We are a couple in our 50's, this January 2nd thru the 9th was our first cruise on Celebrity. I was pleased to learn that my RCCL Crown & Anchor Platinum membership could be applied to a Celebrity's Captain's Club Select membership, so we were off to a good start with a few extra perks.
Arrived in San Juan on New Years Day, from Portland Maine. No unusual airport security hassles or delays. We actually traveled with 'carry-on baggage' only, so passage was fast and easy at both the airport and the ship. We walked past many lines - sweet!! It took some discipline to pack light but shorts and t-shirts don't require too much space but we did have to skip formal nights in the dining room.
After reading many TripAdvisor reviews I booked at the SJ Suites Hotel on Fortaleza Street in Old San Juan. No bells & whistles here but the rooms are clean, comfortable and affordable. The best thing about this hotel is the fantastic location. Everything was within walking distance, the old city streets, restaurants and attractions. Great for touring the day before and the of sailing. Unfortunately the Summit was sailing from the Pan American Pier so a short taxi ride was required.
New Years Day & Night in Old San Juan was very entertaining. A festive, high energy atmosphere. Music was in the air, Christmas lights glowed, families gathered in the plazas, young adults were dressed to impress and the folks-from-away were wide-eyed. The traffic was horrendous, I learned it was a holiday tradition for families living in the suburbs to get in their cars and cruise around the Old City streets.
Took advantage of the free shuttle service. Rode the streets in an open sided vehicle, saw the sights and got out of the sun for awhile...Went to LaBombonera at 259 San Francisco for a late lunch. A 'local's' place that has been there forever, it's nothing fancy but is the 'real-deal'. We sat at the counter and observed. It was not crowed that afternoon, the food was quite good and reasonably priced. Reviews on this place are everywhere and most are favorable.
Checking in and boarding was quick and easy. The Elite / Select Members line was short and a nice touch for repeat guests. Checking in online sure moves things right along. We arrived after 1pm so our cabin was ready. We dropped off our carry-ons, headed to the Waterfall Cafe for lunch and then explored the ship. By 4pm we were fed, unpacked and familiar with the Summit. Life jackets were not required for muster, a pleasant surprise...We chose to be on deck for the sail-away and missed our second seating dinner, still it was a good trade off. Too bad the schedule couldn't accommodate both. THE SHIP:
This was our first Celebrity cruise and we expected a ship that was a little more upscale given the brand image. We were not disappointed nor were we overly impressed. Nothing really wowed us. The upgraded / refined features were subtle and muted. No flashes of color, bells or whistles, or head turners... but quality, comfort and tasteful design were obvious. The ship was clean, well maintained and in no way looked old or tired. A pleasant environment that was easy on the eyes and functionally efficient.
Our 2C cabin (6029) was very much like other cruiseship staterooms we have bunked in but with a few nicer features. Real wood paneling, floor to ceiling mirrors, attractive drapes & light fixtures, bathroom toiletries and a very comfortable bed w/ rounded space saving corners, clever...The oversized balcony was the best feature. The AC/Heat was very responsive. The shower was a good one. The bathroom size worked. Overall we loved our cabin, especially that big balcony.
A small disappointment, there was no 'sports bar' open when the Casino was closed, we would have liked to catch some NFL...All the bars/lounges were attractive and upscale. A more casual, put-your-feet-up and let-your-hair-down environment, with wide screen TVs, upbeat music, pub food and not on an outdoor deck would have been welcomed.
The outdoor Deck 10 bar / dining space is perhaps the best kept secret on board, we never had to wait for a table there. Other than breakfast there were never more than a few people there...We ate all our breakfasts here and enjoyed many snacks & beverages under the sun and stars....We just loved eating, drinking and gazing out to sea, or across the harbor, enjoying 70/80 degree weather while people were freezing up in Buffalo, stuck in their cars.
Everyone we met were pleasant and accommodating. Good service overall. I know Celebrity strives for and expects Excellent service to be delivered. In fact, the crew does meet this expectation. However in our opinion there is something missing...I think it's high-energy / enthusiasm / spirit.
These are hard working people, meeting high expectations from both the passengers and management. Four months on, two months off, limited time off weekly and long days on deck...It seems many of them are simply tired...but still, they deliver with a smile on their face and good greetings. Just wished there was a little more 'life' in some of them...This is not criticism, just an observation.
