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Sail Date: September 2007
The following are our joint observations (authored by Rich, edited and annotated by Marlee) from the 14 day Summit cruise that concluded September 28. This was our third 14 night cruise on Summit over the past twelve months, which provided ... Read More
The following are our joint observations (authored by Rich, edited and annotated by Marlee) from the 14 day Summit cruise that concluded September 28. This was our third 14 night cruise on Summit over the past twelve months, which provided the ability to observe the ship's evolution over that period. The itinerary held many highlights, including a crystal clear day at Hubbard and another in San Francisco. However, this post will focus on the ship and onboard product rather than the itinerary. Before proceeding, I need to quote another, more (in)famous Richard and "make one thing perfectly clear". As you will read below, this cruise had a few warts, especially compared to previous Celebrity cruises. The phrase I used on the end of cruise survey was "some rough edges". These will be documented below. Readers should keep in mind that these were all relatively minor. Both of us continue to believe that Celebrity offers a very solid cruise product, and we both will enthusiastically recommend Celebrity to anyone seeking a great value in a traditional cruise product. Now, on to business... About us: 52/49 years of age, sixth cruise overall, fourth cruise on Celebrity (remaining two on Regent). Marlee has Multiple Sclerosis and is mobility-limited, though not confined to a wheelchair or power-chair full time. Rich is a VP in the finance area of an S&P 500 bank; Marlee does not work due to the MS but has two Masters degrees. Service: Celebrity's high point remains its onboard service. Nearly all the food, beverage, and cabin service staff is absolutely fantastic. Although I can (and will) quibble with certain food and entertainment choices, service of this quality will keep us coming back to X. Although it's almost unfair to single out specific individuals, I do need to recognize Jackviston, our waiter, as first among equals. This was our fourth Celebrity cruise. For the first time, our waiter learned our likes, dislikes, and needs (Marlee's medications have side effects that make saucy foods almost a must) by the second night of the cruise. He made recommendations based on our preferences, steered us away from entrEes that he felt would not be to our taste, and went out of his way to ensure that Marlee received extra sauce. If, after all that, we still received a dish that wasn't to our taste he absolutely insisted on bringing us an alternate entrEe. It was almost like having a long-time personal chef who is able to serve food to our taste without having to ask. "Wonderful" is the only word that describes it. Our cabin attendant, Bernadeth, was also outstanding. Again, she learned our preferences almost immediately and executed to them faultlessly over the length of the cruise. Our bar servers also learned our preferences; one of them, Joseph in the Cova Cafe, even memorized our Sea Pass number so I didn't need to hand it to him each night. Service in the Lido was fine, as was the wine service at dinner. In fact, there were no service errors of significance over the course of a two week cruise. Pretty remarkable when compared to, say, ones last 14 meals in (non-fast food) land-based restaurants. Accommodations: Our cabin was Concierge Class 6143 which is buried deep in suite country; just one Sky Suite was between us and the Penthouse. The cabin was very clean and well maintained. This cabin has two advantages: an oversized balcony with a teak deck that easily accommodated two chairs, two loungers, and two tables. It is also about a foot wider than a normal CC cabin, allowing us to walk past the bed normally rather than turning sideways as we need to do in a standard CC. Unfortunately, the cabin also had one significant disadvantage - noise. The butlers' pantry is just in front of the Penthouses and butlers' carts with room service items wheeled past from early morning to well after dark. Because the corridors directly outside the Penthouses and Royal Suites are parquet (or marble in the case of the Penthouse) instead of the normal carpeting the carts would bang over each transition from carpet to wood. Additionally, there is a service corridor leading outside directly forward of the cabin. The butlers used this corridor to store carts and also to take short breaks in the open air. They were not careful about gently closing the doors; slamming doors were clearly audible in our cabin. Although the period between 10 PM and 7 AM was generally quiet, Marlee has MS and needs to nap during the day. The noise level made this difficult most days, but especially on sea days. As a consequence, we will not select this cabin again. If the afts on 7, 8, or 9 are gone before we book, we will take one of the bump-outs such as 9043. We might also give 6135 a try. This cabin also has an oversized balcony but is farther forward (nearer to the end of the suite section), has no adjacent service corridor and therefore is likely to be more quiet during the day. The cabin had the new bedding installed. What an improvement! We're taking our first HAL cruise in a couple months and I'll be very interested in seeing how X's new bedding compares to what most believe are the best beds in the mass market/premium segment. My guess is that Celebrity's new beds won't be all that far behind HAL's, if they're behind at all. Credit X for listening to passenger feedback and addressing the issue in a very positive manner. Public Areas: As usual, we found Summit very clean and well maintained. Some of the public areas are starting to look a bit tired, in a way that probably will require a refurbishment to fully address. The only significant issue was the loosening of a small portion of the dance floor in the Rendezvous Lounge one evening. This was quickly patched, although the floor does suffer from many cruises worth of stiletto heels. Carpeting is looking a bit worn in some spots and is coming up at the seams in a couple areas. In one case we noted a duct tape repair (presumably temporary). However, no issues were significant enough to significantly diminish our enjoyment of the cruise. The crew works very hard to keep the ship immaculate, painting, deep cleaning, and other maintenance activities are highly visible activities during nearly all daylight hours. Food: Summit does not yet have the Blau Group's new menus. However, Mercury does and Mercury was docked adjacent to us during our stop in Victoria. Daniel, Summit's Executive Chef (soon transferring to Connie, by the way) visited Mercury and returned quite enthusiastic about what he saw. He did not provide many details but indicated that the new items would be added alongside many old favorites. And that they tasted good. Marlee and I are looking forward to the updates. Meanwhile, Summit has introduced a few new menu items since we last cruised in March. The best of these was a seared tuna entrEe with Asian-style seasonings. The fish was perfectly cooked - just a quick sear outside, nice and rare inside. I've never been a big fan of Celebrity's fish (fins and scales) entrEes and I have to admit that I tried this one with some trepidation. But it turned out to be one of the best dinners of the entire cruise. Other entrEes that I don't recall seeing in March (or earlier) include Cornish Game Hen, lobster ravioli, beef tips with beans and rice and Chicken Kiev; all superb. Aside from the new items, I would characterize the dining room food this cruise as a notch below what we recall from our cruises this past March and last October. I believe that I formed this impression largely because the beef, which always used to be a highlight, was just okay this time out. Less tender than I recall. Same goes for the veal chop, which also used to be a high point. On the other hand, many of the appetizers and soups continue to be excellent, as do the chicken dishes. We never stay for desert, so we can't comment there. Entertainment: This is another area that was distinctly below standards set during our previous Summit cruises. There were some high points. Jennifer Fair returned to the ship and presented a lovely program of "popera". Top Notch is still on board and still IMO one of the best party bands at sea. Finally, Guys and Doll (Regent cruisers may remember them as Si and Kathy) did a fine job in the Rendezvous. Kathy remembered Marlee from a 2005 Seven Seas Voyager cruise. Amazing! Unfortunately, the highlights stop there. The Celebrity Orchestra struggled. Last October this group was tremendous, capable of playing just about any style, any song, anywhere. And playing it well. This cruise, though, there was a definite problem in their brass section. I lack the expertise to tell if it was the trombone or the trumpet, but bad notes were rampant. Sad, especially considering how good this ensemble used to be. The pianist in Michael's Club described himself as having turned "fully professional" just recently. It showed. He wasn't horrible, but he wasn't all that good either. He too missed a few notes every now and again. The string quartet was soulless. In March the ensemble played with verve and panache. Finally, Jefferson Ang was still on board. Although even then he was not a high-energy entertainer, in March he performed some uncanny imitations (okay, covers) of James Taylor, Jim Croce, and Paul Simon. This cruise he seemed unfocused and less competent than previously. As for the main-stage entertainment, we missed a number of the shows because the CD (Alan King) started over half of them after dinner. We are late seating; with Marlee's MS a 10:45 show is simply too late for us. Of what we saw, Jennifer was definitely the highlight, along with a funny ventriloquist. Lowlights included a raunchy juggler (please don't ask). Also, should you ever hear the word "Xylosynth", run. There was a point during the cruise when I started wondering if it was me. Maybe I had an unrecognized chip on my shoulder regarding the entertainment. But Marlee was noting many of the same things independently. The bottom line is that I believe my impressions are accurate. Certainly, I did not set out to find fault with the entertainers and I found them very enjoyable on previous cruises. Enough said. Odds and Ends: Non-package internet prices are now $0.65 per minute, a slight decrease from $0.75 previously. However, the computers in the internet cafe no longer offer free use of programs such as Microsoft Word. Those wishing to compose e-mails or blog entries must now do so online, and pay for the privilege. I'm considering bringing my laptop next cruise so I can compose e-mail before I go online to send it. The senior officers' cocktail party for Select and Elite Captains' Club members was at 11 AM. IMO, this seems a bit early in the day to start drinking, even on a vacation and a very strange time for this event under any circumstances. I hope the time for this event returns to shortly before dinner, similar to the regular Captains' Club reception. There is now a small section of the Lido (portside aft, just around the corner from the sandwich station) that serves Indian food at lunch. It was not open every day but was a nice alternative on the days it was open. Embarkation at Vancouver was a nightmare. Disorganized. One long line after another. I don't hold Celebrity at fault for this, the check-in process with Celebrity was fast and efficient. The issue was with the various U.S. and Canadian government officials and with the people hired by the cruise terminal to manage the crowds. Yes, there were three ships embarking from Canada Place that day, but there must be a better way to manage this process. There must be. The hollandaise incident: I saved this tale for the end because it doesn't fit neatly anywhere else. Marlee and I both enjoy the eggs benedict at breakfast. For the first week plus of the cruise they were very good as usual. One day during the second week, our waiter served us the eggs benedict and immediately said something to the effect that "the sauce doesn't look so good". Sure enough, the hollandaise was badly broken, i.e. had separated. Implied in this exchange was that the waiter didn't want to serve it to us at all but was apparently required to do so. As soon as we agreed that the sauce was not correctly made the plate was whisked away and an alternative selection quickly prepared. Although we were disappointed that the waiter did not seem to have discretion to return the dish on his own, the story was over - or so we thought. The next morning, the sauce was broken again. Not as badly, but still broken. This time we ate the dish (we had no time to reorder) but mentioned the problem to the Assistant Maitre D' on duty at the time, and later to Murat, the Assistant Maitre D' assigned to our table at dinner. Note that "mentioned" means just that - a polite exchange of information. We did not present ourselves as upset or angry, just concerned. What happened next both surprised and pleased us. Murat's normal station at breakfast was the Lido on this cruise. However, Murat got up early the next morning to personally review with/retrain the responsible person in the galley in the correct method for making hollandaise sauce. Then, when we came in for breakfast, Murat came down from the Lido and personally prepared Marlee's eggs benedict (I ordered an omelet that morning). Not only was it the best eggs benedict she had ever had, anywhere, this incident typifies the intense commitment of Celebrity's service staff to setting things right, if not better than right. It also points out an improvement opportunity for the galley crew. Galley staff should be made aware that their inattention to detail has consequences. Although they rarely, if ever, see or are seen by paying customers, their product is an extremely important one that directly impacts impressions and enjoyment of the cruise and cruise line. Attention to detail should dominate the thinking and actions of the galley staff as much as it so clearly does dominate the actions of the service personnel. Conclusion: Although not without a few glitches, we thoroughly enjoyed this cruise. We will be back on X. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
When my husband, his Mom, and I decided more than a year ago to book a cruise to Alaska, we hadn't considered a land tour, but when our wise travel agent suggested it, we started reading and decided Tour 1 with Celebrity was doable ... Read More
When my husband, his Mom, and I decided more than a year ago to book a cruise to Alaska, we hadn't considered a land tour, but when our wise travel agent suggested it, we started reading and decided Tour 1 with Celebrity was doable for our budget. What a great decision that turned out to be! After a year of reading these boards and planning (and a miraculous last minute change due to availability of a family view category aft cabin), we set out on our Tour 1 (4-night escorted motorcoach/traincar land tour and 7-night Alaska Southbound Cruise). After a long delay in Seattle for our connecting Alaska Airlines flight, we took off for what we thought would be a long boring flight. The first part was just that, but then the cloud cover cleared and we were able to enjoy an aerial view of the islands, glaciers, and snowcapped peaks below. No one on that plane could complain of boredom! We arrived in Fairbanks to be greeted by a tour representative who directed us to the baggage claim area to identify our luggage. Since Mom is mobility challenged, wears two hearing aids, and prism glasses, she requires assistance to walk more than short distances, so I had requested wheelchair assistance. We were pleased to learn that luggage had been taken from the small carousel and all we need do was identify it by applying colored stickers they provided. From there, the luggage was placed into a motorcoach in which we were driven to nearby Pike's Waterfront Lodge. Even though the forecast for Fairbanks had been rain, it was beautiful and sunny there. The Lodge was perched on the banks of the river. The tour representative, Rebecca, met us in the lobby by the fireplace to give us keys, an orientation presentation, and explain what we should expect the next day. We were given two different colored luggage tags and told we could put one color on the bag we wanted to be brought to our room each night of the land tour, and another color on any bag to be stored until we arrived on the ship. I had been prepared for this from posts I had read on this site, so our bags were already segregated for that purpose. How efficient that turned out to be!! During our entire trip until we docked in Vancouver, we never had to lift a bag! I know many who post on these boards recommend "going independent" in your land tours, but when you're travelling with a disabled person booking through the cruiseline made our lives so much easier and allowed us to relax. Luggage for three people for 12 days of changing weather with formal v. casual attire adds up to a LOT of heavy bags. No problem this way . . . That night we ate on the verandah of the lodge overlooking the river. The food was really good, but a bit pricey at $30 per person (including a glass of wine each). The next morning, we arose to get ready and wheeled our bags into the hall outside our door by 6:45a, as instructed, and met our group in the lobby to board our motorcoaches to drive a couple of miles down the road to board the Discovery Sternwheeler for a boat tour along the Chena and Tenana Rivers. I have to admit I was expecting this to be a cheesy commercial enterprise, but it was far from it. The tour guide on board gave us a very informative and educational commentary on each of the segments of the trip. First, we watched a floatplane take off and land alongside us. We witnessed many floatplanes tied behind the residences we passed---it's the best means of travel in that part of Alaska. A little farther along we stopped at the home of the late Susan Boutcher, famed Iditarod champion. Her husband treated us to a look at mushing dogs in training, some puppies, and introduced us to a woman who is there preparing for the next competition. Since there was no snow, the dogs pulled a stripped down ATV. You could tell the dogs love their role---they were running free on the property but hurried to the sled when called and jumped up and down in anticipation when they knew they were being harnessed to pull. Shortly after leaving there, we came upon a sand bar (one that is only exposed during low tide) and were able to watch another bush pilot (this one had replaced his floats with big wheels on his plane) land and take off from the sand bar. It was amazing to see him do so on such a short, and driftwood scattered, makeshift runway. As an added bonus, there was a juvenile bald eagle fishing on the sand, and an adult one soaring overhead. We stopped at an Athabascan Village for a fascinating walking tour and presentation of their crafts, fishing, and culture. This was educational only---not a gift shop anywhere!! We saw our first reindeer here too! Back onboard, we were treated to a snack of smoked salmon on crackers and bought Alaskan Amber beer from the bar. Yummy. At the end of the tour we boarded our motorcoach and headed to downtown Fairbanks. Our driver, Trevor, circled the area while Rebecca pointed out available restaurants and some of the sights before dropping us off for an hour and a half of free time. We chose to go to an Italian restaurant, Gambardella's, that had outdoor dining and good (again pricey) food. Unfortunately, it took an hour for our food to be served, so we had to rush back to meet the coach. Although the food was good, it wasn't worth the wait or the price, so I can't recommend it. From there we enjoyed a scenic ride to Denali, where we checked into the McKinley Village Lodge. This hotel consists of several log buildings clustered along the Nenana River. Our keys were handed to us as we got off the coach at our assigned building (this was another advantage to the prearranged tour---no check-in or out hassle), and our bags were delivered within a half hour. Our room had a beautiful mountain, river, and wooded view. We took a walk before dinner along the river enjoying the sound of the rushing water, the glorious autumn colors, and spectacular views. They had adirondack chairs placed along the verge of the river where we met and chatted with fellow travellers before going to the main lodge for another delicious (alas, another $100) dinner. We set a wake-up call for aurora borealis activity and turned in early knowing we had a very early departure. At 4:30am our phone rang to alert us to the aurora borealis!! DH and I threw on a few clothes and got outside in time for a brief, but remarkable display. There were straight lines of what appeared to be pale green clouds above us. We weren't sure we were actually seeing northern lights until they suddenly rippled (like when a stone is thrown into standing water). It was a WOW moment. This was the first, and best, of two consecutive nights we saw the northern lights. The following night's display was just after midnight. Prior to our trip I had read that the Tundra Wilderness Tour (this is the best choice of tours, by far) was given on a converted school bus and to expect a rough ride. Well, this was like no school bus I had ever seen---the seats were individual, high-backed, upholstered ones similar to our motorcoach, and we experienced no discomfort. The day started out cold, misty, and cloudy, so we were prepared to be disappointed. Again, we had a pleasant surprise---the cloud cover lifted enough that visibility was no problem. We saw grizzly bears grazing on berries, many moose, several caribou, and migrating dall sheep (usually they're so high on the mountains they are only white dots, but these were in the valley and close enough to see detail without binoculars). The tour stops for bathroom breaks and overlooks about every 90 minutes, and the portapotties are clean and well-maintained. As we approached what was to be the turnaround point of the trip, our coach driver (her name was Rebecca too and she was equally charming and gave a great commentary) excitedly announced that she had just received a call on her radio approving her to extend our tour to (I think it was) Stony Pass for a surprise. We're all pretty keyed up already after experiencing so much wild life, but nothing could compare with the surprise in store----only 30% of visitors to Alaska see Mt. McKinley (or as I now prefer the native name of "Denali") peek out of her usual shroud of clouds. The majesty of it brought tears to my eyes. The day had remained overcast, with occasional mist, but once again, we were blessed with what felt like a miracle. We took photo after photo. The return trip added more wildlife sightings (including a caribou with bright red antlers---they had just shed their velvet and the blood vessels were still visible until the sun and weather would dry them), and a flock of ptarmigan (the Alaskan state bird) with their puffy white feathered boots on the ground next to the bus. The driver kept remarking about the foliage being at the height of it's autumn colors---I'm running out of new words to describe the splendor of it all. We were pretty tired when we returned, but after a nap we got on a small shuttle bus to go to the Cabin Nite Dinner Theatre. The ride there was enhanced by the sighting of a big bull moose alongside the road drinking from a pond---how exciting to see the beast so close to us!! I am torn on whether or not to recommend our dinner/show that evening. The "all you can eat" ribs and salmon were pretty good for mass-produced fare, but served in such a hurried and bustling manner (the show can't start until all the tables are cleared, folks!), that you couldn't really savor or enjoy it. The young people who served, and later entertained us, were very talented singers and their operetta was based on an interesting history of the gold rush, but it had a little more "audience participation" than is my preference. It was the usual "is that the best you can do?" prompting for louder audience response---over-used and over-dramatic. Had it been in a theatre setting without all the noise and chaos and audience participation nonsense I think I would have enjoyed it much more, but I am fairly certain I was in the minority. It was my impression that the majority had a rip-roarin' good time, so don't let my negative reaction be the sole basis for your decision whether to do it. By the time we returned to the lodge and were walking back to our cabin, the northern lights appeared. Mom hadn't seen them that morning, so we were thrilled she got her chance. They let us sleep in before leaving at 10:15am for the drive to Anchorage the next morning. Our driver, Trevor, was born and raised in the town of Wasilla, which we drove through on the trip. He entertained us with anecdotes of what his dating life (dates in Alaska are quite different than the usual movie and dinner in the lower 48---snowmobiles and salmon fishing, anyone?). He had us all laughing aloud at his outrageous stories. The day was cloudy, misty and cold in the morning, but, as we had come to expect, clear and sunny in the afternoon. Again, Trevor drove around the area immediately around our Marriott Hotel to let us see the available restaurants, museums, and shopping before Rebecca distributed our keys and set us free for the afternoon and evening. What a room and view!! We were on the 13th floor with a complete wall of single pane glass allowing us a 180 degree panorama of the city, inlet, and mountains. We broke out the binoculars and scanned the gorgeous surroundings, then spied the restaurant we wanted to try---the Glacier Brew House. We were lucky we decided on an early dinner---we waited only 15 minutes for a table, but within that time the wait increased to over an hour. It was well worth the wait. The food, beer, wine, and service were all superb. My husband especially enjoyed tasting the various local beers available. We exchanged bites of each other's food, and I can attest to each of the entrees being first class in taste, as well as presentation. I can see why it is a favorite among locals as well as tourists. Since the last leg of this land tour was to be by train, all our luggage was delivered to our room, but again, we had only to leave it in the hallway the next morning and they transported it to the train and on to the ship. The Wilderness Express glass-domed rail cars are the perfect venue for viewing what turned out to be the most amazing scenery I have every witnessed. The upper floor of the car has comfortable seats for viewing, while the lower floor is a dining room. The group was divided into two seatings for breakfast, and we were in the first. We ordered from an ala carte menu and were served good food on fine linen. We could hear the tour commentator upstairs talking to the second seating bunch, and he suddenly got very excited. The water of the inlet comes right up to the train tracks at high tide (the tide variation is 40 feet!!), and when we looked down into the water there was a rare Beluga white whale surfacing right next to us! The announcer said in the years he had been on this route daily he had never seen one. About five minutes later, however, ANOTHER ONE surfaced! He went on to tell us that their population is rapidly dwindling due to a cancer they are contracting and scientists are scrambling to find its cause before they are extinct. They were easy to spot since they are pure white, but they are so limited in number that sightings are scarce. That was the beginning of a day of awesome sights. We saw more moose and caribou, but more inspiring were the waterfalls, glaciers, and moutains. This is definitely a "not-to-be-missed" tour. I think my jaw spent the day dropped to my chest in wonder. Our next stop was another that I had figured would be so-so. The Seward Wildlife Center sounded to me like a convenient stall tactic for them to have time to off load our luggage to the ship before taking us to it. I was wrong again. This center is fascinating. For those of you travelling with persons with disabilities, much care has been taken to see to it that wheelchair bound persons enjoy the center as well, or better than, those physically adept. This facility is for the study of Alaska sealife, as well as a rescue and medical hospital for them. The exhibits are terrific, and whoever designed the place was a genius at crowd flow. There were lots of buses there, but never did you have to jostle for viewing positions or wait in lines. There were lots of staff members available to answer questions and encourage human/sealife interaction when appropriate. The most surprising fact I learned was that one of the sea birds there can free dive to fish to a depth of over 600 feet!! That's deeper than submarines go! We saw puffin, starfish, sealions, and even life forms that can only be viewed in black light. When we boarded the coach to go to the ship we had one hitch---a missing senior citizen. They searched and searched for him, but we finally had to leave. Rebecca remained to continue to search, so that was our last farewell to her. Fortunately, we had given them well-deserved gratuities before leaving Anchorage. We heard later that our wayward fellow traveller had gotten onto a Holland American tour bus by mistake---I guess they didn't do a head count, or one of their own was missing too! We saw him later on the ship and he seemed to have fared his adventure well. By this point, we can't imagine that the cruise portion of our journey can live up to the land tour, so we were sad to leave Trevor and Rebecca behind. It was a bit intimidating to enter the building at the port to check in, but not only did they have a wheelchair for Mary, but an attendant who pushed it and led us through the entire check-in and security process right to our cabin door. It was very efficient, entirely painless, and took less than a half hour in total. The lines we saw when we arrived moved swiftly and I never noticed a lag in flow. Our family view aft stateroom was a pleasant surprise. We entered into our sleeping quarters (with a king-sized bed), complete with art display cabinets with lower dresser drawers, a generous closet, a bathroom with lots of storage, and large dressing table. The big mirror gave the cabin the appearance of being even larger than it was. We had our own TV built in over the mini-bar. Beyond that, through a sliding divider door, was a living room large enough to house the full-sized sofa, loveseat, and tables, as well as dresser, two end tables, and coffee table. The loveseat would later be made into a bed for Mary, and she had her own TV in there. Through the glass patio doors was an enormous balcony with three chaise lounges, a dining table and chairs, with room left for easy passage in and out---another WOW moment. The tuxedo I had pre-arranged for my hubby was waiting, as promised. We oohed and aaahed at our good fortune for a few minutes before heading out to explore the ship and grab some late lunch. Our cabin was just one floor and almost directly below the buffet area. The food selection was varied and could appeal to any diet or preference. There was a pasta bar, grill, pizza station, ice cream parlor, and salad bar, just to mention a few of the offerings. There were glass circular cutouts in the deck alongside our table so you could look down and see the water. The floor to ceiling windows in nearly every public area allowed unobstructed scenic viewing for the entire trip. Even the spa had great views! The ladies' sauna (saunas in locker rooms are free to all passengers, by the way) had a porthole that was 5 foot in diameter so that you wouldn't miss a sight even in there! That night we had open seating for dinner and the dress was casual, since some were still awaiting delivery of luggage. Ours was delivered less than two hours after we arrived. When we returned, our invitation to the Cruise Critic Cruise Connections party was waiting. It was scheduled for the next morning at 10:15a, sadly meaning that I had to miss the culinary demonstration at that time---I had heard it was good (see the review by tapia). It was fun to meet the more than 50 folks I had corresponded with in the past year, and Celebrity furnished coffee and pastries, as well as souvenir pins and an appearance by the Cruise Director, Allan King. I just realized that this review is taking on novel proportions, so I'm going to take a new tack. I will describe each facet of cruising in general, and go into more detail on the port excursions. Cabin: First rate and better than expected. The balconies on the corner aft cabins had an even larger area, but the ones next to us complained that the wind whipping around the corner prevented them from leaving anything out there---even the furniture was blown into a heap a couple of times. Ours was one in from the corner and protected from wind every side. Inside we had lots of storage---we didn't use it all. Our cabin stewardess, Elizabeth kept a low profile and did her job impeccably. She was there when we needed her, but didn't try too hard to be our buddy like some stewards do. Main Dining Room: Our waiter, Armand and assistant, Budde, went above and beyond our expectations. They even helped Mom remove the lobster from the shell and the lamb from the shank! The food was better than average, but not as good as I've had on previous cruises. I was relieved in a way since it did not tempt me to overeat and I only gained 2 pounds! Our greatest disappointment was they did not serve Alaskan King Crab---my husband's favorite dish. Spa: These folks are the hard-sell bunch. They weren't obnoxious about it, but it was there. I signed up to do an ionotherapie treatment that had always intrigued me (they're far more expensive at home, so it was an opportunity to try it for less $$), but afterward I didn't see any benefit to it at all, and it was rather uncomfortable. I wouldn't do it again. We used the hottubs, saunas, and thalossatherapie pool daily. I thought from the description that the Thalossatherapie one was warmer---it's not shockingly cold, but it's pretty cool. It's a beautiful facility. They did not keep up with filling the soap and shampoo dispensers in the shower, but otherwise, I can't complain. Martini and Champagne Bars: Another daily ritual---visiting Virginia, our server in the Martini Bar. She has a knack for remembering names and greeted us by ours whenever she saw us. The ambience and presentation make for a thoroughly enjoyable time. Try the apple-tini! Entertainment: The show I expected to enjoy least turned out to be best---the ventriloquist was terrific and soooo funny. The Cirque de Soleil show advertised was not on the schedule the entire week, so that was disappointing. The broadway-type shows were pretty good. The singer/comedienne, Judy Kolb (I think that was her name), was pretty bad, and the quartet, the Voicemails, need to revamp their repertoire. They had the talent for singing and harmony, but it was misspent on lame corny numbers. They need to stick with singing and stop failing at comedy. Again, this is my opinion---lots of older folks really liked them. The Normandie Restaurant: For an extra $30 per person, you can enjoy a night in this specialty restaurant for a truly exquisite dining experience. We chose to do the recommended wine pairings, so with gratuity, our bill for the three of us was $200, but worth every penny (and we added additional well-earned gratuity to that). It was not to be missed. The goat cheese souffle and steak diane I had were the best meal I have ever eaten. Some of the dishes (like the Caesar salad, Shrimps Flambee, and my steak) are prepared table side. The waiters choreograph the serving of the main course so that the silver domed covers over the dishes are removed simultaneously exposing the stunning presentation. The decor is tasteful, the harpist plays softly and well, and the staff are true artists. If your budget will allow, go to this restaurant. I'm glad we waited until later in the cruise (the night we left Skagway) because the main dining room would have really paled by comparison. AquaSpa Cafe: Everything we ate from this mini-buffet of healthy choices was great. WEATHER: The forecasts for every port were for rain, rain, and rain, but it only rained on us, briefly, at Hubbard Glacier. The night before was stormy with 10 to 15 foot seas, and my husband was glad to have his Bonine and seabands. He was relieved to have a seasick-free holiday, so they worked well! Hubbard Glacier was overcast and sleeting when we arrived, but stopped after a few minutes, allowing us a very close-up viewing of the glacier---we were in polar fleece and rain jackets and pants and even the sleet didn't cause us discomfort. Juneau started out very cloudy and foggy, but burned off by noon. As a matter of fact, after the first couple of cool days, we enjoyed sunny days in the 70s where we whale-watched from our balcony in bathing suits!!! I had to chuckle at myself for having fretted over the forecasts so much----they couldn't have been more wrong! Now, don't get me wrong, we used our rain gear and made good use of the layers many mornings on the land tour as well as at Hubbard Glacier, Juneau and the morning of Icy Strait Point, so pack them! I'm fairly certain we enjoyed a rare weather exception. Ship Public Areas: I had read in some reviews about wear and tear, but while there was some, it was very minor and not worth mentioning, in my opinion. I found the ship to be clean and well-maintained. The design was ideal for scenic travel---everywhere you look in Alaska is a postcard view, so the care taken to keep views unobstructed was appreciated. Staff: Our cabin stewardess, waiter, asst. waiter, the Normandie staff, and Martini Bar server were excellent. I found the staff at the photo gallery desk, shops, spa desk, the guest relations desk, the bank, and buffet, however, to be abrupt, curt, and almost unfriendly. They did their jobs well, they just didn't seem happy about it. Since I have read so many accounts of how friendly the staff is on Summit, I have to guess that it is the end of their Alaska season and they're tired and ready for their new Hawaii itinerary to begin. I had no complaints to offer them, so I'm not sure how they would have handled problems. Mainly we just went for change, information, and purchases---routine interactions. Their service was adequate, but not outstanding in any way. They needed a pep talk. Itinerary: 1st night casual dining, next day Hubbard Glacier with formal dining in the evening, next Juneau with semi-formal dining that evening, then Skagway (we chose this night to go to the Normandie Restaurant), next Icy Strait Point and our second formal dining night, then Ketchikan with semi-formal dining, Inside Passage cruising with a casual dinner, and last Vancouver. Now for shore excursions---we booked them all through Celebrity and were never disappointed. Juneau: My husband and I had a bet about whether or not our Wings' floatplane to Taku Lodge would be cancelled. Due to the two recent crashes and resulting deaths, I thought it was far too cloudy and foggy to hope for our trip, but DH was certain we would go. We three bundled up in our rain gear and fleece, and, sure enough, at the schedule 10:30am departure time, we boarded the plane. I had worried about Mom having difficulty boarding, but there were portable stairs with handrails and plenty of assistance. The pilot looked like Santa Claus, with white hair and beard. He announced we could take any seat but the left one, so DH rushed to the co-pilot position. Because of the low cloud cover, we flew low for a while, but he soon found a hole in it, and we were able to enjoy scenic flying over the five glaciers and wilderness below. The Taku Lodge is a log cabin structure set up on a hill directly across the water from an enormous glacier, so the setting was enough to get us excited. Inside, the roaring fire and the rustic, but tasteful decor was done using pelts and sled equipment to reflect the history of its previous owner, Mary Joyce, who is famous for a 1,000 mile dogsled trek across Alaska. During our DELICIOUS meal of grilled salmon (it was cooked over the outdoor fire while we first explored the area), fresh lemonade cooled with glacial ice, beans, warm breads, and fresh-baked cookies, we heard about the history of the lodge and each of its current and prior inhabitants. After lunch, we left Mom resting in the porch swing enjoying the view, while we went with a naturalist on a walk through the forest to the foot of a huge waterfall. The lodge's golden labrador retrievers entertained us by playing in the water at the base of the falls. On the return flight, no one was hurrying to ride shotgun, so this time I rode up with the pilot and it was awe-inspiring. The weather had cleared very much by now, so we were surprised to hear that all the helicopter tours had been cancelled for that day when we returned. Once again, we found we had been blessed with an opportunity. Speaking to locals later, we heard that Wings is so respected that when they cancel their flights, everybody else follows their lead. We were lucky they had scouted out that hole in the weather that allowed us one of the most memorable experiences of our lives. If you're on the fence about taking a floatplane ride---I'd recommend it with no hesitation, whatsoever.  