Cruise Review Celebrity Summit 6/16 - 6/28/2008
My wife, two children (boy age 20, girl age 17) and I sailed on the Celebrity Summit on June 16th, 2008 from Venice to Barcelona. This was our first cruise on Celebrity, but we are experienced cruisers. We have sailed five times on RCL, twice on Disney and once on NCL America. We were fortunate that Celebrity gave us credit for our past cruises and so made us Select members of the Captains Club. This made the cruise a lot better given the extra invitations we were given for special events. In general, we were extremely pleased with this cruise. We loved the ship. The service, the food and the attitude were all outstanding and the itinerary was fantastic. We did a lot of pre-planning (with the help of our friends on Cruise Critic) to help make the most of every port. This was our first long cruise and we found the pace very relaxing, even towards the end with four port calls in a row. Pictures showing some of the highlights can be found at: http:\\ summitcruisecriticroom dot snapfish dot com/snapfish
Pre-Cruise and Embarkation: The entire process was very smooth. The online check in form worked very well and I thought we were completely set up for our cruise. It turned out that there were a couple of small problems, but more on that later. We flew United Chicago - Frankfurt - Venice and had no problems enroute. Upgrades and status help! We arrived in Venice on the day prior to embarkation day in order to get over jet lag and see more of Venice. We stayed in a very nice little hotel not far from St Marks Square (Ca Dei Conti). We took a water taxi from the airport after claiming our luggage (100 Euros, booked on line in advance) that was supposed to take us right to the hotel. As it was low tide, we were dropped a few blocks from the hotel and ended up carrying all our bags through the narrow streets. After we were in Venice a few days we found that was a pretty common occurrence. As we learned after, make sure you negotiate this in advance with the water taxi driver. After a great evening and morning in Venice, we took another water taxi to the cruise ship terminal. While expensive to take it again, the advantage was this time it picked us up right at the hotel and dropped us right where the baggage is picked up by the cruise ship. We went right to the new, modern terminal and proceeded to the counter. It was approximately 4:30 pm on check in day and there was no one in any line. We went to the Captains Club line where our Seapasses and boarding information were ready. A quick check of our passports and we were on the way to ship. A short walk to the ship and we boarded. Well, three of us boarded. The Seapass card for my wife did not work and so she was held up. After a few minutes to confirm her identity, we were all allowed to board. Unfortunately we needed to go to the guest relations desk for a replacement card. Cleared up, we went to our staterooms. We found both rooms ready and waiting. We had a Concierge Class Veranda stateroom on deck nine, with the standard inside stateroom across the hall for the kids. Waiting for us in our room was a chilled bottle of Champagne, snacks and all of our information for the first day aboard the ship. Since our luggage had not arrived we set out to catch the shuttle boat back to St Mark's Square to find a restaurant for dinner. The shuttle cost 20 dollars per person round trip, but we found that a bargain compared to the water taxi. A better deal was probably the Venice pass to use the public shuttles. Others can comment on that since we did not use them. Our dinner was nice, but I would not recommend the restaurant.
The Ship: Contrary to prior comments on this site, we found the Summit to be in excellent condition. We saw no evidence of worn carpets, frays, faded wall coverings or damage. The ship is beautiful and well appointed. We really liked the layout and the myriad of different areas to explore. Even with a sold out cruise we never felt like the ship was crowded, and even after 10 days we were still discovering new places. With three banks of elevators it was easy to get around the ship. Being on deck nine aft, it was a quick walk up one flight to the waterfall buffet for breakfast. We enjoyed this size much better than the Adventure class RCL ships. It just seemed classier and more intimate.
Staterooms and Stewards: We found our stateroom (9157, port side aft) very nice and larger than other veranda rooms we have had on other ships. The layout was very good, with plenty of storage space and hangers in the closet. The bath was much larger than others, with a full size shower. The mattress was a little hard, but we liked the selection of pillows offered in Concierge class. We also enjoyed the other benefits of CC: a daily fruit bowl and appetizers, the robes, and fresh flowers in the room and bath every day. There were two standard American outlets at the desk, as well as two European outlets. There was a TV with both a selection of channels and pay per view. Our veranda was spacious, with pads on the chairs. The kid's inside stateroom (9159) was larger than others we have had as well. Our stateroom service was the best we have had on any ship. Jose our steward was almost always available and did an excellent job. Our room was always clean and all of the amenities were always refreshed. He did a great job dealing with our kid's room and working around their mess. Jose and his assistant were always cheerful, always friendly and very helpful. Again, the best service we have ever had.
