Embarkation: We (Captain's Club Elite members) were ushered right on to the ship. We received the welcoming champagne/orange juice by white-gloved waiters, which was a nice touch. Everyone received notification that their cabins would not be ready before 1 and, instead of escorting passengers directly to their cabins, they were shown to the Welcome Aboard buffet lunch in the Waterfall Cafe, which was wonderful. Since we knew where our cabin was located we made our own way there and dropped off our carry-on luggage before heading for lunch. Our luggage was delivered well before the 4:00 lifeboat drill.
Elite Captains Club: Priority embarkation/disembarkation. We received a vase with a long stem rose and five sweetheart roses and a small box of the wonderful Cova chocolates as a welcome aboard gift, which was delivered the first full day at sea. We received an invitation to Elegant Tea in the Normandie Restaurant, special on-board coupons for Celebrity On-line, the AquaSpa and Fortunes Casino. There was also a behind-the-scenes theatre tour, a demonstration by the Pastry Chef, and scheduled times with the shopping representative Kristy and Cruise Sales Manager Stephanie plus an invitation to the Captain's Table.
Priority embarkation and disembarkation were of no value. The regular lines for embarkation were quicker so there was, in this instance, absolutely no advantage. Our disembarkation lounge was The Normandie Specialty Restaurant but we got there at 8:45 and were escorted off the ship (beige luggage tags) at 8:50. Tea in the Normandie was lovely and I won $140. using the casino coupons. The 10 free minutes internet use in the Internet Cafe was nice. The theatre tour was not very good, as there was a technical rehearsal underway so, according to what guests had viewed in the past, our tour was condensed. I found the sugar demonstration interesting and we thoroughly enjoyed our evening at the Captain's Table hosted by the Hotel Director Filippos Georgiou, a delightful and entertaining man. The Elite Captain's Club cocktail party was intimate but when we got off the elevator to attend the full Captain's Club cocktail party and saw the horrendous line-up we decided we didn't need a free drink that badly.
Cabin: Our inside category 10 cabin 3057 was in an ideal location, which made navigating the ship easy. Night-light, umbrella and complimentary tote bag were nice touches.
Dining: Cosmopolitan Restaurant: We had breakfast twice, lunch twice and dinner 9 out of 10 nights. The service throughout, food quality and temperature was excellent. Our table, 480, was without a doubt the worst table we have ever had. It was a table for two tucked under the stairs in a high traffic area where you couldn't see what was going on and we didn't feel a part of the festivities. Also, we were far enough away from our waiter's other tables that we felt excluded. They offered to move us but we didn't want Francis and Akhmed to think we didn't like them and it would have affected their tips. The up side was that everyone smiled or stopped for a few words as they passed by on their way to the kitchen/serving areas and my husband found the noise level much reduced which was great for his hearing. Someone has to have the bad tables!
Waterfall Cafe: We ate there a few times but found the food on the buffet not hot enough. I tried the pasta station once but found it to be undercooked for my taste. The sandwich bar at the very back of the cafe was wonderful with different selections each day such as chicken wraps (excellent), pulled pork sandwiches, roast beef poor boys and baked ham. Breakfast was wonderful with the omelet/fried egg station and the waffles right at the back were incredible!
Waterfall Grill: Hamburgers and hot-dogs were very good. Fries were appealing on the rare occasion when they were hot and the pizza was warm at best.
AquaSpa Cafe: Breakfast was an enjoyable experience; uncrowded and relaxed. Most mornings I had the excellent oatmeal along with fresh fruit. This healthy breakfast eased my guilt when I dropped by Cova Cafe for my morning chocolate croissant! My husband had the muselli with fresh fruit. They serve the papaya with fresh lime, which apparently enhances the flavour. The serving staff were excellent, especially our favourite, Okan Bilir from Turkey. On our last cruise he worked in Cova Cafe and admitted he had once eaten TEN CHOCOLATE CROISSANTS - my hero!!!! We ate lunch here one day and enjoyed the chicken pita.
Normandie Specialty Restaurant: Enjoyable experience but after four evenings in the specialty restaurants on three cruises the novelty has worn off and we've decided to give it a miss on future cruises unless Christian Bell is on board. The flair and expertise of our first two dining experiences has given way to being served by "regular" waiters who do not have the expertise or love of food we witnessed with Christian.
