Before booking this cruise, We read all the reviews and scoured these boards for comments. The consensus was that The Summit was an older ship and beginning to show its age. The food was good but not up to most peoples expectations and not what it used to be.
We chose this cruise over a similar one on the Caribbean Princess even though the princess cruise was a few hundred dollars cheaper. We have cruised Celebrity before on the Century back when it was new. We have very little recollection of the cruise. We have also sailed on all of the major lines but or most recent cruises were on NCL which we did not like at all.
Since we have been to all the ports from Canada to the Caribbean, and my wife has mobility issues, we were not really interested in the ports, the ship was to be our destination. We do not care for balcony cabins and see no reason to pay so much extra money for something we probably will never use. We usually book inside cabins, not necessarily for price but because we like the sleeping conditions and spend very little time in the cabin. We do like the shows and activities, especially trivia and we especially like to eat..
Embarkation: We arrived a Port Liberty at around Noon. It was starting to get crowded and we saw some long lines. My wife, however needed a wheelchair to board the ship but is able to get around with a cane while on board the ship. She had reserved a chair and was quickly assigned one with an attendant. Once she sat down in the chair we went to the head of every line and we were through in less than 10 minuets. We boarded the bus for the 2 minute ride to the ship. Once at the ship, another attendant was waiting with another chair and he brought us directly to the Waterfall Cafe for lunch, since the cabins were not ready. A note on the buses. These are not yellow school buses. They are full sized transit type buses. They belong to Rutgers University and seem to be on loan to the port on the weekends.
Cabin: As previously noted, we book inside cabins..This cabin, however was a surprise. It was the smallest inside cabin we have ever seen in 18 cruises. Without the narrow hall, the room measured 8X10. With one double bed, a Loveseat. Desk and little table (which we had removed) we had about 20 square feet of floor. The bathroom was equally tiny. The cabin was a bit dated with the arm rests of the Loveseat quite frayed. This is not a complaint as much as an observation. We were a bit cramped, but we survived since we spent very little time in the cabin.
The ship: We both felt that the ship was beautiful. Elegant and very well maintained.. The public rooms were all inviting with a touch of class. There were always people cleaning, vacuuming, dusting. The bathrooms were also kept spotless. Everywhere I went I saw cleaning carts in front of the bathrooms. I didn't make a rust inspection, bud did glance around when I was on deck. Maybe a spot here and there, but certainly not enough to mention or to impact negatively on our vacation. I don't really understand why I saw so many reviews suggesting the Summit go into Dry Dock ASAP? In our opinion, it certainly can use some updating, but it's not in need of resuscitation at the moment.
Service: The service was exemplary....Everybody (except for one head waiter) went out of their way to be accommodating.. Always a greeting and a positive word. Our waiter Luis and Asst. Waiter Oscar were among the best servers we have ever had on a cruise. Louis was funny, and professional at the same time. He made the meal more fun. Our cabin steward was also excellent. The only exception was Selvyn. He was a head waiter in the Buffet area. He never smiled or greeted us or anybody else that I saw. On two separate occasions he publicly reprimanded kitchen staff and was quite derogatory in his remarks. We witnessed no guest being rude to any staff member as had been reported in some previous posts.
Entertainment: We found the entertainment to be excellent. The Summit Singers and Dancers were "entertaining". They had two shows that were very enjoyable. That being said, they were not any better or worse than the house entertainers on most of out other cruises..There were exceptional moments like a river dance number that was really good, but for the most part not exceptional. Sean O'Shea singer impressionist etc. was very good and seemed to be very popular with the guests. The magician/illusionist, Adam Trent, was good. The usual girl disappearing tricks, but his card tricks were very entertaining. We found the comedian, Jim McDonald, to be very funny and his humor to be very topical and intelligent. There was Aerial Artists, Marsha and Dominique that were also excellent. The Neptunes, an Acapela group, were also very well received. In all, the entertainment was very good. Cruise Director Bob Wheatley and his staff were adequate.
Activities: As I mentioned, we like trivia and was quite excited to see numerous trivia contests on the first day. Trivia, however, dwindled to one or maybe 2 a day. It seemed that they ran out of pens.. the activities for the week were minimal at best. I realize that on port days there are less people on board and they feel that there is less need for activities. I found most of the activities that were available to be boring and of little interest to me. Most of the lectures were done by staff that were trying to sell something (spa treatments, acupuncture etc.). I miss things like ice carving, Sushi making, towel and napkin folding etc. there were plenty of Art Auctions and shopping specials. Clearly these are my observations. There were many people reading and just relaxing. Personally I do not choose to read on a cruise. I expect to be entertained..
