Embarkation was fine- we arrived with 3 bottles of wine and 1 bottle of rum we had just purchased at a supermarket on our way from the airport(I knew they xrayed the bags and found a rum bottle the same shape as a wine bottle). We could have carried another 2 bottles each in our bags, but this was more then enough. Asked about an upgrade to a sky suite (had seen 6 listed the day before departure), but no luck. I was told they were gone after the first 30 minutes of check in (and we checked in at 2:00PM), so no luck there. The only thing that didn't go quite our way was the luggage didn't arrive until 11:00PM. We had packed a small bag with essentials, swimsuits, and a change of clothes (please do this- it will make your trip so much less stressful).
Our Cabin- was booked as a balcony guarantee as the cost really was good for this rather pricey New Year's cruise. We were put in a 2C mid ship. I was quite happy with the cabin, the condition was good and the size was fine. If I were to do it over again, I think I would have paid the extra either for a "sweet sixteen" cabin or a rear concierge (I had one booked, but changed to the guarantee)- as we really used our balcony more then I expected. The room size was absolutely fine, but a little more balcony would have been a bit better. On day one, my husband spoke to our room steward, as it seemed the preparation of the room was a little rushed. He is particular and very nicely explained a few requests (a wine cooler with ice in the afternoon, a little more attention to the bathroom)- and gave him part of the extra tip he would have gotten. After this point the service was impeccable.
The Food- is always a complex issue as it is so subjective but here are our takes...
What we loved! *We love the spa cafe for both breakfast and lunch wherever possible. Presentation of the food, and quality was very good. *We loved Normandie the specialty restaurant, and without question the best meal was chateaubriand on the "menu exceptional" we had on the last night. Very good wine pairings (with generous portions)- wines such as Jordan, Pouilly Fuisse, Graham's port, Perriot Jouet champagne- all for an additional $27.50 per person- which really isn't bad when you look at a 5 course wine pairing. We ate there 3 nights- they did offer us additional "specials" on nights 2 and 3, which were really good. The cheese course and wonderful service were worth it alone for the money. *We loved the sushi in the evenings (starting at 5:30)- and got a plate every night, with our wine on our balcony. *We loved the brunch on our "short day" in Bonaire. It was a really nice way to use the main restaurant on that day, and even though it was much of what you saw every day it made you feel special. *We loved both the chicken quesadilla and cheese plate on the room service menu. Service was fast and efficient. *And of course we loved the homemade ice cream- always delicious.
What could use a little improving... * The main dining room was more uneven then I remembered it. I had some delicious lamb chops, but the shrimp was not as I had remembered it on previous cruises. We had a really nice table with some awfully nice people, a few joined us a few days into it, and which made it much nicer. Desserts were good, chilled soups were good, some tasty salads, but not quite the consistency I would have hoped for. That said we ate there the other nights, and had a very nice time. * I am not a buffet fan- but it was absolutely fine when I used it. My husband uses an industry term "trough feeding" and it kind of applies. That said, they do it as well as anyone, but it just wasn't our preference. * I thought they could have cleaned up the outdoor areas a bit more during the days at sea. It really wouldn't take much, just move a few who are getting drinks over to "clean up detail", but I saw some fallen french fries on the steps for a few hours and finally took care of it myself.
The Folks onboard- were in general a lot of happy family groups cruising for New Years. It was very nice, and the kids (both young and old) were well behaved and a happy addition to the trip. A lot of people from the East Coast on this trip, but we met people from all over. The family Karaoke night and family disco night were very well attended. Most everyone seemed to be having a good time. I would guess the average age was lower then usual- and not a lot of folks over 65 were onboard who didn't have a few additional generations in tow.
The Chairs on deck- are always a tricky issue when you have 2300 on board. The M-class ship really lends itself to this itinerary with all the deck space. The last few days we went up to deck 12 in the front and got chairs near the glass. It was quiet, and there wasn't a lot of wind and we loved it. It seemed to me that if you wanted a chair it could be found. Also the indoor seating with the pool and chairs is a really nice choice for those who don't want sun or it's a little cold out, but need a solar fix. They got some nice new teak chairs and cushions which we enjoyed more then a few sunsets.
The Itinerary- was wonderful. Reviews are to follow, but our favorites were Dominica and Aruba, but we didn't have a bad stop. I liked the balance of lots to do in port but with plenty of time for relaxation. I left the trip feeling like I had really enjoyed a nice vacation, but ready to head home.
All in all it was a really great trip, and one I would do again with my husband or with our kids. There are always things that bother us, but my approach is to fix it whenever possible do things a bit differently. Summit is a very nice ship and a good fit for this trip.