30 Celebrity Summit Europe - Western Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

My wife and I cruised on Chandris Line out of San Juan in the late "80's and loved the experience even though it was very inexpensive and last minute. Food was the best surprise. All else was very good but not enough to get us ... Read More
My wife and I cruised on Chandris Line out of San Juan in the late "80's and loved the experience even though it was very inexpensive and last minute. Food was the best surprise. All else was very good but not enough to get us hooked on cruising. Our next cruise (3-day)was on an older Carnival ship out of FL to Nassau with our 14 year old daughter and her friend in 1996. Quality was lower and entertainment for the teens was terrible, thus turning us off cruising.Our March 2010 cruise was thoroughly researched before booking. We quickly focused on Celebrity with other premium lines such as Holland & Princess being considered. Concierge veranda cabin was great with more room and comfort than expected. Food in MDR was good but no wow factor. (My wife voted very good; I voted fair.) we ate twice in Normandie and it was well worth the extra of $30 pp.Spa was great and used daily. Excursions were good but we only took a few, favoring instead to do our own thing with other guests we met.We chose fixed dining and did not enjoy one of the couples and quickly switched (just in time) to open dining which worked out well.Aqua spa breakfast & lunches were good and much more healthy than regular choices but sadly had fewer accessible hours, especially if you went ashore.Passengers were much heavier than expected, which in retrospect, made sense, given the unheathly food choices that were most popular.Wine choices were very good and we chose the top end that allowed for a 15% discount over $75 and bought by-the-glass on occasion as well.Only regret was not choosing Normandie for 2 more meals. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
We are a 50-60sh couple who have sailed several times, this was the first time on Celebrity. And it won't be the last time! We can't understand most of the mixed reviews this ship gets. we spent 3 nights prior to cruise at the ... Read More
We are a 50-60sh couple who have sailed several times, this was the first time on Celebrity. And it won't be the last time! We can't understand most of the mixed reviews this ship gets. we spent 3 nights prior to cruise at the Hilton Molino Stuckey Hotel. It was very nice, but next time we will choose a place closer in to center of city. Embarkation was smooth & easy, used the luggage tags that came to us and luggage was delivered to our room almost immediately. We were on board by just after 12 noon, had lunch in the buffet, and came back to our luggage waiting. We found the food delicious in the main dining room in just about every case. we especially enjoyed the French Onion soup & Caprice Salads. The beef dishes were always tasty & tender. Chicken & seafood selections good too. Our waiter, Lisme, and his assistant were great...funny & helpful & always anticipated our needs. The Waterfall buffet was great for breakfasts, especially the omelette & waffle bar. Didn't have lunch on board often as we were in ports so much.Probably the only disappointment was in the Normandie specialty restaurant. Although the service was impeccable, the food wasn't any better than the MDR. We thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment nightly. there was a violinist we would have gladly paid to see in Vegas. The Broadway productions were good & the aerialists fantastic. No complaints at all. Our stateroom (just a lower deck ocean view) was very nice. Plenty big (larger than our previous cruises on Holland & Carnival) and well equipped. our room steward was wonderful...always went over & beyond what she needed to do, left more toiletries than we could use. I've read reviews about the rooms being in poor condition - ours was just great! We love the Therapy Pool, wish i could have brought those jets home! After a long days touring, the pool with a peach daiquiri hit the spot! We did all the ports with Cruise Critic friends...folks we'd met online & arranged tours with or just grouped together & did it on our own. much more fun to get lost in a group! This was great in every country. Made friends we are still in touch with. Disembarkation was even quicker than embarkation! Totally smooth & easy with our luggage just where they said it would be. All in all, this was truly a wonderful "trip of a lifetime". We hope to do lots more cruises with Celebrity. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
Summit 14-night Classical Mediterranean Barcelona to Venice, Oct 3 to Oct 17, 2009 Concierge Class 9th deck Background: This trip was the first cruise for my husband and I, and I did quite a bit of research on Cruise Critic and ... Read More
Summit 14-night Classical Mediterranean Barcelona to Venice, Oct 3 to Oct 17, 2009 Concierge Class 9th deck Background: This trip was the first cruise for my husband and I, and I did quite a bit of research on Cruise Critic and elsewhere prior to selecting this itinerary with Celebrity. We selected this particular itinerary for time of year, length, variety of ports, overnights in Rome and Istanbul, and pace that included 3 sea days. I had concerns based on threads on this board bemoaning the deterioration of the Celebrity brand in general and the condition of the Summit in particular. With a goal of reporting back to the Cruise Critic community that provided me with volumes of useful information for my planning, I tried to partake of many activities and be a careful observer of onboard life, both positive and negative. Overall: We rate our experience as excellent, but not outstanding. There are some areas that Celebrity could improve (details below), but nonetheless we are looking forward to possibly sailing with our 3 school age children on a shorter North American itinerary next year. Embarkation: Painless. We arrived at the port in Barcelona around 1 pm, and were offered cold water or fruit punch while we filled out a short health questionnaire. Within 10 minutes we were on board and offered a glass of champagne or a mimosa. Luggage: It was delivered while we were having lunch, so we don't know exactly when it arrived, but it was within 90 minutes of when we dropped it off at the port. Ship Condition: The Summit just turned 8. The inspiration of the French-built Summit is apparently the glamorous 1930's French oceanliner 'Normandie'; the Summit's interior design is Art Deco from that era. The original, beautiful large bronze statue of a woman from the Normandie is prominent in the 4th floor MDR. It is a quite nice ship, not "wow!", but refined, elegant, and generally in very good condition. Yes, there are areas where you'll see a little rust, numerous rails needing varnish, an uneven carpet seam here and there, etc. but these should be considered normal I think (though they may be a bit behind the curve on the railing varnish). There were workers painting or taking care of things all the time. In 5 years, people will probably be making the same comments about the Solstice and the Equinox. Stateroom: CC class. We found the stateroom to be well arranged with plenty of storage and hangers. Our suitcases fit under our queen-sized bed. The bedding and sofa were in excellent condition. The carpeting, while clean, had seen better days and was worn. The sheer drapery curtain was missing several runners that made it a struggle to open and close. Hardware on one of the closet doors was broken such that the door did not completely close. The shower was spacious enough and my tall husband appreciated the Grohe shower sprayer that had a height adjustment and good water pressure. There was always enough hot water and it was the correct temperature from nearly the moment the water began flowing. The towels had seen better days and could have used more fabric softener, but the plush bathrobes were nice. We asked for different pillows and were offered several choices. The most annoying element was that the exhaust fan in the bathroom did not work and despite requests, it was not repaired. Thus we endured more odor and foggy mirrors than should have been necessary. On a few days it seemed as though septic odor wafted back through the system into the bathroom. The old CRT TVs should be replaced with modern flatscreens. The balcony had two padded chairs and a table large enough for snacks or cozy dining. Flowers in the room and bathroom were fresh and changed as necessary throughout the cruise. There was a basket of fruit that was kept fresh, though we didn't eat much of it. The much-maligned canapEs of the CC boards arrived in the afternoon and were perfectly fine as far as canapEs go. They consisted of items such as salmon or blue cheese concoctions piped onto dry bread circles, garnished chunks of cheese, baby corn wrapped in turkey, caviar on cream cheese, bay shrimp on cucumber, melon and prosciutto ham, etc. Not scary. We were below the Waterfall Cafe and experienced little noise other than transient footsteps with two notable exceptions: once a heavy object landed with a loud thud, and the morning of departure there was a lot of staff activity that actually woke us up much earlier than we were planning. Service: Our stateroom attendant, Nicasio "Nick" was absolutely excellent and we both wished we could have taken him home with us. He kept our room spotless and although we didn't make many particular requests of him, he executed those that we did have flawlessly. As non-EU citizens, our passports had to be collected and held while we were in Greece and Turkey. A note arrived on our door with a drop-off place and time. Very quick to do as was the process to pick-up our passports. Overall, the service was helpful, friendly, and efficient. Food: This category deserves several paragraphs based on out experiences and the numbers of threads on the CC board relating to menus, preparation, etc. Main Dining Room - We ate most of our dinners in the MDR, late seating. We had a table for two on the 5th floor near the railing that provided excellent views of the room below, the staircase, and the Captain's table. We found that we regretted late seating, which started at 8:45. Due to the intensity of the ports and the length of the dining service (usually 90 minutes or more) we were a bit tired to fully appreciate it. We were also one of the last tables to be served in our service area. As far as the food itself, it was generally very good, with some notable hits and misses, and odd lapses. For example, on our first evening, I ordered the Fleet Executive Chef Jacques Van Staden's recommendation (his dish recommendations are noted on the menus) of Tangiers-style lamb shank as my entrEe. The lamb shank was large, meaty and tender on a bed of couscous. I had a vague sense of something lacking, however. That same evening, my husband had spaghetti that was no ordinary spaghetti. It had pancetta, chopped eggs, and other ingredients and it had him practically licking his plate. Another evening with both had beef fillets topped with oscar; my husband's serving had an appropriate amount, but mine had just a dab of crab and no sauce. The most predictable flaw was soups or entrees arriving lukewarm. Notably excellent items were an appetizer of avocado wedge topped with crab louie, French onion soup, Chicken Chiquita, duck medallions, mushrooms in puff pastry, and a cheese tart. Misses include an oversalted lobster bisque and a portabella mushroom terrine that was slimy but pretty looking. Only one evening did we not find something from the daily menu that didn't appeal to us and several evenings it was hard to make a decision. Anytime we had beef, it was tender. I had read reports of tough beef that was hard to cut, but in our experience that may be due to the dull steak knives that my husband described as a "mildly menacing butter knife". The menu was different each of the 14 nights. One night I had Beef Wellington that had an unwelcome addition of a piece of hard plastic in it. The plastic was shown to our waiter and the maitre d' who soon came over to apologize. Another time, our waiter strongly suggested that my husband order a second entrEe as a hedge against his first choice. Desserts were decent enough, but occasionally were too similar to the previous evening's choices, so we sometimes skipped them. Our waiter Renato was efficient, but we found his assistant, Carolina, to be more personable. The sommelier, Arie, actually seemed irked that we wouldn't buy the expensive wine he was pushing. My husband is knows wine and found a red and a white that was reasonably priced by the glass (to the sommelier's annoyance we think); we normally only ordered one glass each. Buying a wine package may have saved some money, but often our entrees were so different that we wouldn't have both wanted the same wine with dinner. The sommelier was also pushing wine tasting events and we were turned off by the "hard sell". Waterfall Cafe - Abundant choices for breakfast and lunch. For breakfast, many hot items, omelets, breakfast pizzas and quesedillas, waffles, several types of Egg Benedict (on crab cake, Italian, German, etc.), French Toast, blintzes, fruits, hot and cold cereals, British section. The breakfast didn't change throughout the cruise, but there was a wide variety. For lunch, hot buffet, pizzas, pasta and stirfry, salad bar, made to order sandwiches, cold prepared salads. One day there was an Octoberfest section. We had dinner here three times. Besides the pasta, salad bar, stirfry, and pizza, there was sushi and a small, usually themed (Mexican, Indian, Greek, etc.) buffet (3 or 4 main dishes, hot side items, 3 or 4 cold prepared salads) during peak dinner hours. The food was generally of good quality, but it could be hard to get a waiter's attention, trays and dishes were unbussed, etc. Waterfall Grill - Burgers, hot dogs, nachos--things like that. We had heard the burgers were good, but found them so-so the one time we tried them. One seaday there were chicken fajitas that looked good with all the accompaniments, except tortillas. The servers had no idea when, or if, tortillas would be forthcoming, so we passed. Aqua Spa Cafe - Unfortunately, I did not get to eat here. I saw it, the food looked good, others said the food was good, and on the one day I went I was too late and it was closed. Normandie - We didn't eat here, mainly because my husband was getting tried of long drawn-out dining experiences. Main Dining Room for "Express Breakfast" and Lunch on sea days - The express breakfast is a simple meal of juice, coffee, eggs, bacon, and toast or Danish. Fast and good enough for an early port day. My husband was hankering for a good burger lunch by the second sea day and found the cheeseburger and fries adequate. I had a turkey panini that I enjoyed it more than he did his burger. We also had breakfast once in the MDR. Cova Cafe - We had tapas here twice; the first time with the only truly "bad attitude" employee we encountered on the Summit. I saw the afternoon pastries and they looked delicious, but was never hungry enough in the afternoon to have any. Brunch - On the second sea day, there was an elaborate brunch in the MDR. Good thing we arrived at the 10 am opening; our dinner waiter spotted us and ushered to a table�a couple we took a private tour with told us that later on seating was impossible and they missed out. Mediterranean Festival - The night we were docked in Istanbul there was music, regional dancing, and a buffet of Turkish foods in the pool area. Evening Dessert Extravaganza - The last formal night. There were chocolate fountains, tarts, mousses, cakes, Eclairs, brulees, etc. with ice sculptures in the Bar at the Edge of the Earth. Alcohol: We live in a high cost-of-living area, so to us, the drink prices were similar to what we'd pay in a hotel or restaurant. They have drink specials everyday (such as 2 for 1 margaritas or a bucket of beer where you get one bottle free). When we came into Istanbul 2 flutes of champagne were $6. Not bad. Though we did talk to a Scottish couple who voiced that $5 for a beer was outrageous. So depends on your perspective, I guess. Coffee: The much maligned beverage has earned it's rap. IT IS THAT BAD. We never had a single cup that was good. I had read on CC that good coffee was available at the Cova Cafe; turns out they only have coffee drinks, you can't get a regular cup. When I asked at the Cova, where possibly, we could get a good cup, the employee enthusiastically told us of the instant Nescafe coffee in the Waterfall Cafe. I know Fleet Chef Van Staden described in the forums a while back the reasons for the coffee woes, (water pressure and such), but as a person who grinds her own and has tried many varieties of beans, I think that the issue is simply low quality, STALE, coffee. PERIOD. The supreme insult came when I went to the Bar of the Edge of the Earth to observe our late evening passage through the Dardanelles. I was charged $3.00 for a cup of this liquid waste, served in a white wine glass of all things! Fellow Passengers: Average about late 50s, but numerous honeymoon couples as well. I saw few people that used a walker or cane. Kids: Very few. Maybe 20, including the Captain's own toddler son. Shows: Attended the Celebrity Theatre encore performance on last formal night. Musical variety. Vocals stronger than choreography. Decent sets, considering that this is on a ship. One element with two aerialists received the most applause. Other venues we listened to included entertainment at the pools, the Rendevous Lounge, the aft 10 deck, quartet with an excellent electric guitarist who soloed, and piano/vocals at Michael's Bar. Pools: I never hung around the main pools. I was looking for quiet to read and relax and on seadays and the main outdoor pools were a noisy, party-type area with the band. I used the Thallossotherapy pool and spas which I enjoyed plus the sauna which afforded a picture window view of the ocean. There were plenty of towels, and my only complaints are that the pool and spas weren't running one time when I was looking forward to using them and the pool butler came through too seldom in the T-pool area. Ship's Excursions vs. Independent Travelers: This is an area where Celebrity could improve. We know that ships want you to take their tours, but that's not for everybody. Not for us, anyway. But if you weren't on one of the X tours, you were second class. We couldn't disembark before the tour groups. The most blatant example was at the port of Naples. We go to the 1st deck ganyway per announcement only to be told that since we're not on a tour we need to go to the 3rd deck. Then there weren't any signs about which way to exit and terminal employees waved us in the direction of the excursion buses. We were meeting a small group for a private tour and apparently the signs to direct us "independents" out of the port were removed at some point. One couple in our group almost didn't make our party because of this. During the "shopping lady's" (Fiona McKenzie) presentations, she would omit certain info that would be helpful (for example, that there's a cheap and easy tram into the Old City Istanbul) in favor of stressing how passengers "needed" to buy their X shuttle tickets for Istanbul. The map distributed for Athens had a major error on it. There are other examples. The best defense is to do your homework ahead of time. Activities: We attended a chef cooking challenge in the Celebrity Theatre (moderately entertaining), two art auctions, a galley tour that was diminished only because the chef's English was almost incomprehensible to us and others. People kept asking each other "What?" "Do you understand what he's saying?" "What's he talking about?". Bridge tour (informative). Movie. Catholic mass. It seemed that the activities we were most interested in were scheduled at the same time on sea days. Crowds: I heard that the ship was almost sold-out, but it hardly ever felt crowded. I often asked myself "Where is everybody?". The exception was lunch when arrived Istanbul. It was crowded at the Waterfall Cafe and it took a little strategy to find a table. Also about a 15-minute wait to be tendered in Croatia. Internet: Only bother with it if you need to. Expensive and slow. Two of my sessions were complete busts that I really don't think I should have paid for. Smoking: I've read that Celebrity's new policy is non-smoking. Maybe I misunderstood what that means, but smoking was allowed on Decks 10, 11, and 12 (outdoor bars, pool, and lounging chair areas). Tendering: We were tendered at Villefranche, Mykonos, and Split. We only waited once, about 15 minutes to be tendered in Split when everyone seemed to be leaving at once. Disembarkment: Celebrity asked guests to complete questionnaires so that people with early flights could receive priority, or could purchase the ship's transport to St. Mark's Square. We had already figured out we were going to take the Alilaguna water bus to St. Mark's Square, so we had no special disembarkment needs. We gathered at the appointed place and were able to leave at our leisure within a 20-minute or so window. Our luggage, having been sorted by color and number codes, was waiting in the port terminal. We felt that the disembarkment process was a bit impersonal and that the staff was concentrating more on the new guests that would be arriving that day. Our last evening we didn't even get our canapEs, turndown service, or our last port info sheet delivered to our room. I started a thread on the Celebrity board in case anyone has specific questions that I didn't cover here. Happy cruising! Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Started with two nights in Barcelona (Hotel Continental), ended with three nights in Venice(Hotel Ponte Mocenigo). Pre-booked private tours in Villefranche and Naples, Transportation only in Florence and Pisa, DIY in Athens, Istanbul, ... Read More
Started with two nights in Barcelona (Hotel Continental), ended with three nights in Venice(Hotel Ponte Mocenigo). Pre-booked private tours in Villefranche and Naples, Transportation only in Florence and Pisa, DIY in Athens, Istanbul, Split and Venice(with pre-booked excursions in each port) We took a Celebrity tour from Mykonos to Delos. Everything went beautifully except the Celebrity Delos tour, which was a dis-organized exercise in frustration. Because of our arrival time in Mykonos, we had no choice, other than Celebrity, in getting to Delos. This being our sixth cruise, I knew better than putting ourselves at the mercy of ship excursion people. This tour re-confirmed that belief. The overall appearance of the ship was excellent, a few rust spots and worn upholstery, but nothing to distract from the overall excellence. Our sweet sixteen cabin was perfect, and our room steward Nyak, was the best we have had in six cruises. The main dining room food and service was outstanding. One meal in Normandy, which was everything it was hyped to be. Variety, service, and convenience in the buffet was very good. We only went to shows on two evenings, both were excellent. The only negative on board experience was with "guest relations" ...wrong information, tone and attitude very offensive...needs adjusting. This was a fantastic cruise, the itinerary, the ship, most of the ship personnel, we met some very good people who we hope to cruise and tour with again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
