First, a little about us. This was my twelfth cruise with Celebrity, and my fourth on Summit. I was travelling with my partner, my seven year old son, my mother, and her husband- all of us have Elite status with Celebrity except my partner ... Read More
First, a little about us. This was my twelfth cruise with Celebrity, and my fourth on Summit. I was travelling with my partner, my seven year old son, my mother, and her husband- all of us have Elite status with Celebrity except my partner who is on his second sailing.
We chose the repo sailing because the airfare is much cheaper for us, and we like the Summit. We booked through a major agency that gave us the Classic drink package, $350 OBC, and prepaid gratuities for 2, on both cabins, and my son was given a classic non alcoholic package and 40 minutes of internet. My partner and I upgraded to the premium package.
We flew down a day in advance on Air Canada and stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Newark airport on points. They upgraded our family to an executive suite which was a fabulous way to start the trip. My son had his own little room with a pullout sofa to sleep on, and we had a private bedroom. They also include a hot breakfast in the morning.
We had some hiccups here. My son was booked into my mother's cabin since she goes to bed very early and that way my partner and I could go out in the evenings. I had checked my son in on my cabin's Express Pass since we were flying a day early and my mother and her husband were flying day of, and I didn't want there to be any issues. It was frustrating to find out that they got to the port about an hour ahead of us and they told her she had to wait for us to arrive to give us my son's Seapass. I spoke with a supervisor and she told me that my mother had been given incorrect information and they should have just left his Seapass at the desk for us to pick up when we arrived. It was a minor inconvenience but she was annoyed at having to wait for no reason.
Other than that, embarkation went quickly and we were on the ship by noon having lunch at the Oceanview.
We had booked two oceanview GTY cabins and my mother, her husband, and my son received cabin 3000, all the way forward. My partner and I were given cabin 3112, which is the first cabin in the area next to the conference room, midships.
It was SO quiet there, which we really enjoyed. We never heard doors slamming or even a peep from our neighbours the entire trip.
The room was kept clean and was well maintained with the only minor issue being that the ballast was old in our bathroom light, and it would occasionally flicker or turn itself off then back on.
We did have some issues with our stateroom attendant, which while relatively minor, were still a bit disappointing. I asked him to put a copy of the Fun Factory daily program in our cabin when he left the Celebrity Today, and it took three days and letting the Fun Factory know we still hadn't received it before we started to get it. We wanted to make plans about which segment of camp that my son would attend and to see when the family events were planned and this was made more difficult.
We also requested an egg crate mattress pad and the steward ignored the request. I don't know if they ran out or not, but he said yes of course and then it never materialized.
The night before the first port day, we are used to receiving beach towels in our stateroom. At 10pm when we hadn't gotten any I called Guest Relations to ask if there had been a change in policy about the beach towels and I was told that no, I should have received them. I said not to disturb the attendant now, that I'd get them myself in the morning, but I had just wanted to clarify the current policy. We did receive towels for the next port.
We had table 502 for five on deck 5 along the upstairs railing, which gave us a great view of the dining room.
We did encounter a serious issue in the dining room, unfortunately. Three of the people in our group have severe food allergies, and we had this noted on our original booking and contacted Special Needs before the cruise. In addition, we told the waiter on the first night about the allergies.
My partner ate a breadstick from the bread basket and had an allergic reaction to it which while fortunately was not too serious, still necessitated a visit to the medical facility and ruined the rest of his evening.
After this issue, the maitre d' came to our table every evening to help the people with allergies choose their meals for the following evening but not only did he continue to still mix up allergies (attributing one of my son's allergies to my partner), but no customization of meals to remove allergens was allowed. In the past, with 24 hours notice it has been no problem to have items modified to make them safe for our group to eat, but when we asked this time we were told it was not possible. And I'm not talking about very unusual allergies- my son is allergic to peanuts and peas, my partner is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, and my mother is allergic to almonds and pitted fruit. I don't think it would have been that difficult to have a salad made with no pistachio, for example, but we were told no by the maitre d'.
