The Summit, once again, provided a perfect cruise experience as my husband and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary with a Mediterranean cruise. We are professional people, in our fifties and have cruised often. We most often choose to cruise with Celebrity as they always exceed our expectations for comfort, safety, pampering and, of course, service. This was our second Summit cruise and we chose this cruise, in part, because we loved our Hawaiian cruise on this lovely ship. All of our arrangements were made through Celebrity. We arrived in Barcelona early on June 3rd after flying from JFK. We were promptly met by our Celebrity escort who took us to a waiting van which delivered us to our hotel. The Hotel Grand Havana, was not only lovely, but centrally located. As we arrived at about 10:00 am our rooms were not yet ready so we deposited our bags and set off to explore the beautiful city of Barcelona. When we returned we found that our room was available and our bags were promptly deposited. Celebrity maintained a guest relations table right in the hotel to assist the Celebrity guests with plans for local activities and maps. The Celebrity representative was very pleasant and knowledgeable. My husband's brother lives in Barcelona so we met him for drinks at the hotel before strolling to the waterfront for a wonderful dinner looking out over the water. That night we put our bags outside our door for Celebrity pick-up.
The next morning we were transported from the hotel to our ship via Celebrity. We were checked in and on the ship before noon. The ship was, as we remembered, beautifully maintained and appointed. We walked around, taking advantage of the relatively empty common areas, taking pictures before heading to the buffet. The Summit, for our tastes, is just the right size. It's big enough to offer more than enough things to do and places to gather for every taste but small enough that you never feel lost or overwhelmed. Moreover, as on all Celebrity ships, it has more than enough common areas to accommodate the passengers on board even when the cruise is sold out. We have found that some cruise lines (i.e. Princess) have packed in as many staterooms as humanly possible without increasing the size of the theatres, pool areas, buffets et cetera making the guests feel as if they are always being pushed and shoved. This is never an issue on Celebrity.
Throughout the cruise there were always plenty of lounge chairs and theatre seats. The buffet area is especially spacious and thoughtfully laid out so there are always tables available and short lines even on the most crowded "at sea" days. Our luggage appeared in our stateroom without a problem that afternoon. Our stateroom attendant, Santana, introduced himself and thereafter kept our stateroom spotless throughout the cruise.
The food during the entire cruise was great. We had late seating and were seated with two British couples (not traveling together). They were delightful dining companions. Our waiter, Inyoman, and his assistant, Eddie, were hardworking and dedicated to pleasing everyone. One man at our table was a vegetarian and our waiter bent over backward to be sure he always had something good to eat. We loved the food and never had a bad meal. The beef was excellent as was the veal and seafood. The soups were especially flavorful and even better than we've had on previous Celebrity cruises. We usually took breakfast and lunch at the buffet. The food there is varied and there is something for everyone. They have a great salad bar with dried fruits such as raisins and cranberries, a variety of nuts, feta or blue cheese and lots of fresh vegetables. The sandwich bar is terrific with a variety of freshly made hot and cold deli type sandwiches. There is a pasta station with tasty sauces and varied pastas including whole grain. The barbecue is open all day with freshly made burgers, hotdogs and Tex-Mex. The carving station featured not only beef but on several occasions, whole turkeys carved to order. Breakfast was also very good with my favorite, the waffle station! The Belgian waffles are freshly made and served with melted butter (regular or orange flavored), hot maple syrup, fresh fruits, whipped cream or anything else you can imagine. The fruit on the cruise was always fresh, abundant and varied. There were several omelet stations with hardly any wait time. Of course, throughout the cruise, there were plentiful fresh and, sometimes, decadent desserts and baked goods. One day there was a special brunch held in the main dining room which was lovely. I hope this becomes a permanent feature of Celebrity cruises. We never did eat in the Normandy, Summit's specialty restaurant. We have eaten there before on other cruises and it is always a great experience, well worth the extra charge.
We had two favorite places on the ship which we visited every night. The first was the Cova Cafe where we would sit listening to the string quartet or the piano player as we sipped our Cappuccinos and unwound from our busy days. The staff there was exceptional from day one, always greeting us by name and attending to our needs promptly and cheerfully. Sometimes we would also go there in the afternoon for cookies and pastries. We especially loved Connie and Carina who made this cruise special by treating us in such a professional yet charmingly friendly manner every day of our cruise. Also every night before dinner we would meet with friends to have Martinis with our favorite bartender (on any cruise) Puto at the popular Martini Bar. He was terrific, always friendly and funny and doing tricks. He would juggle his bottles and shakers as he made various martinis never becoming flustered no matter how busy he got in the pre-dinner "rush."
The itinerary was one of the reasons we chose this particular cruise. I will cover some of the highlights.
In Florence we booked the "Florence on Your Own" excursion. This was perfect. The ship docks in Livorno (53 miles from Florence) and this is the easiest way to get there. Florence is small and easy to get around. I do not think anyone benefits from a guided tour of this compact city. We had purchased tickets to the Uffizzi, Italy's greatest art gallery, ahead of time for about 6 euros on the Uffizzi's own web page. Therefore we were able to skip the line and walk right in. We spent several hours a little overcome by the magnificent Renaissance art of the Medici family which includes, Titian, Michelangelo, Francesco, and Botticellis to name only a few. We then walked around the narrow streets of Florence to see the Duomo and other sights. We had a late lunch and headed back to the Santa Croce where we met our group.
In Rome we again took the "on your own tour." The ship docks in Civitavecchia which is about 90 minutes from Rome. We fell in love with this beautiful city. We had been a little disappointed because we were in Rome on a Sunday and the Vatican Museum (along with the Sistine chapel) was closed. But Sunday was the perfect day for us because we were able to see the Pope who comes out to the Piazza San Pietro every Sunday at 12 noon for the Angelis and to bless the crowd. It was more moving than I imagined it would be to see the people from all over the world cheer the Pope as he spoke in at least five languages. St Peter's Basilica was magnificent with the Pieta and hundreds of other works of art on altars, doors, ceiling, everywhere. The confessionals are open with a little sign for the language represented. Mass was being said at the main altar. Pictures are allowed. Nothing is sold there. We loved it. Leaving St Peters we took off to find the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon and other wonderful sights. We had a great meal at a small café before meeting our group and heading back to the ship. When the ship docked at Naples we took an excursion to Pompeii which was fascinating. In Greece, Santorini was the most beautiful spot to dock. We took the cable car for magnificent views of the sea and the ship. Several people from the Summit took the donkeys and seemed to love the experience.
We did not get off the ship in Athens choosing to give ourselves an extra "at sea" day.
Sailing into Venice is a delightful experience as the ship navigates the canal into the city and guests are allowed to watch from the helicopter pad for breathtaking views. We took an excursion in Venice to the Piazza San Marco, The Doge's Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. The next day we disembarked and were escorted to our hotel, again booked with Celebrity, which was lovely and conveniently located. The rest of the day was spent getting "charmingly lost" in Venice which is part of the fun. We were able to find the unassuming Santa Maria Gloriosa Dei Frari which was almost empty. We were again awed by the beautiful pieces of art especially by Titian found in this beautiful church. We had a lovely dinner at a sidewalk café. The next day we were met by our Celebrity representative who escorted us right to the check-in line at the airport and we, sadly, flew home. We would take this cruise again in a heartbeat. We had a great vacation!!