For those of you who enjoy large modern ships with old world charm, the Celebrity Summit may be the cruise ship for you. We first set eyes on it in Barcelona docked along side the MSC Splendida and while not as large as its Italian rival, ... Read More
For those of you who enjoy large modern ships with old world charm, the Celebrity Summit may be the cruise ship for you. We first set eyes on it in Barcelona docked along side the MSC Splendida and while not as large as its Italian rival, it by no means lacks presence with its distinctive blue and white colouring and its trademark X. On boarding the ship we were greeted with champagne and bucks fizz and afterwards we were taken to the cafeteria for lunch. Our luggage had been taken off us at the airport and it wasn't long before it was delivered to our bedroom. We set sail at 5pm leaving sunny Barcelona behind us. The Med was calm and at times you would hardly know you were sailing, this was partly due to the good conditions and partly due to the Summit's quiet gas turbine engines. Dinner was always a grand affair and with specially assigned waiters it wasn't long before we built up friendly relations with them. There was always a good choice of food with a set menu and a menu that changed from day to day. On two occasions there was brunch in the main restaurant, this incorporated the best of breakfast and dinner all rolled into one with little additional touches such as chocolate fountains and carved fruit. Staff were always friendly and the ship was spotlessly clean. There was always amble supplies of beach towels for lounging on, on deck and waiter service was never far away. At night there was always classical music to be heard and the shows in the main theatre were excellent. For my wife there was also the excitement of onboard shopping and for me there was a chance to relax in Michaels bar, a bar you might expect to see on the Titanic with all its old world charm. Everyone has a place they frequent on a cruise ship and for us it was either the Cinema, the indoor pool/solarium or the cafeteria at 12am for pizza. Often times I found the solarium pool empty around 8pm and so I would float in the salty water looking up through the glass roof at the stars as we sailed silently on to our next destination. Some other memorable moments included eating lunch aboard the ship while berthed off the coast of Cannes, the views were only spectacular. Another picture perfect postcard was when we were up on the cliffs of Santorini looking down at our majestic Cruise ship anchored below. For those of you who haven't seen a lot of Europe, there is no better way to get around and see the world; from Cannes to Florence and Pisa, then on to Capri & Sorrento, Rome, Santorini, Dubrovnik and Venice and all in 12 days. Celebrity Cruises suit those who like understated elegance, a middle class atmosphere, good service and excellent itineraries. It is not for those who like big, bold and brash, nor is for those who are activity mad or who have children; for you RCL may be more appropriate. All in all Celebrity Cruises lives up to its name and I will definitely be travelling on their Solstice class ships in the not too distant future. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Celebrity Summit Sept 18/09 Embarkation/ Disembarkation This process was amazingly smooth. The airlines could learn a great deal about efficiently and quickly dealing with this process. We were on the ship eating lunch at the wonderful ... Read More
Celebrity Summit Sept 18/09 Embarkation/ Disembarkation This process was amazingly smooth. The airlines could learn a great deal about efficiently and quickly dealing with this process. We were on the ship eating lunch at the wonderful buffet in the Waterfall cafe about 20 minutes after arriving in the port. Luggage was delivered promptly and accurately. Cabin/Ship Our cabin was kept in a spotless condition throughout our journey. Our cabin steward cleaned about 3 times every day. Towels were replaced regularly, ice was placed in the ice bucket and the water jug was always full. We think he might have had radar because he seemed to clean and make up the cabin within moments of our departure. Our steward Des, noticed that we had purchased a bottle of white wine prior to embarkation and he put it on ice without even being requested to do so. Beds were turned down at night with a chocolate on the pillow. We wanted to change our disembarkation time and we had the new luggage labels delivered to us by Des about 15 minutes after the request was made. The ship was also kept meticulously clean and shining at all times, including the public toilets. Food This was truly a highlight of the voyage! Every meal in the dining room was a great new experience. Attention was paid not only to taste, but the presentation was beautiful as well. I found that the beef dishes were so tender, you often did not require a knife. They have many chocolate delights for desert and once our waiter , Rodel, discovered that we had a weakness in this area, many different chocolate treats were produced which were not on the menu. Any time I wanted to change a detail about the meal, it was always met with "certainly" as a response. We also purchased the wine package and came to love our sommelier, Gabriel. We felt it was good value for the quality of wines presented. We also attended one of their wine tasting events on a sea day. This was a great deal of fun as we got to taste about 10 different wines, make notes and get lots of really interesting information on the wines.( We also got a few extra glasses at the end of our favorites which were left over.) We then asked our sommelier if we could include some of these wines in our package at night. Although it wasn't always possible ( I don't know why the $150. bottle presented a problem), he did accommodate us quite a bit. We ate breakfast and lunch in the Waterfall cafe most days and the salads were fabulous every day! They also had a whole range of hot foods etc. which changed daily. The ice cream bar was a terrific addition, when we felt in need of just a little pick-me-up around 3:00 pm!!! There is also an Aqua Spa cafe near the Thassolotherapy pool with lovely healthy food. Yes, I did try it and it was good too! Entertainment We did not attend all the events held in the main theatre due to the fact that we took a Mediterranean cruise and were often tired at night. However, the large production shows (with singing and dancing) were very well done. Many of the smaller lounges had singers, piano players, string quartets entertaining where you could just sit and relax in the evening. There was always dancing in the lounges after the main shows - which seemed to be very popular. The card room also seemed to have several people playing every evening. One thing we particularly enjoyed was a seminar given on the sea days by Maria, in the photo shop, regarding digital photography. These sessions were free and held in Michael's lounge . She provided many tips on using our camera more effectively and how to take better travel shots. She also invited us to bring our cameras to the photo shop in the evening and she would help us with our particular cameras in person . She even gave me some tips on improving the photos I had already taken. I must admit, I enjoyed playing with my camera more while I was on shore excursions! Facilities I loved the thassolotherapy pool! It is located in a large solarium near the spa area. The lounges have really comfy pads and there is very light spa music playing in the background. It was a lovely place to go for a quiet read, whirlpool or a small snooze! When I saw the giant waterfall taps running into the whirlpool, I wondered what they were for - other than a pleasant waterfall sound. However, I put my shoulder under one and found the massaging quality of this feature. The "loungers" in the whirlpool were also a pleasant surprise from the typical whirlpool setup. Best of all, I never found this area overly busy. The 2 story library was also a nice addition and included some very up-to-date paperback novels. If I had known this, I would have reduced my suitcase weight a touch by bringing one less book. You can also get daily newspaper updates there - if you care. I found the internet quite expensive- 65cents /minute- on board, so we just looked for an internet cafe onshore and saved quite a bit of money that way. By the way, if you have postcards they will provide stamps and mail them for you from the purser's desk - at a reasonable cost. There is an ATM onboard and of course, everything goes on your account in USD. The tipping goes on your account daily and you can access your bill on your TV in your room. In fact, the service was so good, that we got envelopes to give extra tips at the end of the voyage( we have never done this before).This was in no way expected nor encouraged. We just wanted to do it. They also have port lectures recorded on the TV which gives you a bit of a preview of the ports to come. Shore Excursions We used Rome In Limo for Naples and Rome. We loved them. They were right on time in both ports and we maximized our time in those place. Although tired at the end of the days, we had seen and done all that we had wanted in comfort and with ease. When I saw the other passengers get back on the ship from their shore excursions and listened to their tales, I realized we had made the right choice with private excursions. Since there were 4 of us, it worked out cheaper than the ship excursions and we could do what we wanted, when we wanted in the comfort of a Mercedes van!When we had had enough, we just said " OK, that's enough- take us back."WE also got to say how long we wanted for each stop and when we were ready, we moved on. We also got to choose where and when we had lunch.The drivers, Gianni in Naples, were friendly and suggested local spots to eat which didn't take up too much of our days and yet gave us quiet spots to take a break. We used Port Promotions in Turkey and they were also terrific. Both guarantee to not miss the boat if you listen to the drivers and come back to the ship when they recommend. Both outfits also allowed us to miss some of the crowds as they both know the secrets to avoiding the worst of the crowds. You can do Nice by train or bus, Dubrovnik by taking a taxi to the old city walls and Venice by using the water vaporetto down the Grand Canal. Overall I would go Celebrity again in a heartbeat! Take private shore excursions when you can- especially for Naples and Rome. I would also do Florence that way if I could do it again!Save money in the other ports so that you can do it this way! Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Just back from a fabulous cruise around the Med on the lovely Celebrity Summit. We had a lovely journey, was met at Venice and taken straight to the ship with no waiting for other flights therefore we were onboard by midday which I was ... Read More
Just back from a fabulous cruise around the Med on the lovely Celebrity Summit. We had a lovely journey, was met at Venice and taken straight to the ship with no waiting for other flights therefore we were onboard by midday which I was impressed with. We had a look around and was pleasantly surprised to find our cabin ready before 13.00. It was our first time in a balcony cabin and I have to sat its worth every penny. We had breakfast on it most mornings and watched many sail aways with a glass of wine. Venice is particularly stunning as you sail right past St Marks square. Get a good seat Starboard side, we were lucky enough to have a cabin that side! The first day in Venice we had a walk around and found a supermarket (co-op pronounced coop) to get some wine. You are allowed two bottles per stateroom on embarkation day only, although they do not mark it down so you could always go back and get more!! After reading about the high prices onboard I pre-ordered some wine via the gift section to be delivered to the cabin, this works out much cheaper as the onboard price for the same bottles were much higher. However most days they have offers on in the waterfall cafe where you can buy wine for your cabin or lunchtime but not for the MDR. On the second day in Venice we did a ship excursion which included some of Venice and a gondola ride- this was great and highly recommended. Croatia was probably the biggest surprise, it was lovely. We went into the old town via the ship shuttle (Expensive at 12 USD each) and walked the city wall for breath taking views. There is an option for audio tour as well. Athens was very very busy!!! Do not get cabs as the traffic does not move. We did a trip to the acropolis and did not stop into town because of the trip back in the traffic jams. In Turkey we went to Ephesus which is amazing and the highlight of our cruise we have been to Turkey three times and finally got to see Ephesus. The next day we got a cab to a local beach, there is one within walking distance but being so near the port I wanted to go to another one. Its called Ladies Beach and about 5 euros each way, but you have to haggle as they will try to double prices for cruise ships!!! The sunbeds are also 5 euros with a table and cushion etc. In Naples we took the hovercraft over to Capri hoping to see the blue grotto but it was closed due to the sea condition. So we did a tour of the island which was nice but a bit samey (seen one cave you've seen them all). It cost 32 Euros per person for a round trip and we really wished we had gone to Pompeii instead. In Civitavecchia we took the train to Rome, you can get a travel card for 9 Euros which covers train metro and buses for 24 hours. I found Rome very busy but we managed to see all the main sites and the next day like many others did we stayed onboard and relaxed in the sunshine! Florence- we went to Pisa on an organized trip which was very good. Nice (Villefranche) was beautiful, the ship was tendered (hope that's the right expression) we just walked around the lovely area full of nice restaurants and winding streets. There is also a really nice little beach area here if we had known we would have taken some towels and settled there for a few hours but we were to lazy to go back to the ship and back across again. The entertainment on the ship was OK but the best singer was put in the aft bar away from the main areas (she actually left due to this). Being in our 30s we found the entertainment was mostly aimed at an older age group and we prefer RCI having said that we had a great time and have still booked another celebrity cruise on the new Eclipse. The ship does show some signs of wear and tear but there is constant improvement work going on. The pools were not that clean and the service around the pool not great but service elsewhere was excellent. I think we had the best waiter and bar service waiter on the ship, Vasilica and Bobby!!! Unfortunately our flight back was changed so having left the ship at 08.40 we had to wait till 18.30 for our hour and half flight home!!! Overall I would highly recommend this cruise I was not ready to come home!!! Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Since we spent 3 weeks traveling around Europe on our own and then 2 weeks on the Celebrity Summit, perhaps our ideas will be helpful to someone who is trying to decide what kind of a vacation suits them best. First, to summarize: We ... Read More
Since we spent 3 weeks traveling around Europe on our own and then 2 weeks on the Celebrity Summit, perhaps our ideas will be helpful to someone who is trying to decide what kind of a vacation suits them best. First, to summarize: We flew into Prague, then traveled to Berlin, Munich, Melk Vienna and Hallstadt in Austria, Muerren and Zermatt in Switzerland, and Lake Como the Cinque Terre and Venice in Italy. Part of our travels were by train and the rest in a rented car. Train travel in Europe is easy and cheap and we had no problem with driving. Thanks to Rick Steve's travel books we stayed in lovely pensions run by wonderful people, and ate at inexpensive, smaller restaurants that had wonderful native food. We also knew exactly where we were going and how to get there, but it does require a considerable amount of pre-planning (part of the fun for me). Cruising is like staying in an American hotel, going ashore for a few hours, then returning to your hotel for dinner and a show - little opportunity to really get to know the country, its cuisine or its people. However, very convenient and requires very little planning. The food was much better than I had expected. You don't really need the specialty restaurant to find good food. We ate at the Normandie twice, but the food really isn't that much better and we enjoyed the people at our table so much that I'd only do one night if we did it again. My big beef is that there is so little time to see the country at each port of call. On the other hand, we had wonderful dining companions that were well matched to us. Again, the big thing is EASY. The only planning necessary was for our shore excursions and everything else is done for you. Now more details on each, Europe: We planned our trip many months in advance following the advice in Rick Steve's guide books. These books give you many choices of inexpensive but clean and friendly pensions and wonderful restaurants in various price ranges to choose from. They also have guided tours of sites where you might otherwise rent headsets or follow a group tour, thus saving time and money. I love traveling this way. We have the opportunity to get to know wonderful people in each country. I have been learning German by Rosetta Stone (in addition to my High School Deutsch) and loved having the chance to speak German with some wonderful and patient people. My Italian, Czech, and Greek are nonexistant but I found people everywhere happy to be helpful. Also, many speak at least a little English. This is "total immersion" and I really like feeling part of each country. Also, we have gone to many cities that you obviously are not going to get to on any kind of a cruise ship and even to small towns that you can't even get to on a bus. I never feel part of a herd. Cruising: Thanks to Cruise Critic I was able to line up Taxi drivers in Athens, Naples, Civiteveccia, and Livorno before our trip. I absolutely feel this is the way to go. In most cases the cabs are as cheap as the ships shore excursions (for 2) and would be much less expensive if there were another couple to share the fare with. I liked this way to sight-see much more than the follow the umbrella (or the X on a pole)way. In Dubrovnik, we choose to go it on our own and were perfectly happy with that. We bought a book but really didn't need it as it is quite small. Walk all of part of the wall, eat at the harbor, go down the main street, go to the beach. That's about it, although we did take a glass bottom boat cruise. Athens: We learned about "George, the best cab driver in Athens" on Cruise Critic and contacted him. Unfortunately he was tied up, but we had John (George's partner)- the second best cab driver in Athens. We enjoyed the tour very much with one exception. John took us to a jewelery store owned by a friend and we got a high pressure sales pitch there. I'd have preferred to shop at the Plaka on my own. Otherwise, he was great and the day was wonderful. Santorini: Here we did a ship excursion. Which was a fine way to get your bearings on the Island. On the other hand, it is a small Island. This is one of those places that I would love to visit again - this time for several days. I'd rent a scooter, stay at one of those white hotels on the cliffs and eat lots of Greek food. I was really sorry that we had to be back to our ship so early that we couldn't go to a taverna for some real real Greek singing and dancing - that real Greek experience you dream about. Naples: Here we had Mariano as our Taxi driver. He was fabulous! Not only did he spend a wonderful day with us, he arranged for our Taxi drivers in Civiteveccia and Livorno also. He is Mariano Fiorentino. His business is Pleasant Travel and his email is info@pleasantravel.com. And again NOT ENOUGH TIME. Mariano picked us up early, we drove to the Amalfi coast, then in the afternoon to Pompeii, both of which were FABULOUS! This is the only place that I think Rick Steves got it wrong. He likes the Cinque Terre better - as pretty and less crowded. I thought the Amalfi Coast was prettier - more lush, and at least when we were there, the Cinque Terre was very crowded. Loved Positano. It really needs several days there. And Pompeii was amazing. I had no idea how perfectly preserved it is. However, most of the artifacts are in the National Museum in Naples and we didn't have enough time to get there too. Darn! Civiteveccia: Having been to Rome before we asked our driver, Fabio (www.romelimousineservice.com), to take us to the countryside. We had a wonderful day, ending up in a small town, Viterbo, where they were having the Festival of Santa Rosa. That was tons of fun - there were parades all day that we were able to see, however the big deal was at night and the next day when the Pope was expected to be there. That, of course, we had to miss! Dang! Livorno: One of my favorite places EVER! Our cab driver here was Giovanni Sirabella (Sunflower Tours - www.sunflower-tours.com) This is another of those places that just has to have MORE TIME! It would be wonderful to rent a villa and spend a week visiting those tiny medieval hilltop towns and eating Tuscan food. I loved it! We ate at a wonderful little restaurant called Il Vescovino at Panzano in Chianti. The chef/owner was happy to do a Caprese Salad for me (not on the menu) and recommended his Lasagna (to die for)! It would be worth a trip, and a week in Tuscany, just eating there every meal. AT any of these towns these Taxi drivers would be happy to recommend a hotel or villa to stay in. Cannes: I didn't make a reservation for a shore excursion here because I thought we might be too tired after 3 straight days, but I was wrong and it was probably a mistake. We did go into town with our table mates and it is a lovely town, but we certainly don't feel like we have really been to the famous "French Riviera". Again MORE TIME!!!! Hope this has been helpful, and if you are planning a trip to these places.....TAKE US!!!!!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
This third cruise we had done, proved to be the most superb holiday experiences of our lives!! We visited Barcelona, Villefranche, Livorno, Naples, Santorini, Piraeus, Dubrovnik and finally Venice. Having only used Ocean Village ... Read More
