Canada cruise on the Summit 9-22-12
We chose this 14 night cruise after researching fall 2012 options for two reasons: One, we did not need to fly to the ship. Two, we wanted to cruise with my parents who had just celebrated their 55th anniversary and Mom won't fly. This is our fifth cruise on Celebrity and 14th cruise overall. This is our first cruise to "New England and Canada."
One thing we did on this cruise we've never done before is we pre-purchased the "Unlimited photo package" For this cruise it was $239.00 prepaid for every photo taken by the on-board photographers that one or both of us is present in. We ended up leaving the ship with 272 photos!
Saturday morning we left our home in Southeastern PA and drove to pick up the parents in the retirement mecca of Toms River at the NJ Shore. From there, in our now fully loaded mini-van, it was just 75 minutes up the parkway to Bayonne. Our son lives on Staten Island just a few minutes from the port, so we met him, he dropped us off, and kept the van for the two weeks we will be away.
Arriving at 11:00, embarkation was painless. What actually took the longest was getting through the security checkpoint, but only because it was obvious that many in front of us in line haven't been through an airport in years. Once through security (10 minutes), we were waved to a handicap check in station (as Mom is on a scooter). They checked both our cabins in within 5 minutes, handed us our key cards, and we were off the get the "Security photo" taken. Photos snapped, we were quickly at the welcome aboard photo station. Photos taken of each couple separately, and we also had a photo taken of the four of us. By now, it is 11:20, and the last of the people in "Line" for the boarding shuttle were getting on a shuttle, so there is no line or ticket needed once we reach the door.
The very nice and talkative security person kept us engaged as we waited two minutes for the next shuttle bus, and off we go! Arriving at Summit, our key cards are swept and "Welcome aboard!" The usual Celebrity selection of Champagne, Mimosa, or Orange Juice is available. We head up to deck 10 and the Oceanview Cafe for lunch.
Lunch choices were abundant. I enjoyed a small amount of fish and chips and a slice of roast beef. DW enjoyed a variety of salad and fruit. After lunch, we headed down to the spa area and the Thallasotheraphy pool. Dad and I changed into swimsuits (packed in our carry on) and were the first in the pool on this cruise. We were drying off as the announcement was made at about 1:35 that cabins were ready.
We were in no rush, so got good and dry (and dad actually changed back into street clothes) before heading to the cabins. We are both in insides on deck two. We are in 2084, and parents are in 2136. There has been a lot of discussion on the Celebrity board in the weeks before our cruise about bathroom condition on the Summit. We had no sign of mold in our bathrooms. The drain in our shower is rather slow, and water seems to seep under the shower divider onto the bathroom floor. I reported this to Abel, our room steward. By Monday, it was fixed.
No luggage yet, so we headed back to deck 10 with a set of "Rummicubes" that my parents brought along and played a round at one of the tables near the pool grille. Mom left the scooter in the cabin (later to be a mistake). Muster drill was at 3:15 in the casino. We were there in time to grab some seats at a poker table. The drill concluded and the entire 2,000 passengers were now on deck 4, wanting to go elsewhere. Okay for us, we walked down two flights of stairs to make a stop at our cabin. However, the parents waited, standing, for over thirty minutes for an elevator (Mom can't do stairs) to get to deck 10 and our cruise critic roll call's sail away gathering at the aft bar. When they finally showed up, Mom was visibly exhausted and needed a chair, but none were to be found. We got her situated on a bar stool, but they lasted less than ten minutes before dad said they had to go the cabin as Mom didn't feel well. We really enjoyed the gathering and met many from the roll and some we had planned excursions with. We left port in Bayonne about an hour late, and were able to stay on deck just long enough to photograph the sailing under the Verrazano bridge before rushing back to the cabin in hope that our luggage appeared and to quickly get ready for dinner.
