We were on the July 22, 2012 cruise to Bermuda on the Summit. We're 30 (me) and 32 (my husband "J") from CT. No kids. It was my 3rd cruise, J's first. I can't really compare this cruise to my first 2, because I was young and didn't have an eye for service or food then. However, my second cruise was on RCI and we had an inside room, which I will never do again because of the lack of daylight. You should also know that we are self proclaimed "food snobs". Our only hobby as a couple is dining out and being obsessed with the Food Network-Chopped, Iron Chef, etc. So here we go!
We drove to Bayonne from CT in just about 2 hours. We had no traffic thank goodness. We arrived at the dock around 12:45 I think, and parked in the regular parking area. We got through embarkation in about 30 minutes then made some dinner reservations at the kiosk before we got on the ship. Normandie for Sunday and Thursday nights.
We had a balcony cabin 6053. It has a triangle shaped balcony because it's on the spot where the ship moves from wider to narrower. It was nice and big and I was very impressed by the room! Very tasteful decor and everything was clean and ready to go. I found the storage, bathroom size, and bedroom size very suitable for 2 people. Our cabin steward was Orlan, who was on time and polite almost to a fault. We actually spent a lot of time in the cabin, which interfered with the cleaning sometimes. I think I will always want a balcony from now on, and I wouldn't even feel bad upgrading to a suite since we liked spending time in the cabin so much.
I LOVED this ship. It was tasteful, understated modern elegance. I loved the art everywhere (I'm an art teacher) and all the furniture was so cool. I hate tacky cruise ship decor like on the Carnival Sensation and Monarch of the Seas. Those were the 2 ships I've been on before. The pool on the summit was nice, but I had a really hard time getting a chair. The only good times to get a chair are on port days when a lot of people are off the ship. Otherwise, good luck getting a chair after 9am. However, I did notice one pool butler taking towels off empty chairs, but by that point it was kind of too late.
I never thought I'd be one of those people who works out on vacation, but the gym was so nice and comfortable that I ended up working out almost every day. Also those workouts were pretty necessary after some of the dinners we had!
Overall, the service was really great. If it hadn't been, I wouldn't have let that ruin my vacation, but it was so nice to be treated to such good service. An example of good service- in the buffet it was kind of crowded at lunch time, and we were looking for a table. One of the waiters took my tray and led me to a perfect table by the window. I didn't even have to ask! Another example- We got to the theater late and there were no seats to be found. I was looking around and all of a sudden one of the attendants pulled up two rolling chairs for us and we were able to sit right away!
In the specialty restaurants the service was excellent. And, the food and wine servers work in different places during the day, so our wine server from the main dining room found us in the buffet during lunch the next day and addressed us by name and remembered what kind of wine I liked.
We ate in the MDR twice, both formal nights. The rest we split between the specialty restaurants.
Here's my take on cruise ship food. In other reviews I've read, people say the food is excellent, great, fabulous, delicious, etc. I wouldn't use any of those words to describe the Main Dining Room and Buffet food. Really, it's not that good. I'd call it decent banquet hall food. But what can you really expect? I'm sure they can't keep a tank with 5000 live lobsters on board. They said they only load food once a week (learned that in the galley tour), so it's inevitable that food will have to be frozen. Plus, they said they make 9000 meals a day, so everything can't be fresh and perfect like in a 5 star restaurant. So for what it is, working with the limits that they have, it's good enough. But don't tell me it's fabulous, because that is just not true. Did this keep us from stuffing ourselves every night? No.
Normandie- In short, it's worth the 40$.
If you eat at Normandie, you get SO MUCH FOOD. Apps were great, I recommend the scallop wellington and the risotto. We both ordered two apps each- the other two being quail salad and pork belly. The quail salad was ok. Pork belly wasn't that good- I've had better. All the entrees looked good. We ended up getting the lobster that was prepared tableside, made in a cognac cream sauce, and I got the duck. It was a huge portion. We also got desserts, but before they brought them out they had a cheese course and some petit fours. The best part of Normandie was the ambience and the service. Carlos was the best server.
Qusine- Probably also worth the 40$, but we had two experiences that marred the experience a bit. One was that even though it's supposed to be a more casual "family style" place, my husband got sent back to put on long pants when we got there. I swear I heard them say it was casual when they did their pitch at the end of the galley tour, but I guess shorts are not acceptable. The only other problem was that we ate too much, but I guess I can't complain about that.
The whole "uniquely unordinary" concept was really cool and I'd like to see it in a land based restaurant. Ordering on iPads, not using conventional serving vessels...it was cool. And the decor in there is to die for. But, it is probably best to go with more people so you don't have to stuff yourself. When you order, you add the dishes to your "favorites" on the iPad. We had nine in our list. After 4 we were stuffed but we managed to eat one more before we had to tell our waiter to stop bringing food. And then we had dessert. I would say don't miss the Painter's Filet, it was the only real filet we had on the ship. (in the MDR on the first formal night, J had a filet steak but it was not really a filet. It was sirloin in filet's clothing, I promise. I know my meat!)
Bistro on 5-
We LOVED this. 5$ cover charge is really worth it and we ate there at least 3 times. We like that there was no reservation needed, we liked that the food was freshly made and didn't have that mass-produced feel. We got to watch the cooks making the crepes each time, and we were inspired to buy some crepe-making materials ourselves! Everything we tasted was awesome. It was surprisingly empty each night, and it was nice to be in a quiet place. This is not just for lunch!
Overall the activities were great, but a little repetitive especially at night. We don't really drink, so we found ourselves a little bored at night. Almost all of the night activities were various bands playing in various bars, which for us, isn't really an activity. If we liked to get drunk, we might not have been bored.
Daytime activities were all pretty good, but the cooking demos were kind of cheesy. I really enjoyed the galley tour. If you're going to go to that one, make sure you get there early or you'll end up waiting a long time for your group to actually get into the galley, since they have to take small groups in. Bingo was fun, I won 457$! Interesting fact though, they credit your sea pass card with your winnings, which was fine, but I wonder what would have happened if I had won the 5000$ jackpot they were advertising. I wouldn't have wanted that on my sea pass.
Only 2 were good- the comedian Steve Caouette (don't miss!), and the Xylophonist. The other shows were terrible in a fun way- just about as tacky and cheesy as one can handle. Luckily, I was so starved for musical theater that I didn't care, but if I had expected anything like Broadway, I would have been disappointed. If you like colors, lights, sounds, and costumes, you'll like the stage shows.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot we went to Bermuda! It was great! It's such a unique country because it's a 50/50 blend between tourism and real Bermudian culture. Very expensive, but cool. For excursions, we only did one, which was the Crystal Caves and Aquarium tour. It was an excellent way to see the island and two really good sights. Our tour driver also stopped at a few smaller sights so we could take pictures. I would recommend this tour. We visited St. George's on our own by ferry, and it was very cool. We went to the visitor's center and got the self-guided walking tour pamphlet, and took a walk around.
The third day we explored the dockyard and went to the snorkel park. It was crowded but we had a good time at the beach.
Gambling: If you are going to do any gambling in the ship's casino, do it on the first day or immediately after you leave Bermuda. I'm sure it's no coincidence that my husband won a lot on those days. The casino wants to keep people happy in the beginning. With my bingo win and his roulette and poker wins, we managed to break even for the week and do everything we wanted including all those specialty restaurant dinners and email checks in the mac lab.
Debarkation: Smooth, easy, back home in CT by 11am.