We had never been brand-loyal within the cruise industry, having sailed with Princess, HAL, Disney, NCL, and Carnival....in addition to Celebrity. In fact, nearly 10 years had passed since we had booked with Celebrity at the time we booked an Alaskan vacation with Celebrity for June 2013. Celebrity was great to us in accommodating cabin switches and upgrades prior to that cruise, and we were blown away by the personalized service we received on board throughout our vacation. Everyone wore genuine smiles, referred to you by name, and always, and I mean always said “thank you” when delivering a drink.
It had been just 9 months since we sailed on Millie, and our March 29th sailing was one of two Celebrity bookings we have (or had) for 2014. Much has changed since then! Among the things that stood out to us the most: 1. Service….not very personable, particularly the bar service which at times was even unfriendly. 2. Michael’s Club is a dedicated “private lounge” and no longer a public venue for live music and cocktails. Perhaps this is no big deal for the S-Class ships, but the venues are already too limited on M-Class ships. 3. Nearly impossible to find fish available at Aquaspa Café. 4. Customer service access and follow-through was more challenging and trying than any cruise we have been on, regardless of the brand. We will elaborate in further detail on each of these items and more shortly.
First, the Summit is in excellent condition for a twelve year old vessel, and we did in fact enjoy ourselves. Additionally, the officers were very noticeable and personable, and the Captain made himself available more often than we experienced on any of our previous cruises. We are easy people to please, whine very little, and were committed to having a nice time regardless of what we encountered. However, our expectations were based on our previous Celebrity experiences, and this one fell well short of those expectations. Perhaps we were too spoiled going into it. To avoid just rambling, we will break our review into four sections: 1. Cabins. 2. Dining. 3. Beverage Service. 4. Entertainment. No need to summarize embarkation and disembarkation, as both were smooth as reported by many others.
We traveled with friends as a party of seven. We had one CC1/FV, one 2A veranda, and one category 9 inside cabin. All three cabins were in great shape, well maintained, and properly appointed. The only troubles we had were with the CC1/FV (the most expensive of the three). The bulb in the bedside lamp blew on day one, and the joint between the water line and shower had a major leak that decreased the water pressure to the shower by 50%. Both of these were reported to the room steward and guest services on the evening of day 1, and again on day 3. Neither was addressed prior to disembarkation! Getting out of bed to turn a light out after reading is a minor inconvenience, but not being able to rinse shampoo out of one’s hair, that is a little more than just an inconvenience. The room steward was genuinely embarrassed at the lack of responsiveness, but guest services was more concerned about moving on to the next customer in line to shorten the line rather than solve a problem. We were dumfounded by the lack of responsiveness. We searched for the Captain’s Club host on multiple occasions hoping for further assistance, but could never track him/her down.
We opted for Select Dining for this cruise due to the port intensive itinerary. The food was consistently good and consistent with our other celebrity cruise experiences. However, the service was simply hit or miss. We had a couple of flawless meals with great wine, bar, and coffee service, and we had a couple of dreadful meals that took 3 hours without wine, bar, coffee, or dessert service! The number of dedicated staff for wine and bar service was limited in comparison to our previous cruises. Depending on where you were seated, they may never make it around to your table. We planned to order bottled wine on day 3 to celebrate the special occasion that our trip was planned around, however, we were never successful in getting service. We even tried tracking down a Maitre D to assist, but that effort failed as well. This happened to us on two separate dining occasions, even though we made our waiters aware we wanted wine and bar service (and to speak to a Maitre D). Additionally, we were only offered coffee service with dessert on two occasions, again reflective of the inconsistency in service. Two meals we had to cut short before dessert because we had already killed nearly 3 hours sitting in the dining room and were missing shows and other activities. Perhaps things were more consistent with traditional dining, but our experience was certainly hit or miss (excellent at times, dreadful at times).
Oceanview Café was consistent with our previous experiences in terms of food choices and quality. There were plenty of staff dedicated to cleaning tables and such, but a noticeable decrease in wait staff. On our previous cruises with Celebrity, you could barely sit down before wait staff were there to offer beverage service. Never once during our cruise did anyone offer beverage service to anyone in our party within Oceanview Café. It was pretty much “self service” by going to a nearby bar and waiting in line for what was at times “unfriendly” service.
Aquaspa Café was a favorite venue of ours on previous cruises mainly due to the grilled to order fish. A clear cut favorite of our son, and he boasted about the fish to others in our party before boarding the ship. We visited the Aquaspa Café on day one, but were told “no fish today, have it tomorrow”. So, we left land early on day two in order to enjoy Aquaspa Café, only to learn it was not available then either. Therefore, we tried again on day four and were told “not today, but we will have it tomorrow”. So, on day five we returned….and, you guessed it, no fish that day either. That was disappointing enough, but in hindsight, the staff was not very friendly or accommodating either. Instead of apologizing for the lack of availability and offering a potential alternative such as shrimp, all we received is a “no, not today”. Honestly, we do not know whether it was ever available. We certainly did not see anyone savoring it while we were on board, but previous reviewers and staff suggested it was still available. Nevertheless, nobody went hungry.
This is the one area that really challenged our patience and commitment to have a great time regardless of what we encountered. There were four core things that we noticed: 1. Decreased access to multi-use venues throughout the day/night. 2. Lack of personalized service. 3. Decreased wait staff presence throughout the ship. 4. Bartenders and wait staff are not fond of drink packages!
As mentioned earlier, we were very fond of Michael’s Club. It was one of very few venues on M-Class ships that offered full bar service from early afternoon through late night, and it served as a quaint live music venue as well. However, it was a private lounge for “exclusive guests”, and the only time we ever saw anyone in it was during disembarkation. So sad, but unfortunately, operating hours for the only other venue similar were cut back too. The Rendezvous Lounge only had drink service after 4:00, and no drink service was provided for activities that took place in the lounge during the day. The same was true for day time activities in Revelations. During the day, drink service was limited to venues on Deck 10 and those venues were usually very busy, so you had to be prepared to wait. Again, this differed greatly from our previous experiences. Nobody ever went thirsty, but the experience was certainly different.
The entertainment we partook in was good to great. We missed two of the production stage shows due to inexplicable slow service in the dining room, but the ones we did catch were quite good. Dan Wilson (comedian) and Ed Fernandez (hypnotist) were very entertaining. Some of the late night programs in Revelations were entertaining also. The party band is excellent (Extisea or something like that), Justin Wade has always been a favorite of ours, Will Foracker (fellow Hoosier) was great, and Its Five O’Clock Somewhere was also good. The downside for us was that Justin and Will did not play in Michael’s Club for obvious reasons (:-(), but they also did not play in Rendezvous or Revelations where there was full bar service. Instead, they were assigned to the Foyer, Café Al Bacio, or Cellar Masters, none of which offer full bar and soda service. If you could tolerate the cloud of smoke and unfriendly service at the Sunset Bar, there was an opportunity to catch some live music there at times. Venue services and access aside, the entertainment was good to great, closer to great.
In closing, we wish to reiterate that we did in fact enjoy ourselves and the Summit like its sister ships is in great shape. The Southern Caribbean itineraries are outstanding. However, the overall experience fell well short of our expectations and perhaps that is because Celebrity treated us so well on prior occasions. Nonetheless, there are many ships in the sea, and we just had a Carnival experience at a Celebrity price. We will likely be cancelling our November booking and will have to think long and hard about booking with Celebrity again.