6OCT2012 Celebrity Summit 14 night Canada & New England Cruise.
Would we take this cruise again? Regrettably, NO.
Had the cruise been taken a month or even 2 weeks earlier with warmer weather for the destinations and not been a shoulder cruise with the ship next headed to the Caribbean and thus as it happened experiencing a lot of staff turnover, maybe.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: With experience from 16 total previous cruises under our belts (including on another cruise line), we were seriously disenchanted with this latest voyage on the Celebrity Summit.
To our dismay, we found out through this experience that early - mid October is WAY TOO LATE for a cruise ship to be heading so far North. Although I had packed winter weight water resistant outerwear just in case, I never expected to use it constantly, including while onboard the ship up on deck near the Aqua Spa Cafe!
We had previously been on board after this ship was "Solsticized" back in January 2012 & February 2012 (in the warm Caribbean) and the quality of the cruise experience has regrettably declined further since that time.
A cruise ship staff needs to truly be "in synch" for the entire experience to be the best it can be and somehow this crew was just not in synch. There is always lots of turnover in cruise ship staff and during this cruise that turnover was most evident. The heating system also apparently does not seem to work as well after the "Solsticizing" effort. Excessive promotion of "upcharges" was evident on a daily basis throughout the day and rather annoying to say the least. It was unfortunate and disappointing.
Additionally, the weather was totally uncooperative for where the cruise ship was spending most of its time on the cruise. We learned too late that October is sadly "past date" for when one should be visiting those ports, or should be sailing for pleasure in the New England and Canadian portions of the Atlantic Ocean or St Lawrence Seaway. A stop at Prince Edward Island had to be cancelled d/t abominable weather. Another notable downside was that the ship left its gangway open overnight in Quebec City, etc., and the ship was terribly cold through deck 5 as a result, since the center of the ship was open from deck 3 through deck 5 for more than 48 hours.
We drove our own car to the Newark area the Friday night prior to the Saturday cruise sailing date and the weather was fine in NJ for traveling at that time of the first week in October. Using a third party hotel reseller, Trinity Reservations aka Triune Travel LLC, we stayed in a small suite with a King Size bed at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott, one of 3 hotels in a row of that parent brand, and left our car parked in the hotel lot for an additional 14 nights included in the hotel stay negotiated price that also included a Continental style breakfast, which was heavily utilized on the Saturday morning before many hotel guests (including ourselves) prior to our heading to the ship. It was hectic at that breakfast and we could not recommend it as, for example, the scrambled egg pan was simply refilled rather than being removed, so it was a food safety hazard and we avoided it. The SpringHill Suites rooms show serious signs of wear and tear, the mini-frig was on its last legs, and the room HVAC unit was dirty & dying, but on the plus side there was adequate room for our luggage and the staff were cordial.
We left the hotel with our luggage on Saturday mid-day via Independent Driver van shuttle to the Cape Liberty Cruise Port (cost was $45 for 2 before tip if paid in cash; extra $5 if paid via credit card).
EMBARKATION: Saturday, we arrived at the Cape Liberty cruise port via a paid for van shuttle after 12 noon and the terminal bldg was already packed.
Embarkation onto the Summit at Cape Liberty was unnecessarily very slow as the cruise terminal line you go through first was very long for experienced return cruisers Select & Elite tier combined, as well as for less experienced cruisers, so we just had to stand in line endlessly (over a half hour). Only Suites and Aqua Class guests had a short line. We then boarded a transit bus at the cruise port to travel a very short distance to be let off for actual boarding of the ship on deck 1. It was about 70 minutes from when we left the hotel (15-20 minutes shuttle van ride to the pier terminal drop-off point) to when we actually boarded the ship.
We ate lunch in the Oceanview buffet on deck 10. Our luggage arrived before our 8:30 PM dinner time. Alas, First Seating at 6 PM on deck 4 was overfull and there was no room for us despite being on the wait list for some time prior to the cruise. Deck 5 main dining room dining is now split between "Select" chose your own time dining and the Blu Restaurant for Aqua Class guests dining (who also just show up and wait for a table), so a whole floor of dining is lost to the former traditional 6 PM and then 8:30 PM seatings. It appears Celebrity may be moving to having the entire traditional restaurant setting be available via the Select option (for those not in Aqua Class, who when they arrive at the restaurant also have to wait their turn now to be seated, but there are fewer of them). The Muster drill after 3 PM went smoothly with lots of breathing room in the Celebrity Theatre location we happened to be in.