We also noticed a staffing cutback partway through the cruise- the bar servers were removed from our section. I saw our bar server at Cafe al Bacio later in the cruise and she said they were removing bar servers from the dining room at dinner, and to order drinks from the sommelier or the assistant waiter. I find that disappointing because it's already difficult to get a sommelier's attention given the number of tables they must serve, and the waiter and assistant waiter are so busy already. Again, a minor issue, but it doesn't give one a positive impression to keep seeing these cutbacks.
Our waiter did work very hard to try and keep my son happy, though, and aside from those issues we did enjoy our meals in the dining room. Food quality didn't seem any different from previous sailings and was still reasonably good, and it seemed much quicker to get an extra item than it had in the past. At one point my son asked for more shrimp cocktail in the middle of the meal and the waiter had it for him within 5 minutes.
My partner liked the design of the dining room on this class versus the S class because of the windows.
We also had breakfast here once so that my partner could get his eggs Benedict freshly made, and lunch a few times on sea days. We received good service and hot food, although no special requests could be made (I asked for cheddar cheese instead of blue on a Cobb salad and was told they could remove the blue cheese but not add anything else).
For those who care about the dress code, nothing was enforced even on chic night; we saw passengers wearing T shirts and other very casual attire. My son got lots of compliments on his tuxedo, though!
My partner and my son went to Sushi on Five twice for lunch and they both enjoyed it. My son was given a set of child's chopsticks to use which he got to keep, and he liked that. They tell me that the sushi was excellent and portion sizes were relatively good (I don't like sushi). For the two of them for lunch, it was in the $30-$40 range. The service was attentive and they enjoyed their meals. The restaurant wasn't very busy at either time- perhaps people found the pricing a bit steep?
We also ate at Tuscan Grill one night. Discounts weren't plentiful on this sailing- sea days were full price and 20% reduction on port days. When I went to make a reservation I had my son with me, and I said it would be for just our four adults and my son would go to the kids' club that night but the manager said we would be welcome to bring him and there would be no charge. I was very surprised by this and I asked if he would be eating off the Tuscan menu and they said yes. My son has eaten in nice restaurants before and I thought he'd be able to handle the dining experience, so we took them up on it and booked a table for five at 6pm.
I must admit that I don't care for the new menu as much as the old one, but that's a personal taste issue. I miss my lobster pappardelle! At least the crab cake (my son devoured it) and the calamari are still on the menu, and you can get the antipasti included again instead of paying extra. It's a rather smaller selection of items and didn't include all the previous things though. I am not sure if this is a benefit or not and I suppose it depends on the way you see it.
We did get excellent service and enjoyed our meals. The limoncello cheesecake was out of this world! They also served a complimentary glass of limoncello before dessert and brought my son some lemon soda.
We didn't visit Qsine on this sailing.
The T pools on the M class ships are awesome. It was actually a lot of fun when the ship was in rocky seas because the T pool was rocking, too! They closed the pools early on some days likely as a result of this.
I was surprised and pleased that children are allowed in the regular pool deck hot tubs when supervised. The temperature is more warm than hot, so it's not a safety issue. My son had a great time hot tubbing with us.
Oceanview Café/Poolside Grill:
As usual, we enjoyed the offerings at the poolside grill. Maybe it's just my memory, but the burger patties seemed thicker and larger than before. I did notice that there was no longer a daily special but what was there was yummy.
We had a few meals in the oceanview cafe, and it was a good place for a late night snack (open until 1am). I wasn't all that impressed with most of the hot entrees because I found by the time I brought them back to my table that they were cold. I did enjoy the fresh made to order meats at the back of the ship, and the fresh sandwich grill.