The luggage was finally there, so at a frantic pace we unpacked the five (yes FIVE) suitcases and found place for everything. We arrived at dinner about 6:15 but that was just as the first night's "Line" to find the assigned table was dissipating. We have table 338, a 6-top along the port side of the dining room. Our Waiter is Vladimir and assistant is Marko. Dinner went well and we really hit it off with our dining companions. We left the dining room at about 8:05.
Sunday was our first sea day. We put on our bathing suits with appropriate cover ups, and began our M-Class, sea day breakfast routine. DW heads to the Spa Cafe and I obtain Waffles and an omelet from the buffet and carry it down to the Spa Cafe. After breakfast, we spend some lovely time in the T-Pool and hot tubs. What else did we do today? Well, DW wasn't interested in the lectures on Space. I read, relaxed, at some point had some lunch and ice cream, and then we got ready for the first formal night. Before dinner we traveled to the various portrait stations and had lots of photos taken both of us as a couple and as a foursome.
Dinner time! We entered the dining room and thought we were on the wrong floor. Four unknown people were sitting at our table, which is now set for eight. But wait, there is Vladimir. Vladimir goes to the computer and confirms that is our table. Our first night dining companions were relocated due to a pre-cruise request, and due to a long wait-list for 6:00 dining they are squeezing in extra places. Our first night companions stopped by to apologize and say they were left a message at 4:00 that afternoon that they were moved, but they did not request it nor were they given a choice. This whole situation was not a pleasant way to begin our first formal dinner. Dinner dragged as the dining room was absolutely packed, and we did not get out of the dining room until 8:20 or so.
After dinner we hit one additional portrait station and went to the theater for the captain's welcome aboard toast. At least that was the plan. For the first time in five Celebrity cruises, and our 40th night on Celebrity, there is not a seat to be found in the theater. My parents certainly can't stand to watch and reluctantly we left the theater and called it a night. As an aside, this is a specific reason why we won't sail on Princess again - no room in the theater.
Monday we docked in Portland, Maine. Portland is a great port, and we found it easy. We had reserved a 9:30 trolley tour followed by an 11:30 Lighthouse cruise. It's about a 10 - 15 minute walk to Long Wharf where both tours leave from. We checked in at 8:50 and they asked if we would like to take a 9:00 trolley. Sure! I believe the entire trolley was from our cruise critic roll call. Our trolley driver/guide "Gramps" was entertaining and informative. We very much enjoyed the stop at Portland Head Lighthouse, no doubt the highlight of the tour. We had an hour between tours and found Dunkin Donuts a block away for some caffeine.
The lighthouse cruise was also very nice and informative. The highlight of this was seeing Portland Head Lighthouse from sea. This gave us great photo opportunities on a picture-perfect day. The combo price for both tours is $39/person. On our walk back to the ship we passed by tables of "Crafters" set up along the way. Let's just say our wallets were $100 lighter by the time we got back to the Summit! We normally don't "Shop" at ports, but this was an exception and the items acquired are unique.
Back on board we enjoyed the sail away. A brief sun shower stopped the party band from playing poolside, although they were set up to play. Sailing out we again passed Portland Head Lighthouse and snapped a few additional photos from the perspective of deck 11 of the Summit before preparing for dinner.
Dinner was much better tonight. Vladimir and Marco still seem stressed and the dining room is packed. Service was reasonable and my steak was very nice, served hot and cooked as ordered. Vladimir has arranged with the kitchen to provide my dad "No sugar added" Apple Pie for dessert each evening, a very nice touch. After dinner we added some photos to the envelopes in the photo gallery and took in the show, a comedian named Phil Tag. Regretfully with the lights down I dozed off a couple of times, but by all accounts he was very good.
Tuesday we are scheduled to dock in Halifax at 10:30. For some reason, our cruise critic connections party was scheduled at 9:30. But okay, that works - it's still before we dock. Normally on a late port morning we would do our sea day routine and enjoy the T-Pool, but we forgo that to shower and dress for the connections party followed by our day at sea. We open our door and find a notice that the party has been rescheduled to next week Monday. We don't mind that it's rescheduled, but to let people know the morning of the party? And now we have a few hours to kill. It sure seems like the hotel side of the Summit needs some tweaking.
