Celebrity Summit Southern Caribbean Cruise
April 16-23, 2011
We flew out of J.F.K in New York the evening before the cruise. We had a 7:30 P.M. flight out of winter and landed at 11:30 in warm and summery San Juan. Getting our luggage and a cab was painless and from the time we stepped off the plane and into the cab was literally under 10 minutes. The cab was $16 plus $1 per bag to our hotel, Marriot Stellaris Casino and Resort. It was about a 15 minute ride.
From the second we walked in, we were very pleased with this place. There was a Latin band playing in the large lounge as you walked in. There were lots of people dancing and having a good time. We checked in and went up to our room. We were very impressed. It had a wrap around balcony and was very spacious and clean. I would have loved to have spent a lot more time here. Perhaps we will in the future. I got it on Priceline for $106 and it normally goes for about $400-$500 per night, so score!!
After we saw the room, we went down to the lounge and waited for our good friends, MEDIC5 and family to arrive. They flew out of JFK an hour after us and checked in just about an hour after us. When they arrived, they checked in and MEDIC5 had a couple of celebratory drinks with us before we all decided that it was time to rest up for embarkation the next day.
We woke up the next morning to a light drizzle and a nag of a hangover from our few glasses of wine the night before. We got dressed and headed out to get some toiletries at the Walgreens that was right on the corner of the street. It was very convenient. We then headed in to Starbucks right across from the hotel.
It was time to check out which Priceline said was at 12:00 PM, but we found out was really 11:00 AM. The bellhop came for our luggage and also took care of checking us out. He reversed any charges we might have incurred due to the mix-up. He put us in a cab to the ship and we know we will be back there some time for a lengthier stay.
We got to the pier just after 12:00. There was a short line to drop off luggage with the porters but it moved very quickly. As we waited on this line our good friends ERIN CRUISERS were getting out of their cab. It was great seeing them and we all got in line, went through security, tried a rum sample outside of the terminal liquor store, and got on the check-in lines. We were all called to a counter and we were put behind a couple. It seemed there was a problem with their booking that was taking a lot of time to rectify, so we were moved to another line. This couple was also having issues. We saw person after person get checked-in and they kept sending people to check in while we were still stuck behind these people. I finally walked to the lady directing people and told her our situation. She instantly rerouted us to a new agent and within two minutes, we had our sail and sign cards and were on our way to the ship.
We stepped onto the ship, had our security photo taken and were handed our first of MANY drinks to come that week. There was a choice of bubbly or Mimosa. We were directed to the buffet as rooms were not ready yet. We went up to the buffet and were very impressed at how it was set up and even though there were lots of people on the ship already, it didn't feel crowded and there were plenty of seats available.
I had researched and seen tons of pictures of the ship, but you never really see it well enough until you're on it. It really is a very nice ship and it's the first time in a long time that we haven't been on a huge ship. Most recently we've sailed the Caribbean and Crown Princess ships for quite a few years. It was great to have 12 decks as opposed to 19. I love the Princess ships and feel like I'm home on them, but that's after 7 sailings. The Summit was very familiar after the first day.
The pool area is very nice and the two main pools never seemed overly crowded, even on the sea day. I went into the T-pool on the very last day and was sorry I waited so long. The huge faucets poured water down on you and if you were under it just right, it was like a massage. There were hot-tub like jets on two sides of the pool and you sat on rolling metal bars. It's a great concept that I look forward to trying again.
I toured the ship on the first day as we were in San Juan until 8:30 pm. Revelations is a club on deck 11 with a nice sized stage, ample seating, and a big dance floor. I feel it could have had more fun club/dancing events in it, but there were many events held in there we weren't too interested in. On Princess, I feel every venue always has something for everyone going on in these places.
Rendez'Vous lounge mid ship was cool in that it was under the Martini and Champagne bars and there was an opening in the floor that you could look down to the lounge from the bars above. Karaoke was held here and I'll get more into that later. Speaking of the Martini and Champagne bars, they are located near the dining room and make a great place to have a pre-dinner drink or meet up with people before or after dinner.
I think one of our favorite places was the aft Waterfall Bar. It was outside past the buffet and pizza station. They had an amazing guitarist by the name of Charlie Butler out here nightly and sometimes during the day as well. Charlie played a wide variety of musical genres in his bluesy and jazzy style. He is an incredible talent and most people other than as a musician like me wouldn't realize he was also playing the bass guitar parts on a pedal board with his feet. He played the parts with his feet better than any bassist I've ever played with has played with his HANDS!!! Many nights we found ourselves back here with our gang of Cruise Critic friends laughing and drinking and having a great time.
The dining room was very nice and we had Select dining. We never waited even once for a table for two. All of the wait staff was very nice and attentive. We never felt rushed, even though the food came out very quickly every time. Select seating was upstairs and we were once seated right on the railing looking down at the traditional diners.