Administration and other services: We had a couple of small problems with administration. I had used the on line check in function on the Celebrity website to enter all of our information and obtain our boarding documents. It was very easy to use and I thought we were completely set up to board with no problems. However, there seems to be a problem between the website systems and the ship billing and administration systems. Besides the non-working stateroom card mention above, shortly after boarding we received a note in our stateroom saying the seapass cards for both our kids were no longer eligible to charge and that I had to return to the guest relations desk to authorize them again. Then when my son tried to buy his first beer at a bar, he was told that he did not have my permission to do so, even though I had set this up in advance. I again had to go to the guest relations desk to straighten this out. This made three trips to fix things I thought I had set up prior to leaving home. We had no problems with our bill, though we heard other passengers complain a lot about mis-billing. We also found it interesting that the system for tipping is different than other ships. On Celebrity you can opt to put the daily recommended tips on your Seapass account, along with extra if desired. However, there are no coupons and envelopes to hand out to your servers. Instead, there is a pre-printed thank you note from each server acknowledging your tip. None of our servers mentioned the tip on the last day, so we had to assume they received it and they were happy. One very weak area on the ship was the internet service. I understand that satellite internet on a cruise ship at sea is still not perfected, but this service was extremely slow and prone to error out repeatedly. On top of this the prices were extremely high. There were many passengers extremely upset with the poor officer in charge of this area. My recommendation is to buy the plan with the most minutes at the lowest price per minute, because you will burn a lot of minutes simply signing on and getting to wherever you need to be on the internet. There was a Cruise Critic party at 10:00 am on our first sea day (4th day of the cruise). They provided juice, coffee and pastries and most of the senior officers attended to meet us. The Cruise Director, the Head of Hotel Operations and the Head of Food service all spoke, as well as mingled with us. It was a great chance to meet everyone we had met on line. We had met on the sail away day at the mast bar, but some did not make it to the first meeting. The added benefit was the ability to chat with the officers later in the cruise based on our first meeting. I found them all much more approachable and relaxed compared to RCL hyper intensity.
Itinerary: This was a fantastic itinerary. Obviously the ports are great, but we also liked the pace of the cruise. The "soft start" of boarding the ship but staying in Venice an extra day was very nice, and having three sea days interspersed gave us plenty of time to recharge and enjoy the ship. We especially liked having a sea day as the last day, which meant we could get ready to disembark at a leisurely pace. I was apprehensive about the longer cruise but it was very nice.
Food, Dining Rooms and Specialty Restaurants: In general, we found the food to be excellent on the Summit. This goes for almost every venue, and for the entire cruise. I think the only place that was just satisfactory was the fast food buffet near the pool, and we should have stayed away from there anyway. The menu and the quality in the Cosmopolitan restaurant were very good. Over the course of 7 meals eaten there, I think our family of four was disappointed with 3 entrees. Deserts were very good, as were the appetizers and soups. The chilled fruit based soups were especially good. I agree with another review that most of the salads were nothing special, but passable. The service in the Cosmopolitan was excellent. Our waiter and assistant waiter were very good and bent over backwards to make sure we were happy. I can say there was not a single service lapse over the course of the cruise. Our only complaint was the tendency of the wine steward to be pushy with both wine and the special wine events on board. It gave us the impression that we were always being sold something. We did find some nice wines available on the menu. We had the early (6:15 pm) seating for main dining. This was not really our preference since we worried about getting back after excursions and getting ready in time, but it actually worked out. Our waiter told us the first night that they were trying to be more flexible on both timing and dress code due to the port intensive nature of the cruise. While they would be strict on formal nights, on informal nights even though it said ties were required for men, it was not necessary. This is a moot point since on the last day the CD announced that informal nights were ending August 1st on all Celebrity ships. We came to dinner several times at 6:30 and even 6:45 once and still got out be 8:00 no problem. They were experimenting with some different formats and times on our cruise, which led to a little bit of confusion for both passengers and crew. While in Naples, they substituted the regular