We arrived in BARCELONA two days before the ship's departure. We stayed at Condes de Barcelona, one of the hotels on Celebrity's list but we booked it on our own at less than half the price Celebrity charged.
Barcelona is a beautiful city and easy to get around. We took a taxi from the airport (30 euro). We elected to see the city using the Hop On & Hop Off Tour Bus. The two-day pass was well worth the 27 euro price. Taxi from our hotel to the ship was another 30 euro (expect a surcharge for your luggage).
We had been warned about the thieves and pickpockets throughout the cruise ports. Even then, my wife lost 20 euro to a sneak thief in Barcelona. This Gypsy put a flower in her scarf and when my wife opened her coin purse to give her a coin, the thief grabbed her paper currency and ran. This ruined the rest of the day for her.
EMBARKATION: We arrived at 2PM and that was a mistake as it seemed to be the same time most everyone else chose. Celebrity's staff was well organized in spite of the crowd's surge and we were on the ship within 45 minutes. Recommend arriving before noon or after 4PM to avoid the crowds.
OUR ROOM: We selected a Balcony room 7194 which is on the far aft Starboard side. The views from the Starboard side (Even Numbered cabins) were spectacular for this itinerary. The size and layout of this room was more than adequate for our needs. The balcony was small but adequate for standing looking out or sitting with our morning tea. There was ample storage for all of our things. Our room steward was great and always had our room spotless. Two Cruise Critic Tips that served us well were to bring a Power Strip for all your electronic gadgets and a nightlight for the bathroom. A Digital Clock came in handy too.
We were upgraded to Concierge Class in addition to a significant price reduction several months before our departure. I probably would not have paid extra for Concierge Class but other people will have a different opinion on its value.
One of the things we liked about the far Aft room was there was very little foot traffic, The Waterfall Cafe was three floors above which was very convenient to drop in for a quick snack or cup of Tea or Juice.
THE SHIP EXPERIENCE: We attended the Cruise Critic Party (~10 AM on the first "At Sea" day) with many of other Roll-Call members. It was enjoyable meeting each other after months of planning together. We found the ship was about 60% Americans and a significant Canadian contingent, numerous Brits, and a bunch of Aussies. We saw very few children on this cruise. The condition of the ship was very well maintained. The T-pool was our favorite relaxation spot on the ship during our "at sea" days. The Fitness Center was very well equipped and in excellent condition too. (I should have spent more time at the Gym and less time at the Ice cream counter) One complaint is with many of our fellow passengers who went out early in the morning of the "At Sea" days to reserve their deck lounges and then not return for several hours later. There wasn't an open deck lounge to be found after 9 AM. SHAME ON EACH OF YOU!
DINING: We chose Early Seating even though we knew we might have to rush back from our late tours (but this was not really a problem). We sat at a table for 8 and enjoyed the excellent company of our dining companions. The food selections were ample and the taste was excellent. Portion sizes were not large but we never walked away hungry. We only ate some breakfast and a few lunches at the buffet. The selection was adequate but not extensive. We enjoyed the pizza at the rear buffet area and loved the homemade ice cream. Don't be shy about ordering Room Service (it is included) for your morning Coffee/Tea/breakfast. This was a real time-saver while we were getting ready for those early port tours. (It also serves as your wake-up call ;-)
ENTERTAINMENT: There was an enjoyable variety of musical entertainment throughout the ship. The Celebrity Dancers and Singers were excellent. Their Broadway musical was very well done and was equal to some of the original productions we have seen firsthand. The ships band was awesome and we did enjoy their performances throughout the ship and the cruise.
INTERNET: There was Internet and Hotspots available on the ships Computer lounges but it was very expensive ($.65 per minute) which could be acceptable (given the location) but the speed was EXTREMELY SLOOOW. It is intolerable to charge a PREMIUM price for such slow speed internet service. There was also intermittent Cell phone connectivity through Verizon at $7.50 per minute.