I've heard lots of talk about the Summit looking old and worn. It does show its age in many places, but nothing really bad. Our balcony had paint splatters and rusty spots, the glass was scratched up, and the handrail was worn. The other area where the age showed was the bathroom. The toilet seat was an old wooden one with scratches and dents. There were some very minor mildew spots in some tiles. None of this bothered me in any way. I knew the age of the ship before I booked. I'm sure these issues will be addressed in the upcoming dry-dock.
Food is a very subjective topic and you always get differing opinions when it comes to food. I am glad to say that I have always gotten very good food on all of my cruises. Some dishes better than others, but I never got anything I would say was bad. Celebrity was no different. All of our meals were very good. My wife is a vegetarian. I joke that she is a "pastafarian" because she mainly eats pasta of some variation. We both loved the pasta station in the buffet. In regards to vegetarian dishes, she feels Princess has better menu options for those who don't eat meat. However, she did ask if she could have the gnocchi that was served with beef cheeks, without the meat. They happily brought her the gnocchi in an olive oil type sauce. They would happily do that for any dish.
As I mentioned earlier, we never waited for a table. Princess sometimes had some sort of a wait, sometimes fairly long, but never here. We were always seated with great servers. The sommeliers were very attentive and helpful. We both had the Classic beverage package and our glasses were never empty. There was a wine cart with all different types of wine bottles near the waiters' station. As your drink was low, it was filled very quickly. One night the sommelier even seemed curious as to why I didn't want a second glass of wine. I mention this because there has been some concern on the boards regarding drink service for those with a beverage package.
I thought the buffet was just a bit more limited than what we were used to on Princess. The pasta station was a great touch, but I thought there were less entrEe type offerings. I also felt that the buffet hours should be round the clock or more expanded at least. Not because I want to eat around the clock, but it's nice to have a full buffet to return from port to. Instead, we had to choose pizza or the grill. Both were fantastic, but we had to go with it every day when we returned as the buffet was closed. I did like that they had trays to carry the food. It made it easy to carry back to the room.
Some standout meals for me: Mama's Pork chop was delicious, as was the Osso Bucco. The soups were always great, especially the French Onion and the Won Ton. Again, I never had a bad meal.
St. Croix: This was our first port and an AMAZING day! I went up to the buffet and grabbed us a nice assortment of hot foods and brought them back to the balcony to eat. I can get used to that!! We got off the ship at our leisure and were going to walk to Sandcastles on the Beach. Winter was fresh in our minds from NYC, but once we stepped off the ship, we were reminded that it was in the mid 80's. I still wanted to walk, but the Mrs. can be very sensitive to the heat (sorry Cyndi), so we decided to cab it. It was very close and we considered that we'd walk back.
We spent the day with our old and new cruise critic buddies. Medic 5 graciously made reservations that included 2 chairs, an umbrella, and 1 rum punch per person. It was a very nice beach and the water was VERY refreshing. Great laughs, lots of sun, and just an all around great first port day. Thanks Brighton Seagulls for the drink tickets you were not using. I meant to get you back somehow and never did. Next time I'm on the other side of the pond, beers are on me! After the rum punch and heat, we just cabbed it back.
Once back onboard, we found our buddies by the band, grabbed a bite to eat, and did some more partying. There was hardly ever an issue getting deck chairs in a great spot. In fact, we usually ended up in the same row of 10 or so chairs. And no, we never did (or would) reserve.
St. Kitts: Woke up nice and late and felt relaxed. We decided the night before that we were going to head to South Friar's beach. I was going back and forth between Cockleshell and Friar's, but I heard some negative recent reviews of Cockleshell, so we went with Friar's. I'm not sure if the negative reviews were accurate, but with limited time on the island, I just decided to go with what I heard better things about. We got a cab for $16 and arranged to have the driver pick us up at 3:00 pm. We were not disappointed. The beach was very nice. For only $10 (I think), we got two chairs under a palapa hut. It was an amazingly beautiful day with nary a cloud in the azure sky! We saw Mr. and Mrs. FeelinNauti there and got some great photos with them. I saw a crowd gather near the bottom of the cliffs that are behind the beach and wandered over. It was feeding time for the local monkeys and mongoose. It was a great experience being right there as the monkeys chowed down on what looked something like bamboo. They kept their distance, but were close enough to get great pictures, including one little monkey having his meal under the shade of a car! It was an experience I won't soon forget.
Dominica: We decided to stay on the ship here for a few reasons. First, nothing jumped out at me. We heard how beautiful and lush the island is, but didn't see any ship tours that seemed interesting to us. This was also not an island that I wanted to just do on my own, as we usually do. Being that this was a very port intensive cruise, we decided to just stay on the ship.
