Embarkation: We (Captain's Club Elite members) were ushered right on to the ship. Regular boarding started at 11:30. By 12:30 we had unpacked our carry-on baggage and headed off to the welcome aboard lunch. Our luggage was delivered at 4 just as we headed off to the lifeboat drill.
Elite Captains Club: Priority embarkation and disembarkation was great. Received vase with 2 red roses and a small box of Cova chocolates as a welcome aboard gift. We received an invitation to Elegant Tea in the Normandy, which was wonderful, special on-board coupons for Fortunes Casino and The Aqua Spa, an invitation to Wine Tasting, a special Captain's Club cocktail party and a behind-the-scenes theatre tour invitation.
Cabin: Our inside category 10 cabin, 3057, was perfect. My husband thought it would be difficult going back to an inside cabin after 3 cruises with a balcony but it was not a problem at all. The location was perfect, making negotiating the ship a breeze. The night light and umbrella were nice touches. While the hairdryer is still a little on the hot side for prolonged use, there was an improvement over the other ships we have been on.
Dining: Cosmopolitan Restaurant: We had breakfast there every day, lunch twice and dinner 9 out of 10 nights. The service throughout was excellent and the quality of the food was reminiscent of the Celebrity of old. I had beef every night and the only minor disappointment was the N.Y. steak. My husband tried a great variety (veal, lamb, seafood, pork) and was pleased with every meal. The French Potato Pie, our absolute favorite, was wonderful but we found many of the lunch offerings a little on the exotic side for our taste. A nice improvement over recent trips was how amenable the staff were to requests for a table for two. Our table, 413, was a table for four set up for two which was wonderful. It was tucked away in the back corner out of the hustle and bustle but still allowing us a great view of the staircase. An ideal location.
Waterfall Cafe: We ate there a few times but, with the exception of the Oriental Buffet, baked potatoes and fresh pasta, we found the food to be just warm. This problem is not just a Celebrity issue which is the reason we normally avoid buffets. The selection on the Oriental Buffet was wonderful. We found the Afternoon Tea selections to be much nicer than previous experience; they had more "normal" fare. The Chocolate Lovers midnight buffet was disappointing; the location doesn't make it appealing for photo opportunities and the selection made it just another excuse to eat.
Waterfall Grill: We had lunch here most days and found the hamburgers, hotdogs and french fries appealing. The pizza was never hot, sometimes barely warm.
Normandie Restaurant: Very enjoyable experience, excellent food and service and the dEcor is beautiful. We did not get the same feeling as our very first visit to the S.S. United States on the Infinity but will definitely book again for our next trip.
Staff: Cruise Director Simon Weir was fantastic; charming, full of energy and a very visible presence at all the functions. It's no wonder he keeps so trim; running from one function to another. His "Old Macdonald" song had us rolling in the seats with tears streaming from our eyes. He was far better than the "professional" comedian and this was a "do not miss" event. Anne Lepki, Manager, Captain's Club and Cruise Sales was a delightful young lady and treated everyone like special guests. Noel Grzetic, Social Hostess, was absolutely delightful and a credit to Canada. Our cabin stewards, Albano and Sison, were excellent; invisible. Bartolome Funez, a cabin steward in our section, started every day for us on a positive note with his enthusiasm and sweetness. He really set the tone for the entire trip. Czajka Wlodzimierz, Poland, our Ass't. Maitre'd, was charming and attentive. Sylvanus and Bandarsak were wonderful in the dining room. Every single officer, staff and crew member were first class.