When we asked the Captain's Club Host, we were told there were some 2,150 passengers on board, and of those some 452 were at Elite (highest tier) level, and there were 1300+ who were in Captains Club counting all levels. With so many of the guests being at the Elite level, events were packed, priority tender tickets didn't mean as much, and with so many being Captains Club, that get together was super packed as they ran out of places to sit in the Revelations club area on Deck 11 with the nice view of where the ship is headed.
STATEROOM: An inside stateroom happens to work just fine for us and we feel provides excellent value for an entire cruise. For this voyage we had booked at an Inside Guarantee Rate. There is a portable hair dryer, small sizes of shampoo, conditioner, hand lotion, soap, etc. Tissues and toilet paper are of a fair quality. There are still small safes in each stateroom for your small valuables. The bathrooms now have night lights automatically always on 24/7--a positive step to decrease bathroom entrance and exit accidents. White bathrobes and towels are available for use throughout the cruise--we had no problem with getting fresh towels as needed. The per person night time chocolate on the turned down bed came from Astor Chocolate, with the flavor of Chamomile Raspberry being my hands-down favorite. The small bar size refrigerator does work and if you have medicine that must be refrigerated, be sure to tell the stateroom attendant so that they don't lock the bar the night before you depart the ship.
There is a new Celebrity policy NOT to have water pitchers in each stateroom UNLESS YOU ASK FOR SAME. You will automatically receive an ice bucket, but NOT the water pitcher unless you place a request for one. Any ship issued bottle of water (Evian) found in the room, if used by you, will incur a sea pass charge including gratuity, so just be aware of that. The last night of your stay the water bottles are removed from the stateroom by the attendants. We always bring empty water bottles with us to fill up from the water pitcher in the room (which is why we needed that water pitcher!) Realize the onboard water supply can be influenced by which port the ship has been to as staff in the Cafe al Bacio noted. The ship sells a lot of pricey Evian bottled water.
We were on deck 9 along with Concierge Class Staterooms (with balconies) and of course, those get cleaned before the other staterooms on the same floor, which means there was a delay in our stateroom being cleaned each day. We were on deck 8 earlier in the year on another voyage and closer to mid-ship and the stateroom was cleaned sooner on that trip even 'tho there were concierge staterooms on that floor, but this time we were in a stateroom at the front of the ship and the delay in stateroom cleaning was very noticeable.
Be sure to check your on board Sea Pass account regularly (bring it up on the TV in your stateroom) to make sure there are no unnecessary or unauthorized charges and also to make sure you get any on board credit due to you (carry paper copies that document any on board credit due to you as often it does NOT show up otherwise--you have to go down to Guest Relations with your paper copy in hand to get this attended to). Be sure to check your account BEFORE mid-day on your final Friday if disembarking on Saturday and if needed visit Guest Relations regarding any last minute account corrections by mid-day on Friday.
NOTE: Gratuities are added daily to your Sea Pass card unless you decline the automatic gratuity charges at the start of the cruise. We tend to tip additionally personally beyond the automatic charges when we receive superior service.
DRESS CODE: The dress code has become "more relaxed and informal" and although some folks brought dressy clothes for "formal nights" per se, quite a number did not. Although originally 3 formal nights had been anticipated based on the other 2 previous cruises up through Canada and New England this Fall, due to the particularly cool temperatures on this sailing, there were only 2 formal nights.
SHOPS ON BOARD: Open only when the ship is NOT in port, on deck 5, sundries can be found in the Liquor Store onboard in case you wish to buy wrist bands for sea sickness, cough drops, CDs of the onboard entertainers, etc. Typically inexpensive items made in China rotate in the center displays between the other shops (cheap watches, cheap jewelry, cheap other gift items such as simple scarves, etc.). Other shops feature limited amounts of various t-shirts and other clothing, souvenir candy and knick-nacks, various types of good jewelry and good watches, and Boutique C features the highest end specialty offerings in jewelry (latest promotion is yellow emeralds). Cameras are available for purchase during limited hours on deck 4 at the booth near the Photo Gallery ONLY when the Photo Gallery is open and there is adequate staffing to service it.