As I said, the ship never really felt crowded and today the ship felt even less crowded, but surprisingly, more people stayed on the ship than I would have suspected. I guess they thought like us. We had what felt like a sea day, with a nice looking island behind us. I walked a couple of miles on the jogging track before heading to breakfast (lunch? 1:00pm). After the meal, we met with our friends who mostly also stayed on the ship. We hung by the pool and stretched out that drink package. Some of the guys played a bean bag toss game that was fun to watch. Glad we stayed on board as we had a great day.
Grenada: I am going to seem like I didn't really like Grenada, and it might be true. It was a beautiful island and it usually takes a lot to spoil that for us. This day was not spoiled, but other, less positive people may have not enjoyed this place at all. It started with us going to the water taxi for our ride to Grand Anse Beach. They waited until the boat was filled up before leaving. It was "just 2 more people", then "just one more person". It was extremely hot and there was a couple with a 6 month old baby. Let's get the show on the road, guys. Once they finally did the first mate, who was nothing like Gilligan, started giving us a nice little guided tour. "There's the prison. Over there is the mental hospital. That's where America invaded us in 1983. And over there is where a guy got killed last week."! What a nice, upbeat tour, huh? Then Mr. Charm had the nerve to tap me and say "Tip for me, tip for me?"! I gave him a buck to shut him up. Another gentleman outright told him he wasn't giving him anything because he doesn't speak very nicely. Well said.
We get to the beach and were immediately hounded by a swarm of "salespeople". They were selling chair spots. Then there were the people who were telling us to go with them. Others were telling us to buy food from them. It was incessant. Even when we committed to one guy, others were almost pushing past him to get to us. "No thank you" didn't work as well on this island like it does on other islands.
When we finally settled in, we realized that our friends were on the opposite side of the beach. It was too late to get my money back, so we had to endure the begging that was about to begin on our own. As we watched the emaciated, undernourished dogs urinating and defecating on the beach (we love animals and it was heartbreaking), we were approached by a "blind" man on crutches. He asked if we supported programs that helped the blind find work. My wife nodded her head as he was speaking. He told her not to nod her head, as he was blind and couldn't see it. So then how DID he know she was nodding her head?!?!? She politely told him we didn't have anything to give him at the moment (which was true). He very nastily told her she was selfish. Well there goes your donation, buddy.
The beach was beautiful and the water was very refreshing and calm. While I was in the water, I saw an inebriated dude stumble over to near where my wife was and collapse into the sand. He was wiggling his fingers and toes and looking around and the regulars didn't seem too concerned, as if it happens regularly. He then got up and his face was breaded with sand like a chicken cutlet. Shortly thereafter, we got another visit from the "blind" man. This time he asked me the same question. I cut him off and told him I had nothing to offer him but a prayer for his well being. He started getting very nasty and saying "How can I put food on my table with a prayer?!?"! He left mumbling curse words. If I truly had a dollar or change, I would have given it to him, but not after being insulted and cursed at. In all my years living in NYC, I've never been cursed at or insulted by a beggar.
While we were lounging, a young couple came and put a blanket down on the sand near us. The chair hawks descended and the couple declined. They stood over them in an intimidating manner for quite a few minutes. We ordered some fries and a hot dog that came out to $13. Shortly after, I took my last dip into the water so I had time to dry off. We were going to take some pictures under some nice palm trees, but it seemed there were more local "salespeople" hanging around and we didn't want to get hounded. We then headed back to the water taxi and what took us 10 minutes from the ship, took us almost 30 minutes to get back. When we stepped off the water taxi pier, there was a woman selling spice necklaces. We politely declined and the man next to her said loud enough for us to hear "Those tourists are cheap!" I wanted to reply that the garbage she was selling was cheap, but I let it slide.
Overall, Grenada LOOKS like a beautiful place and visually, it is. However, we probably should have either gone to another beach with less entrepreneurs or just stayed on the ship. Back to the ship and another few drinks before getting ready for dinner.
Tobago: This was probably the best day of the whole trip. FeelinNauti put together an amazing catamaran trip for us with Island Girl. We got off the ship and all met up just past security at the pier. We took a short walk to a bus stop and were driven about 20 minutes to a small beach where Island Girl was kept. We had to all take a small motorized raft out to the cat. Once we got on they gave us a short overview of the trip and some safety warnings and then off we went. We had a great group assembled of all different ages. The fun started as we headed to our first snorkeling and beach spot. I believe it was called Cotton Bay. I could have sworn we were on location for the TV show "Lost". High cliffs, colorful plants and trees, crystal clear water, and even a little freshwater stream making its way down a cliff into the ocean. Breathtaking is the only way to describe it. We climbed off the cat ladder into shoulder high water and swam/walked to the shore. We strolled around and took pictures. After about 30 minutes of strolling on the beach, we were called back to the Island Girl as lunch was being served. We were treated to grilled fish, stewed chicken, rice, bean salad, potato salad, Cole slaw, and garlic bread. The food was well prepared and delicious. We washed the food down with plenty of pineapple coolers, beer, rum, and other assorted beverages.
