Member Since 2009
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Great itinerary and great for the $$
To provide a frame of reference, DH and I are mid to late 40's. This was my 13th cruise and DH's 4th; our second time on Celebrity. Our last Celebrity cruise (2008) DH was seriously injured (that's a story for another time), and we were very impressed with their medical team (I'm an ICU RN, so not an easy sell). We enjoy getting the most bang for our buck, so when we were able to get RT airfare to Puerto Rico for $275 and Celebrity dropped balcony cabins to $649 we felt like it was a match made in heaven! Then 10 days before we left, we were able to upgrade to Aqua Class for $150 pp. We had never experienced AQ, and felt like that was a good trade off to see for ourselves what AQ is all about. We were not disappointed! Bearing in mind that this is a 13 year old ship (although she was dry docked just one year ago for "solsticizing") the Summit was for the most part clean and well-maintained, but not the over-the-top jaw-dropper like you would experience on a brand new mega More
We flew in to SJU the day before which was during the San Sebastian Festival, which is like Mardi Gras on steroids. I had won the La Concha Resort in Condada on a bidding travel site for $129/night. Anticipating traffic would be horrible, we left our hotel at 10:30 am and to our delight, we were on the ship in less than 60 minutes! This was by far the fastest embarkation process ever! I must say that being greeted with a glass of champagne is the right way to welcome passengers aboard. Thank you, Celebrity. One of the perks of AQ is priority luggage delivery, and Celebrity did deliver! We had our swimwear in our carry-ons, so after eating lunch we made our way to the pool area and when we returned to our cabin around 3:00pm our luggage was already waiting for us.
Our cabin was clean, the linens were nice, and our steward was friendly and attentive. We were mid-ship, port side and never heard exterior noise. I loved the shower: specialty shower head and glass doors...no more fighting with a shower curtain! The nightlight in the bathroom was nice as were the uber plush robes. We had no issues, but overheard several people having issues with their toilet plumbing and noticed several workers with plungers.
Blu was wonderful: great food, attentive waiters, more intimate setting, and the sommelier very informative and friendly but not pushy. Marcel, the Maitre D' was AWESOME! He was very supportive of his staff, and really made Blu the great experience it was. One morning we showed up 30 minutes before they opened (our mistake) but he seated us and started our breakfast himself since we needed to be off the ship to catch our excursion! Marcel also advised us to come early to dinner the first night so we wouldn't be interrupted by the muster drill. We only ate in the MDR for the sea day brunch and on one of the formal nights. Brunch was very nice, reminiscent of the old midnight buffets with ice carvings, etc. However, we found the staff in the MDR to be unimpressive, inattentive and aloof. The buffets were typical cruise fare, but we found the sushi bar very good as was Cafe Al Baccio.
The entertainment was decent. The Broadway-style shows were pretty good and the Ukrainian aerialists were amazing. The comedian and the "mentalist" were just ok IMHO. I will say that Lisa, the cruise director had some pipes and I wish we had heard more singing from her! There was a Latin guitarist who was really good but had to leave the ship early. But we don't cruise for the on-board entertainment; if it's good, great, if it's not, we're still having a great time and can always find something to do! That's the beauty of cruising. Everyone has different ideas on what makes a great vacation, and cruising provides many choices.
For AQ passengers, there is a special disembarkation lounge with coffee, juice and rolls. Once our number was called we were off the ship quickly and easily found our luggage. We were one of the later groups to leave and our wait in the customs line was only about 25 minutes. Once out of the shed, we hailed a taxi back to the La Concha Resort (this time winning bid of $109/night) for three more glorious days in beautiful San Juan.
Overall, this was a great experience. So great that we booked the Summit's alternate itinerary for next year! What a great way to beat the post-vacation slump....just plan another one! Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
We booked the Roseau Valley Best Hike through Levi Bumpiing Tours. Kelvin (Levi's cousin) was our fantastic tour guide for the day. It was my first trip to a rain forest, and pretty much what I expected. I will say I underestimated how strenuous it would be (or overestimated my abilities), but even so, hiking 1000 feet up to Middleham Falls was well worth it. Kelvin was great, shared his knowledge of different plants, trees, the park, and was very patient with us when we needed to stop for a breather. After this they drove us to Titou Gorge which was awesome! You don't have to be an olympic swimmer as everyone has to wear a floatation belt and they will pull you through if the current is too strong (guess how I know this?) This was a great experience, not to be missed! Then we got back on the van and headed to Trafalgar Falls and the hot mineral springs. Again, the falls were beautiful and the hot springs a welcome relief to our tired legs! Normally at this point they take you to Champagne Reef for snorkeling, but everyone in our van opted to stop at a little road-side cafe for some authentic Dominica fare instead. We all had rum punch and a huge plate of food with many different things I had never tried (or seen) before for about $18pp before tip. On our drive out of the rain forest he pulled off at another road-side stand where I bought a large basket for $15! After that we enjoyed the ride downhill back to town and the cruise ship. Again, they provided a cooler with bottled water, Kubli beer and an orange soda that I did not try. I'm neither a beer drinker, but DH and many others really liked the Kubli. Another great day!