BE AWARE--THE COACH DOES NOT TAKE YOU BACK TO THE SHIP!!!   Skagway: We booked the White Summit Railroad and Trail Camp excursion. As had been our routine, we started out bundled up for winter in a cloudy, misty morning. This day never really cleared to sunny, but it was clear enough we didn't miss the sights. We were glad we had read the advice to sit on the left of the train car. Alaska continued amazing us with her spectacular scenery and wildlife sightings. By the time we reached the Summit in Canada and we were ready to transfer to the motorcoach for the return down the mountain it was rainy and very cloudy. When we got to the trail camp at Liarsville the rain stopped and it was pleasant, but a bit cold. This stop was difficult for the wheelchair, so I would not recommend it if you have that particular challenge. It was a pretty cheesy show, followed by panning for gold (I could have missed that too), so while I highly recommend the train to the Summit, the stop at Liarsville was not memorable. The wheelchair we used belonged to the coach, so when he dropped us off downtown we had to help Mom walk a long distance to catch a free Grayline shuttle back to the ship. You see, since we assumed the excursion began and ended at the ship, and I had foolishly thought DH had his wallet and money (while he was certain I had mine---both of us wrong), we couldn't hire a taxi---duh. We were lucky it wasn't raining and there were benches along the way for rest stops. You can bet we were prepared at the remaining ports! ICY STRAIT POINT: Okay---can you guess how the weather began? Right! VERY cloudy and foggy when we tendered ashore to catch our fishing boat for halibut fishing. After filling out the forms for buying fishing licenses, we boarded a small cabin cruiser (I was the only female with five men fishing and two male crew) wearing many layers and full rain gear. We all huddled in the cabin to listen to our captain, who introduced himself as Ora. In the year I had been reading this cruise critic site I had read every post by an Icy Strait Point-born man named Ora, so I asked if he was the same and HE WAS!! I felt as if I were meeting an old friend. He is the proprietor of Alaska Raven Charters ( out of Hoonah and they book charters for Celebrity now, as well. If you haven't read Ora's posts on these boards before, you should---just do a search for his name. They were very informative about Alaskan culture, weather, trips, etc. The good news for those of you booking for 2008 is that he is expanding his fleet to include kayaking trips out of Icy Strait, also, and who better to lead them than someone born and raised there? He has been scouting for perfect routes on his off days, so you can choose fishing and/or kayaking with him. Meeting Ora was just the beginning of a super day. Not only did the weather clear, but the sun came out and it got up in the high 70s!!! We were peeling off layers right away. I caught the first halibut, so they all referred to me as "lady luck". Ora and Ken were very helpful and fun and funny---they shared stories that were ideal for giving us a glimpse into their culture and lifestyle. Their sister boat radioed to say they had just caught an 80 pounder, so we did our best to outdo them. We had so much fun that we didn't mind when none of our fish beat theirs. The day before one of their guests had caught a 300 lb. halibut, so we got to hear the tale of landing that one too! This was my husband's favorite tour, and he keeps wishing we could go back again for the kayaking tour with Ora! Goody---maybe we can budget for a return!!! I'm ready!! We had left Mom on the ship that day, but knew she would be enjoying the sun on the balcony, so we took the shuttle into Hoonah to look around. We visited the marina and saw eagles. Then we walked back along the sea (a little over a mile) and saw some little waterfalls and a quaint old cemetery. We made our way to the ceremonial fire to cast in our cedar chips (these are handed to you when you make landfall in ISP for the traditional rite). The shops at the dock are nicer than most we had seen at previous ports, with more true Alaskan merchandise, and we bought a few gifts for our kids there. What a truly wonderful day. If you're reading this, Oro, thanks so much for showing us Alaska through your eyes. We wish you and your fellow villagers continued health and happiness. Ketchikan: When I read that Ketchikan has an annual rainfall in excess of 150 inches, I decided it would be a waste to book an excursion here. I bought us tickets to the Lumberjack Show only. You see, I let those weathermen and doomsayers convince me that I didn't stand a chance for a sunny day. Wrong!! This was the sunniest day of all with temps in the high 70s from early morning! We rolled Mary around the colorful town and shopped and saw the sights. The Lumberjack Show was predictably touristy cornball fun, but who couldn't have fun in that setting with such great weather?? We got into the audience participation cheering spirit for our "team" of competitors and hooted and hollered with the rest of them. At one point, one of the lumberjacks presented Mom with a wood disc he had just cut off in a race. She blushed like a schoolgirl. That afternoon we returned to the ship, donned our bathing suits and sunbathed on our balcony while drinking martinis. Heavenly . . . Inside Passage: This day of cruising was blissful. I finished our packing in the morning so that I could spend the remainder of the day enjoying the sun and scenery. I helped Mom on a walk around the 11th deck for some exercise and we heard people exclaiming and looked over the side just in time to see two Orca surface directly under us. We also saw many humpbacks---one very nearby kept slapping his fin on the water for about 15 minutes as if he were waving to us! We saw dall dolphin, seals, otter, eagles, and spectacular views at every turn. Vancouver: Since our flight was not until 5pm on Alaska Airlines, we booked a city tour through Celebrity to give us something to do. The positive side to this was that we had a small conference room in which to wait to disembark. It was comfortable and away from the crowds. We were given an attendant to wheel Mary all the way to the bus loading area (by the way, we had this service at every port---both getting on and off the ship), so we were free to locate our luggage and stack it on the free carts they supplied. Unfortunately, our bus was delayed more than an hour and the natives got restless, so we were exposed to lots of yelling, whining, and grumbling. It always amazes me that people actually behave as if the tour operators purposefully cause the delays. Don't they realize that it is in the best interests of the employee (less hassle and better tips), as well as the company, to provide a smooth tour experience? Why would they intentionally sabotage their own tour? But we finally boarded and were given a shorter-than-expected, but nice tour. I am not going to go into a lot of detail about the airport experience we had, because I don't want to end this review on a dour note. Suffice it to say that Alaskan Airlines and Horizon Air do a good job providing for disabled guests when they have the Aircraft Carrier Accessibility Act and Americans with Disabilities Act governing them. That's not the case when they are on foreign soil. They denied us use of a wheelchair for most of that day(even though I requested assistance more than a year in advance when we purchased our tickets). Since we had two full luggage carts and you're not allowed to leave luggage unattended by law, we couldn't provide Mom the support she needed to walk to the food court. She's diabetic and had to make do with an apple I had in my bag for hours. They refused to allow us to check our bags, stating it was too early for our flight schedule. Then, when we finally checked in, we got a wheelchair, but no help. It was a circus trying to get two carts and the chair through customs and immigration. Then we were finally allowed to check the bags and had to go up and down two elevators and walk a mile to the gate. That was when we found out they had CANCELLED our flight THE PREVIOUS DAY and hadn't bothered to tell us at the ticket counter!!! They wanted us to reclaim our luggage and overnight in Vancouver to take a flight the next day! Can you imagine having to repeat that fiasco? Suffice it to say I firmly informed them of Mom's health issues and we ended up on a flight that left within fifteen minutes, and amazingly, they lost only one of our bags in the quick change. This is NOT a user-friendly airport for mobility challenged people. If you must pass through here, be sure you have your own wheelchair and very little luggage. This was my first visit to Canada and it left me with such a bad taste that I may never return. Shame on them . . . That day was a complete nightmare, but it couldn't overshadow what was the trip of a lifetime. My goal is to see to it that our kids get to experience Alaska while it is still pristine and unspoiled. I highly recommend Celebrity cruise line for its cruises as well as land tours. This has taken all day, so no proofreading---I'm going to hit the "send" button! Thanks for reading if you made it this far! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2007
We were a group of eight that took the 5-day land tour option #6 followed by a southbound Summit Cruise August 6-17th. It was our second cruise - the first with celebrity for my husband and I. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip ... Read More
We were a group of eight that took the 5-day land tour option #6 followed by a southbound Summit Cruise August 6-17th. It was our second cruise - the first with celebrity for my husband and I. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and would use the cruise line again. Our group ranged in age from 22 to 78. We all enjoyed the trip. The 2 2& 25 year olds expected a younger crowd - despite warnings to the contrary but faired well. If they had been on their own they probably would have felt out of place. ARRIVAL: Went smoothly considering we filled two buses. It was a short ride to the hotel. Note that when you verify your luggage check be sure and for damage - the airline smashed one case in our group but it was not discovered until we reached the hotel - too late to make a claim. FAIRBANKS: Hotel (Sophie's Station) room was nice - large and clean. There is a free shuttle to many locations. It is about a half-mile walk to a Fry's. We ate dinner at the deli there and stocked up on snacks, beverage for the land portion and out wine allotment for the cruise. Hint - one clever couple brought boxed wine. It packs well and holds more! Riverboat tour was a bit quaint but enjoyable with lovely weather. Though very contrived I enjoyed the panning for gold much more than I anticipated. DENALI: Train ride was nice .I took too many photos. Tour thru Denali was long (8 hours) and the ride uncomfortable. I had no issue with the boxed lunch and realize the bus had to be a basic school bus style to navigate the winding road. Be on the driver's side if you do not like being on the edge if a cliff on a winding road. Just enough clouds to obscure a view of "The Mountain." We sighted quite a bit of wild life - most of it a ways away. It sort of turned into a spot the caribou contest. As there is really no other way to see so much of the park quickly, the ride was unfortunately our best bet. TALKENNETA: Loved the bus ride with the view of "The Mountain" clearing on the ride to the hotel way too many photos. Hotel was lovely- the view spectacular. No sleep peeking at the view all night. More photos in morning - sky and views were so clear. Frustrating wait to have luggage properly delivered. ANCHORAGE/SEWARD: Ride to Anchorage was about 3 hours. Stop there brief for lunch about 90 min. Then it was on to Seward to directly board the ship. EMBARKATION: arrived about 2 pm to a large crowed and little help or clear direction. Asking a lot of questions and with some temporary confusion we located the correct line to check in given we had a suite reserved. Once in the correct location it went quickly- probably 30 minutes total to get on the ship. ROOM LOCATION: Probably should have picked a room on the 9th floor- deep overhang above 9th floor obscures view of sky (It would have sheltered us had the weather been poor.) But be careful some rooms on 8th floor have a contraption that seems to service the lifeboats blocking the view. I also picked the portside to view land on the southbound trip. In retrospect it really did not mater much as we approached Hubbard Glacier head on and we were to far out at other times for much of a view. The inside passage was close in on both sides. I abhor smoke and the Portside allows smoking on the balcony so I was often forced back in the room ROOM: Sky suite 9111. Well laid out plenty of room for storage. Woodwork is gleaming and fixtures look nice. Carpet and upholstered furniture needs to be replaced. Step up into bathtub would be difficult for some and results in a low clearance so that anyone over 6 ft tall would have difficulty showering. Others had CC room, Ocean view room and inside room. Basically the same story with less space of course but still well laid out. Other rooms had showers. SHIP: In very good shape for its age. Nicely decorated, ongoing up keep noted. We thought we felt a lot of movement given how smooth the waters were. It was a relief that we had no apparent propulsion issues given other posts I had read. SERVICE: Excellent. We do not ask much of a butler so I cannot attest to extras - but he was attentive and fulfilled the expected tasks. His accent and that of our assistant water made communication a bit difficult. Room attendant was exceptional - room promptly made and cleaned. Towels changed twice a day. Virtually invisible - efficient. Dinning service was enthusiastic and attentive. We received a special request encore of the crème brulee for our whole table after we swooned over tasting the ones ordered on day two. FOOD: Good variety. Our first time cruisers were awestruck. The buffet is a bit confusing and takes some effort to get the hang so you can take full advantage of it. Not too surprising given the size of the buffet. In the main dinning room for dinner fish and beef tended to be a bit over cooked. I am not good at confrontation here and in retrospect wish I had been more assertive. One individual in our group spoke up and received a second seafood meal properly cooked. The next day his beef was almost mooing. When you consider the task of food preparation for so many it is not shocking that they would tend to err on the side of overdone. Some were bothered seeing dinner entrées morphed into a dish for the lunch buffet. I have no problem with that - I abhor waste and you might get a second chance at what you missed the day before. ENTERTAINMENT: Celebrity singers and dancers - good enough. Happily they sang on key - a sticking point with me. Amusing but not a show I would have returned to if not for the aerial act, which was awesome. Trivia was fun. We all enjoyed the comedian Louis Johnson. Many activities we skipped due to lack of interest, time or energy. EXTRA EXCURSIONS: Land based Arctic Circle flight- unique. Not what I expected. It was not touristy and was educational. My husband really enjoyed it - and the nap on the flight back. It made for a very long day returning at 1 AM Alaska Time which was 5 AM at home and the second day of our tour. Glacier landing at Talkeetna was regrettably canceled due to a mushy Glacier We rescheduled with a helicopter landing in Juneau on Mendenhall. This was short but a unique experience we will always remember. Pilot was much less adventurous than the pilot we had in St Lucia reassuring for a very nervous rookie rider in our family. Yukon Exploration and White Pass Scenic Railway- Long day. Alaska is so big it just requires a lot of driving. Excellent weather gave us good views and a good taste of the country. Poor weather would have made for a disappointing trip. The stop for lunch was Ok but we were bothered by the condition of the dogs at the sled ride tourist trap located there. It was just sad. Forest and Nature Tram- Icy Strait has limited options- this would have been a bust but for the Bear and her cub that wandered out on the beach we were exploring. The staff understandably ushered us back on the tram and we returned a few minutes early. Alaska Undersea Tour- I did not expect much so I was not disappointed. Viewing was very limited. It seems a rare sunny day in Ketchikan makes for cloudy underwater viewing. Topside tour was better. DISEMBARKATION: I think we had a service because we were grouped with our family members who had an inside room. The CC class couple went to a different nicer location to wait. I need to ask them how it went. Celebrity damaged a bag - but it was not worth the time and hassle to report it. It popped on the seam so I may be able to repair it. Problems - over cooked food, sky suite shower height, slow disembarkation. Surprise plusses- weather (I know Celebrity had nothing to do with that). I like crème brulee. We had a lovely Dinning room table (#400) next to the Captain's table - near the large windows. Suite was fun but It will be a while before we splurge again like that. We wanted a larger balcony for the group. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2007
INTRODUCTION: This was our first cruise and we were celebrating our third anniversary so we wanted to do something special and memorable. We are experienced travelers and have been to many different parts of the world and stayed in all ... Read More
INTRODUCTION: This was our first cruise and we were celebrating our third anniversary so we wanted to do something special and memorable. We are experienced travelers and have been to many different parts of the world and stayed in all classes of accommodation from camping, to hostels, to five-star hotels. Simply put, the Summit, her crew, and the Alaska Southbound itinerary exceeded our expectations in every regard. We were so pleased with our overall experience and we offer our strongest recommendation if you are considering this line, ship, or the Alaskan experience. As this was our first cruise, we hope this information might be helpful to those considering their first cruising experience as well. SELECTION OF THE CELEBRITY SUMMIT: We did extensive research online through the popular cruise information sites including Cruise Critic and others reading many expert and cruiser reviews. We were looking for a more elegant and refined cruising experience so that eliminated the mainstream lines of Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Princess and others. But we were on a set budget so that eliminated the luxury lines of Crystal, Silversea, Regent Seven Seas, and similar. This left us with the premium category lines including Celebrity, Cunard, and (according to some sites) Holland America. Celebrity and Holland both offer Alaskan itineraries so we researched the ship amenities and reviews and ended up with the Celebrity Summit. As it worked out, the Holland America Amsterdam embarked the same day from Seward and followed us throughout the journey. She appeared to be considerably smaller than Summit but there were fellow passengers we met that had positive reviews of Holland America. CABIN: We booked a 2A Deluxe Ocean View cabin with a balcony on the Panorama Deck. We were in cabin 8142 which is located on the Starboard side of the ship near the aft elevator lobby. The cabin was clean, well-appointed, efficient, and very comfortable. There was room for all of our over-packing and then some. We enjoyed our balcony immensely and will never sail without one. To sleep with the balcony door open, breathe the sea air, and hear the waves was an outstanding experience. The mattress, pillows, and bed linens were all very nice and we slept as well if not better than we do at home. ITINERARY: We booked the pre-cruise Alaska Railroad transfer to Seward through Celebrity and recommend this option. We arrived and the Anchorage Marriott and were fully checked in and issued temporary SeaPasses within 20 minutes. The scenic ride on the Alaska Railroad glass-domed train was an outstanding way to begin our journey. We saw Beluga Whales, Moose, spawning Salmon, glaciers, eagles, and even a bear in the distance. The train ride was leisurely with a hosted tour guide and the train would slow and stop for the wildlife sightings and other photo opportunities. Prior to arrival in Seward, a Celebrity representative boarded the train and delivered our SeaPasses so upon arrival at the terminal, we skipped the lengthy check-in lines, went straight to security, and were on the ship within minutes. There were a few back-to-back passengers on our cruise who originated in Vancouver the week prior and they all said the Southbound itinerary was more desirable for reasons including an arrival at Hubbard at 1:00 PM vs. 7:00AM, among others. At Hubbard Glacier the weather cooperated beyond our dreams and the glacier gave a "performance of the summer" according to the naturalist on board. I was told that a special glacier pilot boarded the ship prior to entering the bay. According to members of the crew it was the closest the ship had been to the glacier all summer. We couldn't have been more than 1000 feet away and Hubbard did not disappoint. The Captain opened the helicopter pad on the bow for optimal viewing and we were glad we got there early for a spot on the rail. At Juneau we booked the Pilot's Choice Glacier Helicopter Flightseeing tour directly through Temsco. This was an expensive but once in a lifetime experience and was the highlight of our trip. The Pilot's Choice allows the pilot to fly anywhere depending on weather and the best conditions of the day. Again - if you are thinking about this excursion, just do it because you will not be disappointed. TIP: take an empty water bottle so you can fill it up with fresh, pure glacier water. We wished we had a bottle with us. At Skagway we stayed on the ship and enjoyed the spa which was a fantastic day. The indoor solarium pool and sauna were simply outstanding and we ended the day feeling like our bodies were made of jelly. On Monday night (early Tuesday morning, actually) the moon was full and there was a total lunar eclipse. When the eclipse had the moon in darkness the northernlights put on a show that was spectacular. The naturalist on board (Milos) stayed with us outside on Deck 10 aft until the wee hours of the morning providing great commentary and insight. What a night. Icy Straight Point was a beautiful, quiet port of call as only one ship can be tendered at a time. This was the quaintest and most charming of all the ports as there was not a jewelry store in sight. We enjoyed the grilled fresh salmon at the cafe on shore as well as the nature walk. It was quiet and calm and the tribal members running the stores were very friendly. At Ketchikan we booked the snorkeling trip through Celebrity and had a great time. The water was 62 degrees so with the full-body wet suit it was very comfortable. The guides were great fun and very informative. They helped all the first-timers and made sure we all had a great time. The sea life was fascinating and we saw very large and colorful sea stars, urchins, wolf eels, and sea cucumbers. On our day at sea we used the Persian Gardens section of the spa for a day fee and would have done this at least one more time had we discovered it earlier in the voyage. The design is beautiful and the steam rooms, saunas, and heated benches were topped only by the aromatherapy showers. DINING: The Cosmopolitan (main dining) was a beautiful restaurant and the food selection robust, well-prepared, presented, and served. We shared a table with more experienced cruisers and they felt the same way. Treat yourself to at least one dinner in the Normandie specialty restaurant as it is worth every penny of the $30 surcharge. We had one dinner with our main dining tablemates in the "wine cellar" and chose the "Menu Exceptional" with five paired wine flights for an additional charge. We had a great dinner and all agreed it was one of the best experiences we have had in a restaurant. We went back a second night for a romantic dinner for two and sat near the harpist at a window and had the best culinary experience of our life. All the staff are fantastic, particularly when they see you for a second time on the same cruise. We also enjoyed the daily afternoon snacks at the Cova Cafe on Deck 5 (this became one of our favorite spots on the ship for the ambience and music) and the Sushi Bar in the buffet on Deck 10 which we always ate in the open air of the bar at the back of Deck 10. PUBLIC AREAS: Having worked for an architectural design firm, I was amazed by the thoughtful planning and extraordinary attention to detail throughout the ship. We found beautiful colors, textures, woods, fabrics, and light everywhere we turned. This is truly a special ship where comfortable elegance waits around every corner. CREW: We were so impressed with the unobtrusive professionalism and friendliness of all the crew. There were at least 15 to 20 members of the crew who were calling us by first name by the end of the cruise. They anticipated our needs and always had a friendly smile. The level of efficiency we observed left us with a deep sense of respect for all crew members from front line employees to the Cruise Director, Alan King. DEBARKATION: We booked the post-cruise airport transfer through Celebrity and were impressed with how effectively the process was handled. From the time when we first arrived in our holding lounge (Martini Bar Deck 4) it was a little less than three hours before we were enjoying a snack and cocktail next to our gate at the Vancouver airport. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION: Celebrity Summit and Alaska treated us to the anniversary vacation of a lifetime. The ship and service exceeded all our expectations and the natural beauty of the itinerary was awe-inspiring. We highly recommend Summit and the Celebrity cruise line. We were honored to have our first cruise be on board such an extraordinary and well-run vessel and Celebrity will most certainly have our return business in the future. If you are looking for a relaxed, comfortable, elegant experience with high attention to detail - the Celebrity Summit is for you. We hope you find this review helpful and we wish you pleasant sailings. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2007
REVIEW: JUST BACK FROM THE SUMMIT: July 27, 2007-August 3, 2007 We had a wonderful cruise on the Summit to Alaska. We want to thank everyone on these boards for helping us with our cruise to Alaska. PRECRUISE: We flew to Anchorage, ... Read More
REVIEW: JUST BACK FROM THE SUMMIT: July 27, 2007-August 3, 2007 We had a wonderful cruise on the Summit to Alaska. We want to thank everyone on these boards for helping us with our cruise to Alaska. PRECRUISE: We flew to Anchorage, rented a car from Hertz, and stayed at the Kingsview Bed and Breakfast, (up in the hills) about 15 minutes from the airport. Since this was our first stay at a B & B, we were a little apprehensive but it turned out to be a great experience. The B & B was immaculate and our room was quite large and comfortable with a private bath and extra sink area. We were served a nice breakfast in the morning and drove our rental car to Seward. The drive was absolutely beautiful with snowcapped mountains surrounding us on both sides of the road. A word of warning about Hertz car rental: they rented us a car that had less than ¼ tank of gas, unfortunately we didn't notice it until we were on the road. Luckily, we made it to the B & B and were able to get gas the next morning. We drove to Seward and picked up wine at Safeway that had quite a large selection of wine for a grocery store. We ate a wonderful lunch of fish and chips at Ray's restaurant at the marina. After lunch we went on the Kenai Fjords (6 hour) Cruise. We read about this excursion on these boards and it was very enjoyable except for the fact that the boat was really rocking. We had to go to the lower level because the movement began to bother us and there were quite a few sick people on the lower level. After about 4 hours, we had seen enough scenery and were ready to get off the boat. The small glacier we visited was the highlight of this excursion. That night we stayed at the Bell In The Woods B & B in Seward. Our room was small with a private bath, but it served its purpose for a 1 night pre-cruise stay. The breakfast in the morning was wonderful and we met some nice people who were also sailing on the Summit. EMBARKATION: We arrived at the pier in Seward at 10 AM because we were very anxious to get on the ship. We were first in line to drop off our bags and by 11 AM we were walking on the beautiful Summit and greeted by Celebrity staff with our glass of welcome aboard champagne. Life doesn't get any better than this! A Celebrity staff member took our carry-on bag and led us up to the buffet area because the cabins would not be ready until 1:30 PM. We ate lunch in the outside area on the back of the ship surrounded by Seward's beautiful scenery. After lunch, we went to our cabin to drop off our bag and tour the ship. PROBLEMS: Our cabin was quite warm and we asked our room steward to check on the air conditioning. Unfortunately, this was the one major problem that we experienced throughout the week on the Summit. We had an oceanview room, but our air conditioning never quite worked the way it should have. We placed numerous calls to Guest Relations about this problem, but the technician never could get it working for any period of time. Throughout the ship we experienced the same problem with the air conditioning. It was so stuffy in the dining room that many people were complaining, especially the men who were required to wear jackets on informal night. SHIP: The Summit is a beautiful ship with a friendly crew who always greeted their passengers. The only place we noticed any signs of wear and tear were in the buffet area where many of the upholstered seats needed to be cleaned. Evidently, some of the seats were redone because some areas were much cleaner than others. Other than that, the rest of the ship was well maintained. The Revelations Nightclub on the top deck still hasn't been redone. We enjoyed the artwork throughout the ship. The atrium area is very striking with the gold metallic fabric on each side of the elegant stairway. Our cabin was very clean and well maintained. We also were lucky that we had new bedding in our cabin. It was very comfortable and when we left the ship in Vancouver we noticed more mattresses were being loaded on. SERVICE: The service was excellent throughout the ship. Our dining room staff was very good and so was our room steward. Passengers seemed happy to be there and we never saw anyone complain. Even though we had a problem with the air conditioning, everyone tried to solve the problem. CRUISE CRITIC GET TOGETHER: We had our Cruise Critic Get Together in the beautiful Michael's Club on the second day of the cruise. Celebrity provided refreshments and everyone was able to meet each other after chatting for so many months. The Cruise Director, Hotel Director, and the Event Director were at the get together and greeted all of us. It was great to finally put names to faces! FOOD: The food was good throughout the week in the dining room, the buffet, and the sushi bar. Our only complaint is that Celebrity doesn't keep the dining room open on port days for lunch, so everyone has to eat at the buffet. We prefer to eat our meals in the dining room and wish Celebrity would keep it open like Princess does. ENTERTAINMENT: The entertainment was enjoyable every night. We like to go to the shows and the performers put on three great production shows during the week. There was one comedian who was also very good and a ventriloquist too. The lounges all had singers every night. EXCURSIONS: In Juneau we took the Mount Roberts Tram up into the mountains and purchased an audio recorder to hear the description of each marked site on the mountain. We hiked and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. In Icy Straight Point we went on the Remote Bush Exploration to look for bears. This was a lot of fun because we had a great guide who led us through the woods with an armed guide there to protect us if needed. We did see about 6 bears and it was very exciting. We read about this excursion on Cruise Critic and highly recommend it. In Ketchikan we went canoeing in a twenty passenger canoe on a remote lake. We were served clam chowder and salmon at the dock and went on a walk through the woods. This was also a great excursion. After that we went to Creek Street, saw Dolly's house and shopped. In Skagway we rented a car from Avis to drive to Emerald Lake. We walked a few blocks to the Avis location, picked up our car, and began our drive. When we got to the summit, the fog became so thick that we couldn't even see our sideview mirrors so we turned around and headed back to Skagway. The scenery that it was great until the fog came in. Now we know why people take the railroad instead. Hubbard Glacier: The Summit got very close to Hubbard Glacier and it was gorgeous. We stood on the helipad for a 360 degree view. The weather was perfect for the glacier with very little wind. We wore our jackets and hats and were very comfortable. DISEMBARKATION: Since we were driving to Seattle with another Hertz rental car, we didn't need to be in the first group off the ship. Everything went very smoothly and we went through customs in a few minutes and into the terminal at Ballantine Pier. This is where the chaos began. There were long lines for taxis and we had to wait almost 3 hours to get one. We even called Hertz to see if they could pick us up, but they wouldn't. Be aware that National, Budget, and Avis all had reps. with signs to load their clients on shuttles and drive them to their cars. By the time we got to the Hertz location it was after 12 PM and we waited in line again there to get our car. We didn't arrive in Seattle until late in the day because of the problems with the transportation to pick up the rental car. Unfortunately, we chose to fly home from Seattle because we wanted to spend the afternoon sightseeing, but it was too late to do much there. OVERALL: This was a great cruise with good food and wonderful service on a beautiful ship. The scenery in Alaska is gorgeous and the weather was perfect (mostly in the 60's with no rain for us). We would cruise Celebrity again, but will probably stay away from the "M" class ships until the pod problems are resolved once and for all. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2007
