Summit – March 22, 2014 San Juan, Antigua, St. Lucia, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Barbados
About us: We were a group of 19 friends (with kids) aged 14-65. A few of us have cruised before but the majority of the group was new to cruising. I was the de-facto leader of the group and planned extensively for 11 months.
Pre-Cruise: A few of us decided to fly into San Juan on Thursday. We rented a car through Charlie Car Rental . it was an easy pick-up but drop off was another story (that will come later.) I have been to SJ before so this time I wanted to stay at the Waldorf El Conquistador due to the proximity to the El Yunque rainforest. I travel over 100K miles a year for work so I am used to the Waldorf brand and was warned that the El Con was not a luxury property. Knowing that, I was pleased with the overall property. The setting is beautiful, resort is large (14 restaurants!) so it was easy to find something for everyone. The resort is VERY expensive for food/drinks so if we were staying longer I would have definitely made a stop at the near-by Wal-Mart for supplies.
We woke up Friday and made our way to the rainforest. We had a map from the hotel so we figured out that we did NOT need to stop at the visitor center and pay to enter. We were not interested in the movie or other information so we headed straight to La Mina Falls. Had a great time there, nice to check off the bucket list.
After the falls we headed back to the resort so that we could take advantage of the private island. We took the hotel ferry over there and looked around then made our way back to the room. That evening we made plans to eat at La Estacion (which is directly across the street from the resort) it is walking distance if you don’t have a car, but it is a hike! The restaurant is better than expected and so delicious that we thought it was one of the best meals of the trip! The problem here is reservations. The hotel acts like they will not help with reservations and the restaurant is packed. We waited an hour in the small (cash only) bar and it was no big deal.
Day of Embarcation: We woke up early and gathered the crew ready to make our way to the Charlie Car Rental spot in Conando which had a shuttle to the ship. I heard a rumor that they close from 12-1 for lunch so I called and was told that they are NOT closed for lunch. We went to the concierge at the resort for help with directions and they were so confused by the address that they called Charlie cars to get more detail. They printed off directions and off we go. Turns out that the hotel directions were wrong. 1 ½ hours later and a few panic attacks later, we made it to the location at 12:25. Guess what? Closed for lunch. We sat outside the door with other renters who were equally frustrated with the lack of directions, etc. By the way, google maps and mapquest were also incorrect with the address/location so if you decide to rent with this company get detailed directions when you PICK UP the car.
We made it to the ship at 1:15 and we were in our room at 1:45. We loved the Suite checking process and the concierge walking us straight to our room. We had the royal suite 6142. The rest of our group consisted of 2 more Royal Suites, the Penthouse Suite a sky Suite and an oceanview. I feel like we had our own little cabin crawl with our group! Our Butler, Jose Hernandez introduced himself immediately and we sat with him and explained all the things we needed during the week. I had a detailed list for him but rather than just hand it to him, we walked through it one by one. It was nice because he was the Butler for most of our group so it made planning quite easy. When I asked for specialty restaurant reservations he picked up the phone right then and secured them. It was nice to have the cabin numbers of all of our group ready at hand so that he could ensure that we all were reserved together.
Cabin: Our cabin was really great with a couch, loveseat and huge flatscreen TV in the living area. A dining table for 4 and mini-bar set up in the ‘dining room’. There was a separate, large walk-in closet with safe, great bathroom with double sink, Jacuzzi tub and separate shower. The nice thing about the cabin was the bedroom was completely separate from the rest of the cabin with a ‘real’ door with access to the balcony. The balcony had a teak table for 4, 2 loungers and the Jacuzzi tub. We were excited about the Jacuzzis but due to the port-intensive itinerary never got around to it, next time! Both our Butler Jose and the stateroom attendant Max were great. There were some weird things, like no trashcan in the main living area and the fact that half used coke cans would remain on the bar for days, but other than that the room was always spotless. On Wednesday, Jose asked me about our plans for the following day. I told him and then he asked if he could throw a party before dinner in our cabin for our group of 19. I was shocked and thrilled with the suggestion. The next evening at 6 we had the most lovely party that could be imagined with food, champagne, wine (red and white) and mixed drinks. Our group was absolutely floored with his service, especially when he rotated around the room serving the appetizers and drinks all with a white towel over his forearm. Certainly deserving of extra gratuitiy.
We had a few gatherings – like a sailaway event- in the Penthouse. That room was really grand and I loved the balcony! I really thought the Royal suite was plenty and I am not sure that I can ever sail Celebrity and NOT be in that room!