This third cruise we had done, proved to be the most superb holiday experiences of our lives!! We visited Barcelona, Villefranche, Livorno, Naples, Santorini, Piraeus, Dubrovnik and finally Venice. Having only used Ocean Village ( 1 and 2), when we booked, we wanted a different experience to the "freestyle" and we sure hit the jackpot. From boarding at Barca, which was so easy and efficient ( we were one of the first ones aboard and couldn't get to our cabin till 1:30 ish, giving us time to wander around and marvel at the ship)...to the final disembarking at Venice, we enjoyed every minute of this trip. The staff on the ship were the most courteous, hard working, attentive and friendly group of people you are likely to meet and our cabin stewards were just great! The Summit is a well maintained ship, spotlessly clean and extremely efficiently run. The entertainment was professional presented and although sometimes a bit loud around the poolside, very suitable for the passengers onboard ( the Russian string quartet were quite brilliant) The thing you will find about Celebrity is the little things that are so special and make the experience....cabins been cleaned and looked after three times a day, the bar staff on decks ( the jamaican contingent were terrific...." You're on a cruise...I have the booze")Canope's daily ( even though we were not Concierge) a couple of bottles of champagne from the HouseKeeper, frozen fruit kebabs served by the Officers by the pool, Gary the entertainment director, the dancing teacher ( lovely South African girl)...I could go on. Our cabin/stateroom was extremely comfortable and roomy. The balcony a reasonable size. We would advise that people do look at excursions booked by CruiseCritic.com people...its well worth doing. If you want a car in Civitavecchia, book one!!!!! We missed out as they had all gone. The Celeb excursions are quite expensive although the one to Cinque Terra is one not to miss. Be brave...do your own thing. The dining in the main restaurant was great with a varied menu every day, especially sumptuous on formal nights and plenty of it. Our night at the Normandie restaurant was a very special occasion and the service quite exceptional. The menu was extremely well presented and the food excellent. Breakfasts and lunches in the Waterfall cafe perfectly presented and tasty. As in all reviews, there are the occasional gripes.....some of the Spanish children on board had no manners at all and treated the staff around the pool like slaves....this was totally unacceptable and the parents did nothing about it and the only other gripe was smoking on the balcony next to us which was a bit of a pain in the mornings when you opened the balcony door for the first time and you received a whaft of smoke! All in all I would recommend Celebrity Summit although if you are after a young and vibrant ship, this may not be for you. For us, definitely a 10 out of 10 Dave and Karen Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Since this is our first cruise I can't say whether Celebrity Summit is the best ship/cruise line or not. However, I can state that my husband, five year old son and I had a great time and enjoyed the sunshine immensely! First, some ... Read More
Since this is our first cruise I can't say whether Celebrity Summit is the best ship/cruise line or not. However, I can state that my husband, five year old son and I had a great time and enjoyed the sunshine immensely! First, some positives. We chose a lower deck stateroom as I read you can't detect as much motion as higher up, and we chose not to have a balcony because I am the paranoid parent of one very creative, active five year old and I wanted to relax and sleep with both eyes closed. We had a very normal ocean view stateroom - no champagne breakfasts or roses or that type thing. The room was great. You walk in the door and the bathroom was to the right, closets to the left. Straight ahead was equivalent to a queen size bed and there was a couch that folded out into a single bed, desk with chair and small coffee table. Best of all, there was a decent sized non-opening window that my son loved to sit and look out and pretend to see pirates and sharks and squid. Our stateroom attendant, Marcos, was great. We would walk out the room and I swear in five minutes he was in the room cleaning up. And although we didn't have one of the more luxurious rooms, Marcos would greet us and open the door for us if he were in the hallway when we reappeared. We even got chocolates on our pillows when the beds were folded down for the evening, which my son absolutely loved. The drapes, linens and carpets on the ship are similar to what you would find at a medium quality hotel - floral type stuff. As for the food - there were lots of places to eat so you never had to do the smart casual/formal thing if you didn't want to. With a five year old and restricted luggage weight we opted out of the formal nights and ate at the buffets instead. We did dine in the Cosmopolitan (smart casual nights) twice, and although it was nice enough, it just wasn't worth the hassle with a child. We did, however, get the menu from the Cosmopolitan and order dinner from there through room service during the last formal night. Another great thing on this ship is the Fun Factory, which is the kids club. All our son wanted to do was go to the Fun Factory - forget thousand year old churches or that type stuff! There are categories based on ages, but I think they mostly mixed the kids up depending on how many there were. Usually there were three or four staff members in the Fun Factory, if not more. Activities varied and each day there was a sort of theme. The kids made crafts, played games on the Sports Deck, had a Rocket shaped slide and some sort of Space Ship to pay in, plus there were movies, competitions, stories, etc. When in port you have the option to leave your child on board in the Fun Factory and just pay $6 per hour for the lunch and dinner periods (12-2 and 5-7). Every child was signed in and out by the parent, and they had to wash hands before they could go into the play area. We were very comfortable with the staff at the Fun Factory and felt this was a very nice service. The hand washing thing was a big deal on the ship, which we really appreciated considering all the viruses out there. When you go to the dining rooms an attendant stood there to put some antibacterial cleanser on your hands, and there were dispensers everywhere. We also took advantage of the one price Soda plan. For about $138 my husband and I could drink as much soda as we could stand the whole trip. If you aren't a big soda fan skip this as there are tea, coffee, juice, and water available for free. Okay, now for some of the drawbacks and some suggestions. There is a real lack of information on the basics. For instance, one of our trips got canceled, and the cost was refunded. However, no one bothered to explain that a child's refund has to be completed by hand so would not show up as a credit until halfway through the trip. It took a trip to Guest Relations to find that out, which I found annoying as it could have been avoided by including one more line in the letter they shoved under our door. Also, you won't get told this until very late in the cruise, but you can opt out of the automatic tipping and just do your own tips in envelopes at the end of the cruise. You just have to sign a paper at the Guest Relations desk to do this. Trips are really expensive and usually if you do a little research you can go off and do the trips on your own for less money. We did Santorini, Venice, Barcelona and Villefranche on our own. There is a HUGE push to sell things to you on the ship. You get handed brochures for art auctions, jewelry sales, etc. etc. There are stores in the Emporium but the prices are expensive on some of the items so when you are in port check out the stores there to see if you can get a better deal! Also, there are lots of drawings to pull you into the Emporium and get you in the buying mood - they were fun, and you don't have to buy anything to enter - just be there at a certain time for the drawing. Also, if you have kids, there is no dedicated channel on the TV for kid friendly shows so you might want to bring a small DVD player or laptop and some DVDs for the kids when they are in the room. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Introduction Having read a huge number of reviews about the Summit before leaving we thought it only right and proper to submit one of our own We are a couple in our mid-40's and were travelling with our daughter. After we had ... Read More
Introduction Having read a huge number of reviews about the Summit before leaving we thought it only right and proper to submit one of our own We are a couple in our mid-40's and were travelling with our daughter. After we had been married for 15 years we decided to start saving for the 'holiday of a lifetime' to co-incide with our silver wedding and her 18th birthday. Our original plan was to fly to New York on Concorde and then spend 3 weeks in New York, New England and Hawaii but of course that was all before Concorde was no longer! A few years ago we started cruising and decided to book a cruise for our big holiday. We have cruised previously with Disney, P&O and Princess but fell in love with the Penthouse Suites on Summit which is why we chose to cruise with Celebrity. We booked the trip 16 months in advance in order to get the date and suite we preferred, so had a lot of time to look forward to it. Flights, Transfers and Boarding We booked our flights/transfers through Celebrity, which I have to say we have since regretted. Having previously flown from our local airport to Venice in just two and a half hours, we were shocked to find that we had been put on connecting flights. Up until 3 weeks before departure we were due to fly to Frankfurt and then on to Venice with Lufthansa but the flights were changed and we were told we now had to connect at CDG Paris flying with Air France. This entailed getting up at 2am, leaving the house by 3.30am and then driving to an airport an hour away. On the first flight the stewardess spilt my daughters drink all over her. I know accidents happen but there was no offer made to get the dress (which was brand new) cleaned. We then spent three and a half hours waiting for the next flight. We finally got to the cruise terminal at 4pm (local time) - 13 hours after getting out of bed and were extremely tired by this time. We found that our first 'perk' was that we were offered a complementary meal in the Normandie restaurant on the first evening which was a lovely surprise (this was all sorted in the cruise terminal before boarding). We made the long walk to the ship and through security, were offered a drink as we boarded and were then escorted to our stateroom almost immediately. The Penthouse Despite being so tired we were still very excited at seeing the Penthouse. We had booked 6147 as we had done our homework and knew that we would be on the best side of the ship for the sail away from Venice. It was situated at the aft of the 6th floor deck, at the end of a row of Royal Suites. On entering through the door there is a big hallway with a beautiful mosaic floor. To the right was a lounge/dining room - dining table for 8 people, PC, large flat-screen TV, sofa bed and armchairs, as well as a grand piano. There were windows all around and French doors leading to the balcony. To the left from the hallway was another hallway with a doorway leading to the Butler's pantry. Here there was an American style fridge/freezer with ice maker, wine chiller, microwave, sink and numerous cupboards containing every type of glass you could wish for. Next to this was the 2nd bathroom with toilet, sink and shower. The next door led to the bedroom (again with French doors leading to the balcony). Off this was a dressing room with lots of drawers and wardrobe space and another door leading to the main bathroom. There was a separate toilet/bidet, double sinks, shower and a huge Jacuzzi bath which was set into a curved window which overlooks the balcony. There were electric blinds which either completely blocked the window or the choice of lighter blinds which meant that when you were in the Jacuzzi you could see out but no-one could see in. All of the blinds/curtains in the PH were electrically operated. The balcony was to die for! The largest we have ever seen with table and chairs for 6 people, 4 sun loungers, 2 comfy chairs with footstools, exercise bike and outside Jacuzzi. As well as being across half the back of the ship the balcony also wrapped around the side so the views were amazing. The downside of having the Penthouse was that we didn't want to leave it! We were looked after by a most amazing Butler (Alex from the Ukraine). Nothing was too much trouble and whatever we asked for was produced in an instant (we wondered whether he was actually a butler or a magician!). We also had a room steward and assistant looking after us and they were some of the nicest staff we have met during our time cruising. They always went that little bit further to look after you superbly - for example if we were walking down the corridor towards our room, our room steward would stop whatever he was doing and go to open the door for us. No matter how much we tried, however, they would not fit into our suitcases, so we could not bring them home! Afternoon canapEs were bought by the butler along with tea/coffee every afternoon around 3pm. After Alex found out we were vegetarian we were bought cakes/pastries instead of the meat/fish selections and there was always plates of cheese and fresh fruit left in the fridge for us each day. We usually have a stateroom at the aft of the ship and found that on Summit there was much less vibration felt when docking. We have always been woken up when docking but didn't feel a thing on this ship. Roll Call It was great to meet everyone at the get-together. This was at 10am in Michael's Club on the sea day. Unfortunately the room was booked from 11am for another event so we didn't get time to get round and meet everyone. It was a shame that it was all over so quickly! However we did bump into a few people we had met around the ship afterwards and it added to our cruise experience. It was definitely worthwhile signing up for this. Buffet Some passengers walked straight past the hand gel station or simply refused it when offered by a guy standing with a bottle of gel just inside the door. No doubt these people would be the first to complain had there been an outbreak of Norovirus or Swine Flu on board. We believe the use of the gel should be COMPULSORY - no hand gel, no buffet! We tried the buffet for breakfast on a couple of occasions but it was bedlam. There seemed to be an ethos that 'the harder you push the tray of the person in front, the faster they will go', even though there was no room to go anywhere! I got completely fed up of being pushed about, having the person behind leaning over me (no respect for personal space) and pure and simple rudeness (an example was the lady at the next table who coughed her way through her breakfast, never once putting her hand in front of her mouth). In the end we mostly had room service breakfast which had a limited menu but was worth it for the peace and quiet. The lunchtime buffet was much better as on most days it was quiet due to the majority being out on excursions. For example on the day we docked at Civitavecchia, we were told that 1,800 of the 2,200 guests were booked on Celebrity tours to Rome. That plus other guests on private tours equalled one very quiet lunchtime buffet! The Aqua Spa (run by the Normandie restaurant team) had a limited range but the food was of excellent quality. Being vegetarians, we usually struggle to find a good choice at lunch but there were lots of salads and always at least 2 veggie pizzas available, as well as a sandwich bar and hot veggie food available. Evening Dining We were allocated a table in the middle of the Cosmopolitan restaurant so the noise level meant it was quite difficult to hold a conversation without having to shout across the table. We had booked for 2nd seating which had been advertised as 8.30pm. However when we got there it had changed to 9pm which was really too late for us. It was after 9.30pm by the time we got our starters and after 10pm before our main course arrived. We did also struggle to get our vegetarian meals sorted here (we found out on the 3rd night there was a separate menu which needed to be pre-ordered the night before), so for a couple of nights went back to the Normandie or had room service. Of all the meals we had in there, very few were as good as meals with previous cruise lines - indeed many were quite disappointing. Again, the staff were excellent but it was obvious that they were very overworked and there needed to be more of them. On 5 of the 12 nights we ate in the Normandie Restaurant. We cannot praise the staff who work there enough. Everyone is very friendly, always stopping to welcome you back and asking how your day had gone. On the first evening we had discussed the type of food we enjoyed with the lady who is in charge of the restaurant and on the 2nd time we visited (our wedding anniversary) she announced that we didn't need to look at the menu as they had created a complete menu for us based on all our likes/dislikes. It was one of the best meals we had ever eaten and why we went back there another 3 times! Each time they created something new for us to try, some of it being cooked at our table and they even presented us with a cake they had made for our anniversary. You would need to go to a very expensive restaurant on land to eat so well. In our opinion the cover charge was worth every penny. Formal Nights The majority of ladies wore cocktail length dresses rather than full length gowns and some passengers didn't dress up at all. I think that many on the first dinner sitting must have changed out of their formal wear after dinner, because when we walked around the ship after late-sitting dinner many were in shorts/t-shirts etc. I was also surprised that many of the children did not dress for dinner. On other cruises most of the boys looked beautiful in their little suits/full length trousers, but in the dining room on formal nights we saw boys in t-shirts/beach shorts/flip-flops etc. We always dress up for formal nights but think that if Celebrity isn't going to enforce the dress code there is little point in having the formal evenings. Evening Attire In General Generally, people seemed to make more of an effort to dress for the Normandie restaurant, than those we had seen in the Cosmopolitan. As with other reviews we have read recently, we agree that the ship is much more casual than we thought it would be. We like to dress up for dinner so others may have thought we were over-dressed as we do not wear jeans/t-shirts etc. to dinner on an evening when it is smart-casual. We saw other passengers who had also made an effort to dress up so didn't feel out of place at all. This is not a criticism - just an observation! Each to his/her own. Hair Salon Our daughter went there to have her long hair curled for the formal evening. It looked lovely but she only went the once as it was very expensive (54 dollars). Aqua Spa Our daughter visited twice - once for a manicure and once for a pedicure. She was happy with both and was able to buy a bottle of nail polish for touching-up afterwards. She said the staff were very friendly and she enjoyed the experience. I had booked an Ionithermie treatment but when I asked on the morning of the treatment whether I could bring the appointment forward to earlier in the day, I was told that they had no Ionithermist on board - her contract had finished earlier in the cruise and she had left! They offered a different treatment but as it cost nearly twice as much as the one I had booked, I declined. Gym Even though we tried as hard as possible, our luggage still didn't go over the 20kg limit when we packed our gym gear so it had to go with us ? Its first and only use was at a yoga class which we all participated in, which was held at 9am on the first sea day. There was a charge of $12 per person for this. The instructor was very good but we did not book for further classes as the session was held in an open area of the gym. This meant it was quite difficult to hear what the instructor was saying as there was chatting in the background and at the end of the class during the quiet meditation a lady using the gym proceeded to stomp her way through the class as a short-cut to the treadmills. It was impossible after that to concentrate which was a shame as it spoilt what could be a good class. Entertainment We didn't go to any of the shows or speak to anyone who did, so cannot comment on these. As our daughter had just turned 18 she was too old for the teen club (under 18's only) which was a shame as she didn't get to mix with anyone of her own age. The lounges and casino were all very busy in the evening but as our dinner sitting was so late it was usually around 11pm before we finished so we preferred to have a wander around the ship to walk off dinner and then retire to bed. One of our favourite forms of entertainment, however, was standing on the balcony just before everyone was due back on board the ship. At nearly every port you could watch passengers running to the ship! There were even binoculars provided in the suite, obviously meant for such occasions ;-) One day we had been due to leave port at 7pm. At 7.10pm a cab came hurtling through the port with its headlights flashing. A guy got out and ran onto the ship to the applause of all the other passengers who were watching! We even started to take bets with each other as to what time the last passenger would board. Alcohol Waiver We signed a waiver which allowed our 18 year old daughter to buy alcohol. Usually under 21's are not allowed to purchase alcohol on a Celebrity ship but it is possible to complete this form if you are European and are travelling on a cruise within Europe (where the purchase of alcohol is allowed to over 18's). We handed this in at embarkation but it was not actioned, so the next day we filled in another form at reception and were told that she would only be allowed to buy wine or beer. She likes an occasional cocktail and isn't a beer drinker so was rather disappointed. However, it didn't turn out to be a problem as once the drinks waiters saw her cruise card contained the wavier she was able to purchase cocktails. Price of Drinks We had read that Celebrity is rather pricey where drinks are concerned and in the main we agreed. I dread to think how much we spent on bottles of wine and cocktails! (everything having an obligatory 15% service charge on top of the price listed). We did bring a bottle of wine and a bottle of champagne with us when we boarded but did not attempt to bring alcohol from any of the ports on board with us and there were notices up warning people not to do this. I'm sure it is a big money-making business for Celebrity but without it no doubt cruise prices would go up so we didn't see it as a problem to stick to 'the rules'. Shuttle Services/Cabs at Ports We used the shuttle in Venice out of necessity. It was $20 each and we were dropped off a short walk from St. Marks Square. We decided not to use the shuttle in Dubrovnik and walk into the old town ourselves. This is quite a walk but is do-able. However, we got half way there and the weather changed - black skies and forked lightening so we didn't actually make it to the old town. We had hailstones on our balcony the size of large marbles - unbelievable. However, 2 hours later it was glorious sunshine again. One of the staff later told us she had been in a cafe which flooded and as they crossed the road the water was up to their knees. It had rained on our wedding day so it was quite fitting that the only day we had rain was on our anniversary! We paid $12 each for the shuttle into Livorno. This was advertised as being 20 minutes each way but in actual fact