SUMMIT PREVAILS thru 2 hurricanes!!!! Back to Back Reviews: Celebrity Summit Cruise Review by Pack My Bags

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SUMMIT PREVAILS thru 2 hurricanes!!!! Back to Back Reviews

Sail Date: September 2011
Destination: Bermuda
Embarkation: Other
Before I begin I would like to let you know that this will be QUITE a LENGTHY review as it covers a back to back (B2B) cruise. If you are very detail oriented like myself, you will appreciate it. If I happen to repeat myself, sorry it took me a month to put this together. :-)

OK... Some background info. We are 40 & 43 yrs old, have been on 14 cruises. (10 on RCI, 1 Norwegian, 3 Carnival.) Since our Diamond status on RCI was reciprocated on Celebrity ("X") as Elite status, we decided to give them a try. We had done lots of research on CC about Bermuda as well as the differences & expectations on Celebrity. We went into it with an open mind & since we booked the same itinerary back to back during hurricane season..... With crossed fingers! Wherever suitable I will write about the experiences on both legs of the Back-to-back, but I will write a 2nd portion for the 2nd leg of the trip. With a summary of RCI -â€" Celebrity (X)comparisons at the end.

CRUISE # 1 More Aug 28th
For this cruise we booked through a relative's travel agent. (Never again.) We were given a $50 OBC, but after our final payment we were done. Not even a receipt, a call, a "Thank you for your business." No contact concerning Hurricane Irene, the schedule change, the OBC that X would be offering. All I have to say is thank goodness for Cruise Critic. What a wonderful venue to get a plethora of info from amazing people!

My parents & my Aunt & Uncle both celebrated their 50th anniversaries as well as my Aunt's birthday & my 40th. So all together there were 12 of us traveling together. Check-In went flawlessly. We left our home in Queens via cab (Ollies svc)at 11am. We arrived in a short 45 minutes & checked in quickly. We were able to board at 1:30pm. Because of flight cancellations & delays, the ship did not sail until about 6pm. Once it did we booked it down to Bermuda.

We were all booked on Deck 9 in Concierge class 2 rooms. We were in 9105, because that's all that was left when we booked. I was very concerned because it was under the pool deck, so I booked the room closest to the elevator bank. I ALREADY KNEW & dreadfully anticipated that it was going to be loud. Now I know to NEVER EVER EVER book directly under the pool deck. (Or a bar, theatre or ANY PUBLIC VENUE on board unless your you want to feel like you are living over a nightclub -â€" OR -â€" someone else is paying & you have no say. The band would play sets during the day until about 5pm & then if there was an evening pool event the band would play on till about midnight. I have learned my lesson.

The rm was very nicely appointed. Drawers built into the closet & on the sides of the desk were plentiful. Shelving with railing. The shower stall was a rectangular stall with a curtain that stuck to you while showering. Not a fan of that. There were 2 rimmed shelves next to the bathroom where lemongrass amenities were displayed. Concierge class rms. offer a bottle of champagne upon check in, fresh flowers in the room as well as the bathroom, daily canapés, a bowl of fresh fruit, a fancy showerhead, plush robes & nice linens. You also receive a nice pleather tote bag gift. The Concierge rms. also have convenience items for use while on board (Not to keep) such as large golf umbrellas in case of rain, a set of binoculars & a convenient leather bound notepad with a fancy Celebrity pen for taking notes. The last night of your trip our room steward locked the notepad & binoculars in the minibar compartment. I guess people think they can take these home. Upon check in we found a letter from CC inviting us to the Connections party, a special invite for a bridge tour (for the Connections group), as well as our Elite Captains Club coupons & a sheet that listed all the Elite member activities & schedule for the week. This was EXTREMELY helpful when planning activities for the week. This including things like the Backstage Theatre tour, the Captains Club reception, an Elite Tea (for a fee) etc. Its nice to see them all on one piece of paper instead of wasting all those envelopes all during the week.

Cancellations -- Because of Hurricane Irene many got stranded without flights & there were many many cancellations. The line at Guest Svc was at least 20 people long waiting for upgrades. This turned a light bulb on my head so later on the next day I went to the desk & asked if there was room to upgrade for our 2nd leg. We booked our back to back at separated times & did not have the same room booked for the 2nd leg. In fact, we decided to save $$ & stepped down to an oceanview room. So I went to the desk & Judith said she'd put me on the list but would not have an answer until we saw how many people show up on the day of departure. But at least I was on the list.