I noticed that afternoon tea has been cut back quite a bit as well. Maybe there has been a lot of food wastage? I remember on my last sailing they still had those little sandwiches and lots of selection and this cruise there were only two options. I also noticed that the scones were more like hockey pucks which was a little disappointing. Again, this isn't a major issue, but it was definitely something I enjoyed on previous sailings and missed it this time.
They had a daily offering in the evening over the dinner hour for a different type of cuisine made fresh in the buffet, and we did enjoy these when we had room for them! It was from 5:30-9:30pm and varied from Mexican to shawarma to kebabs to Japanese etc. Anything that was made fresh was delicious.
One thing I really miss about the S class ships is the Molecular Bar (now World Class). It's probably one of my favourite evening hangouts since it's so centrally located and I like the drinks. On this sailing, we wound up spending most of our time up at the Sunset bar on deck 11. We aren't martini drinkers so didn't want to go to the Martini Bar, and the Rendez-vous was generally quite loud with karaoke in the evenings so we had to find a new watering hole to relax at. There was live music some evenings at the Sunset bar which was nice and not too loud.
If you see Ketut there from Indonesia (or in the Rendez-vous), he is a fabulous bartender. I wish we'd met him before the last two days of the trip. He could even make a mocktail for my son into a work of art! He also gave us some great mixology information and showed us some neat tricks on keeping a drink balanced. We didn't even order specific drinks from him- he just started making us new and interesting things based on our preferences that he'd learned, and they were all different and fabulous.
We were a little surprised that there was no deck party this sailing. It's always fun to dance up on deck or to sit in the hot tub and listen to the music. There was live music in the evenings but sporadically. There was a piano player in the evenings at Cafe al Bacio, and there was a guitar player sometimes in the Rendez-vous. He and a singer also played at the Sunset bar some evenings.
We didn't go to any of the production shows. We did attend the late night comedy and it was funny and enjoyable- definitely worth going to.
There were two speakers onboard who did various enrichment lectures. My only thought is that not many people wanted to get up at 9:15am on a sea day to listen! We enjoyed the lecture about rum, though, since it was held a little later. Also, the talk at the Tuscan Grill about how to cook the perfect steak was interesting, except that no steak was cooked!
We didn't attend any trivia, but it was offered several days. My mother played Bingo but she didn't win. It's $59 to play now, which seems a little steep to me, but the lines were long so I assume this amount works for other people.
There were only 20 children on this sailing, but we weren't expecting many. It was lucky for my son that most of them were also in the 6-8 age range so there was a Cadets group. There were lots of activities that he enjoyed, including Family Bingo where he won a backpack and a water bottle. He also liked that he could have more time on the Xbox since there were fewer children. What he didn't enjoy was that the schedule was a bit less flexible this time- if he didn't like the scheduled programming, he wasn't allowed to do anything else. As a result, we checked the daily program in advance (when I finally received it!) to make sure the activities for each segment would be something he enjoyed. They held to the same schedule of 9-12, 2-5, and 7-10, with a 10-1 pajama party. My son only went to the morning segment and occasionally the afternoon; he preferred to eat with us in the dining room and not with the kids club. He went to bed too early to participate in the later night sessions.
I suspect he would have had a better time on one of the Royal Caribbean megaships with more children and more activities and things to do, but he certainly did well enough with Fun Factory.
The Studio had been added to Summit, which we hadn't noticed on our last sailing in 2013 (if it was there then). We didn't use it this time because of the cost, but we got great photos there on Eclipse last year.
This time we used our Elite discount coupon to get six photos for $100. The signage was a little misleading, though. It read that with all packages you get a CD and photo editing software, and they told us that was only if you elected to take digital prints instead of paper ones. While it's not really a big deal, I think if a sign says ALL packages, that they should honour this.
The other minor issue is that they sell packages for six photos, for ten photos, or unlimited. We wanted to purchase seven and they told us that the package is for six and the seventh would be at full cost ($29.95). Since their signage says to bring the photos you want and inquire about a package, that also felt a bit misleading because I assumed that meant they would work with you on pricing for the number of photos you wanted. We decided to purchase only six photos as a result.
