BACKGROUND INFORMATION My husband and I have been on 21 cruises around the world, including France, Italy, Greece, China, Russia, Australia & New Zealand, the Panama Canal, Norway and of course the Caribbean. Needless to say that we know our way around the world of cruising! We have been on Regent formerly Renaissance, Silver Seas, Princess and most of all Royal Caribbean. When Celebrity decided to (so-call) honor our RCCL Diamond status as equivalent to Captain's Club Elite status, we decided to try Celebrity. We both wanted to visit Morocco and Spain so we booked 12 Nights Best of Europe on the Celebrity Summit departing Southampton, England for Barcelona on April 29th, 2008. We book our cruises a year or 2 in advance, first on our own through the cruise line website and then we pass it on to our travel agent. A few months before departure Celebrity informed us of a port change. Morocco was dropped. We called Celebrity to get information as to why it was changed to Valencia. We were informed that Morocco was a security risk and some of the crew had been harassed. We called the State Department which promptly assured us that Morocco was NOT a security risk and there were no advisories against a US citizen traveling to Morocco. We called Celebrity back with the news and finally, after much haggling, got to the bottom of the reason for the change in ports. Dockage was now very expensive in Morocco and Celebrity decided not to pay the higher dockage fee. We should have known right there and then that the right thing to do was to cancel this cruise, but we decided to give Celebrity the benefit of the doubt. Next they cancelled 3 excursions and we had to pick different ones. One was changed from an excursion with lunch to one without lunch; we later realized the port time would have been too short to accommodate lunch. Another was simply cancelled because we were in port on a Saturday and the Lladro factory would not be opened for tours on the weekend. The third was cancelled while on the cruise because they decided to change ports from La Rochelle to Cherbourg...no previous information was given and no reason was given...so on May 1st, a European Holiday equivalent to our Labor Day, we were in Cherbourg with nothing opened! Celebrity only offered 3 excursions, each worse than the other. That day we would have been at sea which would have made sense considering the holiday.
TRAVEL TO PORT OF EMBARKATION For the first time we decided to arrange the transfer from airport to dock with the actual cruise line. We usually get a private driver or taxi or stay in a hotel for one or two nights before the embarkation date. This time we decided to book with Celebrity. We arrived at the dreaded Terminal 5 at Heathrow on British Airways and had a great flight. After walking for 30 minutes from the plane to the luggage pickup area and collecting our luggage, we might add that we received our entire luggage; we met two young men from Celebrity. It had been an all night flight and it was now 6:30 AM. We had to wait for 45 minutes for the bus to arrive as it was in another area of the airport. We got on the FULL bus and were on our way on a 2 hour drive to Southampton. We had expectations that since the Summit had been in dry dock for the previous 21 days, we would be able to board as soon as we checked in, after all the ship was empty, no passengers had to disembark since it had just arrived from Hamburg the night before. Everything should have been ready to accept the passengers on arrival. We got in line, a long line, and I decided to ask about Elite status. They were not handling anyone in any special way unless you had booked a suite or were on the Concierge level. Once I mentioned our Elite level they shuffled us to the front of the line. We were processed and told to step into the lounge. The lounge was a huge waiting area with seats in rows, like an airport and not particularly comfortable. It was now about 11 AM and we were exhausted. We all had to wait until 1 PM to board. Meanwhile other passengers had to wait until 2 PM. All this time Celebrity offered only water and fruit punch starting at 12 noon. Once on board we headed for the 10th floor Waterfall Cafe and had lunch at the buffet. It was fair. At 2 PM we headed for our cabin #7171 and found our luggage all there. That was a pleasant surprise.
STATEROOM #7171...what can I say...a little aft of center by the aft elevators...great location but SMALL by all other ships' standards. The same category on the Jewel, the Explorer, the Brilliance, etc., not to mention Regent's ships, is much larger. Our desk was small and could not hold a laptop with the ice bucket and had no drawers. The bathroom was adequate in size. Our shower had 3 holes in the wall, at the bottom above the tiles, about 3 inches in diameter each. They looked like mouse holes. In addition, one of the shower floor tiles was loose and flipped up when stepped on. While we always had hot water our neighbors on floors 9, 8 and 3 reported hours without hot water. Our sink had cigarette burn marks throughout. Our drapes had a hole/tear about 5 inches in diameter. Our table was dirty and rusty. Our sofa was more a chair and a half. Our bed had to be picked up to slide luggage under for storage. And the icing on the cake, our toilet had been used and not flushed! YUK! The verandah was tiny, though we had a somewhat larger one because of our location and the furniture had seen much better days. The glass slider doors needed cleaning. Our online TV access accounts NEVER worked, though we reported it every day of the 12 day cruise. One positive thing was that our cabin steward was very good. He had our room cleaned the minute we walked out and he always had ice and water available. We bought a liquor package with a 6 pack of diet Coke and did not receive it until the third day of the cruise. The night before disembarkation our refrigerator was promptly locked! The a/c did not work and we were frequently hot and uncomfortable.
