Just completed our 24th cruise with Celebrity (out of 30 or so - I've lost track). The more you cruise, the more you come to understand the kind of product a cruise line strives to offer and how the product is delivered.
One quick comment on the cruiser''s comment above who neededva gluten free diet due to Celiac Disease. I wonder if this condition was mentioned in advance and the need for a gluten free diet identified to Celebrity Staff? I am confident this would have been addressed if staff had known. Yes, the ship is old - 13y old. Refurbished 4y ago. This is why guests can pay as little as $500 for a 7d cruise, meals included. If you want to sail newer ships, it's easy to book the Solstice class ships. On the food. I believe you will find the negative comments made in this critique to be among a small minority who complain about the food. Remember, this is a cruise ship serving 1600 or so meals at the same time, multiple times during the day. Regular dining is not 5 star dining. Normandy is and I felt like this cruiser got what she what she looking for there. Moving on.
I think most of the lines have similarity but each of them (RCL, NCL, MSC, Carnival among the others I have sailed with) do have a niche. I call it their individual cultures. Obviously, Celebrity's appeals to me or I would not have been as loyal as I have been over the 12 years I've been cruising.
The point? Cruisers are going to have different tastes. Different things they are looking for in this style of vacation. I'm going to try to describe what I think goes on in that department with Celebrity Cruise Line. Maybe I can provide some insight that will help you select a cruise. In my opinion, what line you choose to cruise with is as important to your overall experience as all the other factors - price, itinerary, timing and so forth.
We are, as you might expect, within what I think is one of many target populations for Celebrity. 60s, mostly retired, lots of time to cruise. I have found, however, having talked with couples in their 30s and with kids, that Celebrity has very very good programs for families with children. There were many families and children on this cruise. They seemed to be having as much fun as we were having and all of the kids were well behaved. Which means, the Moms and Dads on this cruise are good parents who have control of their kids. Something you may be looking for if you are cruising as a family. I didn't see any bad actors.
So, while this review is indirectly about Summit's 7 day summer itinerary from Bayonne NJ to Bermuda and back, it's more about what you are going to be immersed in if you choose Celebrity Cruise Lines for you vacations from the perspective of the older traveler without kids traveling with us.
First know that what part of the world you are cruising in, who the Captain and senior hotel and restaurant staff are, have a lot to do with what the ship you are on feels like, what kind of vibe it gives off. So does the length of the cruise. But fundamentally, Celebrity tries to create a repeatable experience on all of its ships. That is a corporate goal from what I understand about it from senior staff I have spoken to while aboard. That experience is sophisticated, relaxed and full service. You do nothing but show up and enjoy life aboard ship the way you like it.
X-ceptional service has to be at the top of the Top 10 list of what corporate wants guests to experience. Celebrity touts it in its advertising. The repeatability, in all of its ships, of this aspect of cruising with Celebrity that I have experienced compared to other lines I have sailed with makes me believe this. Again, from what I hear from all levels of ship's company aboard Celebrity ships, corporate invests in its employees and works hard to train, advance them in a certain career path and retain them. High retention rates of happy employees produces happy, satisfied guests.
No smart corporation selling anything doesn't try to do this, it's just that some do it a lot better than others. Celebrity is one of the better ones in doing it. Service doesn't just happen. It happens because of a corporate commitment to it, not just lip service, and when excellent leadership from senior staff is present. So, it seems obvious to me that Celebrity works to develop this important characteristic in its employees from the start.
Motivated, intelligent and loyal staff are identified early and advanced. I think that is why so many Eastern Europeans, Phillipinoes, Indonesians and Indians, to name just a few counties where advancement in that business culture is based on who you know and who your family is, want jobs with Celebrity. They can live the American dream. You work hard and with integrity, you will succeed.
It is not uncommon to find crew who have been with Celebrity for 15-20 years going back to Celebrity's early beginnings. They retire from Celebrity. We repeatedly renew acquaintances with restaurant staff especially, who we see over and over again but on different cruises and different ships. First knowing them as Assistant Waiters, some years later they are running the dinning rooms. I think corporate embraces that kind if thing and is quite loyal to its employees.
