Many weeks after booking our 14-night New England & Canada cruise (September 7, 2013) on the Celebrity Summit departing from Bayonne, NJ including airfare from Orlando, FL to Newark, NJ, we discovered that the Summit would be cruising to Bermuda on a six-night voyage the week right before our two-week cruise. We had searched for a cruise to Bermuda from a Florida port for some time but Bermuda cruises from Florida are rare. Therefore, we chose to rebook our flight six days earlier and cruise to Bermuda first on a back-to-back (B2B) Celebrity Summit cruise. It turned out to be a great idea and we found that the two cruises were completely different experiences. Packing for such a wide range of temperatures proved a little more complicated but we managed to keep our bags way under the airline limit.
We departed September 1 from Orlando International Airport to Newark Airport in New Jersey where Celebrity representatives from a private transportation company met us in the baggage department. Our Celebrity arranged transfer went smoothly. The helpful gentleman assigned to us stood nearby to ensure that all our bags arrived safely. He was well organized and chatted with us while we waited. He kept us well informed about what was happening. Then he escorted us to a waiting area so more passengers from another flight arriving just minutes after ours could join us. Soon a large comfortable coach with a friendly driver arrived to take us all to Cape Liberty.
After a not-so-short ride, we parked at a dismal port receiving area in Bayonne, New Jersey. We claimed our checked luggage and handlers from the port took them directly to the ship. We had only to manage our carry-on bags. What surprised me next was that we needed to board shuttle buses to take us to the real terminal still a short distance away to begin our boarding preliminaries. The process was smoothly accomplished and before we knew it, we were on the ship in the buffet café enjoying a sumptuous meal. Our party of four quickly secured an inside table with a view of the lovely New York Harbor, lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge now, however, shrouded in fog and haze. My photos were not great but we knew that we had a chance for better photos on our return.
After lunch, we took a short tour of the public areas until our staterooms became available. We changed our clothes, put away our hand luggage contents and went up to meet our fellow passengers. Several announcements pertaining to the start of the safety drill occurred a few hours later. In our case, we had to stand, crowded in lines in an inside section for many minutes before and during the safety drill. Luckily, most of the passengers on this cruise were young so this was not a big problem just a bit uncomfortable and hot. Other Muster Stations were in more convenient lounge areas with seating.
Our stateroom on Deck 3 was our home for the next three weeks. It is quite conveniently located near the front desk and atrium area just two decks down from our Main Dinning Room and the Theater. Our bright Oceanview stateroom #3092 was quite comfortable with a king bed, end tables and a small couch with multiple pillows. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors on one wall made the room seem larger. A desk with a mirror and chair plus a glass cocktail table and a wall hanging completed the decor. There were enough drawers, shelves and closet space for our belongings. My only complaint was that the passageway into the room was a bit narrow especially when we both packed/unpacked at the same time. The bathroom was of average size and adequate for our needs with sufficient towels and other amenities. I especially appreciated the retractable clothesline in the shower and the nightlight that many ships do not have. Celebrity provided two robes and a large umbrella to use on the cruise. We received a complementary logo tote bag to keep. Our checked luggage arrived and we began unpacking in earnest until dinnertime. The attractive ship passageways seemed a little narrow but still airy-feeling with light colors, landscape photographs on the walls and mirrors on the ceiling. Soon our steward, Joanne stopped by to introduce herself, ask if our luggage had all arrived and to see to our needs. She was so friendly and accommodating throughout our entire three weeks as was Richard, her assistant for this cruise.
Service around the ship in general, was great. We chose Celebrity Select Dining and made reservations with a very accommodating Gabriella at the reception desk outside the Main Dining Room on Deck 5. She did a great job assigning tables but often had to leave her post to escort diners to their tables. She was never ruffled no matter how long the line. For the first couple of days we tried sitting at different tables. We were looking for not only competent servers but ones with personalities as well. On our third evening, Sudarmika from Indonesia served us and we decided that he and Melvin were not only professional and attentive but also entertaining. They remained our servers for the rest of our B2B cruises. From then on Gabriella told us to avoid the reservations line and proceed directly to our table. This saved us wait time. Our servers did a superb job serving us, anticipating our needs and offering suggestions for the best choices at mealtime. Although we did not always take their suggestions, we did appreciate their advice and they were always right. At my urging, Melvin even showed us a photo of his son who is so cute.
Head Waitress, Ana from Mexico, handled special meal requests. We had such a wonderful relationship with her that we would find each other up at the buffet for breakfast and lunch just to say hello. We even sang her Happy Birthday one evening in the MDR. She was personable, helpful, upbeat and knowledgeable. Karen from Columbia was our Wine Stewardess and she did an excellent job refilling our wine glasses and chilling our bottles. Shah from India was a friendly Assistant Maitre’d who always stopped by our table to ask how everything was going. We made friends with Christian from Guest Services and he was a big help to us with any questions that we had. Senior Officer Fabio in charge of Food and Beverage went out of his way to find a chair for my husband when we came in late to a cocktail Party due to our Wine Tasting Party with Cruise Critic Members schedules just before it - how thoughtful! Captain Theo could sometimes be found around the ship and always had time for pleasantries. Steve Gayda, our Cruise Director was always available especially on port days. He was very friendly and chatted with everyone. Hi, Steve!