took less than 10 minutes to get into town and only 5 minutes back. This was an extortionate amount for Celebrity to charge so we therefore wouldn't recommend it. Do, however, be careful when taking cabs. Our dinner companions asked a cab driver how much it would be into Athens and was told €180! They asked around and eventually found someone to take them for €20 each way, Captain's Club Even though this was our first cruise with Celebrity, as we were suite passengers we were given CC perks. We had read reviews before the cruise which said that suite passengers were not allowed to use Michael's Club but this was not the case. Michael's Club was available to us, along with the free laundry service, 90 minutes each of free internet access, afternoon drinks etc. We were also invited to the helipad for the Venice sail away but preferred to stay on our wonderful balcony. We also went on the Captain's Club tour of the galley which was extremely interesting. It was HUGE - and it needs to be with 9,000 meals a day prepared there! Other Perks We were invited to a cocktail party to meet the Captain and also to dine at the Captain's table with 2 senior members of staff. We met in the Martini Bar by the Captain's Club hostess and served champagne. We were then escorted to the table in the Cosmopolitan Restaurant which was on the last formal evening. We had a lovely meal and our hosts made it a truly wonderful evening. We all had our photograph taken and this was waiting for us in our stateroom on the next night. Ports We decided not to take any of the Celebrity tours - they were too expensive and too long. Of course those travelling long distances to Europe wanted to see everything possible but as most places are just a 2-3 hour flight for us from home we wanted this to be a relaxing holiday and didn't feel the need to rush from place to place. Naples was our biggest disappointment. It was very dirty and as we were there on a Sunday all of the shops were closed. Some of the staff had warned us about crime in the area - indeed one member of staff had bought a mobile phone in a store and when getting back on the ship found a rock in the box but no phone. Another told us of a passenger having his wallet stolen by a cab driver, losing €600 in the process. Be warned! We loved Venice and had been there once before. However it was our daughter's first visit and she particularly enjoyed all the lovely shops, especially those selling the decorative masks. Due to the time of year it became very crowded by lunchtime. The day before arriving in Santorini we had watched the information programme on TV which said how busy the port becomes. We therefore had an early breakfast, took advantage of our priority tender tickets and were off the ship by 8am. We took the cable car up the hill, as we felt so sorry for the donkeys walking up and down there all day long. The cost was €4 each way on the cable car or €5 by donkey. We arrived and were wandering around the town before most of the shops opened. There were a few souvenir shops there but most shops sold expensive jewellery so it was nice place to window shop. We spent a few hours wandering the streets and were extremely glad we had made the effort to get up early when we saw the huge queues (an hour long wait) for the cable car to go up the hill. The port looked very different when packed with visitors to how it had looked when we arrived. We took the tender back and was back on the ship well in time for a quiet lunch and a cocktail. Our favourite port of all was Villefranche. We are big Formula 1 fans so we decided to catch the train to Monaco rather than take one of the tours. The biggest worry for us was not making it back to the ship on time but this was such an easy port to do on our own we wouldn't hesitate in doing it again. The ship was tendered but again we had priority tickets and were off the ship by 8.30am. Villefranche itself looked very pretty as we walked the 10 minute journey to the train station. Just €5 each for a return ticket, 4 stops, a 16 minute journey along the beautiful coastline and we were there. We walked the 2 mile circuit, taking lots of pictures and then climbed a lot of steps up to the old town where the cathedral is. We walked around the cathedral (this is where Princess Grace is buried) and through the narrow streets which were full of shops and cafes. The whole place was just beautiful. We didn't go into the casino but it was amazing to see all of the cars parked outside - everything from Bentley's to Ferrari's and Aston Martin's. Boy there was some money parked there! The information on the ship said that you needed to be 21 to go into the casino, but the board outside stated it was in fact 18. You do need to be suitably dressed to enter - no shorts, t-shirts etc. We did some window shopping for yachts and found you could hire a yacht for 8-12 people, fully crewed - yours for just €270,000 A WEEK!!!! We took lots of photographs of all the yachts in the marina as they were just amazing. There was also a train from Villefranche to Nice which is even nearer than Monaco but in the opposite direction and just €3 return by train. Disembarkation Luggage had to be placed outside cabins by 11pm on the last evening. There was a talk given by the Cruise Director on the last day but we didn't attend this. However, it was filmed and was shown on the TV repeatedly during the day. He explained how the luggage would be taken down, stored until the ship docked and how the he had bought his suit during the last cruise as the staff went through the luggage and had a rummage sale during the night lol! The Normandie restaurant was open for selected guests for disembarkation. Tea/coffee and pastries were available but at such an early hour it wasn't easy to face food! Our flights were at 12.55pm but we were scheduled to leave the ship at 7.50am, the flights/transfers again booked through Celebrity. On leaving the ship it wasn't clear which coach we should be on. We were told to put our luggage onto one of the adjacent lorries and then put on one coach which didn't have enough seats left for the 3 of us. We were told to find another coach but it was all very disorganised. We were then left at Barcelona airport a very long way from the terminal we were flying from - having been given the choice of walking with all of our luggage or paying a porter €30 to do this for us. We weren't happy about paying this extra charge so made our own way there. We used their on-line check-in and then queued to hand in our luggage. Despite our tickets being checked before we got into the queue, we arrived at the front to be told we were an hour and 15 minutes too early to check it in. There is hardly any seating in this part of the airport (the few seats being mostly taken by people sleeping - the guy with no shoes and the smelliest feet ever is another story - if you were there you will know who I mean!). After sitting on the airport floor for over an hour we eventually were able to check our baggage in and had another wait of over 2 and a half hours for our flight. Again no meals with Air France were available for vegetarians (our flight was 1 hour 55 minutes to Paris and veggie meals are only served on flights over 2 hours). We had just one hour before the next plane left and had to go from one side of the airport to the other, go through passport control AND get all of our hand-luggage re-scanned in this short time. In the end the time was so tight, after being told to remove my shoes at security I didn't even have time to put them back on and we had to literally run though the airport (me in bare feet!) as the plane was boarding. Again, no veggie meals as the flight was less than 2 hours and as timing was so tight it was 8 o'clock that evening when we finally got to eat something (at home). To add insult to injury, the plane from Paris was very small and there wasn't enough room for everyone to take hand-luggage on board. It was taken off us before boarding to put into the hold and then when we were getting off (as we had an air bridge) was told it had been put on the carousel with everything else. The lady in front of us went white, explaining how she had a lot of expensive jewellery in her bag but the guy in charge shrugged his shoulders and told her to complain to Air France! We spoke to two people who said they do this all the time - one said they had lost his luggage 3 times, another twice. As we had valuables and delicate items packed in our hand luggage, we were extremely angry and found this completely unacceptable. It is therefore the first and last time we will use Celebrity flights/transfers and Air France. In Conclusion The ship is showing its age in a few places but was constantly being maintained (unobtrusively) whilst we were there (e.g new carpets being laid, outside painted etc). It was comfortable and we thought it was well laid out. Our experience was probably quite different from that of most passengers as we were treated like royalty at times, with having the suite. We have travelled in suites on other cruise lines but thought that the treatment by Celebrity as a whole made the experience more special. The transfers/flights did let the whole experience down and had we have known what was to come, of course we would have done things differently. It took a lot of years to save up for but it was certainly the holiday of a lifetime we had hoped for and would do the cruise itself again in the blink of an eye. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Just got off Celebrity's Summit three days ago. What a disappointment! The good, first: the ship is spotless and the cabin steward was the best in the business. They should make him director of customer relations...he really ... Read More
Just got off Celebrity's Summit three days ago. What a disappointment! The good, first: the ship is spotless and the cabin steward was the best in the business. They should make him director of customer relations...he really "gets" it. I responded to a blast email that was waiting for me when I got home offering the director of something with RCI the chance to call me to discuss the issues I had with the ship before posting anything...no response. Now the not so good: I'm a "Captain's Club" member for what that was worth on this cruise. The desk was seldom open and the person staffing it was of no help. The concierge was usless. Example: while the ship was docked in Venice I wanted to make a local call. He refused to do it saying I could do so from my cabin. Hah! This cost $7.95 per minute. My cell phone did finally work on land but what a joke. EVERYTHING that was not included in the cruise price was prohibitably expensive: shore excursions, bottled water ($2.50 for 10 ounces), wine, wine tastings, vodka, vodka tastings, jewelry, tee shirts, mixed drinks, etc. One shore excursion was great, the other very expensive for a short period of time. Furthermore, while in Venice and having paid for a shore excursion, the staff refused to allow us to board a shuttle boat because we had not paid for that particular service. In previous ports, that was not a problem. There's little time for shopping in museum book stores because they want to take to other retail sources with whom they have an interest (glass blowing factory in Venice vs the book shop at St. Mark's). Booked a private driver for three cities through Internet website for 1,200 Euros. Inquired about this from Celebrity before sailing...their price $5,300 (yes, $5,300). Spa treatments were about the same as at home but the "relaxing" music was not quiet Asian sounds but the ship's "radio" with among other "pieces", rap music. I just loved listening to that during a masaage. Hard sell for acupuncture and their products. The food on this ship is mediocre compared to previous Celebrity cruises. Of course, the night the comment cards appeared in the cabins was the night of lobster and filet. Celebrity must feel that familiarity breeds friendship because most employees who were much, much younger than I felt quite comfortable calling me by my first name. At almost 60 I've lived long enough to determine who I want to be on a first name basis with. Even my 30 year-old son's friends are not that presumptuous despite having known them most of their lives. The staff assumed we were life-long friends. Celebrity needs to instruct staff that all older women are not flattered by that. And speaking of the dining room, "formal" night is a joke. Despite saying on the website and in printed materials about certain expectations regarding dress codes, ANYTHING goes...shorts, jeans, tee shirts, whatever passengers feeling like throwing on is permitted in the dining room. The staff has been instructed to let it slide. The "security" staff is positively obsessive about passengers bringing back alcohol. Never did, never tried but every single day they went through my camera bag thinking that a long lens was a bottle. This group of cracker jack security officers insisted one day on x-raying my film camera even after I asked them to hand inspect it, telling me that the film would be safe. I travel with a lead-lined bag to protect my film and asked them to hand inspect the camera because I hadn't placed it in that bag. They refused and proceeded to patronizing tell me everything was safe. What was frightening is that they NEVER looked inside the lead-lined bag. I could have had booze, guns, or explosives but their main priority was the alcohol that might slip on board. The photographers are aggressive every time you get off the ship and you need to be down right rude to get them to leave you alone. Again, $20 for one digital photo on formal night. Who are they kidding? Will I book with Celebrity again? Probably not. As much as I love to travel and to cruise, I will go longer between trips and go for a shorter time with a high-end line like Sea Dream Yacht Club. Celebrity had a good product at one time and they've let it become run-of-the-mill service with an expensive price tag. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Background My wife and I have just turned 50 (ish) and this is our 8th cruise, previously one cruise on Brilliance of the Seas and all the rest on Princess ships. We go for the destinations and are not shoppers and we don't use the ... Read More
Background My wife and I have just turned 50 (ish) and this is our 8th cruise, previously one cruise on Brilliance of the Seas and all the rest on Princess ships. We go for the destinations and are not shoppers and we don't use the onboard Spa's or the Casino. This cruise was for our 30th wedding anniversary and so we added the 4 night pre cruise tour of Madrid & Barcelona (we only do this on special occasions). Madrid and Barcelona A good start with a half empty BA flight from Heathrow, chauffeur driven car from airport to hotel where we met Katia, our tour manager for the next four days. Madrid was hot but worth the trip, we did a city tour and then had free time for exploration. On day 2 a coach tour to Toledo then transferred to station for high speed train to Barcelona (2.5 hours for 360 miles), very smooth train ride and well worth it. We had a coach transfer to our hotel which is where I met my first small problem. The air conditioning in the room would not go below 22.5 C. As a Northern European (Yorkshire, UK) I like to sleep in a cold room (10 to 15 degrees C). I did complain but nothing was done and indeed other people did say they had trouble sleeping (outside daytime temp was 29 degrees C). The rest of Barcelona was wonderful, I highly recommend a few days there pre-cruise. The Ship We had a concierge class cabin on deck 8 towards the stern. First impression was it was smaller than a Princess mini suite and I didn't like the fact that there was a large overhang from the main deck which left us almost permanently in the shade. Otherwise nice room with just about enough wardrobe/drawer space (cases fit under beds). Our steward was Ivan who was very efficient and friendly - on our anniversary we had room service breakfast and ordered the half bottle champagne, Ivan came with a full bottle explaining the half bottle wasn't on the menu anymore but there would be no charge. Overall ship impression. I felt that this ship was poorly designed, the cinema, conference/boardrooms are a complete waste of space.The conservatory was not at all how the brochure described it. It was just a florists with no seating. The foyer area was dark and not much happened there, I felt sorry for the musicians who normally played to a small number of people in the coffee/pastry area. The ship sorely needs a smaller functions room on the lines of Princess Vista lounge as some of the theatre acts played to very small audiences which was a little uncomfortable in such a large venue. There was the usual towels on sunloungers scenario with the crew doing nothing about it. Dining Waterfall grill - nice seating but horrible servery. With its trays and runners in front of the counters it felt like a motorway service area and trying to ask for things through the screens made it very difficult. We mostly had room service breakfast because we didn't like the waterfall. Evening dinner was a very nice experience, we had a table for six with Geoff and Christine from Australia and Mark and Gill from Alberqueque who only came three times. I should point out that we hate fixed dining and believe it to be an outdated system which should be removed as soon as possible. 6.15 is too early and 8.45 is too late but we picked late as lesser of two evils. The Normandie is a wonderful venue and everybody should try it at least once, the service and quality of the food is outstanding. The ships captain was the most boring person I have ever heard speak on a tannoy and became the but of our jokes over dinner. The cruise Day 2 at sea. As Villefranche is so close the ship sailed really slow to give a day at sea, this made the ship roll a little and I would hate to be in this position on a rough day, we were only travelling at 5 knots. Day 3 Villefranche. Royal Caribbean arrived first but tendering process was smooth and there were no crowds in the port. We took the buss to Nice (1 euro each) and then the bus to Eze (1 euro each). Eze is a very nice hilltop town, you could pass two hours here, longer with lunch. Public toilet behind tourist info (not free). We spent some time in Nice which was ok but Eze was better. Day 4 Livorno. As we have stayed in Florence before we opted for the train to Pisa. You can walk to the station from the shuttle drop off point but I would recommend the bus (no 1 terminates at the stazione). The train cost 7.20 euros return for two. If you take the direct route from station to leaning tower there is nothing to see but if you go to the right and up through the shopping centre it's much better and there are plenty of street cafes. It also brings you around the side of the leaning tower past some roman remains. Day 5 Civitivecchia. Again we travelled by train (9 euros each) and then used a HOHO bus as we had been before, we took in the roman forum, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain etc. We stayed away from the Vatican as it was a Sunday plus you need a full day there on its own. Day 6 Naples. As we had been to Pompeii before we opted for a train to Herculaneum. Don't go to Stazione Garibaldi as there is a Circumvesuviana station nearer. Make sure you take your passport with you if you want an audio guide (we forgot). On our return we walked through the city to Galeria Umberto braving the traffic (you need nerves of steel). Naples is a dirty City but is still full of character (there is a HOHO bus if you need it). As with some other stops I got the impression that we didn't get the best berths (Costa, MSC seem to get better). Day 6 at sea. Second formal night and our 30th anniversary. Started with champagne breakfast and then day sunbathing ending with dinner at the Normandie - wonderful. Day 7 Santorini. What a fantastic place to park a ship. Tendering process was pretty good (Greek ships) but the queue for the cable car was a nightmare, it took one hour and we had to fight off the German and Italian queue jumpers from the Costa and MSC ships. The harbour is tiny and can't cater for disembarking passengers and the cable car queue. Santorini is a wonderful place and I wouldn't recommend a ships excursion, just go up to Thira or catch a cheap bus to Oia. Day 8 Athens. Our original plan here was to use the metro to travel in. However, all the Athens tour guides went on strike and tours were cancelled. Instead the coach companies put on Shuttles for $20. We weighed up the pros and cons and decided to use this shuttle which would save walking and be no more expensive than a taxi. We got to the Acropolis at 0900 and it was already getting hot. Acropolis was worth a trip and we went on through the Plaka and up to the Parliament building for changing of the guard, all this is quite doable. Unfortunately the new Acropolis museum hadn't opened (it has now). If you go to the Athens be prepared for the heat (36C in early June rising to over 40 in July/Aug). Day 9 At sea, pleasant apart from fight for sunlounger, not much entertainment but suited us. Day10 Dubrovnik. Excellent place, walls very much like York (UK) but be warned there are lots of steps and they are very steep. Most people spoke English and accepted Euros so no need to do any foreign exchange. Day 11 Arrived in Venice. This, for me, was the highlight. Make sure you are on deck for this, it takes about an hour to sail through the City (yes, you sail right alongside St Marks and all the sights. Venice is a great city to travel on foot but you can get around on the vaporettos which get very crowded and cost 6.50 euros per trip (valid 60 minutes) unless you get a day ticket. We spent hours in and around St Marks and then blew 80 euros on a Gondola ride (35 minutes), well we might never go back. Day 12 travel home. To avoid the despicable cruise line practice of dumping you at the airport five hours before your flight we took our only ship excursion. This was a trip to Padua and airport drop off. Padua is a pleasant place to spend a morning (nice coffee bars) but they still dropped us at the airport 3 hours before our flight (they don't open the check in desks until two hours before flight). Marco Polo airport is small and there is very little to do until you get through security. This is my first attempt at a review and hope I didn't go on too much. Overall impression was, wonderful cruise. Regardless of the few critical comments above the service was excellent, I didn't come across one bad crewmember. All behaved and acted impeccably. Full marks to Celebrity for this alone. IF Celebrity took over Brilliance of the seas that would probably make it perfect. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
Background My wife and I have just turned 50 (ish) and this is our 8th cruise, previously one cruise on Brilliance of the Seas and all the rest on Princess ships. We go for the destinations and are not shoppers and we don't use the ... Read More