I sailed to Alaska with 16 of my closest friends on Friday, July 20, 2007 from Vancouver. The Celebrity representative met us in the airport and directed us to a shuttle which took us effortlessly to the port. The embarkation process was ... Read More
I sailed to Alaska with 16 of my closest friends on Friday, July 20, 2007 from Vancouver. The Celebrity representative met us in the airport and directed us to a shuttle which took us effortlessly to the port. The embarkation process was extremely organized and we were on the ship having lunch before we knew it. Our rooms were ready right after we finished lunch. My room was an inside cabin and since I am a single traveler, I had more than enough space to move around and store things. My friends are mostly couples and they agreed that the rooms were spacious as well. The ship is lovely, very classy. I've sailed before on another line and would never go back to it. We were having a "wine tasting" in the dining room while sailing on the inside passage. Breathtaking views. There were some activities that some of us participated in - such as Merangue lessons, line dancing, trivia quizzes etc. but there was enough for all of us to keep busy if we wanted or to sit and relax in the very comfortable lounges that provided warm wooly blankets instead of towels. Our first stop was Ketchikan. We had our excursions booked before we left for our cruise so even that went very smoothly. We did the "duck tour" which is on land and water. We had a lot of laughs as the tour director was a real hoot. It was amazing how close the ship gets to the town. It was very picturesque. We made a meeting time for us to get together before our late seating dinner for a cocktail at one of the many beautiful and comfortable lounges. Our waiter and assistant waiter were so much fun and very accommodating. Our assistant waiter, Tongdu, memorized everyone's name before the 2nd night's dinner! Very impressive. If we ran into him during the day, he would always say "Hello Miss Karen"... The show was much talent. The young lady that sang songs from the Broadway show "Wicked" could easily play the lead in NYC. Our second stop was Juneau where we booked a tour to Mendenhall Glacier followed by a whale watching tour. AWESOME. The Glacier was beautiful. We saw many many whales. It was another wonderful day. Juneau is also a very cute town. There was a comedian at the show this evening...hysterical. We were crying with laughter. Third port was Skagway. We took the White Pass Railroad tour. This train ride was beyond words. What a view and what a comfortable and interesting trip. We were very lucky that the clouds had cleared up so we had a clear view of the tops of the mountains. We had dinner in Normandie - I totally recommend this experience as it is more than truly is an experience. Service, food, ambiance outstanding. Well worth the $30 service charge (plus tip and wines). I would do this more than once next cruise. There was a ventriloquist this evening and we all took a nap. Last port was Icy Strait Point. We did not book an excursion but went by tender to the dock where there were a few shops. We took a walk through the woods which was very beautiful. There wasn't too much there but we enjoyed the port none the less. Evening show was awesome, again. Last day we sailed to Hubbard Glacier. A SIGHT NOT TO BE MISSED. At 6am we were on deck, wrapped in those nice wooly blankets with a hot chocolate in hand viewing sights that were unbelievable. It was a day to remember. I know this is a rather long review, but I was so very impressed with everything that Celebrity had to offer, that I cannot wait to book another cruise. Breakfasts, lunches, snacks, dinners, cocktails, shows, dancing, teas, casino, games....all 200% wonderful. It was my best vacation ever ! Thanks for listening and if you chose this cruise, you will never be sorry ! Bon voyage, Kaycy Read Less
Sail Date: July 2007
Summit Cruisetour to Alaska July 6-17, 2007 Vancouver-Inside Passage-Ketchikan-Juneau-Skagway-Hubbard Glacier-Fairbanks-Denali-Talkeetna-Anchorage There is a lot to report about Alaska and cruising there, and the Cruise Critic site has ... Read More
Summit Cruisetour to Alaska July 6-17, 2007 Vancouver-Inside Passage-Ketchikan-Juneau-Skagway-Hubbard Glacier-Fairbanks-Denali-Talkeetna-Anchorage There is a lot to report about Alaska and cruising there, and the Cruise Critic site has an abundance of resources on every topic from moose to mousse. So I'll not replicate what others have already said but offer my perspective. My wife and I have been on 21 cruises since 1991 on Celebrity, Carnival, RCCL and Holland America; to the Mediterranean, Alaska, Caribbean, Panama Canal and Mexico. We've had suites, balconies, inside and portholes. I'm 61 and my wife, well...a bit younger. So we've been around the cruising world a bit and have a relatively balanced/informed opinion on cruising. We were tour hosts for 33 people on this Cruisetour, our second time to Alaska cruise and tour the first on Holland America's Ryndam in 1996. The Summit was beautiful and nicely appointed throughout. Some of the reviews here in CC about this ship talk about negatives but we saw few worth reporting. The food was consistently good; there were a few things we didn't care for, but that happens at home too! The service was excellent everywhere and the staff was friendly. I arranged for six of us to dine at the Normandie in the cellar room, it was exceptional and the wine list quite deep. We would have gone back a second time but we also enjoyed the main dining room ambiance and our tablemates, so we ate there all but the one night. We checked out the alternative dining sites and they looked great including a marked off section of the "buffet" with white table cloths, china and glass settings ($2 pp extra charge; I assume it's for tips for the waiters). We had quite a bit of cloudy skies and rain while on the ship with only one clear day when we drove to Canada from Skagway. Four of us rented a car and had a fabulous day, going to Carcross and Caribou Landing. CL was a bit cheesy but Michelle Phillips ( is a real musher and has a camp there to allow travelers to visit her dogs. We took a sled ride. The dogs love to mush and it's appropriate training for them in the summer. It takes a lot of money to mush so many mushers have opened their camps to tourists; it was a wild ride...I couldn't stop laughing! Michelle was 6th in the Iditarod last year. Ketchikan gets around 150+ inches of rain a year so you have to expect rain there. We did a wilderness boat ride and forest hike. Juneau also had light rain all day. Last time we were there on a cruise stop the skies were deep blue for our helicopter ride to two glaciers. Yes, the sun does come out along the Inside Passage, just not this time. Hubbard Glacier was at a distance, as the ship couldn't get close due to lots of scattered pack ice. Summit's time slot in the bay began at 6:30am and we began to leave around 9am. We were about a mile away in a slight drizzle. I had breakfast and then back to bed afterward. Again, last time we were there I'd guess we were less than 1000 feet away in full sun! So goes Alaska. Something about dress code: All of Celebrity's pre-cruise information says that Informal Night is jacket and slacks for men. No where in any Celebrity policy or brochure does it use the word, required! On ship, the daily newsletter used that word: jackets are required. Now that set's people off who decided to bring the tux for formal night and then wear nice shirts the remainder of the nights. Some of the men in my group were not happy with this new required twist and I must agree. As it turned out, I counted dozens of jacket-less men in the main dining room on both Informal nights! I doubt if anyone was denied entry, but what's the point? At the Normandie on Informal night, gentlemen were offered a jacket upon entry. I tossed my bush jacket over my arm and hung it over my chair (at the suggestion of the maitre'd when I made the reservation). You can't change the rules after the boat sails!! The transfer from Seward to Anchorage was by bus (opps, sorry: coach); the luggage went up on separate transport earlier. We claimed luggage at Anchorage Airport and took a 40 minute flight to Fairbanks. Luggage was picked up by Celebrity at airport where we had to ID ours with little gummed dots and they handled the rest. We did a neat museum tour (too short) and then to Sophie Station Hotel. Excellent all-suite (I think) property. A bit of useless space (kitchen & living room) for one short night. It would be great for a week or so. Out the next am to Discovery paddle wheeler. What a nice excursion (included in tour price) the rain, of course. Clear skies the day before, don't you know. We took this excursion years before and they've really improved the activities along river: musher demonstration, video stations inside boat, professional commentary. Lot's of fun, but would be better with sun. Yes, it was touristy but genuine in attempting to show people about native people's lives and how the average Alaskan's live. We then continued with the coach to Denali. We had dinner down the road at the Salmon Bake. They had a huge menu at what turned out to be a large, fun, funky diner/bar. I had huge, luscious Alaskan crab legs. Others had various configurations of salmon and halibut. Yummy! Denali isn't really a town but a gathering of hotels and shops along the Alaskan highway. Plenty of quality shopping, if you're still in the mood. Beautiful views. A Denali Park bus tour was included the next day before we boarded the train for Talkeetna. It was a nice introduction to the wilderness. We saw moose, caribou, snow show hare and a squirrel? The Celebrity train cars (last time we were on Holland America's car) were beautiful with large comfy seats. For the record, the seats do not turn around to face each other (train host doesn't want to do it though it is possible, but not an easy task) and do not have head sets as indicated on the website: We got into Talkeetna in time to do the stream-fishing thing at 5:30pm. The jet boat used to get there was worth the price of the whole fishing trip; 4 people caught no fish. Denali (Mt. McKinley) was out in great splendor as we watched the sun set at midnight. The next am was a Chamber of Commerce Day with clear skies and Denali resplendent in snow white against the bluest of blue skies. We did a 4 pax flight with a glacier landing. Pretty awesome. Hard to fully describe but one could see moraines, deep pools of glacier blue pot holes, avalanche remnants, glacier scarred mountains, gravel fields and plenty of forest up and back. The view of Denali from Talkeetna Lodge was incredible. People stood outside with mouths open in wonder. A word about luggage transport. I thought it was very organized, I just wish I knew the details before we left the ship for better planning and communication to my group. On the land portion, only the luggage you want would be delivered to your room each night. They used red and pink tags to ID which is to be delivered and which stays on the bus or goes ahead to the next stop. The smart traveler will repack just one large bag per couple (there was no limit however), to be delivered to your room. You can pack this way on the last night on ship and adjust at the first night hotel where you'll get all your luggage. On your last night of the trip, you'll get all your luggage delivered to your room for repacking, dig out clean clothes or whatever you wish to do. You'll never have to drag your luggage any further than the hallway for bellhops to pick up. Our luggage was always ahead of us and was in our room waiting when we arrived. The exception was Denali (short delay as the luggage was on the coach we arrived on) and the airport where you must claim and check your own, linking it with proper photo ID, etc. One other critical point on luggage is that there is little room on the train for anything but a small carry on. We used modest backpacks the whole trip, including on port excursions from the ship. It was nice to have our hands free of bags, etc. Remember, the train has no overhead since it's all glass. Forget the small roller bag, even the smallest would cramp your leg space. In general, this trip was an active one. Excursions are essential at every port to see any of the real Alaska, and they might be early morning departures, so it's up and at um if you want to take it all in. We had several times when 5 am rising was necessary to see the glacier, get on the coach to catch the train or included excursions, get your luggage in the hallway for pick-up or catch flights. Many optional excursions are also early. Remember, 18-21 hours of sunlight allows for lots of activities that wouldn't be as convenient on the lower 48 sunset schedule. Celebrity get high marks all around. And Summit is similar to other cruise ships and cruise lines with bothersome issues: ship's picture-taking maniacs at every port, constant sales pitching on TV and in daily newsletter, fellow passengers who take in the buffet as if it were a gold plated feeding-trough, over zealous Cruise Directors (although this guy seemed to be a bit more mature and likely not on uppers like the Caribbean shift) and so on. But once observed and laughed at, we just ignore these idiosyncrasies of cruising. Cabin Alert: A window washing machine is stored on decks 8 and 9, in between two balconies. It looks like it could be moved as it is secured simply with truck straps; nothing was designed to mechanically secure it to the ship. They have to store it somewhere, and naturally it created an obstructed view for at least 8 Concierge Class balcony cabins. What a major design flaw that was. We were amidships, 8074. Celebrity is well aware of the problem. We were offered a different cabin but after unpacking, who wants to move. To be fair, they offered to pack everything and move us to the new cabin, however. No deal. I was all settled. Celebrity should sell these as partially obstructed, but did not. Knowing ahead of time and accepting is one thing but finding out on arrival is another. Check with your TA about this issue before you confirm a balcony cabin. My guess is that it is also true for sister ship Millennium. We registered a strong and serious concern about this window rig. After declining the room change, they offered 10% off for us both on our next cruise with Celebrity. Fair enough. If it was warm Caribbean-type weather, we may have taken the room change. The weather was not conducive to balcony sitting. However, the point was well understood: design error... To those who have reported here in these reviews about the problems the millennium class of ships are having with propulsion, I can only say we had none; perhaps it was luck our week. I understand they are going into dry dock in April 2008 to do some "fixing". The ship is wearing well. We saw no raveled carpet or worn drapes/bedspreads. One lounge design negative is the ghastly dEcor in Revelations disco lounge. What kind of nightmare caused that? It was not cool, tasteful or interesting and had a dingy, dirty look. It seemed as if they ran out of design money for the last deck (it's on Deck 11). It's worth ranting about, really! Happy cruising...For more info. Email John: Read Less
Sail Date: July 2007
Just returned from our Southbound Alaska Cruise from Seward to Vancouver. Wow what a week. We had been on the Constellation in March for a 10 day cruise and knew that the Summit was the sister ship and that it would be great. Our venture ... Read More
Just returned from our Southbound Alaska Cruise from Seward to Vancouver. Wow what a week. We had been on the Constellation in March for a 10 day cruise and knew that the Summit was the sister ship and that it would be great. Our venture started by Staying in Anchorage and booking the Alaskan Railway to Seward. We did this on our own instead of thru Celebrity. Under two hundred dollars for two adults and two children. Also took the KENAI FJORDS NATIONAL PARK TOUR in Seward prior to the cruise, it was fantastic! Our room on the ship was great and served its purpose. We traveled with our two boy's ages 11 and 12. They slept in overhead bunks and we slept in the two twin beds placed together. We had plenty of room. Our cabin steward told us we could store luggage under the beds, this was something we did not know so that opened up room in the closet (we has 5 large pieces). Our steward had a hard time understanding English, so we felt there was a slight communication gap, but everyday and every night the room was perfect. We highly recommend that you not pack so many cold weather clothes as we only worn a sweater one time and that was for walking the deck in the evening. We way over packed jeans and sweaters. We wore shorts and fleece with a rain jacket on the day's the weather could not make up its mind. But we had only one day of rain, (drizzle rain) and that was in Skagway. We chose the late seating for dinner and our wait staff was beyond fantastic. We felt they went above and beyond. They even wanted to ensure we brought the boys to eat when we took advantage of the Normandy Restaurant. They insured us that they would be taken care of and that we could relax and enjoy our dinner alone at Normandy. The food was great and Iggy our waiter made recommendation of what was good, and he sure was right. Our 11 year old, even ate frog legs, fish of every kind, and great salads. All based on Iggy's recommendations. The $30.00 charge per person at the Normandy is WELL WORTH EVERY PENNY. Dinner was fantastic. I felt that the waiter did not want me to order the soup and the Goat Cheese soufflE; in fact I thought he was rude, but I ordered it anyway. I highly recommend the Goat Cheese SoufflE and The Tomato Basil cream soup. My Husband loved the Clam Chowder. The cheese selections were fantastic, and the desserts to die for! For excursions: We booked only the Skagway White Pass Railway for my husband and our boys and I did the glass blowing. What a treat for me. We were even served rose hip tea and crumpets. Plus the best souvenir ever is my own blown glass ornament that I got to make myself. It should arrive in 2 weeks. Otherwise we booked when we got off at ports. Juneau we rented bikes and rode out to the Alaskan Brewery and to Mendenhall Glacier, that way we went at our own pace and had a blast. In Icy Straight Point, we hired a bear seeking tour in town; it was only about a $40.00 savings. We unfortunately did not see any bears, but got to see most of the Island with a native giving us all the history. In Ketchikan, we went to the visitor center and booked an overview tour that included the Sagmore Totem Park. We saved about $78.00 and our guide was born and raised in Ketchikan, so we received all the scoop. Once again it was fantastic. We also booked the Lumberjack show at the visitor's center and saved money there also. We discovered that Ketchikan has the best pricing on Native Alaskan Art. But beware there are more jewelry stores then you know what to do with. Enjoy the Art Auction's; the Kids Fun Factory was fantastic. Our kids did not want to leave. We insured that they went in on every port to see Alaska, but if they wanted to return to the ship in the afternoon they could. They loved all the activities and met several new friends. We felt 100% comfortable with them being in the Fun Factory. The staff was great, and they offered activities based on ages. They also offered family activities. Overall we LOVE CELEBRITY and will return again Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
REVIEW START: I just got back from my AMAZING trip to Alaska. First, I'd like to thank everyone on this board for all the help and advice. I've been posting on Alaska for a year & ½ now, reading up on it for more than 2 ... Read More
REVIEW START: I just got back from my AMAZING trip to Alaska. First, I'd like to thank everyone on this board for all the help and advice. I've been posting on Alaska for a year & ½ now, reading up on it for more than 2 years, and I can't believe my trip's over now. I'm going to start with the land tour, my camera / binocular purchase, the ship / celebrity, the ports of call / excursions, and I'll end with packing & some other general items. Mostly, I'm going to do my review in order of the days of my trip. I will also try and include food as I come to days as well. Since I see this turning into a lot of time, I'm going to post in sections. I'll start with my itinerary so you can see where I'm going with the review. Also, I'm going to try & highlight as I go down, this way you can skip some areas that you don't have interest in. My itinerary: June 22nd: Leave my house in New York, get to Newark Airport (NJ) and fly to Anchorage connecting in Seattle June 23rd: Day in Anchorage: Saturday Market, Visit to Salmon Place. Dinner at Simon & Seaforts. June 24th: DM & I left early to go Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park DH & DF left early to go fishing and then had some other activities in Anchorage June 25th: DM & I got back from Brooks falls late & then slept. DH & DF: activities in Anchorage June 26th: Day in Anchorage: Zoo, Lunch at Jenns. Dinner at Marx Cafe. June 27th: Early morning train to Seward, Puffin Encounter, Exit Glacier, Salmon Bake, Godwin Glacier Dog Sled Tour & Helicopter Ride June 28th: Kenai Fjords Boat Trip; Dinner @ the Crab Pot June 29th: Hang Around at Saltwater & Board the Ship June 30th: Hubbard Glacier (Cruising) July 1st: Juneau from 10-8: Mendenhall Glacier July 2nd: Skagway 7-8:30: Train Ride to Carcross & Bus Back July 3rd: Icy Strait Point 7-4: Whale Watching w/Keith @ teck outfitters July 4th: Ketchikan 9-7: Fishing w/Ken @ Northern Lights July 5th: Inside Passage Cruising July 6th: Dock @ Vancouver, Stanley Park July 7th: Fly home non-stop to Newark We stayed at horsetrekkin in Anchorage ( and Saltwater Lodge ( in Seward. Camera / Binoculars: Before I start on the review, just one additional thing on the camera / binoculars I bought specifically for the trip. About a year ago I purchased a Canon S3 IS digital camera after much research on dpforums & other sites. Since I'll be referring to my camera a lot in the review, I thought it'd be good to let you know what equipment I'm talking about. I spent a long time learning how to work it, but I still don't think it was enough. There's so much more to learn. Before I left, I also bought a telephoto lens and a wide angle lens to bring with me. I also bought 10 x 42 Bushnell H2O binoculars at the suggestion of someone on the board to have. They were great and we used them, but not as much as I had thought originally. June 22nd: We left out of Newark Airport (NJ) and flew to Anchorage connecting in Seattle. First, let me talk a little bit about our tickets. I booked using Frequent Flyer Miles: I called the exact number of days ahead I was allowed and got all the seats. What you have to do is call the exact days ahead for the 1st flight and then put everything on hold until you can book the second flight as well. I used 'sister' airlines and was able to get a non-stop back on Cathay Pacific. Now I know people on this board have been lucky and have gotten tickets at the last minute, but I find the seats book up so quickly and didn't want to change my timing or be worried, so that's what I did. Lesson Here: Check your reservations often b/c they change planes and drop seats at the drop of a hat. They did it to me a month out and we got seats, but not the ones we wanted (window / aisle) Also, I heard we could reserve a digEplayer (movie screen to watch movies / whatever) from Alaska airlines. I did so (there aren't many, so do so ahead) for $10 a set. This was a godsend. For a flight that long, I thank god I had it, otherwise DH would have been unbearable. (He is not a great flyer.) For the flight, in retrospect, I also learned you can do a 'stop-over' when using your miles (but, I found out after I made the booking). So, I might have done that and visited barrow (then buying a 1-way back to Anchorage. The flight was fine; everything was pretty much on time. I have no real additions there... So, after we landed in Anchorage, we checked in @ horsetrekkin ( Yes, it's a little off the beaten path of most travelers, but worth it. The rate is amazing compared to what you would spend for something even close to comparable. Also, it's a short walk to the zoo. I think the place was very nice and the people were amazing, but it wasn't exactly what I expected. This was the description I was given when I booked: 2 bedroom suite which had private bedrooms, kitchenette, indoor steam room, outdoor hot tub, full breakfast etc. One room has a fireplace with queen bed and futon. The other room has a queen bed. What it was is 2 bedrooms at the bottom floor of their house. You go to the right on the floor you walk in on and there are doors closing in a small hallway with a bathroom and 2 bedrooms, which isn't really what I was thinking of a suite. There is a small fridge and a steam shower there. Everything was clean, but the 2nd bedroom is pretty small. There were no drawers in it at all. The part that really irked me was that there are no locks on those doors. They assured me they were there all the time, but I would have liked some kind of lock and would have felt more comfortable that way. (You could lock it from the inside, but when we were gone the doors were just unlocked.) Since it was on a pretty busy road it just nerve-racked me a little... Moving on—breakfast was wonderful, the people were really great and friendly, and the place was clean. I LOVED the steam shower. Also, it's much quieter out there than in the city. Be aware—if you stay there, you NEED a car. It was $27 just to get into town 1 way. Glacier Brewhouse: We also got in early enough to go to the Brewhouse for dinner. It was very good and we all enjoyed it, but it was more expensive than I thought it would be. If you get there after 6, expect a wait. June 23rd: Day in Anchorage: Saturday Market, Stopped at a Fish Place to see Salmon Jump, Picked up an Enterprise Car, & Dinner at Simon & Seaforts. The first full day I woke up in Anchorage it still didn't hit me that I was in Alaska. Although, once I stepped outside and saw how cold it was, my mind wrapped around the idea that I might be there. I decided to make the first full day we were there a little relaxing and free-flowing since a lot more of our itinerary is pretty intense. So, onto the day... Breakfast was great—eggs, ham, pancakes, home fries....YUM! Great coffee & OJ too. DF got our rental car at Enterprise—we got a great deal for booking early. It's just too bad we didn't get the car earlier because we spent a TON on taxi rides so far. Also, the cab that brought us into town offered to show us a place where the Salmon jumped all the time, so we went. Kind of a mistake because it was $100 and we saw nothing... Beautiful though. If anyone's interested, I can try to give you directions if you want to go yourself. Market: We wanted to go to the Saturday market because I heard on the board it was a great place to was a great stop. We spent about 4 hours walking around finding nice homemade soaps, different booths with everything Alaska, and great food. The people there were SUPER nice to us and spoke with us at length about the state, what they made, and various other topics. We got a cute painting, some nice soap bars, and had some great lunch! Try the seafood soup in a bread bowl because it was fabulous! Make sure you have some time to stop there. Also, I did get some Alaskan ULUs there. I did also stop in the ULU factory (pretty close to the market) and found much cheaper prices at the market. There are several ULU booths there, so just do a lap of the market first and see which one you would prefer. Simon & Seafords: We were celebrating DF's birthday and there was confetti on the table (done tastefully) was a small card. It was pretty cool. Also, this was the best meal. Given, we had amazing food elsewhere, but this was fabulous. DM & I shared an appetizer with Filet and shrimp and something else on it and it was amazing—melted in my mouth! Also, DH had the Salmon & loved it and we had Halibut. DF had the pork ribs and it was his favorite as well. YUMMY!!!!! After dinner, I packed up some things for the next day....BROOKS FALLS. I couldn't wait to see what this great highlight of my trip would be. I was pretty nervous, but excited with anticipation at the same time! June 24th: DM & I left early to go Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park DH & DF left early to go fishing Before I start on Brooks, I forgot to mention something about the 23rd. When we were at S&S all of us dressed for dinner. (no suits, but skirts, nice outfits). I feel like we were the ONLY people there not in jeans. That was something I didn't, don't feel like you need to dress to go there. Okay, onto the topic at hand: I booked our trip to Brooks Falls with Katmailand. Website: more than a year & ½ in advance. That was necessary for me because I wanted to be in a cabin. Since there are only 10 cabins at the place, I know it's hard to get these accommodations, but I was excited about it. I know there has been a lot of bear talk on the boards about where to go and what to do. Also, I wanted a trip that could take me directly from Anchorage because DH & DF would be staying there and it was very convenient. I know this trip is expensive and I knew I wasn't going in 'prime' season, but I crossed my fingers before we left that the bears would be trying to fish anyway. Onto what happened... The horsetrekkin folks were nice enough to give us some bananas, yogurt, muffins, and OJ. They left it the night before so we'd have something in the morning. DH & DF drove us to the airport and dropped us off. Katmailand arranged for a flight to King Salmon and then from there we had another flight to Brooks. The first flight to King Salmon wasn't too bad. We were on a 30 passenger plane (the smallest I'd ever been on) and all-in-all it was an okay hour & 1/2 flight. We landed and were taken by bus (there was a sign directing us where to go) to another plane where they weighed our carry-ons as well as us before deciding which plane to put us on. There were 3 planes -- 1 was a 12 passenger (rough guess) and the 2 others were smaller. I got put in the 12 passenger with DM, she took a tranquilizer, and I got to sit in the cockpit with the pilot. I actually asked where I should sit and he told me anywhere, so I made a joke about the cockpit and he said, ask and you shall received. It wouldn't have hurt if he said no. So, I was a little nervous about flying on a smaller plans, but the view was amazing. It was just gorgeous. Also, the takeoff and landing was much smoother on the water than with wheels on land. So, with my anticipation at a HIGH, we landed at Brooks. The first thing they have you do is go to the ranger station and attend a bear-training 30-minute presentation with a video. It tells you what to do if you encounter any bears. Then you get a pin saying you completed it to wear around so the rangers know you went to "school." During the class people asked the rangers if they saw bears and one said they hadn't seen anything in 2 days and no sightings were reported. So, at this point I was getting pretty worried--it's a lot of money to see no bears........ The ranger also said they expected the bears to come out any time now and that usually they were out a few weeks before, but the long winter caused the delay. I said a little prayer to myself hoping they would come out--we then decided to check in at the lodge which entails registering a credit card so you can use your "Katmai Charge Card" (a piece of paper that lets you charge things to your room during your stay) and get the keys to our cabin. Since the cabin wasn't ready yet, we decided to have lunch first. Just as I was finishing my salad one of the guys at my table spotted a bear with cubs on the beach. I've never seen a place clear out so quickly in my life. Don't get me wrong, I was at the front of that line, but DM took a little longer. I was awe-struck seeing the gorgeous bears. They were just hanging out on the bear--a mamma and 3 cubs (these cubs were 1 year old). Then, all of a sudden another mamma came into view a little further down the beach with brand new spring cubs--they were so adorable. I got a bunch of shots with 8 bears in the photos--the 4 in the distance and 4 up-close. I was in awe of some of the lenses people had brought with them, but my telephoto lens worked GREAT, so I was happy. I'll try and post some pictures soon. They're too big to upload to the site, but I'll post them somewhere else with a link. It was amazing to watch them. After watching them for about an hour, we hustled back to the cabin, changed clothes to get to the falls, and started out. I won't give you a play-by-play of the rest of the visit because I would pretty much bore all of you to death. It was amazing to experience though. Just amazing. I'm still in awe just thinking about it. It is just unbelievable when you walk outside your cabin in the morning to see how hot / cold it is and there's a bear standing about 50 yards from you! *sigh* Okay, just one more fun story...I was at the lower platform resting a bit and watching a mamma with her 3 cubs before heading to the falls. She was quite a bit off by the beach area, but started to walk down towards the lower platform. About 5 guys were fishing, but only one was on the close side of the bridge to the mamma. She didn't really look like she was going anywhere, but that fisherman caught a fish and the SECOND that happened, the mamma charged. It was a great show—her charging in. *sigh* Anyway, the fisherman cut his line immediately and got up to the platform to safety—mamma didn't get the fish. We then headed to the falls and were lucky enough to catch up with the mamma fishing for the cubs as they were playing. Such an amazing time! Anyway, some other facts--it is a mile & 1/2 from the lodge (where you have lunch & where most of the cabins are) to the falls platform. The lower platform (good viewing, but most everyone goes to see the falls) is quite a bit closer. For some reason, that's not how I was picturing it, so I thought I'd share. You have to walk past the lower platform, down a road, and then along a path in the middle of the woods to get to the falls. The whole time clapping and talking at the top of your lungs so no bears come close... There's also a fire pit in the main room (where they serve food) and lots of people gathered around it in the evenings to read / relax. Make sure you break in your shoes / boots BEFORE you go!!!! I didn't and paid for it! I'd be happy to answer any other questions you have.... DH & DF's day fishing the Deska (an hour & ½ out of Anchorage): I booked DH & DF to fish with akfishermanschoice dot com. They were very friendly and knowledgeable on the phone and I was comfortable with them. Before I went, they advised me to purchase a fishing license & king salmon stamp for DH & DF. Since we were also fishing in Ketchikan over a week later, I purchased them all at the same time. It was easy: $20 for a 1 day license & $10 for a 1 day king salmon stamp. Website: The only annoying part of the website is that you have to purchase each license separately and print them yourself. DH & DF's review: They were on a small boat with nothing to cover them. Of course, because of that, it poured the entire time they were out there and they got soaked. Also, they caught nothing. Well, no, that's not true—DF caught one illegally (snagged on the side), but they threw it back. Both said the ride to where they were fishing was really nice & it was gorgeous scenery. Also, the boat that went out in the morning caught 6/8 fish. Apparently, the best time to go is in the AM, so book accordingly. They both said the guide was very nice as well. I guess remember—it's fishing, not catching. (I should have taken them to Brooks, but they wanted to fish, so oh well.) DF & DH'S FOOD for the 24th and 25th: One night they went to Phyllis's for dinner. The little sign says all you can eat, but it's only for certain hours. They went the second night and had the all you can eat crab, but didn't love it. It was good, but not as good as Ocean City Maryland... Also, they went Moose's Tooth one night which was okay as well. DF said the burgers were a little thin, but it was pretty good all the same. I should also note we had beautiful weather @ Brooks. June 26th: Day in Anchorage: Alaskan Zoo, Lunch at Jenns, Dinner at Marx Cafe. Breakfast: Steve from horsetrekkin served us a great breakfast again—eggs, pancakes, ham, hash browns, OJ, and coffee. Yum. Then we headed over to the zoo. We saw lots of animals, but it's just not the same seeing them out in the wild. DH was excited to see the bears, but it's just not the same. Anyway, it's a pretty small zoo (well, I'm comparing it to the Bronx zoo though). We went through it in about 2 hours (stopping frequently and wandering). At that point, we decided to go to lunch since we had some time. One of the restaurants I looked into, but decided not to book for dinner was Jenns—so, we went there for lunch. We were all in sweatpants-type apparel, but didn't think it was a problem. It wasn't and everything was still fine. But, it seems to me a lot of people go there for lunch on break from work, so there were a LOT of suits and nice clothing...I felt slightly out of place, but it was okay. This also was my 2nd best food recommendation (better than the dinner I would be having later). The wine and food were fantastic! We had a small caesar with the meal ($4.50) because I wanted to compare with Marx. IT was really good. I also had a glass of Pinot Noir and DM had a glass of Riesling, which was fabulous as well—much better wine than at Marx. It was delicious! For lunch DH had pepper steak which he thought was good and I had Scallops which were amazing! DF had a pasta dish and loved it—he's hard to impress with Italian food too. When the waiter tells you the crème brule is the best in Anchorage, he is NOT kidding. Best I've ever tasted. Get it. Eat it. Then ship some back to me. YUM!!!!!!!!! After lunch, we decided to hit Walmart—I can't tell you how funny it is to me to think we were going to Walmart in Alaska, but it is. We hit up the Alaskan section and I got some chocolates. We also got some waters to take with us. Also, we stopped and got some crackers because we bought some salmon at the market on Saturday and wanted to have some of it on the train. Walmart is only a minute or 2 from Jenns, so if you're in the area, it's a quick stop. Then you can tell everyone you went to Walmart while in Alaska. Before I forget again—when you're at the Salmon place at the market, there's a $5 sealed can, a $6 sealed can, and an $11 glass jar—the difference of money is WORTH IT to get the glass jar!!!! I kid you not! They have these all over too and you'll find yourself getting more. We booked Marx Cafe for dinner and it was okay. I think that is because the other meals I had were just superb, so it ended up being okay—it's a great restaurant and the Caesar salad gets made in front of you, but in retrospect I would have gone to one of the others again instead. Also, you do need to dress for this restaurant. DH had filet mignon and said it was great, but liked S&S better. DF, DM, and I had lamb chops—they were delicious. We also had the Caesar salad prepared tableside, which was very nice, delicious. I liked Jenn's and S&S better though. It ended up being $227 including tip and 1 bottle of wine for 4 people. I tried to get to bed at a somewhat decent time to be ready for the big day tomorrow—had to be at the train @ 5:45... June 27th: Early morning train to Seward, Puffin Encounter, Exit Glacier, Salmon Bake, Dog Sledding This morning we got up early & the 6:45 am train to Seward. We were told to get there by 5:45 and we could bring 2 pieces of luggage & 1 carryon. I booked ahead via the railroad. Website: I went the day before to see if I could get tickets so I wouldn't have to be as early, but they told me they were only issued the day of and we should be there at 5:45 since it was a full train. When we arrived, we were the only people there at 5:45—I'm not surprised—how many people actually listen when they say what time to arrive. Most people got there at 6:30... There is a coffee station in the place if you need a jump-start. Seats are assigned when you get there, but there is open seating in the dome car. Right after we started moving, I moved into the dome (right in my car, so it was convenient). I took the first seat on the right. The arm views are great. Sadly, there was a wait for seating up there, so I stayed about 25 minutes getting great shots and then went back down to my seat. I knew glacier views would be coming up on the left given what BQ said before we left and what that guide said. Just ask one of the very friendly, helpful people walking around and they'll tell you about how many minutes you have until you get there. Then make sure you're in the dome for that too. The views from the train were gorgeous. I can see how you really miss out if you drive. Given, I'm sure there are pluses that way as well, but I'm really glad we took the train. This was DF's top 2 things we did the entire trip. I kid you not! After we got to Seward, we met up with Renee from PJs taxi, who I booked ahead of time. Renee was ready and waiting at the train station right by our luggage. She's the only female cab driver in Seward, so you can't miss her. We actually managed to fit all of our luggage and us into her taxi. (This was a GREAT concern for me due to the amount of luggage we had.) Then, on top of that she was also nice enough to store our luggage at her place while we went about our day, which was a great help because we didn't waste a lot of time. THANK GOD for that. Renee also suggested we try to schedule our glacier landing for that day since we had great weather, so I called them up (she had the number handy) and did so. Thank goodness we stored our luggage at her place, our day was so jam-packed it was ridiculous—THANKS again Renee. (I just can't say that enough.) She's a great woman, has lots of information, and gave us great prices. So, after we stored our luggage, she drove us to lunch at Thorns (2 SHORT blocks from the Sealife Center), where we were scheduled to have a Puffin Encounter about an hour later. Lunch was excellent. I got the Halibut basket and DH got the Shrimp basket. It was fantastic—DH even stole some of mine! I highly recommend going there—great price and great food. (another great recommendation from Renee) The total for the 4 of us at Thorns—each got a drink and basket of food was $90.70 (after tip). We also arranged to meet her again later when we were done with the Sealife center to get to our dog sledding. After lunch, we headed over to the Sealife center and signed in and got our tags for the Puffin encounter. It was great. A nice lady showed us around, told us about the birds, and then we got to feed the puffins—they were so cute! One was more interested in eating DM's pants, but he was adorable! A great experience and lots of great information. A lot of the center is for rehabilitation and they ended up building the place with money from a fine for an oil spill. It's a great stop if you have time. Just as we were getting ready to leave, there was an announcement of an eagle fishing at the back look-out. So, we went up there and got some great pictures of him flying and having dinner! Renee from PJ's taxi picked us up a bit later and transported us to the small airport we were taking our helicopter to the glacier and dog sledding. I booked with Godwin Dog Sled Tours who also gave me a great rate for booking early. Website: It was a SMALL Helicopter. All 4 of us couldn't fit, which I wasn't prepared for. But, hey—I flew on a small plane—bring it on! They had some waterproof gear there, but we were all set with our waterproof boots, pants, and jackets. The guy took up my parents first and then we went next. What a great ride! It was very fast, but great. We landed up at the dog camp and it was so cute to see all the dogs—they had around 75 dogs up there and the mushers live up there all summer (they come down once a week to shower). They're training for races like the Iditarod. I even have our mushers card to follow her progress. The people were real nice and we had a great ride around with the dogs. We went about 2 miles, but it just felt so short. I would have loved to have been there longer. The helicopter down was pretty quick and we landed just as Renee from PJ's taxi pulled into the parking lot. What a great experience—lots of those on this day! But, we weren't done with the day yet. We asked Renee to drive us to Exit Glacier, but she suggested stopping to see some Salmon first, which we thought would be interesting so we went. It was awesome—we watched them just jump out of the water over and over again—VERY cool. Have Renee drive you around and I'm sure she'll take you there. So, then we headed to Exit Glacier and started walking. One trail was 1.7 miles and one was 0.3. DH wanted to do the 1.7 mile one, so I went with him and DM & DF did the 0.3 one. As we were walking up, we came to a stream which we had to get across. The water was about 3 inches high, so it was good we had the waterproof boots. On the way up Overlook trail, it was okay and it was a gorgeous sight. Beautiful. I'd highly recommend it. From the time Renee dropped us off to when we got back to the visitors center, it took us less than an hour to do. A warning: on the way back down the mosquitoes seemed to be out in full force and took a liking to DH. It was BAD. Make sure you spray lots of repellant! At this point, I was very tired and we went to the Salmon Bake (driven by Renee again) for dinner. I just had a burger (one of their interesting combo ones) with a pickle you can pick out of a jar. It was very good. YUM! The root beer was great as well. Price for 4 people: $67. Only 1 beer ordered by DH—I was so wiped out by then I don't know how he stomached it. After we finished, Renee picked us up and drove us to get our luggage (at her place) and then out to the Saltwater Lodge (about 10 minutes out of town). As she's driving, she was explaining various things and just as she was saying to watch for sealife, out pops an otter. What timing! I'm telling you, she's got them on a schedule—it was great! Saltwater is gorgeous, had a perfect view, and the rooms were fabulous. Website: I reserved the North and South rooms and that came with an "expanded" continental breakfast (more on that later). The rooms looked great—the only thing to be mindful of is that you have to carry all of your luggage up the huge flight of stairs to your rooms. It was so worth it though! At this point, we showered, looked at the great view, and collapsed asleep. The next day we were doing the Kenai Fjords trip with Saltwater and I wanted to be fully rested for that trip. June 28th: Kenai Fjords Boat Trip; Dinner @ The Crab Pot Before I start this part, I just want to say again how gorgeous our rooms at Saltwater were. When we were driving up to the place before you see it, DH got a little scared about where we were going. But, even he was SUPER thrilled. There were windows lining one side of the room the entire length of the wall (which was large). We also had 2 queen size beds in the room. Actually, now that I think back on it, one of them could have been a double bed. The beds were facing on opposite walls, but diagonally from each other. It's hard to get an idea of how big the room was, but it was huge for 2 people. The only part that was small was the shower. VERY small. My poor father had a tight squeeze, but was okay. Okay, onto June 28th. Breakfast at Saltwater was expanded continental. There were bowls of fruit (freshly made that morning—I saw some of it happen), English Muffins, hot chocolate, coffee, and some other things. It was nice. I decided to take some Dramamine—BIG mistake. I was so tired & groggy, which hasn't happened to be before. I'll just stay with the patch from now on—no side effects there. We booked our Kenai Fjords trip through Saltwater to be on a smaller boat to have a better experience. We met our captain and first mate at the little coffee shop and then went on our way. The boat was very nice—there was an inside area (completely covered) and viewing from all the sides. On the way out we saw a whale—our first. It was great and I took lots of pictures. We stayed there a little while and then made our way to Holgate glacier. I was able to sit next to the captain with DH and we had a long talk with him on the way about sealife, various birds, and just heard him talk about the area. I find it interesting that a lot of the people we met in Alaska have been there X amount of years, but weren't born there.—just a side note. At one point, we turned and saw one seal / porpoise tanning on a rock. I was super excited and started taking lots of pictures. Then 1 minute later we came upon a group of rocks with about 30 seals / porpoises tanning—it made my excitement even higher. I kept wondering what amazing things we were going to see next. On our trip, we saw otters, puffins, and other wildlife. An observation: We also saw some of the larger provider's boats during our trip—PACKED with people. I seriously can't believe the amount of people they fit on those things. We were able to easily walk back and forth across the boat to see things from different angles and those people were lucky to have a railing spot. I was so glad to have been on a smaller vessel with a more private tour. Another reason I wanted to book with Saltwater is that we were able to stay at the face of the glacier longer than the ½ hour allotted by the larger boats. While the larger boats have to keep more of a schedule, we could detour and see more things. Just so you know, it was FREEZING the entire time! It was very hard to stay outside, even with the wind. I was wearing underarmor pants (get them, they are wonderful and necessary), warm pants over it, my waterproof boots, a tank top, a sweatshirt over that, and then my jacket with fleece liner. I also had gloves and ear covers on. Then I put a hat on over that. I was still cold, but at least my head, ears, and body were warm. I just ended up with my nose, eyes, and mouth being cold. Too bad I didn't find a way to cover those! The only thing I wasn't thrilled with during the trip is that we had to pick up kayakers along the way. (One of Saltwater's boats broke down, so we had to take an hour to do this. It didn't cut into our time and wasn't fun, but I guess necessary and not a big deal.) I would highly recommend that kind of trip to anyone going—it was a great experience. Originally I had booked the crab pot for 7:30 that night and I was planning to go back to Saltwater and change. But, we heard they had no dress-code and you needed no reservation. So, after we got done, we walked around town a little and went to the Crab Pot for dinner around 6. We, of course, had crab (seasoned). It was very good—pricey, but good. I also found out from a local that Ray's uses frozen seafood, not fresh. That really astonished me—I guess something to keep in mind for all of you. We also heard Chinooks was good, but we didn't make it there. After dinner, we just headed back to Saltwater (via PJ's taxi—right on time as always) and hung out on the decks there and the beach. I took a book down to the deck and hung out a while reading while DH walked on the beach a while. It really is gorgeous there. I wish we stayed longer in Seward. June 29th: Board the Ship We got up early to breakfast again at Saltwater—expanded continental. Same things were there as the previous day: Freshly made bowls of fruit, English Muffins, hot chocolate, coffee, and some other things. We had to check out by 10, so we were out of the rooms by 10:30 (not too bad) and took PJs taxi to the boat docks. We knew we couldn't check in until after 2pm, but we figured we could drop our luggage off there. By pure stroke of luck, they said we could board at 11am! It was only 5 minutes later, so we stayed and boarded right away—easiest embarkation ever. I told DM & DF we'd meet them in the buffet and headed up the stairs with DH. Only after they were gone I looked and the buffet didn't open until noon. We decided to kill some time exploring. The ship is beautiful. It has a very open feel and the staff is very friendly. Even at this early hour, the staff kept welcoming us aboard every time we saw a member and they always said hello—very friendly. So, upon exploring we found the basketball court. DH then became extremely excited and we played a quick game of HORSE (which I won—we had to kill time, right?). After we met DF & DM in the lunch buffet. This was fantastic—better than the other lines I've been on. I was SUPER excited for the pasta-making station. Also, the Caesar salad making station was a favorite too, but I didn't have it a lot because of the other great things. Since we got on so early, we then decided to make reservations at the Normanie for Skagway (I knew we were going to be too late getting back on the ship for our early seating). This was very easy to do because they have representatives at a lot of sections on the ship to call in reservations. Then I thought I'd head to the spa—hey, if I could be a spa model and get a free service, it sounded good to me! I found out that they do not have spa models for the tours, but use one of the tour members for one thing. Otherwise, you really don't see treatments going on, as I have previously. Stay to do the tour, it's quite interesting. I did learn on the tour the Rasul was broken, so I don't have anything to report on that. I did do a treatment though—more on that later. I also think the Summit's gym is top-notch. It's huge and they offer classes (some a slight amount of money, but most not). By the time we got done with that, I went to check out my room and our luggage had arrived. I finally unpacked after a week of living out of my suitcase—that felt great. By then we just relaxed a bit, showered, changed, and then headed down for the early seating dinner. It is open seating the first night, but we were all hungry by the time 6pm rolled around. It was very good and I liked our wait staff the first night. Everyone was very welcoming. Some tips: You can order fresh berries - raspberries, blueberries, strawberries -- with whipped cream every night for desert. You also can order NY Strip Steak any night or every night. Shrimp cocktail is on the every night menu—no need to ask in advance. Half way through our cruise they ran out of the big shrimp and used smaller ones—still great. The first night's show was a variety show of different performances to come in the week. I liked it a lot. They had two people that did acrobatic-type work—they were amazing. Also, they had Celebrity singers & dancers perform. All in all, I think it was a good first night show and a nice introduction to the ship. We were pretty tired, so at that point, we just went back to sleep. Now I'm going to break a little bit to discuss my room and some additional 'tips' I found helpful before I boarded: Room: I knew that for Alaska, I wanted an Aft Cabin. Since I know those rooms go really quickly, I had my travel agent (who is wonderful, by the way) call and I called also the day rates were supposed to come out to book cabins. (the second the phone lines opened) I ended up actually getting the ones I wanted (after a lot of persistence telling them I should be able to book). Lesson here: Call the day everything comes out to get what you want. I've also found a lot of people are worried about prices dropping after final payment and want last minute fares. With celebrity, I booked this cabin the day rates came out and then had my price adjusted two times by my TA after final payment to credit me rate reductions. She was very on top of getting me those price adjustments and sent me a bottle of champagne for the trip. If you're asking if it was worth it: It SO was. I never ever want to cruise again without an aft cabin. The views are just amazing. I did feel vibrations 1 night, but it didn't bother me—just like the sound of the ocean. Also, DH thought it rocked more in the back of the ship, but it didn't seem like it to me. I LOVED it. Rest of the ship: The staff was VERY friendly and courteous. For example, when I was on Princess, the staff didn't go out of their way to talk to you. But, on the Summit I would get a hello how are you every where I turned. I'll also rate the activities / food each day if I remember them. Some additional things I learned: You can get over-the-counter seasickness meds at customer service or the purser's desk. Free, dispensed a couple of tablets at a time. Also, if you see that they are doing a Internet class, you an get free internet for 30 minutes (you just have to sit though the class). I didn't see that happen during this cruise though. Since it's so expensive, this would be worth it. June 30th: Hubbard Glacier (Cruising) Sadly, this is one of my 'regret' days. It was too foggy to see anything and it was pouring. We couldn't see calving or even hear it. My big regret / upset of the trip. Yes, the day was scenic, but not what I thought it would be. I did a couple of other things this day. The first was a culinary demonstration. Let me say—do NOT miss this. Also, if you can, be the one who volunteers to be the helper. It was fantastic. Well, I like food and cooking, so it was good for me. But, if you just like to eat, I'd still go to this great show because of the food quality. Hey, if you like Martinis, go to that too! So, they make filet and I won't get into any details, but the pastry chef made cake and a dessert. Then the girl who helped invited a friend to the table and they ate it. As we were all drooling waiters came around with tastes of each. I had 2—it was that good. So, I digressed a little—in the middle of cooking, you have to wait about 5-10 minutes for it to actually cook. During this time we had a martini demonstration where the guy threw the bottles around and everything. He had great skills. Anyway, I ended up with one of the 2 martinis. Can you believe 1 lady actually turned down the chocolate martini? If you aren't lucky enough (or eyeing the glass enough) to get one of the 2, they pass around samples of these as well. They also had someone explain silverware in the middle and what fork to use when—me, I just work my way in from the outside. I also went to the art auction this day. While on the ship the art guy holds a couple of lectures and 2 art auctions. Both the auctions are on the "sea days." Hint: When he says to trust him, do so! Today for lunch I also checked out the Aqua Spa Cafe. Some great stuff there & a lot of people don't even bother looking. I found some days of the trip it was PACKED over in the buffet and then there was no one in the aqua spa cafe. Sometimes they have pretty cool stuff. Check it out. Another food-related tip (many know this already): In the cova you pay for coffees, hot chocolate, etc, but the pastries and cookies are free! My one big regret of the cruise was not being able to see anything this day. I put away my disappointment though because there are so many nicer things to see. If I had my druthers I would have planned this trip for 2 weeks later. But, hey, I had an amazing time. I did not let it ruin my vacation 1 bit! July 1st: Juneau from 10-8: Mendenhall Glacier We got off the ship early and first had to get tickets to a bus ($2 round trip all day) just to get to the town area. Once we got here, we paid the $12 a person (round trip) to get to Mendenhall and back. It was easy enough to do since we were the first people off the ship and we had about a 5 minute wait for the bus to appear to take us back to town. We didn't do Mt. Roberts Tram because it was too foggy—good thing I didn't prebook. Mendenhall—it was gorgeous. We took a little hike down to see it and climbed around a bit. I'm not even sure what trails we ended up with (even after I got maps), but I totally recommend at least doing the Photo Point Trail. Something to note: the visitor's center is not free. So, if you climb up all those stairs to go to the center, be aware you'll be paying some money to get in. (it is research money though) The view is nice though. Also, there are some elevators if one needs. I also used this site for trail maps: I LOVE how it's always light here. My S3IS worked perfectly. I'm sorry, I know I haven't spoken a lot about my camera as I said I would before, but if you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them. We then looked at shops and went back to the ship—it was a nice and relaxing day. (It's too bad I didn't spread these days out—we needed them!) I also made myself an appointment for the Ocean Wrap on this day. It was a nice seaweed wrap (which they let you try on the spa tour). Then afterwards while you relax (basically in a waterbed) while wrapped you get a massage on your hands and feet. Then you shower everything off and get a full body massage. I would so do it again. Ruth was the woman I had and she was incredible. From someone who gets treatments at home, I can't rave enough. Also, just so everyone's aware: spa services have the gratuity built in already, but you can add more. We also had a martini tasting right before dinner--$10 for the 'tray.' It was 6 different martinis (smaller sized) and was very good. We ordered this so close to dinner the guy actually put it at our table for us to finish! Yum. Extra Let me take a second to put in some things I forgot: Before I left to go to Alaska, I was reading the boards and how everything is informal / casual in Alaska. While this is true, while I was in the Celebrity dining room (main early seating), I didn't see one person skimp on the dress code. While on formal night a few people weren't as dressed up as I've seen in the past, it wasn't anywhere near as casual as I was expecting and I'm glad I didn't take my formal clothing out of my suitcase. July 2nd: Skagway 7-8:30: Train Ride & Bus Back I booked the Carcross Bus & Rail excursion with Chilkoot Charters & Tours. Website: After I booked they sent me a ticket with these instructions: PICKUP INSTRUCTIONS: Ore Dock - proceed to the red weather shelter just across the footbridge. Railroad Dock or Broadway Dock - proceed to the end of the pier and go through the security gate. WAIT for your driver/guide who will be driving a vehicle or carrying a sign with our business name "CHILKOOT CHARTERS & TOURS." You will be picked up at 7:30 AM. DO NOT attempt to board the train at the dock as its destination is different than yours. U.S. AND CANADIAN CITIZENS MUST CARRY A PASSPORT OR BIRTH CERTIFICATE WITH PHOTO ID. GUESTS OF OTHER NATIONALITIES MUST BRING THEIR PASSPORT. Also, this was the itinerary they sent me: Skagway/White Pass Summit/Fraser/Lake Bennett/Carcross. The 4 1/2 hours on the train is actual travel time. There is a 1 1/2 hour layover at Lake Bennett for lunch at the Bennett Depot dining hall. There are also Parks Canada interpretive displays throughout the depot itself and on the viewing platform. The rail trip to Carcross is 6 hours in total, and the Emerald Lake to Skagway portion by bus is an additional 2 1/2 hours. Review of the trip: When we got off the ship there was a big sign right outside the gate of the dock—very easy to find and we took off within 5 minutes of waiting for some others to get off. It was GORGEOUS. We were the 20th trip of people to go all the way to Carcross since they expanded the line. There were only 6 of us in our car and the car ahead of us carried the employees and the one behind of us was empty. So, it was nice to have a train for ourselves. There are platforms between each car—1 section for the car your in and 1 for the one in front of you. So, I guess if it's crowded the people in front of you could block your pictures. Since our train was empty, I got to spend a lot of time on the platform—it was great. I got some amazing pictures—if I flip press the next button of my camera, I got a round of pictures that make it look like the train's moving into the tunnel. I just put my camera in sports mode, didn't move, and held the button down. The people were very pleasant getting to Lake Bennett and explained everything. I liked the crew that boarded in Lake Bennett and took us to Carcross a little better because they stayed in the car with us, explaining things and answering questions. They knew a lot about the area—one of the guy's parents used to live in a cabin on the side too. Oh, and they got the bears out for us! All were great, but the crew from Lake Bennett to Carcross was superb. I'm sure some of you are asking if going all the way to Carcross was worth it? I think it was. When we stopped at Lake Benet and ate (not edible food by the way) some people got off and had to wait about 1 hour extra for a train back. Just in the extra part we saw 2 black bears (one in a tree and one was originally in the middle of the tracks when the conductor called back to us). The scenery isn't as splendid as was seen in the first part though, but there are things to see. Also, I have to say that the ice cream in Carcross was fabulous—DF is still talking about it! The reason I booked the longer trip was to see Emerald Lake—that and the desert were both big highlights! Also, it's very interesting taking the bus back, in effect seeing things from a different perspective. I highly recommend doing this. We went to the Normandie for dinner this night since we got back too late for our early seating. We did not have the wine-with-every course, but now I wish I did. After attending the food and wine tasting in the Normandie later in the cruise, I could tell they knew what they were doing. If you like wine, I'd love someone to report back on this. The food and experience were spectacular and gourmet, while the people were friendly, pleasant, and we were treated like royalty. A couple of highlights—the Caesar salad is made table-side. For those who were reading about Marx earlier—this is a perfect time to go to the Normandie on the ship and skip going to Marx in Anchorage. It was great and made just as well. Also, DF ordered the steak diane which was made tableside. He couldn't stop raving about this either. I had the Goat Cheese appetizer. Let me tell you, I was really weary on ordering this, but it was recommended so I decided to try it. DO IT. YUM! Also, they bring around a cheese cart after dinner. If I knew it was coming, I would have TRIED to save room. I could have had just wine and cheese ALL night. YUM! Dinner was $30 per person + a 15% tip. We tipped more. Tons of people were waiting on us the entire time. Even though I know this is part of going to this restaurant, we had a great time here. On a side note: I met a guy at the high tea the last sea day we were on the ship. The said the only place good is the Normandie and he would only eat there and have pastries from the Cova all day. The tea was okay, but he was actually loosing weight on the cruise because of this. Now, I know people do have their own opinions, but I'm just going to offer mine. The Normandie was great and being treated like royalty was great, but I wasn't about to expect that every night of a cruise. In the main dining room the food was very good—I enjoyed it a lot. But, someone is not about to come out and cook food in front of you. Also, in the Normandie the staff to client ratio is MUCH lower than your waiter, assistant waiter, and sommelier have in the dining room, so they are able to service you better. I thought our dining room staff was GREAT and the service was OUTSTANDING. But, in the Normandie it was a step up from that. It was nice to have once, but certainly not necessary throughout the cruise. Since I'm not sure which night it was, I'm going to put the ventriloquist here. Personally, I find these guys sometimes a bit boring, but this guy was outstanding. Do NOT miss going this night—he was hilarious! July 3rd: Icy Strait Point 7-4: Whale Watching w/Keith @ Teck Outfitters Website: I was very excited to go whale watching, but still slightly nervous about getting seasick. Keith assured me we'd be in calm waters, so I wasn't too bad. It was pretty calm, but I'm glad I was wearing the patch. (which I wore the whole cruise and didn't get seasick once) He has a 32 foot cruiser and there was an inside section with a top area above the inside, it was great. The main level was only exposed in the back for viewing and at the top you can view from all angles. They were amazing, amazing! Keith picked us up exactly where he said he'd be and drove us to his boat. His wife drove us back. (Also stopping to get Moccasins with Kathy who is GREAT at it and I LOVE them. I pre-ordered them in my size and they were amazing! Be sure to request colors—I didn't, but loved what I got. I can see this could be a problem with some.) The whales were really close to us the whole time—a mamma and baby and then another whale—we just followed them around. It was amazing. The upper deck was great and open and just the 4 of us were on board. It was fantastic. We saw another boat with passengers from the ship (ship-sponsored) and it was PACKED. 