Food: We make no excuses food is the most important part of the cruise for us. We enjoy good food and typically judge a cruise, for the most part, on its food. I read, on these boards, that some felt that the food quality had deteriorated, while others felt that it was among the best food in the industry. I can't speak to deteriorated because the last Celebrity cruise I was on was 10 or so years ago, but I am sure it can't be the best in the industry or I certainly hope not.
Buffets: In general. I know its hard to produce a quality buffet for thousands of people, but I'm sure it could have be better. The breakfast buffet, was far superior to the lunch. Overlooking the disorganization and crowds the occasional running out of croissants, cups and coffee, the selection and preparation were acceptable with a few exceptions.
I like Smoked Salmon (Lox) which was only available twice on the buffet. They did have the capers, onion, tomato, bagels and cream cheese every day. We had never seen a breakfast buffet without Smoked salmon every morning. When I asked, I was told to ask each day and it would be brought to me, which was true.. I also do not like a buffet where you cannot take your own food. Just about everything is served to you (probably a money savings measure or maybe for sanitary reasons.) They had hand sanitizer everywhere but nobody enforced its use (which was the case on our last NCL cruise)
Lunch was another matter, the selections, for the most part, were terrible (to our taste). Either to salty/spicy or too bland. I was not able to enjoy the hot selections, except for some of the carving station items. We usually ate a sandwich and or Pizza (which we liked since it tasted much like Pizza Hut which we like.) The fresh made ice cream, yogurt and sherbert were great each day. The dinning room lunch we found to be much better, but the Dinning Room was closed on every port day (4), which only left two lunches. Oh yes, the great Dinning Room Buffet that was raved about on these boards did NOT happen. I asked why and was told that they sometimes do not have it and that it was a corporate decision.
Dining room: We had read the menus before the cruise and expected some problems, but not as many problems as we experienced. Without going into each meal and each dish, I can just say the the food was uninspired and bland. The choices were, for the most part, bad..when meatballs are the chefs suggestion, you know you have a problem. There were only 2-3 dishes all week that I considered to be very good (Rack of lamb, Short Ribs, Chilean Sea Bass). There was one night that one of our table mates ate a baked potato and string beans as her main dish. I had Escargot (which I enjoyed) or Shrimp Cocktail almost every night. We ordered a soup every day and were not able to finish any. The half Lobster Tail over Risotto with a Shrimp and a Scallop was not great. The deserts, however, were OK.
This was the most disappointing part of the cruise. We expected a superior dinning experience and received one that was most disappointing. Even though some of the reviews were very negative about the food, I guess I chose to embrace the positive comments and went in with unrealistically high expectations.
Normandie: After seeing the menus, I made reservations at the Normandie. I must say that I am glad I did. It was, by far, the best mean of the cruise. The goat cheese souffle is a must and the Surf and Turf, thermador style was the best I have ever eaten. (The lobster tail with the steak is the same size as the lobster tail alone). The service was also fabulous.
I still believe, however, that I shouldn't have to pay extra to get a better meal. Seventy dollars plus extra tip, if deemed appropriate, is a bit high.. It's like paying twice for dinner.
Disembarkation: Again we requested a wheelchair. We were advised to go to a specific area at a specific time depending on our section. From the time my wife sat down in the chair we were off the ship through customs and out of the building in 12 minutes. We did not have to wait in lines, but there were lines to get through customs. The pick-up area is a bit chaotic, but there are people trying to direct traffic.
Conclusion: I hope that this reviews doesn't come off as a list of complaints from a malcontent. I tried to be honest and express my feelings. I'm disappointed, but not sorry I went on the cruise. Remember, the worst cruise is better than the best day at the office. The piece of chicken breast with string beans I had for dinner on the night we returned had me longing for anything that was on the Summit menu. You do, however, expect more on cruise vacation (especially Celebrity).
Celebrity has much to offer. The shows were excellent. The service was without equal. The Summit is a class ship. The smoking policy is almost enough to make me return.
For us it was much less than the vacation we anticipated. For us the ship is the destination and there just wasn't enough to do. For us the food is very important and the food was the biggest disappointment of all.
Since we are limited, by choice, to the NYC/NJ area departure, our choices are restricted. I am not saying that we will never cruise Celebrity again, but if we do, it would have to be well after we try all of the other options.
Thank you for reading my review.....