SHIP The dry dock for the Summit must have been for mechanical reasons for we saw no evidence that the ship had been refurbished. The 10th floor cafe had dirty chairs that badly needed painting or cleaning. The carpet was coming up at the seams at several points on every floor. The 11th floor men's bathroom had roaches. These were seen by my husband as they sprayed insecticide and the roaches ran up the wall. The Bar at the Edge of the World is now Revelations but the old sign is still there along with the new sign creating some confusion. I did not see the hole that some of you mentioned on the boards, but the dEcor was downright ugly. The theatre was pretty. The main dining room was also nice. There were buckets of paint with paint brushes and brooms and a ladder outside of the Rendezvous Lounge on the promenade. A real shame because it is a very pretty ship overall, with a beautiful staircase and quaint elevators. It is obvious that this ship has seen better days and needs some cosmetic work.
ACTIVITIES The activities on board were pretty much status quo. Bingo was strange. We have always played for a percentage of the pot. On the Celebrity Summit, the prizes were paying off your shipboard bill up to $500. So what happens if you have a very low ship board bill? Well I guess you don't get a full $500 value. Another prize was moving you to a sky suite...half way through the cruise???? The enrichment lectures were excellent. The Captain's Club Activities were awful. First they were at the worst times, 11:30 AM. Who wants to go to a cocktail at that time of the morning? At that time you were usually off the ship on an excursion anyway. It was as if they did not want to see you! The Captain's Club activities were really lame! Even at the Captain's Night, the cocktail party had no introductions of any of the ship's officers.
DINING The buffet restaurant was adequate, though one night that the ship left late they promptly closed up at 10:20 PM, when the closing schedule was at 11 PM, leaving many passengers without dinner due to late excursions. The main dining room was good. Our waiter and assistant waiter were excellent. The food was good. The Normandy Restaurant was very good with excellent service and great food. Room service for breakfast was always on time. The room service menu was very inadequate. There was only pizza for a late night order. Other ships have a more extensive room service menu where you can at least have a burger 24 hours a day.
SHORE EXCURSIONS We took shore excursions at every port except Cherbourg. They were very good, including a lot of information for the time that they had. The local guides were great and very knowledgeable. However, the organization of how to get off the ship for these excursions and loading the buses left a lot to be desired. The excursion's staff on board was rude and infantile treating the passengers like children and idiots. One overly active and heavy-set young lady in charge actually used words like "dismiss" and phrases like "sit down and shut up!" There were moments of civil disobedience. Most people just wanted their excursion sticker to get off the ship on their own time and board the bus. The staff insisted on keeping total control as if we were prisoners. On other cruises, you receive your sticker and time of tour departure and as a responsible, intelligent adult you get off the ship and locate your bus. If you don't know, you ask and if you are not there for departure time, it is your responsibility. The Summit's excursion staff even went as far as to keeping the location of the buses secret at another gangway not mentioned on the public announcements or flyers so that those that would go off on their own would miss the buses. It was a silly, childish game of control and passengers were angry and upset. One time they made everyone wait at the gangway and sent all of those with tour stickers back to the theatre. Many of these were elderly that should not have been made to walk all the way back to the theatre. It was so bad that some passengers were in tears. At one time, my husband heard a reference made by the excursion staff to the civil disobedience that they suffered in Bonaire. We found out that there were many incidences of this nature on previous cruises. The excursion staff of the Summit needs serious retraining in being courteous and efficient. They were rude, condescending, downright nasty and unhelpful. This was the worst part of the whole cruise. They were even worse than the customer service staff.
SERVICE As you can see from the previous sections we had many issues. We called many times and they would not return calls. The only way to get their attention was going to the customer service desk in person. At one port we were informed that 3 employees from the pursers' staff were let go so they were short at the money exchange. We only used that service once towards the end of the cruise and my husband had to wait over 45 minutes for the money. The concierge service was totally unacceptable. Our friends requested a rental car for Cherbourg and were rudely told that they should have thought about that earlier. They were promptly reminded that the port change had just been made and therefore there was no way that the rental car service could have been taken care off in advance. In addition it was Celebrity's call to change the port, not due to danger or weather by the way. They also had requested car rental for another port. The request had been made on the first day of the cruise. Once in port, they had to take a train, then a taxi to the car rental agency only to find that it was closed. They returned to the ship having lost their total day on that port. The rental reservation had been made for 2 days in the future, when we would have been at another port. They were never compensated or even addressed as to their lost day at that port. The concierge was totally inefficient, rude and useless. Our friends were not the only ones to have problems with this young man. We heard of other rude remarks and simple disregard to requests. The duty free shops on board were closed for the duration of the cruise. They were never opened. Something to do with European Union legalities. This would not have been the case had the ship made port in Morocco as in the original itinerary. Our Elite status was nonexistent but I must say that we did get our request for our dinner table being by a window and being only for two. We did have a lovely table. They served drinks at the Rendezvous Bar and at Revelations without cocktail napkins, which had the drinks dripping all over the table and your clothes. We have never had worse service on a cruise and we are so very disappointed with Celebrity.