OK... So Capt Panos (Panayiotis Manzavinos?) is a very visible on the ship & a pleasant gentleman. He was very concerned regarding safety of passage & was always calmly reassuring passengers as they stopped to speak with him. Our bridge tour was scheduled for Sat. & he popped in to welcome everyone. Being that there were 12 Greeks in our tour, he actually stayed later & explained stuff in Greek for the folks. He even summoned an officer to the bridge because he told us the officer is from the same village as our family from Greece. We found relatives! He is a very sincere man & he looks much nicer in person than his photo on the Daily. (More about the Capt. later on in the 2nd review.)

BERMUDA -â€" Cruise # 1 -- We opted not to take any ship excursions because we did lots of research on Bermuda on the CC boards & we are very big on doing things at our own pace. Printed out all the bus maps, beaches, attractions, highlights & how to get there, etc. This was a HUGE help! It is a very easily navigated island however it is annoying if you are docked in Kings Wharf because you need to take a ferry to a bus, etc. If you are based out of Hamilton (the Holland American Veendam was there) in the center of the island, then you only need to take a bus or taxi east or west. Making it much easier. Whatever you do.... Before asking a bus driver or Ferry attendant any questions to say "Good morning! Or Good afternoon!" The drivers are VERY adamant about greetings before you come aboard. Even if you seem lost, be sure to throw in a "Hello Sir!"

Day 1 - We made it to Bermuda on time on Wed. Woke up to RAIN. Nothing really planned. We booked a 3 hour tour of the island with Mom & Dad with Anthony. A well educated, pleasant & knowledgeable tour guide he was! We stopped at Fort Scaur, Gibbs Lighthouse, the smallest drawbridge in the world to feed the fish, Horseshoe Bay Beach & made it all the way to Hamilton. He pointed out EVERYTHING & all the beaches & local attractions, bus stops, highlights & such so that we were READY & knew where to head the following day. It was $10 per person per hour. $120 very well spent. We asked Anthony what HIS favorite beach was & he said Shelly Bay. Its just north of Hamilton & accessible. It is a small protected bay with easy waters & accessibility. It is a family beach & has a small playground. Absolutely no facilities or food, so prepare. That was the plan for day 2.

Day two in Bermuda was very windy & started out gloomy. Contrary to our wishes, we headed to Elbow Beach on the South shore next to infamous Horseshoe Bay. The others had insisted it was nice, having been there before & they had porta potties for the older folks. The beach has an access road with a lonnnnnnng walkway. It was easily 200 yards before we saw water. There were about 20 steps to the sand & a huge sign that says how to be safe if the ripcurl draws you out to sea. No chairs, facilities, umbrellas. By the time we got to the water, half the gang was exhausted. I love to jump waves so I jumped into the salty water without any apprehension, but you could feel the pull immensely. The current was VERY strong & you needed to go up to your chest otherwise you got clobbered as I watched the waves sweep my family off their feet & face planted into the surf. The entire south shore beaches (Horseshoe, Elbow, Stonehole, Jobson's, Church) were ALL too rough to enjoy due to the lingering hurricane's strong winds. My husband & cousin hopped into a cab & headed to Shelly Bay. Thank goodness & a lovely sight to see! We had a stretch of beach with less than 10 people on it all to ourselves! The sand is not as pink & fine as on the south shore, but the water was calm & pleasant with the occasional fish leaping through the air.

Day three I took my parents & we made a beeline to Shelly Bay again. My mother is blind so this beach accommodated her needs the best. This was also the BEST day weather-wise as the wind had died down a little & the water was calmer. The south shore was still rough as the others went to Horseshoe. Shelly Bay left a good impression as this was our last day in port.

As for the Waterfall Cafe (Buffet) -- I was very surprised about two things. 1. There are trays. Not only trays, but trays with cloth liners. Although this is a nice touch & the trays were helpful when carrying flatware, a plate of food a bowl of fruit, a drink, straw & extra napkins I did think that it is a bit unnecessary. The cloth tray liners are a waste of resources like water & power to be washed, dried & pressed. The one big purpose they DO serve however is that they help from plates & stuff sliding around on the tray. The second thing I noticed is that THEY serve YOU. With a tray if you can fit more food on your plate, you WILL take it, so I am not sure if this is a Celebrity thing or something new that they are thinking that with less people handling food, people are less likely to get sick, PLUS this is also how they discourage people from loading up their plates & wasting food. I kind of liked this. Although its vacation, I was more apt to cut back a little. The buffet is set up with different stations with access only on one side so if you want an omelette or deli sandwich or pasta dish you must wait your turn.. ON EACH. As far as the quality of food, I was happy to see some nice selections. The sliced flank steak was seasoned so nicely with shallots & garlic, the vegetable pizza was my favorite topping, there were Indian selections were there daily if you like jasmine rice with chicken tika, mmmm. Each day there was a stir fry station, fresh sushi, salad bars, the Deli, a carving station & a daily special selection station, etc. Plenty to choose from. Surely something for everyone. The one thing I found maybe redundant was the dessert counters. Some small selections daily & the standards.... Cut cantelope, honeydew, watermelon & pineapple (sometimes unripe.) They also had some whole apples & oranges. BEST BY FAR were two things. The poached egg station featuring Traditional, German, Mexican & Scottish Eggs Benedicts, and the daily bread pudding complete with smooth vanilla sauce. OMG YUM!

