Personal Background Information
My wife and I have been on five Celebrity cruises, three of which have been on Celebrity Summit. Additionally, we have cruised on Celebrity's Millennium and Eclipse as well as Holland America's Eurodam. Our last cruise eight months prior was also to Bermuda, immediately after Hurricane Irene. This most recent trip went much smoother, and aside from some issues with our staterooms we had a wonderful time with our two adult sons who stayed in an adjoining cabin.
Travel To Port of Embarkation
The day before the cruise, we drove from central Virginia north on Interstate 81, then took Interstate 78 to Elizabeth, New Jersey where we had made reservations at the Residence Inn on Glimcher Way. Our studio room ($159 plus taxes) had a kitchen and adequate room for four adults, though the only way to the bathroom was through the bedroom and despite having asked for extra towels -- an option the hotel offered -- we didn't get them. For dinner, we drove into Newark and had a wonderful meal at Fernandez Steakhouse which I would highly recommend, though I doubt we could have found our way to it and back to the hotel without our GPS. On retiring, my wife and I took the queen bed and had a great night's sleep; however, our sons shared the sofa bed and found it to be very lumpy and uncomfortable.
A nice full breakfast buffet was available the next morning and included in the hotel fare. Our material from Celebrity had indicated we should arrive at the pier at 1 PM, but since we really had nothing else to do in town we left the hotel about 10:30 AM. It took about a half an hour to get Cape Liberty.
This was our second cruise from Cape Liberty, and once again offloading our luggage and parking the car was an exercise in controlled chaos, though the baggage handler was friendlier and more helpful than I had remembered previously. The embarkation process had apparently started about 10 AM, so there were no long lines in the terminal. We got through port security and check-in, then took the shuttle to the ship and were on board the Summit shortly after noon.
We had previously cruised on the Celebrity Eclipse and knew that the Summit had undergone "solsticization" in January, so while we waited for our staterooms to be ready we toured the ship looking at the changes that had been made since our last voyage. Of all the new venues -- including Crush, Cafe al Bacio, the Gelateria, Cellar Masters, Bistro on Five, Blu -- the one that most caught our eye was Qzine. Since there was a discount on booking reservations for the first formal night, and since my older son offered to pay for the whole family, we made reservations that day for dinner the next evening.
Our adjoining ocean view staterooms, #2177 and #2179, had a side door in between which could be unlocked allowing us to go directly room to room. The boys' cabin was arranged in an efficient manner with the table and chairs near the window, whereas ours was set up with the table and chairs in front of the side door. It was also clear our room had not been turned over properly when we discovered half-empty water bottles on the counter and in the open mini-bar. I pointed this out to our assistant steward who informed me the previous steward had gone home on arrival in New Jersey and had left this undone. I also brought this up to the steward when he came to introduce himself, along with the fact that our phone wasn't working and that we'd like our room arranged like that of our sons. In stages over the afternoon we did get the side door opened, the mini-bar locked, the phone fixed and the room rearranged; however, we never got our own bottle of unopened water (which we didn't need anyway) nor a complimentary Celebrity tote bag (which we could have used on our beach day).
Having the two rooms with the door between worked well for the four of us, allowing us to visit freely most of the day and to sleep in relative quiet & privacy when we wished. The location of the rooms near the aft elevators was great for meals -- we could walk up two flights of stairs to get to the main dining room, and the elevator would take us to the middle of the Lido deck cafeteria during the day. At various times early in the cruise, we would occasionally note a faint smell of garbage or of paint as we approached our rooms.
Other than the fact that the strength and availability of coffee at breakfast varied widely throughout the cruise, the Waterfall Cafe was as good as we've come to expect on the Millennium-class ships.
We once again took the 8:30 PM seating for dinner. Our assigned table in the Cosmopolitan was at the base of the stairs which meant there was moderate traffic but this didn't take away from our overall experience. Our waiter, Lloyd, was among the best we've had. My wife frequently orders the vegetarian entree and on one particular evening when Lloyd learned that she hadn't eaten much of her meal because it was mostly starch, he returned to the table with an artfully arranged plate of various cooked vegetables which my wife greatly appreciated. Our assistant waiter, Suradiasa, was cordial but seemed somewhat distracted at times. The food was as delightful as always -- the boys and I even ordered two entrees each on the second formal night in order to enjoy our own "surf and turf". On previous cruises, we've found that the cocktail wait staff and the wine stewards generally don't stick around long after we indicate we don't want alcohol for a particular meal, and sometime they quit visiting our table altogether. However our wine steward, Lamai, was much friendlier than usual even though we only ordered wine for a couple of meals, and we appreciated the fact that she checked on us each evening.
