My wife and I just returned from the August 18 sailing to Bermuda on the Celebrity Summit. This was our third cruise and our third time on Celebrity. Each of the previous cruises was wonderful and this one did not disappoint. We could not have asked for a better experience.
We selected this cruise because we wanted a relaxing vacation. Our last few trips have included a lot of driving and sightseeing, usually followed by a long drive or flight back home --- after which we always feel like we need another vacation.
We live in Staten Island which is only a few minutes from the port at Cape Liberty. On Sunday, the 18th, we took a car service to Bayonne and arrived at about 10:45 AM. The embarkation process was very easy. We dropped our bags off and took the short shuttle ride to the terminal building where, after passing through security, we found the line marked "Aqua Class" and followed it directly to a representative. Within a few minutes, we had our sea passes and were headed to the ship. We stopped briefly to look at the menus for Qsine and Normandie and were on board at 11:30, ready to begin our vacation. It couldn't have been easier.
We sailed on the Infinity a couple of year ago before the refurbishment, so we were interested in seeing what had been done to its sister ship, the Summit. We found that the Summit retained all of the charm that we remembered, but certainly looked a little spiffier. The ship is smaller than the S class ships and other ships like the Breakaway and some of the RCI ships. And that was fine with us. We like the more intimate feel of the ship (if you can call a 2000 passenger ship intimate). I never felt like I was very far from any part of the ship I wanted to get to. And it never felt crowded. There were a lot of children on the trip (someone said there were 400), but the younger ones spent most of their day in the Fun Factory or in the pool. I didn't find the kids annoying and all the ones I saw were pretty well behaved. If there was one minor drawback for me, it was the pool area. There really aren't enough deck chairs for everyone and many people came down before 7 AM to "reserve" chairs. The Pool Butlers did, at times, remove belongings of people who were gone for too long, but this was not done consistently. Still, since we prefer not to sit in the sun, we were eventually able to find places to sit. As I said, this was only a minor annoyance.
On our first cruise (on the Equinox), we had a Concierge cabin. For our cruise on the Infinity, we upgraded to a Celebrity Suite. This time, we decided to try Aqua Class (cabin #9070) --- and we were very pleased with the decision. The cabin was a comfortable size for the two of us. We packed a little more than we probably needed, but there was plenty of room in the closets to hang our clothes. In addition, there were six drawers next to the main closet and two large shelves. The two night tables each had two deep drawers and the vanity had two large storage spaces. Our suitcases fit comfortably under the bed. The bathroom was small but sufficient and I really loved the shower. The balcony was large enough for the two of us to sit and eat breakfast comfortably or read. There is a large overhang so that there was only sun early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Since we prefer shade, it was perfect. The only minor negative was mentioned on some message boards: the water from the shower tends to pour out from under the shower doors and "flood" the floor. This in no way negatively impacted the experience. We simply had to put down a few extra towels to mop up the water. On the third day, my wife figured out that by closing the doors in a certain way, we could minimize the "flooding." Overall, we really enjoyed the cabin and were very comfortable.
As Aqua Class guests, we were assigned to eat in Blu. Initially, we thought we might want to occasionally eat in the MDR or in one of the specialty restaurants. However, the experience in Blu was so good that we dined there every night (and a few mornings). The first three mornings, we ordered room service, but soon we were having breakfast in Blu as well. We thought that the food was very good and loved the fact that the portions were a little smaller --- so we never felt stuffed after dinner. Dinner always began with an interesting appetizer, followed by either soup or salad. I really enjoyed the soups. The main dishes were tasty and, for the most part, light. I really enjoyed one of the roasted chicken dishes, the filet mignon and a rack of lamb (I know, how could that be light? Somehow, it was). The menu was different each night. However, the best thing about the restaurant is that it felt like a real restaurant, not like a huge dining room at a Catskill Mountains resort. Blu was quiet and intimate and quite relaxing. Everyone we spoke to felt the same way about the ambiance of the restaurant. And the staff! Well . . .
