I want to start by saying we had a wonderful time would rate this vacation as one of our favorites. This was our first real cruise (2 prior short Disney cruises 9 and 20 years ago) and we chose Celebrity because of what we read here on Cruise Critic. We are both in our late 40's and seasoned world travelers. I travel quite a bit outside the US and we both lived in Europe for 3 years. We both have traveled enough to know regardless of the reputation/class/cost problems arise and often it is OUR response to an issue that helps in resolution just as much as the person who is helping us. In just the last 5 years we have started traveling every other year without children.
Normally, I would leave the pre/post activities out, but I will include it since I think it is relevant in this case. When we arrived at the airport, I realized I had more upgrades available than I had originally thought and asked for an upgrade. The gate agent insisted my spouse would have to pay for her upgrade and after some calm discussions and asking her to check again, we got our upgrade. Sadly, the computer system did not acknowledge our upgrade properly and did not recognize that I had used my upgrades and upgraded our return flight (I did not have enough upgrades) and we lost our great seats and were told the flight was full and if we wanted to fly home we'd have to pay for the 1st class seats or miss the flight. Again after some calm negotiations and requesting he make a couple calls we got seats although not together. We stayed at the Embassy Suites in San Juan for one night and enjoyed our stay and a little pool time. We met another couple in the lobby and were able to share a ride to the ship.
The embarkation process went fast enough. We grabbed a couple of bottles of wine for my spouse and headed to the line. I'd say we spent no more than 20-30 minutes from start to finish. We were greeted on board by a smiling crew, Champaign for my wife and something non alcoholic for me (can't remember what it was). We had time to grab some lunch at the buffet and by the time we were done our cabin was ready! We dropped of our stuff and left the ship to spend a few hours touring San Juan. Sadly, we missed the first nights show since the ship left much later than planned due to a large group being delayed. We chose to watch the sail away vs. going to the show. Debarkation was a bit slower and a group that had been cutting lines all week was in front of us. When we got in line there were 2 of them, when we got to customs there were over 40 of them! I chose to stand by my "I'm on vacation and nothing will bother me philosophy" and let it pass with some minor grumbling. As a side note to those that were on our cruise, the lady behind me was also part of the group and apologized for their behavior on the ship.
We had room 2006 ocean view (all the way on the bow on the starboard side). The room was fine for our needs. Yes, the regular staterooms are small, but we didn't book the cruise to hang out in our room. Our Stateroom Attendant was excellent and met all our requests and never had to be asked twice for anything. I'm no small guy (6'2" 220lbs) and had no problems moving around the room or the shower, not sure why people complain about this. We were slightly worried about my wife getting sick being so close to the bow, but she had no issues even when the seas got slightly rough. We did have one major issue and it is something that anyone booking rooms on the 2nd floor bow area need to be aware of. My wife is very sensitive to cigarette smoke. The crew smoking area is one floor below and when the doors are open in port it blew smoke into our hallway and our room. I called Guest Services and they sent someone down who confirmed our complaint. They assured us they would secure the doors and try to remove the smoke. On day two it still smelled slightly of smoke and I made a second call and they did a better job of deodorizing and reinforced with the crew closing the doors to our floor while in port. The smell still lingered enough to be noticeable by my wife, but she said it was not going to ruin her cruise. Guest Services followed up the morning of our 3rd day. I stated it had not gone away, but was at an acceptable level. They again apologized for not being able to move us (cruise was full) and booked us at Normandie as a mia culpa. To our surprise they called every day to check and additionally to find out if we enjoyed our dinner in Normandie.
Ship & Crew:
We found the ship to be lovely and the service by the crew to be outstanding. Being on deck 2 we often saw people who would not normally interact with passengers and each and everyone offered a genuine greeting and often asked how we were and waited for an answer. Since we are not big drinkers we loved Cafe al Bacio. The pool deck was never over crowded even on the sea day there were spaces to be found on deck 11 (I liked deck 11 better since it wasn't so crowded). The solarium and the thalassotherapy pool were both awesome. I used the gym on days we had a light day in port and never found it too crowded. Overall, neither of us really ever felt like the ship seemed crowded. One thing I was very impressed with was the cleanliness of the ship. People were always cleaning.