ACTIVITIES: There are limited activities onboard. The two speakers for this trip (speaking inside) had various presentations--one having a background from the Smithsonian and the other a historical background in film and in the places the cruise was visiting. Replays of their talks the next day were sometimes available on channel 35. The arts & crafts activities this cruise focused on 4 sessions of scrap booking. The activities staff held word game sessions, trivia sessions, and whatnot during the day. You can grab the crossword puzzle in the library located mid-ship on decks 8 & 9 (relaxing spots to just listen to your iPod in peace & quiet, etc.), or often also deck 5 midship near the Gelateria, or on deck 3 near Guest Relations.
Champagne High Tea and some wine events or else tours of the ship to see the "crew only" areas and have lunch with an officer, including some wine, are for a fee. Night time Celebrations have been discontinued as part of cost cutting (so no more Chocolate Extravaganzas or other Extravaganzas of old). Recaps of previous live Celebrity Officer presentations concerning the ships navigation, propulsion, environmental efforts and more can sometimes be replayed for the next 24 hours on your stateroom TV on one of the channels.
MUSICAL ENTERTAINMENT: Performers for any given sailing will vary. Remember that you are not paying Broadway prices for NYC level theatre entertainment, so be realistic in your expectations. Cruise ship lines have had to trim budgets where they can and it is VERY evident in the entertainment area.
A piano player of classical music and also show tunes, etc. could be found at various venues with a piano around the ship and he also played for the Elite level Elegant Tea (not to be confused with the Champagne High Tea for a fee for anyone on a different day). Crescendo plays beautifully and if you are fortunate enough to have him on your cruise, you should hopefully also enjoy his playing very much. He hales from Naples, Italy.
A Latin guitarist and entertainer/singer was frequently in the Cafe al Bacio on deck 5 or at the Rendevous Lounge on deck 4 or sometimes in the Revelation lounge on deck 11. Nestor is a fun, high energy entertainer who puts his heart and soul into his unique style of showmanship and you will enjoy his upbeat style if you happen to be on a cruise he is booked for.
A 4 piece dance band was most often in the Rendevous Lounge on deck 4. Rhythmix made an effort to gear their shows to their audience and play seamlessly from song to song, making it easy for those who wished to dance to have a great time.
A 4 member acapello group, Aqua-Fellas, was actually quite entertaining and most pleasant.
There was a Latin coffee house type guitarist and singer on board, Aldo B., and his music was pleasant, although his repertoire of songs very limited.
A male piano singer also was on board and we found his performances not to be up to the caliber of the other entertainers on the ship.
A "pool" band came in it seemed mid-way during the cruise and Fusion seemed to have a smooth sound that should appeal to guests on Caribbean sailings.
The Celebrity Summit singers and dancers performed variations of the same 3 stage shows we had seen back in JAN/FEB2012 when we were on board the ship (Stars in Their Eyes; iHollywood; and Sirens) typically at 7 PM (for Late Dining so before dinner) and 9 PM (for Traditional 6 PM Dining so after dinner), that they have rehearsed off ship and continue to rehearse on ship. The Adiago Pair (aerial duo) is a high point of those evening performances. There was no entertainment offered around the aft bar on deck 10 this trip since the weather was simply awful--wet and cold this trip--otherwise for Caribbean sailings, normally we enjoy relaxing there in the evening.
The recorded music as in "muzak" choices and sound levels would benefit from a good review and some tweaking being done and some better choices being made. The shops are on Deck 5 had some awful ghetto rap playing at times and one had to wonder what the cruise line was thinking when they chose to pipe that awful music into the ship...
CHILDREN'S CLUBS: Club X and The "Fun Factory" are for children located up on deck 11 making it easier for parents to track their children's whereabouts based out of one area of the ship, but that is also prime space lost to adults for viewing the waters as the ship is sailing or viewing a port when the ship is docked.
BEVERAGE PACKAGES: We skipped these, but there are all sorts of packages available for those who drink a lot of soft drinks, or packages for those who drink a lot of specialty coffees, or for those who drink a lot of wine, etc.