seatings in the dining room with a pool side Mediterranean buffet with entertainment called "Flava". They asked everyone to wear all white and put on a nice spread. However, it was not clearly communicated what was going on and besides the fact that we did not have all white, we were not too excited about the meal and so went to our regular seating time. We had missed the change to an open seating night starting at 7:00 pm rather than our regular 6:15 seating. We ended up having a drink in a nearby bar and waiting until the dining room opened. We saw some similar confusion as they converted the traditional midnight buffet to a brunch buffet on our second sea day. It was a great idea and worked out great, but the staff was very confused when they were overwhelmed right at 10:00 am when it opened. They quickly adjusted and all worked out. The Waterfall buffet was much better than buffets we have had on other ships. There was a broader selection no matter what the meal, and the quality was higher. A pleasant surprise was the dinner offering in the buffet. After a couple of the long excursion days we did not feel like dressing for dinner and so ate at the buffet. There was a good selection of sushi, cooked to order pasta, salads and very good pizza. We ate our dinner on the back deck of the Waterfall cafe, sitting outside listening to the guitar player and drinking the drink of the day. This was a great place to watch the sail away from port and enjoy the sunset. The Normandie restaurant is the best specialty restaurant we have dined at on any ship. The menu, the food, the wine selection, the service and the show (tableside preparation) were all very good. My wife ordered the Dover Sole and loved it. I had the rack of lamb prepared encroute and enjoyed it very much. There is a set 5 course menu you can pair with wine for a total of $57 per person extra, or there is an ala carte menu for $30 per person charge. Wines were reasonably priced and the desert soufflEs were very good. It was not hard to make a reservation, though as a Captains Club member we were allowed to make one reservation on line prior to the cruise. Reservations were available throughout the cruise, though tended to be booked up on the last couple of days. A hidden gem is the Cova cafe on deck 5. While there is an extra charge for the coffee drinks, there is a fresh pastry bar with warm pastries at no charge. They also carried quiches, and stocked small sandwiches later in the day. Our favorite was the almond croissants fresh out of the oven. Another tip is to use room service for breakfast. We placed an order each night (via the TV or the order form to hang on your door) and had coffee and breakfast delivered precisely on time. The selection was broad, but we stuck to cereal, fruit, toast and pastries. This was ideal to have it delivered while getting ready in the morning. This was great for getting us all ready to go for early morning excursions. Bar service was very good at all every bar. Drinks were good, though a little more expensive than usual. We enjoyed the martini bar and the bar in the casino. The Euro 2008 football tournament was on during our cruise, and the casino bar became the gathering place to watch the games. Our only complaint was that the quality of the coffee was inconsistent.
Entertainment on board. There were several Broadway style shows during the cruise, as well as a comedian, a juggler, a concert pianist and acrobats. We saw some of the production shows and the comedian. The production shows were better than we have seen on other shows and the talent of the entertainers was very good. The comedian was very funny. We did not see any of the other shows, but we heard from others that the pianist was very good. A highlight was a vocalist from the Australian production of the Phantom of the Opera. We did not see him, but other passengers were raving. As noted above, we really enjoyed the guitarist on the waterfall Cafe deck aft. He was very good and had a broad repertoire. The dance band for deck parties was also good. Our kids enjoyed the DJ in Revelations each night. The liveliest place on the ship most nights was the casino. Given the intensity of the port schedule, most passengers seemed to go to bed early. The casino seemed to be the most active bar and venue on the ship. Besides the normal games and slots, most nights there was a Texas Hold 'Em game, either in tournament format or a cash game. Sign-ups for the tournaments were early in the day and the chairs filled fast, so go early. As mentioned above, we had the added benefit of almost daily football games as part of the Euro 2008 tournament. It was great to mingle with fans from around Europe cheering for their home team. The slots did not seem as tight as I have seen on other ships. We enjoyed the gym and the spa. The gym is very well equipped, though was very busy on sea days. Excellent weight and aerobic equipment, and they held spinning classes and other fitness events. Private fitness classes were available. I received excellent service and treatment in the spa. Two different types of massages were very well done. As a note, given the length of the cruise and the number of sea days, it was not nearly as hard as other cruises to make an appointment in the spa.
