With more than a decade under its belt, 2,158-passenger Summit -- which regularly sails the Caribbean in the winter and Bermuda in the summer -- would seem dated on paper. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
That's because the ship serves as a testing ground for Celebrity to pilot new dining programs and entertainment. No matter how many times you sail, Summit is bound to have something new, and the ship attracts a fair number of repeat passengers.
On our voyage, passengers were adjusting to a different style of service in the Oceanview Cafe, the ship's buffet. Instead of the usual "help yourself" format, diners pick up individual metal dishes containing pre-plated portions of frittata, French fries, enchiladas, etc. It's a controversial change from the typical "pile your plate" buffet, primarily because the trays the ship uses are a little too small to accommodate several dishes; in some cases, dishes were also on the cold side. But overall, we appreciated the advantages: Besides providing portion control and aiming to reduce the spread of gastrointestinal illnesses, the food itself looked more attractive -- and if you want more, you can always get up and get another serving.
Other changes: Celebrity's popular sea day buffet has been cut, but the line's ongoing relationship with the Bravo TV show Top Chef means that foodies can experience "Quickfire challenges" and a special Top Chef menu one night during the sailing. Michael's Club has been transformed into a haven for suite passengers and VIPs, where concierge service and complimentary drinks are offered 24-7. (Starting in 2015, suite guests will also have access to a dedicated area of the main dining room.) And Canyon Ranch has taken over the spa and fitness area; on our voyage, all-new gym equipment had just been installed, and the masseuses displayed extra expertise (although the prices are among the highest at sea).
As far as entertainment goes, Summit is sleepier than you'd expect for a ship that sails from Miami and New York; while the pool remained open until midnight, hot tubs close by 10 p.m. and most bars shut down at 1 a.m. Celebrity eschews Broadway name-brand shows in favor of live entertainment such as Sin City Comedy; with the exception of Tenors of Rock, we felt most of the performances didn't live up to the line's modern aspirations. New theme parties, such as Liquid, a "Frozen"-inspired white party, and Indulgence, a for-fee event billed as "Great Gatsby meets Moulin Rouge," don't quite hit the mark and feel more like manufactured entertainment than genuine fun. That being said, we found the Martini Bar almost always packed, appreciative crowds for live musicians in Rendezvous and Sunset Bar and passengers getting their groove on in Revelations.
Overall, Summit makes a satisfactory cruise experience, particularly for first-timers. If you're looking for a smaller-sized ship that keeps current with the latest Celebrity trends, you'll find Summit a good choice.
Celebrity has been marketing itself as "modern luxury," targeting professionals 35 and older who love food and wine, although the ship still attracts quite a few baby boomers. When the ship makes its Bermuda runs in the summer, the passenger base is primarily from New York, New Jersey and the East Coast, although we noticed a fair amount of Canadians. In general, Celebrity does not attract as many families; while our summer sailing had 400 children onboard, they were generally seen and not heard. This is also a crowd of low-key partiers -- in general, imbibing seemed responsible.
Most venues on Summit carry a "smart casual" dress code in the evenings, meaning women wear skirts and pants with a sweater or blouse, while men don pants with a sport shirt or sweater. T-shirts, shorts, flip flops, tank tops and pool wear are not allowed in any of the dining rooms at night, except the Oceanview Cafe.
Two "formal" nights are held per seven-night cruise. Only a handful of tuxes and gowns were spotted on our cruise; most men wore suits or sport coats, while women wore cocktail dresses, nicer sundresses or pants with a dressy top.
Automatic tips of $12 per person, per day, are added to passenger bills, with the amount increased to $12.50 per person, per day, in Concierge and Aqua Classes and $15.50 per person, per day, in suites. You can adjust these amounts through Guest Services or give more to your attendant directly. Drinks are assessed an automatic 15 percent service charge, as are spa services.