A nice surprise was the Aqua Spa Cafe located in the Solarium by the Thalassotherapy pool. This café is open for breakfast & lunch & has nice healthier selections. The cold Muselix cereal was DEEEE-LISH! Looks like oatmeal, but its cold. It has jullienne pears & apples, sliced bananas, oats, walnuts & pecans. This along with a sundried tomato brioche muffin were my favorites! They had fresh grapefruit & nice salads for lunch.

Main Dining Room -â€" Cruise #1- Our family of 12 had late seating dining at 8:30pm at table 449 on deck 4. Our wait staff Serkhan from Turkey & Wang from China were lovely. They were extremely quick to notice how much we loved the parmesian crisps on the salad & brought us a plate of them! This is a great table because its towards the middle of the room with a good view of the staircase & the wait station runs along one side of the table (It is by a protected glass wall and this way you don't have other people backing up their chairs into you. With 12 people at our table & our 3 appetizer courses we did not finish dinner until 10:30 which was wayyyy too late for me. MDR Atmosphere -â€" The dining room is nice if your table is on the outskirts of the room. We sat on both deck 4 & 5. I will say that if you are on deck four the ceilings are not as low as I have experienced on other ships. If you are sitting on deck 5, I would opt for a table on the outsides rather than in the middle of the room overlooking the grand staircase for one main reason. Its not a big deal, but if you are like me & eat with your eyes first, then it's deceiving. There is a huge artsy panel of fancy stained glass in the center of the room. The colors are all in the rust & orange family. The lighting under the tables surrounding the railings is a bit well.... Orange. It is a tad bit darker over there and your food looks a little off on the plate.

Dining Room Attire -- We found that people have completely thrown traditional formal dining room respect out the window. But they are not entirely to blame. There should be someone at the podium & that SAYS SOMETHING! Nowadays there are so many dining options on board that there isn't an excuse. WE DO dress up for formal night. Not in sequins, but my husband wears a suit & I wear either a dress or a nice pair of slacks with a fancy top. We dress up & then right after dinner, (& I mean RIGHT AFTER, I go back to capris & flip flops. It is my vacation & I want to be comfortable, but we do like to take advantage of photo opportunities & enjoy a nice lobster or fancy French inspired dinner. On Celebrity, this has been considered a faux pas but, we ARE the couple that wears jeans to the main dining room. Not torn ones with flip flops & tee-shirts. We wear jeans with a silk shirt, or a fancy blouse, a nice belt & dress shoes. Not flip flops or sneakers. Many people may look down upon this, but it is very presentable. If I want to dress in shorts & sneakers I will get on a Carnival ship. On both cruises we saw people in the MDR on formal night with shorts, golf shirts, gym shirts, loud Hawaiian shirts, khakis & sneakers. Now THAT needs to be addressed.

NOW.... For the Food! MANY people & the boards mentioned that food on Celebrity X) far surpasses that of RCI. I was expecting more. I live in NY with the finest of dining at my doorstep. I have learned that you cannot expect the finest dining when cooking for the masses. I found that the MDR quality of food on X was a tad bit better than RCI, but not by much. I was however, excited to see new & different things on the menu! Things that RCI would not go near. For instance: The daily standards menu having shrimp cocktail, escargot, crème brulee & my fave French Onion soup on a daily basis. I was excited to see some more sophisticated dishes like Coq au Vin, Carpaccio, Vitello Tonatos, Filet Mignon w/ Foie Gras & Frogs legs on the menu. (And YES they taste like chicken, well sorta.) I eat them about twice a month at home. In the long run I was pleased, but not blown away. Desserts are still well... eh. The crème brulee & cheesecake were good. I usually enjoyed ice cream for dessert. The after 8 (choc chip mint flavor), pistachio & caramel flavor. Yum! I did buy the cookbook as there are many recipes in there that I did like. But then there's Normandie.