Excursions: For this cruise we decided to do a combination of ship excursions, exploration on our own and private tours. In addition, since we had done part of this itinerary before on an RCL Cruise 4 years ago, we were free to try some different things in the ports of western Italy. Almost all worked out very well. We found the ships excursions generally well run, with good guides and nice transportation. The excursion desk on the ship was pretty organized and there was minimal confusion in the morning as the excursions lined up. All of ours left on time and returned to the ship on time and we generally felt we received pretty good value for the price. I did hear some grumbling from other passengers about problems with guides, and the ship excursions for Rome were all late due to a huge traffic accident on the highway from the port.
Here are our excursions by port:
Venice: Prior to boarding the ship we explored Venice on our own. The only activity I arranged in advance was the Secret Itinerary of the Doges Palace. This tour is given two times a day in English and must be booked in advance. There are several websites to book this but we booked it through a website found on the cruise critic board. It is one hour and well worth the extra money (16 Euros per person). It is a guided tour and seen are the torture chambers, the back offices of the Doge, the cells where Casanova was kept and the attic armament display. You can then explore the rest of the palace at your leisure. We also did the Murano Glass Factory, Burano Lace island tour booked through the ship. A tour boat picked us up at the ship and took us first to Murano, where we visited a glass factory. We saw artisans blow glass vases and make a glass horse while the process was explained. We then visited their shop where we had the opportunity to purchase their items. We then had 45 minutes to explore the island, visit other shops or simply have a cappuccino. My son and I did the latter while my wife and daughter did the former. Then it was back on the boat for the long ride to Burano Island. This is famous for lace production and has lots of small shops and restaurants. My wife and daughter watched the artisans make lace while my son and I had another coffee. The boat then took us back to the ship by approximately 1 pm. It is a long (45 minutes out, 30 minutes between islands, 1 hour back) time in the boat, but very pretty way to see more islands. My wife and daughter enjoyed this excursion a lot more than my son and I, though it was interesting.
Dubrovnik: We did not do an organized tour or excursion for this port. This is a tender port normally, but we were lucky enough to get a docking position, which saved time waiting for tenders. The ship arranged for shuttle buses for $10 round trip. You can order these ahead, or buy right at the bus with your seapass. A five minute ride into town from the port took us right to the walled city of Dubrovnik. This was a very pleasant surprise. It is a medieval walled city, beautifully restored after damage from the 90-91 war. The thing to do here is "walk the wall". For six Euros per person, you can ascend the stairs and walk the top of the wall that completely surrounds the city. One side of the city is right against the ocean, and so when you look over the wall you look down on spectacular waves over the rocks. For eight Euros per person you can rent the audio tour wands. At stations around the wall the history of the city is explained. It is over a mile around and has some steep steps in places, but we did not find it too strenuous. Spectacular views. A place not to be missed in Dubrovnik is the Buza Bar. There are actually two Buzas, one with railings and one without. These are small bars outside the city wall on the ocean side. The trick is to find the small door way through the wall and make your way to the bar. The non railing bar is better, with closer views to the ocean. No food, but local beer, wine and soft drinks. The bars are visible from the top of the wall as you do the tour. After walking the wall we found a small restaurant and had a nice lunch. There are many to choose from. Find one with a menu you like and sit. We found the food good and the service excellent. Prices were a welcome relief from Venice.
