We took the land-cruise 13 day option from July 16 through July 29 on the Celebrity Summit. We started off in Fairbanks and the two excursions there were the Discovery Riverboat and the El Dorado mine. They were okay but nothing spectacular.
We took the train to Denali on Tuesday and the only wildlife we saw was one moose in the distance. We did the Tundra Wilderness Tour at Denali and we saw some caribou and two moose relatively close to the bus but the only bears we saw were at least one mile away and visible only with the driver's personal telescope. I think that the impression is sometimes conveyed that if you drive through Denali all kinds of animals will be right next to the bus and that is certainly not the case.
The third day we stopped at Talkeetna to primarily view Mt. McKinley and we lucked out with a clear day and the view was spectacular.
On Thursday morning we took a small plane and landed on a glacier at McKinley and that was very good (if pricey). Starting on Thursday is when I began to get the impression that we were going places simply to fill out the week. We arrived in Anchorage on Thursday afternoon and all we did was walk around the city and go out to dinner.
Friday morning we went to a Native American cultural center in Anchorage and that could have been skipped as far as I was concerned. Friday night we went to the Alyeska Lodge in Girdwood and there was really nothing to do there. We had reservations to eat at the very pricey (but good) Seven Glaciers restaurant on Friday night.
On Saturday morning, everyone just hung around the lobby waiting for the bus to leave at 1:30 to go to the ship in Seward. Once we left Talkeetna and saw Mt. McKinley, we were just killing time until Saturday in Seward.
Let me point out that the tour was extremely well organized by Celebrity from the moment we hit the airport in Fairbanks on our first day. Luggage was moved very efficiently and every detail was carefully explained. There was no excuse for getting lost or not knowing what was next on the itinerary.
Boarding the Summit on Saturday went well and the buffet was open when we got on and a full course dinner was offered right thereafter. We were on the Concierge level on deck 9.
To summarize the food, we had no complaints about any of the three meals we had every day, be it in the buffet or in the Cosmopolitan restaurant. I thought that all of the choices were excellent and our waiter and assistant waiter were very good. At almost any time of day, you could find something good to eat if you were hungry. A Midnight buffet was offered on one night and the presentation was spectacular with ice sculptures, etc.
The entertainment was pretty good considering that it was a cruise ship and not a large Vegas hotel. The comedian was funny and a Cirque de Soleil was pretty good, considering the small cast. The bands that played in the various lounges also were good. You can't expect a full blown Broadway production on a cruise ship and I think Summit does a pretty good job.
I will give brief comments on the shore excursions that we took. White Pass Railroad was overpriced for what is basically a slow train ride with some modest scenery. I would not recommend it and Skagway is just one big gift shop that is open from May to September. The Mendenhall Float Tour in Juneau was also overpriced for what is nothing more than a ride in a pontoon boat. You get nowhere close to the glacier and you don't see any wildlife. Again, I would not recommend it at the price of over $100. At Icy Strait we took the "Bear Tour" and saw no bears and it ended up being another $104 to ride in a school bus. There is really very little to do at Icy Strait and I question why the ship stops there.
Thursday was Ketchikan and that is another dazzling array of t-shirt stores and jewelry stores. I saw where the Lumberjack Show is located and it is simply attached to a gift shop on the pier and it does not look like it is worthwhile but some people have to be entertained when they are off the ship so more power to them if they can get people to pay to see it.
The staff on the Summit is excellent and our room attendant was very good and attentive. Our room was certainly big enough for us and I wondered how big some of the smaller rooms were in comparison but I was not able to see any.
It is a beautiful ship with very little signs of wear and tear. I would certainly cruise on it again.