When you tell someone you went on a cruise the first thing they ask is about the food. We both found the food to be quite good and often excellent. We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches in the Waterfall Cafe. Yes the Waterfall Cafe can get crowded, but we always decided in advance where we would meet after getting our food. I hear people complain about the choices in the Cafe, but we found the choices to be very good. I especially loved the cold soups at lunch! Since I'm watching my girlish figure, I didn't want to mess that up; the staff was more than willing to give me just a taste of anything I asked for. I do have to admit the ice cream guy looked at me funny a few times when I asked for a quarter scoop of ice cream! We found the food in the MDR to be very good. We both had one meal that was less than impressive, but I've experienced that in on shore fine dining establishments. My wife felt dinner in the MDR took too long, but I enjoyed the slow dining. We had Celebrity Select and never once waited for a table regardless of our choice to dine alone or with others. Our meal in Normandie was spectacular! The service was fantastic and the food was excellent to incredible. I really couldn't understand why anyone would pay extra to dine in a special restaurant until I ate there. I would highly recommend eating in Normandie at least once. We also enjoyed the food & drink in Cafe al Bacio. The little sandwiches were nice when we got back to port. My wife enjoyed the coffee drinks and I loved both the hot and iced tea (They serve Tea Forte for you tea drinkers) at Cafe al Bacio. We also enjoyed the food in the Aqua Spa. Since I am a non drinker and my wife is a very light drinker (she had trouble finishing the two bottles of wine we brought on board), we got the premium non-alcoholic package. We both love our coffee/tea and water with gas (San Pellegrino/Perrier) and after doing the math we broke even. I still think it was worth it because we didn't worry about what something cost. In the end, I had a bunch of really great meals and as an added bonus only gained a half pound! A word on the sea day brunch... Check it out it's worth it!
We are not huge partiers so we fit right in on the Summit. The shows were all excellent and the acrobats were fun to watch. The comedian was quite funny, but neither of us particularly cared for the piano player (personal taste, I know many of the guests loved him). We both attended a couple of the demonstrations/workshops and enjoyed those. The casino staff was friendly and we both enjoyed spending an hour or two in the casino most nights. I played in a few of the poker tournaments, they are on an electronic table and set up in more of an online sit and go style with a rather quick blind structure. We wound up ahead in the casino, so how can that be a bad thing! The entertainment on the pool deck was great; it was just lively enough to entertain without being a distraction.
Ports of Call:
I'm not going to spend a lot of time here because the ship will not be back in the Caribbean again until November. I will say that our favorite island was Grenada and our least favorite was St. Croix. I'd love to spend a week in Grenada and couldn't care a less if I ever go back to St. Croix again. St. Kitts was beautiful and we enjoyed the rainforest tour. Dominica was a bit poorer than we expected, but we absolutely loved the Champaign Reef snorkeling. St. Thomas is a place I'd like to visit again since Carnival was going on much of the island was shut down.
Normally it takes me a good 4 days to relax on vacation. I can honestly say I was relaxed within hours of boarding the Summit. My wife has pictures of me from all over the world in every situation imaginable on my phone/computer; she didn't get a single shot on the Summit . I think this is the perfect ship for people in their late 30's to mid 60's that want a nice mix of luxury, relaxation with ports of call/excursions that allowed for some decent physical activity. I definitely have the cruising bug now and will be back to Celebrity and someday the Summit. I'm not sure if I'd choose Celebrity for a full family cruise (kids are 19 and almost 14) even though our kids are very mature, I think they'd get bored. I think if we did a family cruise, I'd lean towards Royal Caribbean since there would be more activities for them.