We've just returned from a week aboard the Celebrity Summit in the Southern Caribbean, and can say without reservation that we had a wonderful time! A few hiccups here and there, the trip met ALMOST all of the standards we've come to expect from Celebrity.
A little about us: We're two friends in our early 30's who met in college, and continue to travel together despite living in separate cities nearly 12 years later. We're always mistaken for married, and always get that perplexed look when we ask for the beds to be separated! In the last four year's we've cruised four times with Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, and each of us has at least three other cruises with various lines under our belts. We're both savvy travelers and often pick adventures and excursions off the beaten path, and rarely through the cruise ship.
We originally booked this cruise in early October 2012 directly with Celebrity. At the time, it was a great rate for Aqua Class (A2) at $999 per person. About a week later, Celebrity posted a new promo for Caribbean sailings in which they covered your prepaid gratuities and offered an OBC (on board credit) of $200. A quick call to my Celebrity booking agent, and we were re-booked with no questions asked at the same rate under the new promo. Over the next few months, we watched the cabin rate rise and fall, and rise again. Confident we had a good deal, a last minute price adjustment to sell off open cabins a week before sailing posted a Guarantee Suite (W) rate of $999. Once again, a quick call to Celebrity, and they changed our category, and even adjusted the covered gratuities to include the additional that suite guests pay. 24 hours later we were assigned to an Accessible Sky Suite (Cabin 9117), all promo's in tact, and paying a total of $999 per person plus tax. I share these details about booking only to emphasize how critical it can be to watch rates. Not only will Celebrity honor whatever the current rate is for your cabin is prior to final payment (adjusting down when appropriate); but you can also snag a great upgrade after final payment if available. The downside? They won't tell you... you need to search for it!
Despite our best efforts at coordinating our arrival times at the airport from two different cities, the airlines had other plans! I arrived in San Juan directly from New York (JFK) around 10:00am while my friend was delayed and didn't arrive until just after 3:00pm. After collecting my luggage and confident that my travel buddy for the week would eventually make it, I decided to spend my time waiting on the ship. Cabs were readily available, and 10 minutes and $22 later, I was at the ship. Check in went smoothly with no lines and no waiting (note to all - not all parties in a cabin need to check in at the same time - who knew!?), and at 11:00am on the dot, they let us board the ship. Champagne awaited us few who were arriving early, and were greeted with warm smiles from the crew.
Cabins were announced as ready at 1:00pm. At 4:00 we took another lap around the ship when we were both on board, and luggage arrived about an hour later. Early dinner, and muster drill at 7:45. Quick, to the point, and we set sail at 8:30pm.
Sky Suite 9117
We were lucky enough to snag a guarantee suite (W) at the last minute, and were assigned Accessible Sky Suite 9117. The cabin is located on deck 9 just forward of the mid-ship elevators on the port side. We cringed a little when we first learned the location, but ultimately were thrilled with the placement. Despite concerns of noise from the pool deck above, it was generally quiet. The loudest by far was the night of the White Party (Wednesday night before our sea day) when music could be heard until well past midnight on the pool deck. Never once could we hear the elevator, and traffic in the hallways wasn't an issue either. A few footsteps from above as kids ran by on a couple occasions, but no deck chair noise, and quiet every evening and morning. Being mid-ship made getting around incredibly easy.
The room itself is spectacular. Very spacious given it's 'accessible' status, and while there's no walk-in closet, there is plenty of cabinet and closet storage for a week's trip. The bathroom is without a tub, and storage is at a minimum here. No door on the shower does mean the floor gets wet when you shower, but you quickly realize the benefit of the space to move around! The room isn't without a few knicks and dings, but it's overall in great shape. The balcony has two chairs and a table, and both breakfast and afternoon cappuccino were comfortable. If you're used to the S-Class balconies, those on the M-Class ships will feel small. They're generally narrower -- but still great! The overhang from the pool deck is obvious, but definitely helps keep the room shaded and balcony cooler in the late morning/early afternoon. The angled braces 'straddle' the room, so there's none directly in front of the balcony -- our neighbors weren't so lucky! More so than any other cruise, we made quite a bit of use of the balcony and room given the extra space.
The ship is beautiful! At 12 years old, there are a few areas that show wear and aren't quite as pristine as they once were, but last year's Solsticizing definitely shows. Having sailed on the Solstice previously, I was worried about the size of Summit being an M-Class ship, but was pleasantly surprised with how comfortable it felt. The lounges and layout break up the ship in a way that you never feel crowded. The Martini Bar was popular as usual, and was always a god time. All-in-all, the ship works. It's got a great flow, and at times we wondered where everyone was.