ENTERTAINMENT The Celebrity Singers and Dancers were very good as was the Band and the piano player in Michael's Club. The head liners were OK. The magician was really a comedian and not our cup of tea, but the singer was good and the acrobatic flyers were excellent. The a capella singers were also good. We found that the Celebrity Singers and Dancers needed some costume work as they looked a little threadbare. Over all the entertainment was good. We have seen worse.
DISEMBARKATION We had purchased transfers from the ship to a hotel as a post cruise one night package through Celebrity when we booked and purchased the cruise. Again, we usually make these arrangements on our own with a driver and book our own hotel. We had been in Barcelona several times before and did not want to spend any extra time there, but our flight arrangements required an overnight stay. Unlike other cruise lines, when Celebrity gives out the luggage tags, they do not explain what the color means. Celebrity only tells you where and when to wait for disembarkation. We received purple ones. By this time I had lost total confidence in anything Celebrity, so I called customer service and asked what purple meant. It meant "Independent Traveler." So off I went to the customer service desk, again. They had no record of the transfer or hotel reservation. Not surprising by this time. I had all of my receipts and the passenger booklet with the vouchers so there was no question. They finally gave me the correct color, orange. At that time I requested to see the Customer Service manager...I had had it! She came out and I requested a private meeting or I would do my song and dance in front of all the nice people in line, about 20 passengers by now. I went into her office and went down the list...Don't think it ends here! We got off the ship, found our luggage and after 20 minutes finally found a porter to take our luggage to...where???? There were about 15 uniformed Celebrity agents in the luggage collection area, but not one of them could: A) find us a porter, B) direct us to where we had to catch our transportation to the Regina Hotel...No one knew anything! Once again they were totally useless, unprepared and just stood around talking to each other with little lists in their hands that meant nothing. My husband and I started asking around and also asking the other passengers that had deer caught in the headlights looks. Finally, after one hour my husband found a van on the other side of the parking lot with a paper sign with Regina on it...BINGO! This was our transport. The driver was never called to come and get us. The driver had a list of only 3 couples...there were 5 couples going to the Regina. Another couple had the same problem we had...no information on their post cruise package. We packed 5 couples with ALL the luggage into the van and finally got to the Regina. Needless to say, everyone was in a bad mood by then. Celebrity was the worse disembarkation that we have ever been on. We have been on 21 and they have ALL gone without any issues.
HOTEL Since we were only staying one night, we chose the Regina Hotel. The service was a breath of fresh air. They were so helpful in every way. We needed a converter to charge our laptop and Blackberries and they found one for us. Then we promptly blew a fuse...twice! Each time they had the electrician up to fix the problem within 5 minutes! The room was spacious and had a Romeo and Juliette balcony overlooking the main street. It also had an in room refrigerator and a good sized TV. The location was fabulous, a block from Las Ramblas. We walked to La Plaza Universitaria and had dinner at a wonderful tapas bar with a great wine list, El Cellar de las Tapas. The Regina has a wonderful buffet breakfast included in the rate. It has a really efficient computer room with printers that we gladly used as we waited for our room to be ready to print our boarding passes. Rooms are usually ready at 3 PM. But we were able to check in at 11 AM. We were able to have the brunch at check in instead of the next morning because we were leaving at 4 AM for the airport and the dining room would not be opened at that time. The staff at the Regina was very accommodating in every way. The Regina also has a lovely bar at very reasonable prices. It is not a fancy hotel, but it is very adequate and clean and perfect for a short stay. Its location is fantastic and the service is flawless.
SUMMARY I have never felt the need to write a review. I have logged on to Cruise Critic many times for information before booking or going on a cruise. This time our disappointment has been so complete that I felt the need to inform the rest of the community. On a scale of 1 to 10 this cruise was a 2...only saved by the country that we visited, Spain and Mont San Michel in Normandy, France. Our disappointment in the service and quality of our first Celebrity cruise is tremendous. We had the impression that Celebrity was a cut above RCCL. Though cruises can be like cars, you might get a lemon; we found that most of the passengers that we talked to were not impressed. Including a couple that had cruised 51 times on Celebrity; they stated to us that this was the worse Celebrity cruise that they had ever been on. We will not be recommending Celebrity to anyone. We will be sending a copy of this review along with a letter to the president of Celebrity and to our travel agent.