We docked, but were not cleared until 10:55. Along with many others we left the ship and found our prearranged driver/tour guide through "Your cab tours." We had an excellent tour taking in the scenic highlights of Halifax, the anchor that flew over two miles due to an ammunition ship explosion, the tower dedicated to Sir Stamford Fleming, the "Inventor" of standard time zones, Peggy's Cove, the Swiss Air memorial, a maple syrup manufacturing facility, and the Halifax Citadel.
Tuesday dinner one of the couples at our table was absent. Service went well and we were finished by 7:50. They are taking "Casual portraits" tonight. We posed for a lot of photos, such fun! We made the show, a flute virtuoso, Gary Aburthnot. Much to my surprise, we really enjoyed his show.
Wednesday we tender in Sydney, Nova Scotia with a scheduled arrival at 9:30 AM. We arranged to meet our traveling companions at 9:45 as we obtained priority tender tickets. We actually were on of the first two tenders to shore. It is a 20 minute tender ride. We don't reach shore until after 10:30. We called our car rental company and they picked us up promptly. We are on the road to Fortress Louisbourg by 11:00. We greatly enjoyed Louisbourg, and left there for the 40 minute drive back to Sydney. We dropped off the van and they dropped us back at the pier. There is a winding line for tenders back to Summit. We thought we would wait out the line, but there is no (open) bar in the shoreside facility or immediate area. We wait 40+ minutes in a very brisk cool wind before we finally board a tender. Just as we board, Holland America's Maasdam is trying to leave dock. With the wind blowing them back into the dock, it was obvious they were engaging full thrusters to get away. This stirred up the surrounding waters so we were in a holding pattern. We finally are back on board Summit well after 4:30.
Summary of Sydney stop: If you have to tender from 20 minutes out, don't. Just stay on board and call it a sea day. While we greatly enjoyed our outing to Louisbourg, this may have been the worst tender experience we've ever had - and that was with priority tickets getting out. We heard they were still calling tender numbers at one-thirty.
Back on board, we grab a quick burger at the pool grill, and then get ready for dinner. All eight of us are present tonight but service is prompt and we are done at 7:45. Again they have two photo stations set up for casual portraits, more fun. After the portraits we pass on the show as we are exhausted and wind burned.
Thursday we dock in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. We are scheduled to dock at 9:00 and the ship is actually cleared at 8:55. The four of us and a couple from our roll call have a van tour reserved with Fair Island Tours. In fact, our roll call has NINE vans reserved. Sure enough, they are waiting with a sign with our names. Fair Island sublet our booking to Billy, who has his own tour company and works for the DPW in the winter plowing roads. He told us all winter the sides of the road are 6' high snow banks.
Our guide stretched out the tour. Even the signs in his van indicate it should be a 3 - 4 hour tour. Ours was five hours, and we made our visit to Anne of Green Gables very abbreviated. While I could easily have spent an hour or more there, by then we were already over four hours, and he gets paid by the hour. Fair Island will not be getting a great review from us. To be fair, we did see a lot, and learned a lot about the variety of Lobstering and Mussel farming they do up in PEI. However, many of our stops (commercial) were not on the tour description and we could have done without. The tour could easily have gone to six hours if we hadn't told him after Green Gables that we needed to get back to the ship. We did not stop for lunch, as the driver continued to encourage us to do. As for the van, it may easily fit 6 people of smaller stature, but we are all relatively large Americans (I am 6'4") and after several hours it became downright uncomfortable. (Note added later - discussion with other cruise critic members indicate that many of the nine vans touring cruise critic people gave a less than stellar tour. Use extreme caution in this port with private guided tours and review with the guide before leaving the port exactly what you are going to see and how long the tour will be)
At least we are docked. From what we saw, Charlottetown looked enticing and is likely worth a day to explore on foot right off the ship. By the time we returned to the ship we were exhausted (four port days in a row) and couldn't wait to get back on board and rest a bit.