Santorini: On Santorini we did a combination of a ship excursion and exploring on your own. My son, daughter and I took the volcano and hot springs tour through the ship. A large wooden boat picked up the tour group at the ships gang way (Santorini is a tender port) and took us to the volcanic island in the center of the Santorini group of islands. This is a still active volcano with sulfur, steam and a lot of lava rock. The boat docked on the island and our tour guide led us on a 1+ mile hike to the top of the island. It is a strenuous hike, but we took several breaks and there is an opportunity to catch up. They give you water before you leave the boat, so take it, you will need it. The views from the top are spectacular and the guide points out hissing steam and sulfur deposits at the top. After a rest at the top, it is time to hike back down to the bottom. Closed shoes are better for the hike as there are a lot of rocks and dust. After boarding the boat, we sailed to another small island where we anchored off shore. We then had the opportunity to jump in the water and swim into a small cove to the hot springs. They are really warm springs, with the temperature increasing about ten degrees. In the cove we could stand up and feel the iron laden mud. The guide recommended that we rub the mud all over for therapeutic affect. After lingering for about 30 minutes and washing off the mud, we swam back to the boat. There is a life guard out with the swimmers and you can wear a life vest if desired. The cool water felt great after the hike up the volcano. The boat then dropped us at the base of the cliff in Thira. Included in the tour were round trip cable car tickets to get to the top of the cliff. I highly recommend the cable car versus either walking or riding the donkeys to the top. One woman described the donkey ride to me as the worst experience of her life! Thira is a nice village of shops, restaurants and bars. We met my wife at the top of the cable cars. She had taken the tender ashore and spent the morning exploring the village on her own. We had a wonderful lunch of Greek salad, Gyros and wine at one of the restaurants right by the cable car stop. My wife and daughter took a cab to Oia, the village at the end of the island (featured in the Sisterhood of the Traveling pants) and had great time exploring the shops and viewing the scenery. There is also a bus that runs there, and it is about a 20 minute drive. My son and I decided to walk down the switchback steps to the boat dock, since there was a very long line for the cable cars. After a beer at Vertigo (great bar), we started down the hill. Bad decision. Not only was it hot, longer and harder than we anticipated, about halfway down the walkway becomes covered with the leavings of the donkeys. This makes for slippery and smelly walking down the path. It would have been better to wait 20 minutes for the cable car!
Athens: We booked a private tour for Athens. On a previous thread we had received a recommendation for Spiros Taxi (www dot athenstaxi dot net) It was easy to arrange and cost 220 Euros for the day for 4 people in one car. All arrangements were by email and we were allowed to tailor our tour. Manos met us when we exited the ship and led us to his new Mercedes yellow taxi. Manos spoke excellent English (he had lived in the states for 20 years) and was very nice. It was still a little tight for three in the back of the cab and it was tough for the air conditioning to keep up. We did not have a very good day in Athens. It was a combination of our guide, the heat, a long day the day before on Santorini and general tiredness. Manos was nice enough but did not get off to a good start at the Acropolis. He started out well with a nice drive through the city along the shore, making it to the Acropolis ahead of most of the ship excursions. However, he just parked at the bottom, pointed to a path and said walk to the top. We purchased tickets on the way up, but they have no guides to hand out with the tickets. A 10 euro ticket gave us entrance to all of the historic sites in the city. I missed the booth where private guides offer to tour you around the Acropolis for 18 Euro's per person, so we wandered around the top on our own. It is still awe inspiring, but we missed something with no guides or book, and we had accidently left ours back on the ship. The signs at the various monuments only describe the restoration. I highly recommend either hiring the guide or bringing a book to help you interpret the sites. That being said, most of the ruins on the Acropolis are pretty self explanatory, and the Parthenon is an awesome site. I was disappointed to find out the museum was closed and will be for another year as they build a new one and transport all of the displays. Our driver (not really a guide) did point out the prison of Socrates nearby after we walked down the hill. After leaving the Acropolis we spent the rest of the day seeing the other sites of Athens. We stopped at the temple of Zeus, the 1896 Olympic stadium, the new stadium complex, the Agura market museum and the Plaka market place. We lunched near the antique market part of the Plaka and then spent the afternoon wandering the shops in the touristy section of the Plaka. In general, Athens is a big city with a few interesting sites to see. Not our favorite place on the cruise. We ended up back on the ship at about 4 pm.
Naples: We took a ship excursion titled Taste of Sorrento and Pompeii in Naples. This was a very nice excursion with some interesting new things to see. We started with about an hour bus ride from the port to the hills above Sorrento. We stopped at the entrance to a farm. We were shuttled down the hill by small van to the actual farm complex. We entered a beautiful shaded Veranda, covered with flowers and grape vines, with olive tress all around. Tables were set for the tour group on the Veranda and we were served a morning snack of home made mozzarella, ricotta, salami and bruschetta, along with olives, olive oil and wine. While we ate we were given a demonstration by the owner of the farm on the making of cheese and the pressing of olives. When finished, we toured the farm to see the animals (huge pigs) and see the fruit and olive trees. After the tour we ended in their shop and winery where their homemade goods could be purchased. A specialty was lemon cello. After leaving the farm we travelled into the town of Sorrento. We were dropped off and given time to wander around ourselves. Lunch was on our own. We found a nice restaurant for pizza, and then my wife and daughter wandered the shops of Sorrento. My son and I found a good place for a glass of wine and to watch people. After leaving Sorrento we then went to Pompeii. This is an awesome experience and our guide was very good. We enjoyed the tour and seeing the sites. We spent about two hours seeing a small fraction of the site. It was extremely hot, but interesting. Pompeii is not to be missed if you have not been before. The tour made the obligatory stop at a cameo factory on the way back to the ship. In my opinion this was a waste, but we stopped for 30 minutes and still made it back to the ship by 5 pm.
