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Sail Date: June 2003
Ok, I admit it. I was really, really ready for this cruise, and had every intention of enjoying it. It should surprise no one, then that I did enjoy myself. What is surprising is the degree. I have been booking my clients on Celebrity ... Read More
Ok, I admit it. I was really, really ready for this cruise, and had every intention of enjoying it. It should surprise no one, then that I did enjoy myself. What is surprising is the degree. I have been booking my clients on Celebrity ships in Alaska all summer, so I decided that I just had to try my own wares. Everything I have heard about Celebrity was good, and I had done a ship inspection of Millennium in Ft. Lauderdale in April, so I was pretty sure of what to expect. I did want a suite, and was pleased to be able to pay to upgrade immediately on boarding to Sky Suite 6120. I couldn't talk my teens into the Celebrity Suite a few doors down which was also available, as they really wanted a balcony. I told some very nice folks about the Celebrity suite though, and they enjoyed it greatly. First thing, the butler, Jonathan was wonderful. He was sweet and non-intrusive, but managed to show up every time I needed him or Julio, the cabin steward, even when it was something as mundane as helping my son knot his tie correctly. The suite was not huge, but perfectly adequate for three adults, including a lanky 6 foot tall teen-aged boy and had a lovely deep bath-tub, plenty of storage and room for three deck chairs and a small table on the lanai. There was a bowl of fresh fruit and a full ice-bucket with a nice bottle of champagne waiting for us on the table. The fruit was replenished daily by Jonathan, along with all sorts of little goodies throughout the day. We really enjoyed the breakfast service in our suite, and used it every day of our cruise. Jonathan would quietly slip my coffee tray inside the door at 6, without waking the my teens, then arrive brightly with a 2 course serving of breakfast complete with white linen and flowers. In the afternoon, he would bring me my cup of tea and little cakes for everyone to enjoy on the balcony. Before dinner he would show up with canapes. While we were at dinner, he would turn down the wonderful deep feather beds, leave good-night cards and Italian chocolates on the pillows and lay out the special body pillow I ordered from the pillow concierge. He looked great in his tails, but I could easily imagine him rocking out with my son in a band---it turned out that he also played electric guitar, and he and my son spent time talking shop. Right around the corner was "Notes" the music library, where my son set up shop with his electric guitar and headphones, and spent much of the week. I used it quite a bit too, and we found that our taste for rock, alternative and metal was satisfied by the selections. We were able to save our playlists all week. I often got my headphones and settled down to listen before dressing for dinner. Dinner was just plain fun. Our fun-loving waiter Nyoman was from Bali, and loved to do magic tricks and challenge his tables to puzzles. We often stayed long after everyone else had left to watch Nyoman's tricks and listen to his stories of home. Alex, his young assistant waiter was from Latin America, and my client's daughter (who spoke fluent Spanish) and my daughter flirted shamelessly with him to everyone's giggles (and his blushes). The food was very good, varied and fresh. The best food we had on board, however, was in the specialty restaurant, the Normandie. It was well worth the surcharge. The meal took over three hours, and we were treated royally by a well-trained team of waiters. The spa was another high point of the trip for me. I discovered the Turkish gardens the first day, and bought a trip-long pass for myself and my daughter. We both used it at least once, sometimes twice each day. I especially liked the floral scented turkish bath and peppermint scented showers. We all enjoyed the thalassotherapy pool, and I discovered that I could have a light meal nearby...cold soup and fruit and vegie plates. One of the most outstanding things that I noticed was the efforts of every single staff member, from the guy I startled while climbing out of the engine casing to the officer grabbing a quick bite at the sushi bar to greet me with a smile and an enquiry as to how I was enjoying the cruise. Everyone seemed delighted to share stories of home and showed and honest interest in my children and myself. It really made us feel at home and among friends during our entire trip. The single sour note on the entire trip had nothing to do with Summit itself. I had signed us up for a number of shore excursions, and really had an uneven experience. The rock-climbing in Skagway, Seaplane flight in Ketchikan and sportfishing in Juneau were excellent. Otherwise the shore excursions varied from hokey to downright awful. We could have enjoyed, for instance, the white-water rafting in Valdez if not for the fact that the protective gear they gave us to wear stank so horribly of body odor that it was apparent that it had not been washed in recent memory. All of our clothes, including our jackets reeked afterwards, and could not be worn for the rest of the trip. The driver and guide was informative but unfriendly and on occasion downright rude, which surprised me as he was a local high school teacher. We do not blame this on Celebrity of course, but I do think they should keep tabs on the companies they book tours with. The only unpleasant part of the cruise was, predictably, leaving the warm cocoon of the ship. The concierge and guest relations had little information about services in Seward, and I felt let down, as no help was offered to help us get the information we needed. We were leaving on the evening train, and needed information on where we could leave our luggage. We were given an address which we were told was a place to pay to store the bags---it turned out that the train officials were glad to store our luggage free of charge, as well as keep our hand-carried items locked up in the office so we could get to them throughout the day. When we assembled in the theater to await our group's call to leave, CNN was playing loudly on the screen with scenes of the war and the stock market quotes I had not looked at all week. What a rough way to leave our little fantasy world! I would have much preferred them to show the week's ship video, leaving us with happy memories of our trip. My daughter commented that perhaps someone should tell them to practice "gentle release", just as a hand-fed wild animal is allowed to leave it's comfortable cage a little at a time. Those welcoming glasses of champagne on boarding sure would have helped my mood on leaving as well! All in all, not only do we give Summit and Celebrity high marks, we are already planning our next cruise on the Summit when she is in our home waters in May of next year. I told my kids that when I get old, they needn't put me in home, just set me up in my suite on the Summit, and I'll sail happily into the sunset! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2003
Summit 7/11/03 - Alaska Southbound (Seward to Vancouver) Age: 40 Occupation: Business Analyst Number of Prior Cruises: 4 Cruise Line: Celebrity Ship: GTS Summit Sailing Date: July 11, 2003 Itinerary (abbreviated): Seward, Hubbard ... Read More
Summit 7/11/03 - Alaska Southbound (Seward to Vancouver) Age: 40 Occupation: Business Analyst Number of Prior Cruises: 4 Cruise Line: Celebrity Ship: GTS Summit Sailing Date: July 11, 2003 Itinerary (abbreviated): Seward, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Ketchikan, Inside Passage, Vancouver Beware, this is a long review About Us For this trip, I left my wife and son at home and headed off into the Last Frontier with my father-in-law. I had never done this since being married, but my wife wasn't interested in going to Alaska - her loss - and my mother-in-law thinks she doesn't like cruises - something that is inconceivable to me! We didn't plan this trip in advance, but fell upon a price I thought I'd never see again in my lifetime for an Alaskan cruise ($700pp inside guarantee), and booked it only 3 weeks before departure. This was my father-in-law's first cruise and my 5th. Previously, I had sailed on Premier's "Atlantic" for a 4-night Bahamas cruise, a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise on Disney's "Magic," a 10-night Circle Caribbean on RCCL's Grandeur of the Seas, and a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise on RCCL's Enchantment of the Seas. About our Fellow Passengers On our cruise, the average age was about 55. The ship was full with almost 2000 passengers on board. As usual their was a wide range of age groups. There were about 30 children on board, another 20 teenagers, and a few some honeymooners. Everyone else was approaching mid-life crisis, soon to be retired or already retired. No loud partying - just the way we like it. If you like to relax on your vacation, Celebrity is for you. The Bad News I'll start off with the exciting (read "bad") news for this cruise. Then I'll leave that bit of trouble behind and give you the good news - because, despite the problems, we were in a beautiful place, the weather was terrific most of the time, and we had a great time! Please note that this information has been culled from various sources including my own experience, newspaper articles, web reports, and conversations with members of the Summit's deck crew. On 7/9/03, two days before our cruise's departure from Seward, the GTS Summit struck a rock below the water line in Yakutat Bay after visiting Hubbard Glacier. Although the collision was obvious to the crew and many of the passengers, we were told that some passengers did not even notice the event as it was occurring. At the next regularly scheduled stop at Valdez, divers were put over the side to inspect for damage. At that time, the divers noticed that the starboard prop had a "slice" in it. However, due to poor visibility, no other damage was evident and the Summit proceeded to its final port - Seward. During this leg of the voyage, the crew noticed that the water level in the starboard ballast tank was rising, indicating a possible breach. Upon arrival in Seward, divers performed a second inspection that resulted in the discovery of additional damage. There the divers found a 140-foot long crease along the hull - as if somebody drove their car along a post and it just put a dent all the way down the length of the side of the car. In the middle of this crease, the divers discovered a 10-foot long by 5-inch high hole through the hull of the ship that breached the starboard ballast tank. It was determined that the damage to the prop was not critical, and neither was the crease. However, it was obvious that the hole would need to be repaired before leaving Seward. The repair involved welding a temporary seal to the outside of the hole, then draining the ballast tank, and going into the ballast tank from the inside of the ship. Once inside the ballast tank, the repair crew fabricated a steal box that was welded to the inside of the hull over the hole, and finally, the entire box was filled with a marine compound to form a permanent seal. Once completed, both the Coast Guard and Lloyds approved the repair plan, and the ship was finally able to sail. The repair has been approved to be kept in place and monitored on a continuing basis until the next scheduled dry-dock for the Summit in 2005. What made this most frustrating for me personally was not the fact that the ship was damaged - hey, stuff happens - but rather the fact that complete information was not provided to the passengers, and worse, misinformation was given. For a company like Celebrity who is renowned for their service, I found this alarming. We did all our check-in (documentation, ticketing, proof of citizenship, cabin assignment, etc.) in Anchorage that morning. We were never told of a problem. Then, we spent several hours on the train to Seward (with a cruise rep on board) and were told nothing. We finally found out about the problem upon getting our room key in Seward. At that time we were handed a letter that started off "As you already know......." WRONG! The letter told only about the hole in the ballast tank, the fact that we would miss our port at Juneau and that Celebrity would be giving us a $300 per cabin credit, that there would be an open bar before dinner on Friday, that excursions were available for booking in Seward, and that the ship would depart Seward at 9:00pm on Saturday. We were never told about the crease or the damage to the prop. Most importantly, we were never told that this happened when the ship was under the command of a Marine Pilot, and not the Captain - it never occurred to many of the passengers that pilots are used for anything other than going in and out of ports. Next, was the issue of not reporting what was known when it was known. The captain had made periodic announcements throughout the day on Friday and Saturday stating that the repairs were moving along as expected. The only thing we noticed was that the language regarding our 9pm Saturday departure time was changing slightly as the day went along. First it was "confident." Later in the day it became "hopeful." Finally at 9:30pm on Saturday we were told that we would be leaving "sometime after midnight." On Sunday morning we awoke to a very familiar picture - Seward. During breakfast we were told that the repairs we taking longer than expected, that we would be missing our second port of call at Skagway, that we were again "hopeful" that we would be departing by 3:30pm, and that once we were under way, we would be advised of additional compensation. We were told that we could take a tender into town and that the last tender would be leaving at 3:00pm. With this in mind, we made our way to town to find a pharmacy. There we purchased a newspaper for the sole purpose of finding yesterday's baseball scores. It wasn't until we returned to the ship that we noticed that the Summit was on the cover of Sunday's Anchorage Daily News - top of the page no less. This is where we finally learned of the damage to the prop and the crease in the side of the ship. Most upsetting (from a customer service standpoint) was a quote from a Coast Guard officer that was made sometime on Saturday afternoon. The Coastguardsman was commenting on the cruise lines statements that the ship would be leaving on Saturday evening at 9pm: "But the Coast Guard was skeptical that the ship would leave so soon. 'I don't think that's possible Coast Guard Lt. Commander Jim Robertson said. They've got a lot of work to do.' Passengers apparently hadn't heard the official line." After reading that, we were just a bit peeved. We had been strung along with misinformation for at least a day. It appears that it had been obvious to everyone in the know that the ship would not be leaving on Saturday, yet Celebrity apparently kept that story alive until we woke up on Sunday morning. At 3:15pm on Sunday, we were told that the repairs we completed, that we were awaiting approval from the Coast Guard and Lloyds to sail, that we should be sailing by 6pm, and that there would be an open bar for the next hour. Mayhem instantly ensued at every bar on the ship. The sight of grown men and women fighting over six packs of beer was almost enough to make me wretch - and I do mean that they were walking away with a six pack in each hand. We finally left Seward at 6:30pm on Sunday. Shortly thereafter we were advised that Celebrity would be providing each passenger with a 50% off coupon for a future cruise as compensation for the delay - in addition to the previously announced $300 on-board credit per cabin. Now on to the good news! Flights and Embarkation For this cruise, we booked our own air and pre-cruise hotel using FQTV miles. We had non-stop flights on Continental from/to Newark, NJ. We arrived Anchorage at 8pm on Thursday, took a cab ($25 incl. tip) from the airport to the Anchorage Hilton. The next morning we got breakfast and walked the two blocks to Egan Center for check-in, arriving at 8:30am. We were one of the first passengers there. The check-in took us about 20 minutes. We were given a card that was to be exchanged for our room key in Seward. We were also told that we were being "upgraded" from a bus to the train departing at 12:30pm for Seward. We checked our bags there (trucked directly to the ship and delivered to our stateroom), and left our carry-on baggage with the attendants for retrieval prior to boarding the train. The concierge at Egan Center gave us information on what to do while we waited for the train. We ended up going to a Northern Lights slide show at the Arts Center across the street, walked down to the waterfront for a bit, and returned to Egan Center at 11:30am. Around 1:00pm, we were loaded onto a bus for a short trip to the train station. Each railroad car was set up with 4-person "booth-type" seating tables. We were seated with a very nice couple from northern Florida and had a great time with them. During the trip, light meals and beverages were offered and delivered right to our table by a crewmember. Simple snacks were also available in the bar car at the rear of the train. An on-board guide narrated portions of the trip and gave us advance notice of photo opportunities. The trip is about 4 ½ hours long - it may be frustrating for those eager to get to the ship. By contrast, the bus took only 3 ½ hours with an enroute stop. For the first 50 miles or so, the train parallels the highway used by the buses, and then turns inland away from the main road. The scenery was beautiful, sometimes spectacular. We were able to see large scenic sections of the Cook Inlet, a fly-in housing development with a grass runway in the backyards of the homes, a few eagles, sheep, moose, alpine glaciers, and lakes. Just before arrival in Seward, we were given additional forms to fill out - we don't why these were not given to us in Anchorage. Upon arrival at 5:30pm, we were ushered into the check-in building where we stood in line for another hour waiting to get our stateroom keys, get the now infamous letter announcing our late departure, go through security, and board the ship. We were in our stateroom at 6:30pm and our luggage was already there waiting for us. Upon boarding we were told that we had missed the first open seating for dinner and that we would have to wait till 8:30pm to eat - in Anchorage we had been told that tonight's dinner would be open seating from 6pm to 11pm and that we could go to the dining room any time we liked. Being that we had not eaten on the train, we went straight to the dining room anyway where we were immediately seated without question or comment along with several other people who had also just arrived from the train. Normally we play by the rules, but at that point in the evening we were tired, upset and hungry. We were frustrated that the "welcome party" advised us that we couldn't go to the dining room till 8:30, yet the dining room staff had no problem seating us right away. Overall the embarkation process could have gone better. Why we were told by Celebrity to be at Egan Center at 8am when no one departed for Seward until 1pm? Why did we have to check-in at Egan Center if we were made to stand in line again for an hour at Seward? Why the misinformation given to us in Anchorage about dinner that evening? This is a long tiring day, especially considering that people from the West Coast tend to fly into Anchorage that same morning, and Celebrity didn't make it any easier. This is an area that definitely needs improvement. Our Cabin We had booked this cruise at the last minute and had taken an inside guarantee. Previous to this cruise, I had always cruised outside with a verandah, so I didn't really know what to expect. Celebrity assigned us to a wheelchair accessible room on Deck 2 immediately adjacent to the forward stairs and lifts - cabin #2022. When we arrived we had to inform our Steward to separate the beds. Obviously our reservation request for beds apart had not been acted upon. The room was comfortable and about 50% larger than the standard staterooms. The bathroom was enormous by cruise ship standards. The room was decorated with veneer walls and furniture, had a mini-bar (you have to ask the Steward for the key), and a set of drawers in the closet along with the safe. Each bed had its own bedside table and lamp. Also included were a desk, chair, convertible loveseat/sofa bed, coffee table, interactive TV and VCR. Lighting in the stateroom was good. However, storage was inadequate - we basically lived out of our bags for the week. As I never got a chance to inspect a regular stateroom, I'll have to assume that the storage problem was unique to the wheelchair accessible room. Water pressure in the shower was rather poor also. On past cruises, I wanted to take the shower home with me, but not this one. Overall Level of Service With the exception of the way information about our delayed departure was handled, we felt that the service was exceptional! We were always greeted with a smile and a "good morning" by every crewmember we came into contact with. When we asked questions or advice from members of the crew we were always taken seriously and we never had the impression that the crewmember had given the same tired answer to hundreds of other people. If a photographer offered to take our picture or a bar waiter offered us a drink and we politely refused, they graciously left us alone. In the overall service category, on a scale of 1 to 10, I would give the crew a 9+. Overview of The Ship The Summit is a beautiful beast, and in almost spotless condition. The passenger to space ratio is excellent. Even though the ship was almost filled to capacity, we rarely encountered long lines. The layout is good and it is easy to find your way around. Every landing has directional signs and information about what is on each deck. The outdoor pool area is spacious although indigenous chair hogs took up many of the chairs - the outdoor pool was well used in Seward where the temperatures were in the 80s. The indoor pool (T-pool) was well used every day of the trip but never felt crowded. The exercise facility and spa looked great, although we never used them. And, the sauna's have picture windows! Food The Cosmopolitan dining room is on two levels. Dining assignments are found on a card in your stateroom upon boarding. The table numbering system is excellent with 400's on deck 4, 500's on deck 5, odd numbers on the port side and even numbers to starboard. When I travel with my wife, we prefer a table for two and we always had to stand in line at the Restaurant Manager's office to request it. On this cruise we requested a large table. Instead, my father-in-law and I were assigned a table for two - go figure. I felt that the food was excellent at every facility on the ship. The only exceptions were the scrambled eggs from the buffet line at breakfast - it's kind of hard to make good eggs when you're cooking 200 of them at once - and the first evening I got a cool prime rib. However, all meats I ordered were cooked exactly as requested. I had smoked salmon every morning, and shrimp cocktail every evening. The dinner menus varied and it is difficult not to find something to your liking. The presentation was excellent and our waiter answered any menu related questions we posed. Our assistant waiter remembered our drinks from the first day and he had them on the table before we arrived for dinner each night. Hint: even though they were not on the menu, shrimp cocktail is always available as an appetizer and New York Strip steak is always available as an entree. There is never a problem ordering multiple appetizers or entrees. If you want it, don't be afraid to ask for it. The breakfast and lunch menus in the Cosmopolitan dining room were very good although the breakfast menu never varied. The service during these meals was also very good. We did not eat at the Normandy Restaurant, but everyone we spoke to that had done so gave us rave reviews. They all said it was worth the $25pp cover charge. We ate at the casual dining area one evening. The menu was not as good as in the main dining room, but again, the food was delicious. On RCCL the casual dining was simply buffet style and not very good food. On the Summit, the casual dining is full service table seating. Our server there was very good. Important note: When we were done with dinner that evening, I handed our server our card to have the gratuity charged to our stateroom. He seemed surprised and I asked him if it was more appropriate to give cash instead. He replied that the card was fine - it was just that very few people actually tip in the casual dining areas as recommended by Celebrity. I guess that people think this is a cover charge that Celebrity keeps. Not true. This is a gratuity that goes directly to the server. Please note that most servers in the casual dining area during dinner hours are on their first contracts and almost never work in the main dining room during the length of that contract. These people work for $500 per month and never get to share in the tips given to the regular dining room staff. If you do eat in the casual dining area for dinner, please remember to tip your server. Several afternoons we ate at the Waterfall Grill on the pool deck. This is not RCCL's crappy pizza, burger, hotdogs and fries. Everything was really good, especially the pizza and hamburgers. On RCCL this area is an afterthought thrown in so people can grab a snack at odd hours and it really sucks. On Celebrity, this is a real dining venue - for fast food anyway. The breakfast and lunch buffets were excellent - far better than RCCL. One note, especially during lunch: I would suggest that prior to getting any food, you walk along the entire length of the buffet (and I mean all the way to the very back of the ship by the outdoor deck) and survey the offerings. The first time we ate lunch in the buffet area, we were finished with lunch, stuffed to the gills, and as we were walking out of the buffet we then found another serving station that we didn't even know was there. That day we missed out on carved ham, steamship round and the sautEed pasta station. BUMMER! The service in the buffet area is excellent. Trays are covered with linen. Servers will try to meet you at the end of the line to take your tray, escort you to an open table, and make sure you have something to drink. During breakfast I made a remark to my father-in-law about how I wished that they had cranberry juice in the buffet area. Evidently a waiter overheard me because two minutes later two glasses of cranberry juice appeared at our table. I asked the waiter where he found it - I thought I'd just hadn't seen it myself - and he told me that he went downstairs to get it for us. Now that's service! Entertainment I have never been on a cruise with better entertainment! I went to the show every evening. There were four Broadway-style shows. All of them were very good and appeared to be geared to all adult age groups. The cast of dancers and singers was larger than any previous cruise I had taken - 17 performers in all. The orchestra was awesome too! In addition to the regular cast, an acapella group and two Chinese acrobats were folded into the stage shows. In addition to the shows staged by the Celebrity Singers and Dancers, there were two headliner shows. The first of these was Craig Dahn, a concert pianist whom I'd seen previously on the Enchantment of the Seas. He is a very flamboyant guy and a little strange, but he is a very good pianist. However, the theme song to the movie "Titanic" didn't go over well with this group of passengers - go figure! The second headliner was Jeff Nease, an absolutely hilarious comedian who made good-hearted fun of everyone from the captain to members of the audience. The final night was a variety show with encore performances by the acapella group, the Chinese acrobats, Craig Dahn and Jeff Nease. I thought the stage entertainment was first rate! On-board entertainment included music acts at the pool and in several of the lounges. A quartet played each evening before and after dinner, and there was also a harp player and a piano player. There were two karaoke nights and although there were a few people that couldn't hold a tune to save their lives, many of the passengers were really talented. One woman was absolutely fabulous. As an encore, she did a duet with another gentleman who was equally as good. Casino The casino was quite large and had all the usual games of chance. I spent several evenings playing blackjack in the casino and actually managed to win all my money back by the end of the cruise. I even saw several people winning large jackpots at the slot machines - and that doesn't every day on a cruise ship. All the dealers were very friendly. Itinerary and Ports of Call Day 1 - Friday - Seward See Flights and Embarkation, above. Day 2 - Saturday - Seward A Princess Ship was in port at the main pier and overnight we had moved to the coal dock. Tender boats were now in use to/from Seward. After breakfast we went to the Excursions Desk and booked a 1:00pm Resurrection Bay Wildlife Cruise ($72.00pp) and then took a tender into town. The weather was perfect - not a cloud in the sky and temps in the mid-80s. Due to our delayed departure, Celebrity had arranged complimentary shuttles and free admission (normally $12pp) to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. It was a rather small facility (as compared to the major aquariums on the mainland's East Coast) but had quite a few interesting displays. There was a Harbor Seal tank, a Stellar Sea Lion tank, and a seabird tank (Puffins, Kittewakes, Murres, etc.) Tanks can be viewed from above the surface and below the surface. There was a hands on display for kids (and big kids) where they allow you to "pet" starfish, sand sharks, etc. This is a very interesting little place. Prior to our tour we stopped at a local waterfront eatery to get a bowl of clam chowder. Unfortunately I wasn't impressed by it - I've had much better in New England. Met our tour at the dock. The tour was run by Kenai Fjords Tours. This boats were large and in excellent condition. The tour was approx 3 hrs long. The boat takes you all the way down to the end of the bay. Along the way the captain will stop whenever an animal or group of animals is seen. On our tour we saw seals, otters, sea lions, puffins and murres, and a humpback whale. The whale put on a show for us - it was like we were at Disney! We got within a 200 feet of the whale. Immediately after the captain idled the engines, the whale breached! It continued for a total of 5 breaches! Then it showed us it tail flukes several times, and finally spent about 10 minutes slapping its pectoral fins on the water. The captain was amazed, the on-board biologist was amazed, and the passengers were in awe! We were told that a show like this is rarely seen here at this time of the year and that even in Hawaii we would have been very lucky to have seen that much so close up. Made the day stuck in Seward worth it. Returned to the ship around 4:30pm. Day 3 - Sunday - Seward Still moored to the coal dock and tenders in use. Went into town in the morning to go to a pharmacy as all the onboard shops were closed because we were in port. This is where we bought the infamous copy of the Anchorage Daily News. Returned to the ship and spent the afternoon in the pool, T-pool and hot tubs. Finally departed Seward at 6:30pm. Day 4 - Monday - At Sea (Hubbard Glacier) Weather was overcast, foggy and low 50s. Crewmembers advised us that as we got nearer to the glacier, the fog usually lifts. They also said that, believe it or not, the weather was perfect for viewing the glacier. Too much sun and you can't see the colors very well, plus the glare gives everyone headaches - even when wearing sunglasses. Because of our delayed departure we were at Hubbard Glacier on a different day than scheduled and earlier in the day than scheduled. In this regard we lucked out as we were the only ship in the bay that day and had plenty of time at the face of the glacier. We arrived Yakutat Bay area around 10am where an Alaskan Marine Pilot (we hoped not the same one as from the last cruise) and two Alaskan Native guides boarded. By 11am we had positioned ourselves on Deck 12 above the Revelations nightclub on the Observation Deck. The crew had removed all the chairs from this area for the day to allow room for the large crowds of people. They did leave all the small tables in place and people were using them to stand on to get their heads and cameras above the windscreen. We had guessed that this deck would be the best place for viewing. We guessed right! Get there early though. Once we were close to the glacier, it got very crowded. We saw several seals and sea lions sitting on small ice flows - they swam away as the ship approached. Entered Disenchantment Bay around 11:30am. There it was about 40 degrees with a light breeze. As predicted, the fog lifted, and a little bit of sun came out to enhance the colors of the glaciers. We able to get within ¾ of a mile of the glacier face, and spent almost 2 hours hovering there. The guides were on the PA system giving information about the native people and their legends about the bays and glaciers. The Captain slowly spun the boat around so everyone could get a good view. Words and pictures cannot adequately describe this place. I can only say that it is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. When the glacier calves it sounds like far off thunder. If you are patient, you'll see it calving too. If you are lucky enough to go to Hubbard Glacier on a cruise, bring a good camera with a long lens stabilizer, a good pair of binoculars, a warm jacket, hat gloves, and sunglasses. Pick your viewing spot carefully and early. The rest of the day was spent cruising offshore. Day 5 - Tuesday - Sitka Arrived Sitka at 7:00am in pea soup fog. At the sun warmed the air, the fog slowly lifted to reveal a naturally beautiful harbor area. There is no dock for large vessels in Sitka. All ships anchor in the harbor and use tenders. A Holland America ship was in port with us. We met our tour group (Russian American & Raptor Tour) in an on-board lounge and were then escorted to a reserved tender. As we were anchored at the far end of the harbor, the tender ride was almost 15 minutes long - plenty of time to check out the scenery. Our tour bus driver was a character and very informative. This tour includes a one hour stop at the Alaska Raptor Center where we were given an audience with a Bald Eagle named Volta for approx 10 minutes - The Eagle and his handler were sitting on a small stage not less than 10 feet from me. The handler gave an informative lecture about the bird and how he came to live at the Center. Then you are given some time to visit the gift shop, see the other bird pens outside, walk the nature trail and make phone calls. Next stop is the Sitka National Historic Park. It includes a small museum dedicated to the history of the battles fought between the local natives and the Russians in the early 1800s. Also on hand was a gentleman who was doing carvings. There is also a short nature trail that goes into the woods and the bus guide will point out a few things there. Not a terribly interesting stop, but that's just my opinion. Finally, this tour winds its way through town. The guide told us a few tales about the town and some of its key structures, and then dropped us off across the street from St. Michael's Cathedral - about a 5-minute walk back to the tender pier. We spent about 10 minutes there, did some window shopping (some nicer things can be had here but most prices are quite high) and then took the tender back to the ship. Day 6 - Wednesday - Ketchikan Arrived Ketchikan at 8:00am. Weather was in the low 60s with drizzle and rain all day. This is completely normal for Ketch. A nice day there is when the sky is overcast and it isn't raining. Although this was originally scheduled as a tendering port, we ended up at the dock - the Infinity was anchored in the harbor instead. There were two Princess ships at the dock. Later in the afternoon, one of these ships left port and the Infinity then weighed anchor and moved dockside. The tidal range in Ketch is huge - 30 feet or more. Because of this, the crew had to keep moving the gangway location. In the morning it was on deck 1. By late morning it was on deck 2, then on deck 3 by noontime, and finally moved to deck 4. Then the whole process reversed itself again later in the day. Our tour at Ketch was scheduled for 2pm so we spent most of the morning shopping, making phone calls and walking around. The shopping in Ketch is very good the prices for souvenirs are very reasonable. Tongass Trading Company is right at the pier. It is a large store with a very wide variety of items - they are a complete Alaskan outfitter. For this port we had selected the Totem Bite State Park & Town Tour. We met a rep on the pier and were pointed in the direction of our bus. We had a very informative driver/guide. She is a professional tour guide and has worked all over the world. The tour included a 20 minute narrated bus ride through town. Then, on to the park that is about 10 miles North of town. The tour guide provided umbrellas for the walking part of this tour. The forest trail into the park was jungle-like - Ketchikan is actually a rain forest. I thought the park was very interesting. There are several totems in the park and each one has its own story. There is also a Clan Lodge that was typical for the semi-nomadic natives many years ago. The building is big enough to house several families - although not in a style that we are accustomed to. No nails are used in its construction and the whole building can be dismantled and floated to a new location as needed. When the food supply fizzled, they just moved to a better location. The end of this tour was a 15-minute visit to the park's gift shop. Even if you don't buy anything, there are museum quality displays in the shop and sample of salmon and crackers were provided to each tourist. The tour ended with a trip directly back to the pier. Day 7 - Thursday - At Sea (Inside Passage) Weather was great. Highs in the mid-70s and sunny. Scenery is beautiful. Again, pictures and words will not do it justice so I won't go into much detail. I will tell you that as the day goes along and you get closer to Vancouver the scenery gets better. Much of the afternoon is spent going less than 10 knots. At points the passage is so narrow (with mountains shooting straight out of the water on both sides), that in order to make turns, the ship has to stop completely and thrusters are used to "swivel" the ship before continuing onward. Disembarkation (Vancouver) & Flight Home Best disembarkation process of any cruise I've been on! On past cruises we had been asked to get out of our rooms, find some place in a public area and then wait for our bad tag color to be called. This made for an absolute mob scene on the deck where the gangway is located. Even though people were told to stay clear of this area, no one ever seemed to pay attention. It always left a sour taste in my mouth and is a bad way to end a vacation. By contrast, Celebrity also uses colored tags, but combines them with numbers so that there are many more groups of people. Each group contains less than 100 people. When given your tags, you are also given a letter that tells you what public room to assemble in and what time to be there. Announcements are not made over the general PA system. Instead, announcements are only made in the room where that color is supposed to be assembled. This way, you don't have a ton of people hanging out in the gangway area waiting for their color to be called. They have to go to their assigned public room or they won't be able to hear their announcement. When your color is called, a member of the crew leads your group to the gangway. And because the groups are small, the waiting times are very short at each of the stations - immigrations, baggage, customs, etc. We were asked to meet in the theatre at 8:00am. Our color was called at 8:15am. We got off, went through immigration, got our bags, went through customs and went to the taxi line - all in less than 15 minutes. Dispatchers handle the taxi lines. The line was not long and we waited for less than 5 minutes to get a cab. We told our driver we were paying by credit card. Total cost including tip was $28CAD (about $20USD). We were at the airport at the check-in desk by 9am. Because we were so early, none of the lines were long. For those returning to the US, this is the procedure at the airport: You pre-clear US customs in Vancouver so you from that point on, it's like you're on a domestic flight. There is no curbside check-in. Porters are available, but if your luggage in not on rollers, I strongly suggest you rent a cart - you'll see why you need it in a moment. You check in at your airline's ticket counter where your luggage is tagged to its final destination and then given back to you to carry through the airport. Then you are ushered through the duty free shop - there is no option to avoid it. Once out of the duty free shop, you line up to pay the YVR airport improvement fee - $10CAD or $7 USD payable in cash or by credit card. Then, on to US immigration and customs where you fill out your US Customs declaration while waiting in line to see an immigration officer. Once past immigration, you hand your customs declaration to a customs officer - most people are just sent on their way at this point but some are asked to go into an inspection room for a formal interrogation and search of their luggage. After you clear customs you go through checked-baggage security where you are subject to a random search of your luggage. At this point you put your checked baggage on the conveyor belt. Then you take your carry-on baggage through a traditional magnetometer and x-ray security checkpoint. Finally, you are free to walk to your gate. We arrived at the gate two hours before our departure. Smoking lounges are provided in the gate areas. Typical airport vendors are also available in the gate area - food, newsstand, and souvenir shop. Our inbound aircraft was 20 minutes late arriving so our flight boarded and departed about 10 minutes late. Final Thoughts Even with all the problems in Seward, I'd do this trip again in a heartbeat. The scenery is spectacular. If you've never been to Alaska or the far Pacific Northwest, you need to go! The service on Celebrity was the best of any cruise I've taken. The food was a few notches better too. Although Celebrity is still a mass market carrier, they do a lot of little things that make you feel like you're part of a first class operation: Things like a welcome glass of champagne, personal assistance at the buffet, full service casual dining during dinner hours, robes in every stateroom, real terry cloth towels in the public restrooms, padded covers and throw blankets on all deckchairs (at the T-pool the deck chairs are teak and have lumbar pillows), abundant supply of towels by the pools (unlike RCCL where they give you two pool towels in your stateroom and have none on deck), no obnoxious announcements all day long for bingo, etc. All these small things add up to a very pleasant environment on the ship. Bon Voyage! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2003
7/11/03, the day we've been waiting for has finally arrived, we go to seward, alaska to day for the beginning of our cruise southward to vancouver. imagine our dismay when we check in and are handed a letter stating we will not be ... Read More
7/11/03, the day we've been waiting for has finally arrived, we go to seward, alaska to day for the beginning of our cruise southward to vancouver. imagine our dismay when we check in and are handed a letter stating we will not be leaving tonight due to the fact that they hit a rock coming out of hubbard glacier 2 days ago and divers are now working under the ship to repair the damage. damage control was on-- there would be a open bar this evening and each cabin would receive a $300 credit to spend on board. people were fairly understanding until the next night when we still did not sail and along with the cancellation of the port of juneau, we now learned that skagway would also be cancelled. luckily the weather cooperated! it was 85 degrees and the pool area resembled a Caribbean cruise, not alaska including marimba music. the bar was opened again for an hour prior to dinner. now people were becoming anxious, would we ever get to sail. met a man in the internet cafe who was working on a letter to celebrity management, possible class-action suit? the next day was sunday, i spent a great deal of it at the wonderful thalassotherapy pool in the aqua spa area. they have wonderfully designed loungers w/lumbar pillows, plaid blankets as well as large towels, and floor to ceiling windows, but people are beginning to complain about still looking at seward harbor. apricot sours were one of the drinks of the day and quite tasty. the bars were opened to free drinks once again at 3pm, music was wonderful at the pool, weather again was Caribbean- like, and many were getting a sunburn. quite a few missed the formal dinner that night, probably due to the open bar! we heard the engines rev during dinner and sail-away began. shortly thereafter the casino opened and the ship recouped most of the open bar money very quickly! my resolution was to spend very little time there, but of course resolutions are made to be broken and the next night i got my money back, winning a $250 jackpot on a jack in the beanstalk slot machine. fun, fun! mon, 7/14 up early to walk the jogging track on 11th deck. 3 times around is 5/8 mile. quite a few hardy souls were up there. foggy and cold, now people are wishing they were back in seward. stopped by the omelet station next for a cheese omelet. very difficult to remain on my dr. adkins diet with all the wonderful food around. 10 am we finally had a lifeboat drill, proof that we truly are sailing. we are on our way to hubbard glacier today. hope the fog clears so we can see. also some apprehension lingers about striking more ice or rocks. it did clear up and the glacier was indeed impressive. it even calved for us, sounded like thunder. the sun came out and the ice wall looked blue, what a sight! green pea soup was served in bread bowls and hot chocolate abounded. guess we are in alaska after all. at 4:30 an enrichment lecture was held, rivers of ice, i learned a lot about glaciers. that night a wonderful show was held in the celebrity theater. singers, dancers, and a pair of exquisite chinese acrobats performed. tuesday 7-15. we arrived in sitka at 7 am. so foggy you could barely see it, but by 9 when we exited the ship, the sun came out again. the amount of sunshine on this trip was incredible, it was as if god was trying to make up for the hole in the ship. by this time the front page of the anchorage daily news had circulated with the story of the "rock puts hole in cruise passengers' plans" www.adn.com 7/13/03. sitka is a beautiful little town. for $7 you can buy a shuttle ticket and get on and off all day at all the highlights. we headed for the raptor center where they rehabilitate injured birds. did you know a raptor is a bird who hangs on with his claws? medical treatment is sophisticated and many are able to return to the wild after retraining and flight training in a special room. those who are unable to fly again are made into educational trainers and either kept or sent to other areas for educational purposes. we next stopped at the totem park and museum which was quite interesting and was next to a very interesting trail into the rain forest. huckleberries, salmonberries, and blueberries abounded. good bear food, i didn't stay there long! had lunch at the shee-atica lodge. had a wonderful, sandwich, soup, and sampled alaskan beer which was quite good. rack of lamb in the dining room that night was wonderful, what has happened to my diet? wed, 7-16 ketchikan: a rainy day. natives here say this is their typical weather. decided to go see if we could go for a float plane ride to the misty fiords anyway. found an opening at taquan air. our bush pilot was ernie and it truly was a pleasurable flight. magnificent scenery and a landing in a quiet lake, sometimes bear are seen here, but we did not see any. salmon were jumping right out of the water however. the two men with us got out and stood on the floats, we were not that brave. after the flight, shopping was excellent right near the pier and i outdid myself. moose shirts for my grandchildren, a ring for me, alaskan fleece vests for my daughters, and an alaskan nativity scene with a rabbit fur to display it on. my views on hunting and trapping have changed since a trappers talk on the land portion of my trip. denali national park is an excellent example of a nearly perfect ecosystem and it has stayed that way for years and years with some help from the government. 7/17/03 last day of sailing was through the inside passage. again scenery was impressive and we sighted 2 humpback whales, some porpoises, and a sea otter. had dinner tonight in the normandie restaurant. you can step back in time as the ambience is of the first 1000 ft ocean liner. tableside preparation, a menu to die for, dozens of cheeses in the cheese course, and the chef michel roux's bite-size surprise dessert made it a 2 1/2 hour gastronomic experience. dr atkin's: see you on monday. all in all, despite the sad beginning, it was the experience of a lifetime. as i sit here playing a hobo jim cd and remembering sights, sounds, and quiet wildness, i know i want to go back! 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Sail Date: July 2003
Just returned from a 7 night cruise from Anchorage to Vancouver on the Summit. all i can say is "wow!". we were part of a large family gathering (18 people) ranging in age from 18 months to 85 years. i had some trepidation about ... Read More
Just returned from a 7 night cruise from Anchorage to Vancouver on the Summit. all i can say is "wow!". we were part of a large family gathering (18 people) ranging in age from 18 months to 85 years. i had some trepidation about taking our kids (including the baby) on this line, as i feared it might not be as "family friendly" as the other lines would be. i have cruised on carnival and rccl in the past and considered both a very good experience. when we first boarded the ship, we did the traditional "walk around" to explore. the first thing we noticed was the signs at the pools and on the playgrounds stating that no children in diapers (even swim diapers) were allowed in any of these areas. in my mind i was gearing up for a long week. however, from that point everything got surprisingly better. the itinerary was great, but what really surprised me was the service and attitude of the entire crew on board this ship. they were fantastic. from the housekeeper to the waiter even to the wine steward, everyone on board went out of their way to make us feel welcome and comfortable. our older kids found plenty to keep them happily occupied. my wife and i were treated like royalty. the shows were top caliber and family friendly (we found the carnival shows to be a bit risque for our kids to view). one night featured a comedian that had the audience roaring (and not a bit of profanity was used! - hadn't seen that in a while). the food was consistently excellent and served in a prompt and attractive fashion. even the children's menu changed nightly. we ate at the normandie one night (without the kids) and found that to be a delightful evening. we utilized in room baby sitting three evenings - that was both affordable and of high quality. in comparison to previous cruises, we found this ship to be very classy - not cutesy and not stuffy. we didn't find our bath towels folded into animal shapes when we returned to our rooms, and the waiters didn't perform card tricks tableside. however, we never got the raised eyebrow look of "why would you bring a child on board" either. i've always seen disney as being held up as the standard for excellent attention to customer service. i think celebrity should be added to the short list for other companies to model as well. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
I selected Celebrity because the reviews about its food and service were excellent, and that it delivers good value for the money. I enjoyed this cruise. It is one of the most relaxing vacations I've ever had because I didn't ... Read More
I selected Celebrity because the reviews about its food and service were excellent, and that it delivers good value for the money. I enjoyed this cruise. It is one of the most relaxing vacations I've ever had because I didn't have to re-pack for 14 nights and I didn't have to 'drive' anywhere. The only part of this vacation that caused stress was the lack of a place for kids under 3 to play. The Summit has a fantastic Fun Factory for children, but they don't allow kids under 3 to even enter, not even under a parent's supervision. My kid just wanted to sit comfortably on kid sized furniture and color. I was very disappointed that she couldn't go and play in the one place that was safe. Aside from Celebrity's lack of service in this area, we enjoyed the rest of the cruise. I was impressed by the: SERVICE: How genuinely friendly some of the waiters and waitresses were, especially at lunch time. The Internet cafe staff and computer class instructors were always courteous and helpful. We uploaded our digital photos onto the computers for free and had a lot of fun viewing our photos on the ship. We also copied them onto cds just to be safe and not take a chance of losing any of them. FOOD: The Afternoon Tea - the tea sandwich selection was amazing. Even restaurants in the Ritz do not offer such a selection. The Croissants are addictive. I had to have 2 every morning. And the chefs that cook your eggs to order were fantastic. Dinner: the cold soups are yummy. The escargots are scrumptious. The steak/filet mignon were inconsistent: I had one that was 'melt in my mouth' good, and then I had one that was overcooked. Lunch in the Restaurant was a lot better than the buffet lunch. The service was amazing, and again, they offer the cold soups. Ice Cream- homemade good. I wanted to try all of the different flavors. CLEANLINESS--The public rooms on the ship are spotless. ART--The art pieces are lovely, they add interest all over the ship. Other places of interest: Notes, Words, and the Atrium: The library is a nice touch, although I wish they had more fun 'beach reads'. Notes was fantastic. You could listen to all kinds of songs, would have been better if the room had a view!! The Atrium is very pretty with lovely flowers and plants. The free flower arranging class was worthwhile. PORTS - the selected ports were lots of fun. All were walking distance from the port, except Victoria, where we took a bus to the Butchart gardens. Instead of taking the Grayline bus, the more economic and flexible choice would have been renting a car. There was an agent at the port. The Grayline bus tour was fine, but first you had to pay $5 to take the bus to the Empress hotel, then you have to get in line to buy the ticket to go to Butchart Gardens, then you have to wait for the bus to arrive (the bus goes every hour). So, we spent a lot of time waiting in lines and waiting for the bus. ALASKA: HELICOPTER glacier landing - the most fun excursion we did in Alaska was the helicopter ride in Juneau, landing on a glacier. We went with Temsco because they were recommended and they also did not charge our 18 month old. Everyone at Temsco was super friendly. The helicopter ride itself was breathtaking. We took a lot of pictures. We brought a water bottle and took some glacier water, it was so fresh and crisp! The experience was fantastic. WHALE watching: it was ok. We saw some, but didn't get close at all, so the only pictures we had were of them from afar, spouting water. I was hoping to see them a lot closer up, and more of them. Another boat had a close encounter, so it's just luck. WHITEPASS Yukon River train excursion - it was very scenic, but it's questionable whether a 3+ hour train ride is worth $90. ENTERTAINMENT: The comedians were fantastic! The music provided by the various groups of musicians and DJ was memorable. It was so nice to have a cup of tea in the Cafe watching and listening to the 4 Sounds Quartet. The DJ played the most fun and appropriate music by the pool area, I love sitting there enjoying the scenery and the music. We also loved watching people dance to the guitar music and singing in the lounge. They really made a contribution to the overall cruise experience. Areas Celebrity could improve on: --Let kids under 3 have access to a room where they could hang out and play. --The coffee. A couple of times, it was really good, nice and strong. But, most of the time, it was weak or acidy. I couldn't figure out where the good coffee came from. --Room service. They claim that there is 24x7 room service, but when you want to order dinner using that day dinner menu, instead of the 'room service limited offerings', get ready to wait at least an hour for your food. For breakfast, you could only order what's on the breakfast menu. Even if you know what's 'available' at the buffet, you can't have it if it's not on the menu. This contradicts the 'bend over backwards to make you happy' message Celebrity tries to convey. --Tell the spa staff to stop trying to sell their products. It takes away from the 'de-stressing' treatments you just had. The treatments were really good. The specials they have on Port days were good. --Yoga. I paid $10 for a yoga class. The teacher was not experienced (she had to consult a book during the class). They should NOT charge extra if they did not hire an expert in that field to teach. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2004
THE SUMMIT We boarded at 11:30 Friday morning, June 11th,. Embarkation was quick, friendly and efficient. Posed for the Welcome Aboard picture and up the gangway we went. Service staff was available with a tray of champagne and OJ. We were ... Read More