3 floors of nothing but people EVERYWHERE. Crazy! Teck took us exactly where we wanted to go and found the whales for us. Then we followed them around guessing where they would surface—fun in itself. These animals are just so large and great to watch, my breath was taken away doing it. When we got back to the docks, I wondered around a few of the stores. DH & I are really into artwork, so we stopped in the Southeast Artwork store (they have one in Juneau as well). I bought a nice picture of the Northern Lights and they arranged to ship it to my house. On a side note: A few weeks after I got home, the piece came in the mail and it was cut all down the side like a child was cutting the paper down to size. It looks horrible. After taking up the issue with Southeast Artworks (the owner specifically), his final response was to send it to him (paying shipping both ways) and he'll cut it better for me. This is the only truly HORRIBLE experience I had from the trip and would highly discourage anyone from buying something at one of their stores and having it shipped back. You won't get the product you think you are getting. July 4th: Ketchikan 9-7: Fishing w/Ken @ Northern Lights Kind of a rainy dreary day. Since we had fishing starting at noon, we decided to walk around town a bit and possibly shop. I got a great gold-nugget ring which I love and wear all the time, so it was worth the drenching rain to wonder around. Since so many people recommended Anabelles, we headed over there. We each had the soup and then split 2 appetizers (crab cakes being one of them). Also had 2 bud lights (4 people ate total). The soup was very good, the rest was okay—def not my favorite place to eat during this trip. The bill came to $77! I would have rather had the free food on the ship! I also stopped at Ketchikandies and got some of the chocolate covered oreos—whoever said to get those on this board—THANK YOU—YUM!!!!!!! Also, got some chocolate covered pretzels—those were great too. Anyone going who wants to ship me some, feel free!!! This was by far the most built-up town and it was a pleasure to walk around, even in the rain. Before noon I went by our gangplank and took a walk around looking for Ken, our guide to fishing that day. I was very nervous about getting in a boat because I get a little seasick, but Ken reassured me that everything would be okay. He told me that he would meet me at my gangplank at noon with a sign with my name on it. Then he also gave me a number to call in case he wasn't there, which made me very comfortable. Since he wasn't there yet, I sought sanctuary under an awning for a closed gold shop and waited. He was slightly late and I was glad to have his cell phone number and called him to make sure I was in the right place. It ended up that the people before us forgot to bring cash, so they had to get back on their ship to get it. People, please remember so other people don't have to wait. Anyway, it wasn't a problem and he was there soon enough. We walked right down a gang plank onto his boat. (20 feet from where we got off our boat) A section of his boat was covered, which was great since it was still pouring. But, boy oh boy—the water was ROUGH until we got to our destination. When we finally got there, we started 'trolling.' I'm not a big fisherman, so for those who don't know what that is—it's where you stick polls in the water off the back of the boat and move around really slow hoping the fish bites a pool. So, while we were trolling and the guys were focused on the polls, I was looking around a bit and saw an eagle—it was really cool, so I pointed it out and Ken told me to look at the "eagle tree" instead. I swear, there were 3 HUGE trees PACKED to the GILLS with Eagles on them---it was an amazing sight! So, after I calmed down from that, we kept trolling around—maybe for 2 hours and just caught nothing. Then we stopped to pick up 2 additional passengers who booked for the later part of our trip. All of a sudden, we started catching King Salmon. All of us got one except for DF—he claims he has horrible luck ? But, it was still fun. I have a great picture of me holding my King Salmon! After that, we then were taken back to the dock. I filled out a form to filet & ship my salmon back and ordered some extra from the same place. Two days later DH's grandfather received our fish in a container with dry ice. Everything was packed perfectly. It was GREAT! I got back on the ship after that and took a nice hot shower and went down for dinner. A nice way to end the day. July 5th: Inside Passage Cruising I woke up and just looked outside. It was gorgeous out there. Scenery on both sides of us and it was just beautiful. I could have sat on my balcony all day with a blanket and hot chocolate. What an amazing experience and it was great to see all the land unspoiled by anything else. We had breakfast upstairs at the buffet—what amazing waffles by the way!!!! Thank you for whomever on the board made sure I didn't miss them! Since it was such a great sight, we stayed at the aft of the ship to watch the scenery while eating breakfast. A few days earlier I convinced DM to go to the wine & food pairing with me today. So, a short while later we left to go (it was pretty early). We sat at a table for 6 at the Normandie and 2 other couples joined us (both very nice). We then sat though a great explanation of wine and food (much better than many others I've been too). Also, on the last ship I was on (Princess) I went to an event like this and once you were done with your glass, you were done. So, I assumed it was the same way here. But, the couple next to me finished their glass VERY quickly and all of a sudden someone came over and refilled their glass. I thought this was very interesting so I started drinking what I wanted to. If you ask me, $9.95 for 4 bottomless glasses of wine is a GREAT deal. I drank more than 4 glasses. It was entertaining, interesting, and I learned a lot. I highly recommend going. I arranged to meet DH at the room an hour after the wine tasting started (little did I know that it went for 1 hour & 45 minutes). He played basketball in the meantime, but wasn't too thrilled with my "tardiness." So, keep in mind that it's longer than 1 hour. A short while later, we went to the art auction. (probably not a great combination—drinking and then spending money) DH & I found some pieces we both liked (which is pretty hard for us) and bought a few pieces of art to decorate our house. The prices were great and I really did enjoy the host. We also made an appointment to meet with the people right after dinner, arranged to frame the art, and had it shipped home. (except 2 pieces which we carried to our hotel in Vancouver, on the plane, and back to home) The reason we had to carry some pieces was because the gallery had only a few left, they were 'specials,' and came with the frame. [They do let you know this prior to bidding.] We then went to the room to pack. It was just so sad that we were leaving the ship and ending that portion of our trip. I tried not to think about it as I packed everything up so I would be ready to put our bags outside at the appropriate time. I went on my balcony again before dinner and it wasn't that cold out there. It was gorgeous to look at all the majestic beauty of mother nature. *sigh* I wish I was back there right now. Also, since I had an aft balcony, I could see the 3 other ships following us. What a sight! Dinner was great, as always and I came back to the room stuffed. I glanced up and there was the most gorgeous sunset setting on the 3 other ships behind us. I took a few pictures and marveled at the sight a minute—it did take my breath away. July 6th: Dock @ Vancouver That morning we got up, ate at the buffet, and then sat on our balcony for a while just taking in the scenery. Once our steward said he needed the room, we left and went to the Concierge Lounge. This place was VERY stuffy and VERY small. It was hard to get in over people's bags and to find seats. The theater, where a lot of the rest of the ship was, I heard was much better. Anyway, if you could I would try and get off as soon as possible. That means that when they give you the questionnaire; make sure to fill it out that you have plans. I did have plans and wanted to explore Vancouver, but I still got the "Independent Traveler #2 color." It was not fun just sitting there. But, once our color was called and we got off the ship, it was VERY smooth getting our bags and getting a cab. They call people when they have cabs available and such—we had no wait and customs was a breeze. So, once off the ship, I directed our cab driver to our Hotel. I booked on priceline in April and got the Pacific Palisades hotel. I read it was in a great location, but wasn't that amazing a hotel (run down…). In my opinion, the hotel was fine. It was clean and the rooms were MUCH bigger than I expected. Once we got to the hotel, I dropped our bags with the Concierge (and got tickets for them) and we headed over to Stanley Park. We walked from the hotel and got a big lost once in the park trying to find the aquarium. I didn't want to specifically book anything, so it was the most disorganized time of the trip. In retrospect, I wish I planned it better or booked with the trolley. The aquarium is nice and pretty small. The only thing I saw which I really haven't seen anywhere else is the Beluga Whale. It was pretty interesting to see. Make sure you go during the show time, otherwise you really don't see much. Otherwise, I could have lived without it. Also, so you know—from the hotel down Robson St. toward Stanley Park I could consider the "bad part" of town and the other direction from Robson St would be the "good part." Sadly, we were so wiped out; we thought perhaps there was only the "bad part." I wish we booked a tour than try to do this ourselves. Anyway, after we went to Stanley Park, we chose to walk back to the hotel and said we'd just walk into a place for lunch. Since it was so hot outside, we just wanted A/C or to sit outside in the breeze. The 1st two places we walked into were so hot from the ovens, we just couldn't stay. Finally, we tried a Greek pizza place (which I thought was interesting in itself) that was pretty close to our hotel. Now, I'm as surprised as the next person, but the food was SPECTACULAR! I'd recommend it if someone could find it. I got baked ziti and it was great. DF & DM shared a pineapple pizza & loved it as well. Then we got back to our hotel and DM & I decided to see if anyone at the spa was available for reflexology. People were, so we booked and I got DH an appointment as well. It was OKAY. I wouldn't go there again. It wasn't real reflexology, it was just a foot massage, poolside. For a foot massage with screaming kids in the background, it was good. But, that's not what I would be paying $75 for. Yeah, $75—it wasn't worth it! I had pre-booked the Zin restaurant at our hotel ahead of time and we headed there for dinner after relaxing a while. Dinner was good, but nothing compared to the rest of our trip. Also, since we were so wiped out at that point, I was just happy we didn't have to go far to get there and there was no wait when we did arrive. After dinner, we just collapsed in bed and watched TV a bit before turning in. July 7th: Fly home non-stop to Newark I noticed there was a crepe place outside our hotel and was all about having breakfast there. I love crepes and you just can't get a good one in New York. YUM, boy oh boy it was good. Highly recommended. Then we got a cab to the airport. Miraculously, we got through security and to our gate in record time. We were about 2 hours early, so we decided to walk around a bit and left DF with the bags. When I got to the airport I was surprised to see a sign that pointed to an aquarium. To all those who don't know already, it's just a fish tank. If you went to Stanley Park, don't even bother. Not worth it. Since I was already in debt from giving my credit cards a workout the whole trip, I didn't want to shop. Around lunch time, we decided to grab something from the food court and bring it back to DF and have lunch. Since he wasn't allowed into the gate, he was sitting outside it when we left him there. Just a quick note: Once you are in the gate area, you can't come out. There are bathrooms and a vending machine in there, but that's it. So, I wouldn't go in until you know your flight isn't delayed… Sadly, our trip has come to an end. It has been great writing this review / journal, as I got to relive the experience. Any questions / comments I'd be happy to answer. Some other quick notes before I completely end that I hope can help others.: PACKING LIST: Other: I bought under armour (it's like long underwear) for the trip because both me & DM get very very cold. It worked. Get some if you think you'll need it! I also got buzz off apparel (shirts) to wear in Katmai National Parks and didn't get bitten. I recommend that as well. A lot of the guides were wearing them. Gloves Ear Covers Waterproof Pants My Columbia Waterproof jacket with a removable fleece lining. I got this from a guy I met through e-bay that sells discounted jackets, which he picks up at the outlet store. He can get most anything you want, which I loved. I got one for everyone going for the holidays last year. Papers: Passports Copy of Passport to keep either on me or in the safe Cruise tickets Alaska Documents / Lists Alaska E-mails on Excursions & Confirmations Alaska Insurance Copy Journal & Pen to write things to not forget in Front & Back Copies of the credit cards I'm bringing Put a copy of the itinerary in each of the bags in case of a loss - it helps! Medication / Cleaning Stuff Clorox Wipes Hand Sanitizer PeptoBiz Band-Aids Kleenex Sea sickness patch Dramamine Cough drops / Halls Advil Liquid Gels Medicated Chap Stick Gum Zinc Pills: Same as below Airbourne: Take a few days before the trip & take daily Toiletries / Personal Hygiene: Insect Repellant: Deep Woods Off w/100% Deet Sunblock Face Sunblock Travel Size Moisturizer & Cleanser Travel Sized Lotions & Body Wash Plastic Zip Loc Bags—many. Put some in camera case Shampoo & Conditioner Razors Body lotion Aloe Vera gel Deodorant Toothbrush/Toothpaste Listerine Dental floss Hair Brush Hair Ties Make-up (minimal) Jewelry: Watch, … Glasses: Prescription Sun, Regular Sun, Regular Contacts Liners Flat Iron Perfume Camera Stuff: Camera Case w/ Camera & stuff Lenses Lens Cleaning Stuff Battery Charger Extra Batteries Extra Memory Cards IPOD with Camera Connection to download pictures: This worked out great for me b/c I took so many pictures. I could just download them to the IPOD and then I downloaded them again to my computer when I got home. Extra headsets IPOD Charger Other: Binoculars Books & Magazines Little Wallet Type Bag Wallet Purse Cash to spend & for tips Celebrity Credit Card Cell Phone & Charger Throw-a-way ponchos? Fishing License Sleeping Mask to block the light Clothes Pins / Office Supply Binder Clips (to keep the light out) Backpack Insulated Mugs: use on the decks when looking out @ the glaciers & things Umbrella (celebrity provides them on the ship, so bring only for lunch) Duct Tape Post-it notes Ziploc bags Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
This was our second cruise on Summit, and we were looking forward to being back onboard. We had previously been to the Mexican Riviera in October, 2005 with an outside balcony. For Alaska, we decided to try Concierge Class, and did NOT ... Read More
This was our second cruise on Summit, and we were looking forward to being back onboard. We had previously been to the Mexican Riviera in October, 2005 with an outside balcony. For Alaska, we decided to try Concierge Class, and did NOT regret that decision at all! :) We were travelling with a local group of 29 people, and prior to our cruise we had booked a land tour through Premier Alaska Tours, encompassing Anchorage, Fairbanks and Denali, which was exhausting, but very nice. 10-13 hours a day on the bus/train can wear you out, and we were even more glad to see Summit waiting at the pier on June 15. Embarkation: As we walked in, there were two queues: HOlland America and Celebrity. We went to Celebrity, where the first thing they had was a couple of tables. These had Handi-Wipes, followed by very nice representatives with cookies, hot chocolate and water. How welcoming!!! We had CC booked, so we followed the signs to CC registration; NO, that's right, NO wait, NONE! (It is good to note at this point that the members of our group who didn't have CC only had about a two minute wait for a representative. This was such a fast and smooth embarkation! From there, security was about a five minute line, photo for the "we're going to Alaska" was a breeze-through, a two minute walk to the ship, right onboard with no wait. When we walked on, there was the usual line of white-gloved staff waiting to take your carryon and seapass, hand you champagne, and walk you to your cabin. Ahhh, yes, this is vacation, this is Celebrity!! Public Rooms: The Summit, as for any ship on the water more than a year, has constant "fixer-upping" going on, but overall is in very good shape. There are the usual little things that one could point out, but they certainly don't detract from Summit or ruin a cruise! The Centrum on Summit is beautiful, gold and marble, very serene looking, in muted tones. Cabin: Concierge Class 7200 was right next to aft, and perfect; situated between two floors of cabins instead of entertainment/sports decks, sleep was a breeze. The views were great, and our cabin attendant, Victor, was a dream! Our first morning, I wandered up to Cova Cafe to surprise DH with lattes and FRESH (yum!)chocolate croissants from the patisserie. I saw Victor on the way back and he told me that I could have written them in on our Room Service menu, and he'd bring them, even from Cova Cafe. (very cool, the balcony with lattes). He kept our cabin in great shape the whole time that we were there. THe pillow menu (isotonic, conformance, goosedown, body) is wonderful; I am a "pillow girl" and Celebrity did not disappoint. His assistant, Danny, was also great, always cheerful and helpful. Fitness and Recreation: We did not work out while on Summit, but we did, as before, use the Persian Gardens. Yum!!! Very relaxing, and another of Celebrity's apparently little-known secrets. Value for Price: Yes, Celebrity costs a bit more than some of the other mainstream lines, but in my opinion, the y are well worth it!! Dining: The dining Room was excellent, food always fresh and well-presented. Acosta, our waiter, and Ivan, his assistant did a great job of making sure that we were well-fed and more than satisfied. We also took my family to the Normandie one night, as we had dined there on our previous cruise, and wanted to treat them. From beginning to end, the Normandie was "an experience", and a heavenly one at that. Entertainment: We went th four of the seven shows, and found them all to be very enjoyable. The Celebrity singers and dancers offer a variety of talents, and the other stars will keep you entertained as well. The Celebrity aerialists are particularly breathtaking! Service: As before, impeccable and top-notch! Thank you Celebrity!!! Shore Excursions: Glad we booked with the ship. We had a golf trip booked at Skagway, and to get there, we took a catamaran to Haines (the golf concierge went with us- Sharon, wonderful!!). This catamaran only runs every so often, and due to the game running long, we missed the return catamaran. The next one wouldn't be till 5, which didn't affect us as we didn't sail till 9, but there was someone with us from Celebrity's Mercury, also booked through the ship, and his ship departed at six, had to be back onboard BY 5:30; the catamaran trip was a half hour. Sharon and our Haines guide, from Alaska Mountain Guides, managed to get us on a chartered little island hop plane a couple of hours sooner; they filled the time in between with a tour of Haines disc golf and such, which was great!! Other tours were the Taku Glacier jetboat, the Mt. Roberts tram, the zipline at Ketchikan, the Kawasaki 4x4 mules at Icy Strait Point. All were well-organized and a blast. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
Flight: Newark NJ to St. Paul Minneapolis to Fairbanks AK was 8 1/2 hours. Fairbanks airport was small, easy. Went to baggage area, met rep, tagged luggage, boarded bus off to hotel. Sophie Station, Beautiful huge suite, clean, full ... Read More
Flight: Newark NJ to St. Paul Minneapolis to Fairbanks AK was 8 1/2 hours. Fairbanks airport was small, easy. Went to baggage area, met rep, tagged luggage, boarded bus off to hotel. Sophie Station, Beautiful huge suite, clean, full bathroom amenities, ironing board, hairdryer. Fast food in walking distance, great restaurant, Zacks with large portions. Received luggage, tagged what was to be stored and what we wanted to keep. Fairbanks,Riverboat Discovery: Great cruise, views, informative and fun. El Dorado God Mine: Huge gift shop, fun and delicious free cookies. Pump House restaurant was $13.00 each way by taxi, food was delicious and atmosphere was worth it. Denali: Wilderness Express Train, beautiful views, comfortable, good breakfast, $9.00 ea. Denali Wilderness Bus tour: Old school bus, rough ride but worth it for the scenery. Give you a snack box. Stop for bathroom every 90 minutes. Bring binoculars, good zoom on camera. Highlight of trip to Alaska, "A must Do". McKinley Village Lodge in Denali, log cabin like units, clean, comfortable, good food. Beer battered Halibut was the best ever eaten. Denali: Husky Homestead Tour: Jeff King's Iditarod Dog Sled Camp, informative, fun, good value for the money, held a 9 day old puppy. Talkeetna, small lovely town with great little stores, best pizza at Mountain High Pizza owned and operated by a guy from Pittsburgh Pa. Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge is beautiful. Breathtaking views from rear of Mt. McKinley. Could stayed there forever. Saw McKinley best at 7am with no clouds at all. Mahay's Jet Boat: informative, great views,saw eagles and beaver activity, nice nature walk. Anchorage: Stopped 2 hours here for lunch. Ate at the food court in the mall. Great stores for authentic Alaskan handmade purchases. Bought a beautiful doll and had it shipped home from store. Seward was just a port only town, so we boarded the ship directly. People ask if CC class is worth the extra money and upon boarding it was worth every cent as there were hundreds in line and because we had CC class we were directed into a CC line and we were number 3 in line to check in. It was great. CC Cabin 6143 was great. It was a little bigger then the other CC cabins especially the balcony area. Champagne and fresh flowers and fruit were waiting for us. Cabin was clean, had hair dryer and all bathroom amenities including sewing kit, shampoo, lotion, soap and hair cap. Snacks each day at 4 were nice. With CC class you also get priority tendering. You are directed to Michaels Club where you are served coffee, tea and pastries until your tender is ready. Then you are directed to the tender and board with no waiting in any lines. Same method is used at disembarking of the ship. So CC class is really worth the value for the stress free lines. Ship was beautiful, easy to find everything, fast elevators. I saw no wear problems, performance was perfect, no delays on any arrivals and no missed ports. Service was perfect in all areas, all service areas were ready to help with anything you needed. They were pleasant and always ready to assist you. Normandie Restaurant is worth the extra charge. The service and pampering you receive over dinner is wonderful and the food is delicious. Our friend forgot their reading glasses in her cabin but they brought her a box and opened it and it had every power of reading glasses you could need. Entertainment: We only saw one show as we cruise alot and the show we saw was like all the others with the broadway singers and dancers. Celebrity does need to do more work in this area to kick up their entertainment a notch from all the rest and make it more exciting with better headlines and better acts other then singing and dancing. Juneau: Great Shopping port, Alaska T-Shirt Factory is a great place to buy souvenirs. Bus to town is $1.50 roundtrip and a short distance. Easy to get to Roberts Tramway. We did the Whale Watching and Mendenhall Glacier Tour. To do it again, we would probably book with a private Whale watching group as there were so many people on board through the ship that it was difficult to see the sightings when one did occur because someone would be in your way. Better to go with a private tour with less people. Mendenhall Glacier was good but again with a tour, you have to go at their schedule, and it was not enough time to be there. We would have liked to stay and watch the movie, but we did not have time to do that. Hubbard Glacier: beautiful, need binoculars, rain gear, and good zoom on camera. We had heavy icy flow in the water and could not get very close to it at all. We were very far away. It was cold so dress warm. We wore t-shirt, hooded sweatshirt, windbreaker hat and gloves. Skagway: Great town with nice store for shopping. White Pass Yukon Expedition: We went up by bus and back by train. Another highlight of cruise and "A must Do". Sights were beautiful. Stopped at Caribou Crossing in Carcross for lunch. Was delicious and fun. You can eat in a covered wagon. Wildlife Museum was beautiful. We had extra time so we were taken to Emerald Lake. A "must see" view. Beautiful and breathtaking. Icy Strait: tendered, zip line is available here, small port area with little shopping and museum. Can take bus into town. We did whale watching tour and again there was alot of people but sightings were better here then Juneau. Ketchikan: Great port again for shopping and souvenirs at the Outlet Store at Salmon Landing. We did the Duck tour. It rained all day, but we put on our rain gear and did not let it dampen our spirits. We ate at Steamers. We had King Crab and dungeness crab. It was delicious. Inside Passage was very scenic and relaxing. We used our balcony mostly for viewing only. It was too cold on all of the days to just sit out. Vancouver: Waited in private lounge area till color was called, loaded onto a bus and taken to airport. Get a cart when you go into airport, they are free. Pick up your luggage, go through check in, then customs, unload your luggage on conveyor belt and go to your gate. Summary: Celebrity was perfect throughout the vacation. We had no problems anywhere at anytime. Everything went like clockwork. The important thing to remember is don't overpack. Alaska is jeans and t-shirt territory. Leave the dress clothes at home. You will have your coat on most of the time and no one will even know what you have on under your coat. So lighten your load. Dress in layers. T-shirt, hoodie and windbreaker and rain gear like a poncho. Take a good set of binoculars and make sure your camera has a good zoom ability. If you have a digital camera, take extra cards with you to hold more shots as you will take more pictures on this cruise then you did on any other cruise you have been on. We ended up with 1200 photos. Take something to waterproof your camera also as you will hit rain at some point along the way. The Must Do's and See's: A land tour before the cruise to see the interior of Alaska. White Pass Railway. Denali Wilderness Tour. Emerald Lake. A private Whale Tour. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
First let me start out saying we have never cruised before-- So this was all new to us! We flew into Seattle and stayed at the Hampton Inn,Tukwila (they had free shuttle and breakfast) Wonderful hotel- great beds and a budget price! We ... Read More
First let me start out saying we have never cruised before-- So this was all new to us! We flew into Seattle and stayed at the Hampton Inn,Tukwila (they had free shuttle and breakfast) Wonderful hotel- great beds and a budget price! We took a shuttle down to the Amtrak (15 minutes away)--Because of the advice we received on this board we were first to arrive at the Amtrak station and got the seats of our choice-- This is a wonderful way to start out your vacation-- very relaxing--narrative and the views are to die for! A quick cab ride brought us to the ship-- easy to get through security and onto the ship-- a lunch buffet was waiting for us as they readied the rooms. We spent the extra to get concierge class-- Well worth it! we were pampered by the staff-- the room was spacious (for a ship!) lots of storage in the room-- and We spent so much of our time on the veranda that it was like a second room! We found the Summit to be a beautiful home away from home--everything sparkled and truly I can say that I never saw any crew member without a smile on their face!! We were greeted by name everywhere we went and were only met with kindness everywhere on the ship. We found the passengers on the Summit to be a nice mix of middle age to retirees-- not alot of younger couples. I think this is due to the lack of adventuresome activities! which was fine with us-- As I mentioned we spent most of our time on the veranda looking at the views. We did go to the shows at night-- nice variety-- from comedians, to musicians to musicals-- We had breakfast in the room almost everyday! gotta love room service-- and lunch was split between the main dining room and the grill! Dinner was in the main dining room-- we had early seating but if I were to do it again I would choose late seating-- its always light in alaska so our timing was always off! Early seating had us rushing to dinner each night after a day of excursions. Later would have allowed us to linger in the room or the bar--- All and all I would highly recommend the Summit-- especially to ALASKA!! You won't find better service or a more appointed ship anywhere! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
My husband and I are in our early 60's, we travel a great deal on business and pleasure throughout the U.S. and have also been to the Med. on the Millennium. This was our third cruise to Alaska on the Summit. Our two prior cruises ... Read More
My husband and I are in our early 60's, we travel a great deal on business and pleasure throughout the U.S. and have also been to the Med. on the Millennium. This was our third cruise to Alaska on the Summit. Our two prior cruises were 14 nights from San Diego. This year we selected a 7 night N/B with 6 night land package to Fairbanks May 25-June 7. Our northbound itinerary was Vancouver, Inside Passage, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier, Seward. One night at the Anchorage Marriott, two nights at Talkeetna Alaska Lodge, one night at Grande Denali Lodge and two nights at Fairbanks Pikes Waterfront Lodge. We allowed Celebrity to book our round-trip flights from Los Angeles/Fairbanks(Air Canada & Alaska Airlines). Also booked one night pre-cruise hotel at the Fairmont Waterfront. It's a wonderful hotel with a great view of the water and Canada Place. After great night at the Fairmont we were transferred to the Summit by bus late morning. Being Celebrity Captain Club members we breezed through embarkation and went directly to our stateroom with our welcoming glass of champagne. We booked a CC aft on the starboard side. We prefer aft because it seems quieter with less hall traffic. Our stateroom was immaculate and we immediately met our room attendants who I must say were the best we've ever had on any cruise. I asked for extra down pillows and they were on our bed by the time they were turned down that evening. We headed for the buffet lunch and for a look around the ship. I will have to say that we were very disappointed to see that our favorite lounge (Revelations) still has much of the ugly effects of Cirque du Soleil. Hopefully that will all go away when the ship goes into drydock. We sat outside on the rear deck for sometime and then went back to our room to unpack as all the suitcases were there (my 100 lbs. of clothing mostly). I take a long shoebag to hang inside the bathroom door where I can store lots of stuff. Muster began just prior to sail-away and we noticed that many people were still boarding the ship due to flights that were held up from bad weather on the east coast. We have early dining and after muster went back to room to freshen up for dinner. We selected a table for six and were very pleased to see we had a huge window next to our table and we could also see out just past the Captain's table. Our tablemates didn't have dinner but one of them came in to let us and the waitstaff know they would be coming the next night. They turned out to be a very pleasant family that we spent many enjoyable evenings. We stuffed ourselves and then took a long walk around the ship before finishing our unpacking. It was a beautiful evening as we watched the ship sail away from Vancouver...our balcony was so comfortable we popped open our champagne and relaxed the rest of the evening. The bed felt great although I know they haven't replaced the mattresses as yet, and I have a bad back...slept like a baby. We always have breakfast in our room and did so while we cruised the inside passage. We had made appts. for a couples massage that day so went to the T-Pool and then on to the Spa for our massages. Love that place! The T-Pool is free and reserved for 18 years or older. There were a couple of children in the pool but since there was hardly anyone in the pool it didn't have any impact. Had lunch at the Spa Cafe (our favorite). We played bingo and won a bit of money, went to the casino and surprisingly won a bit more. Dinners were exceptionally good and we think even better since our last Summit cruise in 2005. I won't go into each and every port except to say that we rented a car in Skagway and drove up to Emerald Lake, etc. It's just a beautiful drive. In Juneau we did the whale watch and Orca Point Lodge excursion. Also had booked a private tour in Ketchikan to Misty Fjords. We saw lot and lots of whales, harbor seals, bald eagles and other wildlife. We particularly enjoyed ISP (Hoonah) as we hadn't been there on our other cruises. We took a private tour with Capt. Floyd and had a wonderful cruise around the island. Saw lots of humpbacks, brown bear (one in the parking lot) and also a mama bear with her cub frolicking on the beach. After a great week aboard the ship we disembarked at Seward and took a very comfortable drive on our "motor coach" to the Anchorage Marriott. Marriott was a very comfortable and lovely hotel. Our tour guides were great! They stay with you on the entire coach and train trip. They hand out your keys on the bus pre-arrival and your bags are waiting for you in your room. I had called the hotels ahead of time and requested a King bed non-smoking with a view of the mountains in each hotel and lodge. Celebrity made sure that we got what we asked for each time. That is where I think Celebrity is a cut above - OUTSTANDING SERVICE! Anchorage is a great little city with lots of shopping and we had really nice weather for late May early June. We then took the motor coach to Talkeetna. What a beautiful drive and a great lodge! Our room was looking right at Denali (Mt. McKinley). The clouds had lifted and we had spectacular views of the mountains almost the entire time we were there. We took a float trip down the river, very relaxing. Had a great night sleep. We boarded Celebrity's beautiful Denali Express to Denali. There were only 32 of us so we had the entire train to ourselves, more than 80 seats. You ride up in the dome portion and the dining car is downstairs. Food was superb as was the scenery. Our guides were young, witty and fun. We arrived at Denali Lodge..very, very nice. As usual our suitcases were waiting in our room. We stayed up late every night as it never really gets dark that time of year. I took a picture of Denali at 12:30 AM and it was still light. The following day we took the Denali Park tour. Saw a huge mama brown bear with two cubs and also a mama moose with her two calves. As nature will have it, the mama brown bear killed one of the moose calves right in front of us. The moose escaped with her other calf by running into our group, never saw people move so fast. After our tour we then boarded our train for the long trip to Fairbanks. We had a delicious prime rib dinner on board the train( before arriving at our hotel. The hotel is nice but it is located right next to the airport so the noise can be deafening at times. We took the paddlewheel and the goldmine was lots more fun than we expected. They take you by the Iditorod sled dog camp where they put on an exhibition...quite interesting. Then a bush pilot shows off his expertise by taking off and landing right over and next to our boat. We had planned to take the Arctic Circle flight but since we were pretty tired decided to rest up for our long flight home. If we ever do it again we'll forego the trip to Fairbanks and spend more time in Denali and Talkeetna. Talkeetna has bush pilots that land their planes (with skis) on the glaciers. It's quite an experience. All in all, we'd say it was our best cruise ever on the Summit and we were very impressed with how well organized the tour was compared to other ships tours. We saw many others waiting in hotels to get their rooms, keys and transportation. We never had to do that. We can hardly wait for our next cruise with Celebrity! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2006
