We got back from Southern Caribbean cruise on Summit last week (sail date 2/28/09)! It was great - sad to be back in the snow and cold of Boston. We flew Jet Blue to San Juan a day early - to reduce the chances of missing the ship due to the unpredictable weather in the northeast. We stayed at San Juan Marriott Stellaris (which we booked on Priceline). The resort was pleasant and clean with a large pool and casino. We boarded the Summit at 11:30 am (after waiting in line for 30 minutes as we arrived too early). The boarding process was simple and we got right onto the ship. The buffet was open when we boarded - however, the pool was not open until 2:00. We had no problems with our luggage - which arrived at our cabin in enough time to get ready for the early seating dinner. The Muster drill at 5:15 was inconveniently timed -as it ran very close to early seating.
On St Maarten we went to Orient Beach, which had really beautiful water - aqua and blue!! Make sure to head to the taxi stand to the right after getting off ship as the drivers help to fill cabs heading to one destination to decrease price per passenger. When arriving at Orient Beach look at all of the umbrella/chair sections for price. We chose the first place we saw and later found out that it was the priciest. Don't accidentally sit on the nude side.
On Dominica we went on a 4 hour tour with a cab driver. We left the boat around 9:30 and were back around 2 for late lunch at the waterfall cafe. (we had originally planned on just going to the Emerald Pool - however at the taxi stand we joined another couple to reduce prices per passenger.) We ended up going to The Trafalgar FAlls which was excellent. They are double waterfalls which are about a 10 minute hike from the parking lot (lots of steps though) Admission was $5 per person. If you are physically able to go past the viewing point, I would recommend it - there are several steps down to the rocks and then you can walk over the rocks to be surrounded by water fall. Even though it was raining when we were there it was a great experience! OUr cab driver then took us to the boiling pool - a geological feature of the island - a short walk from the street with free admission. We then went to SCREW'S spa - mineral hot springs with 5 different pools to sit in - Admission was $10/person. (bathroom/changing facilities were less then optimal). We tried fresh mango and sugarcane - which was way better then anything at the grocery stores back at home! After staying at the Screws spa for about 40 minutes we went to a viewing point which had great views of the city and Celebrity Summit at the pier.
We went on a tour of Grenada with a cab driver which was a little disappointing (and pricey). The street vendors and locals were very pushy and kept telling us that we owed them money. The water fall was disappointing after seeing the ones on Dominica. WE cut our cab ride short and opted to go to Grand Anse Beach instead the beach was nice and sandy with blue water - make sure that you negotiate the umbrella/chair prices and keep your valuables close to you. (If you are going here i would recommend taking the water taxi which was a 5 minute walk from the cruise ship terminal and only $4 per person to the beach. Cabs were $25 to the beach. If I could go back in time, I would have done one of the cruise excursions and spent more time exploring the spices of the island.
Bonaire was our favorite island! It was beautiful and relaxing. When we got off the ship we went to a small outdoor shopping area with local crafts/souvenirs. The vendors were not pushy at all and the goods were reasonably priced for the most part. The town was clean and felt safe during the day We then went to Eden Beach (a 20 minute walk along the shore from the cruise ship) to snorkel. We had never snorkeled before and had a great time! We saw tons of fish. Snorkels were $10 to rent/ person, staff was friendly, and the facilities were clean. The water in Bonaire was crystal clear with beautiful blue hues. After hearing the stories of people who went on the shore excursion to Klein Bonaire we wished we had done that as they got to see Seaturtles as well as fish. I would have liked to have more time on Bonaire! and might go back there in the future.
In Aruba we took a cab to Palm Beach (which cost $11 - however many cruisers later told us that the bus is only 2.50 and the bus stop is right outside the cruise ship terminal). The beach was crowded because there is only a small section with public facilities. Chairs/umbrellas were expensive and we had to forego chairs. The water was warm and there were waves to play in. My boyfriend went parasailing for the first time and had a blast - definitely recommends. We then looked in some of the shops in town - Watch the prices! we found several of the same items in multiple stores with widely varying prices.
We have been on a couple of other Celebrity cruises and found that the staff on the Summit was not as friendly and that the food was not as good as on previous ships. This may be due to the fact that the cruiseline hired a new head chef. We recommend requesting to sit on the 4th floor of the dining room in the main section. The entertainment on the ship was good. The cruise director Gary Walker was funny and entertaining - very personable. The activities staff was excellent - especially Alejandro the director. He was very enthusiastic and always around the ship! The celebrity singers and dancers were very talented - especially the aerialists, who were amazing! (Although we had seen one of the dancing shows on the Zenith two years ago!) One of the entertainers was a juggler/comedian named Johan - we will say that he was not funny, not a good juggler, and definitely NOT entertaining. We wanted to leave during the show but were afraid we would be pulled on stage. We spoke to several other passengers who were similarly dissatisfied with his performance!!!!!!! definitely go see the NEwelywed game as it is always hilarious - the 50's and 70's dance parties were also fun!
We were disappointed with the midnight buffet- as there wasn;t one! Instead there was a small fruit buffet during the island party. It was not as extravagant as the one we had seen on the Zenith two years ago or the constellation 3 years ago. We were really hoping to see all the fruit sculptures and extravagant displays! The dessert buffet was not in the main dining room, instead it was in the Revelations lounge (which was bumpy during the evening and VERY Crowded and disorganized). There were several dessert stations set up around the room with ice sculptures. It was not as exciting as the Gigantic midnight buffets we had seen in the past, and are sad that Celebrity has opted to stop this cruising tradition. ( I will say that the ice sculptures and fruit displays that were there were great!!)
One of our favorite cruising experiences is the ability to get breakfast delivered to the room. On our last Celebrity cruise we enjoyed the experience of getting breakfast delivered to our room on our last day. However, this time around that option was not available and we had to be out of our staterooms at 8:30 am. Our disembarkation time was around 9:30 - so we had to wander the ship with our overnight bags for an hour and breakfast in the dining room ended at 8:30. The disembarkation process was easy and we were able to find our bags and get out of the terminal quickly. We did spend a lot of time waiting at the San Juan airport as our flight was not until 1:30 pm.
OVerall we had a great time during the cruise and will definitely book with Celebrity for our next cruise (most of the people we spoke with on the ship expressed that Celebrity was their favorite!)
Adrienne (and Greg)