THE SUMMIT We boarded at 11:30 Friday morning, June 11th,. Embarkation was quick, friendly and efficient. Posed for the Welcome Aboard picture and up the gangway we went. Service staff was available with a tray of champagne and OJ. We were handed an information sheet on what was open and told that our Sky Suite would be available after 1 pm. As we had had a late breakfast, we decided a tour of the ship was in order, and off we went to explore. The Stateroom We were in SS 6125, Penthouse Deck. The room was very well maintained, had a large bathroom, and extra room on the veranda due to location. Gene, our butler, appeared very shortly after our arriving in our room; our Cabin Attendant, Milford, showed up about an hour later. Both individuals were very friendly and quietly maintained the cabin throughout the cruise. Note to Celebrity: 1 bath towel, 1 hand towel and 1 wash cloth per person is a bit chintzy, don't you think? Women use 2 bath towels (1 for wrapping up their wet head and 1 for the ol' body). I know we can ask for more; but really, couldn't ample towels be provided from day one and then replaced as necessary? Also, it's time to replace some of the "suite" robes. Both of our robes showed wear; and one had a ripped pocket. It would also be nice if the cabin attendant would replace a robe that is obviously soiled (mine ended up with quite a bit of makeup on the front the 3rd day out). I put it in the tub with the wet towels thinking it would be replaced, but returned to find it had just been hung back up on the door. The Public Rooms: Overall, attractive and very well maintained. There was plenty of comfortable seating in the various bars; our 2 favorite hang-outs were the Martini Bar and Michael's Lounge. What we found "cheap", however, were the same plain peanuts and borderline stale breadsticks that were passed out each night with your drinks. Come on Celebrity! At least spring for the premium mixed nuts and maybe throw in some pretzels or "chex" mix. The Casino was a different issue, smoke-filled with only a very small designated non smoking space at one end with a few slot machines; if one wanted to play the tables you would have to sit in the middle of all the smoke. The Aqua Spa: Sheer indulgence, outstanding service -- what more need be said? Restrooms: What happened to cloth hand towels? Other than finding them in a restroom the first day, the only restroom I found for women that had hand towels - and not paper towels - was in the Aqua Spa. My husband, on the other hand, said that there were cloth towels in each of the men's restrooms he used. And as for hot, running water in the ladies rooms, it was virtually non existent in most of the public bathrooms I used. Restaurants & Food: Good selections in both main dining room, cafes and buffets. Variety of choices was good, with always a fish, poultry and beef selection at dinner. Top of the list - the chef's Coq o'Vin and roasted quail; fish selections were usually quite good, but tended to be fairly boring in presentation. The lobster is not particularly great (spongy and tasteless). Soups were also lacking in imagination and taste. The same consommE broth was recycled each night into a different "flavor", and the cream soups tasted more like the flour thickener instead of the asparagus, broccoli or cauliflower that was listed. Soup chef needs to pop up the flavor! Celebrity Staff Other than the Aqua Spa staff who provided 5 star service and attitude, both my husband and I felt that while service was efficient, there was no effort to go "above and beyond" what was expected. Bar staff, with the exception of one waiter, could not remember your name or what you were drinking (even though we showed up in the same place every night). On HAL, the bar staff "nailed" our names and drinks after one night. Our dining service was actually very good, with the exception of the Assistant Maitre'd assigned to our area. Our first encounter was on the 3rd night when he appeared at our table and introduced himself. He began asking how we were enjoying our cruise experience. We told him that we were finding Alaska a wonderful place. He then inquired as to the type of "experience" we were having on Summit. We replied that we found service to be adequate, but not stellar. We asked him if there was a lot of new staff onboard, thinking that this could be the "problem" as staff in several areas seemed unsure of what they should do and when. Mr. M'd stated "no" and said that Summit staff was exceptionally experienced. Obviously, our response was a bit troubling to him and from that night on he persisted in showing up at our table and going through lengthy discussions of how we were perceiving staff and service. No matter how we changed our answers to his inquiries (we got to the point that when he said hello, we immediately said "EVERYTHING IS GREAT!), he continued to ramble on and on. I actually hid behind a menu one night in hopes that he would pass us by -- he didn't. And lastly, but actually our first Staff encounter was with Jessica, the Social Hostess. She introduced herself while we checked in; and upon retiring the first night, we found an invitation to dine with the Chief Engineer the following evening, the first formal night. Only problem was, the invitation was for the early seating and we were "late shift." As such, I had already made appointments at the Aqua Spa that I really didn't want to cancel (my vacation, my stress relief time, my dining choice). First thing the next morning, we went to Guest Relations and offered our regrets to the invitation. We returned later to our stateroom and had a phone message from Ms. SH. I called her and again expressed our apologies and tried to explain, but she was not interested in a reason. She was extremely curt and dismissive in tone and hung up the phone after saying, "I got your message from Guest Relations." Ms. SH was also the person in charge of scheduling the Cruise Critic gathering. Once again, her timing was way off - she scheduled our party at 1:30 pm, exactly the time we were entering Hubbard Glacier (and all wanted to be out on deck). So, from a reserved group of 28, we had about 12 people show up, stay for 10 minutes and leave to go see the glacier. Lastly - The "Rules" Celebrity needs to decide whether or not to enforce their own rules: no jeans in the main dining room at dinner and no children in the Aqua Spa/T-Pool. Blue jeans appeared in the DR every night except the 2 formal nights; and children were in the T-pool every day. The spa staff would run the kids off when someone complained (I did one day), but unless someone said something, kids continued to be in the pool. Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that children are allowed to "eat" in the Spa Cafe, but not swim in the hot tub or pool. Maybe this whole, one area should be designated Adults Only? Perhaps since Alaska is a very casual environment, jeans should be allowed in the DR except on formal nights? Will we sail Celebrity again? It's likely, but not on Summit. There are many comments on this board supporting a great cruise experience on the other X ships. Chances are, we will give one of those ships a try next year. Overall Alaska experience? Phenomenal! Our comments on the Ports of Call are posted on the "Boards." Read Less
Sail Date: June 2004
Our 13 day Tour/Cruise Celebrity tour 15 Wow what a trip! Our first time to Alaska (and I hope not our last). We had the best time!! Day One - Our trip began at 7:50 am in Orlando FL. We had a long flight to Seattle with a 1.5 hour ... Read More
Our 13 day Tour/Cruise Celebrity tour 15 Wow what a trip! Our first time to Alaska (and I hope not our last). We had the best time!! Day One - Our trip began at 7:50 am in Orlando FL. We had a long flight to Seattle with a 1.5 hour lay over. When we finally arrived in Fairbanks it was 8:00 pm (12 midnight our time). It was 89 degrees, something we were not expecting. We were met at the airport by Celebrity's reps (very organized) and taken to the hotel, Sophie's Station. There we met our tour guide, Bryn, she went over everything that was planned for the week and gave us our room keys. We had a great room, "The Jacuzzi Suite". It was the best room we had all trip. By the time we went to bed we had been up 21 hrs. But wait it's still daylight out . . . Day Two - We met our tour guide by 7:50 am and off we went to the El Dorado Gold Mine. On the way we made a quick stop at the Alaskan Pipe Line. Very cool. Along the way she pointed out points of interest and Alaskan history, she did this throughout the trip. El Dorado Gold Mine was lots of fun, we had heard that it was a bit too touristy but what the heck we were tourists. Between my husband and I we panned $10 worth of gold which I had made into a pendant. Back to downtown Fairbanks for lunch and to tour the town on our own. In the afternoon we did the River Boat Discovery. It was a 3 hour narrated trip down the Chena and Tannana rivers. We stopped along the way at different spots, like Susan Butchers Iditorod dog camp. Very interesting. Also at an Athabascan Indian Village. Also, very cool. Back to Sophie's Station where the evening was free to do excursions on our own if we chose. A very long but good day. Day Three - On our way to Denali! We boarded the Wilderness Express at 8:00 am. What a beautiful train. The glass dome train cars gave us great views. We chose to have breakfast in the dining car, very reasonable. The next 4 hours we rode through some great landscape, we saw lots of birds and a moose, but we were riding too fast for a photo op. We arrived at Denali at 12 noon. We had two hours for lunch and to tour the town which wasn't very big by the way. At 2:00 pm we boarded a school bus (no other vehicles are allowed in certain parts of the park), to tour Denali National Park. It was an 8 hour ride. 4 hours in and 4 hours back. WOW! What a beautiful place, the landscape and the weather kept changing the farther we went it to the park. We saw lots of Dali Sheep, Caribou, but the highlight of the trip was a Grizzly Bear and her three cubs. Beautiful mountain ranges, but no Mt. McKinley, the weather was bad. We learned that only 25 % of the people that visit Alaska get to see the mountain. We got out of the park by 10:00 pm (still very light out). We stayed at the McKinley Village Lodge, it was beautifully set on the Nenna River, best night sleep up to this point. Day Four - We had the morning to do any number of excursions of our choice, we chose to take it easy and enjoy the ground and walk by the river. One thing Celebrity does is keep you going. Some of the people on our tour went rafting and they loved it. Back on the Wilderness Express by 12 noon. Had a great lunch in the dining car. Again the scenery to Talkeetna was beautiful. We arrived at the Talkeetna Alaskan lodge around 4:00 pm. One of my favorite places. The flowers on the lodges grounds were amazing. We were scheduled to do a helicopter ride and glacier landing around Mount McKinley, but the weather was bad so it was canceled. We took a hike around the lodge and then walked into town. The town is not very big but very quaint. The TV show Northern Exposure was set on this town. The lodge has this beautiful 45 foot stone fireplace which is where we ended another great day. Day Five - On the coach (don't ever call it a bus, it's not a bus it's a coach) by 11:00 am. We headed for Anchorage. Again the scenery is too beautiful to waste on a nap, and I did not want to miss anything. We made a quick stop at the Iditorod headquarters. We saw some puppies there which we got to pet, also for $5 you could take a very, very short ride on a dog sled (not really it was a ATV being pulled by the dogs) but it looked fun. Arrived in Anchorage around 2:00 pm. Again, we had time to explore the town before we got picked-up at 4:00 pm, to be dropped of at the Marriott. Very nice hotel in the middle of downtown overlooking Cook Inlet. Great view. We took a long walk (about 6 miles) on the Costal Trail, saw a fox, came real close to him to take a picture, and he just sat there, I was a bit shocked. Some other people told us they saw a moose on the trail but we never did see it. Anchorage is a very nice city but everything shuts down at 10:00 pm, coming from Orlando it's way too early for us. Day Six - We were back on the coach by 8:00 am. We did a tour of Anchorage for about 45 minutes. Then we visited the Alaskan Native Heritage Center. We learned about many native cultures that are around Alaska. I was not much into it but most people enjoyed it. Then came the drive to Gridwood to the Alyeska Prince Hotel. What a beautiful scenic ride along the inlet, down the Turnagain arm and the Chugach Mountains. We arrived at the Prince Hotel around 3:30 pm, at 4:00 pm, we were scheduled to do an excursion, kayaking in Prince William Sound. Sadly the weather at Whittier was bad so we had to cancel, luckily for us we were able to do it the next day. The hotel is a beautiful resort set at the bottom of the mountain with spectacular views. There is also a tram that went up the mountain, which we took up a couple of times. The views from up there were breathtaking. There was also a very nice restaurant up there, we didn't get to eat there but some of our tour companions did and loved it. We ended the evening at the one of the two fireplaces the resort had. Day Seven - We started the day in a rush, since we missed our kayaking trip the day before, we were able to do it this morning. A van from the tour company picked us up at the hotel and rushed us to Whittier. There is only one way in and out of Whittier and that's through the tunnel. Cars and the train share this tunnel, and if we had missed a certain time we would have missed the kayaking. But we made it. The kayaking was ok. We were expecting to see wildlife, but we didn't see anything but birds, plus it rained almost the whole time, but we had the experience. We would have liked to see more of Whittier, and we had the time, but since it was raining we decided to get back to the hotel. Back on the coach and on our way to Seward we stopped at Big Game Alaska Wildlife Center to get close up pictures of the wildlife we did not see in the wild. The drive from Gridwood to Seward was the most beautiful drive we had taken so far, we rode along the Six Mile River ( I think). We saw some bears on the side of the road. Very exciting! You could start to see changes in the landscape the further south we went. We stopped at a scenic spot so we could take pictures of the whole group, which by the way there were only 28 of us, very good number, everyone in the group was very nice. We made some good friends. We found a lady at the scenic spot to take our pictures, she took pictures with everyone's camera, her dog is in all the pictures. We also took pictures of our tour guide, Bryn and coach driver, Billy. Finally we were getting on the ship! Recaps on the Land Tour Coming from the East Coast not only was the time change was a bit rough on us, but the constant daylight was hard to adjust too also. The first couple of nights it was hard to stay up so late, but we were told it is better to do that so you can readjust your body to the time change. Tour guide--Bryn, (for those of you getting ready to take this tour) is the guide to get. She is young, fun and very knowledgeable about her homeland. She made the trip interesting and humorous. Billy, our coach driver, had great timing, he also had great tunes on the coach. He and Bryn work well together. Food--We were on our own for food for the first seven days of the tour. Be ready to spend a lot of money. Food is very expensive, and we knew that going in, so we took lots of trail mix and protein bars so we could snack on. The best thing was the water. Coming from Florida where we have to buy water, it was the best tap water we've ever had. Celebrity--The whole trip was very organized and very well planned. We were as busy or as laid back as we wanted to be. Lots of options for tour excursions on the land tour, more than I expected. The hotels that were chosen were great, we never had a bad experience with any of the rooms that we stayed in. One thing I loved about the hotels we stayed at was the they are very much into the environment, if you wanted to reuse your towel, all you had to do was hang it up. It saves water. The only thing we did not enjoy about the land tour was packing and unpacking every day. Every morning our bags had to be out either by 6:00 am or 9:00 am depending on what time we left that town. But it was unavoidable. I would do this tour again if Celebrity had someone packing and unpacking my bags everyday (LOL). Alaska Interior--It was the most beautiful and spectacular place that I have ever seen. The flora is incredible, I must have taken a picture of every flower I saw between Fairbanks and Seward, but what the heck it's only film (no digital pictures for me). After all we packed 56 rolls of film. I hope we get to go back soon, there is lots of things and places we didn't get to do and see due to the time schedule, but we will return, (when we get the kid of to college) maybe in an RV. We went to Alaska with an opened mind, spent a lot of time reading this board, and everybody had only good things to say about it. We also knew that due to the weather we might not get to do and see certain things, so when we didn't, we weren't too disappointed, and going in with that attitude helped us have a great time. Now onto the cruise. Day Seven - Before we got off the coach our tour guide gave us our pre-registered package, which included our room keys. We boarded the ship around 4:00 pm. Since we where pre-registered all we did was go thru security. We had our picture taken (smile) and we were on board. Once on board we got our champagne and we were escorted to our room (we've cruise before, and never have we been escorted to our room). I'm liking this. Our luggage was in our room already (very impressive). Peter, our room attendant was there to great us and to go over things with us, he was great throughout the trip. We were very hungry because we had missed lunch, so we headed to the dining room, which started serving at 4:00 pm. Great dinner. Back to the room to unpack. After packing and unpacking for the last 6 days it was nice to know our bags weren't going any where for the next 7 days. We did a small tour of the ship, and retired early. After all tomorrow is another day! Day Eight - We finally get to sleep in. Yeah! We got to relax a bit this morning. At 11:00 am we were invited to an Anniversary, Newlywed Party. (Did I mention that it was our 25th wedding anniversary?). It was a nice gathering with champagne and wedding cake, they also had a photographer there to take our picture, it was short and very nice. Also at 1:30 pm, Celebrity scheduled our Cruise Critic get-together, bad timing, we were just about to get to Hubbard Glacier and everyone was anxious to get on deck, unfortunately we did not get to spend enough time with the group. Hubbard Glacier! What a spectacular show. We had a front row seat, we had a verandah room, but we also went up to the top deck to get the feel of the whole experience. The waiters came around with some hot pea soup in a bread bowl. Very cute. They also, were selling hot chocolate in a mug. The hot chocolate was very good, it was dark chocolate. Tonight was the first of two formal nights. Every one looked great, except I was expecting people to dress-up a bit more than I saw, still very nice. Tomorrow onto Juneau. Day Nine - Juneau, the weather was overcast this day, but still very pleasant. We went up the Mt. Roberts Tram for a quick peak at Juneau from above, great view. Came back down and took a bus (five dollars each way) to the Mendenhall Glacier. It was beautiful, and by the time we got there the weather was very nice. We took a short hike to the water fall and got as close as we could get to the glacier. Back to town for some shopping and a stop at the Red Dog Saloon. We did the evening Whale Quest (through Celebrity). We were taken to Auke Bay, about 20 minutes out of town, where we got on a powered catamaran, very cool. We had a very nice buffet set up for us, something we were not expecting. It was beautiful, we saw lots of Humpback whales and a few seals, something we didn't get to see too many of. There was a naturalist onboard which made it even better. We had a wonderful time. Juneau was a nice port, would like to visit there with more time. Day 10 - Skagway, first thing we did was get on board the White Pass Scenic Railway. Three hours of nothing but beautiful scenery. Everyone kept telling us to sit on the left side of the train, but it didn't matter because we booked thru Celebrity and the first three cars were reserved for Celebrity passengers and on our car there was hardly anyone in it. It was great, I spent most of the time on the observation deck taking pictures. Bring gloves because as you get closer and closer to the summit it gets colder and colder. Skagway is a very busy port, the day we were there their was three ships in port. It was wall to wall people which is not my favorite thing. We went in the Red Onion Saloon. My husband had his picture taken with the Girls. I felt like I was back in the times of Deadwood (a show on HBO). Not enough. time to do everything we wanted to do so we will have to go back, oh well. Day 11 - Icy Strait Point, I think this new port was my favorite of all the ports. It's unspoiled by all the commercial stuff of the bigger ports (did I mentioned that I hate shopping?). It's a simple and beautiful place. We had to take a tender into port, which wasn't as bad as other tenders that I've taken. While we walked along the beach we saw a whale swim by, we heard it before we saw it which was very exciting. The trails there are not to be missed, they are incredible, so take the time to do at least a short walk through the woods. We walked about a mile and a half in to town, saw tons of eagles. It was great, you really get the feel of the people in the town. For you shoppers there are some stores very nicely done in a fishing village setting very quaint. By far the most true Alaska we had seen since we left the interior. Don't miss it. We left Icy Strait at 4:00 pm, this was the second formal evening. Very nice evening, the dining room staff did the a Baked Alaska Parade. Onto the next port. Day 12 -Ketchikan, we got off the ship very early this morning, we were going to see the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show at 9:30 am. We had a blast! At first I did not want to do this show, but my husband said it would be fun, sure enough he was right, it's a family oriented show and the audience gets very involved in it, great show. In the afternoon we went snorkeling, yes you read right, my husband once again talked me into doing this great excursion. I've never worn a wet suite before, I had some experience getting into that wet suit, (I'm a bit phobic). It was beautiful, we got to see lots of star fish, sea urchins and something I never heard off, sea cucumbers. It was a guided tour and they were great, I highly recommend doing it, (by the way it was booked thru the ship). We toured the town for a bit and did some shopping against my will. Day 13 - Inside Passage, we had breakfast in the room and sat on the veranda for most of the morning. The Inside Passage is a very beautiful and picturesque sail. We did all our packing early, so we could enjoy the rest of the day and evening without worrying about the nasty task. It was 89 degrees on this day, lots of people by the pools, no hot chocolate man today, only Pina Coladas. By the way I forgot to mention that every time you came back to the ship from a port there was a crew member with a hot chocolate table, a very nice touch, specially on those days that were cold or rainy. The evening dinner was spent saying good-byes and exchanging e-mail addresses of those we met along the way. Until next trip. Recap The Ship - The smallest ship we have been on, it was the perfect size. It took us a while to find our way around (me longer of course) but over all it's a beautiful ship with lots of great amenities. We were very happy with all of the service that we got on the ship, from all the food staff to our room attendants. We were very happy with our room attendant and the service that he provided for us, we were kind of messy at times. All the crew members that we encountered were very friendly and courteous. The Food - Excellent, everything from the main dinning room to the pasta bar and all the other buffets it was all very good. We especially enjoy the pizza and burger bar, many days we came back to the ship after lunch and enjoyed having those yummy turkey burgers. Oh, and my husband loved having ice cream twice a day. Alaska is a beautiful and great place to visit. We are glad that we did the land tour before the cruise, because you get to see the true Alaska. The cruise was great doing it on the last week, it gave us a chance to recuperate from a very active week. Take lots of film, I shot 38 rolls of film, hopefully in the next couple of weeks I'll have the pictures ready to post. Overall we had a wonderful trip, everything that we expected, and more. We had great weather, everything from rain, sunshine, cold and hot, everything you could experience. We met great people that were traveling with us. Celebrity treated us like celebrities. We would sail with them again in the future. You ask three people about the same trip and most of the time you 're going to get three different opinions. It's what you make of it that counts, for us, on this special occasion, it was the best. We thank God for all the blessings in our lives. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
My husband and I traveled with our 2 year old daughter in our room, with his parents across the hall. The staff was very accomodating with our needs, even bringing us a second crib choice. We used the onboard babysitting while the baby ... Read More
My husband and I traveled with our 2 year old daughter in our room, with his parents across the hall. The staff was very accomodating with our needs, even bringing us a second crib choice. We used the onboard babysitting while the baby slept and we went to late seating. It worked out so well. The wait staff was extremely attentive and helpful during meals and the food was outstanding. I highly recommend the 191 square foot or larger suite if traveling with a young child, the extra space was necessary. Overall food experience was outstanding, we learned to rely on our waiter's top picks for both entree and desert. The spa was exceptional and the therapy pools were quiet and a childless haven when the baby was with grandma. My sister brought her 5 year old son and he could not wait to go to the Fun Factory every day, very high reviews there. After the cruise the baby went home with grandma and we went on the land tour (tour 17). The most amazing thing was the organized departure from the boat and lack of baggage handing by us. We did the land tour and never handled our luggage except for putting them out our hotel door at a specified time. We saw other tour groups (not Celebrity) handling their own bags. Compared to other cruise lines, we found the clientele more sophisticated and savvy. We found the staff on the ship to be extremely professional and friendly. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
I would like to return the favor to the many Cruise Critic members who helped me to decide which cruise to take. I am sure glad that I did take the advice, and would encourage everyone considering a cruise to do your research and find the ... Read More
