Our first Celebrity cruise was in early November 2007 on the Century. Until then RCCL (5 times) was our favorite of the 5 cruise lines we had sailed with but the Century blew them all away. We tried NCL this May but were disappointed with the quality of the food... plenty of choice but poor quality beef.
The cruise was booked in early October. We are flexible on dates and find prices drop significantly in the last 4 weeks before a cruise particularly in Europe in November before ships cross the Atlantic for winter. This is fine by us as we find the Med in summer to be too hot. We were looking at going on the Century again but preferred the itinerary on the Summit. The early November sailing was chosen over the mid November one as last year the weather we had whilst on the Century was completely dry whereas there were a few rainy days later in the month. Unfortunately the weather forecast immediately before the cruise was for rain in all our ports for the first 7 days.
We arrived in Barcelona the evening before the cruise and caught the airport bus to Placa de Catalunya near to our hotel. It was raining but we had missed the heavy thunderstorms of earlier in the day. We had pre-booked tickets for entry to La Sagrada Familia at 09:00 the next morning and following this we picked up our bags and caught a taxi to the ship for 10 Euro.
Boarding was a breeze. We turned up about 11:30 and were on board by 11:45. We went straight to the cabin to see if we had any dining room table assignment card. We did not (as is usually the case for bookings close to departure) so we went to see the Maitre'D. We had requested a table for 2 and as usual had been put on a table of 8 so this was changed.
Our balcony cabin was up to the standard we expected. The shower was a good size but a sliding door rather than curtain would have been an improvement. We put the air con on minimum temperature for the cruise duration. It would be useful if we could have turned the air con off at night as we sleep with the sliding door wide open (having discarded the quilts... I did say we don't like it too hot). Our room steward promptly made up our beds with extra foam mattresses as requested.
Entertainment: We are not keen on vocalists so didn't go to those shows. Ones we did attend were of the standard expected (similar to RCCL/NCL).
We did not use the spa, casino, shops, cinema, gym, pools, photographer, bars or wine service in the restaurant.
What makes or breaks the cruise for us is the quality of the food and in particular the beef. Whereas RCCL and NCL only had beef on the daily menu about 3 evenings on a 12 night cruise (apart from the "always available" New York strip steak that NCL ran out of!) Celebrity has it every night and it is excellent. On the Summit we had prime rib the first night (and on two other occasions) steak Rossini the next, filet Mignon, short ribs, Chateaubriand, etc. Our waiter was excellent. I explained exactly how I liked my steak and every one he brought me was spot on. Unnoticed to me he apparently discretely watched when I first cut into a steak to make sure that it was cooked as per my wishes. I have to admit to being greedy and ordering a second portion on the third day and took up the waiter's offer to automatically bring me a double portion of beef from then onwards. These standard offerings were far better than those in the speciality Cagney's restaurant on NCL.
Salads were excellent. Soups were good; I don't like clear soups.... So I don't order them! Deserts were very good. My wife had a more varied choice of entrees (chicken, pasta, etc) which she said were all very good with the exception of one pasta dish that she was not keen on (personal taste) - the waiter quickly brought out a replacement entrEe of the beef that I was enjoying so much.
Anyone can order room service from the dining room menu during dining room hours as I did on one occasion. I was aware there may be a delay as I know that the food can only be collected from the dining room kitchen at particular times so any delay is more down to precisely when you place the order rather than anything else. My order came promptly and arrived quicker than my wife's order from the standard room service menu. I knew they wouldn't arrive together as they come from different kitchens.
Only so much variety is ever available for a fried breakfast. I am not a great lover so often had fruit and toast. We preferred the breakfast in the spa cafe where in addition to the melon there was papaya and strawberries. We never found any queues.
The coffee was awful. We finally worked out that you needed about a quarter cup of coffee, quarter cup of cream and half a cup of hot water to make it drinkable. Coffee in the dining room was OK.
We had lunch onboard most days. Good variety although not up to the choice on RCCL. Meat quality was good (like RCCL and way better than NCL). My wife reported the pasta to be excellent although it is cooked to order SO YOU HAVE TO WAIT FOR IT! Most of the Asians seemed to be getting their food from the Asian counter but we did not partake. The pizzas were not to my taste and were the same stodgy offering with sparse toppings as on RCCL and NCL. I love pizza and those we had ashore in Barcelona, Capri and Venice were wonderful... thin and crispy base with loads of topping.
The wonderful home made ice cream bar got many visits.