NORMANDIE is a lovely restaurant. If you are a "foodie" you will appreciate Normandie more. It is a French themed restaurant so if you are a picky eater, dont bother. Surcharge has gone up to $40pp. ($90pp if you do it with wine pairings, I think.) I know people who went 3 times in one week, but we only went once & had a wonderful meal...
* Goat cheese souffle - Lots of hoopla about this dish on the message boards, but I expected more. It was more dense than I expected of a souffle. Good, but not outstanding.
* Sauteed Sweet Breads - OMG YUMMMM! So light, not heavy & the sauce. Mmm
* Seared Foie Gras - OMG Double Double YUM! Same as above.
* Creamy Maine Lobster Bisque - A little fishy heavy, not my favorite.
* Wild Mushroom Cappuccino soup - Yummy, but not outstanding.
* Spinach salad (w. a fried egg & pork riliette {sausage patty} The greens, dressing & egg were good. But the patty was very... well..... Industrial. Not my favorite.
* Filet Mignon - We ordered the special. This one was a larger portion than the filet on the menu. Then we both added the Lobster Tail entree & made our own hefty surf & turfs! (2nd entree at no extra cost.)
* Sautéed French Turbot - (Mom had this) OMG the most upscale "island dish" I have tasted. Lighter, but FULL of flavor. Served with Ginger Infused Spaghetti Squash, Green Asparagus & Lemongrass Nage
* Crispy Loup De Mer (Mediterranean Sea Bass) Dad had this & WISHED he had the Turbot. Roasted Artichoke, Eggplant Caviar, Kalamata Olive Purée, Sun Dried Tomato Pesto & Balsamic Reduction It was a very oily & heavy fishy kind of fish. Almost like preserved fish you would find in a European specialty store.
* Kiwi Sorbet to cleanse the palette. Mmmm. Gotta love those tiny tiny spoons.
* Dessert - I did not even bother to look at the menu. They ask you up front if you would like a chocolate or Grand Marnier Souffle, because of the cooking time needed. That's all they had to say. That Grand Marnier souffle was the BEST ONE I HAVE EVER HAD & I have enjoyed them everywhere...

Some highlights & notations about our cruise were:
* My parents & Aunt & Uncle were invited to the Honeymooners & Anniversary party on Deck 11. That was a nice offering. Champagne & cake. We all took the galley tour which was also a nice treat to see the workings of all that food! It ended up in Normandie the Summits specialty restaurant. OK...
* We took a back stage tour in the theatre. It was nice to hear first hand how the entertainment staff works, endures & performs under all the sailing conditions. To see the working of dressing rms, standing on stage under the lights was very cool!
* My husband & I collect Christmas ornaments from every destination we go. We stopped at the shops on deck 5 as I browsed the diamond hoops I have been griping about for the last 2 cruises. We picked up a "Summit" one. They gave us 2 raffle tickets to fill out at the jewelry shop. At 8pm I stood by the shop & listened to Milan (the Port & Shopping dude) to pick a winning ticket. Before he picked the ticket he announced..." OK, so lets all agree that you MUST be present in order to win, Yes?" Everyone shouted yes! He then stated again, "So, once again, you MUST be present in order to win!" At that very moment I looked towards my mom & said, "That would be funny if they called out my husbands name." Not two seconds later I hear.... "And the winner is Steve M.... cabin 9105" My jaw dropped. I quickly raised my hand & yelled "That's my husband & I would be the one wearing those earrings!" You could see the look in other people's eyes.... But then Milan quickly chimed in with "The winning party is here, congratulations!" So I won myself a pair of tiny diamond hoop earrings! Yay! It would have been different if the name called were a NO SHOW, but interestingly enough -â€" the following night was the BIG raffle where the winner won a $300 gift cert for the shops on board. Before pulling that winning ticket Milan stated... "Now the winner "or a family member" must be present in order to win! I didn't win that raffle, but my mom did buy herself a real fancy pair of diamond earrings. It was a 50th anniv. gift to herself!
* The bridge tour was a nice touch. I have never been on one before. That steering joystick is so tiny!
* We were going to go to the Elite Tea event but didn't feel like dressing up. So we passed.
* The Thallasotherapy (T-Pool) is a nice place to be IF you like hot water. The first days of the cruise the water is warmer than a regular pool, but as the week goes on, it might as well be a bathtub. Best part is, NO KIDS. This is a reserved area for adults, enclosed & sheltered from rainy hurricane Bermuda. The pool has submerged loungers across both sides that have air jets. Many people just laid there forever. It's a nice place to relax, but its better if you have a pillow. There are 4 thick nozzles that just DUMP a thick stream of water on you while you stand in the pool. (It's like a garden hose that doesn't have the spray gun attachment on it on steroids.) That was awesome. Imagine when you go for a massage & its more like "nice-nice" rather than the pummeling back rub you really need. There are 4 of them in the corners of the pool. It almost hurts, but in a good way! . The air quality in the solarium was a bit too hot for my taste, but I just took a stroll by one of the windows when needed. There are also 2 hot tubs in the Solarium. I tend to stray away from public hot tubs in general. I dared to enter & found they were too hot for me & after 5 minutes I had to look to the sky to breath unchlorinated cool air that was a "sign" & I got out. There were plenty of chairs both wooden loungers & regular loungers with padding. Also a towel station with plenty of towels.