I would like to return the favor to the many Cruise Critic members who helped me to decide which cruise to take. I am sure glad that I did take the advice, and would encourage everyone considering a cruise to do your research and find the ship that meets your needs. My wife and I were celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary and decided to take a first trip without the kids. Alaska was the chosen destination, so I set about doing the research. Summit was highly recommended due to its level of service, and everything written was true. We found very little lacking, and have lots of good things to say about our experience. Even the most mundane things about a cruise can turn out to be fun, if you let them. We met a couple at the Lifeboat drill and made fast friends with them. Another cruiser got us all laughing when she coined a nickname for herself as "Sponge Barb- Square Boobs" in reference to her fashion statement in the life jacket. We found the food to be well above average. We eat out frequently, and the food was at the top end of the restaurants that we frequent. There was a selection of Fish, Poultry, Pasta, Beef and Variety at every dinner, so everyone could find something good to eat. The only disappointing dinner I had was a fancy version of a pork chop that was a bit on the dry side. We had hoped to be able to order Lobster more often, but it was offered only on the formal night. The chilled fruit soups that I had read about were just as good as advertised! The salads were terrific, and the main courses with the one exception were excellent. I am not much of a "fancy" sweet eater, but my wife certainly enjoyed the desserts (plural). The service was very good. Christian (from Chile) was our Waiter, and Serkan (from Turkey) was the Asst. Waiter. We found them to be a good blend. Christian was obviously formally trained and very efficient, but Serkan provided the comedy and made for great conversation night after night. The meals were served in a timely manner, and the presentation was terrific. The entertainment was inconsistent. The Celebrity Singers and Dancers were well beyond the "high school cabaret" that I have seen written up here before. There were some very strong voices amongst the singers, and the dancers were obviously well trained. The Impersonator, Paul Boland, that was on the ship was very good, and had the audience participation that a good entertainer can get. The comic (name forgotten) was using cast off jokes from Henny Youngman and we almost got up and walked out. The only saving grace was that he kept the show clean. I attended a couple of the lectures, and wasn't too excited about them. I am a big US history fan, and was excited to attend a lecture about US presidents but the Political Science Professor giving the lecture frankly wasn't very well prepared. The Naturalist that gave a talk about the wildlife wasn't a very good speaker, and we didn't bother attending a 2nd one of his lectures. Simon Weir, the Cruise Director, was everything he was billed to be. I didn't have that much energy when I was 10 years old and had eaten 5 chocolate bars and drank two Cokes. He was always on the top of his game! The room that we had was about what we expected. Our attendant- Edwin- always had it prepared whenever we returned to the room. There was a glass coffee table that we really didn't want to be tripping over, so he simply moved it out on to the balcony where it fit perfectly. The only concern we had, and we can't prove anything, is that my wife had put some earrings in the safe in the room. When we returned to the room they were pinned to a note on the desk saying that they had been found on the floor. Nothing missing, but my wife is a very organized person and is convinced that someone went in to the safe and then returned the earrings in order to get a bigger tip......Just too much of a coincidence since the backings of the earrings were locked up......and what are the chances to dropping two earrings? The ship itself was gorgeous. We met for drinks with our new friends each night in the Rendezvous Lounge before dinner. By midweek the waitress knew us by name, and knew what we would be drinking without being prompted. Since we are not big drinkers that truly was the first time I felt like Norm going into Cheers! We didn't get involved in any of the social events so I can't speak to those, and we mainly booked our own shore excursions as per the recommendations I got from Cruise Critics' Ports of Call bulletin board rather than booking through the ship. We thoroughly enjoyed Ketchikan, Icy Straits Point and especially Skagway. Juneau was somewhat disappointing- except for a bus tour out to Mendenhall Glacier on the MGT tour bus that was driven by a local gal (Kathleen) that gave us lots of good insights. Mendenhall Glacier was part of that tour, and it was awe inspiring. However I wasn't inspired enough to join the kids who went swimming in the lake from the runoff! Talk about a Kodak moment. Ketchikan was visited on the 4th of July, so many of the shops were closing for the big parade that afternoon. Celebrity even entered a float in the parade, and boy were the crew members having fun on that one. We took a flightseeing tour (independently) through Southeast Aviation and felt that it was a great deal.....especially when using the 2 for 1 coupon in the Toursaver book. We then sat up on our balcony and watched the parade go by on the main street of the town. Shops closed down early- but that is the spirit of a small town and we loved that touch. We also found that the prices in Ketchikan were the best of all the stops on the cruise....but didn't buy enough stuff there and ended up paying more later. The White Pass and Yukon Railroad in Skagway was my favorite shore excursion- and yes it does make a difference to sit on the left side of the train on the way up the mountain! What beautiful views, and lots of history involved. Be sure to take a camera along. The Red Onion (or was it Dog?) Saloon was very cute. They offered tours of the old brothel upstairs with the waitresses all dressed up as "Sporting Women" for the bargain price of $5 for 15 minutes- the same as in 1898. Icy Straits Point is a new stop for Celebrity. The locals there are very enthusiastic about having the tourists, and at the same time are keeping the island from just being a tourist trap. We took a long walk through a spruce forest and along the tidal pools along the beach and then took a shuttle bus into town. If you are into seeing bald eagles- this was the best spot we found in the harbor in the town of Hoonah near the fishing boats. Icy Straits Point is a beautiful area and unspoiled by the commercialism that you see at so many other ports. (Diamonds International hasn't arrived) We also enjoyed Seward after finishing the cruise. The Kenai Fjords tour through Alaska Heritage Tours was excellent. We say plenty of wildlife on our 8 hour excursion that included dinner at Fox Island. The only thing we were somewhat surprised by was the constant hawking of shopping bargains that were set up by Celebrity. They even had a designated "shopping guru" that gave seminars and obviously was getting a kickback from the local stores for pointing cruisers their way. You had to walk through 4 blocks of tourist traps in Juneau before you could see anything else. All in all we were very pleased with our first cruise, and will return to cruising again in the future. Can't say it is the only way to travel, but Celebrity and the Summit certainly earned future business from us. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
We did the Summit Alaska gulf cruise 7/04 and can only sum it up in one word - Wow! We've taken 4 other cruises but this was our first to Alaska and our first on Celebrity. The sum of the parts were greater than the whole, and since ... Read More
We did the Summit Alaska gulf cruise 7/04 and can only sum it up in one word - Wow! We've taken 4 other cruises but this was our first to Alaska and our first on Celebrity. The sum of the parts were greater than the whole, and since the parts were all excellent, the whole was inevitably grand. On embarkation in Seward, we were greeted in the 'grand foyer' by dozens of suited attendants offering trays of champagne and mimosas as one personally escorted us to our cabin, an inside cabin which was sufficient in space and amenities- much preferable to wandering down neverending corridors trying to find our cabin. This personal touch set the stage for our entire week on the Summit. With 1900 passengers and over 900 staff members, your every need is met with anticipation by a nearby attendant. The vistas were a constant unfolding of nature's grandeur as we visited the quaint ports of call. We admired the array of original artwork onboard in the public areas; the meals and service were outstanding. We particularly enjoyed the (included) room service, starting each day with coffee and croissants in bed. Our 11-year old loved the kid's program, giving us some much-needed time alone and keeping her entertained. We liked the age bracket for her group; there were 55 kids in her group age 10-12, though they were rarely seen or heard! We didn't plan excursions in advance but recommended it since many were sold out; however, we arranged our own 'tours' at the ports and were charmed by the Alaskan residents who are friendly, helpful, and still maintain that Pioneer spirit. There were too many niceties to list, like hot chocolate offered at every port of call, the free thalassotherapy pool, robes in our cabin, and a smooth, speakerless debarkation in Vancouver. We were sorry to see our days of being treated like 'celebrities' end and now that we're back to reality, we truly do feel like the commercials say: "This is a temporary exile..." Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
To return the favor to those cruisecritic members who were so helpful to me I wanted to "pass it on" to those of you who are just now beginning to plan your cruise of a lifetime! We thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our cruise ... Read More
To return the favor to those cruisecritic members who were so helpful to me I wanted to "pass it on" to those of you who are just now beginning to plan your cruise of a lifetime! We thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our cruise of the inside passage from Seward to Vancouver on the beautiful Summit. Thanks to others suggestions, we chose the Celebrity Suite which was really unbelievable. The "window wall" offered an unparalleled view each day of the fantastic sites of this beautiful area of the world. In fact not having the balcony seemed to us almost a blessing as our view was unobstructed by a balcony wall. And if we wanted to be outside there were so many options on the decks that we never missed an outside balcony. This was one thing I had worried about as I have always enjoyed the balcony suites on other ships. But the Celebrity Suite has won my heart now! The separate bedroom was a delight, along with the jetted tub in the bathroom. (I will share one negative in case some of you have difficulty in getting in to a tub) The bathtub in the Celebrity suite is quite deep because it has the jets. But this makes it quite high when you are trying to get in and out of it. The shower is also in the tub so it is necessary to climb in for either a shower or a bath. This could present a problem to some. But that is my ONLY negative (slightly) comment about the whole trip. The staff was incredible. The food outstanding. We did prefer the dining room to the buffet though as it had a better quality. And be sure to book dinner in the Normandie for a real treat. We so enjoyed our evening there with every detail of fine dining attended to. The Summit is a beautiful ship in so many ways that it is difficult to say what we enjoyed the most. My husband would vote for the Golf Simulator as he thoroughly enjoyed his time there. But I would honestly say that I enjoyed our suite the very most. We had wanted some relaxing down time and the suite truly offered us the space to do just that. We had breakfast in our room most mornings. (Food was delivered on time and hot too!) Sitting there watching those views while enjoying a beautiful breakfast was a real treat for us. The CD player (library of CD's available too) added even more. We also enjoyed the in suite computer as we had needed to stay in touch with our office each day. Every afternoon the butler brought by afternoon finger sandwiches, cookies, and coffee, tea, or even cappuccino. And then just before dinner he came back with some appetizers!!! The staff was very present to your needs, but not "in the way". We simply loved it all! Be sure to visit the Revelations lounge on the 11th floor for the most outstanding views. We especially enjoyed rising early (5 am) on the last day (thanks to a cruise critic member suggestion) to watch the Summit cruise in to Vancouver!! You would really miss something if you didn't see that. We also truly enjoyed the newest stop on the Summits list at "Icy Straight". What a delightful place! Take the walk through the beautiful pine forest and stop and sit a while on a bench along the shore to watch the whales swim right past you!!! The local Alaskans that work there are a real delight to visit with also. Icy Straight offers you a taste of true Alaska. We loved it! We had chosen not to do any shore excursions during our Summit cruise. We know that most people totally enjoy those and say that you do not get a true Alaskan experience without them. We beg to disagree! While we know that we might have thoroughly enjoyed doing some of them, we needed the "down time" from our busy lives more. We had chosen instead to do a pre cruise 6 hour "day cruise" of Prince William Sound out of Wittier the day before our Summit Cruise. (Beautiful!!! We saw 13 glaciers and all kinds of wildlife!!) (another cruise critic member suggestion!!) And then a post cruise 2 day train trip on the Rocky Mountain Railroad from Vancouver to Banf. (Absolutely fantastic. Be sure to choose the Gold Leaf Service!!!) This proved (for us) to be a good decision. We still enjoyed so much and not rushing off to do each days excursion during our 7 day cruise gave us time to really just enjoy what we were seeing. A cruise can be exhausting IF you don't take time to be still too! I just wanted to add this comment for those of you that are planning your trip. Do not worry about trying to fit everything in. Take time to just enjoy whatever you do plan to do. You will find that actually that seems to be the lesson that the Alaskans that you meet will teach you. They have a very laid back way of life. They enjoy the simple things like the beauty of the wildlife, the mountain views, the moving water, and especially in summer...their beautiful flowers! And nothing brings a smile to their faces more than seeing the cruise ships come in to their town! Alaska is wonderful in so many ways. But cruising with Celebrity on the Summit made it almost seem like a dream! We give Celebrity a "standing ovation"!!! Tell Mr. Elias (the Hotel Director on the Summit) hello for us. We were privileged to be invited to sit at his table one of the formal nights. Talking with him about his job and his love of customer service on the Summit revealed to us why his staff seems to care so much!!! Enjoy your coming cruise on the Summit. You are in for a real treat!!! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
This was our first cruise which happened at the end of a three week holiday in Alaska, where we had spent time in Vancouver, then Talkeetna and hiking, then Seward. We is me, my husband, Alan, and 12 year old daughter, Kate. I tried to ... Read More
This was our first cruise which happened at the end of a three week holiday in Alaska, where we had spent time in Vancouver, then Talkeetna and hiking, then Seward. We is me, my husband, Alan, and 12 year old daughter, Kate. I tried to separate the review into sections to make it easier to read. EMBARKATION DAY We embarked in Seward, and that morning, had walked around Resurrection Bay to see if we could see the Summit. It was a very cloudy morning, but as we walked, the Celebrity X was just visible through the cloud. Over the next 5-10 minutes, the ship became visible, and I figured that this cruise was about to become a reality. We arrived at the pier at around 11am, since our hotel offered us a ride on their 10.30am shuttle. The terminal was almost empty, and Celebrity staff were still setting up. Being a total novice, I checked about process, and we settled down to wait. Some folks near us had just got off the Summit, and told us we were in for a treat. Good news. While we were waiting, we noticed tables being set up for children, so checked that out, and it was a registration process for kids 12 and under who were all give a wrist band with their muster station on it - a good idea. After not too long, check-in was open, and it took all of five minutes. We had completed on documentation on-line, so it was handing over the SeaPass cards and we were off. The welcome aboard photo I knew about from Cruise Critic, the security photo, and we were on board. Welcome aboard drinks were offered, but cabins weren't ready - we were on board just before 12 noon, and cabins were ready at 1pm. So, we made our way to the Waterfall Cafe for the buffet lunch which also wasn't ready. We were very early!!! We found a spot by the window and before long were eating our first Celebrity meal, which was just as wonderful as I'd read about. At 1pm, we found our cabin - 8049 - and, again thanks to all the photos and reviews I'd read, there were no surprises. It was only a tiny bit smaller than the hotel room we'd had the night before, so I was pretty happy. We sorted things out, unpacked, got our shore excursion tickets and dinner seating, Cruise Critic Party time and venue, and just relaxed. Pinto, our cabin steward, appeared to say hello just before we headed off to explore the ship, and to sort out Ship-at-Sea connection, so we could use the internet in our cabin (the cost was $25/day which included 50 minutes time - this was just about enough for us, but if we went over, we were charged 70c/minute. Very simple to set up, although the length of the telephone cord needs to be increased to avoid falling over cords - the phone is on the opposite wall to the desk). As we wandered around the ship, it felt like I knew where I was going, but it did take me a while to get aft and forward directions imprinted in my brain! We checked out the spa because my husband wanted to use the gym, and wanted a haircut. They could fit him in that afternoon - amazing - and his hair was cut by an Australian woman who lived about an hour or so from Melbourne where we live. It is a small world! The haircut cost $USD 27.50 which, with the exchange rate, is about what you pay here in a mid-range salon. Our bon voyage gifts arrived in the afternoon - I got flowers which were just gorgeous, got Kate (daughter) a sail-away package which was good, and some casino credit for my husband. I had to chase up the sail-away package when it didn't arrive with the other two, but it turned up pretty quickly. On the last evening of the cruise though, I had to sign for the flower and the sailaway package which was a bit odd - why not sign for them when they are delivered? The casino credit was signed for when used (we didn't use it till about day 5 of the cruise; someone rang our cabin to find out why we hadn't used it yet, so we thought we'd better!). Two of our bags arrived in mid afternoon, the other arrived early evening when we got back from dinner. Dinner was casual (we had main seating), open seating. We had a table for four, just near the Captain's table which was great. Had a wonderful dinner and some wine, and headed back to the cabin. There was a message waiting for us from Ossoach, one of the folks I'd been talking with on the CC roll call, so we went off to meet them for a drink before their dinner. After that, we headed back to the cabin, and watched sail away from our verandah. Then, headed to bed. A wonderful first day. CABIN I won't say to much about the cabin, because there's nothing new to add to what I learned on CC boards and the various websites. It was just fine. The constant changing of towels is interesting though, because (like most hotels) the explicit statement is that they are interested in the environment, but they remove towels after one use - not really necessary. We also couldn't find the 'do not disturb' sign which would have been useful once, but we didn't bother with chasing it up in the end. The verandah was great; I used it the most and loved just sitting and watching the world go by - very relaxing. There wasn't much room when the sofa bed was extended, but that was no drama either; we just put it back ourselves if we needed to. We did feel pressure to get out of the cabin every morning so that it could be cleaned which is okay, but I would have liked to be able to just sleep in, and hang around, on one of the sea days. That was the day I looked for the Do Not Disturb sign. In the end, we just headed out to do some stuff on the ship. DINING AND STAFF I've already mentioned that the food was great and lived up to my expectations. The only time I was disappointed was when a lasagna from the buffet was a bit cold. We ate in the Waterfall Cafe for breakfast - the omelettes and waffles are definitely worth having - and for lunch. We did casual dining on the first formal night and had a great time - the staff there were fantastic. They suggest a $2 tip each, but we ended up giving them more because we had such a good time. I think this was the day we saw dolphins swimming in the wake of the ship, and our waiters told us to come back when we were in Skagway, because it was a prime whale watching position, and we could watch whales as we left Skagway. The main dining room waiters, Ben and Baris were fantastic, and our bar attendant, Richard from Jamaica, was the best. After the first dinner there, we never had to ask for anything again - Kate's drinks appeared every night without asking; my tea brand was remembered; and alternatives suggested if a meal didn't turn out. One night we ended up with an array of desserts to try because everyone on our table liked when everyone else was having. The only issue here was that because we did not order a bottle of wine on the first night, the wine person ignored us the second night, and I had to call him back to make an order - after that he was fine, and we tried some great wines, but he had made an incorrect assumption that first night which was not good. We were seated at a table for 10, with two families from Switzerland. I now wonder if they got Australia mixed up with Austria!! They could speak better English than we could speak German, but together, we managed to have a pretty good time. Kate met Nicole, the daughter of one of the families who was also 12, and they had a good time. Kate even managed to play chess with Nicole's brother, and we generally all had fun trying to communicate without too much confusion. I also bought a soda card which I think was a good value for the money. The mug you get is small, but it was okay - I kept telling myself you need to ration soda anyway, since it's not really good for you. ? We ate in the Aqua Spa Cafe once, which was great; I think we should have eaten there more often, because the amount of food you can consume is pretty amazing. The midnight buffet on the last night was a somewhat surreal experience for me. Our waiters kept talking it up, so we felt like we had to go. So, at 11.45pm, we joined a long queue of people to take photos. I'm not sure why so many people turned up to take photos of food - yes, the ice sculptures and carvings were pretty amazing - but it was food after all? The staff kept people moving, and as unfortunate as it was at the time, it reminded me of the time we had viewed Mao Tse Tung's embalmed body in Beijing - pay due homage and leave quickly. We decided that we should try the buffet, and so we waited and waited until the doors opened around about 12.25am or so, and in we all filed. Put some food on our plate, and were seated at a table for 6. Three folks joined us, but maybe because of the hour or the focus on food, we didn't say much to each other. Some people were piling their plates high with Beef Wellington and the like, and I wondered how they could possibly fit it all in - with the food we had eaten that day, it was all we could do to eat a few morsels. Maybe experienced cruisers can enlighten me about the history of the buffet, but I think this buffet was probably an extravaganza we could do without. ACTIVITIES Kate tried some of the Kids Club activities and enjoyed them. She didn't enjoy having to wear the muster band around her wrist (at 12 she felt she was too old), but she didn't take it off the whole time either. We didn't participate in any organised activities, choosing instead to just 'hang around' and enjoy the whole atmosphere. We did go to the cinema most days, and that was good - the movies were recent releases. Alan used the gym most days, and I used the walking track on Deck 11 on the odd occasion. And we tried out some cocktails! SHOWS My husband went to more shows than I did, and he was pretty impressed with them all. The night I went the ship was rolling a bit, and I did have a bit of trouble staying focused. Might have been all the food I'd just eaten at dinner though ?. It is amazing to see folks dance and sing on a rolling ship - very impressive. TIPPING Since in Australia, tipping is neither the norm nor expected, learning when to tip and how much was pretty important for me. We think we just about got it right during the rest of the holiday, so wanted to make sure we didn't mess up on the ship. I decided to pay the tips on my SeaPass account and that worked well. We gave our cabin steward a bit extra in that process, and found Richard, the bar attendant, on the last night to give him something extra in cash. All seemed to work quite well. In chatting with the Assistant Maitre D' to find out when to give him his voucher, he said he didn't agree with the whole tipping process at all, but still took the tip ?. We wondered often during the whole holiday while the expected tip wasn't included in the price we paid, so that the salaries paid to employees could then be increased by the same amount. It just seems a much simpler way to organise things, but that is my non-tipping background speaking! PORTS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS I'd spent a lot of time deciding what to do in the ports; the exchange rate for the Australian dollar meant the really expensive excursions were out of our price range, but I wanted to make sure we did something memorable. Hubbard Glacier This was memorable. We don't have glaciers in Australia, and every town seems to have one in Alaska! It was fantastic getting closer and closer, moving through the ice, hearing the amazing sound when the glacier calves, sipping hot chocolate (I bought one of the souvenir mugs for $10 or so, including tax, which I then used for tea the rest of the cruise), and generally in awe of the size of it all. I've read that Glacier Bay is better, but for someone who has never seen a glacier of any description, Hubbard Glacier is very impressive. Juneau We did the ship's Wildlife and Whale Watching excursion with Allen Marine which was really good. We got off the ship, saw the bus waiting, got on and headed off to Arun Bay to get on the boats. There were maybe 100 or so people on the boat, but except on top of the boat when the whales were around, it was fine. Even then, folks would let you in to get photos at the rail - all very civilized. The whole thing was 4 hours in total and we saw lots of wildlife and two pods of whales, so it was a success for us. We can see whales close to Melbourne here in Australia, but I had to travel to Alaska to see them for the first time! Skagway There was a moose waiting for us at the bottom of the gangway, so we had our photo taken, just for fun. We did the White Pass railway trip here. Because of the exchange rate, we booked directly with the railway (saved us about $50) so could only get tickets on the 8.15am train, which in the end turned out to be a good thing. We had to get up early though to walk into town to the station and pick up the tickets. The sound system in the station is not all that good, so listen hard or you might miss instructions about where to go. The day we were there, there were lots of groups, and they were sending folks in different directions because there were two trains going at the same time. Ours was the train that was waiting at the dock for the Summit passengers; we picked it up just a bit further down the track, and sat in different carriages to the cruise folks. It was a fun ride and we got some great photos, and worth doing. I have to say though, if folks ever come to Australia, try the railway journey from Cairns to Kuranda and the Atherton Tablelands - equally spectacular. Icy Strait Point This is a wonderful little place - the tourist point is set up a little way from the town of Hoonah, and the roads are not paved on the way in. We did a bike ride which was fun, and just the right level of exertion for me - a couple on the ride left half way through, even though the guides asked them not to, because the ride wasn't strenuous enough - they were obviously 'serious' bike riders who wanted to ride rather than see the town and learn a bit more about the area and its people. We rode (8 miles in total) from the dock to the 'international airport' which was an airstrip in a forest - well, not quite - but the most rustic international airport I'd ever seen. Sometimes, the staff have to chase deer off the runway! Back at Icy Strait Point, we had a snack and then headed off to the cultural dancing show, which was really good but, for me, a bit long. The folks here are very friendly and welcoming, and we ended up with three free souvenirs which they were handing out - a woodchip to add to a ceremonial fire, a card with a clan symbol from the cultural show, and a replica coin. ISP is also very different to the other ports we visited, and we liked it. Still lots of tourist shops, but not quite so overwhelmingly tourist. It started to rain while we were waiting for the tender, and we were ushered indoors to stay dry which was nice. The tender line here was very, very long, and it took a long time to get back to the boat. The last tender was scheduled for 2pm; we got on about then, and the line behind us was still huge. We got back on board at 2.20pm in time for lunch at the Waterfall Cafe - which they held open till 3pm because of the delay in getting people on board. We took off as soon as the last tender cleared, and then we sailed very, very fast throughout that night to try and make up time and get to Ketchikan, apparently because the good captain wanted to get a space at the dock rather than have to tender but I have no idea if this was true or not. This was the only night where the ship was rocking because of the speed we were going - walking along the corridors was interesting, and settling to sleep took a bit of adjusting, but we all managed to sleep fine. Next day though, others reported a difficult night. Ketchikan We didn't plan any excursions here, so just slept in and headed off for a walking tour around town (I'd bought the book, Inside Passage Walking Tours by Julianne Chase, which was a good guide). Now, this is the only town where it seemed like tourists were not well liked - the drivers here seemed to make it their job to try and run us over ? No compensations for not knowing where you were going at all! To me, this was the most 'normal' of the ports as well, less like Skagway and Juneau which both seemed to be very focused on the cruise passengers. We visited Creek Street and found the shop Perfect Partners, just up from Dolly's House, which was run by an Australian woman and her partner who spent 6 months in Australia mining opals (which they then sell in Ketchikan) and 6 months running the shop. They make great T-Shirts and aprons, very unique, but sadly have stopped making them because the mass produced variety have made it uneconomical for them to continue. We also stopped by the South East Alaska Visitor Centre which is worth a visit, as is their bookstore where we found some great prints of native totems to take home with us. Inside Passage We woke on the last day at sea, just gently gliding through the inside passage. Very pleasant day amid very pleasant scenery. DISEMBARKING We woke just as we had passed under the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver, and then slowly made our way to Canada Place to dock. Disembarking was so smooth I couldn't believe it. We got up and had breakfast, then collected our bags and headed to the Rendezvous Lounge at the appointed time (7.55am - we had 1pm flights out to LAX). We waited about 15 minutes, and our colour was called. Headed off the ship and into the room where the luggage was - saw our bags as we came through the door, collected them, made our way to Customs, through that in about 5 minutes, then straight to a taxi and the airport. No problems at all. There were folks in the terminal to give advice and directions as well, so this part worked really well for us. MISCELLANEOUS The muster drill was fun! It was at 10am the second day - the alarms went off, and everyone proceeded to do what they had to do. It took about half an hour, and I didn't see anyone not treating it seriously. I noticed that they put a little red flag up on your cabin door that says 'evacuated' when you leave - all very organised. I was buying our welcome aboard photos one evening; another woman at the counter was speaking VERY loudly to the staff member about her photo processing. The machine had broken down and had been fixed that day, and the woman was being advised that her photos would be ready the next day. She'd obviously waited a day for them, and was saying something like 'are you sure they will be ready because you said that yesterday, and I'm not leaving till I'm sure they will be ready'. Now, this is probably a reasonable request, but she was SO loud and patronising in her tone, I was embarrassed. The staff member was handling it well as I walked away. This was really the only time I heard anyone expressing any sort of displeasure at something on board. I missed our Cruise Critics Connections party because I was in the medical centre getting some pain relief for my back which I'd strained during our hiking trip - it all took a lot longer than I'd expected but the pain relief was worth it! The staff were great (I got the most pain free injection I have ever had in my life there) and the cost was acceptable. We did catch up with Matt (Ossoarch) and his family on the first day of the cruise, and then they graciously invited us to their cabin for drinks on the last evening, which was great. OVERALL I wanted to cruise, my husband didn't, and he is now a convert. We are planning a second cruise. I chose Celebrity in the end because of its reputation for service and we weren't disappointed. Everything on this cruise was wonderful, even when things were only not quite perfect, as opposed to totally perfect (if the latter is actually a state that is possible!). This was a decadent and luxurious experience which was a true vacation. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
