My husband and I are both 32 with no children. We have cruised 5 times before (on Carnival, Royal Caribbean and now Celebrity). This was our first Celebrity cruise. We lived in Maryland for 10 years before moving to the West coast a few years ago. We currently reside in Las Vegas, Nevada where I am a web site designer and he is an attorney. Type of Room Booked: Concierge Class stateroom, Cabin 8143. Cruise: 10 Day Mexican Riviera, round-trip from Los Angeles. September 29 - October 10, 2005.
Ports of Call / Shore Excursions
I am not reviewing the ports of call since the Summit sails all over the world and has such a varied itinerary. We have never booked a shore excursion on a cruise and prefer to "do our own thing " while on vacation.
Out of all the cruises I've been on, embarkation was the absolute smoothest. We arrived at the pier a little after 12:30 in the afternoon and we were standing on our stateroom balcony within 20 minutes. Since we were booked in Concierge Class, we had a special line and the service was very fast. After a quick scan of our carry on baggage and a check of our passports and ids we were stopped for the standard embarkation photograph and headed on board.
Once on board, Celebrity's reputation for the highest levels of elegant service began! We were greeted by a white-gloved, tuxedoed employee (the first of many on this voyage). He handed us each a glass of champagne and escorted us to our stateroom. while a talented harpist played quietly in the atrium.
Our stateroom was ready with the door open. Inside we found fresh flowers, a bowl of fresh fruit, chilled ice and water, and a bottle of champagne on ice.
Let me say that the charge for Concierge Class was absolutely, 100% worth it! We received special service in all areas on this cruise. We had priority use of the Concierge desk (though we only used this once, it was still great to know it was there). We had complimentary use of a pair of binoculars that came in handy from our balcony stateroom.
Fresh flowers in a modern flexible vase adorned the desk area and on formal nights, a single long-stemmed rose appeared in a stainless steel vase in the bathroom. Each day a large bowl of fresh fruit was delivered to our room as well as evening canapes (an assortment of 6 small toast rounds topped with a variety of goodies, from shrimp to caviar to proscuitto and melon).
Every day we had a fresh bucket of ice and a carafe filled with chilled water. The fluffy robes were nice as well, as was the super soft, high thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, fluffy duvet, and the menu of pillows (we chose an extra foam and a down pillow). The high power massaging showerhead was a pleasure to use too. The use of a large golf umbrella came in handy as well when the rain started pouring down in port! A decent Celebrity tote bag came in handy too and on the last night before the cruise ended, a very nice nylon collapsible bag and small overnight makeup bag were delivered to our stateroom for our overnight items.
Our luggage was also delivered to us within one hour of sailing. Most people didn't get their luggage until much later.
The one thing that absolutely made CC worth the price was the priority tender service. This saved us so much time in port! Every morning when tender service was required, two VIP vouchers were delivered to our stateroom. These were like magic tickets! You flashed them and you were put on the first available tender immediately. One morning, they even held a tender until we arrived! I was shocked! The early embarkation and debarkation was great too, though debarking was a nightmare as you'll read below.
Everything Celebrity promises to CC guests in their promotional literature was delivered, though the only disappointment was the "personalized stationery. " It was more like paper with a laser printout of your name and cabin number, though it, too, did come in handy!
We were impressed with the layout of our stateroom. The design gave it a true sense of spaciousness and we never lacked for storage space or room to move around. The balcony was large with a nice big table and a small side cocktail table. The chairs had nice, thick blue cushions on them. I also loved how the balcony had clear glass on the bottom so you had an unobstructed view of the ocean.
We found that the balconies weren't as private as on other ships. You could easily see the folks on each side of you, below you and above you. there are also "portholes " on the floor in the Waterfall Cafe upstairs, so if someone decided to get on the hands and knees and look down the hole, they could see right on your balcony and with the position of the mirrors, right into your stateroom. So make sure you keep your curtains closed when you aren't dressed!