Our waiter and assistant waiter were excellent. Decaf was always automatically delivered as requested. I was surprised that the baked Alaska was paraded with naked flames. I had understood that safely regulations now largely prevent this and I was not surprised that other dishes were not flamed anywhere within our sight.
We did not go to the Grand Chocolate Buffet as this was not the traditional grand midnight buffet which research before the cruise had informed one that this had been replaced by a brunch in the dining room on a sea day and indeed this was the case (with the ice carvings, etc).
Ship personnel: We had an excellent cabin steward. We had no problem with anyone. Cream was not always available at the spa cafe out of dining hours but hey just get it from one of the many coffee stations in the main cafe. We had not expected the coffee at the spa to be 24/7.
If you don't want to take the shore excursions or shop in the recommended stores then do as we do - research the ports on the internet before you leave home for maps, timetables and don't bother going to the port/shopping talks. The rudimentary maps provided were better than nothing and there was some local transportation information provided. Indeed, the port information was the best of any line I have been on.
Shore excursions are never cheap or particularly good value for money but I found Celebrity is considerably cheaper for an identical itinerary than NCL (up to 50%). We did 2 Celebrity excursions.
Nice - After a rainy day at sea came a rainy day in Nice. We had planned to go to Eze but having tendered ashore we decided the rain was not easing and so returned to the ship.
La Spezia - It must have been exceptional weather for us not to get into Livorno and this was due to our allocated berth and no other suitable berths being available. I thought that they did well to find La Spezia as an alternative rather than another day at sea (although they did not want to lose out on the profitable Florence excursions). I agree that the tenders could have been more waterproof but the staff were very good in terrible conditions. When we arrived ashore we were given a very nice map of La Spezia and despite the rain we enjoyed a leisurely walk to the train station where we took a trip to Cinque Terre (for a few Euros) which was delightful. On our return we window shopped in the pretty town of La Spezia before getting the tender back to the ship. No problem here but we were probably some of the last aboard before they suspended tendering. My sympathies go to those that had problems later on.
Civitavecchia - Day 1 - We pre-booked tickets for the Galleria Borghese so walked to the train station and got a BIRG ticket at the kiosk (don't bother queuing at the ticket office) for all public transport for the day. Surprisingly clear day... no rain at all. Day 2 - Very enjoyable ship excursion to Tuscania.
Naples - Hydrofoil and funicular to Capri then a bus to Anacapri. It was a very pleasant sunny day.
Athens - ship sightseeing tour of Athens that did not include the Acropolis apart from possible view from a distance. However, since the marathon closed many streets it was impossible to get to the places on the itinerary... not Celebrity's fault. We actually were taken to the Acropolis instead so we have no complaints.
Istanbul - Day 1 - instead of waiting for the shuttles we went our own way. The taxi fare would have been the same fare as the shuttles but we drew a little cash from an ATM and took the nearby tram. The tram was quite crowded but the younger people got up and gave us their seats... where else in Europe would you find this? The Grand Bazaar was our destination but was disappointing as many stalls were selling far eastern imported clothing rather than local stuff. Day 2 - As we have stayed in Istanbul before there were not too many sights we wanted to see again. We went in the Blue Mosque, visited the shops behind it and the Mosaics Museum then visited the Museum of Turkish & Islamic Art.
Mykonos - A very pleasant port for window shopping.
Split - Last year we did not get to Split on RCCL Legend of the Seas due to adverse weather stopping tendering and this year it was due to an engine or pod failure. As the failure was Celebrity's liability we were given $250 OBC per stateroom (inside staterooms got $200). I thought this quite generous and more than I expected. In fact the weather was quite bad so we may not have got ashore anyway.
Venice - We took the complimentary port shuttle to Plaza Roma from where we took a water bus to the Lido where we had booked a hotel for the night. The following morning we caught the Alilaguna boat to the airport.
In addition to the OBC our account also showed a further 2 x $18.50 credits which I believe may be a refund of port taxes relating to Livorno. This made our on board account in credit. This has since been refunded to my credit card together with a further $39 which is probably a refund of the port taxes for Split.
The dropping of the fuel supplement refers to cruises in the New Year and so no one on our cruise will have benefited from this.
In conclusion: This was an excellent cruise. It was our 13th cruise and I would put it a close 2nd behind the Century last year. This was because we were so impressed with the Century last year and so was not surprised by the quality of this cruise.
I would not hesitate in recommending the Summit.