Summit, August 3, 2008, Venice to Barcelona.
Disregarding nearly every form of airline screwup known to man, the cruise was outstanding. The ship performed perfectly, the crew was very attentive and the ports were each very interesting in their individual way.
Unless otherwise indicated below, everything was good!
The Summit is a great ship, and the major onboard facilities all seemed to be working. I didn't catch any reports of mechanical issues anywhere. We had cabin 7158 (starboard/aft/veranda) and there were no problems with water pressure, temperature, air conditioning, noise, etc.
Despite financial pressures apparently causing some staff retention problems (declining buying power of the US dollar world-wide), I never ran into any bad attitudes in the staff or crew, and John (Cruise Director) did an all-around excellent job.
Because we had the combination of late dining and early port calls, the DW and I only attended a few of the evening shows, but the guest entertainers and theater company did a quality job with the stage. Also, the lounge acts in the various venues around the ship were very good. No complaints at all.
We had two Cruise Critic meetings during the cruise, and I feel very positive about the exchange of information. At least to me, it sounded like RCL/Celebrity monitors CC and takes the feedback to heart. Keep up the good work!
We did dine in the Normandie restaurant twice, and the experience was exceptional. The service and ambiance were fantastic, and the food was generally perfect. I normally despise liver in all of its forms, but I got out of my comfort zone by ordering the fois gras, and it was magnificent. I hate it when that happens! Now I'll need to risk it again some time, and I know it won't be that good anywhere else.
The wait at embarkation was too long, and too hot. The building facility is very basic. Our inbound flight was delayed, but I'm glad we didn't get there on time. Two more hours of waiting in that lobby would have been too much!
We were on an Acropolis tour in Athens and the crowds were massive. Our group made it to the top, but the access to the site was closed shortly thereafter because the hill was simply overwhelmed with tourists. It was exciting to stand in the midst of so much history, but the amount of reconstruction and scaffolding around the monuments was definitely a detraction. On our way out of the site, trying to locate our tour bus was a joke. We were running around the parking lot, through continually moving buses, looking for a little paper sign in the front window. After each lap, everything moved around so there was no way to work methodically through the area.
In Rome, our original tour was cancelled, so we rebooked to a tour of the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's and the Coliseum. I was really looking forward to the Vatican museum, and spending some time with their incredible art collection. No such luck. In reality, the museum tour is just a path to get from the edge of the Vatican property to the entrance of the Sistine Chapel. We were herded quickly through a couple of galleries of statues, paintings and tapestries and that was the sum total of the Vatican Museum experience. What little we did see was magnificent, but it wasn't a museum tour. Regardless, the Sistine Chapel was interesting and St. Peter's is awe inspiring. The tour of the Coliseum was pretty much as expected. The entire day in Rome was hot (very), crowded and rushed. I guess I can understand the rush to some extent, given the amount of history that we were trying to cram into a few hours.
Florence has way too much to see in one day, and that makes any tour a challenge. We went to the Accademia Museum to view the David, then continued a walking tour around several of the larger buildings in the area, including the Duomo complex, Ponte Vecchio bridge, Palazzo Vecchio, etc. The tour description indicated about 2 miles of walking, but I would estimate closer to 4 miles. I routinely walk over two miles as part of my exercise routine, and this was longer. The crowds were not as bad as Athens or Rome, but it was still very busy. I'm glad we didn't stand in line for the Uffizi Gallery - about a two hour line for people without reservations!
We have cruised with Celebrity before, and fresh morning waffles were a favorite. Unfortunately, the Summit appears to have sacrificed quantity for quality. I was never able to get one hot off the griddle, as there was always a pre-cooked buffet pan waiting. Still OK, but quality definitely suffered.
The Interactive TV system is flaky. About 25% of the time it wouldn't respond at all for ordering room service or checking an account balance. One of our breakfast (room service) orders simply disappeared. I never was brave or desperate enough to attempt a pay-per-view movie with it.
Even the Normandie dinner lobster was over-cooked and rubbery. I also had trouble getting a steak, filet or lamb chop any less cooked than medium. I like rare, and that was seemingly impossible.
Cold soups were excellent, but the desserts were weak, with the exception of the Normandie specialties.
If you order a root beer float at the Cova (it's on the menu), you're not going to get what you're expecting. More like a thin shake. Good, but not a float.
The "Notes" area is now an Acupuncture clinic. Didn't try that one.
The photographer assigned to taking formal-night photos in our area of the dining room seems to have some problem with couples putting their arms around each other. He was adamant about people being "shoulder to shoulder" with arms down. It was annoying initially, but turned into a running joke at our table.
Overall, I give the whole cruise four stars out of five, and I would do it again any day.