The pool deck was definitely crowded on our one and only sea day, and shade came at a premium. The lounge chairs are definitely starting to show signs of wear -- especially on deck 11 -- but are comfortable nonetheless! The T-Pool was great -- essentially a giant hot tub -- but definitely heats up the solarium.
The ships crew is amazing! We met a handful of 'newbie's' just starting their contract (there were 12 or so starting that week), and all were eager to do whatever they could to make our trip better. Three days in, crewmembers were referring to us by first name having met us on the first day. Officers we met throughout the week found us again on the last night, remembering where we were from and asking us to join them when the ship repositions to New York/Bermuda.
Having been assigned to a suite, we had the added luxury of a butler in addition to normal stateroom attendant. Elmerio was phenomenal! After only one day, he learned our schedule and began to anticipate our wants surprising us nearly every day.
One exception - the Captains Club Host wasn't readily available during posted hours. And when we finally did connect, she was fairly dismissive that we hadn't received our welcome letter or 'coupon sheets'. Not our standard Celebrity experience.
Dining with Celebrity is always a treat! The food on Summit was great -- some menu's better than others, but always something to satisfy!
We ate in the main dining room three times. Twice with our assigned table, and once with friends we met. Service at our assigned table wasn't stellar -- all agreed, though it could be because all at the table (6 of us) were inconsistent with the nights we were there. On the night we dined with friends, we were seated next to the Captains table. Service from the entire wait staff was through the roof, and there was a completely different energy.
Blu was up and down for us. We do love the intimacy of the restaurant, and the fact that it's not rushed like the MDR. As we were suite guests, we only have access if 'available'. Never a problem except the first night when everyone is trying to get an early dinner before the 7:45 muster drill. We did wait 10-15 minutes each night we dined there (not an issue for us), but weren't impressed with the matre'd's ability to handle seating and flow. Something was off on our second night, and all waiters seemed flustered. They all chocked it up to everyone coming to dinner at the same time. No major disappointments here, but it wasn't the Blu service we've come to know.
Normandie -- Where to begin!? Nothing bad here at all, and a complete over-indulgence! With the prices of specialty restaurants going up to $45 per person, we hadn't planned on spending the money. But again, as a suite guest, we had a complimentary dinner for two... So Normandie it was! They asked that we use our complimentary dinner on the first or second night -- not sure if they would have allowed us to use it later in the week, but we settled on the second night.
Entertainment was a mess. We've sailed a number of lines, and agree that you shouldn't choose Celebrity if you're focused on Entertainment. While last year's trip made it obvious that Celebrity didn't focus on entertainment, we didn't miss it. This year, it stood out like a sore thumb. There are a number of EXTREMELY talented entertainers and performers on board. The singers and dancers in the main shows are wonderful -- their program however needs a lot of work.
The piano player on board - Jordan Peterson -- is extraordinarily talented! We met him on his second day on board. Celebrity is clearly taking notes on past comments and introducing this "Piano Bar Entertainer" (as listed in the dailies). He has a great catalog, and is a blast to sing along with. Unfortunately he was regularly scheduled at odd times and locations throughout the ship while larger production shows were going on.
There are two guitarists on board -- Aldo and Sean -- both with their own beat. Sean had been on the ship just a week, hailing from Canada, and was great. Very personable and always willing to take requests, but again scheduled at odd times and locations, drawing only small crowds while production shows were going on.
The a cappella group, The Crooners performed almost nightly, doing short 15-minute sets as has been standard. They were also highlighted in their own 45-minute show in the Revelations Lounge one evening. A little hokey, but fun nonetheless. They also performed one evening on the main stage with a special guest.
If we ever consider going back to Royal Caribbean, it will be because of the entertainment. We're anxious to jump back to an S-Class ship however to see if the deficit we saw on the Summit isn't the same on a newer ship.
We did both get the Classic Beverage Package after much debate. We've sailed with and without packages in the past, and agree the 'convenience' factor of not having to sign receipts when ordering is something to consider. It's piece of mind to know you've already spent as much as you're going to spend. That said, on the two days we were on the ship the entire day -- we got our money's worth. The other days -- it's about a draw. We also stuck with the Classic vs. the Premium for two reasons: 1) While we're normally wine drinkers, and the Classic package is quite limiting for wines up to $8, we weren't really in a wine mood and more of a 'frozen drink/cocktail' mood. 2) The Martini Bar DOES have smaller versions of all of it's martini's that fit into the Classic package. In fact, just tell any bartender onboard you're in the Classic package, and they'll help you find a drink that fits.
All-around a great week! There was an issue with the toilets on the second day as we arrived in port, but when we returned all was fine. This cruise was picked because of its itinerary to St Croix, St Kitts, Dominica, Grenada, and St Thomas -- the ship and crew were wonderful, and didn't disappoint. No doubt we'll sail Celebrity again, and wouldn't hesitate to book the Summit.