* The Gym was mostly crowded around 8am. My husband ventured there around 7am almost daily & had his pick of machines. It was clean & there were lots of activities. The gym is relatively small compared to bigger ships. Wither that or the floor plan is poorly arranged. For instance, if you want to take a relaxing yoga class you are 3 feet from all the machines & will have the relaxing sound of people stomping on the treadmills right next to you. During Cruise #1 There were some kids (the same ones that hung out by our room & cussed running around in the gym. They would jump on a machine, laugh, giggle & then run off with their friends. They're kids -â€" That's what they are supposed to do. During Cruise #2 my husband saw a guest have their child on a machine that was clearly too young to be in there & the gym staff restricted them from the machinery & facility.

* The Kids Club. We don't have kids, so I cannot comment on the facilities. However I did see the staff interacting with the kids in lots of fun activities throughout the ship. I even took a photo of a group of 10 yr. olds window shopping in the jewelry store as it was one of their items on the scavenger hunt list. Cruise #1 had kids. Not tooo many, I would say about 150 or so. Cruise #2 had hmm 20? Wow what a difference when the kids are in school!

*Shows & Entertainment -â€" We were traveling with 14 family members & friends. So we didn't get to see much. Our dinner interfered with the timing & since we were doing a back to back the shows were not a priority. We did catch the comedy & violin playing by Doug & he even did a separate show on a Saturday afternoon. (Sea day.) We also went to Celebrity's version of "Iron Chef" where two ship chefs team up with two passengers & make a surprise meal in ½ hr. The Chefs & the audience sous chefs made it funny. Dencel the Celebrity Life ambassador & host needs to work on his MC skills on this show but he was superb in other public speaking events on board.

* The casino was a hot spot (although brutal to our pocket.) They had very few of the "traditional" slots with moving reels & they did not have a wheel of fortune that many always expect. They had many new machines including Sex & the City, The Hangover, Luau Loot, Playboy & a new bank of tournament style machines! We participated in the slot tournament $25 per entry & both my cousin, my father & I all made it to the final round. They have these new machines on board where you not only press the button for 5 minutes, but you also have to pop the balloon when it comes up on the screen. LOADS of fun! There is a camera in front of you that displays your face on top of the machine row for all to see & enjoy while banging on that slot button! In the end my cousin won the tournament. $350, a polo shirt & a plastic plated gold X trophy! PLUS an invitation to the Officers slot tournament that very same evening! You tag team 2 ½ minutes each with one of the ship's crew. She won that one too! A second trophy plus $50!

* The iLounge is stocked with Mac book laptops. Wow, lovely. They even have seminars on Apple products, short cuts on how to use them & leads on how to purchase. This was a nice touch.

* COUPONS!!! The Elite coupons (I don't know if they are different if you are booked in a concierge class room) are phenomenal. The best I have seen since I have been sailing. We took advantage of our wine coupons by the bottle, internet coupons, casino match plays & best of all our LAUNDRY coupons! Because we were staying back to back, we took less on board knowing that we had up to 60 pieces complimentary per cruise plus one free dry cleaning item per cruise!