Introduction: This was our second cruise aboard a Celebrity Ship and was looking forward to a "different" type of cruise. For those thinking about Alaska, know that an Alaskan cruise is not for you if you are looking for a ... Read More
Introduction: This was our second cruise aboard a Celebrity Ship and was looking forward to a "different" type of cruise. For those thinking about Alaska, know that an Alaskan cruise is not for you if you are looking for a relaxing type of vacation typical of a Caribbean or Mexican cruise. The tours are longer and the weather is usually cool (mid to lower 60s) and damp (good chance of clouds and light rain). While the ship does have a lovely indoor area with its own swimming pool, saunas and deck chairs, there is little time to relax because Alaska is a sightseeing destination (unlike the Caribbean and Mexico where ports are generally the same). Embarkation: Celebrity needs to work on this. We took the train from Anchorage to Seward (about 130 miles) and while the train personnel did take our luggage to the ship, most if not all passengers had to walk the mile from the train to the ship. Seward has about three taxis. Walking to the ship was an adventure. There were no directional signs and the area where the ship was located had a cinder parking lot full of potholes filled with water. My carry-ons took a beating. I would recommend taking the train from Anchorage. It is a beautiful ride through the Kenai National Park, You can have breakfast on board - with their famous reindeer sausage. The sausage was very good but I had this continuing urge to sing Christmas songs (Sorry - My attempt at humor). Getting on board was very easy and fast. I would suggest you fill out your paperwork before you leave home and have your birth certificate/passport and picture ID ready when you arrive at embarkation. It also helped that those on the train were the first passengers to arrive at the ship. The ship: Very lovely and clean. You board amidship, third deck. Since you arrive before your luggage, take a walk around and get familiar with the amenities and locations of such places as the dinning room, spa, night club, and your cabin. Cabin: Clean, but surprisingly had less storage space than I am use to on a Celebrity ship. This might be due to the type of clothes that needs to be taken on an Alaskan cruise. They tend to be bulkier and probably took more room than usual cruise clothing. Cabin attendant was very nice and was readily available. We did have problems with our safe and had to call for help on three separate occasions to have the safe opened. On all three occasions it took a long time for ship personnel to arrive. We almost missed one of our tours because it took nearly 1/2 hour for someone to come. Food: As I said this was our second experience aboard a Celebrity ship and, once again, we were disappointed. Celebrity has a reputation for their outstanding cuisine. The food was just OK. Not that the food was not good, but it was nothing special. In fact, on two occasions I sent back my entree. The breakfasts were plentiful and the lunches were adequate, but, once again, nothing to write home about. One segment of the food was terrific. Every evening they had a Sushi bar. I strongly recommend it. It was some of the best I've ever eaten. Service: Very good. Always available. Met our needs. Entertainment: Outstanding. Night club shows were great. Comedian was very funny. Daily activities were wonderful. There was so much to do that we had to choose one activity we wanted to do over the other. Shopping: Anyone who says there is no shopping in Alaska is uninformed. Imagine getting off the ship and seeing Little Switzerland, Caribbean Gems, and Del Sol in every port! It was like coming home. I call Alaska St. Thomas with jackets and sales tax. Trust me - there's plenty of shopping. Ports: Juneau: Mendenhall Glacier and Salmon Hatchery were very interesting. Also recommended is the a tram to the top of the mountain overlooking the city and bay. The tram is less than a 1/4 mile off the ship. Easy walk. Hubbard Glacier/Glacier Bay: Outstanding. One of the highlights of the trip. This was one of our sunnier days. The mountains, ice flows and glacier were magnificent. The ship was able to get close to the glacier. I can only say - absolutely amazing. The ship allowed passengers to view the glacier from the helicopter pad located on the front of the ship. Take advantage. It afforded you a wonderful view. Skagway: To me this was the highlight of the trip. The history of the Klondike is told through the historical maintenance of the buildings, the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, the Red Dog Saloon (and brothel), and the people living there. Don't miss the small Klondike museum located in the railroad station and be sure to take a tour of the Red Dog Saloon's brothel - no its not currently in use. While we took the railroad to the top of White Pass, our friends hired a local taxi driver who took them along the White Pass trail by car. They had the advantage of periodically stopping, and getting out of the car to view the various highlights along the road to the top. The history of the Klondike is fascinating. Don't miss it! Icy Straits: This was advertised as an opportunity for visitors to see how native Alaskans live unspoiled by commercialism. As you disembark from the tender, the first thing you see is the "native" souvenir shop with soap imported from China and baseball caps with Icy Straits on the brim. It does have a lovely trail through a tall pine forest, but that's about it unless you want to pay $70 per person to see Indian dances. Ketchikan: St. Thomas of the north! Never saw so many stores since we were in St. Amelia. We probably had the most fun here. We got off the ship and saw a taxi with the sign "affordable tours". Yes that was the spelling. We looked inside and I swear the driver was a reincarnation of Gabby Hayes - crumpled hat, white beard and all. He took us all around the town and showed some fascinating places. Was terrific. Vancouver: One of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen. Took the double decker bus all around the city. Be sure to stop at Stanley Park and the Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden. When planning your trip be sure to stay at least two days so you can see the entire city and travel to Victoria to see the gardens. Disembarkation: Typical. The evening before you are given colored tags to place on your luggage. You wait in a designated area for your color to be called and then you stand in a long line and wait. Vancouver has a very modern and large embarkation building so finding your luggage was easy. By the way, unlike most destinations, luggage carts are free. Take advantage. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
My wife, Beth, our daughters Heather, 20, and Hayley, 18, and I were on the July 3 Cruisetour #15 (July 9 sailing of the Summit). Pre-cruise: The limo picked us up at our home at 6:15 Saturday morning. No traffic to the airport and ... Read More
My wife, Beth, our daughters Heather, 20, and Hayley, 18, and I were on the July 3 Cruisetour #15 (July 9 sailing of the Summit). Pre-cruise: The limo picked us up at our home at 6:15 Saturday morning. No traffic to the airport and check-in/security was relatively painless considering this was July Fourth Weekend at LAX. Celebrity had us booked on a "one stop/no change of plane" flight from LAX to Fairbanks on Alaska Airlines, pretty much as good as could be expected, departing 9:30 am...it arrived only 23 minutes behind schedule in Fairbanks at around 4 pm. The Royal Celebrity (as the combined Royal Caribbean/Celebrity tour operation in Alaska is known) personnel were there to meet us near the baggage claim area and led us to a waiting area near their desk while RC tour people found our luggage for us (impressive since we had not yet attached the ship luggage tags). There was a chart showing the names of all the passengers on Tour #15 and to which of the three buses we were assigned. After a short wait, they loaded the entire group of incoming passengers on a bus and delivered us to the Sophie Station hotel where we met our tour director, Sara. There were three buses on this tour, each with about 44-46 passengers, labeled 15A, 15B and 15C. Most of the people on our bus were, I'd guess, in their 50s or 60s. Our kids were the only younger people on the bus. In fact, my wife and I may have been among the younger folks on the bus, but, as one gets older, there's far less difference between 45 and 65. Even still, the kids seemed to enjoy themselves just fine, making friends with all the, ahem, "older folks". Sophie Station Hotel, Fairbanks, looks like an ordinary two-story apartment building both inside and out, but, as a hotel, it works quite nicely. Every room is a suite—with kitchen, living room, balcony and bedroom—so the accommodations were ample. There is a Fred Meyer store (the northwest's equivalent of a Wal-Mart) a block away—also, a Safeway, some fast food places (Quiznos, Taco Bell, Subway). Otherwise, the location is quite ordinary. We ate dinner about two blocks away at The Castle and it was, perhaps, the best meal I had in Alaska. $29.95 for a Seafood Platter with Halibut, LARGE Shrimp and Scallops and the best Crab Legs I can remember. The second day was filled with two included excursions: After a stop to view the Pipeline up close and personal, we headed out to the Eldorado Mine—Rather hokey but fun train ride through a gold mine complete with actors portraying gold miners and culminating in a panning for gold experience that guaranteed everyone at least 8 small grains of gold in their pan. Afterwards, they weighed it for you in the gift shop and sold you a $40 locket and chain to keep it in. Every woman on the bus left with such a locket. Riverboat Discovery—Also somewhat hokey but interesting riverboat tour of Fairbanks ending up at a somewhat staged "Indian Village" with various demonstrations of local culture along the way. However hokey these excursions were, they filled the day and offered photo opportunities and interesting times. Monday, July 5, we departed Fairbanks by train to Denali. The Wilderness Express train is really just two railcars on a long train that also includes similar cars owned by Holland America, Princess and the cars of the Alaska RR itself. I'll assume the HAL and Princess cars are all substantially similar to the Royal Celebrity cars. The cars have two levels: The Glass Dome covered passenger compartment up top with plush comfortable leather seats and ample room to move around and the restaurant section down below. There were more than enough seats for everyone on the top level, but the restaurant had to operate in two shifts. Interestingly enough, the meals in the restaurant were reasonably priced ($8-9 range). We arrived at lunch time at the McKinley Chalets and were on our own for lunch with limited choices. Went to he more casual restaurant in the hotel for a pretty good burger. After lunch, we boarded the infamous school buses for the 7 hour Tundra Wilderness Tour, departing around 4 pm. We got somewhat lucky on the wildlife side as we spotted several caribou, dozens of Dall Sheep, a mother grizzly with three cubs, a moose and a wolf—which actually walked right alongside our bus. Unfortunately, the mountain itself was clouded in with no chance of any kind of view from that side. After that, on to our hotel, the McKinley Village Lodge, which was actually several miles off on its own in the middle of nowhere and somewhat rustic. The next day, Tuesday, July 6 (Of course, with no real night to speak of, it all seemed like the same rather long day), we again boarded the train and headed for Talkeetna. Along this leg, the skies cleared and the scenery was spectacular and we had several clear views of Mt. McKinley from the train. In Talkeetna, we hit the hotel jackpot as the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge was downright spectacular. Our rooms had a dynamite view of the Mountain. We took a shuttle into town and had dinner at the local pizza place (there's only one), then returned and watched an amazing sunset over Mt. McKinley (and not a bad sunrise only a few moments later!). Most of the bus was out on the rear patio of the hotel cameras blazing away. From the next day on, it was all Motorcoach (bus) to the ship. In the morning, we boarded the bus (with Sara and our driver, Ryan) for the drive to Anchorage stopping along the way at the Iditerod Headquarters. After a couple of hours on our own to find lunch (Teriyaki Box—eh, you'll get no great recommendation here) and shop, we headed over to our hotel, the Anchorage Marriott Downtown. That night we had a pretty nice dinner at the Glacier Brewing Company. The next day we had our Anchorage City Highlights Tour—the Salmon ladder, the Alaska Native Heritage Center (interesting dance and music presentations and displays) and a lot of driving around town. Then back into downtown for lunch (we went to Humpy's—a local favorite-fish and chips, fish sandwiches, etc. and beer). Thursday night we spent in Girdwood at the Alyeska Prince Resort, another extremely luxurious hotel. We took a shuttle into town (what there was of it) and had a nice steak dinner at the Chair 5 Restaurant. The next morning, we took the included ride up the Gondola to the top of the mountain, then returned to the hotel for lunch. They let us check in for the ship at the hotel that morning, but the bus didn't leave for the ship until 1:30 and stopped at some wildlife zoo for a visit before getting us to the Summit at the rather late hour of 5 pm.  Okay, so now it's Friday Afternoon, July 9 and we finally embark on the Summit…Having checked in earlier at the hotel, the embarkation is easy as we skip right to the security screening…When one of the crew leads us to our cabins, my wife and daughters are somewhat confused. They thought we were in a Cat 4 with the kids across the hall in an inside—but, without their knowing, I switched to a pair of Sky Suites, #6122 and #6124. Imagine their surprise! The suites are nicely appointed and about 1.5 times the size of the "normal" balcony cabins. The walls are wood-paneled, the closet more ample, the bath has marble counters, lots of storage and a full bathtub. Our Butler, Ashwin (from India) comes in to introduce himself and to explain all of the things he can and will do for us. (Afterwards, he does the same in the kids' suite and they immediately order breakfast in the suite for the next day). For us, though, it's a bit of overkill—if that's possible—We have a butler, a Cabin Steward (Gabriella from Hungary) and an Assistant Cabin Steward, Ozy, all practically tripping over each other trying to help us. I rarely opened my own door for 7 days. Champagne was waiting in the rooms twice—on day one and on our anniversary. Every day, Ashwin brought us a basket of fresh fruit, a plate of appetizers and then a plate of pastries/desserts. Anything we could think of was taken care of almost immediately. I always thought the service in the ordinary Celebrity cabins was extraordinary—but, in the suites, it's three giant steps beyond that. Dinner first night was open seating. They gave us a card when we checked in asking that we attend the second shift of open seating at 8:30—which worked out fine with the late hour of our boarding. It gave the girls the chance to head for the spa and make appointments for the week for massages, facials, hair, manicures—none for me, thanks. With the late dinner seating, the show was at 10:45—titled A Night of Stars with the Celebrity singers and dancers. Frankly, it was not their best show. My daughters were highly critical of one of the female singers' vocal abilities. Saturday was an at-sea day—sailing Hubbard Glacier. First, though, a little unfinished business: 10 am, we had the infamous muster drill. Do we ever amass enough points to skip this? Oh well. We did have a busy morning. After the Muster Drill, we had the Cruise Critic Reception at 11:00 and then off to the Anniversaries/Honeymoon Reception at 11:30. Even though we had rather large verandas, my wife wanted to see the glacier from the Heliport. Normally a crew-only area at the front of the ship, they opened it to everyone for the glacier. And what a SPECTACULAR sight. With clear weather and a beautiful day, we sailed into the bay and extremely close to the glacier, an immense wall of blue ice with a large amount of calving (major chunks breaking off and crashing into the sea). The ship spent quite a while turning around in the shadow of this wonder and it was an awesome experience. Dinner was at last our regular seating (Main) and assigned table…Then the Captain's toast—This was the First Formal night. Then the show—AGAIN the Celebrity Singers and Dancers, this time with The Magic of Broadway (a little better than the first night). After the show, we opted to watch the Karaoke. Sunday meant Juneau. We disembarked after breakfast and met the van for our tour right at the pier. We opted to ignore the ship's offerings and went with Coastal Helicopter for their Icefield Glacier Landing Excursion ($180 per person). It was absolutely magnificent. The entire excursion took about three hours with a lot of that in the ride back and forth to the airport. But that flight and Glacier landing made it all worth it. The ship's similar but costlier excursion takes you on a much shorter flight to the closer Hubbard Glacier, but Coastal took us up over some incredible mountains and onto the very upper reaches of Herbert Glacier, to the north of Mendenhall. Two copters with 6 passengers each made the trip and we landed on some incredibly blue ice with unreal views in all directions and walked around the glacier a bit before getting back into the copters for the flight back. On the way back, we jogged over to Mendenhall Glacier and followed virtually its entire length, then over the Mendenhall Valley and back to the airport—probably the highlight of our cruise. Back in Juneau, we wandered the usual array of gift shops and the now-familiar t-shirts, sweatshirts, goofy hats and ulu knives. Then, back to the ship. For the show tonight, they finally made up for the back-to-back singer/dancer shows—they gave us TWO distinct shows, one at 9, the other at 10:45. The 9:00 show was singer/impressionist Bob Anderson. Entertaining—his expressions and mannerisms were more impressive than his voice impersonations—and some of the younger crowd (like my daughters) had trouble relating to who all these caricatures were (Sinatra, Deano, Sammy, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, Bobby Darin, Tom Jones, etc.), but the show was entertaining. The 10:45 show was a comedian, Cary Long—Funny, but a fairly typical cruise performance—jokes about the differences between men and women packing or asking directions, etc.—and then a few songs by an A Capella quartet, Soul'd Out, who were actually VERY good. Monday was Skagway. We elected to do a 6 hour Yukon Horseback Riding tour ($149 per person) through Southeast Tours…We walked into town to the Southeast Tours office and our driver, Dave, took the four of us and two of our fellow Summit passengers in a van to Emerald Lake, somewhere north of Carcross, Yukon, stopping along the way to see some bears and moose as well as the "World's Smallest Desert". We arrived at Joanie's Yukon Horses and did a two hour horse ride through some magnificent countryside, then the ride back to the ship. If you like horses, then call these guys. The ship's horseback riding excursion is only a 3 hour total trip and doesn't leave the Skagway area—so, you're deciding between seeing all of the White Pass scenery (train or bus) versus riding horses—but this option gives you both. Show for Monday night? It's those Celebrity Singers and Dancers once again, this time in Classique—at least they've added a couple of aerialists. Tuesday was time for the brand new port for this season--Icy Strait Point, Hoonah, Alaska. I was actually quite impressed with the facilities—obviously freshly developed for their first cruise season, everything was freshly painted and in great condition. They've taken an old cannery and filled it with museum, gift shops and other cruise oriented uses. The Tlingit locals seemed sincerely happy to have us visit. They were friendly, warm and accommodating. We opted for the Whale Watching excursion (having used Juneau for helicopter day). The boat was a 200+ passenger large vessel as opposed to those 25 person jet boats you hear about in Juneau so I was a bit apprehensive as to what we might really see, but all of that worry was soon alleviated. We sailed out to Point Adolphus near the entrance to Glacier Bay and found ourselves surrounded by dozens of whales, some far off, others very near the boat, often passing in pods of 4 or 5 or 6. It was quite a trip. Our onboard naturalist was Hoo Kook (aka Howard, aka Hoonah Tlingit Boy from the Cruise Critic Message Board)—he was excellent, both knowledgeable and entertaining. The last tender back to the ship was 2:00 pm so it was a short time to shop at Icy Strait after the tour and then back onto the Summit for the Second Formal Night. Show this night was Samantha Jay, a rather bubbly English girl who played the Violin, Oboe and Saxophone in an all-instrumental performance. She was very good, but I'm not big into instrumentals. Wednesday was our final Alaskan port—Ketchikan. We made no advance plans here. We let the girls sleep in and wander into town on their own. My wife and I just got off the ship (Curiously, due to the large number of ships in port, they had to tender us in—they didn’t get to dock the Summit until mid afternoon when some of the other ships had left). Luckily, one of the perks for having the suite (or was it for Captains Club? I’m not really sure…but, I think it was the suite) was that we got Priority Tender Tickets and were able to get onto a tender before any of the other non-excursioned passengers. Along the pier and in the Visitors Center Building, there was ample opportunity to find any tour you wish. We decided to do a two hour city/salmon hatchery/eagle/Saxman Village Totem pole tour with Northern Tours ($30 each)…It was just about perfect and gave us a nice overview and a chance to get out of town and catch the Totem Poles at Saxman for a fairly low price. Afterwards, we tendered back to the ship for lunch, then back to Ketchikan for a walk around to shop and take photos at the very scenic Creek Street. Back on the ship, it was Informal night—and it was Lobster night (Our very good waiter, Ben and his assistant Alberto, brought me three very large lobster tails—I was quite a happy cruiser). The show, no I don’t believe it, was again the Celebrity Singers and Dancers with Encore. Okay, so they did get a little bit better as the cruise went on, but FOUR such shows on one seven night cruise is just a bit much!!! We were pretty much worn out and couldn’t stay awake for the Midnight Gala Buffet. Thursday Morning at-sea, I finally got to play Scattergories and Team Trivia. Only four of us played Scattergories and Amy, our wonderful Activities Director, awarded us all prizes—Celebrity Garment bags. Several groups showed for Team Trivia. I teamed up with my Scattergories mates and we won this competition—I got some sort of Celebrity Nylon Strap—not sure I know what I’m supposed to do with it. At 10:15 at night, they had the final Farewell Trivia. My kids insisted we play as a family. When Amy said they were giving out T-Shirts, my daughter Heather looked at me and said “We’re going to win those t-shirts”. She was right. Boy, I love Trivia. Now I have more stuff to add to my growing collection of Cruise key chains, water wallets, luggage tags, luggage locks, fanny packs and water wallets Okay, here’s the worst thing that happened all cruise: The ship had some sort of engine problem Wednesday evening and we did not leave Ketchikan at 7:00 pm as we were supposed to. In fact, we didn’t leave until very early the next morning as they had to wait for a part to arrive. No problem, they told us, there was ample time and they would still get us to Vancouver Friday Morning on schedule. No Problem, we got all of our ports in, and we got the same amount of time on the ship we were supposed to—BUT—because of the delays, we got a very different experience than we bargained for Thursday. Thursday was to have been our day for Cruising the Inside Passage. This was the day you were supposed to look forward to if, like us, you had suites or verandas on the STARBOARD side of the ship. With no ports to visit and the whole day to lounge around the ship, this was the day when magnificent scenery would finally appear on OUR side of the ship, when we could sit out on that oversized sky-suite balcony, get served by our Butler and enjoy the magnificent scenery of the Inside Passage we had heard so much about—ALL AFTERNOON long. Unfortunately, by the time the now-delayed ship made it to the narrow passageway, we were in the middle of dinner and night was quickly approaching. The Summit cruise most of the length of the Inside Passage in the dark. I think we used our verandas maybe a total of an hour the entire trip. Alas. C’est la Vie! We did have the Guest Talent Show at 3:45 (which I gladly would have missed for the Inside Passage from the Veranda!) The show Thursday night was a variety hour of Comedian Cary Long, a capella group Soul’d Out and instrumentalist Samantha Jay. Somewhere during that evening, we slipped into our cabins, packed and left the luggage in the hall. Friday Morning, July 16, we disembarked the Summit in Vancouver around 9:45 and boarded a bus to our 2 night post cruise hotel (booked through Celebrity), the Sutton Place Hotel. I cannot picture a more perfect hotel for Vancouver. First of all, the rooms were quite large and comfortable, the furniture was beautiful 18th Century style dark woods and the hotel had an air of elegance. Our intent in Vancouver was to simply relax and unwind, eat—and the women wanted to do some shopping. Well, the location of the Sutton Place was perfect for just that—the corner of Burrard and Robson. Robson is possibly the trendiest of shopping streets in Vancouver and Robson, for about three blocks to either side of Burrard, has to have the greatest concentration of (largely unique) restaurants in Vancouver. The massive Pacific Centre Shopping Mall runs along Granville bordering on Robson about three short blocks from Sutton Place. My three women were in heaven. We also took a short walk and ferry (and taxi back) to Granville Island (Wonderful Farmers Market, cute shops, nice restaurants and great Photo opportunities) one day. Then, Sunday came and it was time to go home…The voucher for airport transit was good for the Airporter Bus from the hotel. We had a 3:57 pm flight on Alaska Airlines—3 hours later, non-stop and we were back in SoCal. At least I now have the Constellation next July to look forward to. A few notes: Simon, the Cruise Director, was first rate-one of the best. I can’t say enough about Amy, the Activities Director and Stephanie, the Future Cruise Consultant/Captains Club person. They were both exceptional The brochure says 2 Formal, 2 Informal, 3 Casual. It was 2/1/4. My wife MADE me dress up with the Sports Coat on one of the Casual days anyway. The male tablemates wanted to kill me for setting such a bad example and raising THEIR wives’ expectations. The Summit was beautiful. Celebrity never lets us down in that department. Always do the Land portion first. Vacations should get easier as they go along. Putting your luggage outside your door at 6:00 am every morning gets old fast. They do let you tag some of your bags with a different color tag and they’ll leave them on the bus so you don’t have to schlep all your luggage in and out every night. I packed all of my cruise only stuff—like the tuxedo, sports coat, long pants, etc in one case and tagged that for the ship only…I used my other case for only things I would need on the land portion. Unfortunately, my wife and daughters never figured out this method of packing. Ice Cream at the Waterfall Café makes each afternoon—except the day they ran out of chocolate and vanilla and all they had was Rum Raisin and Pistachio. I hate fruits and nuts in my ice cream. The After Eight (Mint Chocolate Chip) is outstanding. The Main Dining Room is great. We ate ALL of our meals there this cruise. I just wish they’d throw the Chocolate Souffle from the Normandie onto the Main Room dessert menu one night. That or Crème Brulee EVERY night. They had an invite only Elegant Tea in the Normandie one afternoon just for the Suite guests, I believe. Only nine of us showed up, total. It was still very nice. There are only so many T-Shirts, silly hats and ulu knives one man can take. Alaska was beautiful, but, if I had to choose, my preference is still the Mediterranean on the Millennium that we did last August. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2004