We then were brought to another cove that really didn't have a beach to go down to, but some got off and snorkeled and said they saw some nice fish. When we turned to head back to the dock, the fun started to heat up. Drinks were flowing and the music was blasting. Many people started dancing and having a great time. The captain put up the sails for a very short time until he got a call that there was something we might like to see farther out into the sea. He pulled in the sails and started speeding out to where there was another boat. We soon found out why. There was a school of dolphins swimming all around. There were many and they were jumping out of the water around the boat. It was truly an amazing spectacle and one we won't soon forget. We now started back toward shore and the party continued.
After we got back to the shore, we all boarded a bus that was there to pick us up. The ride was about 10-15 minutes back to the ship, but once we got within a mile or so of the ship, there was a traffic jam. We started nervously watching the clock, but we were well within walking distance if worse came to worse. It didn't and we made it back to the pier about 20 minutes before boarding time. It was just an all around great day. I highly recommend the Island Girl catamaran sailing.
The next day was a sea day and of course the ship felt a tiny bit more crowded, but not bad at all. One VERY nice touch was our invitation to a tour of the bridge. It was very informative. It was an amazing view from up there and the officers were very friendly and explained what different equipment was used for, nautical terms, and an overview of daily routines and procedures. It was a great experience.
After the tour, we got our usual row of loungers, without reserving of course. There was a pool volleyball tournament that pitted Summit crew versus passengers. Our own MEDIC5 was in the game and he didn't disappoint. It was great fun to watch, but the Summit crew won out. After it was over the passenger team and the crew team formed a circle and chanted "SUMMIT!!". Good times. There was still a lot of time to get our last day of use of the drink package. We took a nice Cruise Critic Roll call photo on the stairs by the pool and it came out great. It was a last great sea day!
At night, we dined with Mr. and Mrs. FEELIN NAUTI. It was a great farewell dinner with great friends. Our Cruise Critic group met up at the aft bar for some farewell cocktails and more laughs and well wishes. It was a bittersweet evening as we were having such fun and sad to see a fantastic cruise end.
This is a big deal to me. I am a musician and the entertainment is usually very important to me. I like to hear a good live party band that has a vast repertoire. The Summit had this. The band played every day at the pool for a few hours and it was lots of fun. We were usually at the opposite end, but when we were close, the band was very loud, as the speakers were about 15 feet high. It didn't bother me, but if someone is sensitive to volume, go further away.
I mentioned Charlie Butler before, but he was so good, he deserves another mention. Don't miss him! We also saw the Newlywed Game and it was very funny. But if you've seen one, you've seen them all, but still enjoyable.
One area I was a bit disappointed in was the karaoke. Princess really makes a big deal out of this in their Princess Pop Star. I have entered and even won a few years back (GO ME!!, LOL). The song selection was dreadful on the Summit. They were all B-side album fillers by mostly unheard of or unpopular groups. It was a struggle to find a decent song to sing. Also, both sitting in the audience and singing, the music was very low. It was almost like singing along to a transistor radio. I definitely think they need to improve in this area.
There were some trios doing Latin music or standards in The RendezVous at all different times and they were good when we saw them.
Overall I think the entertainment lacked a tiny bit, but on this cruise it didn't matter. We were travelling with an amazing group of fun people and they could have had no entertainment and we would have had a blast. If we were by ourselves, maybe we'd have been at a loss for something fun to do. But I'm sure we'd have a great cruise.
Odds and Ends:
Celebrity has probably got me hooked. We are usually Princess loyalists, but Princess seems to be shying away from offering us sailings that we want. As I mentioned, it is going to be very hard to go on a line without a beverage package. We definitely got our money's worth out of the package, but even if we hadn't, it would still be worth it. It was just so easy to hand the card and not have to sign or worry about a balance. We normally drink a ton of both alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks. It was nice to know at every port we'd have a few bottles of water to take off the ship. We didn't abuse the card in any way, but felt like we could get what we like, when we want it, without feeling financially guilty. It was already paid for.
Service in all areas was quick and friendly. Our cabin steward, Xavier was friendly and efficient. He always greeted us with a smile and asked about our day. He always left us extra chocolates and on the last two nights he left about 20 chocolates!
We were lucky enough to be treated to a very nice Cruise Critic Connections party on the third day. The cruise director attended and there were many familiar and new faces. They had champagne and mimosas. It was a very nice touch.
The ship never felt crowded anywhere. In fact sometimes, it felt a bit lonely in some places, especially at night. There were plenty of kids and no problems.
I can't wait to book my next Celebrity cruise.