Rome: We booked a private tour for Rome. On our last cruise we had done the ship excursion and the ones offered on Summit this time were not any different. On a Cruise Critic thread I found a recommendation for RomeCabs (www dot romecabs dot com). Their website was extremely easy to use and very informative. I contacted Stefano, the owner by email and I was able to easily book the tour. It was substantially more expensive than Athens, but becomes more economical the more people on the tour. We wanted to just have our family of four since the purpose of our trip was to be together prior to our youngest going off to college, so I booked a tour for 500 euro's for the day for the four of us. Stefano becomes much more economical if you have more people to share the tour, as 8 people would only be an extra 100 Euros (600 total). Entrance to the Vatican museum was extra, as was a private tour guide for the Vatican. We booked a VIP entrance at 1:15 PM to the Vatican to make sure we could get in without waiting, and arranged for a private guide through Stefano. He can help arrange both of these options if necessary, but you can also book directly through Presto tours on line (www dot prestotours dot com). Be careful to only book the VIP entrance if you are not using a tour guide or arranging it separately. Stefano was not sure who would meet us at the ship, but told us both Marco and Maurizio were available. When we disembarked in Civitavecchia, we were pleasantly surprised to find Stefano himself there to greet us. He loaded us into his new 8 passenger van and off we went. The van was very comfortable and Stefano speaks excellent English. We immediately felt at ease as we left the port and he began telling us about what we would be seeing for the day. As we sped towards Rome on the freeway Stefano described what we would be seeing on the tour and described the countryside as we passed. Unfortunately as we got closer to Rome there was a very bad accident on the freeway, bringing everything to a crawl. This affected the ships tours that day as well, as it took everyone an extra 30 to 60 minutes to make it to the city. Stefano got off the main highway and took us in some back roads to avoid the traffic, but the slowdown did cost us 30 minutes. The upside was we saw some parts of Rome not normally seen while on our detour. We spent the morning seeing a lot of the normal sites: the Pantheon, Trevi fountain, the Spanish steps and a few other churches and interesting buildings and monuments. We skipped the Coliseum and the Roman Forum on this visit since we has seen them on the last trip. We ended the morning near the Vatican and found a great place for a quick Panini lunch and a gelato. Along the way Stefano told us a lot about the history of Rome and sights were seeing. He had a special permit to be able to park very close to each site, so we did not waste a lot of time walking. On our last visit we had compromised and only seen St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican in order to allow time for the Coliseum and Forum. We regretted missing the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum. We wanted to see what we missed on this trip. After lunch we met Presto Tours at our designated meeting place near the entrance to the Vatican Museum at precisely 1:15. The Presto agent (an American kid in Rome for the summer) ushered us in past the waiting line and picked up our tickets at the window. Stefano had arranged for our private guide Antonalla to meet us at the entrance, and soon all five of us were in the museum. The Vatican Museum has a newly remodeled entrance to allow for easier entrance to the exhibits and to better handle the crowds. Antonalla did an excellent job of showing us the art on display and explaining the history of the museum. The vast displays of priceless art are simply amazing. Unfortunately, 2 hours is only enough time to see a fraction of the art, but we did see quite a bit before making our way to the Sistine Chapel. The Chapel is awe inspiring and beautiful, especially since the paintings have all been cleaned. It was crowded in the small chapel and the guards constantly yelled for the crowd to quiet down. Upon leaving the chapel we made a quick walk through the Basilica and then completed our tour. We were there almost three hours total and missed a great deal of the Vatican. One note, they were very lax in enforcing the dress code of long pants for men and shoulders and knees covered for women. I wore shorts that day that barely covered my knees and I saw a few women with bare shoulders. Our guide told us it all depends on the day and the guard. It was very hot, so that is probably why they were lax. Upon finishing at the Vatican we were close to the time where Stefano felt we need to leave the city to miss the traffic. He took us to a hilltop overlook with a great view of the Vatican on one side and the rest of imperial Rome on the other. A much shorter drive had us back to the ship a little after 5 pm. We had an excellent day with Stefano and I would highly recommend his service. As and added not, several of the other people from our roll call also used RomeCabs. Four couples split the private tour and I heard it went very well, and it was much more economical than ours!
