This was our sixth cruise and first on Celebrity. I specifically chose this cruise to give Celebrity a try as well as wanting to visit the somewhat less accessible islands in the Southern Caribbean. My wife and I are in our thirties and try to get away twice a year or so without the kids. We invited our friends that are also in their thirties as well as my wife's parents. Kind of a different combination, but it worked out great.
We flew in the night before and had a great Puerto Rican dinner and as well as a good rest at the Hampton in San Juan. The day of embarkation, we took the city bus to old San Juan and had a great time wandering the neighborhoods. I had always wanted to visit the Spanish fortifications in San Juan and was not disappointed. The bus far was less than $2 each way. A great way to travel for the adventurous. We arrived at the pier later in the afternoon and literally walked on waiting in no lines.
I am not a fan of larger ships having sailed on Carnival and NCL. I will hopefully never sail on a ship larger than the Summit again. My ideal ship size is probably around 1400 so the around 2300 passenger size of the Summit is pushing the envelope for me, but I'm happy to report that the ship never felt crowded. Deck chairs were always available and we could find a quiet spot when desired. The ship itself was in adequate condition. The decor is probably the most appealing of any ship I've experienced. Public areas were generally well maintained and inviting. I would say that both my wife and I felt that the two Holland America ships that we have been on seemed to be cleaner and better maintained in the common areas, particularly in the public restrooms. The pool area was showing its age. I simply love the rear deck pool on Holland American ships, so I'm biased in that area. I also have to give the nod to Holland America for the beauty and nautical feel of their ships particularly the wood decks. Overall the Summit seemed to need a new coat of paint.
Our inside stateroom was larger than expected and certainly adequate. The bathrooms are showing their age. The tile needed to be replaced and there was a slight mildew smell even though it was very clean. Our room stewards were fantastic and did a great job keeping our room in order.
Service in all of the dining areas was exceptional. Our dinner wait staff in the main dining room were remarkable in attention to our needs such as filling the water glass and the food was very timely in arriving. This is also the first ship that I preferred breakfast in the buffet area rather than in the dining room. The service was good and the food was hotter and more appealing in the buffet (Waterfall Cafe?) than breakfast in the main dining. The food quality was good although I wouldn't say it was more exceptional than other cruises I've been on. Our waiter was terrific at recommending the better dishes. My wife prefers Carnival's more general menu.
All of the staff and crew that we came in contact with where exceptional. Being my first time on Celebrity, I very much appreciated the low-key approach rather than in-your-face announcements and promotions on every ship service under the sun. The cruise director was perfect and engaging while remaining professional unlike the twenty-year old Brits that seem to be par for the budget mass cruise lines.
The entertainment catered to an older crowd, but was well done. The broadway show was great. As I've noticed on most of the cruises one of the dance shows was much worse than the other two. Probably just not my genre of music, but I wonder if that's a result of cost saving due to a greater expense licensing the good material? The comedian was great. I appreciated the lack of an adult R-rated comedy show.
The port stops were all fantastic. I particularly loved St. Lucia. A really beautiful island that I wish I could have seen more of. The more remote side was closed to traffic due to the recent hurricane. All of the island residents that we came in contact with were friendly. Beware the heavy traffic in St. Maarten if you rent a car and are trying to get back to the ship. With five stops, there wasn't a lot of time to rest. Fantastic itinerary with lots to do on each island.
I certainly will cruise with Celebrity in the future and would particularly like to try one of the newer class ships. I like the grown-up and more subtle approach that Celebrity takes. Our inside staterooms were a bargain which may influence my recommendation. The crew in particular is what made our cruise great. I felt that they genuinely desired to please and asked for constant feedback, which I think is the highest mark of service.