We are experienced cruisers but this was our first time on Celebrity. We flew into Anchorage the day prior to our cruise, but due to the length of flight and timing we did not arrive at the airport until 10:05 pm. Thus, we chose to stay at the Fairfield Inn by Marriott (3 miles from airport and with free 24 hour shuttle). We found the Fairfield to be very nice (appears to be brand new) and the included breakfast was a good way to start the day.
We used the shuttle the next morning to go back to the airport and dropped our luggage with the Celebrity rep and were told to be back by 11 to check in for the train to Seward (as it turns out we could have been back later since the train did not even leave until 2 pm). We then took a taxi into the city center and walked around a bit. The weather was crystal clear and we were able to clearly see Mt. McKinley in the distance. Downtown was pleasant and we enjoyed our brief time there. We then used a taxi to return to the airport. We had been told by the Celebrity rep that we could simply ride the bus back from Egan center, but when we tried that we learned we would have to stand in a line for at least an hour to obtain bus boarding passes. It was simpler to use the taxi. The taxi fare from airport to city center is about $16.00 each way.
Once we arrived back at airport we went to the train departure lounge and were checked in for the cruise within five minutes. This was simple and painless and so much better than the crazy mess at Egan center.
The train ride was nice and we saw lots of wildlife on the way. Some people were complaining that they had been promised dome cars and this train had none. We had not been told that so had no complaints. We did not use the dining car but did have a drink from the bar. I would highly recommend eating before boarding this train as the one dining car was always full and people were still going in for lunch as late as 430 pm when we were to arrive at 6 pm. We had eaten a sandwich at the airport so were spared this experience. Arrival was right on time and right at the dock.
Embarkation went fairly quickly with the security screening being the slowest, but even that was pretty fast. We were greeted by an escort (but no welcome drinks) and shown to our cabin. One suitcase was already there and the other arrived within 30 minutes.
Our cabin was a standard outside ocean view on the Continental Deck (deck 2) and was very nice. It had a large round window which provided a good view, a queen size bed, a sofa, desk with chair, two night stands, mini-fridge, electronic safe, and adequate storage. The large ledge under the window proved to be a good place to store books, magazines, etc. We were comfortable in this cabin and our attendant did an excellent job in keeping everything clean and made up. No complaints at all about the cabin. The location of this cabin was also quite good as we were just around the corner from the staircase and lifts and had easy access to the rest of the ship.
The ship was in excellent condition. We observed none of the wear and tear others have complained about and had no problems getting exercise equipment. Of course it was always around 630 or 700 am when I went to the gym so I am sure that helped. The walking/jogging track on the 11th deck is a great place for early morning walks or runs as well. The ship is laid out so that it never felt crowded and we never had to wait in any long lines for anything. We are not casino people but we did contribute a few (very few) quarters to the slots. The casino is nice and was always busy when open. The shopping area is also well laid out and had a nice selection of items in the shops. We found the whole ship to be very nicel.
We found the meals in the main dining room to be generally quite good with a few exceptions. The desserts in general were disappointing and just not well done. The lobster night was a major flop - my wife's was undercooked and mine was so tough and dry I could not even cut it with a knife. Both were sent back and replaced with the veal dish, which was somewhat better. The whole meal was overall poor - the only thing that was even remotely decent was the Baked Alaska dessert. That was the only night things were bad though. We ate in the Normandie one night and it was excellent for both food and service and well worth the extra charge. We had breakfast in our cabin three mornings, once at the buffet, and the others day at the Spa cafe. All were good. The Spa cafe is a well kept secret and is a wonderful place for breakfast and lunch. It turned out to be our favorite place for eating on the whole ship. We had lunch there most days. Great light food and the staff is the same that works in the Normandie. We were told that the food is also prepared by the Normandie kitchen but do not know if this is true.
We found the choices of bars and lounges to be adequate and felt that the prices charged were not out of line compared with land based resorts or top end hotels. The Martini Bar and Rendezvous Lounge were the most popular and we enjoyed them very much. The band in the Rendezvous Lounge was quite good. We went to the "Bar At The Edge Of The Earth" and found it to be interesting and different. The White Night there was also an interesting evening but overall few people went to this bar. I suspect that the Cirque characters are beyond the average cruiser on the Alaska cruises and not understood. I also wonder if this feature will be retained in the long run.
The spa was enjoyed by my wife a couple of times and we both really enjoyed the Thelassotherapy pool. It was seldom crowded and was very relaxing and soothing.
We enjoyed the shows presented in the theatre. The singers and dancers were good and the ladder guy very entertaining. The couple that did the acrobatics were fantastic and the highlight of the shows (they appeared two nights). Overall the productions in the theatre were very good and entertaining. We did like the fact that since we had late dinner seatings that a few evenings the shows for us were before dinner at 700 pm which avoided a real late night.
The time at Hubbard glacier was awesome. It was a clear day and the seas were smooth and the ship was within a few hundred yards of the glacier. There was lots of calving and we got lots of excellent photos.
In Juneau we had booked our own whale watching trip with Orca Enterprises and Captain Larry. Awesome experience and saw many whales, some so close to boat that their spray soaked us. A big plus that our on board guide was Dirk the naturalist that was also on board the Summit all week. He is apparently hooked up with Captain Larry as well. This was an EXCELLENT excursion. Following that we stopped at Mendenhall Glacier and then back to town for sightseeing on our own and of course shopping.
Skagway was very good as well, except that it rained most of the day. We did the Skagway train and it was very good, but as mentioned by others it is not something to do more than once. We found the town of Skagway to be very nice and found a good local bar (Moe's Frontier Bar) and had a good cold beer. A real local place and we were the only tourists there.
Icy Strait was another drizzly day. We tendered in and walked around the restored area a bit and then went into the village of Hoonah on the shuttle bus. That was very interesting to see the active fishing village and get a feel for the way the people live there. We really enjoyed that.
Ketchikan was also mixed rain and clear. We went to the totem pole area at Saxman (sp?) Village and that was very interesting. We also enjoyed the Creek Street shops. We found Ketchikan to be a nice town and enjoyed our time there.
The time spent in each port was more than adequate and it was nice that the ship was close enough (Skagway was the farthest away) to the main part of town that it was easy to come and go. The only tendered port was Icy Strait Point. We wished that Sitka would have been on the agenda. In looking at next years cruise schedule we noticed that Sitka has been added to some of the cruises as well. That would have been a real plus.
The last day at sea cruising into Vancouver was sunny and warm and the decks came alive with activity. The area around the outdoor pool was busy with sunbathers and it was warn enough to be on the outside decks in shorts and t-shirt. A wonderful way to end the cruise. Arrival in Vancouver the next morning was an awesome sight. Seeing the city come into view with all the lights still on was very nice.
We had requested an early disembarkation as we had a car reserved for our drive to Lake Louise in Banff National Park and the request was honored. We were told to be in the Rendezvous Lounge at 800 am. Once there we had to wait only 10 minutes before our color was called and we were off the ship, claimed our luggage, went through customs, hailed a taxi, and went to the Hertz office on Seymour Street. Once we completed our paperwork we were on the road by 930 am. Very nice indeed.
Overall we give the Summit a big thumbs up. The ship is great, the staff excellent, and the overall Alaska experience is wonderful. We will cruise with Celebrity again for sure.