Overall This was the trip of a lifetime! We've been wracking our brains to come up with something that's *not* positive and there is nothing coming to mind. We live in Portland, Oregon and this was our third cruise, second to ... Read More
Overall This was the trip of a lifetime! We've been wracking our brains to come up with something that's *not* positive and there is nothing coming to mind. We live in Portland, Oregon and this was our third cruise, second to Alaska and second time cruising with Celebrity. We decided on this trip to fly to Vancouver and arrived two days early to enjoy the sites and sounds of our favorite North American city. It would be so easy to spend a week or more in Vancouver all by itself. The city truly has something to offer everyone and the food is incredible!! Every culture and cuisine is represented proudly and deliciously. Embarkation - Ballantyne Pier, the ugly stepsister to the gorgeous Canada Place in Vancouver is not the most glamorous of cruise terminals, however, embarkation was handled smoothly and the only line was waiting to get through security. It is always a joy to be embarking on a Celebrity ship knowing that the smiles and complimentary champagne are just steps away! We left our hotel (Westin Bayshore has a WONDERFUL location in the city) at 11:45am and were having lunch in the buffet by 12:40pm, in the room and gasping at the size of the balcony by 1:15pm. Dining - Beautiful presentation on everything. Very few things really made me giddy, but I enjoyed all the food with little exception. The service is where Celebrity really shines. We had nothing but great service no matter where we went. Our assistant Maitre d'Hotel for evening dining was extraordinary. His name is Marco and he is quite a character. We always tend to get to know our dining staff very well because my husband is a vegan. This usually presents difficulties in most places, but not on Celebrity. They have a dedicated vegetarian and vegan menu with the items marked appropriately. That alone could win my loyalty with Celebrity, but it is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Pizza and sushi were also very popular with us on this trip. Delicious! Public Rooms - The Celebrity Theater is everything a venue of this type should be. It is large and open with wonderful acoustics and not a bad seat in the house. The dEcor is interesting and comfortable. What more can you ask for in a theater? The furniture everywhere is comfortable and every public room is inviting. The Bar at the End of the Earth is a bit unusual looking (it was originally designed by the Cirque du Soleil folks for their show before it was moved to the theater and modified) but who wants to hang out in rooms that all look alike? We did not eat in the specialty restaurant because of my husband's dietary restrictions. I did stop in there and the space is lovely. The main dining room was a wonderful space. The two-level Cosmopolitan is vast and lovely with an exceptional number of windows. Our table (#550) was on the second level over looking the winding staircase famous from all the Celebrity commercials. We also had a fantastic view of the huge picture window that frames the Captain's table. This view on an Alaskan cruise is definitely the one to have! We did not have a chance to dine in the Aquaspa cafe but our tablemates that did found the selections to be both healthy and delicious. The buffet is limited in both scope and hours, but you will never go hungry on the Celebrity Summit. Entertainment - Lots of musicals in the evening, we did not attend these. However, we did make it a point to see the Cirque show and it was absolutely amazing. They have revamped the show so that it is more of a "taste" of what a real Cirque show is like in person. We would not hesitate to go again or to recommend it to everyone. During the day there were lots of activities for every taste and talent: Bridge games, trivia, Bingo, organized exercise and sports--really something for everyone. Cabin - We had the most perfect cabin for the money spent. We were in a Family View aft cabin. This cabin is designed to accommodate 4 adults very comfortably, but if they are not sold by the 90-day (final payment) date, these rare gems are released to the public. There is a private hallway perfect for luggage storage, a large main room with double the closet space of most cabins, an extra room with both a sofa (queen fold out bed) and a loveseat with an additional dresser and more storage. Where this cabin really stands out is the balcony. All 241 sq feet of it! We were on level 7, just above the Penthouse suites which are the only accommodations with larger balconies than the Family View cabins. Since the cost of a penthouse is approximately 5x what we paid, we were very fortunate to have snagged this cabin. Since it was a corner, the balcony gives you a view of about 270 degrees. Amazing!! Service - This is where Celebrity really stands out from the other mass-market lines. The service is amazing. EVERY employee that sees you greets you with "Good Morning Madam" or "Good Evening Sir." They all make eye contact, they all smile genuinely, they listen when you request something and thank you when you compliment their work--which we did often! We truly felt that we were treated like royalty. The dining room staff was amazing. Other lines we have cruised on will shine at dinner, but may not be as impressive during breakfast and lunch. Celebrity is on the case 24 hours a day. There were three assistant Maitre D's that we must recognize personally: Marco Piccolli for our dinner hour and both Martin and Yussef for breakfast and lunch. These young men not only provide amazing service themselves, but also make sure their staff is top notch. Our room steward and his assistant seemed to always be working. Our rooms were always cleaned within moments of our departure, and on the one day we stayed in the room all day (glacier viewing) they apologized for coming in to clean while we were there (we were on the balcony the whole time). If you're lucky enough to have Wayan for a room steward, let him know that his fabulous reputation precedes him. Fitness - I must admit that this is not an area we spent much time in. Most of our physical activity came from walking the length of the ship and around the various ports of call. I did glance into the fitness room though and it is state of the art. Shore Excursions - We found the selection on the Summit to be vast. After doing lots of research on our own, we booked two shore excursions with Celebrity and one outside of celebrity just because of the fabulous reputation of the tour operator (Captain Larry at Orca Enterprises in Juneau - they're the best for whale watching!!). Some folks reported on Cruise Critic that they found they could save a little money by booking some excursions outside of the cruise line, but the difference was small enough on the excursions we were looking at, that we chose the peace of mind that you get from knowing if something goes wrong or gets cancelled, we don't have to deal with it, Celebrity does. :) Since Celebrity and Royal Caribbean are the same company, they are the only two lines that currently stop at Icy Strait Point, an RCCL sponsored port. This is the equivalent of a private island, but it gives folks a chance to see what real, small-town Alaska is like. We heard many people raving about their experience in this lovely location, and we will sail with Celebrity again just for the opportunity to show both sets of parents the same places. I have heard others who were puzzled as to why the ships stop there at all. The biggest complaint was that there is nothing to do here. DH and I couldn't disagree more. Yes, you will not find a giant shopping mall or a Diamonds International branch, but that should not be why you're coming to Alaska in the first place. We did not book an excursion in Icy Strait, but spent the day touring the little town on our own, relaxing along the wonderful picturesque beach and generally enjoying the absolutely idyllic weather we were lucky enough to encounter. We felt very lucky to have the opportunity to experience it. The best day of my life: Hubbard Glacier. On our first Alaska cruise, we were unable to reach Tracy Arm due to a landslide so this was our first glimpse of a glacier. We'd been told Hubbard is the best and now we know why. Weather in September in Alaska is usually sketchy to say the least and we weren't holding out much hope as the ship headed straight into the thickest fog bank we'd ever seen as we were on approach. I was standing on our balcony and I went to get DH to see what was happening. As we progressed, the fog started to slowly, steadily dissipate, as fog will do. Then, we started to see these incredible tree covered mountains on either side of the ship and the fog kept fading and fading and the sun kept getting brighter and the sky more blue. Suddenly, there it was, wrapped around the ship on three sides--the most awesome ice field I've ever seen. It was coming at us from all directions and we spent the next couple of hours completely enthralled with the beauty and wonder of it all. If you've never seen a glacier in person, this is the way to do it. We were fortunate to have the best weather imaginable for this day. The glacier is a living thing that cracks and groans as it prepares to calve and melt. The captain got this incredibly huge ship within 250 meters of this beautiful sight. It's hard to get perspective on it, but when one of the ship's tender boats takes a photographer out to get really close pictures and film, you can clearly see how huge the glacier really is. The ice at the foot of Hubbard Glacier is about 400 years old: it takes that long for ice to traverse the length of the glacier. The glacier routinely calves off icebergs the size of a ten-story building. Where the glacier meets the shore, most of the ice is below the waterline, and newly calved icebergs can shoot up quite dramatically, so that ships must keep their distance from it as they ply their way up and down the coast. It was clearly the most amazing thing I have every seen in my life and I can't wait to experience it again. Children's Clubs - We were not traveling with children and as it was post-Labor Day, there were very few of them on board. I did peek my head into the clubs and found myself wishing I'd had an opportunity to sail a ship like this when I was a child. Disembarkation - Pretty standard stuff here with a similar experience to what we've had before: Tag your bags and have them in the hallway by midnight. It's always sad to leave when you've had so much fun on a vacation. We rose early and had breakfast in the dining room with our traveling companions, went back to our cabin to grab our carry-on items and by the time we reached our designated meeting place, they were calling our number to leave. It was very smooth all the way through, luggage was easily located, porters readily available and there is a designated person grabbing cabs, mini-vans and limos for folks as they leave. Very well executed. Value - This trip was worth every penny. Celebrity is not the least expensive and not the most expensive, but the value is definitely there and we will be back. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2006
14 day turn around cruise (Vancouver/LA) Alaska and West Coast. This was our 4th celebrity cruise and 1st on Summit. Cabin 9101 was wonderful- close to elevators but quiet and Santana the room steward was amazing, he was better than the ... Read More
14 day turn around cruise (Vancouver/LA) Alaska and West Coast. This was our 4th celebrity cruise and 1st on Summit. Cabin 9101 was wonderful- close to elevators but quiet and Santana the room steward was amazing, he was better than the butler we had on our last cruise in a Sky Suite. All Concierge Class amenities were in place and refurbished as needed. We used laundry service several times on the ship and it is reasonable, very fast and they did an excellent job. The food was better on this cruise than on any of the past 3 cruises. We especially enjoyed our dinner at The Normandie. It is certainly worth the upcharge of $30 per person. Our waiter and Asst MD were fantastic and we had a great table for 4 upstairs on the rail. Perfect for us. This was our first experience on an M class ship and while we enjoyed most of the amenities, several public areas were a disappointment. First and foremost the Grand Foyer- it seems very empty and almost institutional (cold and unappealing), some lighting/sculpture would help tremendously. The Cova cafe is set up so that the space is not well defined, seating is inadequate and the huge coffee bean sculpture next to the card room would be better removed and additional tables set up for seating. The string quartet was wonderful but they had no place to play and ended up stuck in a corner of the Grand Foyer (which isn't very grand at all) where no one could really sit and enjoy their music. The Cova set up on Mercury is much more inviting and appealing. The layout and set-up of the Aqua Spa was confusing and didn't "flow" very well. The spa was very nice and I really enjoyed the huge window in the sauna but the changing room was poorly designed (lockers too close to counters, everyone seemed to be in each others way) and the changing rooms should be further back in the Spa area not off the elevator lobby. It was strange to change into my robe for my treatment and have to walk all the way around the gym or thru the elevator lobby to get to the check in desk. These things aside, Summit is a lovely ship and we enjoyed our cruise tremendously. We're sailing on Summit again in 2007 to Hawaii. Embarkation in Vancouver was very smooth and debarkation in LA was as well. Debarkation was helped a lot by the fact that we had cleared US immigration in Seattle a few days before, so customs was the only formality that morning. Getting a taxi outside of San Pedro was a bit of a wait, just get your bags and stand in line. The queue moves quickly but it seems disorganized and several people tried to jump in queue. The transportation manager calmly directed them to the back of the line but there were some upset people as the wait was over 30mins. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2006
Let me say this up front: This was the best, bar none, of all eighteen cruises we have taken. That being said, you might expect that it will be for the most part complimentary. This is not to say that there were not some little glitches ... Read More
Let me say this up front: This was the best, bar none, of all eighteen cruises we have taken. That being said, you might expect that it will be for the most part complimentary. This is not to say that there were not some little glitches along the way, but certainly nothing that would be construed as cruise disasters. Travel: All travel arrangements were made through Celebrity. They did a good job of meeting our time and airport criteria. We used Alaska Airlines. In this we were quite satisfied. Since we had never seen the NW coast, we chose to fly to SeaTac airport and bus to Vancouver. This was not a good decision. First, we were very late leaving SeaTac as the bus waited for late arriving passengers. They never did arrive. Second, the bus was not in real good condition. The brakes squealed, the transmission bumped and jumped, and generally it rode quite rough. This made the three hour ride most uncomfortable. In addition, we got to Summit only a half an hour before scheduled sailing. Embarkation: Since we were so late, embarkation was no problem. In fact, I was told by someone an acquaintance already on board that we were the next to last to get onto the ship. Because of this, I can make no first person assessment of the boarding process at a busier hour. Our late arrival also contributed to not receiving the usual greeting found on Celebrity. We were not greeted, did not receive a glass of champagne, and there was no music playing in the lobby. Not a big deal, but it did take some of the glitter off the arrival. We were, however, escorted to our stateroom. First Impressions: Since we had not eaten in more that twelve hours our first mission was to find something to eat. This was not difficult since a buffet was still available on the Resort Deck. Although it was a little crowded, we had no problem finding some good food and a nice window table. There was attentive service at these tables to provide any assistance we might have needed. We returned to our room to find our bags already there. This was about as quick as we have ever experienced. Unpacking was easy. There is plenty of storage in the cabin. Note: The shelves in the closet fold up so it is no problem to hang long garments. The bags fit easily under the bed. The room itself was not as big as some we have had on other ships, but was well laid out and easy to get around in. There was a small sofa, a table, and vanity next to the sliding doors to the verandah. The verandah was big enough for two chairs and a small round table. This was sufficient for snacks, etc, but I wouldn't have wanted to try a complete meal there. The bathroom was adequate. Large enough to towel off after a shower and well stocked with toiletries one might need. There was however little above sink storage. I had to put my gear under the sink. My wife made do with the small shelves and some cabinet storage. All-in-all, the room was clean, tidy, and comfortable. Our steward, Sudi did a good job of keeping it that way. If we had and problems or requirements, he attended to them right away. He also offered to store our bags if we did not have room for them. After unpacking, we took a familiarity tour of the ship. We found it to be easy to find our way around. Aside from a few small wear spots, the ship is in good condition. After some of the comments I have seen about Celebrity ships not being well maintained, I expected to find a few problems. None found. In addition to being a beautiful ship, there is a plentitude of interesting art to enjoy. In your walk-around, do not miss the greenhouse. Beautiful flowers of all sorts. It was a good start for the week. Ports and excursions: All off boat activities were booked via internet prior to sailing. This is a convenient way to assure availability. To be sure, one could go on-shore and find similar tours for less money, but there are risks in doing it this way. There were three off-boat ports on this cruise: Juneau, Sitka, and Icy Strait Point. I will touch on each of these briefly. Juneau: This was a tender port, as they all were. Aside from a short wait to get our tender ticket, it was no problem. (CC passengers get priority for tenders). The area immediately off the dock is a typical tourist area. Lots of stores catering to the memento trade. It was late in the season so most were selling out there stock at great prices. It would be a good place to do some Christmas shopping. We ate at the Twisted Fish Restaurant on the dock. Good food at Alaska prices. Our tour out of Juneau was a whale watching boat ride and a trip to the Mendenhall Glacier. The bus and boat were very nice. Our guide was knowledgeable and interesting. We did see plenty of whales. In fact, we were somewhat delayed returning to the dock because one animal decided he liked our boat and came close and would not leave. Law says that the skipper could not start the engines while "Spot" was so close. Consequently, we were somewhat late getting to the glacier and by that time is was raining and a little cool. Still, all in all, a very nice tour. Sitka: Not my favorite port. Prices were very high and seemed more "touristy" and we found in Juneau. We did have a very nice meal at the Victoria Hotel. This is a short walk down the main drag past the Russian Church. Our tour in Sitka was another boat ride, this time looking for sea otters, seal, sea lions, and or course, whales. We saw plenty of both, along with some great scenery. This tour included a naturalist who kept a running narrative throughout the entire trip. Icy Strait Point: This is a new stop developed jointly by the State, the local Indians, and the cruise line. If you want big time entertainment, glitzy stores, and plenty of shopping, don't get off the ship. It is not here. If, however, you would like a glimpse of what old time Alaska might have looked like, this is the place. It consists of an old cannery,its support buildings, a nice walking trail in the nearby rainforest, and the town of Hoonah. (maybe a thousand population). We took a walking tour through the meskeg and along a small stream to look for bears. We didn't find any, but it was interesting none-the-less. Hubbard Glacier: Not a port, but a great experience. Summit entered a short fiord to find the glacier face. Great weather and calm seas allowed the captain to come within 75 yards of the face. What a great experience. Plenty of calving, great photo opportunities, and some Baily's lace hot chocolate made a memorable two hour visit. Entertainment and activities: This ship provided plenty of diversions for those so inclined. We did not see many shows so I can not give a good review of those. Folks who did see them said they were enjoyable. The one show I did see was performed by a group of very talented musicians, but the selections were somewhat dubious for a cruise venue. (Titanic??) There was plenty of music around the ship to suit most any reasonably adult taste. Dancing was provided in at least two rooms. The casino was sufficient but not particularly friendly to the casual gambler. One can find the usual trivia games, bingo, art auctions, and cooking schools on board. We particularly enjoyed the wine tasting and the wine/food paring seminars. If you are an oenifile, get involved. One disappointment was the Photoshop seminars. The instructor, although well versed in the material, was poorly prepared, had no teaching experience, and in my mind caused more confusion than education. The food: For many folks, the dining experience can make or break a cruise. They would not be unhappy with the food on Summit. We took most of our meals in the Cosmopolitan Room and found quality and service to be first rate. Josue and Rameses our servers did an excellent job. In addition, the Sommelier Clint Clive gave great advice and took good care of us. We had one meal in the Normandie Room, a specialty restaurant. Don't miss it. It costs a little extra, but the experience is worth it. Five star dining at sea is truly something to remember. Disembarkation: A piece of cake. A leisurely breakfast in the dining room, finish packing in the stateroom and a short wait in the Cinema had us off the ship by 9:00AM. Since we were bussing to SeaTac, our luggage was already on the bus and we only had to clear customs to leave. Another long ride to Seattle on a better, but not good bus. We did at least get a great stop about half way there. This was a good thing since the light in the head on the bus did not work. As I said in the beginning, this was a wonderful vacation on a good ship crewed by a friendly, cheerful, helpful group of people. We are ready to go again. I almost forgot to mention Naomi, the Concierge. She was always ready to help when we found some little problem. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2006
Background: We started planning our cruise last August, a year before the cruise. This gave me plenty of time to research ports, ships, itineraries, and read the Cruise Critic reviews and message boards. We decided on the Southbound Inside ... Read More
Background: We started planning our cruise last August, a year before the cruise. This gave me plenty of time to research ports, ships, itineraries, and read the Cruise Critic reviews and message boards. We decided on the Southbound Inside Passage Alaskan cruise on Celebrity's Summit. I traveled with my mother (63 years old), her friend Fay, about the same age, and myself (35 years old). After some pre cruise air travel challenges, we arrived in Anchorage two nights before our cruise. Anchorage: In Anchorage we stayed in a quaint bed and breakfast, Big Bear B&B, with rooms all named for bears. The Big Bear B&B is full of Alaskan art, masks, dolls everywhere, and surprisingly not dusty at all. The highlight of Big Bear, is its gracious host Carol Ross, who cooks a separate breakfast for each set of guests corresponding with the number of days you have stayed- sourdough waffles the first day, salmon quiche on day two. She is very helpful and can give you directions everywhere. Carol is extremely knowledgeable about Alaska, the B+B is her family's homestead and she hunts when the tourist season is over. The inn is special and she is very accommodating, despite that there is little in the neighborhood to walk to, and it does not look like the type of neighborhood that would even house a B+B. The area even appeared a little sketchy at night, but it was fine. Anchorage as a city was modern with lots of strip malls, and was overall aesthetically not that appealing to us. We rented a car for this part of the trip and visited the Alaskan Heritage Center, educational with live performers and films, but did not live up to our expectations for the $21 admission fee. A drive on the Seward Highway, just a few miles outside Anchorage provides wonderful mountain views. We pulled off the road at some of the areas designated for viewing sites, and picture taking, and began our continuing awe of Alaska's beauty and vastness. We pulled off and visited Girdwood, a small ski resort town, and took the Talkeenta tram where we enjoyed the views, though it was a bit overcast and chilly, the coldest of the trip. We enjoyed wondering around the town of Girdwood, looking at the flowers at the Bake Shop, and the art it the store next to it. We ate dinner at Jack Sprat- fat and lean world cuisine- here we enjoyed wine, and a halibut burrito. My mom met a nice family that let her sample their dishes and she really enjoyed the sweet potato fries. On the way back to Big Bear we saw people on the side of the road looking up, and had read and been told that this is a sign of Dahl Sheep above, and all signs were true. The next day after checking out of the Big Bear, went downtown to drop off luggage, register for the ship, and get our transfer info for the Alaskan Rail Road. The staff was nice and informed us that the train was leaving from the airport, and we could meet them there, saving me an extra trip since I had to return the rental car at the airport anyway. We had some time to play so we went to Anchorage's Saturday market, part flea market and farmer's market. The prices at the market were pretty good and my mom picked up an Artisan Ulu Knife for a better price, than seen elsewhere, and I got some fragrant homemade soap. We walked to the Ulu factory store where we purchased cheaper bowls, to use with the knifes. The ride on the Alaskan RR was highlighted with breathtaking views and educational narrative; we sat in the dining car the majority time, bigger windows, a booth facing each other, and close to food and drink too. Embarkation: We went through security, got our key cards and were greeted with Mimosas in no time, and even better our luggage was waiting outside the room. We stayed in an internal room which was cozy but surprisingly not cramped, even with 3 women. We ate in the formal dinning room which was unassigned seating the first night, and met a nice family that we ran into throughout the cruise. Dinner was good, and gave us a taste of how the dining room works, five courses, and you can order two desserts, a habit I continued throughout the cruise. Day 2 We started day 2 at the Aqua Spa cafe for a light and lovely breakfast. We ate lunch there also. The heated pool area of the Aqua Spa quickly became my favorite spot on ship to hang out and relax in the pool and enjoy the sauna with the large window; the decor is soothing and fresh. We attended the Celebrity Connections Cruise Critic party where I was treated like a star for starting the Roll Call for our sailing on Cruise Critic. We met very nice people who we would continue to see and talk to throughout the cruise. That day we cruised Hubbard Glacier which was grew remarkably large and blue as we got closer, my mom was a real soldier and camped out on top deck for hours taking in the sights. At our first formal dinner we met our assigned tablemates and dining staff. Our tablemates were a husband, wife ,and daughter (early 20s) from Jersey. We all got along quickly and looked forward to sharing the days activities over our leisurely dinner. We found the formal night attire to represent a wide range of clothing types and felt comfortable in our dressy attire, but by no means ball wear. Day 3 We started with breakfast at the buffet, which we continued to do for the remainder of the cruise, because we enjoyed the amount of options including an omelet and waffle station. Skagway was our first port, and we quickly tired of the jewelry and souvenir stores. Found a few cute offbeat shops, they even have a Starbucks. We did the Whitepass Railway and again were treated to majestic views of mountains, waterfalls, and an interesting narration chronicling Alaska's Gold Rush. My mom once again was so taken with the views, she out on the back of the train most of the time. Once the train ride was completed, we scoured Skagway for snack and late lunch options, and quickly discovered Skagway closes down early, except for the bars that were crowded including the Red Onion, which our tablemates gave a good review. We headed back early to the ship and enjoyed, for the first of many days, casual tea and sushi before dinner. Day 4 Juneau was our only rainy day, despite the weather forecast for all rainy days, we were blessed with mostly sunny Alaskan days. In Juneau, my mom and I did a float trip at Medenhall Glacier, this was very scenic and relaxing (the guide did all the work), the rain fit nicely with the scenery. My mom purchased the picture taken of us floating the course. Following the float trip, we walked around in search of the off the beaten bath Juneau , to escape the aforementioned jewelry and souvenir stores. We found an old one room Russian Orthodox Church and some neat homes and gardens perched on cliffs. We ate at the Twisted Fish, after receiving multiple recommendations, and were disappointed with the expensive fish taco and salad we purchased. We did however, find a great bakery, Paradise Bakery. Day 5 Icy Straits/ Hoonah was our favorite port because it had a cozy very small town feel, and we had an opportunity to really experience it. We went whale watching with the F.I.S.H.E.S charter out of Hoonah (can be found on the web). The charter is small and fits only 6 people. Floyd makes sure guests see whales, plenty of them and even uses an instrument so you can hear Whales communicating with one another. We saw pods of whales, sea lions, deer, and truly enjoyed our great host. Floyd sent us to the Office, a local dive with oldies playing on the jukebox, for a tasty lunch of grilled Dungeness Crab and cold brews. We walked through town which was very local and not at all touristy and went to the local buy and pack to purchase fresh smoke salmon. We walked the 1.5 miles back the dock and the Cannery Museum and gift shops. One shop, the Arctic Spirit, carried beautiful art products of local artists and works by Alaskan Natives. Day 6 In Ketchikan our time to explore the city and seek out the hidden treasures was limited, due to our scheduled 4 hour kayak adventure with South East Sea Kayaking. I was impressed with the quality of shops and prices, of the few stores that I managed to browse. Kayaking was an adventure different than any other, we were taken miles out in a speed boat with kayaking gear, given a quick lesson and were out on the water with the others and a guide. The scenery again, was wonderful, and we were fortunate to have experience one of Ketchikan's non raining days. As virgin kayaker, I found the excursion challenging, but rewarding as we got the swing of it. This was a guided tour that included nature lessons, unfortunately we missed the lectures just trying to keep up with the others. Day 7 Our last day at sea, with the boat cruised the Inner Passage, allowed for some needed rest and relaxation, including my only day working out in the gym, my last day hanging out in the Thalassotherapy Pool at the Aqua Spa, partaking of formal tea, and just relishing the last day on deck with a sunny day and great views once again and commiserating going back to life as usual (work, cooking, routine) Food: Overall, the quality of the food was very good. There are options for everyone, from mom and I who wanted to peruse all the choice in multiple venues, to Fay who stopped with her tried and true pasta and pizza. We at breakfast and lunch mostly at the buffet or Aqua Spa Cafe, and ate dinner in the main dinning room every night except for one night, which we ate at the Normandie, an alternative restaurant which you pay extra. The Normandie had great service, cute staff, and the food was great, this not a must do but was very enjoyable. I overall wanted a little more spice and flavor from the food, and the waiters were more than happy to bring out the hot sauce. Entertainment: The performance I saw, a musical review, at the Celebrity Theater, was average at best I found the play to be corny, with mostly average performers, but I am not a huge musical fan. My mom and Fay found it at the least entertaining. The taste of the Cirque Du Soleil was very well done and enjoyable. The lounge singers were fine, a bit cliche, and sang the same song nightly, it was fun to watch the other guests partner dancing. The Masquerade Ball was decorated nicely and many came out and shaked a tail feather. My mom also dragged me to the Sock Hop, which was also fun. Debarkation: We opted for the express debarkation, which I would recommend, if you don't have too many bags and don't mind carry out your own bags. This allowed us to get off the boat quickly and get on with our day exploring Vancouver. Post Cruise on our own Vancouver: We enjoyed Vancouver's beauty, beach and mountains, and gardens. We started with a water taxi to the Granville Market, a huge public market with beautiful produce, hot foods, and baked goods, and people watching. We walked the rest of Vancouver including some of Stanley Park, where we witnessed a few weddings, Robson shopping district, downtown, the West End Neighborhood, and the beach. Seattle: We walked to the Fremont neighborhood and went to a Sunday market, a nice mix of fresh produce, antiques, food vendors, and funky artsy goods. Fremont is a cool artsy, hip neighborhood with a huge Stalin statue. We also hung out at Pike's Market where we saw the obligatory fish throwing and enjoyed the huge market and scene. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2006