The bed was very comfortable and the upgraded luxury bedding was great. Soft sheets and fluffy pillows made it feel like a true floating resort. The fluffy towels were nice as well, and we also had a soft cotton bath rug in the bathroom. We found the bathroom to be not in the best of shape, but it was nothing to seriously complain about -- just a cracked tile here and there. The shower had a curtain and it would have been nicer if it was an actual door, but the shower was large and could accommodate 2 people!
Our bathroom had a large container of cotton balls and swabs, mints, a sewing kit, shower cap and an array of small bottles of shampoo, lotion and more. There were also shampoo and lotion dispensers on the wall.
Our attendant was the best we have ever had on any cruise anywhere, period. Jose was like a ghost -- we hardly ever saw him, but no matter when we left, we came back and our room was spotless.
After the first day, he easily adapted to our lazy schedule with no problem. On the first day at sea, we wanted some extra ice and water. After that, he brought extra ice and water every day. We never, ever had to ask for anything else again! It was weird -- it was almost like he could "sense " what you needed and when you needed it before you even knew you needed it yourself! I am not kidding.
We'd come back from the pool deck and he would have even folded our dirty clothes and placed them in a neat pile! When you order room service, 9 times out of 10 your stateroom attendant will deliver your food. He would never take individual tips for that (we usually give $5 cash each time someone brings our food) so we more than made up for it in a large extra tip at the end of the cruise.
Oh, and there are no animals made out of towels like on other cruise lines, but you do get yummy mocha flavored chocolate on your pillow each night!Dress Code
There's been a lot of speculation on many travel boards about the dress code on board Celebrity.
Let me start by saying that probably 99.9% of cruisers on our voyage respected and honored the dress code each evening. On formal nights there were more tuxedos than suits and more gowns than cocktail dresses, at least on the first formal night. It was fun to dress up for dinner and everyone looked so nice in their gowns and tuxedos. If you do not own a tuxedo, I highly recommend that all gentlemen rent one.
The one thing I hated about the dress code is that it applied to all public areas on the ship after 6 p.m. We found it pretty unpleasant to be sitting in a bar at midnight in a stifling tuxedo and itchy beaded dress. But we, like most others on board, happily complied with the dress code.
Each night at the dining room, the Maitre'D would greet everyone entering but I never saw him turn anyone away. I also never saw anyone turned away at the shows either, however, most people respected the dress code.
Another thing to note: no jeans are allowed in the Cosmopolitan dining room at any time -- not for breakfast, lunch or for dinner. You can wear shorts to breakfast and lunch, but NO JEANS, EVER. Casual is the order of the day at all other times.
I'm not a cruise snob -- I say let people wear whatever they want since they are on vacation. But at the same time, I believe in respecting cruising traditions when appropriate, and it wasn't hard for us to pack our tuxedo, suits, cocktail dresses and gown. And it's not hard for you, either!
Common Areas / Public Rooms
This ship is loaded with privately commissioned modern artwork and it is gorgeous. From sculptures to paintings to photographs, the ship is a floating modern art gallery! Even the hallways to the cabins (and our stateroom) had original photographs / artwork on the walls. Fresh flowers abound on this ship too. Our stateroom had long stemmed roses and fresh flowers, and the public bathrooms on each deck always had fresh flowers in them!
The most inspired area on the ship was the Bar at the Edge of the Earth. Unfortunately, it was woefully underutilized except for the $40 bingo games. The bar was co-created by Cirque du Solei and is the funkiest place you'll ever see. Be sure to check out the oversized cabanas at the back of the club -- snag one of those and you can lie down and look out the front of the ship. A perfect activity just before the sun sets.
The other bars were decent. Celebrity hypes the Summit as having a Martini Bar and Champagne Bar, but it's actually the same bar and isn't that great. We were disappointed in this.
The pool deck was great with plenty of lounge chairs and two large pools and spas. The Thalassotherapy pool had a very nice area as well. Use of this pool was free.
