I would like to return the favor to the many Cruise Critic members who helped me to decide which cruise to take. I am sure glad that I did take the advice, and would encourage everyone considering a cruise to do your research and find the ship that meets your needs.
My wife and I were celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary and decided to take a first trip without the kids. Alaska was the chosen destination, so I set about doing the research.
Summit was highly recommended due to its level of service, and everything written was true. We found very little lacking, and have lots of good things to say about our experience.
Even the most mundane things about a cruise can turn out to be fun, if you let them. We met a couple at the Lifeboat drill and made fast friends with them. Another cruiser got us all laughing when she coined a nickname for herself as "Sponge Barb- Square Boobs" in reference to her fashion statement in the life jacket.
We found the food to be well above average. We eat out frequently, and the food was at the top end of the restaurants that we frequent. There was a selection of Fish, Poultry, Pasta, Beef and Variety at every dinner, so everyone could find something good to eat. The only disappointing dinner I had was a fancy version of a pork chop that was a bit on the dry side. We had hoped to be able to order Lobster more often, but it was offered only on the formal night. The chilled fruit soups that I had read about were just as good as advertised! The salads were terrific, and the main courses with the one exception were excellent. I am not much of a "fancy" sweet eater, but my wife certainly enjoyed the desserts (plural).
The service was very good. Christian (from Chile) was our Waiter, and Serkan (from Turkey) was the Asst. Waiter. We found them to be a good blend. Christian was obviously formally trained and very efficient, but Serkan provided the comedy and made for great conversation night after night. The meals were served in a timely manner, and the presentation was terrific.
The entertainment was inconsistent. The Celebrity Singers and Dancers were well beyond the "high school cabaret" that I have seen written up here before. There were some very strong voices amongst the singers, and the dancers were obviously well trained. The Impersonator, Paul Boland, that was on the ship was very good, and had the audience participation that a good entertainer can get. The comic (name forgotten) was using cast off jokes from Henny Youngman and we almost got up and walked out. The only saving grace was that he kept the show clean.
I attended a couple of the lectures, and wasn't too excited about them. I am a big US history fan, and was excited to attend a lecture about US presidents but the Political Science Professor giving the lecture frankly wasn't very well prepared. The Naturalist that gave a talk about the wildlife wasn't a very good speaker, and we didn't bother attending a 2nd one of his lectures.
Simon Weir, the Cruise Director, was everything he was billed to be. I didn't have that much energy when I was 10 years old and had eaten 5 chocolate bars and drank two Cokes. He was always on the top of his game!
The room that we had was about what we expected. Our attendant- Edwin- always had it prepared whenever we returned to the room. There was a glass coffee table that we really didn't want to be tripping over, so he simply moved it out on to the balcony where it fit perfectly. The only concern we had, and we can't prove anything, is that my wife had put some earrings in the safe in the room. When we returned to the room they were pinned to a note on the desk saying that they had been found on the floor. Nothing missing, but my wife is a very organized person and is convinced that someone went in to the safe and then returned the earrings in order to get a bigger tip......Just too much of a coincidence since the backings of the earrings were locked up......and what are the chances to dropping two earrings?
The ship itself was gorgeous. We met for drinks with our new friends each night in the Rendezvous Lounge before dinner. By midweek the waitress knew us by name, and knew what we would be drinking without being prompted. Since we are not big drinkers that truly was the first time I felt like Norm going into Cheers! We didn't get involved in any of the social events so I can't speak to those, and we mainly booked our own shore excursions as per the recommendations I got from Cruise Critics' Ports of Call bulletin board rather than booking through the ship.
We thoroughly enjoyed Ketchikan, Icy Straits Point and especially Skagway. Juneau was somewhat disappointing- except for a bus tour out to Mendenhall Glacier on the MGT tour bus that was driven by a local gal (Kathleen) that gave us lots of good insights. Mendenhall Glacier was part of that tour, and it was awe inspiring. However I wasn't inspired enough to join the kids who went swimming in the lake from the runoff! Talk about a Kodak moment.
Ketchikan was visited on the 4th of July, so many of the shops were closing for the big parade that afternoon. Celebrity even entered a float in the parade, and boy were the crew members having fun on that one. We took a flightseeing tour (independently) through Southeast Aviation and felt that it was a great deal.....especially when using the 2 for 1 coupon in the Toursaver book. We then sat up on our balcony and watched the parade go by on the main street of the town. Shops closed down early- but that is the spirit of a small town and we loved that touch. We also found that the prices in Ketchikan were the best of all the stops on the cruise....but didn't buy enough stuff there and ended up paying more later.
The White Pass and Yukon Railroad in Skagway was my favorite shore excursion- and yes it does make a difference to sit on the left side of the train on the way up the mountain! What beautiful views, and lots of history involved. Be sure to take a camera along. The Red Onion (or was it Dog?) Saloon was very cute. They offered tours of the old brothel upstairs with the waitresses all dressed up as "Sporting Women" for the bargain price of $5 for 15 minutes- the same as in 1898.
Icy Straits Point is a new stop for Celebrity. The locals there are very enthusiastic about having the tourists, and at the same time are keeping the island from just being a tourist trap. We took a long walk through a spruce forest and along the tidal pools along the beach and then took a shuttle bus into town. If you are into seeing bald eagles- this was the best spot we found in the harbor in the town of Hoonah near the fishing boats. Icy Straits Point is a beautiful area and unspoiled by the commercialism that you see at so many other ports. (Diamonds International hasn't arrived)
We also enjoyed Seward after finishing the cruise. The Kenai Fjords tour through Alaska Heritage Tours was excellent. We say plenty of wildlife on our 8 hour excursion that included dinner at Fox Island.
The only thing we were somewhat surprised by was the constant hawking of shopping bargains that were set up by Celebrity. They even had a designated "shopping guru" that gave seminars and obviously was getting a kickback from the local stores for pointing cruisers their way. You had to walk through 4 blocks of tourist traps in Juneau before you could see anything else.
All in all we were very pleased with our first cruise, and will return to cruising again in the future. Can't say it is the only way to travel, but Celebrity and the Summit certainly earned future business from us.