Having just sailed on the Celebrity Infinity, six weeks prior to our sailing on the Summit, gave us a unique opportunity to compare the differences in these two ships. And, what a difference there was.
The excellent: the Normandie restaurant, the crew, the cabin stewards, the cleanliness
The good: the sushi bar, the Spa Cafe, the Waterfall Cafe, the coffee in the Waterfall (lido) restaurant and the big pitchers of cream, the new juice dispensers, the prices on the shore excursions, the fitness center
The mediocre: the entertainment, the food in the Cosmopolitan Restaurant, the coffee in every other restaurant, the entertainment, the condition of the treadmills
The bad: the HVAC systems in our stateroom, the information on the shore excursions, the uselessness of being a member of the Captains Club, and the online Internet charges
The ship was docked in San Juan with a departure of 11:00 pm. Before when we visited San Juan, we docked on the pier adjacent to Old San Juan. The Summit was docked across the channel from Old San Juan, requiring a $20 cab ride. Surprisingly the ship did not provide a shuttle. Since the ship did not leave San Juan until 11:00 p.m., this was disappointing given the amount of time there was to explore the city after dropping your bags on the ship.
First thing we noticed, when we boarded the ship (in contrast to the Infinity) was that all the elevators worked, everyday! Our stateroom was clean and the attendant was very attentive to us in bringing ice and wine glasses.
The Summit had just come from dry dock a couple of weeks prior to our sailing. Probably as a result, we found the infrastructure to be in fairly good condition. However, we did hear several guests complain about leaking pipes the their staterooms.
The only mechanical glitch we encountered was that our cabin was perpetually on the warmish side, 72 to 74 degrees at the coolest with the thermostat cranked as low as it could possible go for the entire cruise. On most every other ship we've been on, cranking the thermostat to the coldest position would have frozen all but the most cold-blooded cruisers, but not this cabin. I typically sleep with the thermostat set on 69 to 70, so this made sleeping only marginally comfortable for me. On the days we left the curtains to the veranda open, the room was intolerably hot and took hours to cool down. We only made that mistake once! We often noted that our hallway was cooler than our room. We put in a several requests to the front desk staff asking if they could lower the room temperature any, but it wasn't something they could apparently fix. The front desk staff checked on us continually and even sent us a bottle of champagne to help cool us off. Still, their efforts didn't result in solving the problem. Our only other HVAC problem is that we were continually smelling the cigarette smoke of our next door neighbor.
There were a few days that the entire ship was warm. This, again, was in stark contrast to other Caribbean cruises when getting back on the ship felt like stepping into a refrigerator. I can not be sure, but my hunch is that the HVAC systems of the Summit are not build to maintain a comfortable room temperature if the ambient temperatures are much above 80 degrees. If I were booking a cruise to any place warm, I would think long and hard before booking on the Summit again.
The Normandie specialty restaurant was, again, the absolute highlight of our cruise. Celebrity has just retired their old menu, after nine years. The new one is sure to please the most rigorous foodies. One interesting change is that they've done away with the more formal "butterfly" service of the past. Gone are the silver tops on the plates, table side service with the many trolleys. Surprisingly, we decided we missed the table side service the most. This is not because it affected the food quality or the dining experience, but that was the time we chatted with and got to know so many of the servers. Everything on the menu is creative, complex, and delicious. And just as wonderful is the service from everyone on the staff. We especially enjoyed Katarina, who's passion, knowledge, and friendliness made the dining experience all the richer. You will be able to pick her out easily, she is the only woman on the team. When you consider that eating here costs $30 per person, we feel it's the best priced 'shore excursion' we know of when sailing on the Summit.
The Fitness center was well equipped with a good variety of weight and cardio machines. Similar to the Infinity, the cardio equipment was in various states of disrepair. On most days about 1/3 of the video/audio didn't work, 1/3 of the heart rate monitors didn't work, and 1/3 of the machines were fully functional.
The entertainment was mixed, some good and some, not so good. This was the second cruise that there was an acapella group on board and we found them especially good, as was the string quartet. The singers and dancers were talented but the shows we saw on this cruise suffered from poor arrangement, themes, and song selection. The party band lacked the energy we've usually found in the Celebrity party bands. They were more like the 'elevator music' band.
The juice and coffee machines on the lido deck were new, and an improvement over the old ones. An even better improvement over the Infinity and past cruises, the Waterfall Cafe (lido deck) made a pitcher of cream available for coffee.....a great improvement over the old days when your only choice was the disgusting non-dairy creamer! And, for that good cup o'joe in the morning, stick with the Waterfall Cafe. It was flavorful and rich. The rest of the ship's restaurants suffer, like every other Celebrity ship we've been on (which is most of them), from weak, bland, almost tasteless coffee. You would think Celebrity could get coffee right, especially when they do so many other things well!