Our second Celebrity cruise to Bermuda (we last sailed Celebrity Zenith 15 years ago) was very nice but, in general, not up to the quality we have come to expect and enjoy on Princess. The only area we found the Summit to be better than Princess was the entertainment (more on that later). We chose this cruise because we wanted to go to Bermuda and Celebrity was the obvious choice over RCCL and NCL. The convenience of sailing from Bayonne NJ (a 45 minute drive from our home) was also a factor.
We hadn’t been to the Bayonne cruise port in 10 years so we were surprised to see it was still an ugly construction zone. We pulled up to a tent to unload luggage then park the vehicles. The lines moved along fairly quickly into the security check point. Everything was going fine until my husband’s hand held FRS radio was confiscated by the security officers. Never in 14 post-9/11 cruises (including one on RCCL) did we ever have an issue with any of his radios. Eventually it was given to the onboard security for inspection (and we were able to retrieve it the next day). We noticed also that they were confiscating other items like Swiss army knives, scissors, corkscrews and such. All this seems a little bit of overkill. After all, the dining rooms are loaded with sharp knives with much larger blades that could be easily taken elsewhere and pairs of FRS radios were sold in the gift shop. So don’t carry any of these items in your pockets or carry-on luggage… pack them in your checked luggage.
After security we waited only about 15 minutes on line to check-in. After passing through the photography and sales gauntlet, we boarded a shuttle for the 2 minute drive to the ship. We boarded about 1:15 so the whole embarkation process took just about an hour. When we boarded we were told the rooms were ready so we went straight there to drop off our carry-ons.
Disembarkation was very easy although they were running a bit behind schedule. We debarked about ½ hour after our scheduled time. However, it didn’t matter to us since we were driving home from there.
The Ship -
The Summit was very clean and well maintained, but definitely showing her age. The décor is just blah with too much brown and beige everywhere. The seating in the lounges and theater seemed dated and a little beat. The "Grand Foyer" was not so grand. It seemed very small and closed in. They need to lose the 3-deck long drapes - it would open up the space a bit and brighten it up. The 2-story dining room was very beautiful with a huge wall of glass at the aft end and large round windows on either side. Select dining was on the upper level so we had a great view of the wake.
Captain Kafetzis was very personable and visible aboard his ship. He played (rather competively) on the officers’ pool volleyball team (and was disappointed that the guests won both games). He also participated in the Welcome Show and the Liars’ Club game. He had a very good sense of humor. Cruise Director Ken and his sidekick Luigi were excellent, always out and about talking to passengers as well as hosting most of the entertainment events.
The Staterooms -
We had a balcony stateroom on Deck 7 midship, my brother-in-law and his wife were next door to us and their 2 children were across the hall in an inside cabin. The inside cabin seemed quite spacious, plenty of room for the kids. We were disappointed that the dividers between balconies no longer open so we could not move between balconies as we would have liked. Our stateroom was very clean and well-appointed. There was plenty of storage with a closet, six drawers and shelves in a cabinet above the TV. I was happy I brought some hangers from home as there were not enough of those annoying hookless hangers. The bed was very comfortable with a duvet and separate top sheet (it was usually too warm in the room to use the duvet even though we had the thermostat set for the lowest temperature). The pillows were small and flat. But our stateroom steward Noel provided me with an additional fluffier one the second day so it was fine. The drapes are not heavy enough to block the light and heat if you are on the sunny side of the ship. The early morning sun woke me up and when we had the sun in the afternoon the a/c could not keep up.
The bathroom was a good size and very well laid-out with plenty of storage. It even had a built-in night light so I didn’t need to use the flameless candles I brought with me. The shower worked well with a hand sprayer, good temperature control and decent pressure.
The refrigerator (aka minibar) hardly kept water cold and there was only about enough room for a bottle of wine and a couple of bottles of water (unless you remove all of the minibar items). The minibar prices were ridiculous - $5 for a small can of Pringles or a couple of bags of M&Ms! So of course we never used any of it.
Our stateroom steward Noel was excellent, always a smile and a greeting whenever we saw him in the hallway, very pleasant and efficient. He found an extra softer pillow for me, kept our ice bucket filled and the correct number of towels in the bathroom at all times.
The Pools -
I was disappointed in the pools on this ship. First, I’m not really crazy about salt water pools. We tried going into the Thalassotherapy pool on Wednesday and there was a brown, bubbly scum on the surface. Needless to say, we did not go in. We tried again the next day and the scum was still there. The hot tubs were very nice and clean (thanks to the chlorine). Second, the age restrictions were not very fair to teenage children. Both the Thalassotherapy pool and the main outdoor pool were “adults only”. So the only pool available to passengers under age 18 was the smaller splash pool. My nephew and niece are 16 and 14 respectively and are very good swimmers. The splash pool was too shallow and too crowded with small children for them so they never were able to use it. I think well-behaved children over 12 should be allowed to use the main pool if accompanied by a parent.
Bars and Lounges -
The Pool bars (decks 10 & 11) and the Sunset Bar (Deck 10 aft) were very nice places to while away an afternoon. The bartenders, the most popular crew members on the ship, provided excellent service. They were always friendly and very efficient. My brother-in-law had the classic alcohol package and never waited for anything. We did not have the package and we received the same excellent service.
The Cellar Masters bar seemed awkwardly arranged and I never saw many people in there. The Rendezvous Lounge offered some fine entertainment – singer/piano player Jordan Petersen was particularly good with his renditions of Billy Joel and Elton John songs, among others. I don’t see why they bothered to make Michael’s Pub into a private lounge for suite passengers. Any time I passed by, there was no one there except for one couple once and some officers on the phone another time. What a waste of a venue.