Thursday dinner, we are again a table of six as one of the couples did not attend. Service tonight is s-l-o-w. We don't finish until after 8:05. When everyone left I went to talk to Vladimir and asked to the extent possible, we are finished by 7:45. We'd like to listen to the band and dance in the Rendez-Vous but if the first show gets out there are no seats left. Vladimir thanked me for telling him and said he would do everything possible to meet this request.
Friday - at last a sea day! We do our sea day AM routine. Dressed in swimsuits with cover-ups, I get my Omelet and fixings from the Oceanview Cafe and walk down to join DW at the Spa Cafe. After breakfast we enjoy the T-pool / hot tubs and relax on the double lounger at the pool reading. My parents find us and dad takes a dip as well. We head back to the room to change and I attend Captain Panos' talk on "Secrets of ship Navigation." He does an excellent job both with the talk and Q&A afterwards.
In the meantime, DW finds a "2 hour sale" in the Emporium and wants an opinion on potential Christmas gifts for family members. Afterward, we wander the ship until Noon and grab a quick lunch at the Oceanview. Superb Roast Beef for me and DW has a Teriyaki Salmon. We next head down to Cellarmasters (where they have a large, high table) for a prearranged game of Rummi-Cube with my parents and cruise critic friends.
Tonight is the second formal night. Before dinner is the select and elite Captain's Club senior officer's party. This is a nice affair. They really were generous with serving the drinks! The band played and the captain spoke briefly. We leave promptly at 6:00 to get to dinner. Dinner is very good at Vladimir gets us finished by 7:40! Nice job! We take photos at all the photo stations but are too tired for the show. My parents tried at 8:30 to get seats for the 9:00 show but were not able to find any my mom could access as she can't do stairs.
Saturday morning we woke to see Quebec City on the banks of the St Lawrence come into sight. It is overcast and breezy. Our string of picture-perfect port weather has reached its end. We exited the ship with my parents to have photos taken at the two photo ops. The first was great! A group of local ladies, dressed in period costume, were signing a welcome song and posing for photos. We had prebooked a "Grand walking tour" at 10:00 followed by a Zodiac river tour at 2:30 through Tours Voir Quebec, the highest rated tour company in Quebec City on tripadvisor. We caught the "Ecolobus" for $1.00/person (the cheapest tour in town!) to take us from the port up to near the Fontainebleau hotel, where the tourist information is across the square. Tours Voir Quebec shares a building with the TI office.
The walking tour was very informational and we did see a lot. We went into three churches and walked many narrow streets. As advertised, the tour was 90% plus downhill. The tour ended at the lower end of the funicular in lower town. From there, we headed back to the Summit for lunch. DW isn't feeling 100% especially after the constant going in and out of the increasingly windy and cool outdoors and the heated churches. She decides to take a nap and forgo the Zodiac tour.
I headed out to the designated meeting place and found one other couple there. I knew eight had signed up for this tour. The others postponed until Sunday, hoping for better weather. We heard Sunday was supposed to be worse, so just the three of us went out with the captain and we head upriver, motoring past the Summit, a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaking ship, several old waterfront neighborhoods, and up to the bridge crossing the river that prevents ships such as the Summit from sailing further up the St. Lawrence. At that point, the river is just 200 feet across but very deep with strong currents. We turned around to find that it had begun raining (we were blissfully unaware of this as the rain had been hitting our backs and we were clothed in wetsuit type of coveralls). Heading back downriver we were now also facing into the wind! The ride back was not "Full of fun," but we persevered and made it back in one piece. The 90 minute Zodiac tour took over two hours as we needed to move at a reduced speed due to the waves on the river. Our captain did take us very near to right under the bow of the Summit. It was an interesting view, to be sure, but I kept expecting a coast guard vessel or the Canadian version of homeland security to come swooping in to make sure we weren't up to some mischief!