Ship: Summit Cruise: Alaska 7 Day Northbound Date: Aug 2004 I will try to evaluate the different aspects of this particular cruise as best I can. Embarkation: Somewhat slow cattle-call type operation. We completed all of our ... Read More
Ship: Summit Cruise: Alaska 7 Day Northbound Date: Aug 2004 I will try to evaluate the different aspects of this particular cruise as best I can. Embarkation: Somewhat slow cattle-call type operation. We completed all of our documents online, but still waited about 45 minutes between checking in and going to customs. My advice: Be early! (We thought we were, but I guess not) Room: Very nice accommodations! Our 1A cabin was perfect for the two of us. The balcony is essential if you like spending time alone enjoying the scenery. Early morning in the Inside Passage is not to be missed. We were on the ocean side of the ship, but our views and scenery were just as good as the land side, so starboard or port, either is great. Like a bus driver in Juneau told us, there is nothing on that ship that you have not seen before, so look outside! Food: Frankly we were disappointed. Food is supposed to be a highlight of most cruises, but not this one. Buffet: The buffet was never what we could call "good". The food was mediocre at best. We often joked that what was served in the main dining room one night would be found on the buffet the next. We were not wrong. Main Dining Room: Dinners were mostly just average. (We missed one night because we were too late, and one b/c of my wife's sea sickness) We had two "very good" meals out of five dinners in the main dining room. One of those meals was filet mignon- hard to foul up a good cut of meat unless you burn it. None of the meals were really bad, but not one single meal really stood out as excellent either. We tried a wide selection of main courses but found most to be bland. I guess the food was geared towards a less adventurous palate than mine. My wife and I enjoy wine with meals and ordered bottles off of the wine list. The list is not bad, but seems to be focused at persons who may not enjoy wine with dinner regularly. Wine also expensive (just like a restaurant, but with about a 20-30% premium). Surprisingly, lunch in the main dining room was where we had our best meal of the cruise. A creative curry lamb dish was excellent! Don't ever eat the buffet if the main dining room is available. Breakfast in the main dining room was the choice for my wife and I after the 2nd day at sea. Hands down superior to the buffet. Selections are constant throughout the week but eggs benedict one day and a bagel with lox and cream cheese the next is not a bad rotation. Sushi: Not a bad substitute when you miss your main dining room sitting. Good quality, but low selection. Highlight: The bread on the ship was all excellent. Every meal! Overview: Nothing was spectacular except the bread. Buffet was not good. Main Dining room should also always be the cruiser's first option on this ship. Service: The staff of the ship were all excellent at their jobs! The persons that we had the most contact with were our room steward and our wait staff. Both were excellent. Our waiter and assistant waiter were both top notch and would have been at home working in the finest restaurants in the world. I cannot say enough about these guys! Sylvanus (waiter) and Cosmo (asst. waiter) were both so attentive and helpful! They made sure that their end of the dining experience was all that it could be. Our assistant maitre'd was also very good at his job. He checked with us every night! Our room steward was attentive and efficient. We always returned to a clean room after breakfast and dinner. Very efficient. Shore Excursions: My wife and I both enjoy "going and doing", but we made some poor choices of shore excursions. Almost all are overpriced for what you get. We spend close to $1000 for 3 excursions for 2 persons. Too Expensive! This must be how they make up the profit margin for cruise tickets. We did enjoy the excursions we booked through the ship, but they were all a little too regimented and follow the leader for my wife and I. Crab feed in Ketchikan was not nearly as adventurous as it sounded. We enjoyed the experience, but we would try something else if we had the opportunity. White Pass Railroad in Skagway was beautiful, but 4 hours on a hot train with obnoxious people can be too much. Ditto about trying something else. We had the most fun on our independent and self guided trip to the Mendenhall Glacier. Also the cheapest! Juneau is a do-it-yourself town, so save money and book activities when you go ashore. We also really enjoyed the ATV expedition in Hoonah (Icy Strait Point). This was "going and doing" as my wife says. The guides and the activity were fun and exciting. I recommend trying to do some excursions on your own through the independent operators on shore. Some excursions will not be cheaper, but some will save you money! In Juneau and Ketchikan, there are tour operators on or around the cruise ship dock. Skagway and Hoonah will be a cruise-ship-only excursion towns. Disembarkation: Painfully slow! There must be a more efficient way! Waiting in the corral area for your color to be called is not fun especially when things are running slowly. Help yourself and be late for this. After Cruise Activities: We were do-it-yourselfers after the cruise. We planned 4 more days of activities after the cruise and had lots of fun in Alaska. We fished and toured and had a great time. Don't be afraid to do it yourself. The only thing we fill we missed out from a cruisetour was the train ride north from Seward, but our activity schedule was more conducive to rental car travel. Likes: - Excellent wait staff!!! - Being catered to - Having our food arrangements made (even though not spectacular dining, no thought to where we were going was needed) - Having a room steward to answer questions and take care of our needs! - Seeing sights that can only be seen by cruising Disappointments: - Very regimented life aboard ship - Very expensive activities and excursions - Disappointing food and expensive drinks - Embarkation / Disembark slow and arduous Overall: We enjoyed some aspects of the cruise and grew to dislike others. Nothing against Celebrity, but we probably will not cruise again for some time. After you have a few drinks and go on some excursions, cruising is not such a great deal financially. The style of vacation doesn't really suit our interests or our desires. We were much happier on shore after the cruise when we had a loose itinerary and a more freewheeling approach. We are already thinking about our next trip to Alaska! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2004
This was my second cruise, the first being a 4-night RCCL sail to Key West and Cozumel with my sister in August 2003. It was the first for my husband, and it was our honeymoon. Overall, we had a wonderful time, and thoroughly enjoyed our ... Read More
This was my second cruise, the first being a 4-night RCCL sail to Key West and Cozumel with my sister in August 2003. It was the first for my husband, and it was our honeymoon. Overall, we had a wonderful time, and thoroughly enjoyed our vacation. We did, however, experience some disappointments that I'll mention below. GETTING THERE & EMBARKATION -- We flew into Anchorage on Thursday, and awoke bright and early (New Jersey time) on Friday morning. After an early breakfast at the Sheraton, we walked around Anchorage for awhile. Since nothing was open, we went back to the hotel, grabbed our bags and caught a lift to the Egan Center from the bellman. The line to check in was about 15 minutes long, and we were relieved of our baggage. We had about 2 hours to kill, which we spent in the galleries of Anchorage, buying our first souvenirs. Our departure for the train station was delayed somewhat, but we were eventually on our way. The train ride was beautiful, and a wonderful welcome to Alaska. It took almost 5 hours to get there, however, and due to the aforementioned jet lag I was a little sleepy. When we got to the cruise ship terminal in Seward, we were promptly greeted with an official letter informing us that there was a mechanical problem with the ship, and therefore we would be arriving in Juneau and Ketchikan several hours late. (They did, however, offer us a free happy hour on one of the days, as an apology.) I immediately panicked, realizing that we had a heli-hiking excursion planned in Juneau with Northstar that we were in danger of missing. Never fear, once we had gotten to our stateroom, I called on my cell phone, and the nice woman at Northstar said "We've been waiting for you to call!" They had already gotten a call from the Summit and had automatically rescheduled us. STATEROOM -- The stateroom was quite nice. We had ample room, and enjoyed our balcony, despite the chilly weather. In Ketchikan, it was nice enough to sit outside and enough the evening air. Overall, I thought the room was a step above RCCL's Enchantment of the Seas, and I particularly enjoyed the robes. Our stateroom attendant was another story. We didn't even see him for the first 24 hours on the ship, and throughout the cruise his service was inattentive and disappointing. At times, I had to call Guest Relations to request service on the room (i.e. getting the bed made). He was full of excuses and reasons why he couldn't do the things that we perceived to be his responsibility, and made us feel guilty for asking for the most simple things like more ice when we ran out. FACILITIES -- The ship itself was very nice, and we loved all the contemporary artwork on display. We rarely felt crowded; even though there were plenty of people on the ship we always seemed to be able to find a spot to sit, drink, etc. The spa was quite nice, and my husband enjoyed a massage on each at-sea day. I got a pedicure on the first day, which was lovely, but I must mention that the salon does not have driers, so it took a long time for my toes to dry! Not a problem in a warm weather destination, but I really wanted to put my shoes back on and I ended up smudging a big toe. I avoided the spacious, nice-looking gym like the plague, but did take a Pilates class that was so-so. (I do Pilates 2X week at home, and it was clearly for newbies.) My expectations were low, however, so it was not a letdown. DINING -- We were excited for the Celebrity dining experience, given what we had heard in advance about Celebrity's cuisine. Unfortunately, we were somewhat disappointed in this respect. (A caveat: as New Yorkers, we consider ourselves to be pretty sophisticated diners, and picky ones at that. The French Laundry in Napa is our gold standard, and it's hard to measure up to that.) We had breakfast each day in the Windjammer Cafe, which is the traditional breakfast buffet. We were pleased to see that it was almost always easy to find a table, and the staff was always available to carry a tray or pour more coffee. In general, I thought the breakfasts were very good, and we particularly liked the waffles made to order and the pain-au-chocolate available from the bakery. DH was disappointed by the bacon (too soggy), but he is really picky about bacon. We also had lunch each day in the Windjammer, and by about the third day we were really sick of the lunch options. There were always hot entrees, salads, sandwiches, pasta, pizza, etc. available, but for some reason the food itself just didn't look or taste that good. A couple of times I got a veggie burger from the pool grill, which was good. But overall, we were disappointed by the lunch options. A few times I felt like I really couldn't find anything to eat. The ice cream, however, was always delicious. Due to the wacky port schedule, we only ate dinner at our assigned seating (early) three times at the main restaurant. However, our waiter was great, and the food was decent -- not terrific, but certainly passable and sometimes very good. As a vegetarian who sometimes eats fish, I was able to find plenty of options on the menu. My husband is a real meat eater, however, and he had some trouble getting meat cooked properly (i.e. medium well came back medium rare, etc.) Again, he is picky, but it's worth noting. We also ate one night in the Normandie, the Summit's specialty (read: costs extra) restaurant. It happened to be the night we were in Juneau, and they extended our port time to midnight, so for that reason, perhaps, the restaurant was almost empty. We greatly enjoyed both the meal and the wine, and recommend it to others traveling on the Summit. ENTERTAINMENT -- We didn't really do much of the shows, although one night we WERE the entertainment when we were contestants in the Newlywed/Not-so-Newlywed Game. I'm pleased to report, we won! Since we were already awake, we went to the comedy show at midnight, which was terrific. Other than that, the shows didn't interest us, and we were jet lagged anyway. PORTS -- We loved this itinerary, despite the delays, and feel like it gave us a good taste of Alaska. Hubbard Glacier: Not really a port, but worth mentioning how great it was to get so close to such a huge glacier. We arrived quite late, just in time for the early dinner seating. It was a disappointment, because earlier in the day, Jessica, the social hostess, had invited us to sit at the Captain's table. However, we really didn't want to miss the glacier, so when it because clear that we would miss dinner (around 5:30 or so) we called her to politely decline. She seemed a little rude, but I got over it quickly because the glacier was terrific. Be sure to bundle up for this one, it got cold quickly. Juneau: As it turns out, we didn't get into Juneau until just after 2 p.m., so we had already rescheduled our heli-hike twice. We walked to the State Museum, which is worth visiting if you don't want to shop and want to learn a little about Alaska's history and people. At 4 PM, we went to the Red Dog to wait for Northstar to pick us up for our now very late heli-hike. By 4:30, they still hadn't arrived, so we used a pay phone to call -- turns out that the weather was so bad that we couldn't go. Huge disappointment, but Northstar handled it well, and I wouldn't hesitate to book with them if we ever went back. It was getting late, but I still wanted to do something before our 7:30 Normandie reservation, so we caught the last shuttle out to the Mendenhall Glacier. I would definitely recommend this, and wish we had more than the 30 minutes before the last ride back to explore this area. Skagway: In Skagway, we took the White Pass Railroad up, which was breathtaking, and a must-do for visitors to this port. To get back down, I had the brilliant idea of taking the "bike down" excursion. My husband and I are 42 and 30, respectively, and we bike for fun on the weekends, so I figured this excursion would be no problem. However, I underestimated my dislike for rapid descent. While I was picturing a leisurely bike down with many stops for pictures, the guides told us that they expected us to maintain a consistent speed of 15 to 20 MPH, and not to look anywhere except right ahead of our bike. So much for leisure! I quit halfway down because I was definitely the slowest in the bunch and just wasn't enjoying it. Icy Strait Point: We really loved this port, and highly recommend it to others. We started with the whale watching excursion. It was a big boat, so even the 200 people on board didn't make it feel crowded, and we never had to struggle to see on the 2nd floor outside deck. And boy did we see a lot! There were humpbacks everywhere you looked; it was definitely the most memorable part of the trip. (The expert guide did mention that the number of whales we saw was over the norm.) The port itself is tiny and brand new, and feels somewhat Disney-fied to me, as if any moment we might see Mickey and Donald in salmon-fishing outfits, manning the cannery. But the exhibit on the cannery was interesting, and we would have loved to have more time to explore the trails around the area. Given the short port time and the amount of things to do, one probably doesn't even need an excursion in this port. Ketchikan: We didn't have an excursion planned for Ketchikan, so we decided to just wing it, which turned out to be a good idea, given that we didn't arrive until around 11 a.m. or so. We ended up renting bikes from the Lumberjack Show, and biking out to the Totem Pole park. Word to the wise: the Lumberjack show closed at 3:30 that day, so we had to have our bikes back by then. So, we only had a quick 1-hour ride. The rest of the time we shopped for gifts for family and so on. Disappointingly, however, most of the shops were closing at around 6, so despite our extended port time (due to late arrival) at a certain point there was nothing open so we just got back on the ship. All in all, it was a wonderful vacation and we really enjoyed our time on the Summit. However, when planning our next cruise, I do think that we will explore other cruise lines as well to determine if there is another line that might take service and cuisine to the next level. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2005
We booked concierge class for the first time, and were delighted. We especially liked the choice of pillows. Small thing perhaps, but the goose down was sooo soft. We rented a car, and drove down to San Diego, as we're from So. Cal. ... Read More
We booked concierge class for the first time, and were delighted. We especially liked the choice of pillows. Small thing perhaps, but the goose down was sooo soft. We rented a car, and drove down to San Diego, as we're from So. Cal. and after returning the car, boarded with almost no hassle. Our daughter was in an inside cabin alone, and to our surprise, loved it! She liked the coziness, and the darkness, which you don't get a lot of in Alaska. I love the fresh air with a balcony, and sitting out on the deck,exalting in the wonderful scenery. It was Very chilly, though, and I stayed bundled up in blankets. We enjoyed the Pacific Coast, but had been in the ports many times, but Victoria, B.C.. was wonderful! A tip for cruisers; Don't take the Greyhound bus for the $5.00/person. If you're a walker, it's about 15 min../walk, otherwise take a cab! They're not expensive, just grab one just outside the ship, and you don't have to sit in the hot,crowed bus, and then when you want to go back to the ship, the line is horrendous!! We broke from the line, after paying $15.00 for the three of us, and the cab was $8.00, fast friendly, and Much better than standing in line for an hour. Live and learn. My husband thought the food had really improved since we had been on the Summit 3 years ago. We had a wonderful waiter and assistant. Marius and Glenn. Our slightest wish was fulfilled, and so polite and friendly! We loved the dining room, but the buffet was excellent also. Our daughter adored the Sushi. I liked the Aquaspa, and their cold fruit soups. Delicious! The shows were not to our liking, although the comedian was very funny. The Broadway show, was to our surprise, Exactly what we had seen in 2002! Thought they changed the shows every year. Our room stewards were very efficient, and every afternoon they brought a little plate of canapes. My family didn't like them,but I'm sure they were fine. The concierge/room service breakfast was not remotely OK Cold, slow, and the strongest coffee this side of espresso. So, we just ordered juice and coffee, and ate upstairs. 14 days was perfect. We just started to get the first twinges of homesickness, and voila! we were in Vancouver. We all loved this cruise, and the staff were fantastic! We'll definitely sail the Summit again. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2005
I was on the Summit cruise of 5/7. First I want to say the crew was GREAT. To our waiter Bobbo and assistant waitress Tamera, we miss you. I have read many of the comments from people calling many of us cry babies or so what if you were ... Read More
I was on the Summit cruise of 5/7. First I want to say the crew was GREAT. To our waiter Bobbo and assistant waitress Tamera, we miss you. I have read many of the comments from people calling many of us cry babies or so what if you were at sea, you had a cruise experience. The first thing I have to say is if I wanted days at sea, I would have taken a Cruise to Nowhere, out of New York and saved the airfare to the west coast. How much BINGO can one take at $30.00 a pop per person, twice a day ($120.00 a day) when at sea? How much Pictionary, Name That Tune or battle of the sexes trivia can you play? How much time are you going to spend in the pool sailing the North Pacific in May? I have to admit it was funny seeing people on lounge chairs around the pool dressed from head to toe and with a blanket. How many drinks can you down (at 5.95 to 9.95 per drink plus 15% gratuity) a day. I did enjoy the Martini Sampler Special they had twice during the cruise. Six varieties of martinis at 2 oz. each. After a couple of specials you forget about the rest of the day! Did I mention the Wine Auction, the Art Auction or the diamond and jade specials, how about the gold chain by the inch, starting at 99 cents per inch! If that does not interest you, the Casino is open when we are not in Port. This cruise was doomed from day one! I was told the ship got in late from Hawaii. When we went to board the ship, we had to go up an escalator and at the top was an enclosed area with a doorway going out to a walkway that led to the gangplank to board the ship. The line backed up and people piled on top of each other at the top of the escalator. People were screaming for help and to stop the escalator. Two people were cut up and hurt pretty badly. Celebrity had no personnel at the top of the escalator. A few days later we were talking to one of the people hurt and they told us Celebrity tried charging them $300.00 for medical care!! After we left port later that night, one of the crew members I was talking to told me they had a problem with the ship coming back from Hawaii and that is why they were late. We were to dock in San Francisco on Tuesday at 8 am, but on Monday night the Captain announced we would be docking at 12 am due to some maintenance needed. SF was nice and we were supposed to leave at 6 pm. We sat at the dock in San Francisco till about 7:00, when there was an announcement that it would be another hour till we left. The ship FINALLY left a little after 8:00 pm. Late Wed. morning the Captain announced that due to a bearing problem we would not be docking at Seattle or Sitka because the ship could only due 17.4 knots to be safe instead of 22 knots. Later the Captain stated that Lloyds of London inspected the ship and they were told if they kept the speed of the ship at no more then 17.4 knots per hour they could continue the cruise. The problem with that was at that speed, they could not make all the ports and had to cut time at the rest of the ports. People were very upset and they demanded a meeting. I have to give the Captain credit; he stayed at the meeting until every question was answered. When the captain was asked if he knew about the ship problems while we were in SF, his answer was I would not insult your intelligence and tell you no. When someone got up and asked for a show of hands how many people thought they should get a full refund, the Captain raised his hand. This was all on video tape. This meeting started about 1 pm PT on Tues. May 10. The same day, at 12:16 pm ET (9:16 am our time) it was posted by South Florida Business Journal; Celebrity will dry-dock Summit and cancel May 20 cruise to Alaska. Passengers will be given a full refund AND a FREE CRUISE!! We did not find out about this until the next day. Celebrity gave us a $200.00 credit per cabin. In Ketchikan we left at 2 pm instead of 4 pm so we had to cancel one of our excursions. We arrived in Skagway late. On May 16th we were supposed to arrive in Hubbard Glacier at 9:00 am and stay till 1:00 pm. We did not arrive until 11:00 am and then we never got near the Glacier. The Captain said it was because there was another ship in there and only one at a time could go in. We left there at 1:00 pm. The only way I could see the Glacier was with a pair of binoculars. On May 18th we were suppose to Cruise the Inside Passage. We did not cruise the first 775 miles of the passage, only the last 225 miles. We arrived at that point of the Inside Passage about 9:00 am. The Captain announced that because of the fog, and that we would not be able to see anything, we would sit in the Bay until 5:00 pm when the fog would lift. By 11:00 am the fog lifted, at 3:30 pm the fog rolled back in. We found out that was a lie, the reason we sat there was because they had no pilot to take us in and he would not arrive until 5:00 pm. At 4:52 pm I was standing on our balcony and watched the pilot boat drop off the pilot. He boarded right below me. Then we took off but you could not see more then 60 feet ahead due to fog. Our dinner was 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. When we left the dinning room the passage was clear so we got to see the Inside Passage for 1 hour then it got dark. There were other things that happened, there were meetings in the grand foyer each day we were out at sea with anywhere from 300 to 600 passengers at each meeting. Over 1000 people signed a petition to join a class action suit. On the last day Celebrity said they were giving us 30% off our next cruise. That means I have to save up the other 70% and the airfare to see what they took away from us. What are the highlights of a cruise to Alaska? The things you can only see from a ship, Hubbards Glacier, the 1000 mile trek along the Inside Passage with wondrous wildlife and waterfalls. Spotting whales and orca and just the natural beauty of it all from your balcony or up on deck. If anyone tries to tell me that Hubbards Glacier and the Inside Passage are days at sea I must say no way, those are spectacular sightseeing days. Why else did we take a cruise? To unpack once, and besides, its impossible to drive from town to town in Alaska. If I had been given the choice of disembarking in SF and taking another cruise, I would have. We saved for 2 years and booked 9 months in advance. I spent 9 months researching as much as I could so that we would have the best experience possible. Unfortunately I did not research Celebrity or the parent Royal Caribbeans corporate treatment of customers. I hope Celebrity does the right thing on their own without having to file the class action suit. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2005
ALASKA INSIDE PASSAGE CRUISE: Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau, Icy Strait/Hoonah, Hubbard Glacier, and Seward. My husband and I chose to go on an Alaskan Cruise for our wedding anniversary. We tried to do something special each year for ... Read More
