Let me first say that we are diehard RCCL cruisers, Diamond level in the Crown & Anchor Society. We thought we’d give Celebrity a try … same parent company, supposedly a step above RCCL, their commercials tout ''"modern luxury”, a ''"cruise experience that exceeds expectations”, etc. So, in May, 2012, we booked a Concierge Class balcony cabin for the 10/26/13 sailing of the Summit out of San Juan. Since we are Diamond members of RCCL’s C&A Society, we joined the Celebrity Captain’s Club as Elite members. Concierge Class cabin on a ''"modern luxury” cruise line, Elite members of Captain’s club … should be a great cruise, right? Well…
Arrival & Check-in
After looking forward to this cruise for well over a year, we arrived at the port on 10/26/13 probably around 2:30pm. We had two options for check-in lines, either the Elite Captain’s Club line, or the Concierge Class line … since no one was in line for Concierge Class, that’s where we headed. We were immediately escorted to an agent, we were checked in very quickly and we were on the ship just moments later. Very pleased with the check-in process.
Overall impressions of the ship are mostly good. Summit was ''"Solsticized” in 2012 … but if you look around (public areas as well as cabins) you will notice definite signs of wear. I felt ''"soft spots” in the floor in several areas (Oceanview Café, Rendezvous lounge, Revelations lounge), that was rather unsettling. I think Summit could do with some refurbishment.
I guess I was expecting more since it was a ''"Concierge Class” cabin, but it seemed to be a ''"standard issue” - it was nice, but nothing special above what we have come to expect on standard balcony cabins on RCCL. I will say that there was more than sufficient storage space in our cabin. It appears the shower stall had been repaired for leaks in the past, presumably more of a concern for the cabin below us. I liked the larger shower stall. Plenty of water pressure and hot water, and no issues with the plumbing. We LOVED the nightlight in the bathroom ''" very nice for those night time potty breaks, don’t have to be blinded by turning on the light!
As mentioned, we booked a Concierge Class balcony cabin which ''" according to their website ''" came with certain amenities. I won’t list them all here, only the ones we had issue with:
• Daily Ice Service (this is an amenity for all cabin types, not just Concierge class) ''" no ice for first 2 days, we finally asked for it and got it daily from then on. (If you’re going to advertise it as an amenity for all cabins, why do we have to ask for it?)
• Express luggage delivery ''" we received 3 of our 4 checked bags probably within an hour of boarding the ship. The 4th bag did not arrive until much later, we were starting to get concerned that it had been lost!
• Pillow menu ''" we were never offered a pillow menu. The pillows we had were okay, but would liked to have seen what other options were available.
• Fresh Flowers ''" we had fresh flowers on day 1, another small vase of flowers with a rose probably on day 2 or 3 … no more. By the end of the week they were quite sad looking since they were never removed or changed out. (The rose in one of them was brown and nasty looking the very next day.)
• Personalized stationery ''" didn’t exist. (Or, if it did, we never found it!)
• Binoculars & Golf Umbrella ''" we had an umbrella, two even, but no binoculars. (No big deal, we probably wouldn’t have used them anyway.)
• Oversized 100% cotton bath towels ''" first 3 or 4 days we had standard, run-of-the-mill, cruise ship type bath towels. Toward the end of the week we had some really nice, plush, oversized towels ''" wish we would have had those all week! (And I thought all cruise lines did towel animals ''" apparently not Celebrity! No big deal, just one of those little fun things you come to expect on a cruise and it wasn’t there.)
• Extra handheld hair dryer ''" we only had 1, no ''"extra” dryer. (Friends of ours in a Celebrity Suite didn’t have a hair dryer at all!) The hair dryer that was there had the plug trimmed down so it would fit in the outlet, almost afraid to use it. (Fortunately we always travel with our own blow dryer, so this really was not an issue.)
• Hansgrohe massaging showerhead ''" not sure what brand it was, but I’m pretty sure we had a simple, standard, run-of-the-mill showerhead, if it had a massaging head it was news to me.
On the subject of cabins, we visited our friends in one of the Celebrity Suites. While it was a large suite and nice accommodations, even it was a bit disappointing. The sofa was worn out and extremely uncomfortable ''" my backside knows that from personal experience. They said there were places in the bathroom where the grout was coming out from between the tile, and that if you looked under the handles of the jetted tub, it was black with mold/mildew. Really? Yuck!
