We took Summit to Bermuda last June and enjoyed it so much that we decided to do an encore this year, especially given the opportunity to contrast the "original" Summit to the newly Solsticized version. Ironically, when we boarded the Summit in June of 2011, it took me a few days to realize that the deck plan they handed me on board was actually the deck plan for the rebuild as I kept looking for things not there yet. Now we would get to see the real thing.
We had a very active roll call and scheduled a gift exchange, cabin crawl, pub crawl, slot pull, and (of course) a sailaway party The sailaway party was at the Sunset Bar and quite a few of us were there to meet and listen to the great steel drum player. It was great to meet so many people in person after months of virtual conversations -- and to know so many people we kept bumping into all over the ship. And the turnout for the Connections Party was among the best I recall -- with many ship's officers stopping in to chat with us -- Sue Denning, the CD, even came by to act as hostess -- I'm accustomed to seeing the special events coordinator in that role.
I enjoyed the cabin crawl as it was probably be the only time I'll ever see the inside of a suite -- and we saw both a Sky Suite and a Celebrity Suite as well as one of the cabins facing the front of the ship. I noticed something interesting on the balcony of the Celebrity Suite. Many people complain about how rust shows the ship's age. The Celebrity Suites had balconies newly added during the recent dry dock. We noticed that there were already visible rust spots on the balconies. Rust happens instantly on ocean vessels -- that's a fact of life on the water.
I scanned the menus, daily schedules, youth activity sheets, and some other material. You can see them all by going to:
So on to my thoughts on the cruise.
Embarkation / Disembarkation:
This has to have been the smoothest boarding and disembarkation we've had. I think we were on the ship in less than an hour from the time we drove onto the pier complex -- which included dropping the luggage, paying the parking fee, parking the car, putting on the car cover (not going to chance the potential dry dock paint overspray problem), walking to the terminal, and so on. We were scheduled for an 8:30 AM slot to get off the ship -- and we were in the car headed off the pier by 9!
As we boarded before 1, we could not go to our cabin so we found an empty (and very comfortable) pair of chairs by the pool -- under the shade by the sunblock and pool butler hut and waited for the "cabins are ready" call. We noticed that the ship corridors seemed brighter, probably a combination of better lighting and lighter colored carpeting.
We were in Concierge Class, cabin 8066, a little farther forward than we would have preferred, but otherwise basically the same layout as our cabin last year. The only drawback was that it was right across from one of the service doors, although the only time that was noisy was the last night while they blocked the door open to haul the luggage out.
The cabin felt brighter than last year -- probably because the new carpeting and drapes were lighter than before. The shower curtain was much nicer than it had been -- I didn't feel as if it was about to blow out and drench the floor. The "permanent" hair dryer turned out not to be so permanent and had been (as noted by others) replaced by a (welcome) nightlight and a portable hair dryer. The new hair dryer was annoying, as for safety reasons, you had to keep your finger on the button to keep it on. DW gave up on using the hair dryer and said she would take her own travel hair dryer next time.
After our February Silhouette sailing, the Summit's storage (actual drawers and a shelf in the closet) was a welcome sight. The balcony floors were redone with some rubbery pellet material that was less likely to be slippery than the old floors, but they always felt damp and were uncomfortable to walk on barefoot. The balcony chairs were new and more comfortable, though they seemed a bit larger than what we had last year -- making the balcony feel even smaller (especially when compared to our hump balcony on Silhouette!).
Our cabin attendants (Sandy from Goa and Hasim) were probably the best we've ever had on Celebrity -- and that's saying a lot. They remembered our names from the moment we introduced ourselves, were always around and easy to find, greeted us whenever they saw us, and rushed to open our door if they were nearby. Unlike previous cruises, they never tried to come in to turn down our beds while we were dressing for late seating. Our canapes arrived every afternoon around 4 -- and Sandy delivered our breakfast every morning -- after calling a minute or two ahead to verify that we were ready. And the breakfast was always the right temperature -- eggs and bacon were hot, fruit and juices were chilled. The ice bucket magically kept refilling itself as well.
We had late seating at a table of 8. Our waiter (Pariman) and assistant (Hayriye) were outstanding, also remembering our names and food preferences from the first dinner. Even though our assistant waiter's contract was ending after our cruise (she was counting down to getting off Sunday morning and catching a plane to Istanbul to see her family after so long away), her service was fantastic -- contrary to some reports of ship staff losing their interest at the end of their contracts. She was looking forward to coming back after her break at home. With the exception of a couple of tables, the dining room seemed less empty than it felt on previous sailings. Contrary to comments from others about the music level in the MDR, I noticed the background music only as the room was emptying towards the end of the meal.