Ship and other things: The Summit was beautifully maintained. Although I boarded and was not initially WOWed like I am on RCCL, I grew to love this ship and the intimate feel. I also loved the ability to get from one end to the other without an hours notice! We were all on the SELECT plan and had standing reservations at 6:45 – we never waited to get to our table which was nice. Every other aspect of the MDR was atrocious. I am sure the food was good but it took so long to get food and drinks that we were all sore by the time it arrived. On Wednesday it was at the 2 ½ mark when we still didn’t have entrees that half of our group left and went to the Bistro on 5. There was no excuse. The somiller was awful too. We all had the premium package but we also ordered extra bottles of wine that would never arrive or arrive with our entrée.
Bistro on 5 – loved it…Our 18 year old ate there at least once a day and most of our group did as well. Service and food was superb!
Oceanview Café – I hate buffets but forced myself to eat there the last dinner due to the MDR debacle and it was good. Pizza and Indian were great!
Pool Grill – Hotdogs and fries were SOOOOO good!
Normandie – all of us loved it. Some picked entrees that they regretted (venison) but otherwise it was a great night.
Qsine – all of us loved it, maybe had to do with the fact that we were a large group that could (and did) try lots of things, but we thought it was another great night.
Attire in the MDR – saw lots of shorts on the first night only. On a few other nights members of our group (never cruised before) wore nice shorts and were turned away but it was no big deal. They certainly had time to change knowing dinner always took at least 3 hours! ïŠ The one formal night that we attended was less formal than ever. I saw one tux. Most were in casual blazers and khaki pants and no ties. I saw many with sport coats with short sleeved shirts. Again, no problem. In fact one of our group wore jeans and a short sleeved polo formal night. The Select area was boiling hot so no one anywhere near where we sat kept their coats on.
In the showroom there were people in nice shorts all over the place. Just an observation.
Entertainment: We only saw the comedienne (good) and hypnotist (horrible) the rest of the time we spent in the various bars and clubs dancing with the other members of our group. The Duo at the sunset bar was great when I heard them one afternoon.
Service from most was absolutely great and genuinely friendly. It is true that they need more bartenders and servers at the bars and near the pool. It is silly to have to wait so long for a drink. I wonder if the port intensive itinerary impacts the server tips so they have a hard time finding people, otherwise I cannot understand what is going on! The sunset bar bartender (validimir) is the rudest server I have ever been around. He routinely would not allow me a water with a beer. I tried to kill him with kindness but it never worked. It is too bad they have him on their ship working a bar that is so populated.
The martini bar was awesome and the main two bartenders there were really amazing. The place gets packed late and they are overwhelmed but still friendly.
Cellar masters Demtri was fantastic and always willing to help find you a great wine in your package.
We went to the Reidel wine glass class and it was spendy but so interesting. Can’t wait to get the glasses home to try them out.
We picked this ship solely due to the itinerary and we planned our private shore excursions meticulously. Most of the time our large group stayed together, other times we did multiple activities in each port.
Barbados: All 19 of us chartered the Calypso Catamaran for a day sail. We loved it. A couple of stops for snorkeling, open bar and nice lunch. The captain was very low key but his son and other attendant were outgoing and so wonderful. It was a great first day!
St Lucia: We split up here. A group of us went to the TiKaye Resort for Scuba diving and Spa day. This was an excellent idea! They pick you up right at the dock, transport you by boat the the quaint resort. The scuba is amazing and the couples massage at the spa was a day that I will never forget. The lunch that is provided is not fancy but absolutely delicious. You order from a menu, which is nice, and it was terrific.
A few our our group went with Spencer Ambrose and hiked the Piton, or tried to. Only one of the 3 made it, she is in phenomenal shape, but the other two still enjoyed the day with him.
Finally, two of our group did the ship excursion which explored St. Lucia. They enjoyed it and thought it was a great value.
St. Maarten: Again all 19 of us chartered a boat. This time it was a power boat through Top Secret Excursions, it was the best day ever. Miles is the captain and he customizes a trip of your dreams. He took us to a small cove where he was able to take the teens in a separate power boat that he pulls along and let them experience tubing. While the kids were playing, the adults snorkeled and Miles barbequed the best burgers. The food, open bar (again!) and company was truly spectacular.
St. Thomas: We rented another boat, this time the Nightwind 57 foot sailboat. Upon arriving we were told that the seas were rough and that we would NOT be able to make it to St. John. This was a major disappointment. We always do St. John on our own but this time we all wanted to be together so we chose this charter. Rick and his son were great hosts and made the most of our day but I found out later that the ferry made it to St John with no problem and people had a great day . So, if St. John is a showstopper for you then I would keep this in mind.
Disembarcation: Easy as ever as we spent a hour or so in Michael’s club. Took a cab to the airport and off we went.
We really enjoyed the cruise and I am a little sad that it is over. The memories are so good that they will last a lifetime.