Overall the staff was good. But, honestly, we never felt truly welcome onboard. Yes, some of the staff was very friendly, gracious and a pleasure to be around. However, more often than not, the staff was rather indifferent, and on rare occasion downright rude and/or condescending. Again, there were pleasant exceptions, but for the most part we felt like we were an inconvenience to several of the staff.
Early seating is just too early for us. We’ve tried ''"My Time” dining on RCCL once, that didn’t work for us. Our preference is the traditional late seating, with the same people and the same servers. However, late seating on this ship is at 8:45pm. That’s a tad too late for our likes, we prefer 8pm, but we managed.
We had requested to be seated at a large table since we like to meet new people. Our first night in the dining room found us at a table for 6, all by ourselves. (We did have another couple join us, but only on 2 nights, so most of the time we dined alone.) However, with fewer people to wait on at our table we were served quickly that first evening ''" we were not rushed, mind you, just served promptly ''" and we were in and out of the dining room probably within 45 minutes. We were impressed with our wait staff that first night. Unfortunately, that first impression didn’t last. With each passing evening the service seemed to get slower and slower. On the final night we had finished our entrées and waited a good 10 minutes before our plates were cleared. They asked if we wanted coffee and dessert, which we often passed up, but this night we said yes. A good 10-15 minutes later we still had no coffee and no dessert menus, so we got up and left. The waiter came after us, but if I had stopped to speak with him I’m sure I would not have had anything pleasant to say so we just ignored him and went on.
The food was nothing to write home about. Some evenings it was downright disappointing. The Prime Rib was very good, so there’s a plus. However, the New York Strip and the Rib Eye were both tough and gristly. Lobster was very tough and chewy. The chicken was very dry, even drowning it in whatever sauce that was didn’t help. It was okay, but overall we were disappointed in the food quality in the dining room. We’ve had far better food on RCCL.
Are there head waiters in the dining room on Celebrity? We never once had one come by our table the entire week. On RCCL we are used to the head waiter stopping by the table at least a couple times during the week.
The buffet area was acceptable, not really any different than the buffet area on any RCCL ship. The first day we noticed the breakfast buffet area near the entrance was quite crowded, took a while to get our food. The second day we realized that if you went toward the back of the Oceanview Café, there were other serving lines with very limited waiting. From that point on we headed toward the back and always managed to get our food quickly.
The food was typical buffet food, not super good, but not bad either. It was acceptable. I must say that the one thing I really liked ''" once we found it ''" was that we could get Eggs Benedict every morning at the egg station. (On RCCL, that is only served at breakfast in the main dining room.)
On RCCL, there are servers that come around the tables offering juice, coffee, etc.; we never saw that on Summit. You had to get up and get it yourself if you wanted a beverage or a refill.
Morning coffee ''" hard to find before 6am! I am an early riser, and I’m usually not the only one. On most ships we’ve been on there would be coffee made at least at one beverage station, but I never found coffee before 6am, and some mornings it was later than that. (It may have been available at other stations earlier, but if so I never found it!)
Captain’s Club ''" Elite Member Benefits
These are some of the benefits we took issue with.
• Exclusive Captain’s Club Celebration Event ''" this was on Tuesday when we were in port in Dominica, ''"all aboard” wasn’t until 4:45pm, but the event was 3:30pm-4:15pm. Had to miss it.
• Complimentary wine seminar event ''" this was on Monday when we were in port in St. Kitts, ''"all aboard” wasn’t until 4:45pm, but the event was at 11am. Had no choice but to miss it.
• Invitation to the exclusive Senior Officer’s Cocktail Party ''" this was on Thursday at 5:15pm-6pm ''" after the day ashore we would need a shower, and the dress code was ''"smart casual & above”, there was no way we could make it in time. That time may have been good for those doing early dining at 6pm, but very inconvenient for those doing late dining at 8:45pm.
• Access to the Captain's Club Lounge for coffeehouse style breakfast and evening social hour (open daily except embarkation and the evening of the Senior Officers' Cocktail Party). I wasn’t impressed.