We absolutely love the staff on Celebrity ships and this sailing was no different. Every single staff member we passed in the halls stopped to ask how we were, how we were enjoying the cruise, if we had a nice day, etc. Of course, it probably helps that we are friendly, as well, but they went out of their way to make our cruise enjoyable. I have a hard time believing reviews that say that the staff is surly or indifferent. They are warm and friendly and professional. Now some specifics:
We couldn't have been happier with our treatment in Blu. It started with Mazy, our Maitre d'. He always greeted us with a smile and welcomed us back. During the meal, he stopped by to make recommendations, to ask if we were enjoying the meal or simply to chat for a few moments. The wait staff was friendly and professional as well --- in particular Rambo, Alvin and Ashvin. They provided us with information about the food that allowed us to make informed choices. They took the time to chat with us and we found out a lot about their backgrounds and the countries they came from. They made us feel like guests in their homes, not customers. At one meal, the woman sitting next to us (from Montreal) was having trouble conveying to Alvin exactly what she wanted to eat (she spoke English well, but didn't quite have the words to convey her exact meaning). Alvin brought got Ashvin, who spoke French, and together they were able to figure out what she wanted to order. Pleasing their guests was important.
I also have to mention Jom, the sommelier, and Agus, who brought us other drinks. They were so delightful and helpful and really helped make the experience in Blu a wonderful one. And, after the first night, everyone on staff knew our names and, by the third night, knew our dining and drinking preferences.
In addition, I want to mention Steve Gayda, the Cruise Director, and his staff who went out of their way to make sure that everyone had a great time. By the time the cruise ended he knew the names of many of the passengers.
My wife and I are regular theater-goers in NY and I like to go to the shows on the ship. The entertainers were all excellent. Guitarist/vocalists Brandi Paige and Jefferson Eng are quite good. Jordan Peterson, the pianist, is very talented and I wished I could have seen him and the others more often. When the aerialists, Lulu and Dima, had to drop out of the final performance because of rough seas, Jordan took their place and did a wonderful set. The major performances by the Celebrity singers and dancers were enjoyable. The shows themselves were not very strong. "Sirens" suffered from a weak script and awful dialogue and the revues, "iHollywood" and "Stars in Their Eyes," had, in my opinion, some odd song choices. However, the singers and dancers were so good that we didn't care. The singers, particularly Glenn, Diana, Drew and Hannah had strong, beautiful voices and the dancers, especially Ben, Sacha, Jason, Jason and Ashley, were superb. Some of the dance numbers were absolutely exhilarating. As my wife remarked to one of the performers at the end of the first show, "Whatever they're paying you guys . . . it's not enough!"
Jason Bishop, the illusionist, was absolutely amazing. We've all seen these "tricks" before, but his unique take on these illusions was phenomenal. While I didn't see comedian Kevin Flynn in his adults only late show (past my bedtime), I enjoyed him when he appeared in the final night's show. He was hilarious.
The highlight of the week (entertainment-wise) was the appearance of Telly Leung in the 54 Below show. Telly is a Broadway veteran (I've seen him in several shows) and his set, along with accompanist, Gary Adler, was fabulous. The theme of the show was about the songs that were important to him growing up. They included Broadway songs, pop music and traditional songs. He has a beautiful voice, passion and lots of personality. He even stuck around and appeared with the Celebrity singers in their final performance.
- We don't usually book our excursions through Celebrity, but my wife decided that she wanted to do a glass bottom boat tour. It was pleasant and informative, but nothing special. Still, we enjoyed being on the water and met some nice people on board.
- I like to take part in Trivia competitions and there were several each day. I met another couple and we formed a team that lasted the entire trip. The whole point of the games is to have fun and we had a blast. And won a few times, too.
- While on the ship, we ate lunch in the Aqua Spa Cafe. Lunch was mostly salads and this was fine with us.
- The only time we ate at the buffet was the day we first boarded. Nothing else was open. It was OK. We did occasionally stop in for ice cream or coffee and tea.
- There was a minor error on our bill. When I checked my charges on Saturday morning, I noticed a charge for two glasses of Chardonnay from the previous evening. My wife had a Rose wine and I had a gin and tonic --- no Chardonnay. I went to the guest services desk and Angelina, the rep, reviewed our charges and said she would check on them. By that evening, the charges had been removed and I even received a call from Angelina informing me that my bill was now correct.
My wife and I are not drinkers. She likes a glass of wine with dinner and I will sometimes have a soda or a gin and tonic. As a result, we didn't but any beverage packages. On past cruises, we didn't drink enough to warrant a package. However, people who like to drink more on a cruise benefit greatly from a drink package.
- The weather in Bermuda was great and we had nice weather for three of the four days at sea. The last sea day was a little rocky, but not too bad.
Overall, we had a great cruise. We arrived on board determined to relax and have a wonderful time and we did.