Celebrity Summit June 1, 2007 Alaska (Anchorage to Vancouver)
I am a 43 year old who took the cruise with my parents for two reasons. First, I wanted to introduce them to cruising and secondly, I wanted to see Alaska. My purpose in writing this review is to help others through my experience cruising. I have had the opportunity to cruise all the major lines to destinations around the world and have found most cruises are what you make of them.
The ship's market focus: Each ship and its itinerary appeal to a certain market. The market focus of this particular ship/itinerary was the 50-70 year old age group. Everything from the entertainment to the level of service catered to that group. If you do not enjoy the entertainment that 50-70 year-olds enjoy, then you will not enjoy the entertainment on this ship. The Broadway-style shows were average but the acrobatics featuring Alex and Sally were great. Most of the entertainment in the bars and lounges also catered to the 50-70 year old age group. If this ship sailed with a Caribbean itinerary, I think it would cater more to the 35-50 year old market.
Staterooms were what I would expect, being efficient with space but certainly adequate. The ship provided bathrobes, hairdryer, Q-tips, cotton balls, shampoo, soap, and conditioner. There were also plenty of towels and the cabin service was outstanding. One could call between rooms by dialing the number of the cabin you wished to contact. Room service could be ordered through interactive TV or by phone and was excellent to average depending on how busy they were. There were no laundry facilities or irons on board; however, the ship offered dry cleaning and laundry service at a reasonable price.
Dining: I thought the food was outstanding. We chose not to dine in the Normandie cover-charge restaurant because we did not think the food or service could be $30 per person better than what we had in the main formal dining room. The waiters in the main dining room really do attempt to make your experience excellent in every way. The Waterfall Cafe is the buffet with basically the same food every day but with the food changing during different times of the day. For example, the homemade pasta and salad bar were open 12-5 in the Waterfall. Sushi could be found there from 5:00-10:00. There were other food stations open and there were set breakfast and lunch buffet times. There was also healthy choice dining most of the day in the Aqua Spa Cafe. A hamburger/hotdog station was available 12:00-6:00 and an ice cream station 12:00-10:00. The create-your-own pizza station was available 12:00-5:00. During the breakfast and lunch buffet hours, options were plentiful, but the options were basically the same each day. Anyone who complains about the food and service on this ship makes me envious of the quality of food and service they obviously get at home.
Health Club: The Celebrity Summit was no better or worse than most cruise lines in this area. They did make you pay for some services and access areas standard on other ships. A dedicated workout and/or health nut would not suffer on this boat.
Alcohol: Celebrity Summit had the absolute most expensive drinks of any ship I have ever been on. But in their defense, they have drink prices very much in line with what is charged in Alaska. When a draft beer costs $5+ with tip then you know Dorothy is not in Kansas anymore. After reading most of the reviews and the Celebrity policy on bringing alcohol on board, my advice would be to bring as much as you want on board at the departure port. The ports are in charge of security that day and port security does not care the amount of alcohol you bring to the ship. You merely carry the alcohol on in a bag. My recommendation is to have each bottle in a brown paper bag and put the paper bag bottles in another bag so it is not absolutely obvious what you are doing. Celebrity scans your items after the embarkment day so there is the possibility you could get caught after the first day. For those following Celebrity's alcohol policy, you can only bring two bottles of wine on board per stateroom the day of departure and none after that.
The ship's layout was fine once you got accustomed to what was where. I did find the ship in excellent shape for its age and very clean. The hand sanitizer entering all dining rooms was certainly a nice touch. It is easier to utilize the elevators in the area where your room is located so you have a home base elevator. There are three main elevator systems: one in front of the ship, one in the rear, and one at mid-ship. I used the elevator closest to my room to navigate the ship.
Shore Excursions: I book most excursions myself, finding I save 20-40% over excursions booked through the ship. I have done this across the globe but found Alaska the easiest because the ports are American ports and practically anyone can book independently with little worry. This does take some advance planning and I hope to make this planning easier for readers of this review with the following suggestions in each port. A bonus to independent travel is you are not on the ship's tour schedule, allowing you to see more for less with flexibility.
Pre-Cruise: We stayed five days in Anchorage using Anchorage as a home base to see Alaska's interior. We visited Denali National Park with a flight-seeing tour. We also took the park service six-hour bus ride into the park. The one thing I encourage each person to do is to purchase the Great Alaskan Tour Saver coupon book. It is valuable if you are going to do a pre- or post- cruise independent tour in or around Anchorage/Denali/Seward. The coupons are good all over Alaska, but most are helpful in and around Anchorage, Denali, and Inside Passage. The coupons are buy-one-get-one-free featuring BOGOF tours and hotel reservations. Purchase the toursaver at www.toursaver.com or call (907) 278-7600. We stayed at two different hotels in Anchorage where we paid for one night and received the second night free. We also rented a car from the Avis downtown location getting one day rental free while saving the airport car rental fees. Our flight-seeing tour in Denali was buy-one-get-one-free.