On RCCL, being a Diamond member, we are used to being able to go to the Diamond lounge around 7:30pm to enjoy a complimentary cocktail or two just before dinner. On Celebrity, the social hour is 5pm-7pm. If we get dressed for dinner and make it before the social hour ends at 7pm, what are we supposed to do until dinner at 8:45pm? And, because there were ''"so many Elite” members onboard, they gave us 3 drink coupons each that could be used, but they could only be used 5-7pm on the dates specified on the coupons and only in certain bars. Not much of a social hour being so early before dinner.
This cruise had the following ports of call: St. Croix, USVI; Basseterre, St. Kitts; Roseau, Dominica; St. George’s, Grenada; St. Thomas, USVI. The ports were great, 3 were brand new ports to us that we were looking forward to, it’s just too bad that it rained a couple of the days. But, no cruise line that I know of can control the weather! We made the best of it and still enjoyed those days.
After a week of what individually were very, very minor disappointments, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the last night. Prior to dinner that night we had managed to pack most of our items in anticipation of disembarking the next morning. However, we had not yet received disembarkation tags for our luggage, no instructions, no customs declaration forms, nothing about the disembarkation process. I had assumed these items would be left while we were at dinner that evening. We got back from a disappointing dinner around 10pm ''" that gave us an hour to finish packing and set the luggage out by the 11pm deadline. However, we still had no tags, no customs forms, no instructions ''" nothing for the disembarkation process.
I tried to find the cabin attendant in the hall, but it was after 10pm, so he was nowhere to be found. I went down to Guest Relations ''" being the last night the line was long with people either settling up their onboard accounts or questioning charges. I noticed the Concierge desk was open … since I’m in a Concierge Class cabin, I can utilize the Concierge. I asked him about the tags, customs forms, etc., ''"Yes, sir, that is all in your stateroom.” No, it isn’t there. ''"Yes, sir, your cabin attendant would have delivered it, you must have overlooked it.” Um, no, I didn’t overlook it … it isn’t there. ''"Yes, sir, I see here that you are disembarking tomorrow, so it would be in your stateroom already.” (Basically he was throwing the cabin attendant under the bus for not delivering them.) For the umpteenth time, the items were not delivered to my stateroom! ''"Oh, let me see if I can get you the items again.” Again? I never got them the first time! He finally gave me some tags, green 12, and 2 customs forms, I thanked him and walked away.
By the time I got back to the cabin I realized he didn’t give me any instructions, information on where to wait, approximately what time will ''"green 12” be able to disembark, etc. So, off I went to get that information. When I left the cabin I saw our assistant cabin attendant in the hall and asked him what time we’d be able to disembark with these tags. ''"Oh, I think green 12 will get you off the ship around 10am or 11am, but I’m really not sure.” Okay, we didn’t’ want to wait that late to get off the ship. So, back to the Concierge desk I went. He verified that ''"green 12” would be able to disembark around 8:45am (much better!) and gave me the form with disembarkation information, where we could wait, etc. After a stressful time of it, we managed to get our luggage tagged and set out right at 11pm, just as they were coming through our hallway to pick it up.
Saturday morning I ran into our cabin attendant in the hallway and mentioned my disappointment at not getting the disembarkation information in our cabin the day before. He was apologetic, but promptly laid blame on Guest Services, ''"I’m just the delivery person, I can only deliver what they give me to deliver, they must not have given me anything for your cabin.” So, while the Concierge/Guest Services threw him under the bus, he was now throwing them under the bus … one blaming the other for the oversight. Very unprofessional.
Those in Concierge Class cabins and above could wait in the Normandie restaurant on Deck 3 for disembarkation. They served standard coffee, water, juice and pastries. It was a comfortable waiting area and we were off the ship by around 9am.
Overall it was a good week, we had fun ''" we always have fun, cruised with some great friends, and met some new friends. Most of the disappointments we experienced were minor and could be overlooked on their own. But, after a week of minor disappointments, and the final frustration with not getting our disembarkation tags and information, I must admit that we are left with a bitter taste for Celebrity Cruises.
We, along with our friends, were looking to be ''"WOW'ed” by Celebrity Cruises as compared to RCCL, but it just didn’t happen. Unfortunately, this cruise did not meet, let alone exceed, our expectations of Celebrity Cruises. Will we cruise Celebrity Cruises again? I’m sure we will at some point in the future. But, for now, we need to get rid of this bitter aftertaste, so we are really looking forward to getting back onboard RCCLs Freedom of the Seas in April, 2014!