Almost all the MDR meals met with our satisfaction. We all especially enjoyed the Mushrooms stuffed with Crabmeat appetizer - always on the menu and ordered it frequently. Other favorites were the beef dishes especially the very tender Prime Rib and, of course, the lobster Tail. Portions were generous and we barely had room for dessert each night. We usually ordered the more unusual flavors of ice cream each night such as Rum Raisin, Cherry Brandy, Rocky Road, Cinnamon and Honey Caramel. The Crème Brulee was another favorite as was the Baked Alaska. Breakfast and lunch were usually in the Oceanview Café. There was always a wonderful selection of fresh salads, entrees, pizzas, pastas, Asian Specialties and casseroles as well as deli sandwiches and deserts to please almost everyone. I loved the hash brown patties, the varieties of Eggs Benedict and fresh fruit for breakfast. We enjoyed eating real ice cream at the lunch buffet in addition to sherbets, soft serve and sugar free ice cream with several different toppings. Many cruise line only serve soft serve ice cream outside the MDR. Once or twice, we enjoyed breakfast or lunch in the MDR on sea days just for a change.
The ship has all the usual shipboard activities including art auctions, dance and fitness (Zumba) classes, trivia, arts & crafts, board games, bingo and a Ship and Champagne Galley tour. In addition, there were Wellness Seminars, Ice carving, stargazing and lectures given by Dr. Dave a Naturalist. He spoke about whales, sharks, bioluminescence and other interesting topics. On our departure from Bermuda, we were invited to use the Helipad. The staff offered us golf umbrellas and icy towels since it was a very sunny, hot day. We took advantage of this unusual opportunity and enjoyed the view. There were so many activities every day that we only went swimming one time in the indoor Thallasassotherapy pool. The many kids on board were kept busy building spaceships, watching movies, doing arts & crafts projects, scavenger hunts, playing ping pong, face painting and other such activities too numerous to list.
The entertainment was wonderful. The theater was quite attractive as were all the public areas. I especially enjoyed the big production numbers with the singers and dancers. The choreography was first rate. Every single night there was a different show. The Sirens Show had beautiful stage settings. Children in the audience were mesmerized and dressed up as Pirates. The costumes for the production numbers were beautiful. Other enjoyable shows include musician, actor, impressionist James Stevens and illusionist Jason Bishop.
Our ship docked in Bermuda for three days. I took four tours over the three days and enjoyed them all. We saw almost the entire island and loved the pink sand on the beaches and the friendly tour guides. They were so knowledgeable and could answer all the various questions. They often pulled over when possible for us to taken photos at unscheduled stops. The weather on the trip was perfect and the seas were very calm.
There were several nice shops on the ship but I held off buying anything since I had shipboard credit to spend on the following cruise. There were many special sales around the shops and complementary liquor tasting before or after the shows. The casino was busy at night. Since the passengers were for the most part young, many partied until late at night. Many passengers on this cruise preferred to dine late. They were an active group. Many were from New Jersey, of course or the tri-state area. Up on deck I met a friendly couple from the UK who said that there was a big contingent from her country onboard.
Sometimes, it really comes down to small things that can make or break a cruise. After a very early wake up, lugging bags through the airport, maneuvering through security, not receiving any snacks on our United flight, etc… we were tired when we finally boarded our ship. How nice that we were greeted with glasses of champagne. It was a wonderful way to start our cruise. We also received champagne on the Galley tour and one evening in the theater including chocolates.
Did everything go right, no? It never does. I have just a few suggestions to offer Celebrity. Get more help in escorting Select Dining passengers to their seats to ease lines at the front reception desks. Be more proactive about insisting that passenger use hand sanitizer machines. There are plenty around the ship but many passengers do not use them. A third suggestion is to do away with reserve seating in the back two rows of the theater for guests in certain cabin categories. This is sending the wrong message. There is a policy of no reserving seats in the theater so the ship should not be doing it either. I heard a lot of grumbling about this. Come up with a different benefit. Some of the classes needed larger rooms. For example the class on ship navigation was too small for the large number of passengers in attendance. Many of us had to sit on the floor or stand up the entire time. My final suggestion is to get nicer artwork around the ship. Very little appealed to me or anyone else that I spoke with during the cruise.
We had a wonderful cruise and we looked forward to our next cruise - our fourteen-night cruise to New England and Canada. Moreover, we finally got some beautiful shots of the New York skyline on our return. Stay turned for my review of my next Celebrity Summit cruise.