The shopping boulevard was adequate with the requisite onboard liquor shop (if you buy the liquor, they hold it until the last night of your cruise -- though we had no trouble brining liquor onboard after a day in port), several jewelry and watch shops, a couple of clothing and souvenir shops, and a super Bijou Turner store where everything is $10.
My favorite part of the ship were the glass elevators. This is something I've never seen on a cruise ship. It was so fun to be able to ride up and down while you were looking out at the sea. The showroom was one of the nicest I have ever seen at sea.
The ship itself was spotlessly clean and Celebrity seemed to be very concerned with keeping it that way. Automatic hand sanitizers were placed around the ship near dining areas and on the gangway. The Waterfall Cafe was a nice eating area. Make sure you sneak a peek at the portholes that are on the floor in parts of the Cafe -- you can stand on them and look straight down at the ocean! Our stateroom was in very good condition (just a couple of cracked tiles in the shower).
I have to say that we also found the ship to be extremely warm -- they seemed to have a problem keeping the public areas well cooled, especially the Waterfall Cafe, the dining room and the bars. We were fine in our stateroom and the air conditioner worked great. Just something to note.
All in all, the decor was very understated and muted and was not gaudy or tacky in any respect. Anyone who loves the glitz and glamour will be disappointed in this ship. Anyone looking for 5 star hotel decor will love it!
Maybe this is because I am young, but I am not exaggerating when I say there was absolutely nothing to do on this cruise! My husband loved it and loved just relaxing. I got a bit antsy on the third day at sea. While we knew this ship attracted an older crowd, I really wasn't prepared at the lack of activities. I didn't want Carnival (too rowdy for us), but I didn't want a floating retirement village either. THAT WAS NOT MEANT TO BE DEROGATORY -- I love older folks and we met some super elderly friends during the voyage. I just want to make sure other young couples are prepared for this before they book a Celebrity cruise.
We would 100% book another Celebrity cruise when we want to relax and do nothing, which was one of our main goals on this trip.
Let me give you an example of activities offered during one of the days at sea (this is typed directly off my Celebrity Daily paper): Catholic Mass, Walk-A-Thon, Catholic Mass, Veterans' Get Together, Shuffleboard, Men's Doubles Ping Pong, Computer Classes, Informal Bridge Play, Scrabble, Chess, Backgammon, Paddle Tennis Court, Movie Time (theater showed new- to- video films), Afternoon Bridge Play, Silk Flower Arrangement Workshop, Arts and Crafts (I'm not making this up), Sunset Cocktail Hour, Bingo (at a whopping $30 per person to play), Vineyard at Sea Wine Auction, Art Auction, and Volleyball.
On some days there were line dancing classes and there were 2 events on the pool deck at night -- a " Melons on Parade " fruit buffet with Caribbean line dancing and a country themed night with -- you guessed it -- line dancing! I thought the activities on this ship were severely lacking in both creativity and general appeal.
We weren't the only ones who felt this way either. The one night they had karaoke for just one hour, it was standing room only. A few fun nighttime activities were a masquerade ball and a 50s sock hop (though few people participated). The casino was adequate and the dealers were friendly.Entertainment
I won't mince words: the entertainment on this ship was absolutely abysmal. We were shocked at how truly terrible Celebrity's entertainment program was onboard the Summit! I do not feel we are being overly harsh. Let me explain why I would rate their entertainment an "F."
1. Lack of live music. There was hardly any live music onboard this ship and the music that was live was just atrocious. With the exception of the Martini Quartet, a lovely string quartet that played classical instruments in the Cova Cafe, the entertainers were not that talented.
Most of the entertainers were the kind you just feel so sorry and embarrassed for.
The "party band " Headlines was so awful they routinely "forgot " the words to the songs they were singing. Maybe this wasn't such a bad thing since they couldn't carry a tune. The singers at the karaoke show were much better.
