This is our second (annual) Southern Caribbean cruise on the Summit. It did not disappoint in any way. In truth, my husband and I had almost decided to try something different because we just love good food while we were on vacation and the Summit (and RC) prior to the refurb just didn't deliver in that category. Good, for sure, but not excellent. What a nice surprise to discover that we were wrong!
We booked the new Aqua Class, sight unseen and a with a little trepidation that there were no reviews of that class of cabins. Again, nothing but raves for the room. It was just a touch smaller than our Concierge class cabin from last year, but the extra touches made up for it - the spa shower (which my husband loved) - the daily herbal teas, that changed with each day - the spa slippers and thick robes - the lemongrass scented bathroom products. There was plenty of storage for all of our stuff, even though we, again, brought twice what we needed! My one complaint with the room, and it is minor, is that the hairdryer is not good - it has plenty of power, but is one of those hotel types that you must hold the power button down to get it to work. I think it would be fine with short hair, but with thick longer hair, not so much.
I almost do not have the words to describe Blu. Fabulous - Incredible - Amazing - just to name a few. The food was uniformly excellent - not a single missed beat. I probably cleaned every plate I was given. The service was just as uniformly excellent. From the host (Martin) to the wait staff (Emmanuel, Enrique, Soobass, Olga - others whose names I cannot remember) to the bar and wine staff. We had the premium alcohol package, and our wine glasses were never empty nor were our water glasses. After just the first night, the staff knew that my husband wanted Pellegrino and I wanted Evian. Truly a fine dining experience.
We also tried Qsine one night - a similarly excellent experience. Follow the recommendations and guidelines of the waitstaff and you cannot go wrong. Again, our wine and water glasses never went empty!
The ports this trip were also fabulous. We revisited St. Croix for the first time since our honeymoon, and it has changed a lot. A snorkel excursion to Buck Island was fun and pretty, but we could definitely see the damage that Hurricane Hugo did to this once spectacular reef. It is still pretty, to be sure, but much of the coral is dead (one of our guides told us that Hugo picked up the reef and moved it twenty feet), but there are still many tropical fish and even a shark.
Dominica truly is the nature island of the Caribbean. We took a hiking trip with Levi Baron who is easily the most kind and knowledgeable guide we have ever had. About fifteen minutes into the trip, we had a flat tire (a product of nearly being run off the road by a construction truck - no fault of Levi's). Levi worked hard - very hard - for over an hour to repair the tire and get us back on our way. He apologized repeatedly for getting us back to the ship later (415 when all aboard time was 445) and offered to cut ten bucks off the price for our troubles (even though we had none - they were all his). A stand up guy all the way around. Next time in Dominica I will definitely go with Levi! Our favorite day of the trip.
Grenada was equally lovely. Clearly more developed than Dominica, but beautiful in a different way. We took the ship's excursion Shadowfax cruise. Our first stop was snorkeling at Molinere point - it was not the best day for this and the snorkeling was not great. However, the rest of the day was nothing short of fabulous. After three days of fairly strenuous activity, we opted for a more relaxing day. The sail to the beach was beautiful - the grilled lobster and fish stew was delicious - the wine was plentiful. On the way back Kimo made us some of his "special" rum punch with did, in fact, pack quite a punch. Most of the trip back to the port was under sail, which was also pretty cool.
St. Thomas was a repeat port for us, so we opted for some adventure. We rented a jeep to just explore the island on our own. Driving on St. Thomas must be an Olympic sport. Our car rental agent told us that the max speed on the island was 25 mph. Apparently, none of the local obeyed the rules. Once we got clear of the main town, it was less death defying, and the views were nothing short of breath-taking. We ended up at Maegan's bay - rented a couple of chairs - had a painkiller or two - gave ourselves time to sober up and went back to the ship. Maegan's bay was beautiful and uncrowded (we were the only ship in port). My husband took a nap or two under the shade while I swam in the beautiful, warm, clear water in the bay.
St. Kitts was our second port, but I saved this review until last because I want to be clear that while we enjoyed this excursion, it is only for the very, very fit. We hiked up a volcano - Mt. Liaminga. I read online that it was strenuous, but did not believe strenuous, because that word has been used to describe other excursions, like snorkeling at Buck Island or caving in Belize, as strenuous. So I didn't think it would be that strenuous. It was - and more. It was a two and a half hour climb (NOT hike) straight up the volcano - at times we were climbing tree roots as if they were a ladder. The guides were wonderful and kind, but there were five people who could not complete the climb (grateful, I was not one of them). The view at the top is spectacular - and the crater lake is gorgeous. But I would honestly not book this excursion again. I was sore for three days afterwards and almost could not complete my Mendenhall falls hike the next day in Dominica. On our way back to the ship, several of our shipmates commented that we appeared to have had more fun than they did that day - we were literally covered in mud - it was a rain forest after all and it did rain that afternoon. Again, it was an accomplishment - I am glad I did it, but much like the marathon I ran, I have no desire to do it again.
Overall, in comparing the Summit both pre and post refurb all I can say is "WOW"! It was almost like being on a different boat. And rather than plan to do something next year, we already made reservations to go back on the Summit again next year. Guess that will make it the Trifecta!