Entertainment: Production Shows: The Magic of Broadway - skipped this, not our type of music A Night of Stars - excellent, familiar tunes Classique - La Danza - very good, especially Phantom of the Opera selections Encore - pretty good Miscellaneous: Welcome Aboard Show - great Farewell Variety Showtime (pre dinner)- skipped it Gossamer Magic - thought they were terrible Reka & Farkas, Aerialists - excellent Joe Mulligan, Comedian - thought he was terrible David Meyer (pre dinner) - not our taste Mozart Duo - Rendez-vous Lounge - music great, accents too strong for singing Nina Brooks - Cova/Cosmopolitan - excellent Mark Livingood, guitarist - pretty good Dan Loranger, pianist , Michael's Club - never went Celebrity Orchestra - excellent Celebrity Singers/Dancers - excellent Party Bands - Five 4U and Voltz - pretty good
Ports of Call: St. Maarten: Ship was cleared at 8:20. The pier area is lovely, taxi prices are posted and the waiting areas are shaded and well marked. There were 8 of us going to Orient Beach so the cost was $5. p.p. The cost for 2 chaise lounges with umbrella was $15. We were swimming by 9 and left the beach at 12. There is lots of seaweed on the beach and unless you have a particular desire to see Orient Beach I would suggest you just swim right in Philipsburg. When we returned to the ship we were greeted with "frosty towels" which are actually very cold facecloths and a very nice, welcome touch. After lunch on board we took a water taxi ($5. each all day) to Philipsburg for a little shopping. There was a bad fire here two weeks ago and you can still smell the smoke in the town. Also, there is lots of renovations going on both to businesses and the beach. This is really going to be beautiful when it's all done. The price for a beer or bottled water on the pier was $1. but sodas were $1.50! Weather was perfect.
St. Lucia: Arrived at 8; ship cleared at 9:05. The pier area is beautiful with lots of gorgeous tropical flowers. Sitting on deck you could listen to the birds and roosters and watch the planes at the airport. We had a torrential downpour which lasted for about an hour; otherwise, the weather was beautiful. The lovely shopping area was right where the Summit was docked so there were no transportation costs involved.
Barbados: Ordered a bouquet of tropical flowers, complete with bamboo vase, for $15. at the Exotic Blooms cart in the port terminal. Arranged to pick it up when we returned to the ship in the afternoon. We had planned to go to Sam Lord's Castle but apparently due to mismanagement they are now out of business and no taxi would go there. We ended up taking a 20 minute taxi ride ($20.) to the Bougainvillea Beach Resort where we paid $15 for two day passes. There was a large washroom to change in and there was ample shade around the pool and on the beach. We paid $3. for 2 small plastic cups of Diet Coke from the hotel restaurant which tasted terrible. A guest suggested buying our beverages/snacks just 2 minutes down the road in a little variety store where we got 2-16 oz. bottles of Diet Coke and 2 bags of chips for $3. They also sold sandwiches which the local construction workers were buying. Maxwell Beach, where the hotel is located, was lovely and the water perfect. We found the beaches in Barbados superior to Orient Beach which was covered in seaweed. We had arranged for the same taxi driver to pick us up at 2 and he arrived as arranged. Weather was perfect.
St. Kitts: A 3 hour taxi tour around the island and to view Frigate Peninsula cost $70. This cost would have been the same for 4. We visited Romney Gardens and Caribelle Batik where fine island cotton is hand painted. The grounds were beautiful and the prices very reasonable. We visited Brimstone Hill and the view was well worth the $5. per person admission; breathtaking. Black Rocks was impressive as was Frigate Bay Peninsula. The windward beach at North Frigate Bay is battered by the Atlantic surf. On the leeward side, the beach is met by the calm Caribbean waters of Frigate Bay. Taxi tour prices are set but I would not recommend our driver, Kenneth Burnham, as he tried frequently to get us to change our route/price when we came out of Caribelle Batik. When we wouldn't budge he lost all interest in being a guide and drove so fast we had to be very firm in telling him to stop for pictures. He finally said he would take us to view Frigate Peninsula without additional charge, we could just give him something if we wanted. As this detour only took an additional fifteen minutes I added $10. to the $60. quoted price. To be fair we did not hear any other comments on this subject so assume we just got a bad apple. We had the driver drop us at Independence Square and from there we walked to The Circus and back to the ship. The sunset was beautiful and numerous passengers agreed with us that St. Kitts reminded them of Hawaii. It is a truly awesome, naturally beautiful island and I am so glad Celebrity has it on their itinerary. The weather was perfect. We had wanted to visit Turtle Beach to see the monkeys which would be an additional $40. We decided to do that excursion next trip and were glad we didn't go when other passengers told us there were no monkeys on the beach as a result of a dog attack on the monkeys last week which had scared them off.