FOOD and DINING: Late dinner dining at 8:30 PM in the Cosmopolitan main restaurant wound up being a case where a huge table just had the 2 of us. Only on formal nights is the Captain's table near the back of the ship with the large window area in use. Tea in that restaurant was from Tea First (wwwteafirst.com) and better than the tea used in the Oceanview Cafe and also for Room Service, which is from Mhai Diva or decaf from Bigelow (a bit disappointing if you are used to buying a decent brand of tea at home).
Both Waiter and Ass't Waiter dining room service was NOT stretched for once since there were fewer diners overall for late seating. Our Waiter was experienced and always eager to please in any way he could, obtaining an alternate menu item if need be. Our Ass't waiter tried hard to be pleasant, but was inexperienced and still learning so needed regular gentle reminders, but was pleasant about it. She was tired a lot and lacked focus, but her English & her attitude was improving over the course of the two weeks we had contact with her.
The left side of the dinner menu is the same every night as always available options, while on the right side 14 days of menus were used and you can "mix and match" between the two sides. Note that Breakfast is available in the main dining room if you so desire. Lunch is not served in the main dining room UNLESS it is a sea day. The last sea day there was a large brunch between 10 AM and 1 PM with virtually anything you could possibly want from cold shrimp, to Crepes Suzette, to a carving station, to an omelet station, to cold meat and cheese stations, to bread displays, dessert displays, hot item buffet stations, etc.--even a milk chocolate fountain for skewered fruit, etc.
The bakery on board operates 24 hours a day to keep up with the demand for fresh product and the next day you will find leftovers offered at lunchtime in an ever changing bread pudding in the Oceanview Cafe on Deck 10.
One night at dinner a large, dark, and delicious chocolate souffle was served with a vanilla sauce kept separate (such as is available in the specialty restaurant, Normandie, as well). On a cooler temp voyage such as this one was, the warm, yummy dessert was most welcome.
As this was a Fall voyage through apple country, there were many apple based desserts onboard, all of them good. At breakfast near the roasted meat item we always found very basic baked apples.
No longer is Intermezzo offered on formal nights. No longer is there a tiered dessert tray of petit-four sized desserts available on the Captain's Formal Night (a tiny bowl with a few choices is all that appears). Shrimp cocktail is no longer served in nice metal cups and the shrimp size has shrunk and there are 4 rather than 5 now per serving in a bowl.
It is quite clear from management that if you want a higher level of dining atmosphere and service they are steering you (almost forcing you) to go to a specialty restaurant with a hefty cover charge, which is disappointing as I can remember when the service was truly delightful in the main restaurant on board a Celebrity Ship.
Similarly, the Captain's Club "Elite" loyalty level "Elegant Tea" was a disaster this trip--150 people showed up, but only 100 had RSVP'd and the Captain's Club Host had padded the number to 130, but there were inadequate servers for the event and we felt as if we had been packed into almost elbow touching space and the offerings took FOREVER to come around and items were not linked as a result--it was truly the WORST event of this type that I have ever attended and anything but elegant. The only saving grace was the pianist. Otherwise we would have been better off getting snacks between 3:30 - 4:00 PM in the dining hall style Oceanview buffet area on deck 10 where at least we wouldn't feel as if we were being packed into a cattle car.
Wine Sommelier service or Bar Service is available in the Cosmopolitan Restaurant when it is open for lunch and/or dinner.
Whole grains are very limited onboard (I saw whole grain pasta only a couple of times total between the Aqua Spa cafe and the Pasta Bar, only an occasional whole grain bread choice at dinner in the roll basket, or at the Waterfall Cafe or in the mixed dishes), so to get adequate daily fiber choices, look to vegetables at breakfast & lunch time and fruit throughout the day.
The Executive Chef on board was English, so many dinner selections had endless green peas as well as potatoes incorporated into them in one way or another. At least the mashed potatoes were made from real potatoes!