This was my first cruise to Alaska, but not my first cruise experience. I had, however, never been on a Celebrity Cruise before. My mom and I flew into Anchorage and were picked up by a shuttle from the hotel. We were staying at the ... Read More
This was my first cruise to Alaska, but not my first cruise experience. I had, however, never been on a Celebrity Cruise before. My mom and I flew into Anchorage and were picked up by a shuttle from the hotel. We were staying at the Ramada and had made the reservation ourselves. The internet price was reasonable for the area and they also had a shuttle that would take us to the Train Depot in the morning for our trip to Seward. After seeing the hotel, I have to say it was much smaller and run down than I would have expected from a Ramada. It was clean, and the staff was friendly but the room we were promised was not available and our newly assigned room (at 4pm) was still not ready. They were within walking distance to a bunch of restaurants and shopping, which was good since the weather was raining terribly. The next morning we headed off to the train station to hear that we were lucky that we were heading to Seward. If we had been heading in the opposite direction, our trip by train would have been canceled. It had been raining so much that a landslide had happened and flooding was a concern for all of the areas. The train ride on the Alaska Railroad was wonderful. We were in the same car that had the glass top observation area. It was very convenient to go up and down as room permitted. The seats reclined and there were foot rests. There was also plenty of room to wander through the cars to get food (dining car) or buy souvenirs. Even with the rain showers, the view was spectacular and I would highly recommend it. Best part was that they took our luggage at the Anchorage train depot and it went directly to the ship. We arrived in Seward around 11am and it was still pouring. According to our cruise book from Celebrity, they said that you couldn't board the boat until after 6pm. We had a dog sledding excursion at 3pm, but would have liked to get unpacked, have some lunch and dry off before we left for it. Not knowing that we could have gone earlier, we wandered the streets dealing with the weather until our excursion van picked us up. We later found out that we could have gotten on the boat right away. :-( We did the Iditarod dogsled tour (operates rain or shine). It was a nice tour. We heard about the Iditarod, the dogs, met the dogs and went for a 2 mile ride. We were dropped back at the dock around 5:30pm where we went through the embarkation process. We had Concierge class and there was no wait to be processed. We had filled out all of our information on line prior to the trip, so it was about a 2 minute check in time. The staff was extremely friendly and the hot chocolate that was passed out was much appreciated with the cold/damp weather. (Infact in every port they passed out hot chocolate as you came back on the boat) Our cabin was on the 9th deck, balcony, and left side of the boat. We were told ahead of time that this was the best side to have our cabin on. The room was nice and already set up. Our luggage was waiting for us at the door and we were quickly met by our cabin steward and a bottle of chilled champagne. One of our CC perks. Our only complaint with our cabin was with the overhang that went out over the balcony. Being on the 9th floor we were one floor below the pool deck. There was a very large overhang and support beams that, to us, should be considered obstructed view. This would be true for any cabin on the 9th deck. I found that I had to make a conscious effort when taking a picture to shoot between the overhang and beams. Additionally, it was annoying when trying to pan with the video camera. In my opinion, the 8th or 7th deck would be best. We wandered the boat a bit before dinner. It was a beautiful boat. Classy, not overly gaudy like others I had been on. It was also immaculate. There is constant staff cleaning the boat. I never once saw a glass or piece of paper left that wasn't picked up immediately by someone. The bathrooms were extremely clean and they had not only paper towels to dry your hands, but actual individual towels if you preferred. Very impressive. We ate some of our meals in the dining room and some at the buffet. The food in the dining room was very good and there was a good variety from night to night. The buffet food needed more variety. Each time they had a beef, chicken, pork and fish dish, but we would have liked to see more theme meals (ie. Chinese, Mexican, etc.) Also, after the normal meal times, there was always a pizza bar or pasta bar available. We would have like to see the pasta bar change out for something different for at least one night. The service on the entire ship was excellent. Everyone is extremely friendly and takes their jobs very seriously. I think it was the best service that I had ever received on a cruise. This included everyone from the tender crew to the Captain. The shows were also fabulous. The Celebrity Singers, Dancers & orchestra were Broadway quality and Celebrity went all out with costumes and special effects. It is an amazing theater, with no bad seat in the house. The other entertainment was: a ventriloquist who was also excellent; a comedian who needed to get some new material; and a Circ de Sole show which was entertaining. From what other musicians that I heard wandering through the boat, they were all great. No complaints with the entertainment. The ship had activities each day, but I found that they were mostly during the day while you would be in port. I felt they needed to have more activities at night, besides the show and gambling. There was musicians playing all around the ship, but I was looking for games to play. We booked most of our shore excursions through the cruise line, for ease. We took the Whale watching tour in Icy straight and saw about 10 whales eating and swimming around. It was very cool. In Skagway we took the White Pass Railway and Liarsville tour. I enjoyed this trip and the gorgeous scenery. Liarsville tour felt rushed, but was an enjoyable addition to the day. I would recommend this tour. In Juneau we took the Mendenhall Glacier and Gardens tour. This was nice, but after seeing Hubbard glacier, I wasn't as impressed as I would have hoped. The gardens were pretty and made a nice ending to the tour. In Ketchikan we were unsure what we wanted to do, so we booked online before we came, the DUCK tour. We were disappointed with the tour for the price. We would have better spent our money on the wilderness tour (booked at the dock), which I was told saw plenty of bears (something that I never got to see while in Alaska). After the DUCK tour we went to the lumberjack show. It was a typical tourist show. The crowd got into the competition and we found the show to be enjoyable. For my favorite excursion I never had to leave my balcony. It was the cruising by Hubbard glacier. It was incredible to hear the ice cracking and massive chunks fall into the water. The glacier had beautiful blue colors. I loved it. Our disembarkation was easy. As part of CC class we were told to meet in the Cinema by a certain time and we were guided off the boat about 15 minutes after that. No complaints there. Then we grabbed our luggage and got into the nightmare airport transport line. We bought an airport transfer through the cruise ship for $25 per person. They would drive us to the airport for this price. It was very disorganized and people were starting to get quite upset with their disorganization. We were a little concerned that we would miss our flight if they didn't get on the ball. 1 hour after getting off the boat, we left for the airport (which was 30 minutes away). The airport also seemed unorganized and we were shuffled from line to line to get through the different customs lines and luggage check lines. They did, however, go quickly. In summary, I thought that Celebrity did a very good job with the cruise. I only had a few complaints about the ship and nothing major: more variety in the buffet food, more activities at night, and let people know you can get on the ship before 6pm. The fantastic service and shows far outweighed any complaints that I had. I would cruise with Celebrity again! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2006
My husband and I just arrived home after a 5 day land excursion (pre-cruise) and then a 7 day cruise aboard the beautiful Summit. This was our first cruise, but the regular cruisers we chatted with also thought the Summit was the most ... Read More
My husband and I just arrived home after a 5 day land excursion (pre-cruise) and then a 7 day cruise aboard the beautiful Summit. This was our first cruise, but the regular cruisers we chatted with also thought the Summit was the most beautiful ship they had ever experienced. The land trip started at Anchorage, then we went by train to Talkeetna for 1 night then also by train to Denali for 2 nights, then bussed to Fairbanks for 1 night, flew back to Anchorage and bussed to Seward. Hotels were ok&Both the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge and the Grande Denali Lodge were disappointing as they were Plain Jane hotels&clean, comfortable and sterile. Nothing lodgy about either other than the fabulous locations. The 3.5 hour train ride to Talkeetna was fun and comfortable; breakfast on the train was delicious (loved the reindeer sausage) as were all the wonderful coffee drinks served while we waited for the second seating. I wish they had had some munchies available as we boarded train at 8 am and were not seated for breakfast until after 10 and we were really hungry. We had not booked an extra activity and the town was small, but full of options for munching on local flora (fern curls), locally concocted fireweed jam and fauna-moose, caribou, reindeer, etc. The fresh baked pies found mid-town were not too shabby either! Other than the jelly, most of the gift shops wares came straight from elsewhere (Taiwan, China, etc.). The dining room at the Lodge was pretty good and they have a wonderful (if a bit too short) hiking trail that takes you into the forest for a few minutes. There were no air conditioners and the windows did not open much so that the fan did not cool the room down sufficiently so we did not sleep well. We were gloriously lucky however, as early the next morning, we got a wake up (by request) call announcing the clouds were breaking up and the top of Denali was visible. Within the next hour the clouds melted away (very unusual) and the entire mountain range, capped by the magnificent Denali, was not just visible, but glowed in the sunlight. The clouds stayed away for the next 2 days, so that the 7 hour train ride to Denali was spectacular as was the 8 hour guided tour into the park. We got a brand new bus (certainly not as comfortable as the Celebritys land cruisers, but not the school bus we had been warned about) and had a terrific driver as well as great weather so we ventured about a half hour further in than is the norm to the closest viewing point of Denali. Spotted our first moose before even reaching the park entrance, calmly walking by the road, then only moments into the park, someone spotted a moose mom and her kid on a tiny rise the guide had not even realized existed. After taking dozens of photos of them, we went on, with a snowshoe rabbit or family of Ptarmigans posing every minute or so. Shortly after our first pit stop, we found 2 large Grizzlies, either a mated pair or a mom and adult male cub sunning themselves not too far off the road. We also were lucky enough to see a few elk, but fairly distant and some white specks on a mountain that did look to be sheep using binoculars. The incredibly clear day and spectacular views made up for the lack of more wildlife. Pretty much everyone ran out of capacity on their cameras, even those that brought two! The service in the dining room at the Denali Lodge was so poor that after 20 minutes of being ignored (by which time a large group had come in and it looked like all staff were being diverted to them) we left and took the van that goes back and forth into town every half hour. There we found a very casual restaurant, the Salmon Bake, that had great food. We ended up having dinner there both nights. The local pizza parlor was also rumored to be terrific. Because of our early starts, we ate breakfast at the lodge buffet&overpriced and not well staffed, so people were mildly ticked about no plates, or empty serving platters. The brief ride to Fairbanks got us there in time for lunch downtown. Not much there other then restaurants and one large gift shop that had a side variety of expensive to cheap gifts. Then we went to the steamboat depot for the Riverboat Discovery Tour for the afternoon. The ride is a bit hokey but really lots of fun. We enjoyed the history of the family that built the boats and various sites, the float plane landings and takeoffs next to the river boat, the demonstration of the dog sleds (from aboard the boat yet) and the various demonstrations at the Indian village. Their gift shop rivals that of Disneyland! The Sophie Station Hotel was OK, although very limited dinner choices in the immediate area. In spite of boarding a morning plane (we were the second shift, only had to have our luggage out the door by 8:30) and arriving at the Anchorage airport by about noon, the bus took us directly to Seward with only one brief bathroom stop. I dont understand why they could not have arranged a one hour stop at the Wildlife rescue station that those who had arrived early enough to go on their own had really raved about. Concierge class paid off big time as we exited the bus and were aboard the Summit in about 5 minutes. Our room had a wonderful veranda, a large and pretty comfortable bed, lots of closet, drawer and cabinet space and a hand held shower head that had a fairly good range of spray adjustment on it. We found the food in both the casual areas as well as the main dining room to be OK to good. Lots of variety, wonderful eye appeal, great service, but not consistent when it came to taste (beef in casual area was the toughest Ive ever encountered at a commercial buffet). The sushi was a big disappointment¬ very fresh and little variety. The entertainment was darn good, both the large shows and at the various venues. If you did not like something, there was always another venue to check out. Glacier Bay was everything we had heard and more! We got there a bit ahead of schedule. The bay was filled with small ice bergs, but they were off to the side and not immediately blocking the ships path to the glacier the captain took us within about 1000 ft of the Hubbard glacier and we were lucky enough to see two very large pieces shear off as well as dozens of smaller ones. Watching the large ice bergs slowly emerge from the water after several minutes below the surface and hiss and pop and turn and twist as air continued to escape was fascinating. . The accompanying thunder was impressive. We understand that because of the incredible activity of the glacier. Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan were all full of the ridiculous jewelry and gift shops with permanent 50%-70% off everything, but once past those, we found a number of independent merchants who were interesting to talk to and loved their towns. Some even had some unique and not over priced merchandise. Icy Straight was interesting, had a great lunch there. The weather during the cruse was low clowns and light drizzle, so we werent too surprised that our Mendenhall helicopter ride and glacier walk was canceled,(some others going to other glaciers were lucky enough to get to go). The bus tour to the Mendenhall Glacier was a bit disappointing after the spectacular close-ups we had had of Hubbard, but the Alpine Garden tour turned out to be much nicer than we had expected. The ride in the golf carts there went into some natural forest areas that gave us a close-up view of the incredible variety and beauty of the forest, with a variety of wild berry bushes, all sorts of ferns, molds and fungi carpeting the ground. The very best tour we took was the evening whale watch in Juneau. Within 10 minutes, our pilot had pulled up near a pod of about 12-15 Humpbacks who were bubble fishing. They would emerge simultaneously in a circle, straight up, then swim around spouting and taking in air and then dive in ones, twos and threes and then resurface 5-10 minutes later, once within 20 ft of our boat! After watching this incredible behavior for an hour or so, we went into another part of the bay and found a smaller pod of 5 Humpbacks including one youngster with a perfectly intact, barnacle free tail. One of the others in the group was well known (Spot) and a third had some recent damage to its fluke, with a chunk missing as if a shark had taken a large bite). They did the bubble thing once or twice, then swam near the surface for the better part of an hour, going under our boat a few times, so that we saw them from pretty much every angle. Between this, Hubbard and Denali, I guess missing the Helicopter was not so bad! My husband enjoyed the casino, which was more impressive than either of us had imagined. He did have a bad banking experience&when he put in his bank card into an auto teller on board, he got the confirmation receipt but not the money. No one in the casino was interested in assisting him, with someone eventually directing him to the main service desk. The person at the desk was not able to help him either and there was no manager on duty (the clerk had no idea what to do). The next day he did get a call telling him they would email the Bank Atlantic to find out if the transaction had gone through (he checked his bank account online and saw that it had) but also informing him that Celebrity could not do anything about it (such as give him the $300 or at least a credit on our account or even count and reconcile the machine). A day later they told him that his bank account would be credited. On the final afternoon, he again checked his account and when he found no credit, he again went to the desk, and was told it would take up to 3 days. As it had been 5 at this point, that did not make him very happy. However, he checked this afternoon and they did indeed finally credit the full $300 plus the processing charge. I really think they should have had a better procedure for this so that the initial clerk could have explained the entire process to him and should have given him some sort of written document acknowledging the event as when we debarked, he really doubted the money was going to reappear without a few dozen phone calls and letters. On one of the cruise days, I decided to try a hot stone message in spite of the many warnings I got about how I would be deluged with sales pitches for the various products and was delighted that I did not get any. It turned out to be the best message I have ever had! The length of time was perfect, the stones added a fabulous new dimension of relaxation. . I did check out the secret inner sanctum of the health club, but did not think that the heated bench and steam was worth the $99 fee given that I did not think I would be able to use it more than once or twice. Instead I tried out the Thallasotherapy pool a few times, which was fun. The whirlpools were not very hot and had very little action and the sauna was too hot on one occasion and too cold on another, but that just gave me more time to curl up on my snug private veranda and enjoy the incredible and always changing scenery. We spotted a group of Orcas while gliding slowly through the inside passage, and since I had already packed my binoculars, the CC binoculars in the cabin really paid off that day. The days ended earlier as we traveled south toward Vancouver and I was torn between going to the show the last night and remaining on my veranda for another hour. I went to the show, but rushed back to enjoy the last few minutes of a beautiful sunset and another moment or two of the wonderful scenery. Being first timers meant that we had not understood the timing of disembarkation. Not the waiting to get off, but that we had to get off so early. Our plane did not leave until 5 so we probable should have taken the city tour option. By the time I understood the mandatory exit time, it was too late to do so, so we spent the day sitting around the airport and the attached Fairmont hotel which had much more comfortable chairs and a good dining room for lunch. Other than this one bit of poor planning, everything else was timed well. Only complaint I had was they allow smokers in all public areas other than the restaurants, yes, only on one side, but smoke drifts! The cruise more than lived up to our expectations! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2006
My first cruise with Celebrity was a pleasantly memorable one. My 14 year old daughter and I embarked in Vancouver following an overnight stay that I had booked on my own. Although my cruise packet indicated that we should not arrive prior ... Read More
My first cruise with Celebrity was a pleasantly memorable one. My 14 year old daughter and I embarked in Vancouver following an overnight stay that I had booked on my own. Although my cruise packet indicated that we should not arrive prior to 2:45 pm, I took a chance and arrived at 1:00. To my surprise, there was a sign at the terminal stating that boarding would begin at 11:00am. Embarking was short and quick, as I had registered online prior to leaving home. We were greeted with punch, drinking water and cookies prior to going through customs, then with a glass of champagne once stepping onto the ship. The cabin was quite modern compared to the last two cruise ships I sailed on. I liked the interactive TV, where you can order complimentary room service, book shore excursions, and keep informed of daily activities. The water pressure in the shower was wonderful, and there was a great hand held shower head. There was an abundance of cabinets and storage, which was necessary for the additional clothing needed for Alaska. Also included were complimentary bathrobes (nice for going up to the pool and spa) and umbrellas for use at the ports (were needed most of the time). Following a wonderful welcome aboard buffet, we took a tour of the premium Aquaspa. It was actually a sales pitch, and I ended up purchasing a week long Persian Room sauna package for $99.00. It was well worth it, to be able to relax in peace and quiet in a hot sauna following the cold temperature of the ports. It was also a nice place to retreat after a half hour or so in the Thallasotherapy pool. The pool was a plus, as it was indoors, and was not for use for anyone under 18 years. Since my daughter and I did not feel like sitting at a table with strangers making small talk this particular cruise, we ate most of our meals in the Casual Dining room. Although the menu was not as elaborate as that of the main dining room, it was still a five course menu and the food was delicious. Reservations have to be made for the casual dining. It was a nice alternative for those of us who did not feel like dressing in formal attire, as there were two formal nights on the ship. There was no buffet for dinner, however the sushi bar, pasta bar, pizza bar, and hamburger/hot dog bar were open late. I also liked the dining option at the aquaspa, which offered low calorie choices. many of the items were quite tasty, particularly the fresh blueberry tart. Actually, all the food offered on the ship was made from scratch, including the breakfast pastries. First class all the way, in my opinion. No plastic forks and spoons on this ship! The ship offered numerous shore excursions at each port. There was something for everyone. I had booked the shore excursion in Juneau independent of the cruise line, which was a whale watch tour with Captain Larry of Orca Whale watching. The other 2 shore excursions with the cruise line in Skagway and Icy Straight Point were booked online prior to the cruise. Some of the shore excursions were not displayed on the interactive TV. I'm not sure if it was because they were already full, but I would recommend reviewing the excursions prior to the cruise. The naturalist on board the ship was a native Hoonah who spoke mostly about his people who we would encounter in the Icy Straight Point port. The day we landed in this port was the first day of sunshine on our cruise. There was a wonderful beach to walk around on if you did not want to book a shore excursion. There really was not much else to do, so I would recommend booking an excursion. It was a very interesting destination. We arrived and departed from each of our ports on time. The last day of our cruise was difficult. The water was extremely turbulent and the boat was rocking back and forth all afternoon and evening. I'm sure there were many ill persons that day, including my daughter. Disembarkation was based on your activities following the cruise. Since we were touring independent of the cruise liner and not immediately for the airport, we were the last to leave the ship. Then there was a mad dash for the Hertz shuttle to pick up the rental car. Others chose to walk with their luggage to the area hotels. It should be noted however, that the hotels are not in the immediate vicinity of the port. This was my best cruise ever, and I would not hesitate to sail with Celebrity again. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2006
We took the land-cruise 13 day option from July 16 through July 29 on the Celebrity Summit. We started off in Fairbanks and the two excursions there were the Discovery Riverboat and the El Dorado mine. They were okay but nothing ... Read More
We took the land-cruise 13 day option from July 16 through July 29 on the Celebrity Summit. We started off in Fairbanks and the two excursions there were the Discovery Riverboat and the El Dorado mine. They were okay but nothing spectacular. We took the train to Denali on Tuesday and the only wildlife we saw was one moose in the distance. We did the Tundra Wilderness Tour at Denali and we saw some caribou and two moose relatively close to the bus but the only bears we saw were at least one mile away and visible only with the driver's personal telescope. I think that the impression is sometimes conveyed that if you drive through Denali all kinds of animals will be right next to the bus and that is certainly not the case. The third day we stopped at Talkeetna to primarily view Mt. McKinley and we lucked out with a clear day and the view was spectacular. On Thursday morning we took a small plane and landed on a glacier at McKinley and that was very good (if pricey). Starting on Thursday is when I began to get the impression that we were going places simply to fill out the week. We arrived in Anchorage on Thursday afternoon and all we did was walk around the city and go out to dinner. Friday morning we went to a Native American cultural center in Anchorage and that could have been skipped as far as I was concerned. Friday night we went to the Alyeska Lodge in Girdwood and there was really nothing to do there. We had reservations to eat at the very pricey (but good) Seven Glaciers restaurant on Friday night. On Saturday morning, everyone just hung around the lobby waiting for the bus to leave at 1:30 to go to the ship in Seward. Once we left Talkeetna and saw Mt. McKinley, we were just killing time until Saturday in Seward. Let me point out that the tour was extremely well organized by Celebrity from the moment we hit the airport in Fairbanks on our first day. Luggage was moved very efficiently and every detail was carefully explained. There was no excuse for getting lost or not knowing what was next on the itinerary. Boarding the Summit on Saturday went well and the buffet was open when we got on and a full course dinner was offered right thereafter. We were on the Concierge level on deck 9. To summarize the food, we had no complaints about any of the three meals we had every day, be it in the buffet or in the Cosmopolitan restaurant. I thought that all of the choices were excellent and our waiter and assistant waiter were very good. At almost any time of day, you could find something good to eat if you were hungry. A Midnight buffet was offered on one night and the presentation was spectacular with ice sculptures, etc. The entertainment was pretty good considering that it was a cruise ship and not a large Vegas hotel. The comedian was funny and a Cirque de Soleil was pretty good, considering the small cast. The bands that played in the various lounges also were good. You can't expect a full blown Broadway production on a cruise ship and I think Summit does a pretty good job. I will give brief comments on the shore excursions that we took. White Pass Railroad was overpriced for what is basically a slow train ride with some modest scenery. I would not recommend it and Skagway is just one big gift shop that is open from May to September. The Mendenhall Float Tour in Juneau was also overpriced for what is nothing more than a ride in a pontoon boat. You get nowhere close to the glacier and you don't see any wildlife. Again, I would not recommend it at the price of over $100. At Icy Strait we took the "Bear Tour" and saw no bears and it ended up being another $104 to ride in a school bus. There is really very little to do at Icy Strait and I question why the ship stops there. Thursday was Ketchikan and that is another dazzling array of t-shirt stores and jewelry stores. I saw where the Lumberjack Show is located and it is simply attached to a gift shop on the pier and it does not look like it is worthwhile but some people have to be entertained when they are off the ship so more power to them if they can get people to pay to see it. The staff on the Summit is excellent and our room attendant was very good and attentive. Our room was certainly big enough for us and I wondered how big some of the smaller rooms were in comparison but I was not able to see any. It is a beautiful ship with very little signs of wear and tear. I would certainly cruise on it again. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2006
ALASKA CRUISETOUR JUNE 2006 REVIEW INTRODUCTION -- After planning on an Alaska cruise for over a year, we finally came upon an announcement in the church bulletin offering an Alaskan Pilgrimage cruisetour, the very cruise we were hoping ... Read More
ALASKA CRUISETOUR JUNE 2006 REVIEW INTRODUCTION -- After planning on an Alaska cruise for over a year, we finally came upon an announcement in the church bulletin offering an Alaskan Pilgrimage cruisetour, the very cruise we were hoping to take. We signed up with thirty other prospective pilgrim cruisers with a priest as our spiritual guide and after months of preparing for this, our prayers were answered. This cruisetour was a 7 night cruise on Celebrity Lines-Summit ship from Vancouver, B.C. northbound to Seward, AK; 3 day land tour by motorcoach to Anchorage & Talkeetna & Denali National Park & by train to Fairbanks, then fly out to Seattle-to- Charlotte, NC & Jacksonville,FL. June 3----Sat. (Partly Cloudy & Cool) -- This day had finally arrived & we all met at the Jax airport at 6:30am, for a long flight to Vancouver, B.C. The flight departed on time . After some 10 hrs., we arrived at 11:30am PCT. We were promptly escorted thru the Vancouver air terminal in an orderly manner. Led thru the Pacific Passage area displaying the Vancouvers native cultural history in sculptured forms in wood, metal fabric weaved tapestry. We were assembled in an area for transporting by bus to the pier. After arriving at the pier, we walked up the long ramp to the Summits main lobby, with exquisite dEcor & met by a waitress offering Mimosa or Champagne which we opted out of & led by a white gloved crew member who showed us to our cabin-(forward & starboard- 7066) with a veranda. The cabin was slightly smaller than motel size but clean with mirrored walls & ceiling. More than adequate closet & draw space. Embarkation went better than we expected boarding the ship around 1:30pm PCT. After settling in, we headed for the the Waterfall Cafe(WFC). Lots of food with a selection similar to a cafeteria but oh so much better in quality & presentation especially the desserts. After a self guided tour, we returned to the cabin. Vancouver was visible from the veranda as was the pier. At 5:15pm sharp we had to participate in a life boat drill. All ships crew & passengers assembled in the Celebrity Theatre & eventually led out to our boat stations for further instructions. Dining in the Cosmopolitan restaurant was delightful experience. Menu selection was superb&from soups to salads to entrees to desserts. Served in elegant style. WanWan a first class waiter as was his assistant Kusamo were both from Indonesia, we became fast friends to the last days serving. June 4-----Sunday (Cloudy, Misty & Cool) -- Ship was cruising the INSIDE PASSAGE----[scenic pristine waterway reaching 1000 miles from British Columbia to Skagway, AK; viewed the fjords & mountainous/forested islands occasionally seeing sea lions, bald eagles]----for a good part of the day. After attending Sunday Mass, we had breakfast at the WFC..waffles were great as was the omelets prepared to your liking. Spent the remainder of the day socializing & viewing areas of the ship. Lunch time -- back to the WFC, but discovered the pizza shop so we lunched on pizza. For dessert, I had a delicious cheese cake & eyeballed the French pastry..flan. I returned to the cabin & all hell broke loose, upset stomach & got sick. Had a miserable evening & was not getting any better. Could I have contracted a "bug"? I skipped dinner that evening but Marie was fine & went to dinner. She was overwhelmed with the shrimp cocktail of which you could request additional servings. Our cabin attendant. Edwin (from Colombia), was concerned about my illness & had followed up on whatever I needed to make me comfortable. June 5-----Monday (Cold, Windy, Rainy & Overcast) -- Ship docked at JUNEAU around 12 pm. Since I was not feeling too well, we decided to stay on board. Weather was not good for walking the area. Did see the the tourist traps in proximity to the dock & the cable car rising to mountain top. This being the capital of Alaska, it is only accessible by float plane. June 6-----Tuesday (Partly Cloudy, Windy & Cold) -- Docked at SKAGWAY with three other ships. This town is typical of gold rush mining period of the 1890s with wooden boardwalks & wooden store front shops ready to take your money. We skipped the White Pass railway & did not get to the Red Dog Saloon; however, we did cruise the stores most of which were jewelry shops but displaying rather unique pieces. Marie spent quite sometime before deciding on a pearl bracelet with a beautiful setting. The main drag was populated with passengers from the four ships, seemed like 42nd St. in NYC. A couple of hours of shopping was enuf & on returning to the ship we were greeted with hot chocolate being passed out by a crew member; this was the norm at subsequent ports. June 7------Wednesday (Clear, Sunny, Cool & Windy) -- Upon arriving near SITKA, the ship dropped anchor offshore. We had to assemble in the Celebrity Theatre to receive a numbered card for boarding a tender to shore. Once on shore we came upon a private tour operator offering a tour of areas bald eagle, sea lion(s) & general history in a 8 seat van. This proved to be a very informative tour; saw many eagles in their various habitats & a huge sea lion named Earl, who is the resident pet. The driver related a number of historic events that took place in past years. Returned to the ship to go to an evening dinner & take in the Cirque Du Soleil (35 min. long) which was fabulous. Production show of "Broadway Tunes" was quite good but not outstandingly original in dance routines. Singing of principal performers was great. Comic & magician was very entertaining. Also, the unbelievable stunts performed by an aerialist team of Rebecca & Phillippe were marvelous. June 8-----Thursday (Clear, Sunny, & Cool) -- ICY STRAIT POINT --At this port the ship had to anchor offshore & again we were tendered to shore. Only one ship can anchor here which made it much easier to stroll leisurely around. Toured the salmon cannery museum & packing company. We had just missed getting a glimpse of Humpback whales feeding in the area bay. We attended a performance of the Tlingit natives in the theater as they acted out their ceremonial dances in colorful costumes & narrating the legends in their native language & English. We then boarded a bus to a remote bush river valley where a local native guide led us on a short hike to a wooden platform to view wildlife. Just in time to observe two grizzly bear cubs playing in the stream bed. Back to the ship with hot chocolate in hand. June 9-----Friday (Clear, Sunny, Cold & Windy) -- Cruising toward HUBBARD GLACIER. This was the one of the highlights of the cruise. Viewing the mountains, ice flows & glacier was awesome. The ship was within 3 miles from the glaciers where you could hear the cracking & thunder like sounds of the glaciers moving & calving; viewed this from the 11th deck & our balcony as well. This was our last day to enjoy the ships amenities before packing. However, as the ship entered the Gulf of Alaska, we encountered rough sea swells putting the ship in a "rolling & pitching" motion. This prevailed thru the day & evening hours. Motion sickness pills were the order of the day. Trying to pack under these conditions was a challenge. June 10-----Saturday (Cloudy, Drizzle, Cold) -- Docked at SEWARD around 3 am. Disembarkation was at 8:30 am, which went quite smoothly & well organized. After a 4 hour motorcoach trip, we reached ANCHORAGE in time for lunch. We happened on a very large & crowded flea market/craft show. Had the local fast food favorite&"Reindeer Sausage-dog"(consists of reindeer meat w/ some pork). This was the "BEST" tasting hot dog. On the motorcoach for another 3 hour ride to TALKEETNA ALASKAN LODGE (partly cloudy & cool). Scenery along the way was wonderful&&flora & mountainous ranges. This lodge is a luxury resort for skiers. Beautiful setting on a hill where you can view Mt. McKinley. It features a 50 ft. high stone fireplace in the lobby. Marie & a friend, opted for a plane ride (single engine) over glaciers & a landing near Mt. McKinley which was aborted due to turbulent conditions. Had a pleasant & relaxing evening here; spacious room with comfy bed. June 11-----Sunday (Clear, Sunny & Cool) -- Today we continued on to DENALI NATIONAL PARK. We were led to a site to board a "school bus" for a 5 hour tour of the far reaches of the park to observe the vast Tundra & wildlife. Peering out the bus window, we saw moose, caribou, deer & an adult brown (grizzly) bear. Our driver was quite knowledgeable giving us a running commentary on the parks history. Later that day we were driven to the train station to board the Wilderness Express train for a 4 hour scenic ride to Fairbanks. Once in Celebritys dome car outfitted with large leather seats, we settled in for a comfortable ride. Bar service was available at reasonable prices. We then were led to the dining area below the dome car. Superb & elegant menu. I had prime rib which was the best I have tasted in sometime. Marie had baked halibut seasoned with herbs & lemon. Arrived in FAIRBANKS & on to another motorcoach ride for a two night stay in Pikes Waterfront Lodge; this place was the worst we encountered. Room was o.k. but the temperature was 85 deg.F. & the A/C was not working properly. Hotel personnel were uncooperative & unconcerned. June 12------Monday (Clear, Sunny & Hot) -- This morning we were bussed to the El Dorado Gold Mine for a mini-train tour of the old (abandoned) mining area. Given a demo on how panning was done during the gold rush. We then were escorted to an area where we had a hands-on experience of panning of gold. Between Marie & I, we panned $11 of gold once weighed. Marie had a pendant/bracelet made with the gold chips. Back to Fairbanks for lunch. Later that day we were bussed to the River Boat Discovery dock. This was a 3 hour paddle-wheel boat narrated trip down the Chena & Tennana rivers. Stopping at different spots to observe the Iditarod dog camp & native villagesgiving an narrative of tribal customs & life the natives had to endure. Back to the hotel/motel to prepare for the arduous trip back home. June 13------Tuesday (Sunny, Clear & Warm) -- This morning we are scheduled for a 6:30 am flight to Seattle. Arrived in Seattle & trekked the terminal for our flight to Charlotte, NC. Two hours into the flight, an elderly lady had a heart attack; attendants called for an M.D. Luckily there were two on board with an EMT. Pilot had to make an emergency landing in Cedar Rapids, IA. On the tarmac for two hours & local rescue personnel removed the lady. We believe she did not survive. Obviously, we missed our connecting flight to Jax. Upon arriving in Charlotte at 11 pm, we were set up in a motel. With only a few hours of sleep, we were scheduled for a 8 am flight to Jax on the morning of June 14th. All in all, we had a very pleasant & enlightening experience on the Summit. May do again sometime soon.............. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2006
