Overall impression: The Celebrity Summit is a nicely refurbished older ship that is stylish, hip, and sparkling clean. Swift and organized embarkation (on board in less than 30 minutes including security) made an excellent first impression, as did the modern and sleek buffet boasting plenty of seating and international foods. The service was stellar in all regards, from guest services to stewards- I was always met with smiling faces and helpful attitudes. While breakfast in the Cosmopolitan (MDR) was quick and tasty, dinner service was slow and the food was always lacking. In fact, having been on another Celebrity Cruise (Eclipse) where the food was stellar, I admit to being disappointed by the Summit's lackluster dinner fare. This 14 day cruise (two-seven day cruises with different itineraries) was so chocked full of islands, we saw 12 including Puerto Rico and we NEVER waited in any lines to debark or embark. In fact, while both cruises were sold out, we didn't wait in lines for anything, not for guest services, not drinks, not towels, nor elevators.
These are the things that matter to me on a cruise, and this is how the Summit ranked:
Embarkation/Debarkation: Very Important to me, I hate crowds and lines.
How Summit did in this regard: Excellent
Food: Of utmost importance to me (a self-described foodie)
How Summit did in this regard: Not-so-good at the MDR Cosmopolitan (MDR) for dinner. The Summit's failure in this regard is hard to describe: the food was always "off", over-seasoned or not seasoned at all, not sweet enough or too sweet, too many rubbery textures and weird tastes (I tasted liver in the stuffing on Christmas) and the desserts while looking beautiful, tasted awful with the exception of the Creme Brulee which was excellent every night that I ordered it. I also found brunch to be a fairly disorganized and lackluster affair. With mimosas and bloody Marys available (for a charge) and offerings of sushi, waffles, bananas foster and omelettes: I was eager to dive-in. However, I quickly became disappointed by the taste and lack thereof. In fact, between my husband and I, we likely tasted every item available, and there were only 3 items that stood out: fresh croissants/brioche and the blueberry compote with fresh whipped cream for the waffles.
Stateroom layout, style, and linens: Very Important to me- I don't want to feel like I'm in some tacky motel.
How Summit did in this regard: Excellent. We had an oceanview room on deck 2 midship (a great location to limit seasickness) which was uber clean and modern with plenty of storage. I loved the Egyptian sheets and thick, white, fluffy, absorbent towels. There was a huge storage bin right under the window that was perfect for bags, swimsuits, shoes, sunblock, and books and also contributed to keeping the room tidy (which is important in a small cabin such as this). There was a small loveseat, flat screen TV, hairdryer, fridge, and 2 night stands- a wee bit too small for more than 2 people in my opinion.
Ship cleanliness, style, and layout: Very important to me
How Summit did in this regard: Very good. While you can definitely tell the Summit is an older ship, the recent renovations are a real plus: swanky-clear-glass-plate elevators, richly upholstered chairs, stunning light fixtures, not kitchy at all (this is good: to me anyways).
I had 3 issues with the ship's layout:
-the jogging track was pathetically small (I felt like a gerbil-in-a-ball doing my 40 laps/day) and poorly located on a sunning deck which meant that people (non-walkers/runners) were always in the way.
-the promenade (deck 4) doesn't go all the way around (which is why I was reconciled to doing laps on the small and congested jogging track)
-For some reason --I'm not sure what they were thinking-- there is no grand atrium. It's more of a "foyer" on this ship, so there's no really good place to just sit and people watch.
Specialty restaurants: Mildly important to me (mostly due to cost)
How Summit did in this regard: Not so good
We dined at the Normandie one night ($45 surcharge pp). The atmosphere exudes "expensive restaurant" complete with dim lights, white linens, stuffy waiters and an unsmiling maitre'd. The food was precious and complicated, but I fully admit to falling in love with an appetizer called Peekytoe Crab Parfait. The only problem was that the portion was so tiny, I was left wanting 2 or 3 more! The table-side cooking was a bit of a letdown for me: for $45 I don't want my waiter cooking my meal. The lobster was good, although I'm not sure it was cooked all the way through (another reason to have the cooks do the cooking and have the waiters do the serving). The desserts were anti-climactic, again, they were pleasing to the eye but hard on the palate. At no surcharge, this would've been the best meal of my 14 day cruise, but with a $45 per person surcharge, I will stick to the buffet which was always competent, sometimes odd, but always interesting and varied.