Staff: Cruise Director Simon Weir was wonderful. Anne Lepki, former Manager Captain's Club and Cruise Sales, is now the Events Coordinator and treated us like special friends. Camilla Sullivan, Social Hostess, was delightful. Our cabin stewards, Albano and Jhonny, were excellent and only left us the milk chocolate pillow treats instead of the coffee ones. Romina De Angelis. Concierge, was very friendly, had a positive attitude and offered helpful suggestions. Although we don't drink wine, Dijana Simkewiciute from Lithuania, stopped by our table every single night for a few words and we found her delightful. Ivelyn Kolarov from Bulgaria was the bartender in Cova on our last Summit cruise in October. He is now the head bartender and stopped by our table every night for a chat. A delightful guy. Okan Bilir from Turkey is a server in the AquaSpa Cafe and the Normandie Restaurant. A real sweetheart.
Entertainment: Entertainment is not a priority for us so we are not the best judges of talent. The production shows have a 3-5 year lifespan on the ship so we saw all the production shows on our October Summit cruise. We did go to A Night of Stars as this was the first cruise for the Celebrity singers and dancers and we wanted to check them out. We found these singers excellent, far superior to the last group which, to be fair, we also saw on their first cruise. As you can see, we did not go to many of the entertainment venues.
Production Shows: The Magic of Broadway A Night of Stars - Excellent Classique - La Danza Encore
Miscellaneous: Shows: A Touch of Things to Come (welcome aboard show) - Great Farewell Show (pre-dinner) featuring Mike Ivy, David Meyer and Becky Blaney - We had dinner reservations at the Normandie so we only saw the first 25 minutes of the show. David Meyer was good at what he does but it wasn't of great interest to us. Individuals: Mike Ivy, comedian (pre-dinner) - Okay David Meyer Samantha Jay, musician (pre-dinner) Becky Blaney, comedy/magic (pre-dinner) Frank Duo, Rendez-vous Lounge - The music was relaxing, mellow but I found their accents to be very noticeable. This was the same with the Mozart Duo in October. Surely Celebrity can find entertainers with excellent English skills. Barbara Kirchhoff, harpist - Excellent Ron Thompson, guitarist, Waterfall Cafe Bar - Excellent Dan Loranger, pianist, Michael's Club - We went one evening for a drink and left before ordering as we thought he had a terrible voice Celebrity Orchestra, Singers and Dancers - Excellent. Voltz, party band - Pretty good, better than their first cruise in October when we last heard them. Didn't find them to be very friendly and they blew off a sail-away party which isn't very professional. Off The Top, a cappella group - Excellent but we felt they were under utilized and would have enjoyed seeing them perform more than they did.
Enrichment Series: Alan Schreiber, Investments Douglas Zimmerman, Radio Biographer - He covered Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Sammy David Jr., Elvis Presley and Dean Martin. I only attended the Elvis seminar and found Mr. Zimmerman's presentation disorganized much in part to the "assistance" of his wife. Bernard Slade, Screenwriter - This obnoxious individual was a legend in his own mind. A thoroughly dislikable guy who had nothing good to say about Celebrity, the Summit or her staff. If I hadn't been having such a great time I would have been interested in trying out my heckling skills by attending one of his lectures! Celebrity made a BIG mistake on this one.
Ports of Call: St. Maarten: The pier area is lovely, taxi prices are posted and the waiting areas are shaded and well marked. We purchased the unlimited all day water taxi at the dock for $5 and used it to get to the beach in Phillipsburg and again for an hour's shopping in the afternoon. We had rain showers but they didn't interfere with our activities. The ship provided umbrella came in handy for shopping. The only other ship in port was RCI's Serenade of the Seas.
St. Lucia: We were docked right at Seraphine Point, which has nice shops and lots of beautiful tropical flowers. On our first trip to St. Lucia we did the Land and Sea to Soufriere excursion ($76. 7.5 hrs.) and highly recommend this as a great way to appreciate the beauty of the island. We do not recommend venturing into Castries, it is NOT a pleasant experience and could leave you with a very unfavourable impression of an otherwise lush and beautiful island. The Carnival Jubilee was also in port.
Barbados: Ordered a bouquet of tropical flowers, complete with bamboo vase, for $15. at the Exotic Blooms cart in the port terminal which we picked up on our return to the ship. We only wanted to visit the Barbados Wildlife Reserve but were paired up with another couple from the ship who were visiting Barbados for the first time and wanted a little tour. We were quoted $60. for return transportation to the Reserve for 2 so $80 total for the 4 of us for 3 ½ hours (9:50-1:20) was reasonable. Our 78-year-old driver Vernon was a friendly old guy and a very safe driver. We were advised by the ship's Concierge that we might not see any green monkeys, which was our main objective, but she assured us the scenery was lovely so we decided to take our chances. Admission to the Reserve was $11.50 U.S. each and the only green monkey we saw was an orphan named Pedro. We would not even have seen him if I hadn't struck up a conversation with one of the friendly workers. We saw deer, agoutis and lots of turtles. I would not recommend a trip to the Reserve. The highlight of the tour was a view of the Atlantic from Cherry Tree Hill. There were 2 other ships in port; one we didn't catch the name of and the Carnival Destiny. The Freewind Festival has been tendered in Barbados for three months now since it's bankruptcy and the case was going to court the day we were there.