Livorno (Tuscany, Florence and Pisa): We opted for a ship excursion for this port. Since we had done Florence and Pisa on the previous cruise, we decided to do something a little different. We took the Tuscan Countryside, Volterra and San Gimignano tour. This was a nine hour ride through the countryside with a visit to two medieval towns on hilltops. The highlight was a stop at a farm for an excellent lunch of local cheeses, meets, pasta, olives, wine and bread. This was an outstanding meal and we really enjoyed talking with the rest of the people on the tour while enjoying traditional Tuscan dishes. Both towns were beautiful, dating to the 12th century, with original stone walls, churches and buildings. In Volterra we visited an Alabaster workshop and had time for a mid-morning cappuccino in the town square. In San Gimignano (after lunch), my wife enjoyed the myriad of shops displaying local wares and my son and I enjoyed a glass of wine in a sidewalk cafe. We enjoyed this excursion very much, but it is more sight seeing and shopping. The Tuscan country side was spectacular.
Villefranche (Nice, Eze and Monaco): We woke in the morning to find the ship anchored in the bay with our cabin facing Villefranche. Absolutely beautiful. While we had signed up for an afternoon excursion for my wife and daughter for Nice and Eze, we scratched that plan and decided to visit them on our own. Three of us (my son had enough of shopping) departed the ship in the morning via the tenders and took a short walk from the pier to the bus stop. The cruise shopping specialist had given us detailed directions on how to use the bus system to get around. It is very easy and convenient. For one Euro we rode 15 minutes from Villefranche into the center of Nice and spent the morning walking around, seeing the shops, eating Croissants and drinking cappuccinos. I had enough around noon and went back to spend the afternoon on the ship. My wife and daughter took the bus to Eze and spent the afternoon in this beautiful medieval village on top of a hill overlooking the ocean. It is full of small shops and at the top there is a great place to view the coast, with a great view of the Summit at anchor in Villefranche. Another short bus ride back to Villefranche and they were on the tender back to the ship. None of us visited Monaco on this trip.
Barcelona: Since we flew home from Barcelona on Disembarkation day, we did not do an excursion in Barcelona. However it is a beautiful city and if you have never been before, make sure you spend at least one evening there to enjoy it.
Disembarkation and departure: This was the smoothest we have had on any ship. However, I am assuming our ease of disembarkation was partially due to having a Concierge Class Cabin, since we had special tags and were supposed to have priority handling of baggage. We had signed up for the ships transfer to the airport at $28 per person. In hindsight I think I could have hired one taxi for the four of us for less, but the ship transfer worked fine. One unannounced benefit of CC was a separate waiting lounge with coffee and pastries in the cinema on deck 3. It was not crowded and the Concierge came repeatedly to announce departure times based on the color and number of luggage tags. Our instructions were to be in our lounge at 7:45 am, but we took our time based on our past experience of hurrying up to wait quite a while to leave the ship. When we got to the lounge at 8:00 am we found that our number had already been called and we could leave the ship immediately. Off the ship, we waited about 5 minutes for our luggage to make it to the claim area and then boarded a bus for the airport. There was a little confusion among the staff on which bus we should take, but it was quickly sorted out. After a 20 minute ride to the airport, we were dropped at terminal A. Since we departed from terminal B, we had quite a walk with our luggage, but a small inconvenience. We did learn something about Star Alliance. While United allowed three bags per person on the way over due to my status with them, since we originated on Lufthansa on the way back, we were only allowed two bags per person checked luggage, even though we were upgraded. This caused a little scramble at the airport, but we shifted things around and made it home. We were routed Barcelona - Frankfurt - Dulles - Chicago, so this made for a long day, but we had no trouble and it was nice to be home with a full day before going back to work. This is a great ship with a great crew. We would sail again on the Summit and Celebrity in a heartbeat. We look forward to our next opportunity to do so. Read Less