Service: Very important to me
How Summit did in this regard: Excellent
Our room stewards were trustworthy and hardworking. Our ice bucket was always filled (per my request), extra hangers were provided (per my request), the mattresses were flipped (per my husband's request), the room was cleaned when we were at breakfast daily, and nightly turn-down was done at dinner every night. We only received 1 towel animal on Christmas, which was a nice touch.
While the MDR dinner food was lacking, the service was excellent (albeit a bit slow for our tastes). In fact, we became fast friends with our assistant waiter named Yovana- she was the bright point of every evening; her English was excellent, she was fun, inquisitive, kind, incredibly hard-working and full of positive energy. Another memorable character was our dinner hostess Rosemary: she ensured we were seated in Balan & Yovana's section every night, even though it meant waiting sometimes. Rosemary had so many quirky and fun personas that my husband and I would laugh out loud, we truly appreciated her somewhat cooky nature, it also helped that she was very good at her job.
Entertainment: Not so important to me
How Summit did in this regard: Mixed bag (awful to exceptional)
We went to a hypnotist show which was awful, we've seen many of these shows in Vegas and usually love them, but this particular hypnotist lacked wit and charm.
The comedy show with Buzz was PG rated but funny. I was surprised I liked it as much as I did.
Pianist Will Foraker was exceptional. He is like Michael Buble pre-fame. Make sure to see his 45 minute shows in Cafe al Bacio, he also takes requests. A definite highlight of the cruise and likely the best live entertainment I've experienced on any cruise thus far (this was my 8th).
Casino: Very important to me (my husband calls me a degenerate gambler)
How Summit did in this regard: Poorly (read: I didn't win).
The casino is nicely laid out and SMOKE FREE !!! There are tons of penny slots (for cheapskates like me), and a few craps, roulette, and poker tables. There is no entertainment in the casino which is a bit of a bummer, and the machines are VERY TIGHT! Also, the casino host was practically worthless: there were many raffles for players, and tickets were supposed to be handed out during the cruise to people who were *actually* playing. Instead, one had to ask the host for tickets and I suspect the people who won the raffles weren't even gamblers!
Shopping: Not important to me at all
How Summit did in this regard: I have no idea, I am not a shopper. I will say that I did get a headache one day and was saddened that the store did not have any Excedrin. There did seem to be plenty of $10 T-shirt and watch sales, and I was constantly bombarded with invitations to art auctions which I never attended.
Other cruisers: Somewhat important
I know this seems like an odd category, but in my opinion other cruiser's attitudes can and add or take away from a cruise. The first 7 day cruise was relatively inexpensive and seemed to be filled with locals from San Juan, PR. All of the announcements were held in English and Spanish, and I was bothered by other cruisers constantly asking me questions in Spanish (I have olive skin and dark hair). On the first 7 days, people would cram into the elevators (until overloaded and beeping) then argue in Spanish over who was going to get out (at least that's what I surmise they were bickering about). People were constantly bumping and crowding my personal space which made me uncomfortable. However, the second 7 day cruise (Christmas week) was rather pricey and had a different cruise personality entirely: the people were extremely friendly and mostly from the mainland and foreign countries (Japan, France, Germany). The second cruise was more genteel and far more enjoyable for me. I had an easier time chatting up the other guests and the whole experience seemed more refined.
Ports: Somewhat important
How Summit did in this regard: Excellent. We visited 12 islands (10 ports) in 14 days.
