I had been researching this cruise itinerary for over a year, ever since the Travel channel featured Samantha Brown's first cruise, I fell in love with it. We convinced 4 friends into coming along and we booked for Oct. (after researching the weather patterns, precipitation and temps.) and high season vs. a less busy time. We booked thru a travel agent so really had no contact directly with Celebrity. Our flight with Air France was uneventful however the leg room seemed tighter than when we flew Lufthansa in 2004. Arriving in Venice, it took a little longer than expected to get to the ship, this time cut into the afternoon time that we had thought we'd be touring Venice on our partial First day. Note: next time we'll go a day early!!!!!!!
Our embarkation went smoothly, we found our balcony cabin much to our expectations initially. Upon further observation we did notice that the carpet by the slider balcony doors had a worn pattern, some molding above the mirrored wall was not in place, one hinge to the cabinet door over our TV was broken off, the bathroom toilet seat was scratched and showed wear, there was mold in the shower and by the corner of the bathroom door on the inside the paint was chipped and rusty. These small areas mentioned did not by any means take away from our cruise experience, these are just things that we had not expected since Celebrity is known to be a "notch above". Our room steward, Dominique, was very good, he kept our cabin spotless every day, all day. Refilled our ice and water containers and was attentive to our needs and requests. Our bed was very comfortable and although I sleep poorly at home most nights, I slept like a log every night while on the ship.
Sail away from Venice was spectacular!!!! Slowly leaving the harbor, passing the small canals and bridges with tourists waving, hearing the church bells off in the distance while music played on the ship, it was emotionally very moving. We chose the Summit for the itinerary, we knew it was intense and were prepared for it as much as one can be. Our impression of the Cosmopolitan was very good. We had requested a window table for 6, the total of our group. Our assignment was #492. Mookie and Bojan, our wait staff, were outstanding. Very personable, knowledgeable of particular menu entrees and attempted to meet our every request with graciousness and a great sense of humor. On other cruises we never saw the maitre d' except for the last night. On the Summit our assistant maitre d' was present every night, traveled from table to table and spoke with many. Our waiters remembered our names and our individual likes. The buffet was not the best experience quite a few times. The varied menu was accommodating (sushi, Asian, British breakfast, etc.) but often it was disorganized and disappointing. Sometimes lines were very long and/or stations closed during serving times. If one came in later from an excursion and went to the buffet for dinner rather than the main dining room you might find only three options (pasta, chinese and pizza). We had heard raves on cruise critic roll call about the waffles but the machine was broken the whole cruise. The pancakes were less than appetizing but the omelets were fine. The hamburger grill by the pool was a good break from the buffet also. Room service for breakfast was substandard, at least for us. We had gotten hooked on it on our last cruise (with another line) and looked forward to breakfast most days in our cabin. The menu selection was limited with NO 'write ins'. The food ordered and the food delivered were not the same and that which was delivered was cold. The main dining room for breakfast was very quick, had nice options and was less stressful than the buffet. I would recommend that Celebrity carry diet caffeine free soda and ice tea as there is nothing available except water in that category.
We found that the first 4 or 5 days we were unable to serve ourselves. Everything was roped off and "hands off". Areas that were stainless were smeary and unattractive. Later we deduced that this was the result of bleach "bathes" of most all surfaces in an attempt to disinfect the ship of germs as much as possible, we then appreciated Celebrities efforts but felt that signs should have been posted to alert guests of wet bleach as one of our party had a blouse and sweater ruined by leaning up against it. After several days, things relaxed and it was easier to serve yourself and enter stores and areas without having to first be instructed to sanitize your hands. The Normandie was very enjoyable. The atmosphere, quality of food and service were very good. We noted the choreography of serving and individual interactions of the servers. Well worth $30.pp, a real special treat.
Entertainment was varied and for the most part good. Several highlights were the pianist, the magician, the aerialists. Some of the shows and the talent were not as good as we have seen on other ships.
This itinerary being so intense required planning. We booked most of our excursions through Celebrity and found each to be well organized, the guides were informative, personable and well spoken. Each was accommodating and thoughtful with scheduled "WC" breaks. Celebrity was well organized with getting guests off of the ship to meet the buses. We ventured out on our own in a number of ports and fared well with making proper connections via train, shuttle or metro. Never found pick pockets to be a problem but we were prepared and alert. Doing your homework ahead of time and being as informed as possible aided in things going smoothly.
Live music could be found all around the ship, this was delightful and the Rendezvous lounge was always "hoppin". James the cruise director was outgoing, welcoming, humorous and helpful. The heated therapeutic pool was heavenly and so relaxing at the end of a long day, there were plenty of lounge chairs with attractive navy blue covers, the towels were plentiful and in good condition. Before we left home we were concerned about keeping in contact with our family at home. Cruise critic writers had suggested internet cafes in ports, as cell phones didn't seem to be an option. We found the ships internet room very convenient and for making short contacts with home, easily accessible and affordable. Disembarkation went smoothly and efficiently, we were off of the ship, had retrieved our luggage, were onto the bus and at the airport in a timely fashion.
One very important alert to cruisers, be sure to read the small print in the booklet that Celebrity sends to you. Be aware of the 'GFO' desk, that's Guest Flight Operations desk, when you arrive at the airport, if you have any problems including with your flight, call the 800 phone number listed in the booklet. Celebrity states that they will resolve your problems. We were unaware of a "GFO" desk reference, we had no reason to think that the cruiseline would help us with our flight home, we thought we were on our own once the cruise was over. Unbeknownst to us, our flight carrier and time had been changed and we missed our flight. Being stranded in another country, having cashed in our Euros on the ship, we were handicapped, it was a horrible stressful way to end a delightful vacation. So be aware!!!!!!!!!
This Mediterranean cruise was one that many only dream of, it came true for us. All in all it was a fantastic trip, the small negatives that I have mentioned didn't spoil our trip at all. I mention them to try to put things into prospective for those that may not have traveled the Summit yet and are reading comments from different perspectives. You'll find the cruise line staff very friendly and helpful for the most part. Hearing them say, "Welcome Home" each time you reboard at the end of an excursion day, gives you a nice feeling. We're not going to find perfection every where we go, if so, they wouldn't let us on board!!!!! Happy cruising.