The menus were reportedly new for this sailing and many of the food choices seemed a step down in value from previous cruises. The one or two nights they did have what might be considered a higher priced item, it was always paired with two other more appealing entrees. I suspect this was done deliberately to reduce costs. (See the menus yourself by going to the URL above.) I don't recall having any complaints about the food taste or quality, although a few of our tablemates did have some complaints about their choices. I do know that every steak or beef item I ordered was outstanding -- tender and delicious, as was the fish dish I had one night.
Funny thing -- the staff seemed to take it personally if you didn't finish your food. The waiter, assistant waiter, and assistant matre d would come by to be sure everything was OK and offer to bring something else. I felt as if I had regressed to my childhood with my mother asking, "Whatsa matter, my cooking's not good enough for you?" And the really funny thing was the night cedar plank grilled salmon was on the menu. This must have been the first time it had been served -- and we had to explain to the assistant matre d that the part left on the plate was the cedar plank and not something to be eaten. Apparently, the dining room staff hadn't seen or tasted the new menu items before serving them. This created a slight drawback in their inability to recommend dishes, which most waiters enjoy doing.
I went to the buffet the first and last mornings for breakfast and the food was about the same as I recall from previous sailings. The lines were not bad and I was able to find a place to sit without too much hunting. I had lunch there almost every day and the food was also on par with previous sailings. I don't recall noticing the stir fry-to-order that we enjoyed on Mercury. But my usual lunch choices (pizza, salads, sandwiches) were all fine. I heard a few complaints about the tables not being cleared but we noticed that only once, when we went up there fairly late in the afternoon.
I had a burger and fries there once. The service was excellent, staff very friendly, and the burger seemed better than I recall from previous sailings.
Cafe al Baccio:
We went there twice. The first time we sat in the area that used to be the game room and waited about ten minutes for someone to come serve us. Then the music volume bumped up a notch and we decided to leave since the servers were more focused on chatting at the counter and never noticed that we were waiting to place an order. Instead, we walked across the corridor and I ordered gelato and had a lovely chat with the server, who remembered us when we walked past there the next afternoon. The second time we went to Cafe al Baccio, we stopped at the counter to get some tea sandwiches and the server offered to send them to our table. That time the music wasn't as loud, and the server took our drinks order when she delivered the sandwiches. Both the food and beverages were delicious, as was the gelato I had during our first visit.
Bistro on Five:
We had a late lunch there on embarkation day. While our order was taken quite rapidly, the food took a while to arrive, but it was worth the wait as it was fresh and delicious! I wish we had managed a return visit but we were just not that hungry mid-day.
Ship public areas:
This vacation was a time for us to relax so, looking back on it, I guess we rarely left the cabin except for lunch, dinner, and going ashore two of the three days in Bermuda. I did manage to hit the solarium pool two evenings before getting dressed for late seating and found it almost empty and quite relaxing. Need to do that more often. We walked past the Martini Bar and through the Rendezvous Lounge on the way to dinner every night. There was always a large (and loud) crowd at the Martini Bar, which contradicts those who claim that Celebrity is filled with a bunch of quiet old folk. There were always people dancing in the Rendezvous Lounge, both before and after dinner and the music sounded about the right volume for a dance venue. I wandered past the Cafe al Baccio once and noticed that the space formerly used as the game room (no more separate space) was filled with people playing cards and other games. So I guess there's still a need for space for those activities. I usually saw people in the iLounge and library as well.
As another example of great service, on the first morning, we noticed that the lights were not working properly in the library and DW commented on that to the Chief Engineer at the Connections Party. He immediately grabbed his phone and called someone about the problem -- and the electricians were working on it by the time we walked past the library on our way back to our cabin.
On our first day in Bermuda, we took the 11:30 ferry to St. George and walked around for a couple of hours, something we had not done last year after taking the tour. It's a nice place to wander through and we're looking forward to a return trip and more time to see more there. We also wandered around the Dockyard complex on our last day and bought some gifts -- and discovered the arts center which we had somehow missed last year, and which had some interesting works.
Bermuda's workers need to re-order their priorities. They had a union meeting on our last morning so the ferries and buses didn't start running until close to noon -- a bit late when both ships at the Dockyard were sailing at 5. While I fully respect their rights to unionize and hold meetings, they need to understand that actions of this type are not conducive to return visits by tourists -- and that their jobs could be at risk. Given the reduced number of ships calling there, they should do everything possible to avoid the reputation the island could get. We couldn't imagine the effect on Bermuda's economy of so many people from two fairly large ships NOT going to the towns and beaches they had planned for the third day.
Despite some negative comments from previous passengers this season, we found the ship to be in excellent condition and the ship staff and crew among the best we can recall. I'd like to see some favorites return to the menu (chateaubriand, please?), and the return of the string trio/quartet we used to enjoy (and which gave us an excuse to leave our cabin and sit in one of the lounge areas), but we'll come back again.