Saturday evening the Summit kept to the normal dinner schedule. Our table is full, and Vladimir has us finished by about 7:35. However, this is the 29th, and I had prearranged recognition of my parent's 55th anniversary this evening. Vladimir and the wait staff gathered round and presented them with a cake and sang very nicely. They cut the cake into eight small pieces and we all enjoyed it! It is now 7:50, and we head to the Rendez-Vous for Big Band night with the Celebrity orchestra. We grab the last four seats (barstools) with a view of the band. When the band is between numbers we can hear the rain outside. As we are in port overnight, there is no show tonight, rather "War Horse" is being shown in the theater.
Sunday morning the wind is still howling, but it's not raining. We are off the ship by 8:00 and catch the Ecolobus to the farmer's market (just two stops away). We wander the market and purchase some authentic Quebec Maple Syrup to take home. We want to take the Ecolobus back up the hill to explore some more and see the inside of the Fontainebleau hotel, but the bus just drives right past us as it is full. There are now four ships in port and passengers are awake! We cross the street and wait for an Ecolobus heading the other way. Plenty of space so we get on board and take a grand tour back to the Fontainebleau.
When we get off the bus we are literally blasted by the wind. Being several hundred feet above the river, and with no wind-break, it is obvious the winds are gale force. We quickly take a few photos and find our way inside. The inside of the hotel is magnificent and several photos are taken. Next we head straight to the funicular for the ride down to the lower town. Here, among the buildings, the wind is not as ferocious. DW is kind of looking for a hooded sweatshirt, so we are in and out of the ships, but nothing appealing in the desired price range is discovered.
We walk back to the ship meandering through the narrow streets trying to avoid being in the open along the waterfront. Four ships in port seem to have brought out many of the locals to take in the spectacle, despite the cool temps and wind. We are back on board by noon, and about 1:00 is begins to rain. By mid-afternoon the rain is a deluge. We are glad we are cozy and warm on the Summit.
6:00 is our departure time and from the dining room we hear the thrusters surely at 100% pushing us away from the dock against the wind. Two local tugs assist as well. We need to turn the ship, and friends with a FV Verandah later tell us they thought their Verandah furniture was going overboard as the ship turned and the wind caught their corner. Their cabin stewards were there in an instant. They tied things down. We finish dinner by 7:45 (again, great service from Vladimir and Marko) and enjoyed listening to the dance quartet for 30 minutes or so. Next we find the one photo station open and have more photos taken. These came out really great!
Sunday's show is magician Adam Trent. We thought his name was familiar, and after watching his show are sure we've seen him before. However, his show was outstanding, and about 30% of the overflow crowd gave him a standing ovation at the close.
Monday October 1 is a "Sea day." It's actually more like a "River day" as we are slowly heading towards sea down the ever-widening St. Lawrence with Gaspe', Quebec, our next call on Tuesday. We head up to the Spa Cafe for breakfast followed by a dip in the T-Pool. We're waiting but the hot-tubs are not yet open. Another passenger makes an inquiry and is told "We'll get right to it." Nothing happens. When I get out of the pool, I stopped a maintenance person and inquired. He said he would get back to me. And he did! I am told that ALL the hot-tubs are closed, as they need to be cleaned. They can't clean them until the Summit is 12 miles from shore, and that won't be until tonight. Then they will be drained, bleached, filled, and open tomorrow. Well, okay... But why are the ALL closed? Why do they ALL need to be cleaned at the same time? And why are there no signs telling passengers any of this?
Our rescheduled cruise critic gathering is at 10:00. We fill Michael's Club. The only staff persons who attends is Caissie, the cruise director and someone from guest relations. Caissie nicely circulates the room chatting and briefly welcomes the group. A thoughtful member brought a card that was circulated to thank Georgia for keeping our group organized and most signed it. We did a gift exchange that perhaps twenty or so participated in.