St. Thomas: We caught the 8:40 shuttle ($3. each) into Charlotte Amalie and easily made the 9:00 ferry ($7. each) to St. John. It is a 45 minute trip and very scenic. We paid $45. for a tour of the island from 9:50 - 11:15 and, included in the cost, our driver dropped us back at Hawksnest Bay at 11:30 and picked us up, as agreed, an hour later. We saw some lovely sights but think you see the nicest parts of St. John on the $4. jitney ride to Trunk Bay. For a change we went to Hawksnest Bay. Although there were no facilities, with the exception of picnic tables covered with a roof, the beach was amazing and the water was incredible. We caught the 1:15 ferry back to Charlotte Amalie. The "frosty towels" were a wonderful touch and much appreciated. Weather was perfect.
Observations: - We loved the really whimsical artwork; especially the glass seagull wall outside the Waterfall Cafe and "homeless" person on the pool deck. This is a job I would gladly apply for! - The water temperature in the Caribbean and, as a result, the outdoor pools, was fantastic. I don't ever remember the Caribbean being this warm and I normally find the outdoor pools too cold so it was just perfect. - Le Grand Buffet was incredible; the ice sculptures ever more magnificent than normal. - For the first time ever, every "flame" in the Celebrity Theatre was working - There were only 30 kids onboard and whenever we did see them they seemed very happy with their activities and we found the children's activities staff to be very friendly and enthusiastic.
Disembarkation: We (Captain's Club Elite members) had our own departure lounge (Gamma meeting room) complete with coffee, juice and pastries. We went to the lounge at 8:30 and Anne Lepki, Manager, Captain's Club and Cruise Sales personally came and escorted each colour group as they were called. We had blue, air arrangements, and we left the ship at 9:25. We had no problem locating our three pieces of luggage and finding a porter.
Air Arrangements: Fantastic. Flew American Airlines, no line-ups, no problems with customs or immigration. There was confusion at Miami Airport where we were told our luggage was on carousel #27, then #24, then, finally #23 but this had no reflection on Celebrity. We went directly to the bus and ten minutes later we were on our way for a forty minute drive to the port. On the return we waited on the bus for approximately 20 minutes then headed for Miami International Airport. By 11:47 we were at the boarding gate. There were long line-ups at Pearson International for customs clearance but it was well organized and the lines moved quickly. One note: The ship's departure was delayed due to mechanical problems with one of the airlines. If they hadn't booked through Celebrity the passengers would have been S.O.L.
They say nothing is perfect so I've listed some minor Negatives to pacify those who truly believe this: - We could faintly smell the smoke from next cabin in bathroom only. - Immigration in St. Thomas was a bit disorganized but the Celebrity staff tried to rectify the stampede by checking the times on your "invitation". Lots of people for 7:15 showed up early hoping to get through quickly. When they called the 6:45 group it was bedlam until an announcement was made saying only 6:45 guests were to be in line. Once people saw that Celebrity staff were actually checking the documentation they sat and things settled down. - Tiles around pool are in very bad shape, many missing, more falling off daily. - I much prefer the "old" pillow chocolates, much superior to the new brand. - Lots of bare walls in the Waterfall Cafe; lacks the interesting artwork in the Infinity cafe. but, overall, we preferred the artwork of the Summit - Crew painting/using power wash on windy days at sea when guests were on deck.
We had such a wonderful time we've booked the same ship, same itinerary for March and October 2004!