The highlight of our dining experience was Qzine, which lives up to its "unusually unordinary" billing. We don't know how we could have enjoyed our 6 PM dinner there on our first formal night any more than we did. The wait staff was extremely attentive, friendly and funny. Everything from the bread to the after dinner treats was as delightful to the eyes as it was to the palate. As indicated in the preceding paragraph, the boys and I have healthy appetites, but even so the four of us could only share six of the twenty offerings before we had to call it quits and order dessert.
Staff & Service
The majority of the staff was attentive, courteous and helpful. As noted above our waiter, Lloyd, was exceptional, as was our wine steward, Lamai, and all the staff at Qzine. This was a pleasant change from our last Bermuda cruise where we experienced some rough spots in our dining service.
I was a bit surprised I had to talk to both the assistant steward and the steward to get our room the way it needed to be; and one night they gave all their mostly English-speaking rooms "Celebrity Today" dailies written in French. We also had to call twice to get a slow-draining shower fixed.
We also found out after we left the ship that one of our two liquor purchases was incorrect, in that we had not gotten what we paid for. I contacted Celebrity through the Captain's Club and was given instructions on how to obtain a refund.
We haven't come to expect great entertainment on board cruise ships in general, and this cruise was no exception. The entertainers we did appreciate were acoustic guitarist & singer Andrew Halpin; a Russian gymnastic couple; and the trumpet player in the band whom we had particularly noted and enjoyed eight months earlier on our first Bermuda cruise. The comedian, Bruce Smirnoff, was better than most we've seen.
We also enjoyed the "Behind the Podium" talks given by Dr. Gloria Auchey, who focused on personality types and relationships, and Dr. Kenneth Hirth, whose talks generally centered around Bermuda and the sea.
*BKG3 Horseshoe Bay Beach Transfer ($29.75 per person), Bermuda Day #1: Horseshoe Bay Beach is beautiful and well worth the visit. I am not a beach lover, but I had a wonderful time photographing the pink sand as well as the nearby rocky alcoves and the numerous Bermuda longtails. The excursion was convenient in that it took us directly from our ship to the beach entrance and back. There was a short side trip to Gibb's Lighthouse, though we weren't able to get off the bus for photos. Otherwise, it was basically a shuttle to and from the beach. If you're willing and able to walk hills a bit, a one-day pass for the Bermuda bus/ferry system will only run $12 per person, and there's even a private $2 shuttle to take you back uphill to the bus stop when you're ready to leave the beach.
We bought two-day ferry/bus passes for $20 a piece and toured St. George and Hamilton on our own with the guidance of Frommer's walking tours which can be found online. We particularly enjoyed the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, even more than the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo we had seen last cruise. Both the Swizzle Inn and Hog Penny Pub had great drinks and food, but be prepared to pay Bermuda prices to enjoy these. The Gombey dancers put on quite a show Wednesday night, but otherwise we found Hamilton Nights to simply be a nice street fair with dance music. All in all, we very much enjoyed touring Bermuda mostly on our own and were glad we hadn't purchased any other excursions as a family. My older son did book a two-tank dive (BK17) for our third day in Bermuda, but strong winds and driving rain resulted in that excursion being cancelled.
On our last cruise we had also driven to Cape Liberty, but had booked a Concierge Class room. Priority disembarkation had gotten us off the ship and in our car by 8:45 AM eight months ago. We therefore expected we might have to wait a bit longer this cruise, but actually ended up leaving the parking lot by 9:15 AM.
With only a few exceptions, we have enjoyed each of our three cruises on the Summit, and solticization has added some interesting new venues. While the vast majority of the Summit's staff is quite accommodating, we continue to find that service can be spotty in certain areas. As for the destination itself, we found that having three days in Bermuda was a great opportunity for us to explore the island on our own cheaper and -- with a bit of preparation and guidance -- more efficiently than by purchasing excursions.