this beautiful island even more. If you are looking for a great tour, we highly recommend contacting Shal at www.jungletoursstlucia.com.
I have a favorite spot on Barbados where I love to purchase pottery. It's called Earthworks. For years, I've wanted a set of dishes from Earthworks and we agreed that this would be a Christmas gift this year. The reason I love the pottery so much is that they primarily use the colors of the Caribbean (blues, teal, greens) in creating their dishes, casseroles, platters, coffee mugs and more. When I get home, it reminds me of how pretty the Caribbean sea is.
I spoke with a cab driver and explained we wanted go to Earthworks and then onto a beach. He agreed to take us to Earthworks, wait for us (we were in the store about 45 minutes), take us to Surfside beach in Holetown and then come back and pick us up later in the day and return us to the ship. The cost was $20 per person - a very reasonable charge considering the distance and time involved. The beach was nice and had several open-air restaurants but there were quite a bit of people trying to sell their wares.
A $3 per person cab ride found us on a very pretty spot called Friar's Beach. There was a beautiful view of Nevis in the distance and we were surrounded by mountains. It was much more quiet than the beach in Barbados and there was one small place to eat - but it was REALLY good. They were cooking chicken, ribs and whole lobsters on a grill beach side. When you arrive at the beach, if you go all the way to the right, it's very quiet and there are very few people. On our way back, we were dropped off in town to shop. We looked for batik from St. Kitts but it was all pretty expensive. It was a short walk from town back to the ship.
ST. THOMAS/ST. JOHN
We've been visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands for a few years now and always catch the Red Hook ferry to St. John for the day. Without question, the beaches of St. John are among the prettiest in the entire Caribbean. No one tries to sell you anything on these beaches and with the exception of Trunk Bay, they are uncrowded and quiet. We always grab a cab in Cruz Bay when we get off the ferry and go to either Cinnamon or Maho Bay. Cinnamon has more facilities (a general store, restaurant, restrooms). Maho is secluded and without facilities but spectacular! Lunch is high atop St. John at the patio of Chateau Bordeaux, overlooking Coral Bay and the British Virgin Islands. Burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs and many flavors of daiquiris are the only things on the lunch menu. But the food is good and the view breathtaking.
We had planned a small sailaway party on our veranda upon departing St. Thomas, our last port of call. Besides a gorgeous sunset and the twinkling lights of St. Thomas as darkness fell upon us, we were very fortunate to be joined on our deck by the wonderful vocal group METRO. They performed three AWESOME songs as we pulled out of the harbor. It was a highlight of the trip and a special evening we will all long remember.
NOTE ON CABS: On all of the islands, the cab driver that took us to a beach returned later in the day to pick us up and return us to the ship. Confirm your price and time with the cab driver; get their name, be pleasant and you'll get terrific service. They love to tell you about their islands and are typically glad to have us there. And they always return for you!
One of the first things we did when we got on board was make a reservation in the Normandie for the seventh night. It was an informal night and even though we hated to leave our regular waiters, we had to try Normandie after all we read. The experience was unforgettable. The food, the staff, the laughter, the music - it all added up to another memorable evening with friends. That's the most important thing - a memorable evening with friends. Everything you've read on the boards about the food and service is true. It was all outstanding. With eight of us, many things on the menu were tried and all were wonderful. But what made the evening special was the laughter and conversation we shared with our waiters for the evening: William and Peter in particular. And a surprise visit from our dining room waiter, Roy, completed the night.
CRUISE STAFF & ACTIVITIES
Jim Cannon, the cruise director, and his staff did an outstanding job to make passengers feel welcome and they continuously encouraged passengers to participate. All of the typical cruise activities - pool games, bingo, horse racing, trivia, art auctions, etc. - were here. The friendliness of the cruise staff made them more enjoyable.
This went very smooth. We had an early flight (11:00 AM) and were given early debarkation tags. We were off the ship by 8:45. We purchased the ships transfer to the airport and I'd highly recommend this if you are tight on time. They separated us onto buses by airline. We were flying Delta and a Delta rep boarded the bus to tell us that they had set up a satellite check-in for us at the airport so we did not have to stand in the long lines at check in upstairs. A VERY NICE bonus! This alone was worth the cost of the transfer ($11 per person). We still had about a 30 minute wait for security after we checked our luggage in. We were at our gate about 60 minutes prior to departure.
