Celebrity is a cruise line who certainly knows how to perfect the cruising experience. They realize that treating every guest like a celebrity- no matter if they are in the penthouse, or an interior cabin on the lowest deck builds a loyal following. Lucky 13 cruise was our family's first on Celebrity (having previously sailed on Carnival, Costa, and Royal Caribbean), and I can say with certainty that I will be back again one day. Their legendary attention to detail was plainly evident on board the Celebrity Summit as we were greeted by a glass of champagne as soon as we set foot on the ship, on our way up to deck 10 for the buffet and a view of the Statue of Liberty and the New York City Skyline before departing Bayonne for Bermuda. We took a chance in booking this trip during hurricane season—as the week before a tropical storm brushed the island, and a new one is headed nearby by the end of next week—but it was a gamble well paid out, for our days on shore were sunny (my pink skin would say a bit too sunny), slightly breezy and more than a little humid.
On board, Celebrity prides itself on the whole cruise experience - what they refer to as "Celebrity Life"—which is much, much, more than the usual Newlywed games, limbo contest by the pool and the ubiquitous bingo games that are present on all cruise ships. On this cruise, I was able to: tour the galley where they prepare 9000 meals a day, learn how to make sushi from one of their Sushi chefs, sip high tea in the specialty Normandie dining room, attend a series of guest lectures from one of the Hubble Telescope project managers, participate in a ship docking simulation—with actual video from the bridge of how they maneuver the boat into the tight berths, and talk with the captain and senior officers at the Captain's reception. Some of the events were open to all; others were helped along by my grandmother's membership in the Captain's Club from previous cruises.
In spite of me working out in the large and spacious gym and spa multiple times on the cruise, the food was so exceptional that I still managed to gain 5 pounds. I'd like to blame it all on the buffet, but it was the delicious desserts in the Cova Cafe on deck 5, and the grand dessert buffet with dark and white chocolate waterfall fountains that were my downfall. I did not have one mediocre meal the entire trip.
Nightly shows: the four stage shows were Broadway or off-Broadway caliber—particularly one scene that merged multiple songs from Phantom of the Opera. I liked the fact that they focused on the singing, dancing and choreography more than hiding behind stage props and scenery changes. The acrobats were Cirque-du-Soleil quality (we're still amazed by one scene from the first night's show that I won't spoil for you here). Their acapella group, the Neptunes, was so good; we caught them several times in various venues throughout the ship.
Kid's Club: My 5 year old - who's been on more cruises (8) than he has years, proclaimed the Fun Factory kids club the best he's ever been to, because "they had new stuff for us to play with, not one room of old stuff" He especially liked the ball pit, the climbing tower and the Wii consoles.
On shore: We were in Bermuda for 2.5 days, half of which were during a local national holiday called Cup Match, the last Thursday- Friday in July where most of the shops and the official island is closed (excluding some tourist areas), and they watch Cricket matches between St. Georges and Somerset. The locals regard this as "bigger than Christmas and the US Independence day, combined" and camp out on the beach with their families. We joined them for the street dance party in Hamilton and took a taxi to Elbow beach where we built sand castles, baked in the sun, and enjoyed the crystal clear waters with little minnows swimming between our legs.
Overall, of the 13 cruises we've taken, this ship had the best food, entertainment, and kids club of any cruise vacation, was in the top 5 for ship style and design (it is scheduled for a major dry dock upgrade in January 2012) but was average for itinerary. We participated in no ship-sponsored shore excursions on this trip, so we cannot rank them. I rank this cruise as second among my favorite cruises. We will be back to journey with Celebrity again.
Special mentions of attention to detail:
• Iced washcloths greeting you dockside when you returned hot and sweaty from Bermuda.
• Frequent free champagne or mimosas throughout ship.
• Dance club was like a VIP lounge with "celebrity bartenders" and an ice sculpture martini slide.
• Kiosks to check your professional photos taken onboard (though I would like it better if they figured out a way to include the shots on shore just before you board/ after you leave - so you can find that picture with a pirate or dolphin instead of searching the entire picture wall for them.
Special Staff Honorable mentions:
• Eren- Sommelier/ main dining room - best Sommelier we've had the pleasure of meeting. Even though many of the bottles of wine were gifts for my birthday or comps and he received no gratuity for them, he served each glass as if we were the finest royalty (though I'm sure he was quietly aghast when we tried to pour it ourselves and use a white wine glass for Cabernet Sauvignon).
• Ali Nice -Waiter /main dining room for our dining room experience, and who found us at a different table for brunch and proceeded to serve us in addition to his full slate of tables. Best of luck to him on his upcoming wedding.
• Palton -our cabin steward, who made last minute arrangements and reconfigurations so that all three of us could fit properly in the cabin.
• Cruise Director Mike - who after chatting with my grandmother - sent a gift basket to her room with a note about how truly an inspiration she is (and he's right).
• Seth—our cruise consultant at All Aboard Cruises—whom we have sailed with multiple times and always manages to provide top notch service and rock-bottom fares.