Background My wife and I have just turned 50 (ish) and this is our 8th cruise, previously one cruise on Brilliance of the Seas and all the rest on Princess ships. We go for the destinations and are not shoppers and we don't use the onboard Spa's or the Casino. This cruise was for our 30th wedding anniversary and so we added the 4 night pre cruise tour of Madrid & Barcelona (we only do this on special occasions). Madrid and Barcelona A good start with a half empty BA flight from Heathrow, chauffeur driven car from airport to hotel where we met Katia, our tour manager for the next four days. Madrid was hot but worth the trip, we did a city tour and then had free time for exploration.  On day 2 a coach tour to Toledo then transferred to station for high speed train to Barcelona (2.5 hours for 360 miles), very smooth train ride and well worth it. We had a coach transfer to our hotel which is where I met my first small problem.  The air conditioning in the room would not go below 22.5 C.  As a Northern European (Yorkshire, UK) I like to sleep in a cold room (10 to 15 degrees C).  I did complain but nothing was done and indeed other people  did say they had trouble sleeping (outside daytime temp was 29 degrees C).  The rest of Barcelona was wonderful, I highly recommend a few days there pre-cruise. The Ship We had a concierge class cabin on deck 8 towards the stern.  First impression was it was smaller than a Princess mini suite and I didn't like the fact that there was a large overhang from the main deck which left us almost permanently in the shade.  Otherwise nice room with just about enough wardrobe/drawer space (cases fit under beds).  Our steward was Ivan who was very efficient and friendly - on our anniversary we had room service breakfast and ordered the half bottle champagne, Ivan came with a full bottle explaining the half bottle wasn't on the menu anymore but there would be no charge. Overall ship impression. I felt that this ship was poorly designed, the cinema, conference/boardrooms are a complete waste of space.The conservatory was not at all how the brochure described it. It was just a florists with no seating.  The foyer area was dark and not much happened there, I felt sorry for the musicians who normally played to a small number of people in the coffee/pastry area. The ship sorely needs a smaller functions room on the lines of Princess Vista lounge as some of the  theatre acts played to very small audiences which was a little uncomfortable in such a large venue.  There was the usual towels on sunloungers scenario with the crew doing nothing about it. Dining Waterfall grill - nice seating but horrible servery. With its trays and runners in front of the counters it felt like a motorway service area and trying to ask for things through the screens made it very difficult.  We mostly had room service breakfast because we didn't like the waterfall.  Evening dinner was a very nice experience, we had a table for six with Geoff and Christine from Australia and Mark and Gill from Alberqueque who only came three times.  I should point out that we hate fixed dining and believe it to be an outdated system which should be removed as soon as possible.  6.15 is too early and 8.45 is too late but we picked late as lesser of two evils.  The Normandie is a wonderful venue and everybody should try it at least once, the service and quality of the food is outstanding. The ships captain was the most boring person I have ever heard speak on a tannoy and became the but of our jokes over dinner. The cruise Day 2 at sea.  As Villefranche is so close the ship sailed really slow to give a day at sea, this made the ship roll a little and I would hate to be in this position on a rough day, we were only travelling at 5 knots. Day 3 Villefranche. Royal Caribbean arrived first but tendering process was smooth and there were no crowds in the port. We took the buss to Nice (1 euro each) and then the bus to Eze (1 euro each).  Eze is a very nice hilltop town, you could pass two hours here, longer with lunch.  Public toilet behind tourist info (not free).  We spent some time in Nice which was ok but Eze was better. Day 4 Livorno.  As we have stayed in Florence before we opted for the train to Pisa.  You can walk to the station from the shuttle drop off point but I would recommend the bus (no 1 terminates at the stazione).  The train cost 7.20 euros return for two.  If you take the direct route from station to leaning tower there is nothing to see but if you go to the right and up through the shopping centre it's much better and there are plenty of street cafes. It also brings you around the side of the leaning tower past some roman remains. Day 5 Civitivecchia.  Again we travelled by train (9 euros each) and then used a HOHO bus as we had been before, we took in the roman forum, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain etc.  We stayed away from the Vatican as it was a Sunday plus you need a full day there on its own. Day 6 Naples. As we had been to Pompeii before we opted for a train to Herculaneum.  Don't go to Stazione Garibaldi as there is a Circumvesuviana station nearer.  Make sure you take your passport with you if you want an audio guide (we forgot).  On our return we walked through the city to Galeria Umberto braving the traffic (you need nerves of steel).  Naples is a dirty City but is still full of character (there is a HOHO bus if you need it). As with some other stops I got the impression that we didn't get the best berths (Costa, MSC seem to get better). Day 6 at sea. Second formal night and our 30th anniversary.  Started with champagne breakfast and then day sunbathing ending with dinner at the Normandie - wonderful. Day 7 Santorini.  What a fantastic place to park a ship. Tendering process was pretty good (Greek ships) but the queue for the cable car was a nightmare, it took one hour and we had to fight off the German and Italian queue jumpers from the Costa and MSC ships.  The harbour is tiny and can't cater for disembarking passengers and the cable car queue.  Santorini is a wonderful place and I wouldn't recommend a ships excursion, just go up to Thira or catch a cheap bus to Oia. Day 8 Athens. Our original plan here was to use the metro to travel in.  However, all the Athens tour guides went on strike and tours were cancelled.  Instead the coach companies put on Shuttles for $20.  We weighed up the pros and cons and decided to use this shuttle which would save walking and be no more expensive than a taxi.  We got to the Acropolis at 0900 and it was already getting hot.  Acropolis was worth a trip and we went on through the Plaka and up to the Parliament building for changing of the guard, all this is quite doable.  Unfortunately the new Acropolis museum hadn't opened (it has now).  If you go to the Athens be prepared for the heat (36C in early June rising to over 40 in July/Aug). Day 9 At sea, pleasant apart from fight for sunlounger, not much entertainment but suited us. Day10 Dubrovnik.  Excellent place, walls very much like York (UK) but be warned there are lots of steps and they are very steep.  Most people spoke English and accepted Euros so no need to do any foreign exchange. Day 11 Arrived in Venice. This, for me, was the highlight.  Make sure you are on deck for this, it takes about an hour to sail through the City (yes, you sail right alongside St Marks and all the sights.  Venice is a great city to travel on foot but you can get around on the vaporettos which get very crowded and cost 6.50 euros per trip (valid 60 minutes) unless you get a day ticket.  We spent hours in and around St Marks and then blew 80 euros on a Gondola ride (35 minutes), well we might never go back. Day 12 travel home.  To avoid the despicable cruise line practice of dumping you at the airport five hours before your flight we took our only ship excursion. This was a trip to Padua and airport drop off.  Padua is a pleasant place to spend a morning (nice coffee bars) but they still dropped us at the airport 3 hours before our flight (they don't open the check in desks until two hours before flight).  Marco Polo airport is small and there is very little to do until you get through security. This is my first attempt at a review and hope I didn't go on too much. Overall impression was, wonderful cruise. Regardless of the few critical comments above the service was excellent, I didn't come across one bad crewmember.  All behaved and acted impeccably.  Full marks to Celebrity for this alone.  IF Celebrity took over Brilliance of the seas that would probably make it perfect.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
We booked our cruise directly through the cruise line in January of 2009.  The price was very reasonable and as prices went down, the cruise line gladly lowered our cost.  We simply called the cruise line and made changes over the ... Read More
We booked our cruise directly through the cruise line in January of 2009.  The price was very reasonable and as prices went down, the cruise line gladly lowered our cost.  We simply called the cruise line and made changes over the phone.  As a young married couple we were looking for an opportunity to see Europe and have a relaxing anniversary.  We chose this cruise completely based on the ports of call and not based on the ship.  With that said, we were not disappointed with the service nor the ship.  The quality, attention, and personality of the staff members truly make this cruise line and the Summit a success.  We did notice minimal wear in the carpet and many loose tiles in our stateroom.  We did call this to the attention of our stateroom attendant and our shower was completely re-tiled during one of excursions.  Not a problem!Our stateroom attendant Jose and waiter Lesme we exceptional!  They both provided excellent service with attention to detail.  Our stateroom was always clean and Jose went above and beyond to attend to our wants and needs.  All staff on board was friendly and seemed to genuinely enjoy their jobs. The food at the buffet was always replenished and you could always find something to your liking.  The menu food in the Cosmopolitan Restaurant provided a good selection and if you did not like the entree that you ordered the staff would gladly bring you another.  Room service was great for breakfast and snacks.  We ordered room service most mornings as we had early excursions and did not want to fight the crowds at the buffet.  Breakfast could be delivered in 30 minute intervals.  However, our food was always delivered on the hour and we were never rushed  As stated previously, the staff makes the ship. We had a balcony room in the concierge class.  The balcony was absolutely worth the money and we enjoyed sailing out of port with the wonderful views and no crowds.  The welcome bottle of champagne was nice as we sailed out of beautiful port of Venice.  The beds were comfortable and we did take advantage of the select pillows and the bathrobes.  I must add that there seemed to be absolutely no benefits when it came to embarkation and debarkation of the ship.  Embarkation in Venice was extremely slow in the concierge class line and the staff seemed to be running around aimlessly.  At one point the staff member just left the counter and did not return.  Debarkation (8:00) in Barcelona was very organized and the staff was helpful.  However, we did wait on the bus to the airport for about 45 minutes for the bus to fill up.  We booked all of our excursions through the cruise line.  This was definitely a good choice and many of our friends that went out on their own ended up fighting traffic, getting lost, or not seeing exactly what they wanted to see.  The excursions were very organized and it was convenient to have express access to get into churches, museums, and other venues.  We never had to wait in lines in Rome or Athens.  It was great!  The majority of our tour guides were very friendly and knowledgeable.  It was also helpful to have guides to communicate with the locals and answer any questions.  (see port reviews for more info)         Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
Embarkation was as smooth as I have ever experienced.  This was our 6th cruise, our first with Celebrity.  We boarded around noon, and nearly walked straight on.  We had done the online check-in.Cabins were nice, we had Concierge class ... Read More
Embarkation was as smooth as I have ever experienced.  This was our 6th cruise, our first with Celebrity.  We boarded around noon, and nearly walked straight on.  We had done the online check-in.Cabins were nice, we had Concierge class 7197 & 7203.  7203 was fantastic with it's larger aft balcony.  We traded in our two bottles of Champagne for Pinot Grigo by asking guest relations, it wasn't much hassle.  We thought the canapes were ok, took advantage of the fruit, they had an apple, banana, pear, & grapes.  Mostly just ate the large red grapes, then asked for a tropical plate, it came with a Mango, papaya, two kiwi, & two passion fruit, good fruit but kind of a hassle cutting them with a butter knife.  Our cabin Steward Peter was more than we could have expected, always opened our door for us when he saw us coming down the hall. took care of my tux when the pants were too long, he even added some food to our girls breakfast order one morning when he thought they would be hungry.  The girls has put out the menu as a wake up call for 10:00am with just tea and hot chocolate ( the wake up calls didn't work).  Fresh flowers were nice, they replaced them once during the cruise, there were some on the desk, and a rose in the bathroom.  Beds were very comfortable, good space for our 2 weeks worth of clothes.   We had some laundry done, two bags that were all you can stuff for $35, we got about $75 worth in them each, then two other bags with about $30 dollars each in them.The ship was nice and in good condition, we used the main pool a lot, it was a bit cold.  Normal trouble finding a deck lounge.  The girls loved the Ice cream and sorbet.  The worst wear and tear I saw was elevator buttons that were cracked or worn. Really a nice ship aIl thought, not a spectacular design, but nice and functional.  We tried the thalasotherapy on the last day as well as the sauna, both would be nice on a cruise with more days at sea.  Jaynie had a Massage and facial that she really enjoyed.  There were a lot of shops that we never really went in. Entertainment was ok in general, most show were short, I'm not usually into violin, but they had two different fellows that put  on a real treat of a show.  there was a classically trained singer who would have fit in well in many a broadway musical, although he tried to do some Motown that really wasn't quite there.  We left during the first late night celebrity singers and dancer, the show was late, we were getting up early, and they really weren't that good.  There was comedian juggler that was funny but not really very good.  Most were impressed with the Acapella group, I was not.Food was good, but not anything that jumped out and grabbed me.  Believe the folk that tell you to get the Waffles (Texed), and the almond croissants.  they are both better than I'd expected, even with the recommendation.  Sushi was so so.  We ate one breakfast in the main dining room that was terrible, never went back, I had a poached egg that was hard, Jaynie had the eggs benedict that she hated the hollandaise.  We did the brunch buffet in the main dining room two days at sea, it was ok.  The rest of our breakfasts were in the buffet on deck 10, we always found something to enjoy.  We had one lunch in the Main dining room (that's all that was available with the brunches and no lunch in port) it was good.  Most meals in the Main dining room were good to very good, but very few things that really impressed me.  We never ate in the Normandy.  I had one breakfast in the aqua spa, I like it quite a bit, Just a Muslix that was great, and some fruit.  I also ate lunch there the same day, it was very good.  We had a couple of Latte's it the Cova cafe, they were very good.I was quite disappointed with the shuttle situation, I was aware of some of it from the nice folks here, but still was unimpressed with Celebrity on this point.  In Venice the charged $20 per person per day for a boat ride to St Marks, we had already put out $120 dollars for the four of us for Vaporetto passes, so that was not something we wanted to add.  There was a free shuttle in Piazzale Roma the first day, which was nice, but not the second.  We ended up walking about half a mile from where the free shuttle had been.  That was about half a mile from the ship.  We could easily handle it but celebrity could make it easier to access the port they have sold you on.  I don't know how much they wanted for the shuttle in Dubrovnik, we walked right by and got the bus for about $3 bucks each round trip.  We had about an extra ¼ mile for that one.  In Athens a shuttle was provide by the port,  Naples was an easy walk, one block maybe to town, we walked about a ½ mile to the Circumvesuviana.  Civitavecchia the port provided the shuttle. then a 3 or 4 block walk to the train station.  The one that was really hard to believe was in Livorno, where I overheard a couple complaining on the train back from Florence that they had paid $36 dollars for the shuttle to the train station, they were off the ship at 7:20am but the shuttle didn't leave till 8:15am.  The train leaves at 8:11am.  We on the other hand had Cruise critic on our side, grabbed the 20 Euro taxi for the four of us (we shared with a couple on the was back so paid another 13 Euro) were off the ship by 7:10am (first off the ship) made the 7:45am train and were in Florence by 9:30am.  I really think Celebrity could work more at making thing convenient and timely for their GUESTS.The CC class priority tender tickets allowed us to be the first on board a tender that was not for Excursions in Santorini, we were in Oia at 8:15am.  We took a 15 Euro taxi, we had planned to do the bus, but took the taxi last minute.  We took the bus back.Disembarkation was also the smoothest I've experienced.  We were to meet in the theatre at 8:15am, they sent us off the ship at about 8:20am, bags were on a carousel shortly after we got there, we walked out into a line for taxi's.  That took the longest, maybe 5 minutes.  35 Euro taxi including the 1.5 Euro per bag surcharge, and we were at the airport by 9:00am for our 11:30am flight to Madrid.With that I will say we had a great vacation, and Thank You to all at Cruise Critic who helped us get the details right.  This was a complicated itinerary done all on our own, with no real glitches.I'd be happy to fill you in on any details I missed. 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Sail Date June 2009
We (myself, husband, and two children: son, 15 and daughter, 12) just returned from a fabulous experience aboard the Celebrity Summit.  We had no problems (miracle in itself!) getting to Venice.  Boarding the ship went so smooth, we were ... Read More
We (myself, husband, and two children: son, 15 and daughter, 12) just returned from a fabulous experience aboard the Celebrity Summit.  We had no problems (miracle in itself!) getting to Venice.  Boarding the ship went so smooth, we were in our cabin within minutes, without any waiting around time (we experienced that with other cruises).  Our ship was docked in Venice for 2 days which gave us an opportunity to have dinner in Venice (definitely do that, no matter how tired you may feel). We enjoyed each port...it was our first time visiting all of these countries.  Our ports were Dubrovnik, Croatia ; Athens, Greece; Rome, Florence, Naples, Italy; Santorini, Greece; Nice, France; and ended up in Barcelona, Spain where we spent a couple of extra days.  The bonus of seeing all of these places on a cruise is that you get a good taste of the flavor of these areas.  The unfortunate part is you will hunger for more of some of the places, but that just helps you with future planning ;).  Our kids were fully engaged, we were able to break up the tours with plenty of gelato, local entertaining, shopping and eating.  We booked most of our excursions through the ship, while expensive, they were worth the price of just leaving all the details up to them.  Their tour guides were very friendly, knowledgeable, local, and familiar with handling groups through crowded venues. We did decide to hire private drivers in Athens and Naples.  There was just so much we wanted to pack into these areas, that we wanted to make up our own itinerary for those days and we were not sorry.  We hired George's Taxi Tours in Athens and had a wonderful, intelligent, sweet guide named Spiros.  He knew so much history, and he was able to tell us what was worth spending time at and what we should cut out.  I wanted to have a gyro, and try local specialties (he helped with proper pronunciation!) and he sent us to the best place in Athens, bustling with activity, not a rip off, complete with musicians!  Our tour guide in Naples, was Rino Ramono (roll those rrrr's).....just awesome!!!  He was hired through a wonderful service called Italy Car Service, headed by a kind woman named Josephine.  He entertained every whim we had, knew so much about each beautiful place, every great picture stop, the perfect restaurant...even where to find a particular soccer jersey my son wanted to find for a friend.  We loved him so much that we almost wanted to miss our ship and join his family for a "lovey barbecuer"  (his pronunciation and invitation!).   While on the ship we enjoyed dinner in a variety of ways.  Most nights we ate in the dining room at the late seating, 8:45p.m....sounds late (for us early bird Americans), but with the excursions, was not.  We were seated with a wonderful family...  many nights we were one of the last tables to leave the dining room. We loved having other options for dining though.  One night we were tired and just went to go to the always plentiful buffet.  Another night we "fine dined" at the Normandie Restaurant which was full of excellent service, great food choices, beautifully prepared.  Another night we ate at the waiter end of the "buffet" area, that offered a menu and closer views of the water.  There was an open deck that we were able to enjoy drinks at before dinner for the sail away....loved this area...just a few tables, more casual than fine dining, but cozier feel. The entertainment was varied, which was great.  We enjoyed cabaret dancers a few nights, a beautiful talented violinist another night, a funny comedian/magician yet another.  There were plenty of opportunities to do group games (bingo, newlywed game, karoake, theme), but we chose not to.  Our kids could not get enough of the teen club.  They were seperated into appropriate age groups and couldn't wait until dinner was over to join their groups. The martini club had a very talented bar tender, Michael, that left us in awe of his special magical talents.  We all enjoyed the Cova Cafe for different reasons.  My husband loved the coffee offerings, my son  and daugter adored the incredible edibles (beautiful little desserts), and I loved the ambience and the string quartet that was there nightly.  I appreciated the fact that the ship did not pressure you to attend events with constant reminders of offerings.  They had a daily newsletter and complimented your intelligence by not making annoying announcements reiterating what was already in print.  The ship had interactive tv if you needed help with absolutely any information.  I enjoyed taking a couple of computer classes, and many other offerings were available, including just sitting by the pool, soaking in the sun, and reading a good book....yep, did that too. Disembarking couldn't have been easier.  We were prepared to get up early, and sit around waiting to get off, but found ourself, out of our cabin and off the ship in 5 minutes....no that's not a typo, just a great port to disembark to, and great organization. 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Sail Date June 2009