As my DH was in basic training (and thus unable to go) when the US invaded Grenada, this was the port he was most interested in seeing. We booked this excursion with Stan Grainger Tours. Our tour guide for the day was "Nick" or at least that was his "nickname." This tour included a stop at a house (I don't remember the name) where a woman gave us a short introduction on some of the history and ecology of Grenada. We had a view of Crater Lake at this stop. The biggest thing I remember is there were women in native costume with fruit baskets on their heads that wanted you to pay them $1 for taking their picture. A man was doing the same thing with his pet monkey...asking for $1 to get your picture with the monkey. This stop was just so-so. Then we all thought we were going to get to go to a spice "plantation" which turned out to be a road-side shack. I will say Nick and the ladies in the shack did a nice job of explaining what all the different spices were, how they were harvested, etc. I spent $36 on spice sets and vanilla there, but was a little disappointed it was a store (very small one at that) and not a working plantation. Back in the van and a short drive later we arrived at St. George's Fort. Alice gave our group a 5-10 minute talk about its history then we were free to tour it, take pictures, etc. Then our last stop was at Grand Anse Beach where we were dropped off and Nick made arrangements that he would pick us up after two hours' beach time. The beach was beautiful, although crowded. We were instantly hounded by locals and paid $25 to rent two beach chairs and an umbrella, which was totally fine. After the first stiff wind went through, our umbrella was smashed up against DH's face and there was no fix to it (we tried multiple times). We asked if they would replace our umbrella and were told there were no more available. Oh, well, no big deal, we're on vacation. But then when they wanted $1 to use the restroom just so we could change into our suits, ok, now I'm irritated. Once we got into that beautiful warm water, all our cares seemed to float away. Nick arrived on time and back to the boat we went. This tour was $50 pp, and although we saw several places, I would try a different tour company if I ever go back.
After perusing the cc boards, the only thing that appealed to us was the Big Beard's Buck Island all-day tour. When we originally called, we were told they were full, so I requested to be wait-listed. The morning we were to leave for San Juan we got a phone call with the great news that they had room for us! What a way to start our vacation! We took a taxi ($16 pp RT) to Christiansted which is approximately 30 minutes away. They dropped us off at Big Beard's store front, we checked in, and walked approximately 75 feet to the dock where we boarded the catamaran. It's about an hour's ride to Buck Island, with beautiful scenery along the way. Steve, Mike and Andy were great sailors/hosts. They had a cooler you could put your own beverages in, plus they provided all the water and rum punch you could want. We stopped on one side of Buck Island (shallow, protected from the waves) for a snorkel lesson for those who needed it, which gave us a chance to make sure our equipment was working properly (Big Beard's supplies the snorkel gear). Then back on board and we went around to the other side of the island where we moored and Mike and Andy took us in groups of about 6 through the underground trail, after this we could adventure out on our own. It was amazing! I've never seen anything like it! After an hour or more, we were back on board to a private beach area where the guys grilled us fish, hamburgers and hot dogs. DH and I walked along the beach and spotted two mongooses! It was a great day!
This was my favorite tour of the trip! We went with Royston of Royston Tours, and he took DH and I along with two other couples in his no-windows-van ALL OVER St. Kitts. We stopped at Romney Manor, Caribelle Batik, Brimstone Hill Fortress, Dieppe Bay point, Black Rocks, Timothy Hill, and many other scenic places. Royston makes sure you get to ALL the best photo ops--up close and personal! He also included a monkey photo op (Royston paid the guy a tip) and we stopped at a little craft market where he bought us all traditional island cookies of sugar cane and coconut--awesome! Once we were done He gave us a choice of chicken, vegetarian or conch rotis that we ate at a portion of South Friars Beach that was beautiful! Especially since we were the only ones there! We could have snorkeled if we wanted; he supplied the gear. It was a bargain at $45 pp, which included lunch and all entrance fees. Oh, and did I mention he had a cooler with all the water, soda and beer you wanted? The other couples were very fun to get to know. Royston is very knowledgeable about his island and made the perfect tour guide. I will caution anyone who is afraid of heights/cliffs... Royston gets very, very close to the edge (of the road, side of the cliff, etc.) enough that I had a few adrenaline rushes, but hey, if you're not living on the edge, you're just not living!
After leaving the ship, we walked about 15 minutes to the St. John Ferry. The ferry stop is almost directly across the street from a local vendor's market where I bought a few souvenirs while we waited for the ferry. The Ferry is $12 each way pp and took about 35 minutes to get to St. John. We took a taxi right off the pier at St. John ($6 pp each way) to Trunk Bay. Trunk Bay is part of the park system and costs $4 pp to get in. We rented two beach chairs, an umbrella, and snorkeling gear for $31 total. (Take your credit card, because they wanted $125 deposit for all this.) Wow! What a beautiful beach! They had nice restrooms and shower facilities, a snack bar, lifeguard, but most of all it was gorgeous and not overly crowded. We snorkeled around the reef and DH even saw a HUGE sea turtle. We stayed here several hours but after talking with some of the other beachcombers, decided to take an earlier ferry back (Red Hook Ferry) so we might see a little more of St. Thomas. The Red Hook Ferry only takes about 10-15 minutes (and is $6 pp each way). Where it drops you off is quite a ways from the cruise ship terminal so you would need to take a taxi back to the ship, but that's what we wanted to do, so no worries. I can't remember, but I think that taxi was $10 pp. The benefit is that the Red Hook Ferry runs every hour, and with the other ferry, we could only go back to St. Thomas at 3:45pm. Since the ship wanted us back on board at 4:15, we didn't want to run it that tight.