ALASKA INSIDE PASSAGE CRUISE: Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau, Icy Strait/Hoonah, Hubbard Glacier, and Seward. My husband and I chose to go on an Alaskan Cruise for our wedding anniversary. We tried to do something special each year for our anniversary. Choosing the Alaska Cruise was perfect. We flew from Hawaii to Vancouver, B.C. (which was our port of embarkation). The Summit is such a fascinating ship...our embarkation went smoothly, and our cabin was on the same deck as the foyer of the ship. It made it easy going on and off the ship when we went to each port. The cabin was very clean and comfortable, and the Stateroom Attendant and everyone else had professionalism and excellent customer service. Our Dining experience was wonderful...every evening for dinner we sat at the same table with the same people. Our reserved table was larger than most, we had twelve people at our table, and it was very nice getting to know one another and becoming friends with everyone. The Waiter & Assistant Waiter for our table had outstanding customer service and knowledge. One of our shore excursion was Kayaking. That was a lot of fun. The instructor said...this would be a test for couples. It was a 2-person Kayak and it was important to be in sync with each other. Most of the ports we docked at we walked around the town and shopped. Each port was beautiful, surrounded by snow capped mountains. Our last port was Seward, and this is where we disembarked. We had to catch a flight on Alaska Airlines to Vancouver...spent a night in Vancouver, then flew back to Hawaii. I would not do a one-way cruise again. I would prefer returning to the same port. All of the crew on the Summit were courteous, thoughtful, and all had professionalism with their positions. Things may have changed, but the experience we had during our cruise was very memorable. In summary, I thought the Celebrity "SUMMIT" was a very classy ship in every way. I've tried and would love to go on that ship again, but it has not been active where I am interested in visiting. I cruised on the Celebrity Mercury, but comparing it to the Summit...it was a disappointment. I love to travel, but since my traveling partner & husband died, I have not traveled as much. Going on a cruise is the best way to travel! Aloha, Rainbow777 Read Less
Sail Date: June 2005
We arrived into Anchorage and toured the state a couple of days before our departure. Anchorage is very overpriced for regular hotel rooms. Example: Fairfield Inn-$200/night. (And they were sold out!) Souvenirs are expensive in Anchorage, ... Read More
We arrived into Anchorage and toured the state a couple of days before our departure. Anchorage is very overpriced for regular hotel rooms. Example: Fairfield Inn-$200/night. (And they were sold out!) Souvenirs are expensive in Anchorage, best souvenir shopping was in Ketchikan. Took train down to Seward, it is an early departure 6 a.m. but worth it for the beautiful scenery. Very nice ride and on time. The train will transfer your luggage directly to the ship. DO NOT BUY ANY ITEMS IN SEWARD !! It was so overpriced that we thought they were kidding. Example: 24 exp. Disposable camera $18.00 Embarkation was fine despite Celebrity training several new employees. Food was very good especially the fruits. Menu every night included choice of meats, poultry, fish or combo. Lunch was the only meal that was good for food but bad for enjoyment,our fellow passengers showed up pushing and shoving in line when there was no need. Ports: Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan all have the EXACT same stores. There are out of state vendors that built stores in the city to capitalize on the tourism. There are 23 jewelry stores in Skagway with a population of only 400 year round residents. WARNING: Most stores pay a 25% premium to be on the cruise company's recommendation list. You WILL pay more if you shop at these stores. Jewelry stores WILL negotiate prices. Best souvenirs shopping seemed to be in Ketchikan. Our favorite port was icy straight because this was what Alaska is really about and ALL local Hoonan, AK vendors. Excursions: Take a Float Plane, it is well worth the fee but take one in the Northern most portion versus the last southern port,(Ketchikan). You will see more in the North. The White Pass train in Skagway was nice and you may sit on the left side but you must change seats at the mid-way point. It is the only way to be fair to all passengers. The Lumberjack show in Ketchikan is a must see and enjoyable. The Totem Bite state park was $60/per person for a state park that is free to all entrants. The park was nice but $60 for a bus ride? The whale excursion is a guess where the whales are. There is no guarantee that you will see any whales. Best chance to see whales for us was at icy point straight. We saw five from the beach. We were a little disappointed on the commercialization of each port except Hoonan (icy point). There are typically 4 cruise ships in port at one time and ALL TOURS are available on shore without pre-booking them on the ship. We had no problem saving $700 by booking excursions as we disembarked at each port. Go with a positive attitude, it is such a beautiful state! Hope this helps, I appreciated the info passengers shared with me before our trip. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2005
After reading other reports it would seem that our experience as first time cruisers on the Summit does not agree with anyone else. We found the atmosphere on board attuned to one object only, that of fleecing their captive customers of ... Read More
After reading other reports it would seem that our experience as first time cruisers on the Summit does not agree with anyone else. We found the atmosphere on board attuned to one object only, that of fleecing their captive customers of their last dollar at every opportunity (hot chocolate at the Hubbard Glacier sir ? $10 - yeah, right). Port excursions were far cheaper when booked ashore (Juneau - Taku Lodge flight/Salmon Bake $244 aboard compared to $180 at the pier). The Alaskan ports were great fun to visit (the object of the cruise) but we were bored rigid on board between ports. The entertainment in the theatre was crass in the extreme, resulting in our leaving each show after 20 minutes. Amateur would just about describe it. I will spare you any comments on the grotesque feeding habits of our fellow passengers The ship was ugly and the internal furnishings banal. Our first cruise will certainly be our last. Value for money?, I'll take Sandals on the Caribbean over the Summit anytime. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2005
If anyone has any questions about my comments in this long review, I can be reached at pgauker@bellsouth.net. And I mean it! Travel experiences are to be shared! I still get an occasional question from my Summit review from '04 Ft ... Read More
If anyone has any questions about my comments in this long review, I can be reached at pgauker@bellsouth.net. And I mean it! Travel experiences are to be shared! I still get an occasional question from my Summit review from '04 Ft Lauderdale to Panama and back. PRECRUISE PREPARATIONS -- I received an email ad thru Cruise Critic with an offer I couldn't refuse: Air included to Alaska! I hadn't even been planning a cruise this summer but I snatched it up. And as it turned out, flying on Northwest Airlines to Anchorage at 8:10 a.m. I was able to receive Delta Sky Miles, so that was a pleasant surprise. I love free tickets on Delta! And the free transfers by bus with cruise/air arrangements. I chose the Southbound Gulf of Alaska trip because there were more hours in port than on the Northbound trip. We also scheduled late dinner seating to afford us more time on excursions on land, without having the chance of missing the ship or dinner. My brother had taken Summit to Alaska last year and said I should take an inside room since I am so light sensitive. This would assure a good night's sleep, he said. The travel agency gave a two category upgrade, so I was not totally in the belly of the ship. There was no way i could have arranged the trip less expensively by booking my own air. I did not, however, receive a one category Captain's Club upgrade from Celebrity since our pricing was lower than usual. (Read the small print that the upgrade may not be available). My husband said he would be too cold in Alaska so one of my singing buddies went with me. She had not cruised in ten years, and then on Carnival, so was ready for the Celebrity experience I'd described to her after our 2004 cruise on Summit. She said everything in the Bahamas was so artificial that she was ready for some real stuff (nature) in Alaska. And she loved the itinerary which included Icy Strait Point, since she knew someone who ran a fishing charter there during the summer. Small world. Why do I choose Celebrity? Among other things, because the Millennium Class ships do not blow black smoke into the atmosphere, there are no unnecessary announcements made, so you are not interrupted, and the overall experience is more pleasant. I think, too, that a cruise line that doesn't shepherd you as if you were children expects their clients to be adult, and get to their activities on time on their own. Yet they were always there to answer any questions. The passenger to crew ratio makes service excellent, and the passenger to space ratio gives the feeling that there aren't really 2000 people on board. I also choose Celebrity because they still have assigned dining room seating at night. And did I mention good food and service? I liked the open seating for breakfast and lunch in the Cosmopolitan dining room, so I could still meet new and interesting passengers. Yet the buffet was always available if we were in a hurry to get to an excursion. There is little interaction with other passengers at the buffet. I chose Summit because of its Aqua Spa and free use of its adult only Thellosotherapy pool and saunas, and the Aqua Spa Cafe, for yet another dining experience. I did not try the casual boulevard dining nor the Normandy. We enjoyed the free ice cream bar, the design your own pasta and pizza bars, as well as the omelet and waffle stations in the buffet area. The first night I saw some teenagers in the T-pool and hot tubs, but none later in the week. I am glad this rule is being enforced. A few brave teenaged souls did use the unheated outdoor pool, but immediately afterward jumped into the hot tubs! Another way to meet new people is to attend the formal tea in the Cosmopolitan (as opposed to the casual tea held daily in the buffet area). It was excellent and had a good variety of goodies to choose from. But tea is from a bag in a cup of hot water. not brewed. Yes, I gained the requisite 5 pounds on this cruise, despite walking down stairs instead of taking the elevator. I think part of the fun of a cruise is doing the research ahead of time. I went on the Cruise Critic Boards immediately and read other people's advice. There is just nothing like "straight from the horse's mouth." And I love sharing tales with other people there. Thank you Cruise Critic and all its members. And the photos you shared!! Priceless. There were some excursions I originally wanted to book, but found out that bear watching, for instance, except in Denali park, is slim in July, and that some tours were on open boats subject to the elements. Also, some complained of their feet getting cold in kayaks, so it made it much easier to choose among the many many tours available. I went on line to get an idea of what was THERE in Alaska that we could conceivably do in a port day. I compared the ship's excursions and times with what I could book independently, and ultimately chose companies who responded quickly and eliminated those that ignored emails for a week. Over the course of two months I did change my mind a couple of times, but was able to use the same agencies to upgrade, like from a helicopter glacier landing to a helicopter dog sled ride. Anything I'd booked through Celebrity and cancelled was immediately credited to my credit card. However, I did not ever receive an email confirmation from Celebrity, which worried me until I saw the charge on my credit card statement. I wanted to have new experiences and ones that were particularly Alaskan, that I could not replicate in the lower 48. I will tell you about my choices in the port section below. We saved approximately $240 each by booking independent tours. Also, having sailed Summit before, I knew that we'd have to make decisions about what to do on board, as well, since time was at a premium and fatigue had to be planned for. We opted not to attend theater shows and to rest instead. We also opted not to get involved in bingo and the casino which might destroy the peace we were trying to achieve by being close to nature. These were just personal preferences that we selected before we sailed. I also researched what souvenirs might be appropriate, and ordered several ulu knives made by the Ulu Factory in Anchorage before the cruise. Doing this saved me the hassle of trying to bring knives on board, and the slight weight and bulk increase they would have created in my luggage. When I did a search for ulu, some ulu shoes appeared in the search, and I was able to get some Alaskan style boots for Christmas presents for about 80% off. Isn't the internet something? How did we manage before we had it? We had checked the weather daily in the port cities for the two months preceding the cruise, and the variations in temperature and rain versus sunshine presented a packing challenge. But we did manage to stay within the 50 lb. limit per suitcase for domestic flights by taking a carryon with snacks since airlines don't really feed you any more. I had an icon on my desktop from the weather channel, and added each port city, so I was able to get the current temperature and an extended forecast with the click of a mouse It was very helpful. I reported these figures to our Roll Call forum, and the info seemed to help other travellers, as well. I know you've heard it before, but layering is the answer for clothing in Alaska. I did pack too much, as usual. Never used the shorts or the sweaters. But without self service laundromats on Celebrity, I felt there was not too much choice. I did not want to be bothered with remembering to put out clothes to be washed or dry cleaned since my mind was on excursions, not clothing. Although we are only an hour and a half drive to the Atlanta airport from Auburn Alabama, we drove up the evening before the flight to assure getting to the plane on time since our departure was at a very popular hour & we knew the security lines would be long. We were able to book a park/sleep/fly with Comfort Inn near the airport with 10 days of free parking and free shuttle service to and from the airport. This allowed us to avoid leaving Auburn at 2 a.m. to drive to the airport. One more small step in relieving anxiety. There was one change of planes in Minneapolis where cruise people coming from other areas would combine for the 2nd leg to Anchorage arriving at 2:30 p.m.. We had an hour and 3/4 between flights, so looked around the airport and used the moving sidewalks. Saw my only moose there: a rocking moose in a store! There were shuttle buses to Seward leaving every 45 minutes on Friday afternoon, so my anxiety about making the 3PM regularly scheduled Seward bus were alleviated with one phone call when I got my documents. So it really was possible to make the long trip in one day. But a long one! ARRIVING IN ANCHORAGE -- The directions for finding the coaches at the Anchorage airport could have been improved. It seemed that two employees liked to stand together waving the same Celebrity sign, but when you walked in the direction they pointed you in, there was no one at the next "station" to tell you what to do, so there was lots of mumbling and questioning one another, and lots of back tracking and unnecessary walking back to the original employee for clarification. We heaped our luggage together and it was sent to Seward separate from us, but did arrive in a timely manner so we did not have to worry about it. The comfortable coach with large picture windows drove along the scenic Seward Highway, along Turn Again Arm, with the driver narrating along the route, telling us where an eagle's nest was located, giving us descriptions as he drove. We stopped half way for a photo op and bathroom break. Since we arrived in Seward around 7 p.m. there were no lines whatsoever at the pier. I wished we had been able to arrive a day earlier to see Seward and take the Kenai Fjords tour. Seward was my favorite port for scenery and peacefulness. I realize that this may have been my opinion because it was my first glance at an Alaskan port. Check In at the pier was rapid and efficient. We were met with champagne and escorted to our cabin. We had been handed a card saying that for the first night we would have open seating in the Cosmopolitan at 8:30 p.m.. We were too hungry after only airline snacks, so opted not to go to the Cosmopolitan since we were very tired and didn't look our best, either. There was a lovely spread in the almost deserted Waterfall Cafe. Since there is day light until 9:30 we took many pictures of Seward from the aft balcony off the buffet. The luggage had arrived by the time we had eaten dinner. We read our Celebrity Today to decide upon choices of activities for Saturday. The CT will tell you what the dress code is for the evening as well as activities, spa specials, drink of the day, hours of operation etc. The TV provided access to free room service, CNN, and other channels, movies, pay per view movies, your shipboard account, view from the bridge with weather forecast, ship's bearing with local map, or background music. THE SHIP -- The ship showed a little wear but not much. The wear I speak of was in chipped toilet seat covers only, in the cabin and public bathrooms. It was still gorgeous and spotlessly clean. Everything functioned as designed. The ride was smooth and slow. The service remained unflawed and friendly. But our waiters and stewards did not bother to learn our names as they had on our last trip on Summit. Our inside cabin 3046 was on the Plaza deck, convenient to everything, especially disembarkation in the ports! We were near the forward elevator so I ran up to the T pool frequently and used the free sauna and showers in the ladies dressing room. The cabin is exactly the same size as the balcony cabin we had last year, except no balcony. The provided soap, shampoo, cotton balls and Q-Tips were convenient. There was adequate room for all our clothing and suitcases. I had brought extra hangers in the luggage. All invitations to parties and our shore excursions were in the cabin when we arrived. Our steward, Erlene, from the Philippines, and her assistant, Agus, from Indonesia, kept the room sparkling, with extra ice so I could ice my feet per doctor's orders. We removed all the mini bar items and used the fridge for our diet sodas we'd brought with us. The staff was consistently helpful and it was a seamless journey, including leaving and returning to the ship at the various ports. Watch for the difference in tides at Ketchikan! You may have left the ship from the 4th deck and will return via the first! THE TRIP EXPERIENCE -- Sail away from Seward was at 9:30 p.m. in the daylight! Since we arrived so late, we missed the tour of the ship/cabins and Aqua Spa, but I made up for it by having 4 massages. The SPA -- The new girl on the block was Elisha, an American, who had just transferred that week from Celebrity's Constellation. She was so professional and knowledgeable that I scheduled all massages with her. She was the only employee who called me by name. I enjoyed her company as well as her massages. She recommended a particular exercise machine in the gym and demonstrated its use for me. I did use it at 6:30 a.m. several days before my first cup of coffee and papaya in the Aqua Spa Cafe. I checked Celebrity Today for the spa specials and called immediately for an appointment for the following day. The spa rooms are quiet and relaxing. I was not overly impressed with the Persian Gardens. I could detect no scent in them. As far as I was concerned, the free sauna in the women's changing room would do. The changing room contained lockers (get a key from the spa desk) and large showers. MUSTER & CRUISE CRITIC CONNECTIONS PARTY ON SATURDAY A.M. -- Muster drill was held the next morning, and proceeded as expected, other than a screaming toddler who could not be comforted. Then followed the Cruise Critic Connections Party which almost didn't happen. We had had only 22 signed up a week before the cruise. So we were in the process of arranging our own get together, and sending photos so we'd recognize one another. Then I posted to the lurkers on our roll call to please sign up even if they thought they would not attend. Suddenly we had 35! And they attended! It was nice to be able to recognize some of the people during the week after having chatted with them at the party. We attended all the lectures that were provided on nature: glaciers and whales. Here today, gone to Maui for mating. Alaska is their feeding grounds. SATURDAY P.M. -- Hubbard Glacier was breathtaking. The heliport was opened that afternoon for closer viewing. We wore heavy coats, hats and gloves, but it was not uncomfortably cold. We went inside to the Aqua Spa and pool area when we were felt cold. The experience was totally overwhelming. Being surrounded on 3 sides by magnificent mountains and glaciers is simply something the camera cannot capture. We were witnessing evolution as the glaciers calved. This was also the first formal night. Our tablemates were a perfect match and we all enjoyed one another, literally closing up the place, being the last to leave each night. I like to be able to get to know my table mates and waiters and be called by name which does not happen with open seating. Our waitress was Reina from Slovakia, and her assistant was Raphael from Honduras, both of whom gave excellent service, anticipating our needs. After we ran out of breadsticks the first night we always had plenty the other nights. One tablemate was crazy about potatoes, so a plate of extra potatoes appeared every night! The menu was the same as it had been to Panama in '04, so I didn't have to try everything! The Sommelier always had placed the opened bottles of wine some table mates had brought on board. SUNDAY -- In Juneau we docked at the S Franklin Street pier at 8 a.m. We'd been up early to see whales, and were told there had been some, but they disappeared when we arrived on deck. There was a free shuttle bus for a ride to the edge of town, about 3-4 blocks away. We met a representative at the MGT booth across from the Mt. Roberts Tramway at 11:30 for transportation to the helipad for our dogsled adventure on a glacier. We had our email and snail mail confirmations in hand, but alas! the dog camp was socked in, so they asked if we'd want to try again at 1:30. We did want to try again. They were in constant radio contact with the dog camp,so could check the weather there. The understanding was that if we could not get in, we'd just have a glacier landing with a refund of $210 each. That is what had happened that morning, but fortunately did not happen to us. We got in. We'd originally planned to see the Glacier Gardens after the helicopter ride, so were undecided about how we should spend the two hours until the afternoon flight. They volunteered to give us a free ride to the Gardens. We decided to have lunch on board and wing it from there. We WERE able to go to the dog camp via Coastal Helicopters ($395 each) We weighed in (no weights were called out!) and were fitted with boots and given safety instructions. It was our first helicopter ride and all my worries disappeared when we lifted off. The flight was smooth as glass. We flew over Mendenhall Glacier and noted the lack of color. Except for a glimpse of blue in the glacier, it was as if we were living in a black and white world. There were 6 passengers aboard, 2 women in front with the pilot, and 4 in back shoulder to shoulder. The earphones made communication easy, and kept out engine noise. We saw Dall sheep from the air. The mixed breed dogs started barking at the approach of the helicopter, as if saying, '"take me running." The camp was located in a valley below several glaciers. We were surrounded by them. The 3 employees there were highly wind/sun burned and wore only tee shirts in contrast to our heaviest coats, hats and gloves. We heard the thunder of calving and looked around to see if there'd be an avalanche. They said they had about 3 avalanches a week. We were on two teams of dogs so could watch the other sleds from a distance on the mile long ride. Yes, one of the sleds tipped over, but they said it added to the fun. We had not signed a waiver in case of a dog sled accident! Meanwhile, the helicopter returned to the helipad for the next tour group. When we were playing with the dogs it returned once again, with the dogs giving their barks of greeting. We reluctantly left this once in a lifetime experience and returned to the helipad. We flew close to the mountains for better views. Because of our delayed excursion, they dropped us off at the Glacier Gardens and told the other 4 passengers they were getting a different route back to the ship. I'm glad they did because on the map it appeared to be only a 3 block walk, but was actually quite a distance away! The folks at the Gardens arranged a cab for us to return to the ship. We rode up steep mountain paths in a golf cart type vehicle to an overlook of the Juneau harbor. There were several tour buses from the ships there, so we met lots of people. Our cab ride back to the ship was $20. The ship departed at 10 p.m. We viewed this sail away from our window table in the Cosmopolitan, second seating. I had made 4 masks (at home) for the women at our table for the Cirque du Soleil, and we donned our white clothing and dutifully went to the Bar at the Edge of the Earth at 10:30 for the experience. It was a little loud for our tastes, but interesting. MONDAY -- In Skagway we were at the forward position on the Railroad Dock, so easily walked to the "public" part of the dock to meet our tour bus. We had ordered room service sandwiches and a fruit and cheese plate, and packed the potato chips and cheese in ziplog bags I'd brought from home, so had a snack during photo ops. on the 6 hour excursion to the Yukon. We were met by Frontier Tours with a placard with our names on it!! Such service! There were six of us in a van for the climb to Canada. We took the city tour combined with the over the summit and into the Yukon trip with Yukon Murray's guide in hand. We followed the steepest route of the gold rush rather than the adjacent alternate routes some took, thru the Chilkoot and Chilkat passes. We also had arranged for a dog wagon ride at Caribou Crossing (near Carcross) before descending back into town. These dogs were huskies instead of the mixed breeds at the glacier. There were puppies to cuddle and play with at both locations. I was pleased to learn that people in the Yukon use their dogs for transport when snow makes the roads impassable. I guess I liked it because it had seemed to me that the sole purpose of offering the dog rides was to raise money for the Iditarod and other races. There was an excellent museum on site, as well, and a gift shop with books. Total $145 per person. f you feel you cannot afford to spend $400+ for the helicopter glacier dogsled ride, you can still get the feel of the dogs loving to pull and run, by the wagon ride without snow. The presentation about the dog sled was better at Carcross than at the glacier. When a dog is injured and has to ride IN the sled, he/she is given a seat where he/she can look out to watch the action. I love it! They alternate their lead dogs, and on our wagon ride the usual lead dog was well back, but constantly barking his instructions to the other dogs, and turning back to the musher to say he was ready. We made a quick stop in the village of Carcross and had our passports stamped if we wanted. The log homes had no running water or central heat/air. Without the gold rush, would there even be a town there? There were no bears at the usual bear viewing spots, but did see an eagle's nest. Everything we saw was explained to us and having such a small group, we could easily ask questions. We stopped for photo ops several times. Sailaway at 8:30 p.m. We used room service since we were exhausted. We are 65 and 68. TUESDAY -- We discovered that the chocolate croissants from the Cova Cafe are much superior to those served in the Waterfall buffet or Cosmopolitan Dining Room because they are hot. Icy Strait Point the next day. So isolated! From the ship we could see the town of Hoonah about a mile from the tourist center. Tender to shore began at 6:30 a.m. for those who had 6:30 fishing trips scheduled. Whales had been spotted, but none showed up for us. It was raining slightly so many people stayed on board Summit. We are glad we went. We had not scheduled any excursions since we were to call a friend from Auburn who worked in Hoonah during the season. We were unable to reach him, however, so just enjoyed talking to the people who lived there and visiting the free salmon museum. For those who had not booked a tour through the ship, there were tours available at the dock for people like us. We did