About the Ship - We traveled with Bill and Lisa (myself) both 45, Tyler, 15, and Kyle 14.  We really enjoyed our cruise experience, and the crew worked very hard to see that every need was met and problem solved, especially the room ... Read More
About the Ship - We traveled with Bill and Lisa (myself) both 45, Tyler, 15, and Kyle 14.  We really enjoyed our cruise experience, and the crew worked very hard to see that every need was met and problem solved, especially the room stewards who everyone agreed were outstanding.  I would say, however, that Celebrity is designed for morning people, not night owls.  The dining options, the entertainment, etc, is heavy on the morning and mid-day, with fewer options in the evenings.   I felt that the ship itself was very nice, and they did a great job refurbishing it during dry dock.  The carpets all seemed brand new, the furniture was all fine, the bedding was nice, the beach towels were awesome, the bath towels were okay, not great.  The grand foyer is definitely not grand, only a few stories, and no bar or music there.  It is basically only the pursers and excursions desks.  But who spends time hanging out there anyway? If you need Euros, they will exchange your money at the desk for 2.5%.  If you're a soda drinker, you may want to skip the card, which bills you $5 per day, and opt for the ala carte price, which is only $1.50 per glass.  My kids are dedicated soda drinkers and they probably only drank them once or twice all cruise, except at dinner, because it "wasn't convenient."  If you opt for the card, buy it at the Cova Cafe.  The pool bar also sells them but they run out of stickers quickly.  They will give you a free thermal cup to use throughout the trip; however you cannot just take that to the bars to refill (which I saw some little kids trying to do.)  You must have your room card.  If you're still looking for a cabin, it doesn't matter tremendously which side of the ship you are on because most of the ports are industrial and there is no good view, but for the two tender ports, it would've been nice to be on the starboard side of the boat.   The food in the Cosmopolitan is very good, but not fantastic.  Selections were limited.  There were five daily entrees plus five standards (steak, etc) that are available every night.  The biggest star was dessert, of which there were always interesting choices.  We did get lobster on the last formal night, it was okay, and of course the big baked Alaska event, which was fun.  On the first few nights or on formal nights, when it is crowded, the wait staff does not have time to be chatty, but they are still great at what they do, and fun to get to know on the other, quieter nights.  In the Waterfall, the drink machines are frequently out of order, with some nights all machines out of order except one.  They served iced tea, lemonade and fruit punch.  Ice machines are often empty.  However, we really like the layout of the Waterfall.  There is plenty of seating by the windows, and as a very cool touch there are glass circles on the floor where you can look down and see the water.  The kids loved standing on those (okay, I did too.)  When it is open, the food in the Waterfall Grille is plentiful, and pretty good.  Lots of interesting choices.  We all raved about the pizza and the fries at the poolside grille.  The problem is that food is not available whenever you want it.  Breakfast is until 1130, with lunch starting at 12.  There is no real "dinner" in the Waterfall.  Once lunch is over at 2:30, you can have sushi from 5-9 and pizza or pasta until 11pm. After that you rely on room service (which is free.)  The room service menu is plentiful with sandwiches, burgers, fries, pizzas, quesadillas and desserts.  The internet is horribly slow in the evening when many people are trying to get on.  One night we spent $5 and 9 minutes waiting for Facebook to load before we just shut it down.  The next day at 2pm there were only one or two people in the cafe and we were online in just a minute.  The TV choices are terrible.  There are only a handful of channels and they just rotate the same pre-determined shows.  The only real network on and in English is CNN.  1/3 of the channels are ships channels.  My biggest complaint is the hairdryer.  The hairdryer is a very strange tube, like the old kind that came with a hat, only no hat.  It also got so hot in my hand that after a few minutes I had to wrap a washcloth around the handle to hold it.  I must confess we didn't see much of the entertainment; however, I was excited about the Broadway show on the first formal night. After tunes from Gypsy, the Producers, and Modern Millie, I was getting a little bored because they weren't really shows I was that familiar with, when Tyler announced that someone behind him had become ill.  After that we all left.  We gave high marks to all the music on board.  The band that played at the pool, and the one in the Rendezvous lounge were outstanding, as was the string ensemble.  The dance club Revolution sounded really fun but we didn't have much time to hang out in there. You may have heard people talking about White Night.  We never saw anything about it, however there was a Mediterranean night by the pool in which a lot of people wore some white, including the band.  The casino was nice, the photographer did a great job, and the dessert night where they bring up all the fancy desserts and the ice sculpture to the dance club was really outstanding.  It was so fun to watch people dancing to the old disco music while enjoying three kinds of crème brulee, cheesecakes, among other wonderful confections. Our Adventure begins...Layover in Dublin - With an 8-hour layover in Dublin (we give kudos to Aer Lingus, by the way) we first make sure our ATM card works in Europe by getting out our first Euros from the airport, then took the opportunity to grab a taxi and head downtown to see the sites.  Our cabbie was quite chatty, telling us all about the differences between soccer and futball, and how they all want to know why we call our American Football "football" when you only kick it two times per game.  Hmmm.   When asked what they think of Barack Obama, he says Ireland is trying to claim him as one of theirs, since apparently his mother has Irish roots.  Interesting.  So after a 20 minute ride we arrive at Dublin Castle, in what is know as "South of the Liffey (River)" in downtown Dublin.  There is not much to see inside, so we walk around the outside and into the courtyard and take some photos.  It looks like what you would expect, with tall doors (so people could ride in on horseback - who knew?) A turret, some statues, etc.  It wasn't that big, and not well respected by the Irish as it was built by the British when they ruled over the country.  Still for a couple of tourists from Kentucky it was pretty fun to see a real castle!  By now it was about 1130, but none of the Irish pubs were open until noon, so we walked over to Trinity College to look around there.  It is the largest and oldest university in Ireland, and has a real Ivy League look to it.  We enjoyed walking around there and reading a little bit about the history.  Finally noon arrived so we walked a few blocks over to the Temple Bar area (a few long streets with many restaurants and bars, including Hard Rock Cafe.)  We found a place that looked fun and served fish and chips and shepherds pie...real Irish food.  They also had a little band that played Celtic music while you ate.  We sat at this big beer barrel table and had a great time chatting with the people in there.  After lunch we still had an hour or so to kill, so we walked back to Christ's Church, which was back by the castle.  It is one of the oldest churches in Dublin, and had some impressive stained glass windows, old doors, and stonework.  Finally we hopped in a cab back to the airport where we were regaled with our driver's stories about ignorant tourists who think leprechauns are real and that Irishmen go around saying "Top o' the morning to ya" all the time.  Too funny!  We all agreed that we enjoyed the people of Ireland and would like to see more of the country someday. Days One and Two - Venice - I was prepared to not like Venice, as I heard it was falling into disrepair, covered with pigeons, and being swallowed back into the sea.  All I can say is We're in Love with Venice!  All four of us loved this city.  We are water people, we love to ride on the water, sit by the water, look at the water, and Venice certainly delivers that.  The Venice port is very industrial and hard to navigate.  You feel like you are going to be mowed down by a truck, taxi or scooter as you make your way either to Celebrity's water shuttle ($20 US for a 24 hour pass, but it only gets you to St Marks and back to the ship) or to one of the two nearby vaporettos.  When I say nearby, they are not really all that close.  For either one you have to walk to the entrance of the port.  For Trachetti you then go left, across the bridge, and you will come to a large parking garage (from here, follow the signs with the boat on them.)  Turn left down a narrow sidewalk towards the port.  When it opens up, turn right and go into the building to buy your tickets (vaporetto desk is on the left.) Buy a 24 hour ticket for $18e, you will use it!  If you have a 24 hour pass you don't have to validate (they are small tickets that look like movie tickets.)  For shorter rides you get a white card, for which you will have to validate the first time in the yellow box, they wave in front of the white box before each ride.  I can tell you that no one ever checked our tickets in two days, but you are supposed to do it in case they ask.  If you opt to go to the Piazzale Roma stop, at the port entrance go up the hill (slight right) to the road and turn right.  (You are up on a bridge.) Keep going down the road past the police station, and then turn left when you see a bunch of motorcycles parked down the hill.  Piazzale Roma is down there.  The best way to start your adventure is to just get on one that is headed up the Grand Canal.  That way you'll get the hang of all the different stops, which way the boats travel, etc.  Note that each stop has two platforms.  The one on the right is traveling to the left and vice versa.  Try to get a seat up front.  The ride up the Grand Canal is magical.  Ride all the way to St. Marks before you get off.  Most of your time will be spent at St Marks or Rialto.  We loved St Marks and there were not that many pigeons, they certainly didn't bother us.  We took lots of photos, and then rode to the top of the Campanile for $8e each.  It was worth it for the beautiful city views. We spent some time trying to find the bridge of sighs, before finally spotting it from the vaporetto on the second day. We walked back into some of the streets behind St Marks, passing many designer shops along the way, and crossing some of the smaller canals.  We then walked along the Grand Canal and purchased a print from one of the many craft and souvenir booths on the water.  This was a fun part of the day.  There are also ATMs located here.  We then rode back down to the Rialto stop, which we loved more than St Marks.  They have many shops here with jewelry, glass, local crafts and souvenirs.  Also next to the Rialto Bridge are waterside restaurants.  We sit down at one and enjoy some wonderful pizza and calzones (not on the dinner menu, but they served us from the lunch menu if asked) ravioli, and squid (okay, I didn't try the squid, but the kids did.) With two cokes, one sparkling water and one still water (you could share the water, we didn't know) and the bill was $91e before tip.  I think it said tip was included, but we tipped anyway.  It was well worth the splurge for the gorgeous views of gondolas going by as we dined.  We finished the first day by riding around in circles on the vaporetto, enjoying the many beautiful views.   The second day was morning only, as we had to be back on board at 1:30.  Bill and Tyler shopped for cheap souvenirs at Piazzale Roma, while Kyle and I took one last vaporetto ride.  It wasn't the magic of the first day, but it was fun anyway.  We opted against the gondola ride, which would've been over $100, but we didn't miss it. Day Three - Dubrovnik - The ship wasn't due in port until 9, so we slept until 8.   We headed up to the Waterfall Cafe at 9 for the breakfast buffet, which was by now packed with people wanting an early start of it.  The weather forecast was 88f and sunny, and everyone knew it would be even hotter up on the wall.  For breakfast they had quite a buffet including eggs, every kind of meat, oatmeal, fruit, six kinds of dry cereal, along with a make your own omelet stand.   I had an omelet and toast, Bill and the boys filled up on scrambled eggs, toast and bacon.  They had skim milk in the fountain and whole milk in little cartons.  They also had four different kinds of juices. I have yet to find the famous waffle stand. We went to the desk to exchange money for the day and they said they didn't carry any kunas because every place took Euros. They also said that we would need a photo ID with our sail card for this port.  We actually docked at the port (not tendered) and the port is right next to the main street (we were in a gated area.)  Now it is about 1030. We noticed some taxis and tour buses next to the ship, but since we were visiting Dubrovnik on our own we decided to walk on and look for the bus station.  We kept walking next to the water for a bit until we came to a building on the left which was customs.  We went in there and a very official lady said we could not go through unless we had a photo id for each of us.  Bill showed his drivers license and Tyler his high school ID card, but Kyle had left his wallet on the boat.  She was very upset about that, but finally let us through with a warning.  Though she owed us no favors we asked her about which bus to catch to go to Old Town and she said either the 1A or 1B.  We noticed several public buses going by and finally boarded 1A.  The bus driver said it was 1.5 euro each, which we thought was very reasonable.  The ride over to Old Town was only about ten minutes, which was good since we had to stand.  The route runs near the water and at one point opens up for a magnificent view of the sea, straight down!  At Old Town we hop out and I am immediately impressed.  To my right is a little park with a beautiful fountain, trees, and a view of the sea.  To my left is what reminds me of a giant sand castle, with the imposing wall in front of me with a giant entryway.  The whole area around there is planted with beautiful shrubs and palm trees.  We go inside to buy the tickets so we can get around the wall before it gets too hot.  Adults are 50 Kuna and children under 18 are 20 Kuna.  I believe that was around 17 euro. We decided against the audio tour as it might take too long in the heat.  This is a pretty strenuous climb for anyone with any hip or knee issues.  The first steps take you straight up to the top of the wall.  The other problem is how smooth and slippery the stones are from all the years of foot traffic.  I wore flip flops and slid forward several times. And of course it is very hot up there in the summer, and the walls keep any breeze from blowing over.  The nice thing is that there are four or five places along the four walls where you can abandon the walk and go back down if it gets to be too much. Once were up there, we had some gorgeous views of the bay and many photo opportunities.  There was a lagoon on one side where people were renting canoes and kayaks, and you can also see the famous Buza bar straight down one wall.  Looking down inside the walled town you notice that there are still folks living in those buildings, as you see laundry hanging out, and private balconies. You also notice the bright orange of some rooftops that had to be replaced after the recent bombings.  Once we finished walking the wall we decided to go down and see what else was inside the walls.  It seemed a little disorganized with a mix of private residences, sidewalk cafes, gelato shops and street vendors, but I suppose they are still trying to figure out what to do in there.  Bullet holes on some of the walls are a reminder of what took place there not that long ago. About now it is noon, and we decide to check out the Buza bar.  By now it is scorching hot, and since the first one we come to has rails we decided that was good enough.  We have two "still" waters and two cokes, which come in tiny little bottles, for 16 euro.  Tyler has worn his swimming trunks as he is determined to get in the water.  He and I walk the stone steps to the sea, which is beautiful and clear, but freezing cold.  Some college students are cliff jumping, which I think was making Tyler a little nervous.  Nonetheless, he takes off his shoes and plunges in, proclaiming it "fine," but getting back out pretty much immediately.  I put my feet in as well, and find it darn cold, but also refreshing after being so hot up on the wall. At about 1pm we decide we'd had enough, so we grabbed some gelato on the way out ($1e each cone) passing many tables with locally made lace tablecloths and runners, and went back to the bus stop at the Old Town (Pile) gate. We boarded the 1A bus where we were promptly told that they did not take Euros!  We said we'd paid Euros to get there and he said none of the buses took Euros.  We finally decided it wasn't worth the hassle of changing money, so we grabbed a taxi back for the set price of $10e.  It wasn't much difference from the $6e for the bus, and the taxi took us to the door of the ship instead of our walking through customs, which seemed like a good deal all things considered.  We thought it a nice touch that Celebrity had ice water and cold towels waiting for us outside the ships doors. The heat took its toll, so Bill and Kyle went back to take a nap in the air conditioning while Tyler and I headed to Cards to play Yahtzee.  We also managed to squeeze in a Wiii golf tournament (Tyler came in 2nd) before getting Bill up for sail away.  We took some wonderful photos and videos of the ship leaving Dubrovnik.  Since we hadn't had lunch, we popped into the Waterfall Cafe for a snack.  I had 4-cheese and pepperoni pizza, while Bill and Tyler tried some of the sushi.  They had a pasta bar with several types of pasta and sauces to choose from, and also mushroom stuffed ravioli. They also had a stir fry area with about 30 different ingredients.   Tonight was formal night so we all got into our fancy clothes and spent some time in the different clubs before dinner.  Tom, the piano player in Michael's club, was doing a medley of Sinatra songs, which Bill really enjoyed.  Next, off to Rendezvous lounge where the band played a great mix of songs. Athens - Determined to avoid the heat and crowds so often mentioned regarding Athens, we were up at 6:30 and off the ship by 8am.  By the way, we did finally find the waffles on 10 in the very back of the ship. The waffles were good, but the pancakes and French toast were not the best.  Piraeus (pronounce peer-a-us) is an industrial port with not much to see.  The town and port are not very clean and covered with graffiti.  The train station was probably exactly across the bay from where our ship docked.  The port provides a free shuttle from the ship to the customs and immigration building (about halfway around, then you have to walk the rest of the way, or take the dreaded taxi.) We just walked through the building (follow the "to the city" signs,) we didn't need to check in with anyone.  We turned left out of the building and kept walking until we could get up onto the street.  We then followed the street next to the port all the way around until we hit a dead end (a port entry.)  We looked right and saw a big yellow building and realized we went one block too far, but no worries, we cut through a parking lot, across a bridge that went across a busy street, and went in.  It had been about a 30 minute walk. Not knowing whether we would be going back and forth from the green line to the red line, we opted for the 24 hour ticket at $3e each.  Inside the station there were two trains sitting there, one with a Greek word in red, and number 20, the other a Greek word in black and number 19. This was confusing as we knew we needed the green line #1.  After asking a guard and checking the station map, we discovered the town at the end of the green line was on the train on the left (black, and I'm sure the final town started with a "k" but I can't remember it.)  We hopped on and had an easy ride to Thissio.  In hindsight, it was so easy to get on and off at Thissio that we could've just bought the round trip ticket for that stop.  I was surprised that the former Olympic venue had so much graffiti (we called it Greekiti) all the way to Thissio. We arrived at Thissio in about 15 minutes, exited the station and saw what looked like a big gated park in front of us (the agora.)  Grab a water bottle at the stand there for only half a euro.  Go around the left side of the park and up a quaint little street with sidewalk cafes until you come to the entrance.  Buy a ticket to the Acropolis which will cover the Acropolis and the Agora.  Tickets were $12e each adult, and free for the children (even teens.)  With the coming heat in mind, we headed for the Acropolis first.  All I can say about walking through the Agora is WOW.  All around you are remnants of beautiful old buildings, pillars and columns, and that isn't even the Acropolis. We just kept saying, I can't believe I'm in Athens! It is quite a steep walk up the hill to the Acropolis, but there are trees and shade in some places.  At the top I was overwhelmed by the buildings that are largely still intact.  The Parthenon is of course the most impressive, but we still marveled at the beauty and workmanship of all of them.  At the top you will have beautiful views of Athens, the temple of the Olympian Zeus and Hadrian's Arch.  You don't need to go down there to see them.  After taking tons of pictures and videos we headed back down to the Agora.  It helps to have a guide book (I used top ten in Athens) to explain the different items in the Agora.  It is definitely worth a stop at the Agora museum where they have so many statues sitting outside that were recovered from the site. You can go inside the museum for free. After leaving the Agora, we stopped at one of the cafes on the way to the station and had lunch. We bought an order of meatballs and spaghetti, a pork pita, and swordfish, plus two cokes, a milkshake, and a 1.2 liter of water. The total bill was $45e with tip already included.  The food was all very tasty and worth trying the local specialties.  Look to your right through one of the little restaurants and see right behind there is an active dig site.  About ten archeologists were working, some uncovering an ancient stone wall.  It was so interesting to see them in action.  Afterwards, it was an easy ride back from Thissio, though the walk along the port was now getting hot as it was noon.  