BACK TO BACK DEPARTURE PROCESS --- So we kissed the family good bye & walked mom & dad & the rest of the bunch to the ships doors to make sure they got off OK. We heard that dreadful DING. We then headed back to our room to finalize the switch. We filled out our customs form & notified out stateroom attendant that we would be sailing back to back. Unfortunately we did not book the trip in succession & did not have the same room. Juahn & Lise (the international hosts) also made sure that we knew where to report & how to take care of our luggage. We received mail to our stateroom along with our new stateroom keys stating to report on the couches by the Guest Svc desk at 9:00 am on the morning of departure. Although I had read on the boards that the stateroom attendants will take your clothing from the drawers & transfer it to your next room we had decided to pack up & make life easier. We told our stateroom attendant Faustus Francois that we would be ready at 8:45 to move it all over & we did. We took the long trek to the front of the ship. Oceanview rm #7001 (because it has MORE SPACE than any other Oceanview room on the ship.) It is right under the bridge & situated lengthwise instead. We moved everything over & then headed to guest svc. desk to check out of the first cruise. It was almost eerie for a moment. All of the regular passengers had gotten off the ship by now... It was quiet but you heard & saw the busy crew cleaning, cleaning, vacuums everywhere, cloths & windex, wiping handrails, elevator mirrors, it was almost a ghost house, but EVERYONE SMILED! They knew we were staying on, they knew we were (almost like royalty) and smiles smiles everywhere.

BACK TO BACK 2nd LEG -- Lise then escorted us OFF the ship & I heard that WONDERFUL DING! Ahhh music to my ears! It was a flawless process. We along with another couple, Christophe Bonnegrace, Celebrity's Corporate Executive Chef, and two of the crew's wives all boarded the Bayonne shuttle back to the terminal. We Said good morning to customs, gave in our forms & got right back on the bus towards the ship. We checked in with our NEW cards, took our photos, gave our set sail pass to the guest svc. desk & did what any other cruiser would do..... Went straight to the pool deck! I sat in the middle of deck 10 on a lounge chair & had the entire pool to MYSELF! YESSSSSSSSSSSSS! I hogged that chair all to myself for about an hour & a half until I saw them.......... New passengers!

Then it happened....... After everyone got on board, we got access to our room (7001) which is right underneath the bridge & faces the helicopter pad. It was a nice view. The oceanview room is nicely appointed, oddly configurated, NO COUCH just two rolling chairs, but has MORE walking space than a typical oceanview. Long story short... The air conditioning unit was soooo loud, the tv sound was muffled & it is a hell of a walk all the way up there. Right before dinner the phone call came from Judith at Guest services... They had another concierge level\balcony room 8062 ready for us and because we were sailing back to back & weren't complaining people the upgrade was free of charge. I quickly took a look at the deck plans to see where the room was situated & it was just behind midship on the port side. We gladly accepted. Yay a different view from before!!! They sent over a steward to help with luggage & with new keys & we were SET! New room, new balcony (without a direct overhang) and concierge amenities again. Yay!

Main Dining Room For Cruise #2 (Our family went home, we stayed) We tried out Select Dining on deck 5 starboard side. We had 6:45 reservations for each day but saw on day 1 that the deuces were full. They only had about 6 deuces in the entire Select area. The Select Attendant suggested we go the following day at 6 or around 7:30 when the seatings turn over. This was fine. It actually worked out better for showtimes. They sat us in the same table with the same waiter Moreno from Peru & his assistant Gaynor for 6 of the 7 dinners. For those who were waiting for tables (big or small) they would send them to the martini bar next door & come get them when their table was ready. This arrangement was not what I was used to. Normally we cruise on RCI & you don't have to wait if you are reserved. On X Your reservation only is for the time, not the table.

What else have I missed? The MAIN POOL was nice on our 2nd Cruise leg of the B2B. We did not get a chance to really enjoy it the first time around.

ITINERARY CHANGE AGAIN -- After Hurricane Irene, we were threatened again by Hurricane Katia. Irene caused us to lose one day... Well lucky us Katia caused us to GAIN a day. Although the cruise was still a 7 nighter, Capt. Panos rushed out of Bayonne for us to beat the storm & actually got to Bermuda a DAY EARLY! We were not supposed to get there until Tues afternoon, but instead got there Monday at 2pm. Just about EVERYONE got off the ship. I was back to having the MAIN POOL DECK to ourselves! Us and about another 10 people. It was nice to sit outside on the lip of the pool where only your rear is wet & your legs hang in the pool. You know the area, where all the kids are usually running around. This was the best part.

