This was our 2nd cruise as “Elite” under the new Captain’s Club benefits. We were traveling with another Elite couple, and we all stayed at the “Wyndham Hotel” near the Newark airport. This hotel was clean, but with its small rooms and tight bathrooms, it definitely falls short of my concept of a Wyndham. We did enjoy a very low promotional rate, and the food in the hotel restaurant was good and reasonably priced. While okay for a single night stay while waiting for a ship or a flight, I do not recommend it for a multiple night stay.
Embarkation on Sunday morning was smooth and efficient. We were dropped at the cruise terminal shortly after 11:00 AM and we were onboard eating lunch by noon. The only downside was waiting longer before the cabins were ready. Our cabin was one of the “sweet 16” on the port side of the Penthouse deck. I had read how many cabins on the Summit were found wanting, but our cabin was clean and in good condition and the bed was comfortable. Some of the amenities, such as the umbrellas and tote bag, were initially missing but they were replaced by the stateroom attendant. The only area that needed attention was the balcony, which did have some rust, but early in the 2nd week of the cruise some maintenance was performed on the it. The cabin attendant was friendly and efficient but seemed to have his hands full with the amount of cabins he serviced.
We selected “early seating”. Our party of four was seated at a table for 8 near the port side entrance on deck 4. This was to be the first of only 3 times we ate in the MDR. To say that our dining experience was disappointing would be an understatement. The table seating was cramped and the service was slow and disconnected. The waiter seemed ready and willing to provide good service but also seemed overwhelmed by the number of guests he had to serve. The busboy was no better. Never before have I had to wait for my water glass to be filled or gone a whole meal without being offered a beverage. On one evening, the sauce on my entrée arrived with a skin already forming on it. We never were finished before 8:00 PM. The early seating was completely full, so moving to another table was not an option. Even though we skipped dinner in the MDR, I did take a peek at the menus posted earlier in the day. I chuckled at the “attempt” to make the dishes sound special by giving them French names, but “beef stew” is still beef stew even when called “Pot-au-feu”. Truly this was the worst dining I’ve ever experienced in a main dining room of a cruise ship. By contrast, the dining in the specialty restaurant “Normandie” was outstanding. The food was delicious and the service excellent. They even did the “clam shell” presentation for the entrées. On our third night dining in the Normandie we were seated in the wine cellar room and had a specially prepared meal. Our Caesar salad, Chateaubriand, and Crepe Suzettes were all prepared tableside. A truly memorable 3-hour meal! We really missed the “Casual Dining” restaurant area that appears to have been eliminated in favor on “Anytime Dining”, so the rest of the time we ate our evening meals in the “Waterfall” restaurant buffet area. The food there was adequate but the selection was limited. We also ate lunch in the Waterfall, except for the two special brunches held in the main dining room. The brunch food was very good in looks and taste. The “Dessert Extravaganza” held as a midnight buffet, was also beautifully displayed and tasty.
As “Elite” we had espresso drinks and a light breakfast in Michael’s Lounge every morning. The first several days the quality of the coffee beverages was lacking, but it improved especially during week two. Since there were so many Elites on this cruise the afternoon happy hour was held in the “Revelations” lounge on the 11th deck. The view was nice but the drink selection was more limited here than it was on a previous cruise when it was held in Michael’s Lounge. The appetizers were okay, but the hot items were invariably served cold by the time they came around. Also, since smoking is allowed on the port side of Revelations, we got an occasional whiff of cigarette smoke, which of course we never did in Michael’s.
Service from various staff was always polite and cordial with lots of smiles; however, there seemed to be more language difficulties than on past cruises and the service staff seemed to be the minimum needed to provide adequate service. The public rooms were fine and even though the weather conditions kept most passengers inside, they were not overcrowded. The lectures were okay. I found them informative. I can’t speak about the theater entertainment, as we didn’t attend, but the piano and string music musician in the lounges were very good. The movie theater was adequate, although they need a “widescreen” for showing action films. They should also provide popcorn like they had on Infinity. Also missing were the shaving cream and razors previously available in the men’s dressing area of the spa/gym. The ship's shore excursions seemed overpriced, and we did much better on our own. Leaving the ship in port was always quick and easy. Even the one tender port was easy as we had elite priority, so no complaints there. We did miss one port, Bar Harbor, because of weather conditions and we experienced a few days of rough seas, but over all the cruising was fine. On our final day, our disembarkation was smooth and timely.
When cruising on the Mercury last year my wife and I felt that Celebrity was slipping in the food department. Then on Infinity through the Panama Canal we felt that Celebrity had improved significantly, especially in the MDR. Unfortunately, we now feel that Celebrity has gone in the opposite direction. We used to brag about the dining experience and all those little “extras” found on Celebrity ships. “Trimming the fat” and “Right-Sizing” may boost the company’s profits in the short term; however, I think it will just hurt in the long term, and for the first time in over 5 years we are seriously considering cruising on another line.