Holiday Cruise on the Celebrity Summit
This was our second cruise on Celebrity and our tenth cruise overall. We expected to have excellent accommodations, food, service and entertainment, and we weren’t disappointed. Celebrity remains our favorite cruise line.
Cabin. We were in an Aqua Class balcony cabin (9050-9060 range), which was nicely appointed and had sufficient storage and a comfortable bed. However, the stateroom was a bit narrow, and we found ourselves needing to choreograph our movements. An extra 6 – 12 inches in width would have made an enormous amount of difference1 The location was quiet, being nearly midway between the fore and mid stairwells. (On the starboard side, staterooms 9030, 9100 and 9134 are closest to the stairwells.) We heard very little noise from above despite the fact that the pool and buffet are both on deck 10. We were apparently forward of their noise footprint. When walking past staterooms in the 9090 – 9100 range, we occasionally heard noise from the pool area above. We were provided with fresh fruit (apples and oranges), canapés, and iced tea on a daily basis. We received beautiful fresh-cut flowers at the beginning of the cruise, which we used to decorate Christmas gifts for the staff. Somewhat surprisingly, the flowers were never replaced. The ice bucket was mysteriously removed after three days. Tip: we brought a power strip to use for recharging our iEverythings; otherwise it would have been a challenge keeping all of the devices powered because there are few outlets in the stateroom. Tip: Deck 9 forward is a great location – easy access to the Aqua Spa, adult pools and buffet, but away from the noise.
Internet access. Forget using the ship’s service - it’s slower than dialup and outrageously expensive (75 cents/minute without a package, and, given the abysmal speed, the charges can mount up really fast!). It really is puzzling that cruise lines like Celebrity can do so many things brilliantly, but when it comes to Internet access, they’re stuck in the Stone Age (or deliberately overcharging their passengers). One of these days a major cruise line will provide free or low cost high-speed Internet access, and they will have a huge competitive edge with the computer-savvy generations who want to stay connected. Tip: get an international data-roaming package for your cellular device. Tip: Be sure to turn off your wireless devices once you leave port or you will be gouged by the “Cellular-at-Sea” data download prices. We lost several hundred dollars because of this oversight, and we think that Celebrity is doing a disservice to their customers by not providing a caution. Celebrity may have made several hundred dollars in cellular fees, but they lost far more in customer relations!
Public Spaces. The Summit has a wide variety of appealing and comfortable common-use areas, ranging from sedentary (library-ish) to high-energy. Tip: The Sunset Bar is a great place to relax before/after the shows.
Fitness center. The facility is well equipped and well utilized, and the equipment was in good working order (I only saw one out-of-order treadmill among the dozens of systems). Attendants dutifully wiped down the devices between users. Tip: fitness center is much less crowded while the ship is in port.
Running track (deck 11). Uncrowded and in good shape, but it was a bit short.
Pools, hot tubs and Persian Garden. Clean, uncrowded, comfortable and well-maintained. Surprisingly, I was never asked for my Aqua Class key card when accessing the Persian Garden. Children were often found in adults-only pools and hot tubs, and crewmembers seemed reluctant to enforce the restrictions.
Celebrity Theater. Very well laid out; not a bad seat in the house! We were always able to find seats, even when arriving at the last minute.
Blu. The food was excellent, and the wait staff was attentive, uniformly pleasant, and completely focused on excellent customer service. By the second evening, the maitre-de not only knew us, but he also knew which table we preferred. By arriving early, we were always able to sit at a window table (although almost all tables had a nice view of the water). The food was great, and the soups were especially delicious. What I would change: The Blu schedule indicated that they stopped seating for breakfast at 9AM. Since our wakeups were precipitated by the first P.A. announcement - usually around 8:15 – (and who wants to set an alarm clock on vacation!), we could have used a bit more time to get to the restaurant. In reality, the maître-de graciously accepted latecomers until about 9:15. Tip: Try the Greyhounds at breakfast: they might be the best on the planet (made with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice). The fresh squeezed orange juice and Mango Madness smoothie were also delicious. Tip: Take care of the staff, and they will take care of you!