The ports are ranked in order of BEST to WORST:
Fredericksted, St. Croix, USVI Overall ranking: island ranked EXCELLENT at #1 out of 10
I was pleased to find a FREE tram which shuttled us to the end of the long pier upon debarkation. In town we found a stand of nicely organized flat-rate shuttles which took us to Rainbow beach for $6 pp RT (a transfer ticket for return trip provided). Rainbow beach was stunningly pretty, with jagged rocks, palm trees, and coral filled sand. We rented an umbrella and 2 chairs for $20. An American by the name of Scott greeted us and was welcoming, informative, and friendly. The beach filled very quickly with other cruise passengers. I felt safe and secure in seeing our cruise ship docked in the distance. There were large chunks of coral in the rough surf so swim shoes are a necessity at this beach. For some reason which is hard to explain, this beach in particular felt rather intimate to me. I enjoyed simply bobbing-up-and-down in the ocean waves and looking for unique coral and shells to take home. Since we were not hungry, we did not eat at the on-site bar and grill with the exception of a $3 (20 oz bottle) Coke. While not a great swimming beach, it was relaxing, beautiful, and most enjoyable, it is because of this experience alone that I ranked St. Croix #1 on my list of ports for this trip. After a refreshing day at the beach we did some window shopping in Fredericksberg. A motivated person could see the shops in less than 30 minutes- definitely not the best port for shopping, but we did notice that street vendor souvenirs were cheap ($5 hats). We saw a huge, colorful iguana (about 20" long) while heading back to the ship, I was sorry I didn't have my camera ready.
Charlotte-Amalie, St. Thomas, USVI Overall ranking: island ranked a MUST SEE at #2
We stopped at St. Thomas 2x on our 14 day cruise. The first day, we walked downtown. I am not much of a shopper but liked peeking into the touristy storefronts at the Havensight shopping mall (just off the pier), then was alternately surprised to see the high end stores at Yacht Haven Grande (LV, Chanel, Balenciaga)- which has meticulously tended grounds and walking paths. The remaining walk downtown was along the shore, a bit of a hike though (1-2 miles) in the heat. We also found a K-mart where I procured a bottle Excedrin for $4. The downtown shops were cute, neatly tucked into brick-lined alleyways, dotted here and there with with bistros and bars. There were dozens of shops selling everything from MAC cosmetics, to pearls, to motel art, to T-shirts, to rum, to nail clippers. We took a safari taxi $4 pp back to the ship. I am proud to say I bought nothing except for some dark chocolate coconut patties which I found at an eye pleasing gourmet food store in Havensight mall whose plentiful displays of hard liquor, wine, block cheese, assorted olives, produce, meats, and breads left me salivating.
The second day at St. Thomas we took a safari taxi for $8 pp (go all the way thru Havensight mall to where the safari taxis [not private taxis] queue) to Magen's bay. We then paid $4 each for entry into the National Park (kids are free). We were rewarded with an absolutely beautiful tree-shaded-beach with shimmering white cornmeal sand free of rocks (read: no swim shoes required). We arrived early enough to snag a picnic table in the shade, and spent the next 3 hours playing in the water: swimming, floating, and watching pelicans dive for fish. The water was so clear you could see not only your toes but also schools of minnows. Magen's Bay is an absolute must. I rank it in my top 3 beaches of the Caribbean, but definitely the best for swimming. The other two are Trunk Bay in St. John and Gold Rock Beach on Grand Bahama.
Philipsburg, St. Maarten Overall ranking: island ranked a MUST SEE at #3
We took a water taxi downtown ($7 each RT) only because we heard that the walk from the pier was long and uninteresting. From there, we caught a city bus to Marigot for $2 each (no passport required). The French-side of St. Martin was lovely with interesting and affordable boutiques and many waterfront and marina bistros offering delicious french, seafood, and local-inspired foods. We wandered the shops, bistros, and streets for most of the day and felt very safe the entire time. The locals (including the French) were friendly, approachable, and helpful. The only aggressiveness we saw was downtown near the water-taxi station, but they backed-off instantly with a polite "no thank you."
