Many a harsh statement has been bandied online about the Celebrity Summit.
The Internet can be both glorious and dangerous when it comes to individual opinions expressed for mass consumption. Glorious for the sharing of information. Dangerous that some of that information is flippantly created anonymously by persons with keyboard courage. Giving discordant voice masked behind a surreptitious screen name.
Wanting to surprise my partner with a birthday gift I booked our first ever cruise; leaping blindly off a virtual cliff in less than five minutes of finding a great online bargain for the Summit. In my excitement at snatching the sale I foolishly did not do any research on Celebrity or the Summit. If I had done so; and followed the advice of those who with keyboard courage and pampered predilections voicing to avoid the "aging rust encrusted Slummit" I and my partner would have missed out on our best vacation experience to date.
First and foremost to those worried that they will be boarding a ship that should be sent to a sea bed sanitarium; you'd be foolish to believe that misguided advisory. Being a neat-freak Virgo (those reading this also under the sign know how much we desire perfection and how others despise us for our elusive pursuit of such) I found the Summit meticulously clean. Are there minute imperfections? Yes. But one really must go out of their way to find such and to those who do I ask; "Why waste your pleasure in seeking displeasure?" I can only think that these personalities are like the livid, whining woman I saw on the final morning in the buffet who berated a waiter demanding, "Where's the brown sugar! This is unacceptable!" (Oh horror. Catastrophe appalling.)
-- The MDR Food: Wonderful. I and my partner enjoyed every dish except the lobster on the final evening. But you try cooking and serving lobster for nearly 1,500 guests within several hours and tell me how you can guarantee perfection for every serving.
-- Memorable Dishes: The escargot (a first for me); a delightful surprise (and dang tasty). The crème brulee? Great.
-- The MDR Service: Not until I and my partner were granted a private, full galley tour (including both the Normandie and the MDR) did I full appreciate the Herculean task of the staff in servicing 2,000 patrons each day with, as reported by the Executive Chef, 10,000 - 11,000 meals per day. Try that with your Hotpoint and KitchenAid Cookware and see how you fare.
The first night there seemed to be some disorganization among the wait staff in our section. But I believe that this was because the staff for that evening were temporary replacements for our regular staff which came on duty the second night and thereon. Our regular servers were superb.
-- Back of House info learned on the Private Galley Tour:
There are 110 chefs and food preparers in the galley.
All ice cream (except sugar-free products) is made daily on-board.
All bread is made fresh in the bakery 24/7 without stop.
Each dish is inspected for temperature and visual presentation before being allowed to leave the kitchen.
And if you're wondering where the galley is; it's on deck three behind the Normandie. Servers ride escalators, delivering meals, to the fourth and fifth decks.
The staff - who derive from 35 countries - are served foods to match the tastes of their homeland. These are served in a private cafeteria. The staff also has their own bar. (After all the toil they turn for us tourists; they rightly deserve that perk.)
-- The Normandie: Wonderful. I had the filet mignon. I can't recall what the partner had. I was too engrossed in the deliciousness that was my dish. Treat yourself to at least one evening at the Normandie. You'll be ever the happier overall that you took upon this singular sensational experience.
-- Accommodations: We had a deluxe balcony stateroom (7168). Yes, the furnishings for some visitors may seem a tad dated; but aren't we all? The room was comfortable. The head (bathroom) fine. And the balcony rust... oh please... who doesn't have a bit of rust somewhere in their bones or basement? The spattered specks upon the steel plating were no more discouraging than a day-old doughnut.
-- Room Steward: We're very independent and enjoy our anonymity. On a Celebrity Cruise - with every staff member wishing you a "Good"-something, being ignored is difficult. I was prepared for the attention. My partner (being this was a surprise up until he saw the Summit on sail-day) was not ready nor comfortable with the constant attention. Especially on the early morning when he opened our cabin door and standing there were four crew members who greeted him in unison, "Good Morning". (I laughed at the absurdity and 'assault'.) My partner eventually got used to being acknowledged.
Needs were met without our asking. So much so that we jokingly pondered if our steward had had a hidden camera in the room. Only once was there a minor service misstep; a delay in having all aspects of a previously ordered celebratory gift delivered simultaneously. But the slight faux pas did not anger nor disappoint. Mistakes happen.
-- Fitness Area / Gym / Sauna: My partner who can't live without a gym was addicted to the facilities on board the Summit. In my desire to get away from any kind of exertion during the excursion I was addicted to the spa pool and tubs. Mea culpa.
-- Aqua Spa Cafe: A great healthy, eating option that my partner could not be pulled away from.
-- Public Areas: Wonderful.
Stage Shows: Not so wonderful.
Full disclosure here first. I'm a casting director for film, television and theater (B'way and regional). I'm also a director for theater and an author of a Random House book on acting. So you may think my view a bit harsh and biased.
The stage shows with the Summit cast were embarrassing to the Celebrity brand. I blame the producer who cobbled together the poorly executed and inappropriate reviews; not the performers.
Of the three shows I and my partner (a talent agency owner) attended there were many an inappropriate, jaw dropping, "I can't believe they just did that" moment. Including the tribute to the movie TITANIC.
A pas de deux is performed as a singer, standing at a ship's bow, belts Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On". At the end of the song all the performers, on stage elevators, sink into the stage and off to oblivion. Obviously someone on the creative team was having creative amnesia and forgot that the audience watching this musical tribute to a nautical disaster was viewing the choreographed catastrophe while at sea.
Poorly produced summer stock is the best that I can with all candor credit Celebrity Summit's stage shows. Including the "magician" who doesn't perform illusions but has fits of video self-indulgence. Spoiler alert: The 'live' card trick is nothing more than a pre-taped deception.
The performers - in costuming not much better than community theater stitchings - do their best with the given musical material. They are not to blame for what is being presented. The producer does them a great disservice with this debacle.
By coincidence, there was also a casting director for a major soap-opera on board as well as a former casting exec for CBS. Their views on the production standards and packaging were equally, if not more so, candid.
-- Embarkation / Disembarkation: we were not Concierge Class nor had any special privileges. Just average trudging tourists. Getting on and off the ship was easy, fast and painless.
Go on Summit without expectations. Enjoy the reason that you're there; to relax. If you're like the woman who complained on the final morning about her inaccessibility to brown sugar (which was quickly handed to her) you've got your priorities misplaced. The Summit staff and crew are diligent in their efforts. I saw many working 12-hour shifts daily. While on a private bridge tour with the captain I discovered how dedicated all who work on-board are to making each passenger's sailing safe and satisfying.
Would this finicky, picky Virgo sail Summit again? When's the next departure?
- Paul Russell Celebrity Summit May 30 - June 6 2010 Cape Liberty - Bermuda