Personally, we skipped the various cover charge options of Bistro on Five (the crepe theme restaurant open throughout the day), Normandie (open for dinner featuring classic French inspired with some other influences menus http://www.beyondships.com/files/Cel_Summit_specialty.PDF and more formal service and featuring choices of tea from the Tea Forte company and coffee from Lavazza coffee company from Torino, Italy; also location of for-a-fee Champagne High Tea featuring Perrier Jouet "Belle Epoque" champagne and 7 high quality Tea Forte loose teas including Bombay Chai, Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Lapsang Souchong, Orchid Vanilla, Green Tango, and Camomile Tisane; also supposed to have a single lunch day offering for half the cover charge of dinner, but that didn't occur on the first week sailing and we didn't check for the second week), and Qsine (deconstructed theme dining designed to allow adults to interact hands-on with their food the way children do so very informal--Celebrity has dubbed it as a "Tapas Menu on Steroids" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2K-nVz2p0M). You can see the Qsine menu here: http://www.beyondships.com/files/Qsine_Dinner_Menu.pdf. Dinner cover charges have increased for both Normandie and Qsine, although in theory, on either the first night of sailing or another night with low prior bookings, there might be a last minute on the day of dining 20% off the add'l cover charge for that night only if a specialty restaurant is not already fully booked.
Note that Breakfast and Dinner service in the Blu Restaurant area on deck 5 is designated for AquaSpa stateroom guests or else optional if space allows at a fee for suite guests. "Select Dining" for dinner is also on deck 5 (you prepay your gratuities for the entire cruise when you book it). Comparing the Aqua Spa "Blu" menu to the main dining room menu, there are some differences, but also a lot of similarities. For example, the Maine lobster filled ravioli was a dinner option served in both, and so were many other options such as the butternut squash soup, broiled Ahi tuna, broiled Atlantic salmon, etc.
The 10th floor buffet restaurant called Oceanview is open at various hours for early and late breakfasts, lunches, and dinnertime/evening options including sushi, stir-fry, or pasta stations, fish & chips station, etc.--you have to check the daily printed program guide (Celebrity Today) for the specific times of service. In the afternoon between 3:30-4:30 PM snacks of finger sandwiches and other goodies including fresh baked cookies and other desserts are available. On deck 10, there is also an ice cream station and other small stations for pizza, hamburgers and hot dogs, etc. and the hours for those each day can also be found in the printed Celebrity Today.
The AquaSpa Cafe also located on deck 10 closer to the AquaSpa area has some breakfast and some lunch options--I had either Ahi tuna or else Atlantic salmon cooked a-la-minute a number of times for lunch and it was delicious, but the chefs who cook it for the main dining room are better at timing the pieces and the piece size is much larger for dinner (delicious and larger than I needed--nice thick piece). Based on availability, in the AquaSpa Cafe you can order a broiled (default), steamed or poached tuna or salmon filet; or broiled (default) or seared pork loin piece or chicken breast. Cold plates are on display for you to choose from, and there is a small salad bar. Desserts include various poached fruit pieces, and some lighter other desserts. Various flavors of ficelles are offered as bread options. Although the items featured in the Aqua Spa Cafe are typically mostly lower in fat, they may not be lower in sodium. I was told, but cannot verify, that the smoothies on board are made with soy milk, as is the cold oatmeal (museli). The clock in the Aqua Spa cafe runs 10 minutes fast as the staff member manager who ran the cafe on that voyage was a bit on the lazy side and eager to shut the service down as rapidly as he could--the servers were MUCH more accommodating than the Aqua Spa cafe manager was. The manager acted as if he was doing guests a favor to have the cafe open! An attitude adjustment on his part to become more service oriented to guests would be beneficial.
On deck 5, the Gelateria serves a dense, rich Italian Gelato type of "ice cream" or else a fruit Sorbetto. Gelato is made with typically less air (20%) incorporated than the amount found in ice cream (up to 80%) when it is made fresh daily using a dry base mix from Italy, to which the ship's kitchen staff add both fresh cream and fresh milk, and various flavorings and reportedly the product is made using a special Hobart gelato machine on board. All of the fruit flavored Sorbetto options (variation on Sorbet) are dairy free. Sometimes a sugar free and dairy free option that looks like ice cream is available. A range of toppings are available with the cost of the gelato or sorbetto serving based on the number of size #16 scoops used per bowl or cone. You can smell the waffle cones for the Gelateria Gelato as they bake since the aroma wafts through a couple of decks of the center of the ship near the glass elevators (in the Galley on deck 3 there were 3 different ice cream machines noted as for the deck 10 locations, a total of 52 flavors of the ice cream bar ice creams and sherbets are made on board). For further details on food on board, check out sensory nutrition dot com.