Road Town, Tortola & the Baths Overall ranking: island ranked GOOD at #4
We took a ship excursion to the highly recommended Baths on Virgin Gorda. The passenger ferry took about 1 hour. Be sure to sit up top in the shade to get away from the noxious diesel fumes. We then piled into safari buses and drove about 10 minutes to the Baths. This is not an excursion for those who are not fully ambulatory as the hike to the beach is long, uneven, requiring decent flexibility and balance. If you need a cane or assistance to walk in anyway, this is NOT the excursion for you. The huge boulders dotting the crystal blue waters was a mesmerizing scene, but the bustling crowds made it a victim of its own success. We were lucky to find a place in the shade to lay our towels, and were incredibly relieved to have brought swim shoes. One could cut their feet to shreds on this beach without some protection. Upon wading into the water I saw many beautiful tropical fish- a great place to snorkel. Due to the many rocks, I was wary of swimming and chose instead to tread water and bob about in the waves. After eating a styrofoam plate brimming with deliciously salty french fries (cash only) from the snackbar, we gave ourselves 30 mins to hike back up the trail to the taxis. When we returned to Road Town, Tortola we wandered the streets for a bit, then gave up realizing it was far too spread out to see on foot. If we return, we will definitely take an island tour of Tortola.
Roseau, Dominica Overall ranking: island ranked GOOD at #5
I highly recommend a city tour in a safari taxi in Roseau. Our tour cost $20 pp and lasted about 2.5 hours. We toured the city streets, the neighborhoods, the heights, the botanical gardens, and some waterfalls. It was extremely informative and made me understand the culture and the people in a different light than I may have viewed them having *not* taken a tour. Roseau is the poorest city in the Caribbean but has the most colorful farmer's market and friendliest people. In fact, Roseau was a city full of superlatives, it also had the fastest internet (CATS at Independence & Kennedy), the cheapest souvenirs, the most rain, the prettiest Hawaiian-like flowers, the shortest pier and walk to downtown.
St. John's, Antigua Overall ranking: FUN, island ranked GOOD at #6
Here we took a ship excursion (Antigua Beach Adventure) to Rex Halcyon Beach Resort in Dickenson Bay. The vendors on the beach were annoying, but they did accept a polite "no" and moved on. We rented a huge beach umbrella for $10. Lunch was included and was served in a lovely post-card-like setting on the pier. The lunch was local-fare --which to me was delicious-- and included BBQ chicken, plantains, salad, and beans with rice. The ocean sand was a bit rocky, and WARNING: it was extremely difficult to exit the ocean at this beach, there was a very steep drop off, and I saw many people teetering ing awkwardly then falling over when attempting to exit the water. The locals were friendly and helpful, the port area was organized and easy to navigate.
San Juan, PR Overall ranking: island ranked GOOD at #7
We took a city tour here in San Juan booked thru Celebrity so we could be dropped of at SJU for our flight back to DEN. While our guide did not have a very good grasp of English, he gave us plenty opportunity to get out of the bus and explore on our own. Free admission into the old fort was included and I was enthralled by the history and massiveness of the compound. In the 45 minutes given, I quickly explored as much as I could, fascinated by the tunnels, dungeons, and look-outs. We were also given 45 minutes to shop downtown old San Juan where I was happy to find a CVS near the embarcadero so I could bandage my blistered toes. At 10am, most of the shops and bistros were still closed but I was able to drink in the the rusticity of the old Spanish and Colonial architecture. Drop-off at SJU was easy-breezy: we picked up our luggage, took it thru the USDA agricultural check, printed boarding passes, and ate lunch at La Fonda Criolla before going thru security. The food was a smorgasbord of delicious homestyle local fare. We were thru security in less than 10 minutes.
