This is our fourth cruise... one on Royal Caribbean, and now three on Celebrity. We have found that Celebrity provides the atmosphere (food, dining, entertainment) that we are looking for. We are in our mid-50s and prefer a more relaxed cruise with not a lot of fun and games around the pool… just music and relaxing.
OLD SAN JUAN HOTEL
We began our trip arriving two nights early and staying in Old San Juan at the Casablanca Hotel. We enjoyed the two extra days before the cruise to wind down from work and the flight before getting on the ship. We highly recommend the Casablanca Hotel if you are looking for a non-traditional, historic hotel in the heart of Old San Juan. Just be aware there are no elevators in the hotel, so staying on the lower of the five floors is recommended. We stayed in the 2B suite with a balcony overlooking Fortaleza Street... it was great. There are lots of good restaurants within walking distance. You do not need a car to visit all the attractions (forts, etc.) in Old San Juan.
This is our second year on the Celebrity Summit with the South Caribbean itinerary. This ship is not as nice as the Celebrity Solstice class ships, but we actually like the size and the Solsticized renovations that were done on the Summit two years ago. Solsticizing has provided similar amenities and atomsphere to the Solstice class ships. The ship was clean with aging rust here and there, but hardly noticeable.
You will need to take a taxi to the Pan-American pier to embark on the ship. The ships that port in San Juan are not docked in Old San Juan. I think the only ships that dock at the Old San Juan piers are the ones visiting for the day. This confused many couples we talked to because they walked to the Old San Juan pier with luggage thinking they would embark there. No, and you cannot walk to the Pan American (embarkation) pier from Old San Juan.
Upon arrival at the pier we had to wheel/carry all of our luggage from the taxi, through a line, and to the waiting porters. The porters do not greet the taxis nor help with the luggage although they expect a tip when the luggage is handed to them. After getting rid of our luggage, we went through the passport, security, and the check-in process quickly and was greeted on the ship with a glass of Champaign.
We chose an AquaClass cabin (1117) as we prefer dining in Blu versus the larger, typical cruise two story dining halls. The food in Blu is very good... a little more health conscious and delicious. Good menu options. You can also order from the main dining room menu if you want to in Blu. The service in Blu is outstanding and Mazy, the Blu maitre'd was outstanding. He is probably the most experienced Blue maitre’d on all Celebrity ships. He opened the original Blu restaurant on the first Solstice class ship. He was very accommodating of our diets (vegetarian/vegan). The service by waiters, waitresses, bartender, etc. was great and very personable. Our opinion is Aquaclass is worth the price just for the food and much smaller setting. We felt like we ate in an exclusive restaurant each night. Breakfast was also very good in Blu with the same great service from the same great servers and maitre’d. We did not use the AquaSpa itself on this cruise. We did not do any specialty dining restaurants. Who needs to pay the extra cost for these restaurants when you already have Blu included?
Cabin service - very attentive, consistent, and kept our cabin clean and neat.
Overall service – everyone was warm and helpful.
This year was the cruise to Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Martin, and St. Thomas. Our previous cruise on the Summit was St. Croix, St. Kitts, Dominica, Grenada and St. Thomas. Both itineraries are very good.
We booked all through Celebrity. More expensive I am sure, but trouble free. It is worth it to us
Barbados – We took a catamaran and snorkeled with the turtles and visited a shipwreck. The excursion ended with a swim on a secluded beach. The turtles were great, the shipwreck was OK but not great snorkeling… lots of the same fish. The beach and rum punch was good.
St. Lucia – bus tour throughout the city and through the countryside to the volcano and the Pitons. The tour guide (Merlinda) was great with lots of good information about what we were seeing and the history of the island. She was very informative on the outward trip. This shore excursion was a lot of riding on the tour bus, but that is what is required to get to the Pitons and volcano if you want to see them by land. They are worth seeing. The tour was almost 6 hours.
Antigua – We went to Stingray City. This was the highlight excursion. We drove across the island by tour bus, and the driver talked about much of what we were seeing on the island. Once we arrived at Stingray City we were given instructions and then boated across the bay to the stingrays. We snorkeled with, fed and held the stingrays in their natural habitat… they were not captive. What a great experience. They were so docile and graceful. There is some coral and fish here to see while snorkeling after you finish with the stingrays. Rum punch awaited us back at the base camp.
St. Martin – Golden Eagle Catamaran, Beach and Snorkel. This was also a lot of fun and very relaxing. Do not expect great snorkeling. If you want good snorkeling do another excursion. The trip included sailing by the airport where the planes land practically on the beach. We saw a couple planes land while sailing by. We sailed to an exclusive beach where you could snorkel. But we mainly just relaxed and floated with a noodle, while drinking beer or rum punch provided. I sure wish noodles had a built in glass/can holder. The return trip was more drinking and dancing with the crew. We had a lot of fun!
St. Thomas – Megan’s Bay Beach Getaway. Open air drive to Megan’s Bay where we relaxed again and swam. Some people snorkeled but not much to see… we did see a green turtle swimming. This was a beautiful beach. No solicitations on the beach so you don’t have to worry about people trying to sell you something. There are harmless iguanas hanging out on the beach looking for food. Beautiful picture stops on the way back of Megan’s Bay, St. Johns, and the ship.
San Juan – Barcardi Rum Tour. The tour was OK, not great. We did not actually go into the distillery. If nothing else it passed some time since our flight was not until 4:30 in the afternoon. I guess drinking rum at 9:15 in the morning isn’t so bad either. The tour bus driver was bad with his non-stop talking with meaningless information like pointing out the Walmart and CVS pharmacy. Oh yea, did you know that you can buy basically every make and model car in Puerto Rico… Ford, Chevy, Chrysler, Kia, Lexus, Hyandai, etc. I am sure glad he told us all that (not). He needed to stick to the city highlights and history.
Main pool band was Xtesea. They are a good cover band with some Caribbean music mixed in. Trio Sunrise (acoustic trio) was OK. Salsa Beat (Dance Quartet was not good at all). 4 Sail (Vocal Quartet) were good although we did not see them much. The most musical talent onboard is Justin Wade (guitarist and vocalist) and Will Foraker (piano bar entertainer). These two gentlemen are very talented individually. When they combine their talent in a late evening combo in the Michael’s Club they are outstanding. This duo should not be missed. Georgia Bridgwater also joins them on a number of songs in the Michael’s Club in the late evening. She is one of the Sirens in the onboard shows. Her singing is also outstanding. These three musicians are clearly the standouts on the ship.
We also went to the one onboard show with the Sirens that was OK… Disney theme. The guest Juggler and the guest Comedian also performed in the theater and were good.
We did a shore excursion to the Barcardi Rum Tour. We had to leave early 7:15 a.m. for the excursion. Other than getting through the line, it was painless. We do recommend getting a porter when you get to the baggage claim area. The tip to the porter is well worth it. He will get your luggage for you and take you through a specific Customs line that is for the porters. So the line is much shorter with the porter. I am guessing he saved us at least 30 minutes waiting in line. He then immediately got us to the shore excursion bus. I am sure he would have been able to bypass the taxi line too, if we needed a taxi rather than the shore excursion bus.
This is a great cruise. A good ship with good food and service. The island itineraries in the Southern Caribbean are great. The weather is always warm. We signed up for next year!