Michael's Club featured Betsy Bogart, a cabaret singer and piano player who specialized in easy listening favorites (think James Taylor, Carole King, Carly Simon). Betsy was great the first few nights, but her repertoire was so limited that after hearing "Both Sides Now " and "How Sweet it Is " no fewer than 3 times per night each show, it got old very fast. Paul Strowe was an average guitarist who played Jimmy Buffet songs by the pool, though he sounded like your father in law singing along with the radio. The Savoy Duo was by far the worst. This band sounded like a bad 70s synthesizer organ. Just awful!
In most other bars and lounges, prerecorded music was the order of the day. We didn't expect rock and roll, but we expected better than this.
2. Production Shows. The production shows were horrible too. They were just so terribly outdated! In ExtravaDanza, the singing and dancing was pretty good, but halfway through the show, the California Raisins came out and started singing "I Heard it Through the Grapevine."! Yes, the CALIFORNIA RAISINS! They were popular 20 years ago!
I wish I could say that is as low as the entertainment sunk, but I'm afraid it gets much, much worse.
The next night we were treated to the "artistry " of a Xylosynth. Yes, a man playing a synthesized xylophone. Shall I continue, or are your sides busting from laughing? You would be laughing, since you didn't sit through the actual performances!
The comedian Rich Pupura was funny and not the worst I have ever seen. The one bright star was Atonio Salci, a pianist who was the first honest-to-goodness talent on the ship. His music wasn't the best but he was a very good entertainer.
3. See the Activities review above.
All in all, it was hard to get a good, satisfying meal on this ship and it is darn near impossible to get something to eat after midnight.
The Waterfall Cafe did not have good food. Each day they would serve a run of the mill breakfast and lunch buffet. The lunch buffet would have a different theme each day, like Mexican or Asian, but it was never anything special.
The buffet was closed for dinner and became the casual dining restaurant with table service and a menu. You had to make reservations for this service if you chose not to eat in the main Cosmopolitan dining room. We did not try this alternative casual dining as we were so happy with the service in the main dining room, though the menus for the casual dining restaurant looked very good (and served less gourmet and more "picky eater " foods such as shrimp cocktail, roast beef and pastas).
The Waterfall Cafe did have delicious homemade sorbet and ice cream in a variety of exotic flavors, but it was very melty all the time and hard to eat. It also had a made to order pasta station and pizza station, but I found the pizza to be very plain (Carnival's pizza is much better -- yes, that is a fact) except for the individual make your own pizzas (you get a choice of gourmet toppings like blue cheese and sun dried tomatoes) and the pasta bar was disgusting and made the whole grill smell like rotten garlic (my stomach is turning now just thinking about it). One some days the grill would run a deli sandwich stand but I found the sandwiches weren't tasty either! A huge disappointment. In the evenings for a short period of time, a sushi bar was open.
The Poolside Grill did not have good food but each day they had a special menu item (chili cheese hot dogs, fish sandwiches, chicken parmesan sandwiches) and great french fries. The burgers and hot dogs are what you would expect on a large cruise ship; edible but not gourmet.
The main dining room had very good food. If you are a picky eater, or even remotely adverse to trying new things, you will have trouble eating in the dining room. The menu choices were not too varied and were often "strange " to most folks. If you love duck, frog legs, rack of lamb and the like, you will love the dining room.
Every poultry dish I had on board this ship was excellent. I only ate seafood twice and it was good too, as well as the pasta dishes in the dining room. The beef dishes were quite good and the steaks were incredible. The fish selections are unusual -- not your usual mahi mahi or salmon or flounder. The soups were unusual too but very good. There was also a chilled soup selection each night, the most inspired being the "chilled cherry " soup.
Duck was on the menu every night. My personal memorable meals on this voyage were a seafood kabob (with fish, scallops and shrimp) served with fragrant basmati rice and a fork-tender filet mignon. My husband loved the escargot, specialty salads and prime rib.
The best foods on board were the homemade salad dressings and the pastries. I cannot rave enough about how great they were! Be sure to try every dressing that is offered -- you will not be disappointed (are there any other diehard Celebrity dressing / Goombay dressing fans out there)? And yes, on the final formal night, lobster tails are served. And they are huge!