It's a "Sea day" so there is no surprise that the Emporium has some "Specials" running. We visited the Emporium and my parents bought a little something. We head to lunch at the spa cafe at noon but they are not yet open. Five minutes or so later they are ready. After a light lunch we get ready for our 1:00 Captains Club party.
We get to the entrance of Revelations about 12:45 and there are already 25 or so waiting in line. By 12:50 there must be a hundred waiting. Lionel (captain's club host) makes a brief appearance (twice) and both times says "15 minutes." The doors finally open at about 12:58 and at this point the line to enter is not very orderly. The Summit needs some help with crowd control. Once inside, it's actually very nice. Plenty of wait staff with drinks at the ready and if your desire is something different from the menu provided they obtain it quickly. Food stations are set up and entertainment is provided. The best part of the Captains Club gathering was the least expected - Caissie the cruise director actually sings Opera, and she is very good!. The worst part? DW drinks slowly. At 2:00 sharp, Lionel tells everyone the party is over and the room is closed as it needs to be reset for the next group. So basically, we are thrown out of the room. Someone at the door stops DW from taking her half-finished drink. REALLY? First we are thrown out of the room and we can't even finish our drinks? Summit management is again showing a lack of customer relations foresight.
Monday evening we joined some friends for dinner in Q-Sine. This was our first time to try this venue, as we were offered a "Two for one" and joined four new friends from cruise critic. I have to admit I like food rather "Plain," and Q-Sine is certainly not plain! We typically do not do the specialty restaurants. We are very happy with the main dining room and our normal servers who now know us. I knew that going in and also was pretty sure my DW would enjoy the experience. She did, and so did I. Q-Sine is very unique. The food and service were excellent. Would I do it again? Most likely not. To experience it once it was worth it.
We got out of Q-Sine just in time to catch the show. We have a comedian tonight, Buzz Sutherland. He was enjoyable but not as much so as last week's comedian or Adam Trent, the magician.
On Tuesday we arrive as scheduled in Gaspe', Quebec at 7:00. Six of us have a van reserved through National. We go at 8:10 to obtain tender tickets and are given number 5, but they've just called number 4. Five minutes later we go down the elevator to deck one and are told that tender 4 just left and 5 is just moments away. We are on land by 8:40 and have photos taken "Welcome to Gaspe".
In Gaspe', both National and Budget rent a car have cars right at the dock. It must be no small effort for them to move the vehicles from the airport for the cruisers, but we greatly appreciate it! The welcome from the locals is very warm. Many ladies dressed in red blazers welcome everyone individually. They have information, local maps, and suggestions on local activities. To really get the most out of a shore call to Gaspe' one must get out of town.
There are basically two choices:
1. Head North to Forillion National Park.
2. Head South to Perce' to see Perce' rock and the bird colony on the island.
We chose Forillion Park. Forillion occupies the tip of the Gaspe' peninsula. This peninsula is actually the northeastern end of the Appalachian Mountains, stretching north from Georgia in the USA. Forillion is where the Appalachians descend into the sea. We first toured all the south shore facilities. We found that the toll booths are closed on Tuesday and Wednesday so the park visit was free. However, most buildings were closed. We did find some comfort stations open. Park rangers seemed to outnumber the tourists. It appeared the other tourists were also from the Summit in rental vehicles. The south shore viewpoints were nice. The sun came out from time to time giving opportunities for some fall foliage photography.
We headed up over the mountain to the North shore. We stopped several times to take photos along the way. We found a closed visitor's center, and followed the signs to "Cape Bon-Ami." This is a place not to be missed! Seals in the water, incredible rock formations, and waterfalls falling onto a pebble beach. We could see the Cape-des-Rosiers lighthouse to the northwest. This is the tallest lighthouse in Canada and our next stop. To climb the lighthouse admission is charged but we are not that ambitious today as we did a fair bit of climbing and walking at Cape Bon-Ami. We concluded our circuit of the park and returned to Gaspe' by route 197, climbing the "Ridge of the Appalachians" in the process. Of course, at this point, it's not very high!