Bridgetown, Barbados Overall ranking: island ranked SO-SO (mixed bag) at #8
The locals were friendly but the taxi drivers and vendors near the pier were extremely aggressive, one even said something very mean to me. We walked straight off the pier to the bus station across from the fish market and bought 5 bus tokens for $5. We then took a city bus to Mullins Beach (1 token each) and rented 2 chairs and umbrella for the day for $15. The beach was lovely but a little rocky (swim shoes recommended) and the snack shack sold cold Cokes for $1. We dined in the Mullin's Beach Bar, where I had a yummy flying fish sandwich and my husband had chicken curry. It was on the expensive side at $45 USD, but the view was worth it. We took a yellow minibus back into town for $4 since we didn't want to wait for the city bus (we will save the bus tokens for our next cruise). We wandered downtown which seemed mostly safe, then meandered our way back to the pier (~1 mile walk).
St. Kitts & ferry to Nevis Overall ranking: island ranked SKIP-IT *or* take a ship excursion at #9
From the pier, we walked 3 blocks to the Nevis (pronounced Nee-vis) ferry terminal. The ferry was $10 US each person, each way. On the walk to the ferry terminal, I noticed that the city was very dirty, trash littered streams, streets, driveways, and sidewalks. The locals seemed mostly indifferent at first, but later I realized they fell into two categories: too helpful and not-helpful at all. Of all of the islands thus far, St. Kitts seemed positively urban and third world at the same time. The passenger ferry was large (sit on-top in the shaded section), stable, clean, and punctual. The so-called "2 mile" passage to Nevis took about 45 minutes and again upon disembarkation the aggressive taxi drivers were upon us. We were only looking to wander around a bit, but had a hard time escaping the taxi drivers who were friendly and a little too helpful (they latched onto us like vise-grips). Tiny and compact downtown Nevis took about 2 minutes to explore, we ended up at a dirty bar called the Octagon that had free wi-fi and a respectable view of the ocean. We were approached by some scary-looking panhandlers, but they seemed to get the message and quickly left us alone. Not wanting to pay the money to tour Alexander Hamilton's childhood home, we instead toured the gift shop and took a couple of photos from outside. We killed an hour at the pier waiting for the return ferry to St. Kitts and were a little annoyed to discover we had to pay a $1 departure fee, then get back in line to board the ferry. I was irked that the gal who sold us the tickets didn't tell us this, but this is precisely what I meant about "not-helpful at all." Out of fairness to the island, we did meet a Canadian and half-time resident of Nevis who adored living there, stating it was "paradise" and that the people were friendly. Maybe this would be the case at a resort, but our back-door mode of travel didn't reveal anymore than gin-clear waters and pushy taxi drivers. Upon returning to St. Kitts, we went straight to the pier and boarded our ship. My husband chose to wander St. Kitts on his own while I had stubbornly made up my mind that I had seen enough.
Castries, St. Lucia Overall ranking: island ranked SKIP-IT *or* take a ship excursion at #10 of 10
We docked in city center and were instantly seized upon by scads of extremely aggressive taxi drivers who wouldn't accept a polite "no" as an answer. We eventually found a disorganized bus station where we boarded a minibus to Soufriere so we could see the Pitons. The locals glared and were most unhelpful, but I also noticed how they were civil at best to each other. The only crack to their hard facade was when somebody would get on the bus and say "good morning" everybody else would chime in happy unison: "good morning!" The 1.25 hour bus ride was awful, winding, up and down, but cheap at $7 for both of us. When we arrived in Soufriere we were disappointed to find aggressive pan-handlers and even more aggressive taxi drivers awaiting our arrival. We didn't see many other Americans or tourists. We headed to Hummingbird beach where we were accosted by a sullen, dirty panhandler whom my husband ignored. The beach sand was trashy and the area felt unsafe to me, so we headed to an inviting beachfront restaurant for respite. The same panhandler then re-accosted my husband who again ignored his begging. The panhandler then turned to me and threatened: "before this day is through, your man will go over a cliff." I scurried up the stairs to the beach front restaurant. The Pitons were breathtaking from our lunch table view, but the sour taste of the panhandler and the locals in general left a bad taste in my mouth. We returned to Castries without incident (Thank God) and I admit to being relieved to get back on board to the safety of the ship.