Normandie. Because we were in Aqua Class, upon boarding we were offered a 50% discount on first night dining at this pay-to-eat restaurant (it’s normally $45pp). The food was good, the atmosphere inviting, but the service was slow. Specifically, it took an average of over 25 minutes between courses. We arrived at Normandie at 8:10PM, and we walked out at 9:40PM because our main course had not yet arrived. On the positive side, the maître-de called our stateroom within minutes of our disappointed departure from Normandie, and he asked why we had left. When we told him about the slow pace of the food service, he apologized and offered to make things right by inviting us back for a free “do-over”. Our second dinner at Normandie took an hour and forty minutes (including the main course). This was much more reasonable, especially considering the fact that it was Christmas night, and the restaurant was very busy. Tip: If you dine at Normandie, expect to be there for 1 ½ to 2 hours minimum.
Cosmopolitan Restaurant. We ate Christmas brunch at the Cosmo, and the food was quite good. Brunch was served from 10AM – 1PM. Be prepared to wait for a considerable length of time unless you arrive early or towards the end of the brunch.
Qsine. We did not use this venue.
Aqua Spa Café. Advertised as light and healthy, we felt the café was too limited in their offerings. (Loose translation: This is a foo-foo restaurant, not for guys.)
Bistro on 5. Bo5 is an attractive and lightly utilized venue, featuring crepes, soups and salads. However, because it had few wheat-free offerings, we didn’t partake.
Oceanview Café (Buffet). At times it was hard to find silverware, ice machines often didn’t work, and coffee urns (especially regular coffee) needed to be refilled more frequently. At some food stations the selections were two deep, making it impossible to reach the aft selection without the help of a crewmember (and they weren’t always nearby). Our sleep and shore excursion schedules seemed to be out of sync with the buffet hours, which occasionally limited the selection of foods available to us. However, the buffet food was excellent. Tip: there are several nice outdoor tables at the stern of the ship near the Sunset Bar.
Service on cruise ships is usually very good. Service on the Celebrity Summit ranged from very good to exceptional, often surpassing our expectations. This particular crew stood out because they seemed to really like each other, and so they clicked as a team. We appreciated the fact that crewmembers were often seen dining at the buffet and several of the other restaurants. That sent positive messages about the quality of the food and the accessibility of the crewmembers. We also appreciated that the staff was as friendly on d-day as they were when we embarked. Perhaps the best service we experienced was at the restaurant Blu, where the levels of courtesy, kindness, attentiveness and skill were exemplary. We appreciated that Blu and the Cosmopolitan were open for breakfast on disembarkation day; on several previous cruises, only the buffet was open on d-day.
The big shows, (especially iHollywood and comedian Buzz Southerland) were some of the best we’ve seen in our ten cruises. All of the other performers we watched (4-Sail, Will Foraker, Justin Wade, etc.) were talented and enjoyable.
Loved it! Originating in San Juan, we stopped at St. Croix, St. Kitts, Dominica, Tortola and St. Thomas. Because we had only one sea day, we had uncrowded access to the pool, lounge chairs, hot tubs, spa, etc. on most days. We shared the port with another cruise ship at only one of our six stops (including San Juan), which reduced the number of people using the port facilities.
Our passenger group was very diverse in terms of age, race and nationality. Many different languages were spoken. There weren’t as many children as one would normally expect on a holiday cruise, perhaps because of the added expense of flying to/from San Juan.
Blu, Michael’s Club, outside tables at the buffet near the Sunset Bar, Mast Bar (between activities), the Thalassotherapy bubble beds, our balcony.
Getting to and from the ship
Celebrity offers pre-arranged transportation between the San Juan airport and the ship. Two catches: first, you are separated from your luggage (and lost luggage is not the responsibility of the cruise line), and second, you have to wait until the vehicle (large chartered bus) is full before you leave. We opted for a taxi, which cost $24 plus tip for two people and four bags.