Cafe al Bacio is midship on deck 5 and a favorite of the staff and guests alike. An older version of that venue's menu for specialty priced Tea Forte Tea, as well as Lavazza coffee (before recent price increases for beverages) is at http://www.beyondships.com/files/Cafe_al_Bacio_Menu.pdf (some of the staff are still in barista training). Note that the glass jars of cookies and the glass side case of rotating items (morning breakfast pastries, mid-day finger sandwiches, and afternoon through evening desserts) to eat there or to go are made on board and part of your cruise fare and you don't have to buy specialty tea or coffee to access the munchies. The small finger sandwiches are unique to that venue, so do be sure to try some of them--you are bound to find something delicious! A simple prawn on avocado tartare with a touch of lemon was one of those options with micro herbs and I tracked down a former Celebrity chef's version that can be served on tiny rolls. http://countrygourmettraveler.blogspot.com/2012/02/prawns-on-avocado-tartar.html
ROOM SERVICE: We only used room service once ordering hot beverages via the interactive TV method. Our room steward actually delivered the room service tray promptly.
PORT & SHORE EXCURSIONS, SHOPPING GUIDES: We did not use the cruise ship's planned excursion offerings as we prefer to arrange our own touring. Guest Relations typically has printed maps of some sort for each port area that you can get a tear off copy of.
PORT TENDERING or DECK to PIER RAMPS: Port tenders were required for Bar Harbor, ME; Sydney, Nova Scotia; and Gaspe, Canada. An alternate pier spot was used for Portland, ME and the ramp angle was severe, leading to long delays for folks to get off the ship and for some, the ramp angle was simply too severe and there were not enough ship crew members to assist guests in navigating such a steep ramp--the ramp lacked the usual every foot or so horizontal bars and usual more sturdy side rails--it was rather pathetic and uncalled for from Deck 3 as easily a lower deck could have been the exit point as it was for some other port locations. The deck ramp snafu in Portland was evidence of the negative issues on this voyage.
AQUA SPA: Hubby did decide to get a 75 minute massage the first day of the cruise and alas, unlike previous massages, this one was a complete DISASTER and incredibly expensive to boot! At $234.25 we would NEVER recommend it. We felt fleeced indeed--very disappointing and that likely means we will NEVER use the Aqua Spa services if we sail Celebrity in the future.
CASINO: Didn't use.
MEDICAL CENTER: Didn't use.
DISEMBARKATION: Due to fog in Bayonne, NJ upon the ship's return to that port, we had to wait until 10 AM before we could get off the ship and we had been scheduled to leave the ship at 8:30 AM so we were 90 minutes late disembarking. Fortunately, we cleared customs & immigration promptly, caught a cab back to the hotel where our car was in long term parking so from getting off the ship to getting our car at the hotel again took 70 minutes. The Captain's Club Elite lounge prior to disembarkation was supposed to be Normandie on deck 3, but it was locked up tight and we had to go to the Celebrity Theatre on deck 4 instead to wait to get off the ship--at least the seats are comfortable there as we waited from 8 AM when our stateroom had to be cleared until 10 AM. We had enjoyed the Elite Lounge in the Normandie most mornings between 8:00 - 10:00 AM, so we missed that venue on the day of disembarkation--there were simply too many Elite tier level guests on board for the ship to offer that option on the Saturday we were leaving the ship as the delay d/t to fog meant no one was getting off the ship on time. Beyond the maximum 250 guests who could walk off the ship personally transporting all their own luggage to the cruise terminal as part of the Express Program for disembarkation originally scheduled for around 7:30 AM, those with planes to catch had to be allowed to exit the ship first.