not take a tour, however since visibility was poor. We were given a wood chip in a small paper bag and invited to add it to the fire at the ceremonial spot a block down the beach. We were wearing our rain gear so walked the block on the beach rather than on the board walk. The idea of joining our spirits with theirs was very touching. We spent most of our time in the Spirit Gift Shop. This was the only shop that was entirely "native" run. In December, if their profits are good, they will be allowed to purchase the shop. They were given a grant and learned how to run a business. So far it appears that their studies have made the shop successful. This is the only shop where native made articles, crafted from natural materials could be purchased. This appealed to me rather than simply a native design that had been sent to China or elsewhere where they were mass produced. I purchased jade and ivory earrings, the ivory coming from a wooly mammoth found in the permafrost. I learned from a woman in her sixties that the missionaries had discouraged the use of the Tlinget language during her mother's childhood, so many children back then had not spoken Tlinget. However, it is now being taught in the schools. The native children had gone to college as far away as Yale, and some had returned to teach in the local schools. There seemed to be a status symbol in paying your own way to a lower 48 school rather than taking free grants to go to college in Alaska. I learned that the Haida tribe had been the "slaves" of the Tlinget, although it was more of a caste system than slavery as we think of it. We had been discussing various forms of slavery prior to this admission. Funding for the Icy Strait Point project had come from Juneau and there was a five year contract with RCCL/Celebrity, with only two stops a week by cruise ships. Only one ship is allowed per day. This may increase to 4 days per week with only one ship per day. It's hard to top dog sledding, but I believe the lasting impression of the people of Hoonah rate as the number one experience of the cruise. Today was the deadline for deciding if you wanted to tip through your shipboard account or in envelopes using cash. I chose to tip through the account since I'd used a Celebrity credit card for my sea pass! (double points) WEDNESDAY -- In Ketchikan we were at dock 2 Tongass Store at 8 a.m., a short walk to the Sunshine/Rain gauge where we met our tour driver for our first tour of the day, the amphibious DUCK trip through town and into the harbor. Wish visibility had been a little better, but after all, it was Ketchikan where it is almost always raining. We did a little souvenir shopping for tee shirts and baseball caps, books on totems etc. before returning to the ship. After lunch we ventured again to the dock to meet our driver for a flight to the Misty Fjords with Alaska Seaplane Tours ($198). Earlier in the day they'd had to turn back due to poor visibility, but they had seen bears. So we left with the understanding that if we could not get good views of the fjords we'd have a couple of landings and turn it into a wildlife viewing flight. We did make it to the fjords but could not see much, so looked for bear. None for us. We did see Salmon jumping, however. The flight was pleasant, and the earphones made communication good. THURSDAY -- We cruised the Inside Passage. People were spotting dolphin, salmon jumping, but no bears or whales. While crossing from port to starboard for different views, we heard music and looked into the Celebrity theater. The early show was going on. We were able to get a glimpse of some of the acts we'd not seen by not attending any shows all week. They also showed the footage of film for the souvenir video. My, what rambunctious activities we missed by resting! We packed, said our good byes, and placed our luggage outside our door by 11 pm. FRIDAY -- Those who were using US Direct services met in the Celebrity Theatre at a designated hour after we docked at Canada Place. This process could have been improved. In theory it worked perfectly, but in reality, there were not enough instructions given frequently enough. Ideally one person from each party would stand in a line and approach the stage where boarding passes and luggage tag receipts were distributed, and then join the rest of the party to go to the coaches for the trip to the airport. However, all passengers did not hear the "one person in a party" announcement, and the aisles were full of whole families struggling down the steps with carry on luggage. To soothe the unhappy campers, everyone was told to sit down. Well, I saw that everyone who'd received a boarding pass was walking out to the bus, and we were still sitting, as instructed. I asked an agent and he told me to proceed to the bus, but wanted to know exactly who had told me to sit down: the lady who had given me my boarding pass! Unbelievable. On our short tour of Vancouver enroute to the airport we saw that gasoline there was .99 Canadian, but that was for only a litre! Therefore their gasoline was over $3.00 US per gallon! The Vancouver airport was quite something. There were several features for tired passengers that I found intriguing: massage stations, a coin operated massage chair, 3 sleeping capsules with blankets, and internet services. Their designated smoking area was in an enclosed room of a restaurant with full view of our departure gate. Their disembarking passengers did not stream out into the waiting area for embarking passengers, so there was no hubbub. I was very impressed at the calmness. We had two hours before our flight home, so had the opportunity to look around. The US Direct Vancouver program for $20 (available only to people with transfers already purchased & are booked with participating airlines. You will be given forms where you may opt for this program earlier in the week and pay for it on your sea pass) saved us hours of slow lines. We did not see our luggage after it was placed in the hall at midnight the last night at sea, until we arrived in Atlanta. Every Canadian who worked for the program was courteous, friendly, and stationed at any corner where you just might take a wrong turn. So it was very smooth. And we did not have to remove our shoes in the security line! Our Delta flight attendant had us do exercises before we landed after our 5 hour flight. We all laughed when she asked us to put our left legs behind our heads! Non-stop is the way to go. We collected our baggage, took the shuttle back to Comfort Inn to pick up the car, which took approximately 1 hour in total from landing to getting in the car. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2005
This was my first cruise in July '05 and it was one of the most pleasant experiences I have had. My mom's dream vacation was to always go to Alaska, so my brother & I joined my parents and off we went. My dad really want to ... Read More
This was my first cruise in July '05 and it was one of the most pleasant experiences I have had. My mom's dream vacation was to always go to Alaska, so my brother & I joined my parents and off we went. My dad really want to see Anchorage so we flew there nonstop from Atlanta just so we could spend a few extra days before embarkation. It's worth it to get there a few days just to explore. Anchorage is a really neat city with a lot of history, I enjoyed it. We decided to take the train down to Seward, and besides the cruise, this was another amazing experience. In order to get to Seward you could either ride a bus (BORING!), or take the train. The train takes you through lush scenery, you go through the mountains, down by the ocean. It was seriously breath taking. When you're in the mountains you just see valley's of green for miles. And you can see a ton of wildlife on the way. The ride down there is about 2 hours, and they do serve lunch on board the train. We got to our ship and check in was a breeze, no lengthy lines or anything. My parents were staying in a balcony room, while my brother & I shared an inside state room. We were 15(him) & 19(me) at the time, we're 17 & 21 now. So it was a place for us to just sleep and shower. We mainly hung out in our parents room to watch the scenery. Your never without scenery on an Alaskan cruise, and this is one cruise you DEFINITELY want a balcony, or atleast a window for. I honestly don't remember the port of calls in order, but I know we went to Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway. Our final port of call was Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Which is where we debarked. Celebrity Summit was a very elegant ship, the food was excellent. The coolest part was on the last night when the wait staff came out with Baked Alaska flaming on their heads, it was so funny, and appropriate! The shopping on board this ship was very nice too. I walked away with some very beautiful pieces of jewelry. My brother was definitely all over the teen scene on the ship, he made friends quickly and we never knew where he was. There was nobody really my age on board, so I hung out with my parents, and did things with them. The casino was nice, not smoke filled or too rowdy like other cruise ship casinos. Also the shows were great. There was a magic show, and a few cabaret like shows as well..very nice. The cruise director(i so forget his name as this was 2 years ago), was excellent. I remember he would be on tv all day inside you room telling you what was going on. You could also order room service through your tv 24 hours a day. The spa was very nice as well. I got a massage one night after dinner on the ship, and it was very relaxing, and professional. The fitness center looked top notch as well. Our steward was very nice as well, he had a few other people to help him. And everyone on board was just wonderful. You couldn't walk down the hall without being greeted by someone, and them asking you how your day was and how you were enjoying your cruise. The shore excursions were very nice too. In skagway we did two shore excursions as we had a lot of time there. My brother & dad took a helicopter ride up to the top of a glacier, I'm not sure the name of it. They said it was a really neat experience, not only to ride in a helicopter, but to be atop a huge mass. And then as a family we went to the Mushing camp, where there were HUNDREDS of huskies. The dogs would pull you in a fake mushing exercise. You were basically strapped into a go-kart like device, and about 15-20 dogs pulled you around a trail...it was a ton of fun!!! And afterwards you could learn about the life of Mushing, and how the dogs & trainers survive and what they endure. And then you could play with the dogs, and there were husky puppies on site as well. The majority of the dogs were VERY friendly...some were not, but that's expected. All in all it was a great cruise, and my parents & I would definitely sail with Celebrity again. We plan on heading to the Mediterranean soon and we hope to join Celebrity in doing so. :) Read Less
Sail Date: August 2005
Hi All, I'll try to just hit the highlights of our trip, but be prepared, once I get moving on something like this I can go on and on... A little background is in order. This is our (my wife and I) 4th cruise with Celebrity, 2nd to ... Read More
Hi All, I'll try to just hit the highlights of our trip, but be prepared, once I get moving on something like this I can go on and on... A little background is in order. This is our (my wife and I) 4th cruise with Celebrity, 2nd to Alaska, 2nd cruise on Summit. The last time we went to Alaska we were on Celebrity's Galaxy and did the round trip from and to Vancouver. We didn't go on a land tour on that trip. We did go on many excursions. It was our 1st cruise and while it was excellent, we found there was a lot to learn about cruising to make our trip better. I feel we're old hands at it now. To start, the overall trip was excellent. Both the land tour and cruise were great. The Summit is an excellent large ship and the crew is quite good, very friendly, and eager to please. It does behove passengers to treat the crew with respect of course, (We think this is a must with anyone anyway.) as a few passengers we noticed were disgruntled, but their own behavior really brought that on. We started our trip with the land portion of the cruisetour in Fairbanks. The hotel was basic and was clean. The food at the nearby restaurant was quite good. After touring Fairbanks we found that there were no deluxe hotels in Fairbanks. We didn't expect much from the paddlewheel boat trip and the gold mine trip, but were pleasantly surprised with them. The people running the the two tours were so good and so nice you had to have a good time. Aspects of both were very interesting. That evening we took an optional flight to the Coldfoot area, well north of the Arctic Circle (still 23 plus hours of daylight up there). The flight and touring in the coldfoot area were gorgeous and interesting. We saw quite a bit of wildlife from the plane. This did start two tiring days as we didn't get back to the hotel until 2:00AM and we had to get our luggage out the door by 5:45AM and leave for the train at 7:00AM. The next day we were off to Denali via the Wilderness Express Train. The train ride and the train itself are spectacular and the restaurant on the train is excellent. Once at Denali we ate lunch and then were off in the park service's school type bus for about 9 hours of sightseeing. We saw spectacular views, and quite a bit of wildlife. Unfortunately, our guide was terrible, but even she couldn't ruin the tour. Virtually the entire bus (34 people) reported her poor performance to Celebrity. I'm sure she'll either correct herself or find she's not leading these tours any longer. We got to the hotel at 9:30PM, ate dinner and hit the hay. We really needed the rest at that point. The next morning we took a great optional trip, whitewater rafting on the Nenana River. We had a great guide. Then off on the Wilderness Express train again to Talkeetna. The hotel in Talkeetna was terrific. We hiked around and got some additional rest. We were supposed to go on a flight to Mt. McKinley, but couldn't due to bad weather (hail, winds, snow). McKinley (Denali) makes it's own weather. I should mention here that the last time we were in Alaska it rained and was in the 50's and 60's the whole time. This time we lucked out. Except for 15 minutes of rain in Denali it was beautiful and in the 70's or higher most of the time with just a few cloudy days. All the guides cheered us for bringing the sun back after weeks of rain. The next day we took our motor coach to Anchorage and had time to explore the city after our city tour. We went to its Art Museum which wasn't bad. The Marriott is an excellent hotel. We found some magnificent but very expensive native art. The city, Alaska's largest by far, is quite walkable downtown, and of course isn't very large. The city has hanging flower pots all over and it's a lovely place with really friendly people. The next day we were off to Seward via a wild animal "farm". They have a large variety of Alaska animals including: Moose, Bears, Caribou, Bison, Sheep and other animals. The scenery was, as usual, spectacular. That afternoon we arrive at the ship at about 3:30PM. Celebrity had already "preboarded" everyone on the cruisetour and we walked right to security and then on the ship without having to do the normal check-in. It was great, and what was better, all our luggage was already delivered to the room. A final word about the land portion of the tour. Our tour guide and bus driver, who were with us throughout the land portion were terrific, knowledgeable, efficient, organized, and a pleasure to travel with. We spoke to some of the other people on the 3 other Celebrity buses traveling along with us and they too said their guide and driver were great. They can make or break the tour. We stayed in the new Concierge Class room on the Sky Deck. There were formally Premium Oceanview staterooms with veranda. Celebrity upgraded the rooms to some extent, but the difference in the quality of the room is really the extras and the upgraded service which was excellent. Touches which we appreciated were upgraded bathroom linens, fresh fruit and flowers delivered in the room each day, and a few canapes brought to the room each afternoon prior to dinner. The veranda had upgraded chairs and a larger table so it was easy to have breakfast, or any meal for that matter, on the veranda. It just made the daily experience all that more enjoyable. On the Concierge Class floor it looks as though they've decreased the number of rooms each stateroom attendant and assistant cover. Anytime we needed something we got it in no time. Furthermore, it didn't take long for them to understand and anticipate our needs which we've come to expect with Celebrity which helps make them the best of the large ship cruise lines. I do think they need to organize the extra services a little better such as the delivery time of the canapes, however, by the end of the cruise they seemed to have worked out all the bugs. The food, as always, was excellent. We did notice, or so we believe, that the number of choices was somewhat reduced. There was still plenty of choice, however, and the food was great. At the Summit's specialty restaurant, the Normandie, the food and service were superb. It was great to have been able to reserve a date and time, 60 days in advance, for the Normandie, due to our Captain's Club membership. We heard some people who were trying to book it on-board were upset that most of the better times were long gone before anyone boarded the ship for the cruise. The Summit's heated saltwater Thalassotherapy Pool for adults only is really relaxing. The first day a family came with their teenage daughter as well as food and drink. None is permitted including the teenager. They were gently asked to follow the rules by the crew, after a few comments from fellow passengers didn't do the trick. They weren't a problem after that. It was good to see the crew enforce the more important of the ship's rules. The dress code was not strictly enforced, but that was about it on non-enforcement. Frankly, I don't know why people want to show up on formal night dressed causally anyway. It's fun to dress up occasionally. It adds to the festivity of the evening. I wouldn't take a cruise like this without my tux. We used the Summit's excellent fitness center each day. Sometimes when it was crowded the staff had to ask people to limit their machine use to the 20 minutes allowed per machine as per the the rules, but they were so nice no one took offense. While the ship is big, it's laid out well and doesn't seem as big as it is. The Concierge Class room also helped in a couple of other instances too. We got tender priority when tenders were used to get from the ship to the shore, and were invited to a lovely grand tea, for Concierge and Suite passengers only, where we met a terrific couple. We had priority debarkation as well, but we would have gotten that from our captain's club membership anyway. I'd like to mention the Cosmopolitan Restaurant staff for a moment. We had met a really great group of people on the land portion of the trip. Even on the ship we all tended to try to stay together to the extent possible. We were signed up for late dinner seating, as is our custom. We find it more relaxing that way. We can have a late excursion off the ship and still get back and take our time getting ready for dinner. The other 4 people assigned to our table were not good, at all, and they intended to eat at the buffet more often than not, leaving us alone those evenings. We were not happy. We talked to 4 of the people we met on the trip on land who invited us to join them, however, their table only accommodated 4. We went to the Maitre d' and he along with his assist went out of their way to switch things around and get us a table for 6 so we could be together. Just another reason we travel on Celebrity. This isn't the first time we've gotten that kind of assistance. The first day out on the ship we visited the Hubbard Glacier. My hat is off to the captain who maneuvered the Summit to within 300 yards of the glacier and hovered there. Most ships never get that close, and even if they do, don't stay that close. We didn't take advantage of the ship's entertainment that much, but what we did see was enjoyable. On the cruise itself we visited, Hubbard Glacier, Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, and Ketchikan. We had been to each of these before except for Icy Stait Point. If you haven't visited an Alaskan glacier from a ship before you're in for a treat. The view is spectacular and the sound (thunder) from the breaking of the glacier into the water is unreal. This is the highlight of the cruise as far as we're concerned. We took the southbound route because you get much more time in each port than the roundtripper we took last time in Alaska. Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan have lots of shopping. All the cruise ships make these 3 stops. It's the excursions which interest us at these stops. In Juneau we took a helicopter ride to 4 glaciers not far outside of Alaska's capital. The weather was perfect. The view spectacular (I know I've used that word before, but it does fit) and the stopover on one of the glaciers on which we landed and got to walk around on was unbelievable. This excursion is not to be missed. From Skagway we took a jeep trip into the beautiful Yukon in Canada. We drove the jeep including off road and saw some great scenery throughout the 5-6 hour drive. We had already done most of the excursions out of Ketchikan so we walked around the shopping area and rested that day. We did manage some extra time in the fitness center while there. At Icy Strait Point we took a Whale Watching trip on a boat. We saw jumping fish, Walruses, Seals and yes...Whales. It was a very good excursion. Not many ships stop here and it's a shame. The shops have some uniqueness not found at the other ports. We found some beautiful items to send home. It was a really nice stop, though too brief, as this was the one port we didn't stay at all day. Celebrity has some great excursions offered and you can easily sign up for them well in advance via their internet site. I've found they cost only marginally more than you can find on your own. Well that's about it. I recommend this trip, Celebrity and the Summit highly. Bon Voyage! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2005
Let me preface my review by stating the following: The words you are about to read will ultimately fail miserably in capturing the uniqueness of this destination. With that being said... It seems that many reviewers are fond of providing ... Read More
Let me preface my review by stating the following: The words you are about to read will ultimately fail miserably in capturing the uniqueness of this destination. With that being said... It seems that many reviewers are fond of providing every, excruciating detail of their journey to their point of embarkation. I'm quite certain you're not reading this review to find out what I wore on the plane or what my daughter ate for lunch at the Minneapolis Airport. I will save you that pain and say only that our trip from Atlanta to Seward was long. The communication at the Anchorage Airport between Celebrity representatives and arriving guests could have been a bit clearer, but a couple of quick questions rectified the confusion and we were soon on a motor coach (air conditioned and restroom) for a two and a half hour drive to Seward. The tremendous scenery made the rather tedious drive bearable. Unfortunately, I wish I could say the same for the constant narration provided by our well-meaning bus driver. While I'm sure that some people might find our driver's ethnic background a point of interest, none of those people appeared to be on our bus. We stopped halfway to Seward for a restroom break and to stretch our legs. Fast forward to arriving in Seward. Embarkation process was quick and simple. As for the ship. I am constantly amazed when I read reviews from people who complain that they a saw a loose thread of fabric dangling off of one of the drapes in the main dining room, and that the ship is "showing her age." My opinion: the ship is beautiful. To be honest with you, I think the ship is holding up a lot better than the majority of the guests (did I mention the Alaska itinerary appeals to an overall older crowd)? Summit is clean, decorated in an understated elegance, and roomy enough to forget that there are 2,000 people on board. As for those nitpickers looking under the beds for dust bunnies - surely you didn't spend thousands of dollars and travel thousands of miles to look for grease and grime? Our oceanview stateroom (it was myself, my wife, and my 4 1/2 yea old daughter) was small, but perfectly adequate. Bed was comfortable, water pressure in shower was great, convertible chair/bed for my daughter was fine, and the service from our room attendants was attentive without being annoying. Be aware: there is NOT a lot of closet space for clothes, and we had to resort to storing our suitcases under our bed, but again, this is not a big deal. I'll briefly touch on the major aspects of the ship and its amenities, because I really want to focus on the ports of call: main dining room food and service - both were utterly delicious. Entertainment - show in main theatre was surprisingly good. Cirque du Soleil performance - very cool, very interesting, very Cirque. Buffet Dining - long lines of people and food. Quality was perfectly fine. AquaSpa - wife went for a seaweed wrap and massage. She loved the treatment, hated the hard upsell from the staff. Kids program? My daughter seemed to like it, so I guess it's good. Service across the ship was outstanding. The people who work on these ships bust their butts to make your experience something special. This was my wife's first cruise (my second) and she could not stop talking about how much she enjoyed herself. On to the ports... Hubbard Glacier. An amazing introduction to the natural wonders that Alaska boasts. Brief mention about the weather during our cruise: FREAKISH!!! Sunny and warm all week. So I lugged sweaters and rain gear and gloves and hats across a continent - big deal! I'm sure if I had brought nothing but polo shirts and shorts it would have rained every day. The ship hovered no more than a couple hundred yards from the face of the glacier, giving everyone ample time and opportunity to get the perfect picture. Mine is on my desktop as I write this. Next morning arrived in Juneau. Went on a Float Plane Glacier Tour (arranged prior to cruising). The plane was a 10-seater, and by the time I got on I had no choice but to sit in the co-pilot seat. I have about 25 minutes of the flight, from takeoff to touchdown on videotape. The footage? Spectacular. But that doesn't even do it justice. Go! Book a cruise, get yourself on a little plane, point your camera outside the window and be speechless for a half hour. Walked around Juneau for a bit after our flight - nice town, enough shopping to keep you interested. Next day we arrived in Skagway. Went on the White Pass Yukon Railroad tour. Read a lot about it prior to cruise, with everyone saying how wonderful it was. My opinion? The scenery was awesome, as advertised. But it was also a little...long. I mean, once you reach the summit, and the train turns around, you're seeing the same scenery on the way back to Skagway. Glad I did it, wouldn't do it again. Skagway seemed a lot more crowded than Juneau (there were four ships docked when we were there), so we bought the requisite souvenirs and headed back to the ship. Next day brought us to the highlight of our trip - Icy Straight Point. When we thought of Alaska, this was what we had in mind. We arrived early in the morning, so it was still quiet when we landed on the dock. We arranged to go on a whale watching tour, but since we had some time to kill we decided to just walk around and explore. We proceeded to walk through the most serene, luxuriously shadowed, verdant forest I have ever seen. You sensed its antiquity as you walked amongst trees that had to be at least a hundred years old. There was nothing to do in the forest but walk, look, and just be. It was a very special place. 11:30 - we board the boat to look for whales. And we saw some. Managed to get the on video, but The Discovery Channel has nothing to worry about. Next day we stopped at Ketchikan. Signed up for a guided tour of the town and "nature viewing." Mistake! This was through a dockside company that was not affiliated with Celebrity. Note: Do NOT book anything dockside. Our guide left something to be desired - starting with front teeth. When he was not rambling on about his bar tab at a local dive, he was regaling us with tales of when he lived on a little island across from town. Thrilling. Ketchikan was really pretty disappointing. I mean, how much Tanzanite does one really need? Last day was spent cruising the beautiful Inside Passage, and reflecting on what was for us, a wonderful cruise experience. Read Less
Celebrity Summit Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 5.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 4.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.5 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.5 0.0
Family 4.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 3.5 0.0
Service 4.5 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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