PRECRUISE & EMBARKATION: We flew from NYC to San Juan the day before. We stayed at the Marriott in Condado; we got a good rate by bidding on Priceline. We highly recommend the Marriott. On a previous cruise a few years ago we used Priceline to book the Caribe Hilton, and the desk staff acted like we had leprosymaking us sit and wait in the lobby for hours even though other people were checking in. The Marriott checked us in even though it was only noon, and the entire property is top notch. We took a taxi to the cruise terminal and got there around 1 pm. Then we stood in a line to drop our luggage, sat in chairs and waited to be called, stood in another line to actually check in, stood in another line for security, and then stood in ANOTHER line to finally board the ship. It was the worst embarkation we've ever had, taking at least 90 minutes. At the end of the multiple lines, we were offered champagne or a mimosa.
SHIP & CABIN: Celebrity Summit has been exhaustively described in other reviews, so we'll just say that on the whole we agree that it's a nice ship, well-maintained for the most part. The ship's art has been mentioned a lot; we didn't care for most of it, except the lovely Botero by the AquaSpa pool, and the interesting photography throughout. The library is very nice, although later in the week it was much more sparsely stocked than on the first day. (Passengers are informed that they'll be charged $50 for each book not returned, so hopefully the ship got all its books back. We always leave a few books of our own on each cruise after we read them.) Our balcony cabin on the Penthouse Deck was very small, and its design did not use space well. Placing the beds perpendicular to the door resulted in only about two feet of space at the foot of the bed. There was adequate storage. The balcony had two chairs and a little table, and was directly over a lifeboat. The bathroom had the largest shower we've had at sea, but the tile was moldy and the shower curtain stained.
DINING: As we had more or less expected, we were placed at a table for six despite specifically requesting a table for two. The first night (open seating night) we spoke to someone who changed our assignment, while acting like he was doing us a giant favor. At least we got it done. The food in the main dining room was average to good. The service was good to excellent, and our waiters tried hard to be personable. Lots of tables had empty places, and it seemed like a good many passengers chose to dine in the buffet. The buffet, on the one occasion we tried it (the first day's lunch) was absolutely overwhelmed. Long lines, malfunctioning ice machines, running out of food, tables not cleared, and rude and pushy fellow passengers. Yikes. On the other hand, the dinner we had in the Normandie restaurant for our 25th wedding anniversary could not have been better. The service, food and wine were all impeccable. The goat cheese souffle was truly an amazing dish. We probably should have eaten there more than once. One place we didn't try was the Waterfall Bistro, which a number of our fellow passengers mentioned approvingly. We passed it one night and noted that, unlike the main dining room, it was quiet and peaceful. We should have tried it. The main dining room was not open for lunch. We asked a number of ship's personnel about this, and they all indicated it was a cost-saving measure. Well, even on mass-market ships like MSC, you can get a nice lunch in the dining room. On the one sea day, the dining room served "Brunch"....which was....you guessed it...a BUFFET. When we entered, there were no clean tables. We scrounged some silverware from other tables and ate at a dirty table. This was not the experience we expected from Celebrity.
ENTERTAINMENT: The first production show, Broadway, was excellent. The other two are not as good. The theater is very nice, with good sightlines, and was rarely crowded. The comedian and magician were enjoyable as well. We don't stay up late or hang out in the bars, so have no idea how the other entertainment was. The cruise staff was personable, in the few interactions we had with them.
PORTS: This is a port-intensive cruise. In St. Maarten we booked with George and Okeydokey tours. We drove all over the island and visited two beaches. We are not big shoppers (and it was Sunday anyway) but if we had wanted to shop it was available. We enjoyed St. Maarten. In Dominica we had a tour with Levi and Bumpiing Tours. Levi has become very popular (due in large part to favorable reviews on Cruise Critic) and he had about 20-30 people and two vehicles. He still did a great job. Dominica is VERY mountainous, and the roads are not for the faint of heart. The short hike to Titou Gorge is over very rough terrain, and it was raining heavily. Dominica is mostly RAINforest, and it rained all day. Most of our group didn't do the swim to the waterfall, as all the rain had caused a heavy current. Unfortunately the rain made snorkeling at Champagne Reef a no go as well. Still, Dominica is very interesting and beautiful. In Grenada we took a ship's tour. Every time we do that we wish we hadn't. It was a lot of riding around in a van, more hilly terrain (and really, after Dominica we'd had enough mountain roads), one waterfall, and a couple of stops to learn about nutmeg and spices. In Bonaire we took the water taxi (arranged through the ship, but reasonably priced) to Klein Bonaire beach, which is lovely. Be advised that it has no facilities at all; no water or bathrooms or anything. The coral is (apparently) mostly dead but there are a lot of fish and some people saw sea turtles. We liked Klein Bonaire a lot. In Aruba we took a taxi to Eagle Beach. It's a nice beach but somewhat crowded and the chairs and umbrella were expensive.
DEBARKATION: One thing about this ship is that there are very few PA announcements. This can be a drawback; in Dominica we almost missed our tour because it was never announced that we could go ashore. However, on debarkation day it makes for a much calmer atmosphere. We waited a little while in the theater, then walked off the ship, waited in a short line at immigration, then got a taxi to the airport. It was handled well, but we like the way NCL lets you just walk off the ship anytime if you carry your own luggage.
SUMMARY: There has been a fair amount of discussion about this cruise on the Celebrity boards. The fact that Celebrity apparently chose to fill up every unsold cabin (the ship was full) in Puerto Rico definitely created a certain atmosphere aboard ship. At least a third and possibly as much as half the ship were non-English speakers. That said, the only times the ship felt crowded were at embarkation and at the buffet (which we mostly avoided anyway). Because we docked everywhere and did not tender, getting off in port was never a problem even with a full ship. The theater was never crowded. There was always a place to sit and relax, although since we didn't use the ship's pool deck we can't comment on whether that was crowded. The one afternoon we looked in at the AquaSpa Cafe it was jammed and very noisy, and the food didn't look appetizing anyway. The spa pool, which could have been lovely and serene, was full of yelling young people every time we saw it. We feel that this was a good, solid mass-market type cruise. In no way was it a luxury product. Except for Normandie, it was not any better than the cruise we took on MSC Lirica ten months ago, and it was MUCH more expensive. Many people have told us that this cruise was not representative of Celebrity, but since it was our only experience, it's all we have to go on. Unless we get a really great deal, I doubt we'll sail Celebrity again any time soon.