LOYALTY PROGRAM: After sufficient cruise credits, one can progress up the loyalty program to the top tier level (Elite) and it has its perks which will depend upon what the cruise line is deciding to offer at the time. This cruise we noted if anyone staying in a room had Elite tier membership in the Captain's Club, they could bring their spouses or stateroom companions over age 21 to Elite tier activities, so that was a nice perk. Overall, we were pleased with Elite loyalty tier offerings on this trip. Snack offerings in the before dinner Elite lounge were nice, but NOT of the same quality as in JAN/FEB 2012--so another decline in the cruise experience. This is the only time I eat anything fried. There were priority tender tickets we did not use, internet minute coupons we did use, various casino or other coupons we did not use, as well as laundry coupons we did not use (I simply don't like commercial laundry service as one's clothes don't last as long going through those washers and everything wrinkles in their dryers and pressing typically costs extra).
TRANSFERS: We did not use the cruise line's bus transfer program to and from the ship, but instead traveled by van as vans are plentiful at the cruise port.
COMPUTER iLOUNGE: If you have signed up for internet minutes, you can use some to print your boarding passes for airline travel using whatever internet minutes plan you are signed up for as there is one printer in the iLounge on deck 6. On previous voyages we have printed our airline boarding passes mid-day on the final Friday and it was a snap. You can bring your own computer devices to use anywhere on the whole ship as during dry dock it was set up for all-ship Wi-Fi or you can just use the Mac Pro laptops secured in the iLounge. WiFi Internet service ceased at 7 AM on the Saturday of disembarkation. If you bring your own device, visit the iLounge to have the manager install on it an easy way to access the internet service for log on and log off--on your own device you MUST be sure to log off or else you will keep eating minutes; the iLounge computers automatically log off if idle for 5 minutes.
SUMMIT OVERVIEW/SUMMARY: We came to relax on the cruise and the cold ship made that a bit difficult to do--visiting the aqua spa cafe meant wearing a coat with a hood and gloves--it was the temperature of the air outdoors! Overall the food was of a good quality and prepared well (I've taught at the college level in food systems management), but some of the "extra special" touches Celebrity was previously known for have gone by the wayside due to constant cost cutting efforts by management. That is by no means the fault of the staff--they have to work within the parameters management gives them.
Most guests like to spend time on deck 10 (pool level) that includes the thalassotherapy pool (usually very popular, but used less on this cruise d/t the incredibly cold weather and temps, outdoor pool (usually very popular on Caribbean cruises but not used this cold trip), with lesser use of specialty (costs a fee) Persian Gardens (sauna or specialty shower or steam options, etc.). The lounge chairs all over are comfortable and newer padded options were noted in some spots. Temps remained cool as the gangway area was left open each port day and when we spent two overnights in Quebec City the cold air was allowed in round the clock! We enjoyed quiet times when the Revelations lounge on deck 11 was open to us (we don't do the late nightclub/lounge scene). Both Revelations and the Rendez Vous Lounge have small dance floors and the onboard Celebrity activity staff and perhaps dancers do offer a few dance classes during the cruise.
Michael's Club has become so sad since it was converted to a beer bar--it is a shame to see such a venue that previously had a touch of class downgraded like that. Obviously the emphasis is on more mainstream "bars" on board to increase the revenue stream from alcoholic beverages. Guess the cruise line has to pay for those even larger Solstice Class mega ship builds somehow, as well as for the 40M renovation of the Summit in Jan 2012. We will miss this size ship and had liked the ships a size or more smaller in the past such as the Galaxy and even fewer guest size beautiful Zenith (our favorite of all the prior ships).
HAND-WASHING: Frequent handwashing is advised, and Purell dispenser use is encouraged (featuring a custom stronger product than you would find on land done just for the cruise line) via dispensers outside restaurants around the ship and before you reboard the vessel at port stops.
CAPE LIBERTY CRUISE PORT HEADING HOME: There was a cab line for the Newark Air Port, however, the gal assigning people as they came up with their luggage to vans sent us right over to a van that had pulled in and could drop us off at the SpringHill Suites Hotel on the way to the Newark Airport, so we had no need to call the Independent Driver number and it was actually cheaper ($17 pp before tip) to use the van service right there at the van line for the Newark airport run. If you have to go to the airport, and checked-in online via the iLounge or otherwise (if you do a post-cruise stay at a hotel) prior to going to the airport, you might save time and energy avoiding lines for baggage check-in at Newark airport.
In summation, we've been loyal fans of Celebrity Cruises for years, but almost a year later post this particular cruise, the memory of a very disappointing cruise still lingers.