CANNES was our first port of call. My wife took Celebrity's half-day tour of Monaco and the Grand Casino and was happy that she did. I was happy to walk around Cannes and spend a restful afternoon on the ship.
FLORENCE: We took a taxi to the train station for 20 euro. The 90 minute train ride (13 euro each way) takes you right into the center of Florence making everything within easy walking distance. WARNING: Be sure to get your ticket validated BEFORE you board. We should have reserved tickets for the Duomo and the Uffizi Gallery so we missed out on both due to the very long lines. At least we had a nice lunch there.
ROME: We had made arrangements for a private tour with DRIVERINROME. Our driver/guide Paolo was fantastic and we saw much more than we could have with Celebrity's City Tour. DRIVERINROME also arranged for ticket reservations and a licensed Guide for our group through the Vatican which was also awesome. We HIGHLY Recommend using Cruise Critic Connections Roll Call to set up your own group and make your own private tour. It isn't cheap (~150 euro per person) but you'll have a day that you'll never forget.
NAPLES: We used Celebrity Tours and were very satisfied. My wife took the Sorrento & Pompeii Tour while I chose the Hike Vesuvius & Pompeii tour. We both had a great day. Our dining companions said that they really enjoyed their DRIVERINROME tour of the Amalfi Coast area.
SANTORINI: We chose the Celebrity tour of Oia for a late lunch then returned back to take the gondola back down to the port. Santorini is a beautiful island that I could have spent more time exploring.
ATHENS: We joined a group who had set up a private tour with ATHENSTAXI and had another day to remember. George was fantastic driver/guide getting us to the Acropolis well before the crowds. We also hired a licensed tour guide which was another smart move. We had a great time walking around the Plaka and the Acropolis. We ate lunch at a fantastic restaurant that overlooked the city. HIGHLY Recommend a Private Tour with your Cruise Critic shipmates in Athens as a worthwhile investment (~90 euro per person).
AT SEA DAY: We ate at the Normandie were very disappointed with our experience as the service was seemingly nonexistent. The food was well prepared and very tasty. I wanted to give a comment to the maitre d' but he was not at his station when we left. So I went in and discussed my concerns with his assistant the following day. The maitre d' later phoned our room offering his sincerest apologies but nothing else. He really missed an opportunity here by not offering to remove the charge from our bill or at least giving us another complementary seating. In fairness to the Normandie, most other people we talked to were very satisfied with their "fine dining experience".
DUBROVNIK is an easy port to do on your own. The ships shuttle was $12/pp but we opted to take a city bus (#1A, 1B, 1C or 1 D) for $4eu each way. We used the ATM just outside the Pier gate to get about $50 in local currency and simply walked through the Old Town which was spotless. You can easily see the sites, have lunch and shop in 3-4 hours here.
VENICE: Entering Venice was an experience that we'll never forget. The ship passes St Mark's Square around noon and the scenery was magnificent! We had booked the "Secret Walking Tour" through Celebrity and it gave us some familiarity with the city's layout. DEBARKATION: We didn't have a flight out that day so we had one of the latest debarking times. We waited in a comfortable area (the Cinema). Our Bags were easy to find as there were in their designated color coded area. There was a lot of confusion at the exit because another ship was offloading at the same time. We took a Water taxi from the Ship to our Hotel for 90 euro (Celebrity needs to provide better information on this aspect of debarkation). We had also booked two extra days in Venice and are glad we did. Once you get your bearings, Venice is an easy city to tour on foot. It was great fun just walking through the various section of this beautiful city.
SUMMARY: We had a FANTASTIC cruise. The itinerary was way too busy to consider it a "vacation" but absolutely enjoyable. We walked about 3-5 miles at each port; saw all the sites with only a basic overview due to the time limitations at each port. We returned to the ship each day exhausted from our travels with a general understanding of what each country and port has to offer. We absolutely recommend the Summit and this itinerary as it was a cruise that we will never forget!