There were a few surprises/changes from our previous Celebrity cruises:
- The coffee was vastly improved! In the past, it had been nearly undrinkable. This time, it was fine. Even the decaf was good.
- Service was good overall, but less consistent than previous ships. On a couple of occasions, we actually overheard staff making fun of guests and talking about wanting to quit. Service was poor in the Martini Bar. I ordered a martini and water at 5:00. The martini arrived at 5:15, with no water. The water finally came at 5:35, along with our bill. We weren't even asked if we wanted a second cocktail! We ended up spending much more time at the Cova Cafe and Wine Bar, where service was always excellent. I also give kudos to Sylvia with Guest Services, who was so sweet and helpful with a problem I had with OBC from our travel agent. She couldn't have been more responsive. Tousti in the Waterfall Cafe was the best omelet chef and very attentive. After the first day, she remembered that I take my omelet with egg whites.
- We loved the cookies that are now always available at Cova Cafe (two types of biscotti, four types of cookie). The free tapas in the evening were great, too. We really enjoyed being able to have a cocktail, hors d'oeuvres, and live music there before dinner.
- We didn't get anything useful for our Elite Captain's Club membership. In the past, I've enjoyed the laundry specials of a bag for $20. This time, we just had a coupon for 10% off on laundry, and the other coupons were all for services we wouldn't use. I saw no mention of any ship-wide laundry special in the program, either.
- I had seen the new grid-style activities programs on Cruise Critic and liked them, but our programs were the old list style. Guess they are still using up the old stationary.
- We had cabin 7049, one of the rooms on the hump, with a larger veranda. We were able to have a lounger in addition to the two chairs. (We didn't even have to ask for it!) I was surprised at how much we enjoyed the extra bit of balcony space. The standard balconies are pretty small on this ship.
- The newly expanded dinner buffet was nice if you wanted a quick, convenient bite. The Indian dishes were yummy! The new buffet was not as much of an alternative to the dining room as I had hoped. The selection was still limited enough that we preferred the dining room most nights.
- The dining room food was good, but didn't seem quite as upscale as before. We thought it was odd that the chef's recommendation on formal night was the rustic-sounding "Momma's Pork Chop". I'm sure it was tasty, but no beef Wellington or premium seafood on formal night? ? I didn't enjoy either of the steak dishes I ordered--tough meat, and my "rare" ribeye was well done. Everything else was very good, especially the pasta. They had some decent wines for the bargain price of $5.50 per glass.
- The new brunch buffet (10:00 to 1:00 on the sea day) was fun. They had chocolate AND white chocolate fountains, lots of egg dishes and seafood, several carving meats including a leg of lamb, and so many other yummy options. We did have a few problems with the open seating. We requested a table for two and were seated, then were asked to move to another section for staffing reasons. When we came back with full plates, our places had been taken and we were moved again. Then another couple was seated with us, which was awkward because we had no common language. I think they have a few bugs to work out (maybe just let everyone seat themselves?). The food was varied, tasty, and a pleasant change from other meals.
- We LOVED the new muster drill format! We didn't have to take our lifejackets, and didn't have to stand jam-packed on a hot deck for roll call. We just went to our muster station, listened to a short safety briefing, and that was it. SO much better than the old way! It was held at 5:15 PM for an 8:30 sailaway.
Our port days were great! The nature-oriented and port-packed itinerary is what attracted us to this cruise. Here's what we did:
1. St. Croix: rented a Jeep from Budget. Went to the rainforest and Mt. Pellier Domino Club, shelled along a deserted northern beach, drove the Western Scenic Road and down to Christiansted, came back along Centerline Road and visited the Botanical Garden.
2. St. Kitts: did a round-island tour with Royston. Hiked to the Carib petroglyphs at Bloody Point, and climbed the volcano (Mt. Liamuiga).
3. Dominica: a rainy day here with high surf. We had intended to hike the Galion-Morne Crabier trail and snorkel at Champagne Reef, but did neither due to the weather. We took the bus to Soufriere and visited the Sulphur Springs, then hung out in Roseau and shopped.
4. Grenada: took the bus to Concord, hiked to the second falls (Au Coin). Lunched on the ship, then shopped in the mall and walked to the Carenage.
5. Tobago: bird-watching tour with Peter Cox. Intended to visit Little Tobago island, but because of high surf we did the Main Ridge Reserve instead, as well as numerous other birding spots.
Overall, the cruise experience was pretty much what we expect of Celebrity. The Summit is a lovely ship. None of the lecture topics really appealed to us this time. We did make full use of the excellent gym, and I attended an informative "Wines Around the World" sampling event for $20 on the day at sea. We enjoyed this cruise very much.