The drink prices were on the high side compared with Princess. Excluding the 15% gratuity, a bottle of Blue Moon was $6.50, a bucket of 5 Miller Lites was $23.50 and a single shot of Amaretto Di Saronno was $8.00, compared to $4.95, $17.00 and $5.75, respectively on Princess. The drink packages are worth it if you drink enough but for people like us who only have a few drinks in the evening the packages are not cost effective.
The entertainment was the best part of the cruise. There were excellent production shows (although Siren was a little strange), very talented musicians, hilarious comedians and even some “adult-only” shows late in the evening. We particularly enjoyed Michele Balan (both her regular and late night shows) and the Sin City Comedy show. There were the usual cruise-ship game shows as well like the Not-so-Newlywed game and the Liars Club. The nice thing was it if you missed them you could see them on your stateroom TV later. Movies were also available on demand on the stateroom TV. There were so many different types of entertainment in various venues at various times that you could not possibly see them all.
The Food -
The food in the MDR was excellent, very tasty and well-presented. The menus were varied and offered something for everyone’s taste. The soups, especially the always available onion soup, were very good as were the salads. I don’t eat shrimp but everyone else raved about the shrimp cocktail and ordered it every night. The main courses of special note were the beef tournedos, turkey parmesan and a lamb dish my nephew thought was the best thing he ever ate. Of course, the desserts were delicious. The service in the MDR was also excellent. The waiters were very attentive and efficient as were the sommelier and bar service waiter.
The poolside grill had very tasty burgers, hot dogs and fries. We ended up having lunch here nearly every day because the buffet food was just boring and more or less the same every day. The quality of the food in the café was very good but after Day 2 you had enough of it.
My issue with the food in the Oceanview Café was not the quality of it but the availability. The Café consisted of the main buffet area and separate stations toward the back of the ship: pizza, pasta, stir-fry and sandwiches. You could get fresh-made sandwiches and paninis at the very back of the ship. These were pretty good and the wait wasn’t too bad. The pizza was very good when you were able to get it. There usually was a long line and they did not replenish the small pizzas quickly enough, especially at peak times. There was also a long wait at the pasta and stir-fry stations since there was only one person cooking everything to order. It was the same thing at breakfast when these stations became egg and omelet stations. One morning all I wanted was a plain egg but I would have to stand on the omelet line to get it (all of the eggs on the buffet had other things mixed in or were buried in bacon and sausage). You would think they would put two people at the station to move things along. Again, only one cook making everything to order – very inefficient.
On Thursday we had a late excursion in Bermuda (Bermuda Triangle Nightlife Glass-bottom Boat tour). It started at 8pm so it ended up being a very nice “sunset tour”. We did not want to rush dinner in the MDR so we opted for dinner in the buffet that evening. It was disappointing to say the least. There was the exact same selection as during lunch (which had been a poolside burger day because nothing at the buffet was appealing) and, at 6:00, half of each side of the buffet was empty. After circling around the buffet several times, I ended up having salad and pasta from the pasta station. The pasta was just OK, not very satisfying.
The Oceanview Café hours need to be expanded. Breakfast opens way too late (7:00) and you can’t even get a croissant with your coffee if you are an early riser like me (and many other people I saw milling around waiting for the food to be put out). The main lunch closes at 2:30 and dinner doesn’t start until 5:30. The sandwich bar closed at 4:00 so only the pizza and pasta stations are open until dinner time. On the last day in Bermuda, we sailed at 4:30 so many people were just getting back from shore and were looking for a bite to eat. We walked around the entire buffet and there was nothing but pizza and pasta – how much pizza and pasta can you eat? We just wanted a pastry or something to eat on the outdoor deck (10, aft) but there was nothing available. The only place to get anything at that time of day was on deck 5 at Café al Bacio but who wants to go down there when you are wearing a wet bathing suit?
As good as the service in the MDR was, the service in the cafe was quite the opposite. Except for one occasion, at both lunch and dinner there was no one around to serve drinks so we had to go outside to the Sunset Bar to get our own. If they came around to clear our dirty dishes, never once did they ask if we needed any more drinks. They are not too on top of clearing tables either. Many times we were looking for a table and they were all cluttered with used trays of dishes. We had to wonder where were the headwaiters who are supposed to supervise the wait staff – we didn’t see any the entire time. One afternoon we did receive attentive service in the aft area of the café. If fact several of them were falling over themselves to clear our dishes and replenish our drinks. We weren’t surprised to find that we were sitting two tables away from a group of officers including the cruise director and the F&B manager. Hmmm…
A word on the alternative restaurants…expensive. I thought $45 per person was ridiculously high, especially for what amounts to be appetizers in Qsine ($45 for sliders and fish & chips…really?). Good thing the MDR food was so good.
Having cruised to Bermuda on several occasions, we knew our way around so we did not take any shore excursions except for the evening Glass Bottom boat cruise. The public ferry dock is just a short walk from the cruise ship dock. On Wednesday, my husband and I took the ferry to St. George and walked around the quaint town a bit while the rest of the family went to the beach at Tobacco Bay. After a relaxing lunch at a waterside restaurant we took the ferry back to the ship. On Thursday we took the ferry to Hamilton and did some shopping. Then on Friday we just walked around the Dockyard area, watched the glass blowers and sampled the rum cake.
Overall, we all enjoyed our cruise very much. In spite of the negative aspects, we were able to take advantage of the positives and have a great vacation. But will I go back on Celebrity again? Definitely not the Summit but perhaps one of the newer ships. However, for the foreseeable future, we will stick with Princess.