We would like to acknowledge our Stateroom Attendants (the hardest job on the boat, worthy of extra gratuity) Lourdes and Denzel. They were Excellent.
In the Dining Room, Christen our waiter is a real pro. He was efficient, knowledgeable, organized and wasted no time or steps. However, his port-of-call suggestions should be taken with a grain-of-salt (which he would promptly provide). His assistant, Jay has enthusiasm and desire you just can't teach. He was a pleasure...Jay is also miscast, he has a fantastic singing gift. His performance in the Crew Talent show was remarkable! It was clear that both the passengers and the crew standing off stage were entertained and impressed. He should be seeking a career on stage.
Would also like to tip our hat to Alex and the rest of the food service crew on Aft Deck 10. They did a great job clearing tables, offering beverages, refills, condiments and greetings....And to Roland, who was cleaning the forward stairwell daily. He always had a smile on his face, pleasant greetings and a few kind words. A very nice man.
There is certainly lots of mixed reviews on this Celebrity topic. Our experience was Good overall but disappointing on occasions.
Breakfast was excellent, we've never seen a cruiseship breakfast buffet with so many choices and side dishes. The omelet, waffle & french toast stations were wonderful, the healthy choices at the spa cafe impressive and the moist, fluffy scrambled eggs were amazing for a buffet. The variety of fish choices was also notable.
The Lunch and PM options in the Waterfall Cafe were hit and miss. The Pasta Station, Pizza Station, Sandwich Station and Ice Cream Shop were all hits, Excellent...The Salad Bar, buffet entrees and side selections were disappointing...The grill on the Pool Deck was also Excellent, a big hit. Great selections, good burger and lots of tasty fried stuff that's bad for you...loved eating there.
The meals in the MDR were not very impressive. The quality, portions or preparation of some items were frequently disappointing, especially the meats, but not always. Some menu selections were excellent...The service, the dining room itself and the presentation were all quite satisfying...Our table mates were the best, very entertaining and a pleasure to break bread with.
Overall our Dining Room experience did not make or break our Celebrity Cruise. We did not go hungry, the setting was far from humble, people waited on us hand and foot and there was value...What's not to like?
To burn off some of those extra cruise calories, we take the stairs and avoid the elevators...It takes discipline for sure and the huffing & puffing soon passes but you get to admire, at length, the fine art work on the stairwell landings...It's a real killer when the port gangway is on Deck 2...ugh!
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St. Thomas Port Review
We Rented a Jeep and toured the island...A value compaired with taxi fares to popular destinations...I've ridden roller coaster but never driven one!...The twists, turns and banking while going up and down hills, while hugging the left, was a real hoot!! A real test of driving skills and concentration...Drove around the island counter-clockwise, from Havensight to Red Hook and beyond. The light traffic in this direction made it a nice way to start off.
Visited many beaches that day. Only two ships were in port that day so none were crowded...Morningstar Beach, the closest to the pier, is a small but pretty. There's no walk the beach opportunity but it's still attractive.
Coki Beach was in a little-rough-around-the-edges neighborhood, this combined with the gauntlet we faced driving up to the beach took us back a little. People flocked to us, "need parking? want to buy this or that? where are you going? what do you need?" Parking was not clearly visible, so rather than engage the masses we departed. Beach unseen.
Sapphire Beach was beautiful! The view of the bay and islands, framed by palm trees and stunning water color was a real wow-factor. A nice sandy beach, it's long but real narrow.
Magens Bay is without a doubt one beautiful, scenic beach but I don't see this as one of the best in the world or in the Caribbean. We walked this beach and it's a good walk. The views, both natural and man-made, are attractive. The left side of the beach is the place to spread your blanket. I can easily imagine both the facilities and the beach being 'hectic' during busy times. All in all, it's Magens Beach! It really should be visited.
Caught some sun and went swimming on Emerald Beach. Loved it! Close to town, nice sand, clear water, palm trees and an impressive view (enhanced by two windjammers anchored in the bay), two great bars, a restaurant and WC facilities...However, jet traffic at the nearby airport is certainly notable. It didn't bother us, we actually found it entertaining, but for some it could be an issue.