On our 2nd leg we had lots of "Celebrity Highlight Moments"
* When they upgraded our rooms unfortunately our new keys were wrong. My key read Select member & my husbands key read ELITE. This meant only he had access to Michaels Club before dinner & the Elite events. We quickly went to the guest svc desk & they referred me to Graham the Capt. Club rep. He looked through the records to see what happened & said that the Ship's engineer needed to see me. I wondered what did I do? Did I not recycle properly? He proceeded to invite us to the formal dinner where the ship's engineer will seat us at his table. It was a pleasant surprise, but we politely declines as we are not big into traditional formal dining & ditch right after dessert unless we are in a specialty. We thanked Graham & asked that he forward our invite to another deserving couple.
* The casino hostess Danielle spotted us easily in the casino! She called us out by name, invited us to participate in the Crew Slot Tournament & the Crew Poker Tournament. At the end of the cruise she gave us lots of freebie t-shirts, hats & such.
* Bumped into Capt. Panos again & he asked where the rest of us were? When he realized we were sailing B2B he asked about our cabin & sent us a bottle of wine along with a note that said... "Seems like you like the place. Enjoy your cruise!"
* Since we skipped out on the SHOW productions/musical reviews the first time around due to meal time conflicts we caught them this time. Run of the mill shows. I think this is the part of cruising where I simply am not enthused much anymore.

CRUISE CRITIC EVENT!!! -â€" For some reason, there was a scheduling snafu for the Connections Party. They sent out an invitation & then another the next day. I did not catch that there was a day change (Conflicted with the anniversary / honeymoon party.) I didn't catch the error & so I missed it. I was very prominent on the roll call boards, so people were wondering where I was???

Instead, I was able to meet the rest of the gang that was still participating in the SLOT PULL that I had organized and I still managed to make many friends. We made AWESOME friends on this cruise with our CC family! We just CRUSHED the other teams in trivia & kept on winning. (Sorry I was a trivia snob.)
* What else? Hmmmm. This time around we did more relaxing. That's how it should be!

Because of the high winds on this particular cruise we opted to do more activities on the island. Once we realized the winds were really only at the port we set out to do more exploring!!! Kings Wharf was so exposed to the wind. It is very deceiving!

Bermuda -â€" Day 1 The Bermuda Aquarium. The St. Georges Ferry was NOT running, so we took the ferry to Hamilton & then the bus to the aquarium. It was a nice aquarium with lots of things UP close. The sea lions were a foot away from you & the peacocks just walk around the property. They are doing lots of renovations, but still it was a very nice walk around the property with beautiful scenery along the water. Tortoises, monkeys, flamingos... The reef was beautiful.

Day 2 -- The CAVES. Once again took the Ferry to Hamilton & bus to the caves. The bus drops you off right across the original Swizzle Inn & Baileys Ice Cream Shop so it's a GREAT STOP! The grounds by the caves are stunning with gorgeous palm trees lined up like soldiers. You have the option of doing BOTH Crystal & Fantasy caves, but we did only Crystal. They both are about 80 or so steps down & you have to go back up them when you are done. Beautiful caves. Afterwards we had a cone at Bailey's & took the bus back to Hamilton. Afterwards we shopped around in Hamilton at some of the more promoted shops. We went to the "Pickled Onion" restaurant which is a local favorite. The menu was OK, nothing outrageously foreign on it. Looked like some Greek influences. BUT Their BERMUDA FISH CHOWDER was out of this WORLD. So hearty. I bought a bottle of Sherry pepper sauce from the souvenir shop & found a recipe in a local cookbook so I can try to make it at home. We also stopped at the Carole Holding shop. She is the "Martha Stewart" of Bermuda. Lots of crafty things. They had these wonderful bath soaps. I bought a set of 3 purple ones. Hyacinth. They had jasmine, hyacinth & oleander. You could buy a 3 bar assortment or 3 of the same scent bundled together for $20. After I bought them, the cashier was cutting plain inch ribbon from a spool (the kind you would put on a Christmas gift) & I asked her if I could have a small piece because I was going to split up the batch. She said, "That will be one dollar." I smiled & left to catch my ferry.

The SWIZZLE INN has TRIVIA on Thursday nights at 8 or 9 pm. We had met a couple that wanted company but we were soo exhausted and gross from walking around in the heat all day. That is something I DO want to do next time!

Day 3 -- SNORKEL BEACH. We had this wonderful beach right at the port & never took advantage of it till the last port day. I WISH I knew about it the week prior. It would have made life so much simpler for my parents. We paid $5 to enter each. $10 for an Adirondack chair. Now I know why people brought their own beach umbrellas & folding chairs from home!!!!! If all they were doing was staying local, then who cares about lugging beach items? The beach is protected by the fort walls so there was NO WIND! The water? Crystal clear & calm. Many people had ziplock bags of cheerios that they took from breakfast to feed the fish. There is no reason you need to rent snorkel gear here... The fish are IN FRONT OF YOU! Bring goggles from home & you are all set! There were tiny fish, yellow fish, bigger fish, neon fish. All sorts! If you leave the beach to go back to the ship they honor your entry upon your return. They had a bar there, and you could get food close by, but sooooo close to the ship. I heard many were disappointed by the snorkeling excursion & said they would have been so much happier at snorkel beach for $5.

