The typical cruise: There are always some fantastic moments mixed in with the not-so-great experiences. And my weeklong Southern Caribbean voyage aboard the newly refurbished Celebrity Summit was, as cruises go, pretty typical. The ship was beautifully furnished, the pool deck was perfect for lazy lounging, and, overall, the laid-back onboard vibe made for a great trip. (Read my Lido Deck posts here for details on such things as the crazy art onboard and my taste test of non-alcoholic drinks.) But for better or worse, there were a few things that stood out.
Miss: Construction. Our sailing was the Summit’s second post drydock, and there was evidence of it everywhere. While most of the makeover was complete, the entire 12th deck, which is home to the ship’s basketball court and a second sundeck, was closed off. (My husband loves top-ship basketball and was really looking forward to it.) There were also piles of construction supplies stacked in random spots, caution tape and the distinct odor of drying paint in certain public areas. The hotel director told me that the rest of the work would be completed in time for the ship’s next sailing, but it was still a bummer … and inexcusable.
Hit: Qsine. While most of my dining experiences aboard Celebrity Summit ranged from average to downright poor, Qsine was exceptional. From the service and location – which offered views of the sea and pool deck – to the chow, the experience was well worth the $40-per-person fee. And let’s not neglect the fun associated with perusing the iPad menu. My favorite dishes? The popcorn fish and chips (Boddington-battered fish bites and potato croquettes served in a popcorn box with malt vinegar and garlic aioli) and the disco shrimp (a creamy shrimp salad prepared with avocado and celery and served up in a LED-lit martini glass). Oh, and I adored the server, Herbie, who was full of information — and entertaining to boot.
Miss: Bistro on 5. I’m not sure if it’s simply because this is a new venue for Summit (then again, so is Qsine), but breakfast at this for-fee creperie was by far my worst dining experience. When my husband and I arrived around 7:30 a.m., there was one other table occupied … and yet we sat there for nearly two hours — and only ordered coffee, juice and three crepes. When our order finally arrived, it was completely wrong. I usually don’t send food back, but I despise mushrooms and my crepe was chock full of them. Then I proceeded to wait another half-hour to be served the correct dish. Alas, all of the crepes we were served were overcooked and dry, and to top things off, instead of being charged for two people, we were charged for four (it’s $5 per person). Add in general disorganization in the kitchen, and you get a wildly unappetizing meal.
Hit: Frozen Stuff. I’m six months pregnant, and I couldn’t resist the gratis hard ice cream from the ship’s buffet. True, you can get complimentary soft-serve on almost any ship, but free house-made hand-dipped hard ice cream (including toppings)? Not so much. It was the perfect sweet and creamy treat after a long day in port. I also tried a couple scoops from the new gelateria at Café Al Bacio (around $4), and it was absolutely delicious and worth trying even just once on your cruise — and the waffle cones are to die for.
Miss: “Sirens.” I enjoyed a few of the shows aboard Celebrity Summit, but “Sirens” was not one of them. Billed as a “night of burlesque and fantasy,” the show was more Disney fairytale than Moulin Rouge. The plot followed a pirate crew and a trio of mermaids and focused on a case of forbidden love. Yeah, it even sounds cheesy. But had the song lineup and costumes been more fitting and less riddled with sap and neon, the show would have been bearable. The clincher: The biggest musical number was a variation of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” the “Titanic” theme song — and during the performance a loud bang reverberated through the theater. The irony was not lost. And I wasn’t the only passenger who didn’t enjoy the show — the next night at dinner my tablemates admitted to walking (running?) out halfway through.
Hit: Officers. The ship’s officers were some of the friendliest and most interactive crew members aboard. They greeted passengers in the halls and during dinner and never hesitated to stop and chat or answer questions. To the glee of many passengers, they were also on hand every day to participate in activities, including pool volleyball competitions, sailaway tours of the bridge and contests. Our favorite was an “Iron Chef”-style competition in the ship’s theater that featured several of Summit’s chefs, including the top dog.
Hit: Fred Klett. Summit’s resident comedian was a riot — and that’s saying a lot. Klett has worked with Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno, and it was clear from his family-focused routine that he could fit right in with either of those guys. During the show I saw, there was a particular passenger with quite a distinct laugh, and Klett incorporated her throughout the show. It could have been annoying, but he achieved just the right balance between overdoing it and comedic genius.
Miss: Sales Pitches. Ok, we know to expect this on big, popular cruise lines, but … really? It seemed as if the majority of the ship’s daytime activities were focused on selling one thing or another: chocolate diamonds, yellow emeralds, spa products, duty-free booze, tacky souvenirs. Of course, it was fairly easy to avoid these activities, but I couldn’t help but notice that they took up a ton of space in each of our dailies. My advice: Don’t get sucked in, folks!
Hit: Crush Martini Bar. At $10 and up, cocktails at the newly added Crush are pricey, but they come with a show. Every night before and after each dinner seating on my cruise, passengers swarmed this venue to perch at the ice-topped bar and sip on high-brow libations like the Eurekatini (gin, Cointreau, white cranberry juice, basil and cucumber) and the Sapphire French 75 (gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and Champagne). Come with company and you’ll be treated to a performance from the resident mixologists, who mix, stack and pour numerous cocktails at once. We witnessed a bartender crouch on top of the counter to serve up 12 martinis at the same time. Impressive.
Follow Shayne’s reports from Celebrity Summit, including her take on watching the Super Bowl at sea and her musing on whether or not a Concierge-Class cabin is worth the extra price.
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