We drove around Gaspe' a little and visited a small shopping mall before returning the van and tendering back to the Summit. The Summit left Gaspe' a little late, but I still managed to get photos of the end of the Gaspe' peninsula from the sea. We found there was a lighthouse there which could not be seen from our land based vantage points.
Dinner was excellent tonight but as some of us took a long time to finish T-bone steaks we did not finish until 7:55. Sure enough, no seats with a view of the band remained in the Rendez-Vous. So we found the casual portrait studio and took some more photos, and found photos to add to our envelopes. The show is singer-impressionist Paul Tanner. Paul gave an enjoyable show and really played up to the ladies in the audience.
Wednesday is a bright and sunny sea day! We had a relaxin
g morning and met a portion of our cruise critic group for lunch in the main dining room. This was our only MDR lunch and while it was okay we don't feel the extra time is worth it. We are a bit surprised at the captain's daily announcement which tells us that despite leaving Gaspe an hour and a half late, we have already made up the time and slowed to 15 knots, enabling an on-time arrival at Bar Harbor at noon on Thursday.
Wednesday was the third and final formal evening dinner was again very good and we are out of the dining room by 7:45. We took photos at all the formal portrait studios and went to the theater thirty minutes before show time. The theater was completely full by 25 minutes prior to the show. This was a cast show "IHollywood."
Thursday was a relaxing morning due to a Noon arrival at Bar Harbor. We had been invited to an "Anniversary and honeymoon" gathering at 10:30. We attended and had photos taken with the provided cake. Otherwise it was well attended but fairly dull. We gathered our shore side things together and watched the tenders get lowered. As this was a U.S. port call after being in Canada, all non-US citizens needed to go through immigration in the theater before the ship was cleared, which did not occur until about 12:40. Due to the generosity of friends, we had priority tender tickets and were on the third tender off, reaching shore at 1:05.
We were booked on the 2:00 Oli's Trolley tour of Bar Harbor and Arcadia National Park. We greatly enjoyed the tour. Upon return from the tour at 4:30, the first people we met on the street were from Summit and asked about our tour. They had tender ticket # 10 and did not reach shore until after 3:00. We took one look at the tender pier and saw that people were already lined up waiting for tenders back to the ship. While we really wanted to walk the town a bit, when we saw three tour buses pulling up, we decided to get in the tender line. Even at this hour, with over three hours before the stated "Last tender," it took 40 minutes to get back to Summit. We talked to passengers on board who waited three hours for their tender number and simply gave us, and never made it ashore. We also heard that tendering effectively stopped for a period of time while the "Live Maine Lobsters" were off-loaded.
I have to ask, what is Celebrity management thinking? It is a GREAT idea to bring aboard some local specialties for the passengers - but we were DOCKED in Portland. It would have been no trouble at all, in Portland. In Bar Harbor we are tendering - and Summit does a poor job with tendering to begin with. Tying up the tender docks to bring Lobsters on board is a disaster in the making...
No evening photo shoots tonight, as we are nearing the end of the cruise. We went to the show, an entertaining pianist. As we were very tired about half way through we left the show to get some tea and head to the cabin. We were surprised to find we were still anchored in port at 10:00. On Friday we learned why. One of the last tender boats, at 7:45 (per the cruise critic news report), ran aground due to "Poor visibility." It was raining by 6:00 or so, and it was certainly dark well before 7:00.
Friday morning the Captain's daily announcement filled everyone in and we learned that we did not leave port until 11:30. We were assured of a timely arrival in Bayonne on Saturday. The weather improved and warmed as the day went on. One of our roll call members who snagged a corner "FV" cabin hosted a small farewell gathering at 3:00 PM. We had beautiful weather and it was obvious Summit was in no big hurry, as we were passed by a container ship heading towards NY. While much about this cruise needs improvement, we did meet some wonderful people through the roll call.