We didn't go to the Plaka, but felt that we saw everything we really wanted to see and then some. Santorini - We got to sleep in a little later (9am) since we didn't have any big plans in Santorini.  It's really the kind of place where you just enjoy the views and shopping anyway, and although we had an "at-sea" day the day before, I thought we needed to rest up for the crazy week ahead.  The ship docks in the center of an old volcano, and it's really cool to see the old walls of it more than half way around.  After having breakfast on the ship we got on the tender and headed to the base of the hill (Skala.)  Instead of riding the donkeys up, we opted to take the cable car which gave us a great view going up the side of the hill (only $4e per person each way.)  When we got to the top we could look out over the hill and see an amazing view of the sea, and around the city of Thira with its whitewashed buildings (hotels, restaurants and shops, mostly, with one church) all perched along the top of the cliffs.  We originally had plans to visit Oia (pronounced Wee-Ah) which you could get to by taking a bus to the other side of the island, but we got lost in the maze of little streets and never found the bus station.  It was a lot of fun going into the shops though, so we didn't mind just hanging around Thira for the day.  Even though it was a hot day (high 80s,) there were awnings completely covering the little alleys so we felt pretty comfortable.  Bill found a lot of little souvenirs there, I bought some Ouzo (Greek wine) and the boys got a laugh at some of the risquE European humor found on the t-shirts and souvenirs.  They certainly get away with a lot more here than at home!  Also, I noted that they were selling lots of rip-off designer bags, especially Gucci.  I did not buy one here but I can't guarantee I wouldn't.  So if you see me with one when I get home, you can ask me and I will confess.  : )  So after shopping awhile we stopped at the Kapoe Bar and had soft drinks and milkshakes for only $16e, not too bad.  Around 5pm we were bored so went back down the cable car to the tenders.  After talking to some people on the boat who took fun ATV tours and catamaran rides, and others who said Oia was the most beautiful place they'd ever seen, we thought we probably missed out somewhat, however with the crazy itinerary we've had it was nice to just hang out for a change. Naples / Capri - What a glorious day!  The high was only about 78, and Bill had heard that Italy was experiencing a cold spell for this time of year.  Wonderful for us because it had been so blazing hot in Greece.  Naples is the type of port where you can go in many different directions.  Some cruisers were going to Naples, some to Sorrento, some to Pompeii, and others to Positano.  However we had always known that we wanted to spend the day in Capri.  The kids wanted to do the Blue Grotto tour, which is where you take a boat ride to a little cave and ride a little canoe inside to see the blue water reflecting on the cave walls.  Bill and I wanted to ride the chairlift up to Mount Solaro at AnaCapri (at the top of Capri.)  We got up early, had breakfast and headed to the Hydrofoil station.  We had never heard of a hydrofoil, and assumed it might be like a vaporetto in Venice.  WRONG!  A hydrofoil is a HUGE boat, more like a small jet plane.  The seats inside are on two levels, and they are like airplane seats, going four, six and four across.  The thing really cooks across the water going out to Capri, and we got serious airtime on those waves.  Several people had to be handed seasick bags, as it was too much for them being stuck on there for 45 minutes.  I loved it, but then I love roller coasters.  Bill said he did okay, which is surprising since he hates coasters and takes Dramamine before flights.  I don't know how, but the boys slept all the way over.  That's just as well because a lady got sick next to him and we didn't want him getting flashbacks to the show from last week.  : )   We got to Capri around 10am and found that the water was too rough for the Blue Grotto tour, so we decided to do the chairlift first.  We got on a bus up to Anacapri (only $1.40e each) but they only come once an hour.  So we had to wait 50 minutes for the bus to pick us up at the Marina.  The bus ride was so picturesque with all the views down around every corner.  It's a very small island, and the roads are extremely narrow.  Two buses can only pass if there's a driveway to pull into.  Most everyone takes a motorcycle or a smart car (glorified golf carts, if you ask me) or else walks.  Once we got to the top we were at a shopping plaza, which reminded me of Longboat Key in Florida (a little circle in the middle with upscale shops all around.) After getting our tickets (round trip for $8e each) we hopped on the chairlift that takes you up to the top of Mount Solaro.  I heard that you can walk down, but it takes an hour and you miss such a great view.  I can't believe people do that!  That was such a fun ride, exactly like a ski lift except it's a one-man chair.  It's so peaceful riding up there looking at everything.  We went over lots of grape vines and orange and kiwi trees going up, and also some crazy gypsy lady's farm who collected all manner of weird objects and had them strewn all over her yard.  At the top was a little park where you could see all sides of the island.  We were able to take some great photos and videos from here.  They also had a little gelato shop, and while we were cultivating a newfound love of the stuff, we knew we would be eating lunch soon.  : (  So back down the chairlift, where we found a great little restaurant for lunch.  Tyler and Bill got pizza because we heard that pizza was invented in Naples.  I got a ham and cheese Panini, and of course, Kyle went for the burger and fries.  Sigh.  We all tried each others food and it was so awesome.  The pizza here is made with a very thin crust that is foldable.  As Bill said, here the crust is the star.  At home it's the cheese.  This restaurant was also an internet cafe and we were able to hop on their computer, after a very nice Italian lady showed us that you go to the @ sign by holding in CTR ALT and 2.  That gave Kyle a chance to hop on Facebook, since he has been feeling homesick for his friends.  After lunch we shopped a bit then went back down to the Marina to find that the Blue Grotto tour still wasn't running.  We were going to just take a boat ride around the island, but it just didn't work out well with our timing to get back to the cruise ship.  So Tyler and I did a little wading in the water at the beach (giant smooth rocks, no sand) before we got back on the hydrofoil to go back.  This time we rode out on the back in the open air.  And while my hair braided itself into knots, it was worth it for the view of Sorrento and Mount Vesuvius as we raced by.  Did I mention the hydrofoil was expensive? 12e per person each way.  But that's okay, because I got to spend the day at Capri, which I had only seen in People magazine (tee hee.) Rome - Wow, the city I've always dreamed of and I'm finally here!  It was going to be another gorgeous day, only 74 degrees.  We thought we were being so good being up at 645am, but after getting ready and grabbing breakfast we still didn't get downstairs until 815.  The ship had a free shuttle waiting to take us to the port entrance.  We hopped off the bus, took a right and walked down the street about 8 minutes to the train station (we were docked in the town of Civitavecchia, pronounced Cha Velia.)  After buying 24 hour passes, we had to stand on one of those outdoor platforms to wait for the train.  Luckily it was rush hour and they came every 30 minutes, so we didn't wait long.  The ride into Rome took about an hour and a half, but at least we could sit and look out the window.  The boys slept the whole way because they had been out late playing basketball on deck the night before.  I spent the ride guarding the backpack because of all the stories I'd heard about pickpockets.  I had also mastered the money belt, so I felt reasonably safe.  The view going in was not at all scenic, as half of it was dusty, weedy farmland, and the rest of it was nasty looking buildings nearly covered in graffiti.  What is it with these people and graffiti?  It is NOT that bad at home.  And it is in every language too.  Hmmm.  So we get to the main station Roma Termini around 1100, and have to find the local metro trains, as we have been traveling on a regional one.  It feels much like an airport in there, and we follow the metro signs til we get to the blue line.  We hope on and go two stops to the Colloseo station.  As soon as we stepped out the Coliseum is looming right in front of us.  It is hard to take in that we are standing right there, and as we looked for a crosswalk to go over, we looked next to it and there is a HUGE arch (Arch of Constantine) to the right, and then further right all these other ruins are standing there, it is just amazing.  We decide to start from the right, which is the Forum, and working our way left.  That turns out to be the right choice, as we see later that the line to get at the Coliseum gate is at least an hour wait.  I had a guidebook with me to help navigate the Forum, but it was so hard to figure everything out.  There is just so much to see.  There are about 30 old buildings, arches, pillars, temples, etc in there and there is hardly any method to where things were placed.  There are also pieces of columns and statues that are just lying around where they were dug up.  This is still a dig site, as people had areas roped off where they were still uncovering stuff.   It was so cool to see that each Caesar basically had to outdo the one before with mightier columns and bigger statues.  They must have had an abundant supply of marble, as they used it for just about everything, including the floors and steps.  It is really a sight to see.  My favorites are the arches, which are still in great shape with intricate carvings all over them.  But some of those four story pillars are pretty grand, too.  I also enjoyed something that was quite simple, basically a stage on which the Caesars would stand and give their speeches to the people.  About halfway through Kyle's OCD kicks in and he starts asking me when we are going to be ready to go.  What?  I am treading the path of Julius Caesar here!  Tyler at least seems interested, taking lots of photos and reading the signs.  Bill enjoyed it the most, as it was hard to keep him moving along so we could see the rest of Roma.  Right behind the forum was Palatine Hill, which was basically a row of what had been ancient mansions where the rich people built their houses so they could look down on the masses. It was interesting, but just can't compare to what is down in the Forum.  Then finally we get to the Coliseum, which is about the size of our US Bank arena (used to be the "coliseum" in Cincinnati,) and built around 67 AD.  It could hold 50,000 people, however all the seats are now gone.  The supports and steps are all rock and brick, but the seats and main floor had been wood.  Under the floor was so interesting as it is a maze of little "cells" and pathways down there.  They used to keep all the animals and props down there until it was time for the fights.  They even flooded it sometimes for sea battles.  It's amazing they could've done all that back then.  We took a bunch of pictures, but I think the boys were a little sick of ruins by then and wanted to move on.  Our next stop was the Pantheon, which took about 20 minutes to walk to.  We almost didn't go because of time, but we decided to anyway and we were so glad we did.  The Pantheon is just an absolutely gorgeous, amazing building that was not damaged by earthquakes or WWII which did so much damage to other historical sites.  The details on the walls, ceiling, trims, and even the floors, plus the statues and frescoes are just incredible.  I love that it has a hole built into the ceiling for when they used to have burnt offerings in there.  Of course rain comes in, but the floor is sloped away so the rain runs off.  There are two Italian kings buried in there, along with the painter Raphael.  Now it is about 2pm and we still haven't had lunch.  Kyle wanted McDonalds and the rest of us wanted to grab pizza to go, however I could not find an ATM and all the fast food places wanted cash.  The first two gave me a message that they were out of service, the third was just unplugged.  Finally the fourth one worked, thank you Banco Sicilia!  We grabbed a bite in Burger King, OMG yes Mickey Ds and the King reign over here as well!  I guess I can't complain as lunch only cost $24e.  After that we walked another 15 minutes to the Trevi Fountain, which was definitely an impressive site, but I wasn't prepared that it was squished in between four buildings.  I thought it was on a big square.  Nonetheless, we all threw in our coins to insure we would come back to Rome in the future.  I think it would've been even more amazing after dark when it was all lit up, but hey, I'm doing the whistle stop tour, right?  After that we head to the Spanish steps, which we all agreed was a little disappointing after all the amazing sites we had seen today.  Because we were able to pick up the pace a little, we decided to be renegades and walk to the San Pietro (Saint Peter's) train station by cutting through the Vatican Square, instead of going to the main station.  This would cut our time a little closer (we had to be back on the ship by 6:45) but we really wanted to see it.  After another 15 minutes of walking and a few wrong turns, and we ended up in Vatican square.  Wow, another absolutely amazing site!  St Peter's domed cathedral is covered in gold, and statues of Peter and Paul stand out in front.  There is a circular wall all around you that has I think 130 statues of saints up on top.  There are also the papal apartments (I saw floor to ceiling windows on the penthouse) and the Vatican museum.  We wished we had time to go in and see the Sistine Chapel, but we were just out of time.  We take a few photos and videos and head out the other side towards the train station.  It's about two blocks, and when we finally found it the next train was picking us up at 505pm, arriving back in port at 6pm.  Unfortunately it was rush hour, so we had to stand squashed against the doors almost all the way back.  An old Italian gentleman was getting comfortable almost laying on Kyle, and between that and the jokes about the heat and the pickpockets we were laughing so hard we were crying, except there was no room to lift your arms to wipe your eyes.  We never laughed so hard this whole trip.  Fortunately that kept Kyle from worrying about being late and having to take the train to Florence to meet up with the ship the next day.  We arrived back at the station at 6, walked back to the port and caught the ship's shuttle and were back on board by 6:30.  Cutting it mighty close, but worth it for a glorious day in Bella Roma! Florence - Florence, ahhh, a beautiful, beautiful city.  Much more thoughtful, artsy, grand city than Rome.  We got up and caught a taxi next to the ship, and for $20e we were at the train station in 20 minutes.  We caught the 9:11 train and went all the way to the Santa Maria Novella station (the end of the line) in Florence, arriving around 1030.  The beginning of the ride was pretty industrial, but after Pisa, the view of the Tuscan countryside was very picturesque, with all the farms and the little towns on the hill.  We exited the station and headed to the Accademia as we had an 1145 reservation.  On the way we passed some wonderful little shops where we bought some jewelry and scarves.  We were SO glad we had reservations at the Accademia as the lines were endless to get in.  The museum itself is small, with the glorious statue of David as the star.  It was worth the $12e each just to see that amazing statue.  Interesting that the David is slightly out of proportion, as Michelangelo originally meant for the statue to be placed on top of a building to be viewed from below.  There were three or four other pieces that we wanted to see, then within an hour we were on our way.  We dropped down to the center of town to see the Santa Croce, and got great photos of the Duomo, the Campanile, and the Baptistry building, with its wonderful brass doors.  We were surprised that it was a bit grimy, but still impressive with its pink and green façade.  Afterwards, we walked on towards the square with all the outdoor statues outside of the Uffizi, including the "fake" David.  There are a few outdoor cafes there on the square, so we stop for lunch, enjoying some wonderful calzones, French fries, water and cokes for $90e including tip.  It was worth it for the great Italian food and beautiful views of the square.  A visit to the restaurant bathroom gave me a shock when I came out of the stall to see a man and his son washing their hands.  Apparently this bathroom was co-ed!  Other female visitors were a little wary about this, asking me to stay in with them until they were done.  Pressing on, we are now only a block from the Arno River, where we take several photos of the Ponte Vecchio.  After a stop for gelato, we cross the bridge to find that all the shops are selling jewelry.  Since we aren't in the market for any, we enjoy a stroll on the other side of the river before crossing another bridge and heading towards the train station.  We board the 4:27 train and make it back to the Livorno station by 6. No problem grabbing a taxi for $20e and easily making the ship by 6:20. Nice/Monte Carlo - The ship actually docked in the beautiful small town of Villefranche.  It was only one of two ports (with Santorini) where we were tendered, but also where we had a beautiful view right from the port. (The other ports were very industrial.) From this stop we could choose between Nice, Eze, Monte Carlo and Cannes.  We opted for Monte Carlo in the morning and Nice in the afternoon, for lunch and swimming.  After sleeping in, we got on a tender at 10 and it was an easy walk to the right and up the stairs to the train station.  We paid $2.50e each to go one way to Monte Carlo.  It was about a 20 minute train ride to get there.  The train station at Monte Carlo is huge, and under the city, and it takes forever to get to one of the exits.  We made the mistake (the first of many this day) of exiting DOWNHILL instead of UPHILL.  It is best to start your tour of the city at the top and wind your way down to the Casino and then down to the water, then up the other mountain to the palace.  As it was, we exited by the water, so we had to go left up the hill to the casino, getting all turned around thinking the palace was further up the hill.  So we backtracked down toward the water again, then up the other side.  Although it was a much longer hike, we did get many beautiful photos, as everything there is so clean and grand, with yachts, country clubs, of course the grand casino, 5 star hotels, and designer shopping at every turn.  We were lucky to escape a storm that seemed to pass beside us; however it did make the day a little overcast.  The casino was so beautiful with a gorgeous manicured park and mirrored ball statue out in front.  The Belmont Hotel looked like a palace itself, stretching out for an entire block.  Almost every street had a view of the sea.  We went back down to the sea and around rows of yachts in the harbor, passing the spectator stands for the Monaco Grand Prix and the upcoming Tour d France.  We followed the steps up the other side to reach the courtyard of the Palace, too late to see the noon changing of the guard (it was 1230) but it was interesting to see the one guard going in and out of the guardhouse with three others passing in front.  The palace itself was not that big, but interesting, with an old section and a new section.  The Grimaldi family has been ruling Monaco since the 1200s.  Off the same courtyard you can see the Oceanography museum, and around the corner the Cathedral, with its curved stone staircases coming down in front.  Admission to the cathedral is free, with no posted dress code, and Princess Grace and her husband and several of his ancestors are buried behind the alter.  It is a somber experience to walk past and note the flowers on her grave and his.  After visiting the cathedral we took several photos, as there are several scenic views from this area.  We backtracked down the steps and took a short cut left to get to a quicker entrance to the train station (GARE.)  After missing the entrance several times, we finally found it and went to buy our tickets for the 1:20 train at the ticket machine.  After several tries it wouldn't take our credit cards or paper money (only coins.) So we went to the ticket desk ALL the way across the station, and the computers were down.  So we missed our train, and the next one wouldn't be coming for an hour.  We didn't know what to do, so we inquired about a bus, which we were told comes every 15 minutes but takes 50 minutes to get to Nice. So we opted to stay and get our tickets.  Once the computers were back up, Bill waited in line behind six or seven people who all wanted tourism advice in addition to tickets, so he was stuck in line about 25 minutes.  In the meantime, the board showed that our train was now running 40 minutes delayed.  So now figuring we had time for lunch, we stepped out of the station to find no restaurants, but a pastry shop where we got brownies and soft drinks.  Back into the station where the train did come at 2:25.  We arrived in Nice a little before 3.  The train station is several blocks from the beach.  The first several blocks were a little seedy, but once we were within four blocks of the beach the area was nicer, and there were many little shops and outdoor cafes and bars.  The beachfront itself is gorgeous.  It is along a stretch called the Anglais Promenade, which is a concrete walkway going along the beach. The water there is the most amazing blue, and the beach is a long stretch of light brown sand.  There are several places where you can rent lounge chairs.  This would be a fantastic place to come with kids, and we were looking forward to enjoying it once we found a place to eat.  After backtracking to the area we just came from, we found a sidewalk cafe called the Bistro, where we had some French dishes that we couldn't pronounce and weren't too crazy about. Unfortunately, by the time we finished eating it was 5:45.  Just enough time to go back to the beach for one last look and some photos, then into the taxi for the 20 minutes drive back to Villefrance.  The train problem really screwed up my beach time, but overall we still had a great day.  I would definitely recommend Nice to anyone traveling with kids. Barcelona - I basically wrote off the day as a time to relax and not rush around trying to see a million things, which is probably why we really enjoyed it.  We were one of the last groups that would be called to disembark, so we slept until 7am and took our time at our last big breakfast buffet onboard.  I must say I was really going to miss those waffles!  We got off the ship without a hitch, and joined the queue for taxis outside. We had heard that they were not metered in Barcelona, but ours was, and 15 minutes and $20e later we were at our hotel, the Prestige Congress.  Words can't even describe how oddly modern this place is.  