St. Kitts: We stayed on board and purchased a one-day Persian Gardens pass. I used it 4 times, my husband twice and only once was there someone else in there. It is one of the most relaxing things I have ever done and a bargain at $20. I loved the herbal and Sahara steam rooms, skipped the Turkish which even my husband found too hot. The heated tile benches cured my backache and even the showers were great; tropical, side spray and even a mint mist! I would consider purchasing a cruise pass at $99. for the next trip but wonder if it would be crowded on sea days. The masted Sea Cloud II shared the dock with us today.
St. Thomas: Immigration call was very well organized and painless. We were docked right at Havensight Mall alongside the Celebrity Constellation and RCI's Brilliance of the Seas. RCI must have spent big bucks to have all 3 of their ships docked since the Sun Princess and Radisson Diamond ships were tendered. We did a little shopping and spent a relaxing day on board Summit.
Observations: - The Gala Buffet was beautiful. - Apparently there were a number of kids on board but, until the last night, you would never have known. We were told that they acted like animals on the sports deck but, since we were never there, it had no affect on us at all. There was a baby in the cabin next to ours and we heard it crying in the early evening every night. I can't imagine what parents are thinking taking a baby (and there were a few) on a cruise. It can't be much fun for the little ones as there is no place for them to get out and crawl around.
Disembarkation: Captain's Club Elite had their own departure lounge, the Normandie Restaurant, where they served coffee/juice/pastries. We finished breakfast at 8:30, arrived in the Normandie at 8:45 and were escorted by Camilla Sullivan, Social Hostess, off the ship at 8:50. We had no problem locating our luggage and finding a porter.
Pre-cruise accommodation: We booked this ourselves and stayed at the Sleep Inn, Dania which offered complimentary breakfast and transportation to/from the airport and pier. The location was convenient, the breakfast adequate and the pool area small but nice. The staff were not overly friendly and they stuck to their 2 p.m. check-in but, for the price we paid ($100.95) and the fact it was only a one night stay, we were happy with what we got. I would not recommend this hotel for a longer stay.
Transfers: We rented a car in Miami on the Thursday and returned it in Ft. Lauderdale Friday morning ($36.87 total). My husband was delighted; it was a brand new bright blue PT cruiser with only 6 miles on it. It boasted only 100 miles ($9. gas) when it was returned. It was a very comfortable car to drive/ride in with high seats which are great for bad backs!
We pre-paid the pier-Miami Airport transfer and found it to be very convenient and well worth the $15 p.p. cost. We boarded the bus at 9:05, left at 9:18 and arrived at Miami airport at 10:03. They made three stops with ours being the last at 10:35. There were no line-ups at the Air Canada check-in (apparently Monday travel is light) and we were checked in by 10:44.
Weather/Seas: We had early morning showers in Ft. Lauderdale. The first day at sea we had very light rain and a mix of sun/cloud. The second day at sea saw the same sun/cloud mixture but the strong winds made it cool and rain late in the afternoon. We changed course to avoid the rough seas but the first 2 days still brought 9-ft. waves and high winds. We even got ocean spray on Deck 11. We had showers in St. Maarten and heavy rain late in the afternoon in St. Lucia but the weather for the remainder of the trip was perfect; blue skies, light cloud and, if you stayed up on deck 11, always a pleasant breeze. Our second last day at sea started out totally cloudy but cleared nicely by 10:15.
Fellow passengers: There was a good mix; honeymooners, middle-aged couples and couples with children, gay/lesbian couples, seniors and elderly people. With the exception of two, the older generation was great. One old guy was so rude he started banging his fork at the grill demanding a hot dog when he didn't get the immediate service he felt he needed. The majority of the passengers were English speaking.
Negatives: - The drinking water on board was undrinkable. When I commented on this I was advised that due to the number of virus' around and SAR's, the chlorine in the drinking water has been increased. Better safe than sorry but we were glad to have the bottled water alternative for dinner and in our cabin. - Don't rush to the tanzanite talk; the "grand prize pendant" should come with a magnifying glass.
New/Updates: - Celebrity will be changing the menus in September. Sure hope they leave our favourite French Potato Pie and crème brulee alone! - Due to the high number of Captain's Club members, changes are in the offing. - They offered a Fisherman's midnight buffet, which was a change. We didn't go so can't comment on the content.