Seward, Alaska: We rode the train from Anchorage to Seward. It was an absolutely beautiful trip. We spent the night in Seward before boarding the ship at 11:30am the next morning. If you choose to do this, book your hotel and train trip early as many cruise ship passengers go this route. Seward is around three hours from Anchorage. A rental car is not necessary in Seward. A cab or shuttle can get you to most places of interest. My suggestions for excursions while in Seward include the resurrection bay tour from Renown Tours and the Sealife Center. Both have BOGO coupons in The Great Alaskan Toursaver book. We also took the shuttle to exit glacier. We boarded the ship early to become familiar with the ship's layout while few people were on board. Embarkment was well organized.
Hubbard Glacier Cruising: My best advice while cruising the Hubbard Glacier and the surrounding icy water is as follows: 1. View approaching the glacier in "The Night Club" at the front of the ship Deck 11. Enjoy the majesty of the glacier while taking no pictures. Arrive in "The Night Club" an hour before your closest point to the glacier for best seating. 2. View the departure from the glacier at the Waterfall Cafe Bar on Deck 10 at the back of the ship. This is where you can take the best pictures without fighting the crowds. The ship's initial approach to the glacier is characterized by passengers fighting to get the best position to photograph the glacier. The departure from the glacier is characterized by very few people taking pictures on Decks 10 and 11 where the best photo opportunities exist.
Juneau, Alaska: We rented a car in Juneau and my advice is to book early. Car rental companies sell out when cruise ships are in port. We chose Rent-a-Wreck [(907) 789-4111] because they were the only company that would pick up and drop off at the dock. This is a good choice if you do not mind older cars. The ladies at the agency were also very helpful in pointing out places of interest. We visited the Mendenhall Glacier, the Alaskan Brewing Company, Glacier Gardens Rainforest, and the Shrine of St. Therese, all outside the city of Juneau. The price just for the Mendenhall Glacier and Glacier Gardens tour through the cruise ship was $61 per person. That would have cost us $183. Our total for the rental car was $57.50 Admission to the Glacier Gardens Rainforest was $22 each, but we had BOGO coupons from the Great Alaskan Toursaver. We did much more for our money by renting a car and using the toursaver. The area around the cruise dock is completely touristy featuring a tram, shops, and bars. I recommend the Red Dog Saloon for its entertainment value and you can order a Coke if you prefer not to drink.
Skagway: This was another car rental port for us. We went with Avis and booked directly with the Skagway office at (907) 983-2247. Sourdough rentals is another option if you do not mind older vehicles. Both companies are in the tourist district near the cruise ship docks. Skagway is all about the Gold Rush of 1896. The two major tours are the scenic White Pass Railway and the Skagway Street Car Tour. The ship charges $112 per person for the 3.5 hour rail tour and $42 per person for the two hour street car tour. A couple would shell out $308 for the two excursions through the cruise ship. My advice would be to rent a car and take Klondike Highway 2 into Canada. (You will need a passport/proof of citizenship.) The Klondike Hwy follows the same route as the railroad but at a substantially cheaper price. The bonus for car rental tours is that one can stop to take pictures at their leisure. We took the road all the way to Whitehorse. Most tourist turn around returning to Skagway in either Carcross or the Emerald Lake. The Red Onion Saloon is a good place to visit a brothel museum although the entertainment is not as lively as the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau. The Red Onion is near the cruise ship dock. I also heard good things about the Days of '98 show that plays at 10:30am, 12:30pm, 2:30pm, and 7:00pm. The show plays at the Fraternal Order of The Eagle Hall located at 6th avenue and Broadway near the cruise ship dock. One could take the two hour Skagway Street Car Tour at the end of the day depending on when your ship departs.
Icy Strait Point: There is not much at Icy Strait Point but the visitor center and the Zip Rider Zip Line experience. We toured the visitor center (about an hour) and then caught the shuttle to the town of Hoonah. Hoonah was what I believe to be a very authentic Alaskan fishing village. The town is walking distance from the cruise ship dock. There is a path that follows the road into the village. Sample the halibut pizza at the grocery store. Hoonah had very friendly people and the highest concentration of bald eagles of any place we visited. The shuttle was around $5 dollars per person for the round trip into Hoonah.
Ketchikan: No rental car is needed in this port because most attractions are located within walking distance. My recommendations are as follows: Visit the Totem Heritage Center and Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery/Eagle Center. They are located next to each other at the top end of town less than one mile from the cruise ship dock. The last part is up hill so I suggest a cab/shuttle going up. Walk and follow the creek back down through the Creek Street Boardwalk. It is a beautiful walk and there is history, restaurants, and shops throughout Creek Street. Both the Tribal Hatchery and Totem Heritage center open at 8:00am in the summer. The Hatchery is informative and an extra special experience if the salmon are in town. The Hatchery offers the most up-close bald eagle experience you will get in Alaska. The Totem Pole Heritage Center is all about history and heritage. You can buy a combination ticket to both and each offers a guided tour. My other suggestion for Ketchikan is a Misty Fjords floatplane tour with a lake landing in the fjords. You can save between $30-$70 by booking yourself online instead of through the cruise ship. We went with Southeast Aviation (www.southeastaviation.com), booking a month in advance. Other highly recommended floatplane companies include www.promechair.com and www.islandwings.com . Book early for best prices.
Disembarkment: Very easy in Vancouver. The airport shuttle was $12 per person and I left immediately for my flight back to the East Coast. Vancouver is a beautiful city if you have time to visit. I wish I could have stayed two nights but needed to return home to earn money for my next cruise. I hope this helps. Happy Travels!