These kinds of things produce the kind of welcoming similes,tireless effort on your behalf and uncompromising service you will find from the crew on all Celebrity ships. This is an important ingredient in creating a culture aboard ship, a product, that keeps cruisers returning for more. You know this is coming from corporate headquarters and it filters down. I'm pretty sure, the big boys strive to make that so through the officers it selects and promotes to run its 11 ships, including the 2 Azamara ships. It's working.
You will also see a lot of team building going on if you look for it. That's another staple term in business these days. Celebrity gets it while others don't and the end result are these sort of memorable events or experiences from shows to entertainment around the ship to dining to fitness to ports and excursions to what Celebrity brands as its Life programs. Team leaders work to get employees to buy into their particular product whether it is food, fitness or entertainment. They are engaged and therefore what they present is theirs, they own it, and the net result is a terrific cruise experience.
On this particular cruise, we met a couple at our table in the main dining room who we dined with in Normandy, Summits single specialty restaurant present before Solticization and now among three after it. I have always had good experiences with Celebrity dining but this Normandy dinner took the prize. Why? Because of one chef, Marijan from Macedonia, who runs the place. He is the product of Celebrity's system of career advancement, reflects the culture of impeccable service Celebrity wants to project and people like this are why we keep returning to this particular cruise line.
I was unaware of this hierarchy among restaurant staff until this cruise but those designated as chef, also in various ranks that I cannot recall, are at the top of the restaurant/food services heap. Chef Marrijan started with Celebrity in 1998. He was a utility kitchen cleaner and has risen to the top since starting. All the table service is provided in Normandy by chefs. These are not your usual waiters in the Cosmopolitan, Summit's main dining room, also excellent. You will see these excellent chefs during the day managing other food services on the ship and then finding themselves in the evenings doing what they love. Serving guests with unparalleled, five star fine dining.
Same with the wines. Those serving guests in Normandy are the Masters among Sommeliers. I love wines but I'm not into expensive ones finding plenty of very good wine under $15 retail. Of course I have no expectation for that aboard Celebrity ships. You are going to get restaurant prices for those $10-$15 wines and that means $28-$32 is going to be the low end price point per bottle.
I rarely buy an expensive wine and that for me is more than $50 while I'm cruising. Well,I paid $65 being charmed into it by the knowledge and savior fare of this particular Cellar Master, Anna ......... Celebrity has to love employees like this. I did not in the least bit feel pressured to buy this wine. It just matched perfectly with the Chateau Briand I was having and the Lobster Tail or Duck others ordered. She knew that, she delivered for the team ably lead by the head Normandy chef, Marijan
Maybe it was just the chemistry between ourselves and the Normandy staff and we are very friendly folks but I had more fun in this specialty dining experience than I have had on any ship. Yes, the wine helped. The lobster was prepared table side by Marijan. So was the flamed desert crepes. I can highly recommend The Normandy aboard Summit. Make a special occasion just for the two of you and if you are vacationing aboard ship with kids under 14 or so, who are not likely to appreciate a fine dining experience like this, leave them with the program staff. You can do this as long as they are loving the program, and my information leads me to believe most of them do love it, so, just do it.
We also love the production shows on Celebrity. Over the years they have just gotten better from a talent and production standpoint. First rate and definitely a big part of the really exceptional vacation experience on Celebrity ships.
I work hard to maintain the same level of fitness cruising as I do while I'm at home. Know that Steiner, a separate fitness and spa company in Europe, runs the fitness and spa facilities on Celebrity ships. Over the years, I've felt like the fitness experience declined under Steiner's management. To my surprise, a lot of the things I disliked - pushing useless products, hyping treatments and fitness that are more show than something with a sound exercise physiology basis, charging a fee for fitness classes that had previously been provided at no cost-that sort of thing, are being de-emphasized and there is a noticeable return to free fitness classes and a real effort to offer useful nutrition and exercise information to cruisers. I think Steiner listened to criticism and possibly under some pressure from Celebrity is working to deliver what cruisers interested in fitness are asking for. The addition of Zumba, this done by the Celebrity Activity staff, not Steiner, is also a welcome addition for those that enjoy this fitness activity. It is very popular aboard and the time spots allocated to it a couple of times a day are packed with Zumba enthusiasts. I don't avail myself of spa services. I think they are over priced and this is not just on Celebrity.
This has gotten way too long but it will give you a good idea what Celbrity ships are all about. We have sailed most of them except Azamara Expedition and the two new Solstice class ships. Enjoy.