With so many cruises calling upon the now-mega ports of St. Thomas and St. Maarten, it was a refreshing change to have an itinerary which focused on the smaller and far-flung islands in the Caribbean. This was not your shopper's cruise -- there were no massive malls with countless jewelry shops (except maybe in St. Kitts) and tacky souvenir stands were kept to a minimum. Instead, you could find unique outdoor markets in the towns, gorgeous beaches and stunning scenery elsewhere, and genuinely nice people. For example, I found my taxi drivers to be more than happy to talk about their island homes and the cultures and traditions.
Back on board, the service was top-notch. From the stateroom attendants, to the dining staff, to the events coordinator Rose (who arranged several Cruise Critic events for us), to the officers and the Master himself, we were always greeted with smiles and kind words. Oh, and often drinks -- at boarding, each special event, reception and even reboarding the ship after our last port-of-call, the staff were greeting us with glasses of wine and champagne. With the bigger cruise lines finding new ways to nickel-and-dime their passengers, it was nice to see Celebrity extend their appreciation of their customers in this way.
The Super Bowl happened to be the second night of the cruise, which normally would have been one of the two formal nights. But the staff moved the formal night to the following night and hosted a game-watching party in the theater, complete with stadium-type food (hot sandwiches, wings, nachos, etc.) and team-themed decorations. This was a lot of fun, and everyone got into the experience.
After the service, perhaps the next-best aspect was the food. Every dinner in the main dining room was excellent, with a lot of choices for different tastes. But the best experience was dinner one night in The Normandie, Summit's only specialty restaurant. This was a culinary delight, and definitely one of the best meals I've ever had. With a $35 per person surcharge, it's a little higher than specialty restaurants on other ships, but definitely worth the price. (Try the escargot tortellini and the rock lobster bisque.) Also delicious was the sushi in the Waterfall Cafe in the evening -- a nice late-afternoon snack when you have late dinner seating.
Because my friend and I were focused on the ports-of-call, we didn't take advantage of the entertainment on board -- rather, we turned in relatively early so we could be ready the next morning to explore. Unfortunately, I can't comment on the ship's entertainment offerings.
By the time the end of the cruise approached, we filled out our feedback form and were really struggling to find anything to critique. We did think the layout of the Waterfall Grill (the buffet area) could be improved with food stations (more like Solstice), and we didn't like how some items were served to you rather than serve-yourself. (I know it might be considered better service, but I like to serve myself at a buffet... just one of those things...)
There were a few problems with our reservation on the shore-side, however:
- Managing our reservation on Celebrity's website was often slow and sometimes buggy; not a good first-impression for the trip.
- A few days before the cruise, I noticed my last name was suddenly changed on our reservation; I had to contact my travel to get it fixed by Celebrity.
- We were supposed to receive an on-board credit but it did not show up on our account; again, our travel agent had to contact Celebrity to secure the refund.
But those problems were from the line's office, not the ship. I later joked to my travel agent that the ship's staff should go to the home office and train them...
Celebrity offered an excellent incentive to book a future cruise while on board -- only $200 deposit, an on-board credit, and an up-to-three category upgrade for balcony or concierge class bookings. Also fully refundable until three months prior. I booked a 12-night on the Celebrity Silhouette for next January.
The one port not included in the review's drop-down list is Tobago, which I'll mention here: another very pretty Caribbean island, with very nice people. My friend went scuba diving here, too -- I went to Pigeon Point on my own, a government-owned public beach ($3 admission). I got there later in the morning and there were no more chairs available to rent; so I set down on a picnic table inside one of the covered pavilions. There are a few shops and food services here, and restrooms. It was a nice place to relax, but not very interesting. I enjoyed the taxi ride to/from Pigeon Point more, and my excellent driver/tour guide.
That afternoon we explored some of Roseau on our own, including a large church.