We had a serious incident on this cruise and as a result got to know the security team better than we would have liked to. My son's Nintendo DS and bag of games was stolen from a tied shut and buckled canvas knapsack from the pool area partway through the cruise, and the theft was flagrant as the thief left behind the single game they didn't want! We reported the theft to Guest Relations and escalated by asking to see the Hotel Director.
We were taken to meet Matti, the security chief. We filled out paperwork and described the incident in detail, and then went up to deck 10 to point out the exact location where the bag had been and at what time, so they could check security tapes.
We were assured that they were taking the theft very seriously. We were not given any information about action taken or the person who took our items, but we weren't interested in anything but getting our items returned, honestly.
I posted about the incident here on Cruise Critic and I think the community helped because the Celebrity Cruises social media representative contacted Summit on our behalf (thanks so much!) and my son's items were recovered. We were so happy to receive a positive resolution because we were worried the Nintendo was gone forever. So a big thank you to Celebrity and to the Cruise Critic community for helping us end the cruise on a very positive note.
The medical staff were professional, courteous, and friendly. They took good care of my partner after his allergic reaction and responded quickly. He wasn't charged for this visit.
I am not sure if there was a large number of Elite members on this sailing, but we never really saw or spoke to the Captain's Club hostess. We did eat breakfast several mornings at the Tuscan Grill which was enjoyable, and the service was excellent. Although it's only a cold breakfast, there was a large selection of baked goods, fresh fruit, smoked salmon, cold cuts, and cheeses. If you do not have a drink package, there are complimentary beverages served as well. I had a Bellini with breakfast most days It's vacation, right?
Ports of Call:
We visited St Maarten and St Thomas en route from Cape Liberty to San Juan. Since we had my son with us, we went to the St Maarten zoo, which I would highly recommend if you have children. It's $10 for adults and $5 for children, and there were lots of interesting animals there that you can learn about and feed. The zoo recently got a new sponsor so it's been totally redone and looks great. (https://www.facebook.com/stmaartenzoo/)
We took a cab to Magen's Bay in St Thomas, which lives up to the hype. No need to book an excursion, it was $10pp each direction plus a $5pp entry fee. Make sure you have cash if you want to rent floating mats or lawn chairs or snorkel equipment- they also charge a refundable deposit for each item you rent so you need a lot of money up front.
Quick and easy. We had a very early flight (American had changed times) so we needed to get off the ship ASAP. Americans could walk off at 7am but international guests needed to wait until 8am for immigration agents to arrive. But even with the agricultural bag check we were sitting at our gate nearly 45 minutes early for our 10:35am flight. Smooth and easy way to end the cruise.
Many people have posted comments about maintenance issues. We looked, and in our opinion Summit looks pretty good for a 16 year old ship. There was only one serious issue that should be taken care of immediately and that was in the men's change room. The floor is a wooden grate and it was missing one of the supporting pieces. If something went wrong, a person could put their foot right through the flooring and potentially get injured. I would say that is maintenance that needs to be done immediately. Other than that, Summit looked to be in great shape and I'd happily sail her again if finances and time permitted.
Sailing with a child was much easier this time around since he could go to the kids' club and we had time to relax. Also, he didn't need to go to bed quite as early now that he was older, he could sit through a full meal in the dining room and behave and enjoy himself. It was much better than the sailings at 14 months or 4 years old.
While the cutbacks continue to be a bit of a disappointment, I still think that every line has cut back similarly, and since I enjoy the Celebrity product I will continue to sail with them until I feel that I'm not getting value for my money. I do wish they would bring back some of the touches that made their cruises really feel like a premium product, though.
I'd love to give this cruise 4 stars, but I have to deduct a point because the allergy issues could have been far worse, and I think Celebrity should handle that better. I am still thrilled at the recovery of my son's Nintendo system and games though- thank you so much, Celebrity! Read Less