Friday evening a dinner option was fresh Maine Lobster, brought onboard in Bar Harbor. We opted for the Lobster and thought the dining room did a very nice job. All the shells were cracked and the nasty body innards had been removed. We heard that by the second seating the lobsters were very mushy, but ours were enjoyable. We said our farewells to Vladimir and Marco at 7:45 and enjoyed one last set of dance music in the Rendez-Vous. We attended the farewell show, the highlight of which was Cassie, the cruise director, who sang two numbers. We put the luggage out for pick up, having been given Green 23 with an estimated debarkation time of 9:20 AM.
The Summit could not let us leave without one last attempt at aggravating their passengers. We were thirty minutes late returning to Bayonne. No reason was given, no apologies, no announcement from the captain, nothing. As previously noted, we were crawling at sea on Friday, with freighters passing us, so it certainly was not due to leaving Bar Harbor late. Of course, this put all disembarkations behind. Our 9:20 disembarkation became 10:15. I know they need to clean the ship for the arriving passengers, but all the public restrooms except those on deck four were "Closed for cleaning." By the time we were in the terminal, ready to be picked up it was nearly 11:00, almost two weeks to the minute from when we arrived. This was the worst disembarkation we have experienced in fourteen cruises.
This is the first "M - Class" ship we have sailed post-"Solsticizing." The areas renovated are beautiful. A couple of things though, are such blunders one must say "What were they thinking?" A great example of this is Revelations deck 11 forward. They took the port quarter of a marvelous, open, wrap-around room, and made it into the kid's club? There is no more prime "Real estate" on a ship, then the forward high deck room. Sitting in that room with just 2/3 of a view is so disappointing.
Bistro on Five is pretty popular. But the area where it's located used to be part of a lounge. Cellarmasters seems woefully underutilized, and that was part of the same lounge. The results are that the passengers pre and post dinner that used to congregate in two lounges on decks 4 and 5, now are mostly in the Rendez-Vous on deck 4. But that also means, that if you want a seat with sight-view of the band, you need to be there early. "Crowding" in public spaces are what really turned us off to Princess. Regretfully Celebrity seems to be heading in the same direction.
We enjoyed top-notch stateroom and dining staff. No complaints from us on that account. We are aware of a number of cruise-critic members who were not so fortunate with their dining staff and perhaps they will post their own reviews. The dining room issue that was horrible however was the incredible over-crowding during the first seating. Our table for six became a table for eight, therefore for twelve nights, we had a "Crowded" dinner experience, unable to stretch out our legs, or relax our shoulders. When people book four weeks before the cruise they should not board "Expecting" to get their dining room seating choice.
The dining room crowding problem then became a theater crowding problem as well. One thing we love about Celebrity and Holland is that we can make the most of our evening, enjoying music in a lounge until five minutes before show time and then going to the theater. That was not possible on this cruise, where one needed to arrive thirty minutes early for any of the production shows, and 15 - 20 minutes before a guest performer. This was so disappointing!
We have never had a cruise with the horrendous tendering issues that Summit had on this cruise. The person or persons at corporate who set the itinerary for this cruise should literally be fired. Arriving at 10:30 or Noon at tender ports that do not provide their own "Super tenders" is asking for trouble. Do the math - at Sydney and Bar Harbor, it took a full hour for a tender to load, transit, unload, and transit back. At 100 people per tender, that is 400 people per hour. There are 2,000 passengers. Even if you allow that 500 of them have no desire to go ashore, if nothing goes wrong it takes 3.75 hours to move 1,500 passengers. The same situation exists for returning to the ship. It is better to avoid those ports altogether if the ship can't arrive at 7:00 AM.
Overall, these fourteen days on the Summit goes down as the lowest rated cruise we have done in fourteen cruises, at just two stars. What I hope Celebrity management takes notice of is my closing sentence. If this had been my first Celebrity Cruise I would never cruise with them again, as I wouldn't know that this was not normal for Celebrity.