FINAL COMMENTS & OBSERVATIONS
When all was said and done, our 10-day cruise on the Summit was one of the best experiences we've had in our ten years of cruising. Part of it stems from the fact that we aren't going to let anything ruin a cruise vacation. I'm amazed at the people who complain and complain throughout the cruise. If you don't have a good experience on the Summit, chances are it's your fault. Not that the crew or the ship is perfect. Nothing is. But if you approach a problem with a smile and positive attitude, you'll find a staff that will go above and beyond to help. Yelling at crew members (I witnessed this first hand and it was uncalled for) doesn't accomplish anything and it's terribly unfair to a staff member who most likely had nothing to do with problem in the first place.
Here's a rundown of what made this cruise so special:
The Staff & Service - They were fabulous. Everyone smiled all the time. They greeted guests with a friendly "hello, how are you today?" They jumped whenever you asked for something. The cruise staff, led by Cruise Director Jim Cannon, helped passengers have a great time all cruise long. Everyone should stop at least once throughout the cruise and think about just how hard all of the staff on cruise ships work. "Thanks" and a smile goes a long way! Steph, Roy, Gabor, Vesna, Dora, Eric, Sean, Del, Mike and the rest of the terrific crew - YOU ARE THE BEST!
The Ship - She is beautiful. The cabins were warm and comfortable. Getting around the Summit was very easy and three sets of elevators/stairs made navigating quick. We walk everywhere so we can eat those extra goodies that we'd pass on at home. I had read that many people didn't care for the art. What do they say? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder? Much of the passenger hallways was filled with terrific photography and the various sculptures and other art pieces were interesting and fun. I like looking at different things so I'm glad that the "art" differs from ship to ship.
The Food - There was plenty of excellent food on the Summit. I really think that people obsess way too much over the food on ships. Celebrity's food is still far better than RCI and on most nights better than our last Princess cruise. If there is something you don't care for, tell your waiter and ask for something else. They understand and want you to be happy. Don't miss the pasta station and daily specialty station at the back of the Waterfall Cafe. These stations are just before you go out the aft doors to the outdoor seating area. In the morning, the pasta station is an egg/omelet station. Many people didn't find these until late in the cruise. Lighten up on the criticism of the food and start enjoying more!
Entertainment - Outstanding all the way around. We already miss METRO and can't wait for their first CD to hit the streets in the next month!
The Itinerary - All of the ports were terrific. We'd go back in a heartbeat!
The Weather - Other than the first 24 hours when it was rather chilly leaving Ft. Lauderdale, the weather was perfect - 83 and sunny! The chilly weather did introduce us to a great bar server, Vesna! She brought us warm coffee drinks as we pulled out of Ft. Lauderdale and she continued to take care of us throughout the rest of the cruise.
AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT
Most of these items are minor and did not impact our overall enjoyment of the cruise. But we did see a couple of areas that could be improved:
Guest Services Answering Phones - On embarkation day, the staff working out front shouldn't have to answer phones while trying to help passengers in line at the Guest Services Desk. With credit card activation being handled here, the staff needed some relief from ringing phones. Keep in mind, these crew members are constantly trying to solve challenges someone else created. Try to be a little nicer to them!
Credit Card - Why aren't credit cards activated pier side prior to boarding? It would have made a big difference and saved everyone a lot of time.
Computerized Spa Appointments - With today's technology, why are the spa's on ships still making appointments by hand on paper? They are constantly falling all over one another, grabbing appointment sheets. Seems like having them computerized would make life a lot easier for everyone.
Repeaters Party - Did anyone from late seating go? Having a cocktail party at 5:15 on a formal night when late seating is at 8:30 made no sense. What happened to 5:15 for early seating and 7:45 for late seating?
Jogging Track - It needs to be somewhere else other than around the upper pool deck. There just isn't enough room for joggers/walkers to make their way through the maze of deck chairs and people sunning.
In closing, remember that different people like different things and therefore feel differently about their cruise. However, we are each ultimately responsible for our own experience and whether it is good or bad. Realize that "stuff" happens but keep smiling and the crew, more often than not, will do their best to help resolve any challenges you face. In these days of uncertainty, shouldn't we make the most of every day and enjoy them as much as possible? I know we are and we hope you will, too. Trust me, it makes for a much happier cruise all the way around. A BIG thanks to everyone who contributed to making this one terrific cruise for us!