There are lots of chronological reviews of cruises, so I try to take a different slant with each review I write (e.g. ABC's of Xpedition). This cruise on Summit sailing June 3 from Vancouver to Seward was one of three firsts for us; ... Read More
There are lots of chronological reviews of cruises, so I try to take a different slant with each review I write (e.g. ABC's of Xpedition). This cruise on Summit sailing June 3 from Vancouver to Seward was one of three firsts for us; the first on a Millennium class ship, the first as Select members of Captain's Club, and a first cruise replacing a cancelled one. So, this review will provide our comparative experiences on these three levels. Our previous cruises on Celebrity have been on board Mercury, Horizon (sob & she is gone) and Xpedition. We have a preference for smaller over larger, and had some apprehensions about the larger Summit. But, with a couple of exceptions, size did not matter. Embarkation at the Ballantyne Pier was smooth despite the fact that it was (due to the cancelled May 20th cruise) the first for the season for Summit out of Vancouver. Our only delay was in the taxi after we had entered the Port area. A train loaded with containers blocked our access to the pier, and we waited and waited as the meter ticked over. Xpress Pass and Select status had us on board just 15 minutes after leaving the taxi; and that included Security, US Customs and Immigration, dodging the photographers and registering our mug-shot on the SeaPass. We had glass of champagne in hand and were escorted to our cabin at 1.40pm. Our luggage arrived outside our cabin around 4pm. This was faster than on the smaller ships, go figure. Due to the cancellation of the May 20th cruise, we had to accept a cabin which does not suit our preferences. We opt for lower decks, midships, oceanview. On Summit we had forward, up on deck 9, with balcony. We prefer the layout (and the few extra square metres of space) on Mercury (some area lost to balcony I think), but, we did smile as we used the balcony from time to time. The cabin service was unobtrusive, thoroughly professional, and when we had special requests (like the ice-bucket with ice early each afternoon to chill our pre-dinner bottle(s) of wine) they were filled without fuss. The larger Summit gave us several features we came to admire (love). We are both keen walkers and enjoyed the longer jogging track on Summit. But we missed the wrap around, teak promenade walking deck on Mercury which we used often on windy days. Summit has a long, straight stretch of stretchdex sprayed on the promenade decks. This is somewhat lacking in character, and you either walk up and down or cut through a lounge to the other side. We soon learned to meet for breakfast and lunch in the Spa Cafe. We are admitted foodies but we try to be logical and careful about our first two meals each day. This little gem gave us healthy options, small but adventurous choices, and (almost as importantly) respite from the numbers in the Waterfall Cafe. The staff of this delightful spot are regulars in the Normandie (specialty restaurant) and very well trained and friendly. On mornings when we craved an omelette or pancake, the walk from the stern of Waterfall Cafe to the Spa Cafe was noticeable. Then (did I keep the icing on the cake till last?) there is the Normandie - we had made reservations for the night we wanted for the May 20th cruise. To our surprise, we could switch to the same second formal night (we will do anything to avoid lobster and the Baked Alaska parade) on the replacement cruise. An old (1983) St. Emilion just happened to find its way from our cellar at home into our suitcase - Sommelier Roman smilingly did it proud with the full decanting with candle treatment. The food and service were as advertised - what a fine evening. Now when are they going to refit Mercury with one of these restaurants? Dining in the main dining room on Summit was comparable to that on smaller ships. I think some of the recent changes to the menu are improvements but are probably fleet wide by now and not specific to Summit. We did have the best team yet experienced at our table for two -- Agustinho and Jose worked perfectly together, remembered our preferences, gave reliable advice, and never pushed us to eat more than we ordered. We did find the main dining room for second sitting less crowded than on smaller ships, but I put that down to the unexpected demographics of this June 3 sailing. There were 170 under 18s, and only 270 Captain's Club members. We guess that there was a lot of dining in other spaces -- grill bar, cabins, sushi bar, and pizza. That meant more space for the waiters and a quieter time generally at second sitting...very relaxing. Cova Cafe on Summit seems smaller; but excellent service (waiter Bailon taught us to order a bottle of wine rather than wines by the glass...what we did not drink, he kept for our next visit), and the wonderful work of the string Quartet (Viva) and the acoustic guitar (Glen) made this our favourite place before and after dinner. Having Michael's Club as a non-smoking area (versus a cigar bar on Mercury) suits us, but other than one evening when Viva played there, the entertainment was not an attraction. The other major difference between smaller ships and Summit is the presence of Cirque du Soleil. While this means the bar on the top deck (Bar at the Edge of the Earth) is still outlandishly decorated but used for the masquerade night just once (pack a mask if you plan to attend), it also results in one show in the Celebrity Theatre with the Cirque performers. While the introduction to their show is somewhat unfocused (in our opinion) and being ad-libbed is often under-lit (computer lighting boards do not know where they are going next), there were two outstanding segments of the show which had our hearts in our mouths and our jaws dropping open. WOW! The flip side is that this takes the place of the additional professional musician we enjoyed on previous cruises; a classical pianist, a xylophonist, a banjo specialist etc. Although there will be many of the rookie sailors on June 9th who will disagree, we found Summit handled really well in the 8 hour squall which hit early afternoon en route to Seward after leaving the Hubbard Glacier. Horizon would have rolled much more...and Mercury too? Our top deck forward cabin moved less than we had feared. I am not sure that the next comment is relevant in terms of ship size. Prior to the cruise we had been concerned that we would not be able to go very close to the Hubbard Glacier. Watching webcams of previous cruises showed Infinity and Mercury standing well off the glacier and just for a short time. We were again lucky. Cruise Director John (and several crew members we spoke to) boasted of how lucky we were; longest time at the glacier, closest in 20 years, calm sunny weather, and so much calving that some people worried the glacier was going to break up completely. What an event! I cannot wait to set a slide show of my pics to music. The main disadvantages of the larger ship are results of larger numbers on port days. Tendering resulted in some waiting (especially in Sitka) and lines did form in the cafeteria when many had early tours ashore. The small towns like Sitka and Skagway are somewhat overwhelmed when four or five ships our size or larger are there on the same day. Combat shopping seems to be the order of the day...especially when it rains. Compared to the smaller ships (and this may be itinerary related not size), there did not seem to be a sense of camaraderie in the Activity Program on Summit. I was the only attendee at the first ping pong and first shuffleboard sessions at sea the first day. Sports Coordinator Andrei suggested the cooler weather and the large number of first time cruisers (who were still finding their way around the ship, and trying everything) might be responsible. On Mercury, we developed several rivalries and friendships with other passengers at these activities, and the Sports Coordinator fostered these. Turning to the Select category difference there is not much to report. There was a sense of disappointment with the bonuses booklet in the cabin...most coupons require that you spend money to earn the bonus. Not to our liking this trend. But we did appreciate the free wine seminar with Roman in the Normandie, the Galley Tour with executive chef Frederic, and the (higher quality of) drinks served at the Select and Elite cocktail party with senior officers and staff. There were offers of special events with the Art Auction staff (not a way we like to spend our time on board) and with the Wine Auction staff (Canadians need not register and bid because of importing regulations -- what a pity!), for us, these offers were not really a step up from Classic status. We surmise that our Select status (and the small numbers of members in this category on the June 3 cruise) did prompt the invitation from the Hotel Director to dine at the Captain's Table. Unfortunately it arrived on Wednesday evening for the Thursday dinner and clashed with our Normandie reservation, and switching at that late stage was not possible. We regretfully declined. Maybe our luck will hold on another cruise, and we will be invited again? Finally, what was the consequence of a cancelled cruise and re-booking? Well, after the panic of learning of the cancellation, and the stress of trying to re-book everything, there was a continual feeling of wonder that we were able to switch it all (sailing date, ship-board credits on file, post-cruise visit with Anchorage friends, independently booked shore tours in Skagway and Juneau, even one of two frequent flyer reward tickets for the cruise back from Anchorage to Vancouver). With a refund from the cancelled cruise paid to our credit card a couple of days before we sailed, we felt blessed all over again. The only negative was that the Bon Voyage gifts we had purchased for each other never did arrive. Our phone call to Celebrity on learning of the cancellation resulted in having to cancel the orders for the first cruise and re-order for the second. Maybe the fact that we called just 16 days before the June 3 sailing meant the order (and that of our Travel Agent who always sends us a bottle of wine) went into the ether somewhere? Guest Relations staff politely tried to sort out the missing items on the first two days, but we cancelled them after three days of waiting. There has been some comment on CC threads about the compensation offered to those booked on the original cruise. In our case, it seems adequate to generous. We had expenses of $55 and $300 dollars to change our return flights, and Celebrity offered up to $200 per person, so we will receive all but $100 of that. However from reading posts on the May 20th thread, we were lucky in that many others did not manage to recoup expenses, or could not manage rebooking as easily; the one size fits all offer did not work for back-to-back cruisers or those from long distances with hotel bookings or tours pre-and post-cruise. Me thinks it is time to end this prattling. Millennium Class or smaller? We tip the scales slightly in favour of the larger class with advantages just winning out over drawbacks, though our next cruise booked is on Century which may give us the best of both worlds? Select versus Classic membership status? Hardly a big jump in perks here given that the one category up-grade is still the draw in being a CC member anyway. And what about sailing on a replacement cruise instead of one that was cancelled? We do not want it to ever happen again, given that there was anxiety and confusion initially...but if the cruise-gods could guarantee that we two young retirees can be sure of a refund and replacement cruise just two weeks later, I suppose we would have to hope it does re-occur. Questions? Post and I would be happy to answer them. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2006
INTRO Me and my family traveled on the Celebrity Summit June 2006 and had so much fun. Let me start by saying vancouver is gorgeous and the most amazing city ever! Embarkation was a breeze, mainly because we had a suite and took us to the ... Read More
INTRO Me and my family traveled on the Celebrity Summit June 2006 and had so much fun. Let me start by saying vancouver is gorgeous and the most amazing city ever! Embarkation was a breeze, mainly because we had a suite and took us to the front of the line, even though the main line wasn't long either. Me and my sister stayed in a oceanview room with a balcony while my parents stayed in a sky suite, which was huge and very well furnished. Let me also start off by saying my mother hates cruises and picks on everything when we travel. When we boarded the ship it was beautiful, we were guided to our rooms and sat on the balcony until while the ship started to leave. My mother noted that the carpet in her room was very dirty and old. I didn't care what as wrong with her carpet. The next day the carpet was pulled up (while we were in port) and re-upholstered. If that is not celebrity service i don't know what is. Fruit and other snack were in our room and our rooms were spacious and the beds very comfortable. The bathroom was bigger than most with a bathtub and shower. Our balcony was enormous. ENTERTAINMENT and the SHIP The ship itself is very beautiful and has many places to go. Unlike Carnival ships, the Celebrity Summit has much more subtle art, furniture, and lighting. There are not disco lights and neon everywhere! The entertainment on the ship was great! Some nights there were the broadway style shows, which we didn't go to, but we went to all the comedy shows and they were beyond hilarious. A big thing with my family is the gym, which was not very big but the spa was beautiful and amazing. The gym was small but the cardio machines were placed directly in the front windows of the ship, it was gorgeous. FOOD Food on the ship was beyond great. The food was always fresh and well prepared. MAny restaurants including our favorite, sushi. The buffet was not crappy like they normally are. Many healthy foods are available. The main dining room is amazing. The back of the room is an enormous window that you can see everything as it passes you by. PORTS I will be very brief with the ports (not in order): 1. Juneau- we were very disappointed with Juneau. Our (private) bike tour did not show up and the day was very cloudy, rainy, and cold. We decided to go to the tourist sites which were ok, nothing special. The town wasn't any special either. The only plus in mendenhall glacier and the skylift. 2. Skagway was one of my favorites, many things to do and small cute town. Take the white pass and yukon route railway to different destinations. We were the only ones to do the hiking (a 4 hour hike) it felt like forever. I think i burned off the buffet. 3. Hoonah(i think called icy strait point)- Hoonah was another one of our favorites. A small town in the middle of nowhere has an extremely small town and mountains surrounding you. We took a private tour away from the crowds and saw a large pod of whales and many seals and puffins and bald eagles. The town is nice and quaint. 4. Hubbard Glacier Cruising- The hubbard glacier is amazing and we were lucky enough to see a large part of it fall of. (which i guess is not a good thing) It was nice to sit on the balcony watching the glacier go by. 5. Vancouver(departure port)-There is too much to say about Vancouver. What an amazing city! Stay at the westin bayshore if possible. 6. Sitka-Sitka was a very very nice town, mainly touristy but lost of things to do. We went kayaking around the small islands in the harbour. The town has many good restaurants. 7. Anchorage/Seward- We took the sightseeing transfer train from the cruise dock in seward to the airport in anchorage. our flight wasn't until later that night so we spent the day in anchorage and had a blast. Great restaurants and we went to the zoo, which is nice. Overall the cruise was an amazing experience and my mom couldn't find anything bad to say about it. She liked it and thought it was a great new experience for her, since shes never been on a cruise. The staff is amazing, food is great, and entertainment is above average. We did not do any of the shore excursions because we like to do those things by ourselves. But ours were great. The rooms are spacious and comfortable. All the ports were great except Juneau. For some reason our cruise did not go to ketchikan and instead went to sitka. But that was ok. I hear ketchikan is nice but nothing great. The only complaint we had was on the last night on our way to Seward, the seas were extremely rough and the waves must have been 50-75ft and the clinic ran out of all of their sea-sickness treatments. My mom is the only one who gets seasick but even we were getting seasick. It was pretty bad, lets just say we were happy to be in seward on land. Otherwise everything was excellent, i would definitely go on Celebrity again! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2006
Background: June 3 Summit NB from Vancouver was 3d AK cruise with X. Previously with X, the DW and I have noshed to Nassau, burped to Bermuda and punched thru the Caribbean. Like many, we were again drawn to this last outpost of the rugged ... Read More
Background: June 3 Summit NB from Vancouver was 3d AK cruise with X. Previously with X, the DW and I have noshed to Nassau, burped to Bermuda and punched thru the Caribbean. Like many, we were again drawn to this last outpost of the rugged individualist, an attitude aptly captured on a Tee shirt: Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms -- who's bringing the chips? And the AK guys are even tougher! I also prefer the Alaskan itineraries because I am not blessed with the rugged good looks of Dr. Phil. In the Caribbean it's embarrassing when I lie on the sand and cats come over and keep trying to cover me up. My inclinations for Celebrity sprung from early experiences as a bathtub admiral at age two. My azipod was failing once and I had to skip Port Rubber Ducky. Some pax complained and I had to give them a time out. Even then I had a habit of wearing formal diapers two nights every week. Being only two however, circumstances beyond my control often prevented me from wearing the formal diaper all evening. Embarkation: Our party arrived a day early and took a limo from the Vancouver airport's ground transportation area (limos were waiting like cabs). It's a fixed fare of C$45 to downtown hotels and a good value for four adults with four large cases and four small roll-ons. I doubt one regular compact cab could have handled all this. The same limo cost C$64 for the 20-min trip to Balantyne Pier from Hilton Metrotown (at C$125 for standard room, Burnaby section of Vanc). We arrived at 12:30pm and lines were short -- we processed on board in about 15 minutes. Our last-minute cabin switch meant that our preprinted bag tags were wrong but the loaders had blank bag tags to fill out. I was growing anxious because everything was going too smoothly so far. I will explain at the end of this report. Staterooms MIL/SIL had Cat 2C -- 6016. This is the first of eight Penthouse deck forward 2Cs that feature the oversized balcony not depicted on the M-class deckplans. We upgraded 30 days before sailing (at big discount) to Corner Cat FV 9197 that popped up available on the X-website. This FV had the large partitioned sitting area - it was great to be able to lay my clothes around on the sofas just like at home. All the 9000-level aft Cat FVs have the issue of being below the patio of the casual Waterfall Cafe. This outside seating had nice but heavier wooden tables, chairs whose movement transmitted dull scraping noise through the Cat FVs ceiling. This was an occasional distraction from 7:30am to 9pm during cafe hours but we were in the cabin for limited periods then. CruiseCritic Connections Social: We had barely gotten over the 25-minimum registration. About 12-15 attended the visit held in Michael's Club at 10:30am the morning after sailing. CD Howell hosted and, in response to questions, indicated how difficult it had been for the staff to be pleasant while dealing with some over-the-top pax during the mid-May cruise when Summit had Azipod trouble. Captain's Club Had the usual socials and ship tour opps. Roxanna indicated there were 74 combined Elite and Select members on board. The couple with the most X cruises had 23 (I didn't get a chance to ask them if they thought X was a premium cruiseline. Now we'll never know.) The Summit's senior staff shook hands with pax in the receiving line whereas in May the Galaxy senior staff had announced an intentional no shake approach to reduce Norovirus risk. Would it have been bad form for these Summit hand-shakers to place an antiseptic dispenser at the end of the receiving line? Ship's Medical heard a couple reports of very high fees for medical treatment. Don't know all the details, but those reporting were very unhappy. Trip insurance sure would be helpful. Besides the Norovirus risk and other global health concerns, I am curious why no one is alerting pax to the early symptoms of Avian Bird Flu? A human indicator of bird flu is the urge to go to the bathroom on car windshields. X Security Some real backsliding by Summit security on this AK trip. There were over a hundred kids on board. On our May Galaxy Transatlantic Security had managed to keep all but 22 young'uns off - I suspect some collusion by the parents in those cases -- an inside job of a sort. After the low kid count on Galaxy and the general aging of the population, I entertained fanciful illusions of blessed finality to the diaper controversies if X would convert the kiddee pools to seniors-only. But I guess it just depends. Entertainment Skipped the musical productions but caught Taste of CdS, two comedians, one who combined juggling with short one-liners. The better was Jeff Nease (sp?) who early on commented about how young the X audience looked (and got a laugh). He then said X crowd was definitely young compared to his audience on QE-2 recently. There, when the bright stage lights came on, many in the QE2 audience started walking towards the light. Maybe you had to be there. Taste of Cirque was in theater at 9:15 for main seating. By 10 mins before show, crowd was standing room only. There were 3 10-min acts and the audience applauded as loud as I have ever heard on 11 X cruises. White Night party started at 10:45pm and, based on video, about half wore basic Mardi-gras masks. Condition of Facilities Ship looked fine, fresh, clean. Windows in Summit's upper observation lounge were in much better condition than on Galaxy. Some rug seams separating in Waterfall cafe (I had to ding something or some readers would think I hadn't really looked.) Tenders were used in Icy Strait Point and Sitka. I noted that Summit's lifeboats had capacity stencils 120 pax tendering, 150 pax lifeboat while HAL's Veendam, Osterdam stencils indicated 90 pax tendering, 150 pax lifeboat. This board has already established that X trails HAL in mattress thickness, comfort. For reasons only my psychoanalyst can fathom, this reminds me of the US-Soviet space missile gap of the 1960s. Now we are faced with a butt-space gap on X's tenders compared to HAL. I doubt HAL's pax have smaller butts on average, so I reluctantly conclude that X's pax are exposed to a -33% butt-gap on X tenders. Food - Main Dining Room had upper level table for 4 at top of stairs at main seating. As mentioned, I was seated with my DW, SIL and MIL. I don't know why, but every night when I approached this table, Tennyson's famous words drifted into my head: Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon in front of them Volleyed and thundered into the jaws of Death, Rode the six hundred. Go figure? I stayed with beef entrees and found them very good, slightly better than on the Galaxy. The waiter indicated that they often see variation in quality due to different suppliers in different regions. Beef en brochette flavor was a little weak. Coq au Vin was very good. I often went with the optional off-menu shrimp cocktail and Caesar salad. In general, main DR meals were very satisfactory. We always did casual restaurants for breakfast/lunch for convenience. Dress code observance in main DR: a few odds and ends but many odd ends. Normandie Specialty Restaurant >>> Menu Exceptionnel! This was our fourth specialty restaurant experience, including one on Zaandam. We tried the Menu Exceptionnel which requires ALL at the table to participate. This dinner costs the $30 service charge plus $27 per head for 5 wine accompaniments. We all enjoyed the experience but felt limited in the narrower choices, especially for entrees. Will stick with regular specialty menu in future. Creamy lobster broth or tangy tomato/red pepper soup, Goat cheese soufflE or pan-fried foie gras, Filet of sole filled w lobster mousse or baked rack of lamb in pastry. Selection of cheeses, Chocolate soufflE or dessert mini-samples. Weather - Season was excellent, mostly sunny, dry, mild with one gray drizzly day in Juneau that caused early flightseeing cancellations (with refunds). The Summit encountered large rolling ocean swells when crossing the Gulf of Alaska on the last day before Seward. About half attended the main seating dinner that night. Evening twilight started around 10pm at night and dawn was around 4am. By June 14 it was bright at midnight and dawn at just after 3am. Even with heavy cabin curtains, light sleepers will be bothered -- strongly recommend bringing the eye shades that airplane travelers often wear for darkness. Oddest conversation overheard or Newsflash for Archimedes -- A pax at breakfast stated to companions that Summit must have at least as many decks below water as above water in order to keep itself from tipping over. Rumored X initiatives: Tuxedo rental has been around for many years. A super-concierge class featuring full cruise wardrobe rental is in test mode - you will only need to pack toiletries and personal items. For the Baltic cruises, you would order the "Nicolas and Alexandra" outfits, "Jimmy Buffet" outfits in Caribbean. The program was first tested on Hawaii cruises where testers ordered "Don Ho" outfits. Unfortunately, miscommunications when ordering the "Don Ho" outfits resulted in a few lady testers being arrested while standing on Hawaiian street corners. These outfits will be renamed "Tiny Bubbles" outfits. Juneau Docked. Drizzly 50's low-clouds day that interfered with doing Mt. Roberts Tramway. A few pax caught up with the ship in Juneau. Because we visited Mendenhall Glacier before, I was aware that it and other glaciers throughout Alaska has been dramatically receding in recent decades. Based on TV commercials, the solution for receding would seem obvious - ice implants or ice weave. Many pax already bring liquor from home on board - if such cruisers to AK would also bring ice cubes in a cooler. Help out like the motto "if everyone lit just one little candle" - no wait, that's more global warming. If you can't bring a cooler with ice from home, join others every morning by the restaurant's ice dispenser for an ice bucket brigade line. Skagway Docked at 7am, five ships in port, cloudy early. We were first to pickup at 8:15am at Avis rental. We had Murray Lundberg's Photographic Road Log of the South Klondike Highway - from We drove 74 miles inland past Carcross to Emerald Lake. Weather was mild, partly sunny above White Pass along our route. Had good homemade ice cream (mega-scoop $4) at Watsons General Store (built 1908) in Carcross - a town so small the dog sleeps in the road. Rental was under $100 with all costs included for four compared to about $145 each with a group tour along same routes (but they stop to let you hold a husky puppy). Road conditions were generally good (55 mph many sections) except for some areas under repair. Sitka tendering, 9am arrival, mild partly sunny. There is a Visitors Transit bus from dock that circles the town and costs $10pp for all day on/off. It turns out the walk to downtown is less than .5 miles on sidewalks. We waited 20 mins for this bus and rode it for 15 mins in city traffic to Raptor Conservation Center where 1-2 miles of easy walking trails start, winding through an old-growth state park forest. Saw a six-inch slug (the insect kind). We walked through park back to dock in an hour. Icy Strait Point tender, anchor at 7am, mild sunny day, only ship in port. I got wrangled into X's whale watching tour with about 200 others (cost $120pp - 4 hours). They announced they were going further into bay to improve chances for whales over previous trips. Ended up seeing a couple partial breaches at about 300 yards, several humpback pods at 300 yards or more, no sea otters, three adult seals for 10 minutes within 50 yards. Afterwards the commentator indicated our luck was much better than recent prior trips. At least we had pleasant weather, again. Here's a tip to get rail space for a whale photo when others are crowding in front of you. When the best whale photo opp happens, yell in a loud serious voice "Honey, hand me the HARPOON, quick!" This momentarily stuns, confuses other pax causing them to clear away from you - giving you clear picture shot. Ate big bowl ($8) of very good clam chowder at lodge past the ceremonial fire pit. As I took in the beautiful wild vista it seemed natural to wonder if movies like In the Heat of the Night or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof had been popular at ISP. Hubbard Glacier yet another sunny mild day, only ship in Yakutat. Summit eased through a field of scattered ice floats to within few hundred yards of Hubbard face. Not much calving but remarkable thunderous booms from deep within shifting ice pack. Opening Founders-level "Friends of Don Knotts" - The Friends of Don K. is a support group for X-pax who are anxious and nervous about how long their string of great X cruises can run. After reading these boards, I am incredulous on beating odds against having 11 great X cruises in a row. How could I be so fortunate? - just an average guy, bifocals, thinning hair, and (according to DW of 30 years) with bad breath and smelly feet. How infinitesimal the odds of getting to twelfth great X cruise - the fates must be toying with me. Is there a molar-busting rubber steak or a rogue wave lurking in my future? Did I miss a past memo that would have put me in the wrong place at the wrong time? As this Summit AK cruise approached, knowing the extreme odds against yet another great cruise, I had premonitions of what mishap might occur and what the news headlines might be: X-fan in fluke accident while whale watching X-fan bitten at Totem Bight X-fan trampled in stampede after glacier calving Famous Kecthikan rain guage falls, hits X-fan on head - injury diagnosed as "water on the brain". Sitka church's onion-roof falls -- hits x-fan -- everyones crying. So "Friends of Don K.", I know I'm doomed - way overdue for a bad X cruise. As I walk up the next X gangway anxiously, I will be zig-zagging mentally like a squirrel on espresso, on high alert to dodge the inevitable. 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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