This review will cover the first week of a back-to-back cruise. The reason I booked this was the itinerary -11 islands in 14 days--for me, the best way to see the Caribbean is by cruising. Serenade of the Seas had no balconies left when we were booking and had one or two duplicate stops on their back-to-back itinerary. But every time I saw it in port with us I wished I could jump ship. So here goes:
I took us a couple of days to get our bearings-I think our previous cruises on RCCL (Liberty & Mariner) had spoiled us--the promenade is the centre of all that is happening so is easy to find shops, info, etc--we met some people who hadn't found the emporium shops on Summit until the last day! There seemed to be a lot of dead space onboard--meeting rooms, etc that weren't being used. Even the hairdressers was huge and empty when I went for a haircut. Also, to get a feel for what is going on you really have to scour your "Celebrity Today' sheet-everything seem to be broadcast to you better on RCCL. There may have been great artworks onboard, but if I wanted to see that, I'd visit an art gallery. The ambience of the ship is fine though-just a tad dowdier and more formal and staid than RCCL.
Was fine but smaller than the equivalent RCCL one. Yes, I know Summit is a smaller ship but..... our balcony was tiny and had a great view of the top of a lifeboat. Have to say I was gutted when I read the 'no-smoking on the balcony' rule--talk about an infringement of your rights-it's fresh air FFS! However, I was a good boy and it wasn't too much of a hassle to nip down to 4th floor-was on the right side for it :-)
For UK visitors, we have to fly to Antigua first before getting to San Juan. I think this has only being going on for a short while and they haven't got it quite right yet at Antigua. Meant we didn't board ship until 6.45pm --missed the irksome safety drill but luggage didn't get to room until after 8pm which was a bit of a rush for dinner (we had 8.30pm sitting)
Between cruises, seemed a bit shambolic for folk disembarking and doing an excursion prior to their departure later that day but have to say the process at end of our cruise was pretty straightforward and uneventful.
Celebrity definitely scores higher than RCCL for food. Quality and variety is better.
Breakfast: We are not heavy daytime eaters but freshly cooked poached eggs and omelettes at breakfast were great, as was pizza/sandwiches when we got back onboard after days out. Always seems to be something available-think there was only a couple of instances where we had to wait eg transition between breakfast/lunch. One of the best-kept secrets is the Cova Cafe--as we are generally not morning people (esp. on holiday), go there for a tea/coffee and a couple of croissants and you can take them with you off the ship.
Lunch: Only on the days at sea did we have this and was fine--freshly made sandwiches at Waterfall Cafe on Deck 10--for us, the best place on board to sit, eat and chill
Dinner: Generally excellent, if a bit red-meat heavy. First week, we were upstairs on Deck 5--better, less crowded and the main waiter and the sommelier were lovely, attentive and good fun. We always dine later as we go out during day, chill out at pool-deck with cocktails until the sun goes down and then get ready for dinner. Had a couple of interesting people at our table for a couple of days, and another couple who only dined once in the MDR on a 14-day cruise-buffet instead-WTF!!?? Food was pretty decent overall- wide choice, and now I know what a Vichy-soisse is. Formal nights we always dress for--why? because it's a cruise tradition and for me, adds to the experience. A good thing was you don't have to be there for 8.30 sharp- which suited everyone we dined with.
However, I would have liked to have seen a Caribbean 'dish of the day' and some Caribbean beer promos-- some of the beer eg Kubuli in Dominica is award-winning--the Cruise lines never do this which is a shame.
This is where Celebrity falls down, IMHO. I think it's more geared towards early diners. We did catch a couple of shows in the (nice) theatre, and they were reasonably entertaining. However, the place was dead by midnight! Ok, I know it was an 8am arrival at all the ports of call but i would have expected a bit more life at that time. Even the Tuesday night pool party was quietish although I know the ship wasn't full the 1st week. The band Fusion were excellent (what a great voice the girl has) but for us were on at pool at the wrong times, and just as they had a great atmosphere going at the Rendezvous Bar on Deck 11, they pulled the plug. Cue the execrable DJ Ron--who played modern rubbish totally incongruous with the clientele on board. Hence, the place emptied tout de suite. A bit of disco with a great compere would have kept the 'oldies' interested and would have pleased everyone but not-to-be--BORING! Even in the Casino, nobody to generate atmosphere like with RCCL. Just a bit too formal and downbeat for us. Not asking for it to go on all night, but a 1am finish would have been more welcome.
Charlie Butler( guitarist/singer) at the Waterfall Cafe was great all week , but the other bands- Upscale Trio (like Chinese karaoke singers) & Melao Trio were shockingly bad. The classical duo were good, and the acapella group not bad. But we missed the parades/ parties on the promenade that RCCL do so well. And just the overall livelier, fun vibe we had experienced on our previous cruises.
I'll do the port thing separately, but in the two-week period we had onboard, three of our excursions were cancelled. One being the helicopter trip over Montserrat, which I was gutted about. Only told us ten minutes before disembarkation--apparently one of the choppers was bust--so fair enough, and they gave us a free excursion of our choice from what was left. Overall, the choice was poor and timed for 'early morning, early finish'--back at ship by lunchtime. The weather was mixed 1st week , so folks who booked beach excursions were all back by lunch having spent a morning at a beach in dull, overcast conditions. For us, a day in Caribbean is best spent with an island tour ending on a beach chilling in the sun. Or snorkelling/sailing/beach then a tour. For that reason, we mostly booked independently or walked off and grabbed a local guide/ taxi. The ships excursions we did go on were island tours where the beach was incidental eg Dominica, Tobago - we checked weather night before and booked accordingly-seemed to be plenty of space on most things. Also, it's worth pointing out that for booking before cruising, the website doesn't show the same number of departure time slots available as when you enquire onboard.
..is not in the drop-down box for Ports of Call so will quickly review here. As we knew weather wasn't going to be great, booked a shore excursion through the ship the night before-Tobago Island Explorer- was alright--had a magnificent Caribbean lunch on the beach in Speyside, but the heavens opened and had a half-hour storm whilst eating which was a shame,as was a nice spot. Was interesting enough, but there are nicer Caribbean islands with more going on, better beaches, and a more interesting history so this was the 1st and last time in Tobago- glad to have seen it though!
A great itinerary: 1st week- St Croix, St Kitts, Dominica, Grenada, Tobago, San Juan but Summit just a bit too formal and lacking a fun vibe to attract me to cruise Celebrity again.