Room Service had an inspired menu but uninspired food. The vegetable lasagna sounded good but was just a bowl with mushrooms, peppers and onions with one lasagna noodle spread across the top and cheese melted on top. The chicken noodle soup was awful -- more like a Japanese soup with clear broth and a small amount of thin noodles. The sandwiches were mediocre.
As a Concierge Class guest, we had a special expanded breakfast menu that was absolutely fabulous! We ordered full breakfasts in our stateroom. The menu was varied and the food was good. My favorite was the yogurt and granola parfait, a large goblet layered with vanilla yogurt, homemade granola, blueberries and strawberries. I ate about 7 of those during the cruise! And it should be noted that each night's dinner in the Cosmopolitan Restaurant can be ordered and delivered to your stateroom. Just ask your stateroom attendant for the evening's menu and he will bring it in and set it up for you.
My favorite part of the cruise was the nightly serving of Gourmet Bites. From 11:30 pm until after midnight, white gloved employees wander the common areas with trays of tasty hors d'oeuvres. They circle first with a tray of cold items, then hot items, then desserts. This was one of my favorite parts of the entire cruise. Miniature beef wellington, fish, caviar, croissants, mini pastries, tempura shrimp, miniature pizzas...everything you could imagine. There was a different selection each night and they were not served on themed buffet nights.
I know food reviews are extremely subjective, but I have tried to be as honest and descriptive as possible.
The service on this ship was impeccable. I have never been treated so "famously " as I was on this cruise. Celebrity gets the service aspect of their cruises 100% right on the nose. From the housekeeping staff to the bar staff to security and casino dealers, the service was incredible. The service even extended to days in port -- as we disembarked in Acapulco, there was a rainstorm. Celebrity employees held your umbrellas as you walked off the ship so you could hand over your keycards without getting soaked. In the steamy Puerto Vallarta, a valet was present with ice cold towels to help cool you down while you waited for the ship's tenders. (The towels made appearances in each port and in Zihuatanejo where the tender line was quite long, a server carried around a silver tray of ice cold water and juices).
I felt like everyone on board truly enjoyed their jobs, from the clerks in the shops to the auctioneers to the room stewards and waiters. This is the first time on any cruise that we have tipped well above and beyond the recommended standard. We even gave the dining room maitre'd extra cash -- he was at our table promptly every dinner to chat and see how our meals were.
The bar waitress promptly brought our glasses of Coke each night in the dining room. The first night I commented how much I loved the lemon that adorned the glass and each night our Coke glasses became more fanciful (with miniature umbrellas, lime swirls, triple cherries, etc.). A bunch of fun. Our waiters, Lloyd and Glen, were fabulous as well. After our first meal they learned our eating patterns to a "t. " They knew what we would order. Amazing. We tipped them 100% more than was suggested, as I'm sure most guests onboard did. The service was that incredible.
When I wasn't feeling well one night and missed dinner, our head waiter called our stateroom to make sure we were okay. When I told him I wasn't feeling well, he showed up with a glass of ginger ale! The next morning when I was walking around the ship, I had no less than 4 employees come up to me to ask how I was feeling BY NAME (the cabin steward, our assistant waiter, and two of the bar waitresses). It was like I was a part of the family.
If you want to be pampered in every way imaginable and be called by name as soon as your second day at sea, then book a Celebrity Cruise and you won't be disappointed. I have so many super service stories to tell that I could fill 30 pages.
This was, I'm sorry to report, a complete disaster. I'm sure there will be many posts about this particular cruise and the disembarkation mess. I don't blame the cruise line -- the hold up was obviously with U.S. Customs. They had to clear everyone on board the ship. Once you cleared customs, you were given a pass and were able to disembark as soon as your color was called. As a Concierge Class passenger, we were the 5th color called off the ship (great since we were just driving from L.A. back home to Las Vegas). We were off board by 10:30 a.m.