After we fell in love with Celebrity Cruises last spring on the amazing Celebrity Equinox, we were excited to try the cruise line again on a different ship. This trip was a much, much different (far less glamorous) experience, but still fun in its own way.
The Celebrity Summit is an old ship (from 2001) that has been 'Solsticized' ' that is, it has been retrofitted with some of the features that are on Celebrity's Solstice class ships (like Equinox). This includes Aqua Class cabins & dining room, a Persian Garden, expanded specialty restaurants (including Bistro on Five & Qsine ' more on those later), the ever popular martini bar, & an Internet cafe (& on-board) featuring Apple products. The biggest changes during 'Solsticizing' happen in the public areas; staterooms are untouched, with the exception of Aqua Class rooms, which are renovated balcony rooms. All this sounds really fancy, but it doesn't cover up a harsh fact: it's a 12 year old ship. Ships can age gracefully if they're taken care of, as Summit largely is, but it's nothing like sailing on a newer ship. We sailed in one of these 'new' Aqua Class cabins & couldn't have been more disappointed by the experience. Solsticizing in cabins is, to put it harshly, lipstick on a pig.
Putting Solsticizing aside for a moment, our room was a decent size for the age of the ship. Located on the ninth deck, about mid-ship, it was in a great location, not far from the mid-ship stairs. An Aqua Class room (which is actually just a standard balcony room), it consisted of a king sized bed (two twins pushed together, as is traditional on a cruise), a small sofa & coffee table, a small desk & a decent sized closet. We initially were disappointed at the amount of storage (compared to previous cruises we've been on), but we were able to store everything comfortably for our seven days at sea. The bathroom showed the most wear of anywhere in the room ' a chipped mirror, rusty & moldy spots in the shower, & a very tired feeling. Despite our cabin steward's efforts, it never felt clean.
Our balcony was a decent size, but had a disappointing feature: since we were on the top deck of cabins (the pool deck & buffet restaurant were above us), our balcony was dwarfed by the overhang from deck ten. This made the balcony claustrophobic, made watching sunsets difficult, & made star gazing impossible. The only positive thing about the overhang is that we were completely shielded from the weather. Celebrity should consider categorizing these balconies 'obstructed view,' or at least differentiating the view from other, traditional balcony cabins. The other downside on being under a public deck? It's really noisy ' another poor planning move by Celebrity to put their Aqua Class cabins there. The night of the "White Hot" Party, the music was thumping in our room until close to midnight.
The food on the boat was, unfortunately, not as good as we remembered it being with previous Celebrity experiences. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't fantastic. We dined nightly at Blu restaurant & had breakfast there several mornings as well. Blu wasn't the extra special experience we were hoping for, although some dishes were good (the braised short ribs were amazing for dinner, as were the Blu berry pancakes for breakfast) The service was inconsistent - the key is to find the wait staff team you like the best and request them throughout the cruise. The Oceanview Cafe was horribly laid out, leading to lots of crowds & angry diners. We ate at the Oceanview twice for breakfast ' both times not because of our choosing ' & it was just disappointing. Unlike on the Equinox, the quality & variety of food was lower than on the rest of the ship ' it's like they didn't really want you to eat there. In fact, I don't think it's too harsh to say that buffet restaurants like this are why people hate cruising.
We ate at all the specialty dining restaurants with mixed reviews:
- Qsine: very fun & worth every penny (best meal on the entire trip, extremely high level of service)
- Bistro on Five: excellent (second best meal on the entire trip, best service of the whole trip)
- Normandie: horribly disappointing (unexciting, bland food (how can lobster cooked tableside be disappointing?), really bad service (we had three different waiters and were often ignored for the large table of crew sitting next to us - in fact, it took us over 2.5 hours to get through dinner)
Room service is, honestly, one of my favorite things about cruising. We had a very mixed-bag with our room service : the breakfast we ordered by hang tag the second day never arrived, then arrived ice cold after we called twice; the cheese plate we ordered the next afternoon took over an hour to arrive & then only arrived after we called; but the last port day in Bermuda we had a fantastic room service lunch on our balcony, which arrived hot & on time. Go figure.
Unlike cruising out of Florida, when most people are from somewhere else, the ship's convenient east coast location meant that 90% of the passengers were from New York & New Jersey. So many, in fact, that the staff joke that it's the 'Tri-State Cruise.' I love NYC, but some of the behavior I saw on the ship was appalling. New Yorkers acting like stereotypical New Yorkers (who never seem to act up in NY), being rude to staff ("How dare you keep us waiting! Don't you know we're New Yorkers!") & each other. I equate it to a Real Housewives of New Jersey combined with Jersey Shore theme cruise. No offense to people from those areas ' I have friends & family who are totally lovely from those locations ' but my fellow passengers gave them a bad name. Perhaps the most disappointing part about my fellow passengers? Many of them ignored the dress code. Shorts on formal night were not an uncommon site; my husband was actually the only passenger we saw in a tux. Not exactly what I'd expect from Celebrity.
A highlight of our time on the ship was the spa. My husband and I both had fantastic massages & I actually fell asleep during my facial, it was so relaxing. This was, without a doubt, the best spa experience we've ever had on a cruise.
Cape Liberty is located a stones throw from Newark International Airport, making it an easy cruise port for those flying from elsewhere (but, seriously, consider flying to Florida instead & hopping on a Solstice class ship!). We drove to the port & paid $133 to park for the week; the convenience of not having to fly cannot be beat. Embarkation was super easy & efficient ' from the time we pulled into the parking lot to the time we were on the ship was less than an hour. You *have* to take a shuttle bus to & from the ship, which is a little obnoxious, but keep an open mind & remember you're on vacation.
Disembarkation was also relatively painless. Tip: choose a departure time on the earlier side, as you'll have to be out of your room & waiting in the public areas by 8:00am.
Bermuda was, of course, fabulous. We took the ferry to St. Georges the first day we were there and spent a lovely afternoon. The second day it rained all morning, cancelling our kayaking trip, but cleared up by the afternoon so we could explore Hamilton and the Dockyard area. The third day we went snorkeling (through a tour we booked on-shore) and then just relaxed by the pool in the afternoon.
Despite everything above, we still enjoyed the trip. It wasn't perfect the way our Equinox cruise was, but cruising is still one of the best value vacations you can take & one of the best ' if not the best ' way to completely unplug from your daily life.
Some people complain that Summit is too small. We really don't mind the smaller ships. They're much easier to get around & the smaller number of passengers creates a bit of intimacy: you tend to see the same people over & over again. Of course, a smaller ship means that there are fewer innovative spaces & less room to spread out. It's really a matter of personal preference, I think.
Would I cruise on the Celebrity Summit again? Probably not. Would I cruise out of Cape Liberty again? Probably not. Would I cruise on a Celebrity Solstice Class ship again? Absolutely.