We really wanted to head to Tobacco bay beach, but never got there. The ferry to St. Georges was not running & we did not want to stay on that bus for over an hour to get there. Plus after 6 days on those buses..... I was done. The best part of the buses were the school kids that came on board! The public buses are free school transportation for the kids, so naturally they all come on. And they WILL pack the bus. My husband had his back up against the door at one point! Just make sure you have something sturdy to hold on to. The island itself is very beautiful, lush & very well kept. I am happy that I got to see it but not so quick to rush back there again.

NOW THE LONG AWAITED COMPARISON Royal Caribbean vs. Celebrity? Please keep in mind that while docked in Bermuda EVERYTHING closes down on the ship. It's a Bermuda law thing...)

Celebrity is more tailored & refined. Wine tastings, seminars, classical music trio, acapella singers. The sad part about this is that after dinner, other than music playing in a venue there is not much going on. There were some club/dance events, but without the casino closed, the ship is very quiet after 11pm. If you are looking for the craziness of the Love & Marriage, Battle of the Sexes, Quest type late night gameshows you will not find that on Celebrity.

I have personally found that the responsiveness from the staff on Celebrity supercedes that of RCI. In general, from the bar server in the Waterfall to the wait staff, to ESPECIALLY the pursers desk, we WERE treated extremely well. Like CELEBRITIES! I felt as they were there for ME. I am not sure if this is because we were "dubbed" as Back to Back guests, but we were addressed by NAME by many. It was awesome!

My parents traveled with us only on the first leg. Mom, being blind/disabled found that her personal experience of the service on board was BETTER on RCI by FAR. The room stewards & wait staff especially!!! I think because we were a big group that she may have gotten a little lost in the sauce. I am surprised though. We had concierge class rooms & maybe it is just dependent on housekeeping's personalities. This is a DITTO for the wait staff. RCI was MUCH more attentive to Mom in the dining room. They would tap her shoulder & always announce if they were reaching in to put down a plate or take something away. They were absolutely AWESOME on the Explorer on our last sailing.

Entertainment & Activity wise -â€" The production shows are the same... I long to hear a great voice, but the material is very "been there done that" across the board. We prefer more of the variety shows, gauchos, acrobatics, etc. I miss not having the ice skating to break it up the song & dance. I also would have enjoyed an adult comic show. Long story short, the Cruise Compass on RCI has about 200 more items on it every day.

Cruise Critic Event -â€" RCI raffled off lots of fun prizes including champagne, snorkeling tour excursions, flash drives, spa credits, etc. On Celebrity... Some snacks & mingling. That's all. Disappointed.

Loyalty program coupons -â€" Celebrity coupons outweigh RCI by farrrrrrr! From what I understand the X loyalty coupons are the best across the industry. Free laundry, 20% off wine bottles, elite teas, internet packages.... Sure RCI is great once you get to be Diamond & above, but X is awesome!

The FOOOODDD -â€" Long story short. Everyone says that Celebrity food far supercedes those of any of the mainstream super lines. It was lovely to see new additions to the menu, but not "Oh my God, YUM!" Some favorites listed above. But overall very good. Haven't tried every line's food so can comment about that.

Overall... I am curious to see how the Summit Solisticization upgrades in January dry dock will be on the Summit. She DOES need it.

I We LOVED the fact that we did not have to hear announcements ALL DAY LONG in 7 different languages. We LOVED the fact that we found a 2nd line to cruise on that we are happy with. In fact we booked the Silhouette for March 2012 & cancelled our Explorer cruise. (Simply because they had an extra day on the itinerary, a NEW port for us AND she is a NEW ship. We have already been on the Explorer.) I can't wait to see how the NEW Celebrity ships are & what they offer! Especially since it will only be my dear husband & myself cruising in the cold winter!

We LOVED the fact that Celebrity offered a more relaxing atmosphere. It DID feel like vacation, an adult vacation. We LOVE RCI & we WILL cruise on RCI again too. There is lots always going on & it is more FUN! PLUS I still have to try the Oasis class.

They each have their place depending on what we feel like & who we are traveling with. The added bonus is that we are acknowledged as Elite in the Captains Club & that is wonderful. Depending on SHIP, PRICE & ITINERARY, that will help make our decision.


Published 11/03/11

Cabin review: 8062

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