Bill said he was looking for the IV pole, because our room looked like a hospital room.  Everything was stainless steel and extremely cold and minimalistic.  We did, however, have a rockin Bang & Olufsen electronics system, although in 24 hours none of us could figure out how to use it.  The lights kept dimming on a timer, it took an hour (and two scary trips) into the WC to learn how to switch on the bathroom light, and there was no wall, only a set of blinds that dropped between the bedroom and bathroom when you pushed a button.  They also had free wifi and free minibar.  Odd, that's just the best description.  Fortunately we arrived at 930am and they let us check right in.  So after resting a bit, we hopped on a nearby train and headed into town.  We had a little trouble with their trains, because there were so many lines and we had to keep hopping off gray onto red, then from red to orange, etc.  And you had to buy your tickets from machines (those dreaded machines again!) But at least this one would take my 5-3 debit card (although not our other credit cards.)  Can't wait to see my fee per transaction this month!  The first place we wanted to go was the beach.  Tyler and I have been trying to get into the water for two weeks and today was finally going to be the day.  After several transfers we arrive at the Barceleneta station.  There were no "to the beach" signs, so we turned left, and finally figured out we could follow the people with beach towels.  The path took us down a wonderful street, with a wide sidewalk and rows of outdoor cafes serving lunch, desserts and drinks on our left. To our right was Port Vell, which was a small harbor for smaller, personal boats.  We had heard that this whole area had been revamped for the 1992 Olympics, and we could really see they had made an effort to make it nice for tourists.  At the end of the street was the beach, which was so clean, and the sand and rocks were beautiful, having been shipped in especially to make this beach.  They had a few bars where you could sit and have a drink, and also several fresh water showers.  It was a Saturday though, and this place was packed! We picked our way through the throngs to get close to the water.  I don't know who noticed first, I think one of the boys.  I heard, "OMG" and looked up but I had already realized what it meant.  This beach was topless.  Okay, topless was optional.  99 out of a hundred opted for a top, thank goodness, but here we were already getting in the water.  Bill and Kyle decided they didn't want to be salty all day, so they went off to collect rocks and shells, and probably get Kyle away from the situation.  He is our modest one.  Tyler and I got in the water and just played cool.  To be honest, we stayed in the same place where there was the same two 20-somethings, two 40 somethings and two 60-somethings (Oy vey!) So it wasn't like a parade.  Still, it was different!  The water was freezing and took awhile to get used to it.  Also, there were some pretty big boulders we kept tripping over.  So after an hour we decided we were done.  After we met up with Bill and Kyle, we backtracked up the beach to leave, with Bill in the lead.  He took us too far, but we figured it would loop around and put us back on the street.  This was an interesting area too, as we got to pass both the gym and the pool used for the Olympics.  They had a cool statue out front to commemorate the occasion.  As we're oohing and aahing over this, I turn back to notice there is a man and his son (about 9) crossing the sidewalk, both buck naked! A quick glance left to the beach and we all realized this part of the beach was for nudists.  And the worst part is, the path we're on is now a dead end, so we have to backtrack through the section again.  I wasn't even trying to be cool now, with my hand shielding my eyes on the right side.  Europeans are something else!  : )   So after a stop for gelato and a laugh about our beach experience, we hop in the train up to La Sagrada Familia, the most famous building in Barcelona.  It was designed over a hundred years ago by Gaudi, and can best be described as a drippy sand castle.  It does have some amazing things sculpted into its sides, biblical scenes, etc.  It is truly a work of art.  However, if you don't go inside it only takes about 15 minutes to see it, with another ten to enjoy the lovely park across the street with a running stream and fountain.  Now we're off to enjoy Las Ramblas, which is the main street running up the center of Old Town.  It is a very wide street with a median up the middle, and it is filled with locals, tourists, gypsies doing sleight of hand tricks, people dressed in freakish costumes with gold and silver faces, people selling birds or playing music...it's just a sight to behold. The street is lined with shops of every kind, souvenirs, clothing, jewelry, restaurants, bars, etc.  After a crazy two weeks, we opted for our old favorite, Hard Rock Cafe!  Since we didn't have to rush back, we were able to hang out and enjoy ourselves before we took the train back to the hotel.  This vacation was the biggest adventure of our lives.  So much fun learning the languages, meeting the people, and experiencing new foods, drinks and places.  We all agreed that we have a newfound appreciation for people across the world who have their own wonderful cultures, and that we would have more empathy for people trying to communicate with us who don't know English!  Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
My wife and I had planned for a cruise holiday about three months ago. Eventually the choice of the cruise ship was made based on the ports covered, size of the ship and the favorable member reviews in Cruise Critic.We were met at ... Read More
My wife and I had planned for a cruise holiday about three months ago. Eventually the choice of the cruise ship was made based on the ports covered, size of the ship and the favorable member reviews in Cruise Critic.We were met at Barcelona Airport by Celebrity staff at noon and in no time at all we embarked the Summit in time for lunch in the Waterfall Cafe on Deck 10.  The whole process of embarkation was systematically carried out without hitch.The stateroom was in immaculate condition, adequate in size with a nice balcony.  The bathroom was very clean.  Two cracked floor tiles and the shower curtain did not bother us at all; but the button to flush to toilet was badly positioned behind the toilet bowl cover.  An outstanding feature was the exhaust which was very effective - a feature often overlooked even in 5-star hotels.Although one could have sit-down breakfasts and lunches in the Metropolitan Restaurant, we chose to have ours in the Waterfall Cafe.  The food was plentiful and was generally good. Thai curry beef, sushi and sashimi were all authentic; but the stir-fried noodles could be improved by adding Asian vegetables instead of capsicum and celery.  The barbecued chicken from the Poolside Grill was very good.  Hot and cold drinks were available at any time.  Many types of fruits and tea were offered. The coffee was poor - not strong enough.  Even the latte in Cova Cafe was not up to standard.Dinner in Metropolitan Restaurant was a delight. We had a table to ourselves (Table 513).  Waiter Sen was very good in his recommendations.  Equally cheerful was Asst. Waiter Sebastian who was very attentive to our needs.  Sommelier Doriana was a gem - hightly motivated and helpful in wine selection.  The food was great with ample choice of fish, meat, vegetables, soups and desserts.The dinner at Normandie Restaurant was reasonably good.  You could tell that the food cost more that $30 as it included lobster tail, lobster bisque, escargot and foie gras.  However, the thermidor lobster tail I had was tough - perhaps too big or over-cooked.The Celebrity Showtime was spectacular with good resident singers and dancers in attractive costumes.  Guest artist Tommy Bond gave an outstanding performance.One of the reasons for choosing Summit was the itinerary.  The ports visited were Barcelona, Villefranche (Nice, Monte Carlo, Cannes), Livorno (Pisa, Florence), Civitavecchia (Rome), Naples (Capri, Pompeii, Sorrento), Santorini, Piraeus (Athens), Dubrovnik and Venice.  We joined five shore excursions offered by Celebrity and went on our own in Rome, Dubrovnik and Venice.  All the shore excursions were well organized and covered the major tourist sights.In summary, good crew, good food, great service and a well planned itinerary made our holiday on the Summit a memorable one. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
My wife & I have returned from a enjoyable cruise on the Summit,we booked cruise only, & booked our own flight with Easyjet to Barcelona.A few points here regarding getting to the ship. Beware the taxis,they charge for each ... Read More
My wife & I have returned from a enjoyable cruise on the Summit,we booked cruise only, & booked our own flight with Easyjet to Barcelona.A few points here regarding getting to the ship. Beware the taxis,they charge for each case,some friends hired a taxi from the top of La Rambles & they got to the ship the reading on the meter was about 14 euros,he then added on the cases & they were charged 27 euros.  The ship is further away than it looks from the bottom of La Ramblas,we found out,because we walked. A Port shuttle bus does run from the Columbus statue for 2 euros.Embarkation: We left our luggage with a porter & proceeded to the check-in, there was a queue, but we were checked in , in about 15 mins.,   SHIP:   The ship is in excellent condition when you think it is nearly 8 years old. There is the odd rust spots & rust, painted over,also some carpets had raised joins, but most seemed new.The lounges are very comfortable, the pool area & aqua are very nice,I could not fault anywhere.CABINS:  The cabins are a good size ,as is the balcony. There was plenty of space for our cloths & the beds were one of most comfortable we have slept in.   The bathroom was a good size with the bonus of a larger shower than usual.   The cabin all round was in excellent condition, except for one thing,the carpet although clean ,could have done with a shampoo. Dressing gowns are one size & can be a bit small for some men , here I don't want to get into trouble,so some women also.DINING: MDR. Of course this is subjective, from my point of view the "Fine Dining" is too cheffy & pretentious for my liking.  My wife, our table companions & other people we met, some having sailed with Celebrity before, the general consensus was that the food was very good & as good as ever.We had an excellent mix on the table, 2 Brits (us), Kelly & Scott from California, & Rita & Debra from Toronto. Our Waiter(Lesme) was the best waiter we have had, always joking & picking on me. Ranjid our ass't waiter was quiet but very very efficient.  BUFFET etc.,   Usually buffets are hit & miss, Celebrity are more of a hit.  Breakfast, plenty of choice, with even American crispy or English bacon being served. You can order freshly made eggs & omelettes, there is an Asian section, waffles pancakes,& many healthy options.   Lunch ,again plenty of choice,fish,various meats,veg,salads,shusi, a pizza section were you can order a freshly made one, a pasta section, also a stir-fry section.   So So much.POOL GRill. Hamburgers, chips , BBQ chicken & chilli. We both only liked the chilli here.Tea,coffee,fruit juice  24/7, in addition ice cream & sweets available for several hours.DRINKS, As usual on cruise lines very expensive, although $9/£6 for a glass of wine in the lounges is the most expensive we have come across. We had wine at dinner , the cheapest by the way was  about $27 inc., the 15%.  ENTERTAINMENT: I find cruise shows a bit samey,that said Summits shows were very good,because the resident dancers & singers were excellent. There was very good aerialists, an a cappella group who I found boring in the large theatre,but people said they were excellent in the lounge. NO COMEDIANS THOUGH, WHY!!! The guest artists were all from the uk,a male allround singer who was good,a female classical singer who was excellent,& my favourite Brooks Arehon a classical pianist(with fun, jokes & stories),who I thought would be boring,turned out to be the hit of the week. By the way I prefer heavy rock type music.  DAY TIME.   A lot of activities going on bingo(Oh no),quizzes,sports.games,there was a  band called Great Ideas?? who did poolside shows, not repetitious & were excellent. The daytime hit of the week for me was the afternoon show with ,yes again,Brooks Arehon.EXCURSIONS:All done DIY, no problems all easy,except Livorno,see my thread PORTS of CALL,  Med East/WesternDisembarkation.For us excellent. Left our cases outside cabin on the last evening,a.m. had breakfast, waited till all the crowds disembarked, strolled of the ship, picked up a cases & got the 2 euro shuttle to La Rambles.In summary the cruise was a success,great itinerary except LIVORNO,great table companions & waiters,good entertainment & finally not forgetting our lovely cabin attendant (Lourdes) &the rest of the polite & smiling crew members.  We would sail with Celebrity again.   @font-face { font-family: Calibri; } @page Section1 {size: 595.3pt 841.9pt; margin: 72.0pt 72.0pt 72.0pt 72.0pt; } UNKNOWN { FONT-FAMILY: "Cambria Math"; panose-1: 2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4 } P.MsoNormal { FONT-SIZE: 11pt; MARGIN: 0cm 0cm 10pt; LINE-HEIGHT: 115%; FONT-FAMILY: "Calibri","sans-serif" } LI.MsoNormal { FONT-SIZE: 11pt; MARGIN: 0cm 0cm 10pt; LINE-HEIGHT: 115%; FONT-FAMILY: "Calibri","sans-serif" } DIV.MsoNormal { FONT-SIZE: 11pt; MARGIN: 0cm 0cm 10pt; LINE-HEIGHT: 115%; FONT-FAMILY: "Calibri","sans-serif" } .MsoChpDefault { } .MsoPapDefault { MARGIN-BOTTOM: 10pt; LINE-HEIGHT: 115% } DIV.Section1 { page: Section1 } TABLE.ae_noborder { BORDER-RIGHT: #cccccc 1px dashed; BORDER-TOP: #cccccc 1px dashed; BORDER-LEFT: #cccccc 1px dashed; BORDER-BOTTOM: #cccccc 1px dashed; BORDER-COLLAPSE: collapse } TABLE.ae_noborder TR TD { BORDER-RIGHT: #cccccc 1px dashed; BORDER-TOP: #cccccc 1px dashed; BORDER-LEFT: #cccccc 1px dashed; BORDER-BOTTOM: #cccccc 1px dashed } Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
Left Norfolk, Virginia and connected in Philadelphia for our overnight flight to Madrid, Spain. We took the pre-cruise tour to Madrid and Barcelona. Our tour guide in both places was wonderful. We stayed in 2 different hotels. One in ... Read More
Left Norfolk, Virginia and connected in Philadelphia for our overnight flight to Madrid, Spain. We took the pre-cruise tour to Madrid and Barcelona. Our tour guide in both places was wonderful. We stayed in 2 different hotels. One in Madrid was a classy hotel with wonderful food in the morning. We loved Madrid (not so much the graffiti). Seeing the Palace de Royale and the Prado made this part of the trip. We were in Madrid for 2 nights and then left by hi-speed train to Barcelona. We also saw Flamenco dancers and had a real special dinner dockside in Barcelona. We arrived at the pier by about 11:30AM and went through check-in very quickly. Since we were in a celebrity suite, we were shown to our suite immediately. We met some of our group in the cafe. Up to this point all went well. All of the places that we visited were great, if expensive. We were constantly surprised at how dirty some of the places were (especially Naples and Istanbul). It was funny having to pay to use the restrooms (Athens) and not finding locked doors or toilet paper. We learned rather quickly about the prices in Italy. We sat down in a street cafe in Florence and ordered a soup, small pizza, coffee and a bottle of water that set us back almost 40 euro. We did love all the places that we saw, and loved Venice the most. We disembarked in Venice and stayed a few extra days at the Monaco & Grand Canal Hotel. Well worth the money and they too served a wonderful complimentary breakfast each morning. Loved all the places to shop in Venice. We allowed the concierge in the hotel to make our arrangements for a lovely gondola ride. The only glitch in Venice, was the fact that our luggage did not arrive from the port for hours. We left all of our things at the pier and were told that the water taxi was right behind us. Our itinerary included Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey. Our suite was a great size, not as big a bathroom as I would have liked. Bigger bathrooms aboard Holland America and Royal Caribbean in the same class. The idea of having a butler was great. Manuel was our butler and he looked after our every need. He realized that my husband enjoyed the sushi and every night he brought him a plate. My biggest complaint was about the food. The specialty restaurant was fabulous (we ate there twice), but the regular food was way below the standards we had become accustomed to. Service in the cafe was so so. I finally found it just easier to always have the chicken salad for lunch and the pasta for dinner in the cafe. The Main Dining rooms food was just OK. The one time that the food was great was a Saturday Brunch. I remarked to our butler about where was that food and he just smiled. We only ate in the Main Dining room 5 times out of 14. By the end of the cruise many people came down with some type of virus. We felt that we should have been notified BEFORE we saw people wearing masks and being told that we could no longer serve ourselves. 3 of the couples that were in our group were actually quarantined. This cruise was the first time that we filled out a negative end of cruise survey. I even remarked on the survey that I was upset because we are sailing again on Celebrity's Millennium in April. No one ever called to address any of this with me. I followed up with our travel agent and she also received no response. Since we had already paid for our April trip, I pray that it will be better next time. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
Overview: This was our first ever cruise. We were a party of 7 - myself, Paul with my partner Adrian, my parents, and importantly my Nan who celebrated her 80th on-board. This review will describe in detail all aspects of our cruise, ... Read More
Overview: This was our first ever cruise. We were a party of 7 - myself, Paul with my partner Adrian, my parents, and importantly my Nan who celebrated her 80th on-board. This review will describe in detail all aspects of our cruise, with a view to informing 'virgin' cruisers of what to expect. We were on Celebrity's Mediterranean Legacies 14 night cruise. We could not fault our entire experience - from booking, to experience on board - service, food and entertainment, the itinerary, and excursions. We will never forget the spectacular and emotional sail-away from Venice on deck complete with music, and the ship negotiating its route out the port past the islands of Venice. Our waiter, Jujur deserves special mention as he 'made the cruise' The rest of my review will detail all aspects of our experience, this is a lengthy review but is meant to be comprehensive to detail all aspects of our experience to help particularly first time cruises decide whether a Celebrity cruise would be right for them. Booking: We booked online after reviewing what to expect from a Celebrity Cruise. We had two choices that fitted the date of my Nan's 80th - either P&Os Caribbean cruise on the Ventura or Celebrity's Mediterranean Legacy's cruise. We were put off by many reviews of the Ventura, and also the return transatlantic flight at the end required. Our agent ensured that Celebrity would be the 'right' cruise for us. I think this is the most important decision for anyone to make when considering a cruise - you need to ensure that the style, size and itinerary of the cruise line and ship 'suits' your party. After considering her helpful advice we decided to book 3 Concierge Class Staterooms on this cruise. She helpfully managed to find three rooms - 875, 858 and 860, which were close together and towards the aft of the boat for a very reasonable price that was heavily discounted from the brochure rates. Pre-embarkation Information: We were impressed with the clear information provided from Celebrity after we booked about how the 'cashless' system on-board worked by paying for everything on the room card. We were also impressed with the on-line ability to set up individual accounts and pre-book excursions and other on-board activities. The instructions regarding the luggage tags and delivery of bags were extremely clear. Celebrity's alcohol policy of allowing two bottles of wine per stateroom was also made clear, and any alcohol bought during the cruise would be delivered at the end was explained. It is well worth researching sites such as this to decide how best to explore each destination and whether to -'go it alone' or book the organized excursions. On the basis of this we decided to pre-book four excursions prior to boarding. Embarkation: We arranged our own flights with BA and stayed 2 nights in Venice on the Lido prior to boarding. The itinerary included one night at port before sailing away to allow time visit this amazing city. We also pre-booked a water taxi from the airport to our hotel and then from our hotel to the port. We were dropped off right at the luggage drop off point for the Summit so our suitcases were off-loaded directly onto the waiting luggage belt and we were directed to check-in. This was a little slow due to the number of people and the 'early embarkation' offered to Concierge Class was strangely absent. Nevertheless we passed security within an hour, and boarded the ship after security on-board associated our card with our picture - a good re-assuring measure to ensure no-one else boarded! We were greeted with a glass of champagne and given clear information about the day's activities with a newsletter detailing in particular the 'welcome buffet' and other food outlets!! Staterooms: We were very impressed with the size, comfort and clever design of our staterooms. We had a large balcony with padded patio chairs, a very comfortable bed with offers of pillows from our fantastic attendant Hose who greeted us as we approached the room. The bed was not two twins sandwiched together but a full king size mattress, cleaver curved to allow access around it. The bed had ample space below to store our suitcases, and the wardrobe was surprisingly large with more hangers than an average 4 star hotel! In addition there were two comfortable robes. There was a large sofa, glass coffee table with a bottle of Sparkling Wine, fresh fruit, and large desk with chair complete with fresh flowers. The bathroom was compact but highly functional with a clever design to stow toiletries, a rose and a reasonable powerful and adjustable shower. The decor felt fresh for a seven year old ship, and well maintained. The room was cleverly designed with a rack for magazines, where we found binoculars and a large golf umbrella (luckily not needed!!) Stateroom Attendant: Our attendant Hose kept our rooms immaculately clean every day, ensured enough ice and jugs of water to drink, and serviced the room at least twice a day - turndown was more than turning the duvet down and leaving chocolates - it was a complete re-servicing of the room. He seemed to be always present, polite and attentive but not intrusive. He also ensured that the bottles of wine we had brought were put on ice when we intended to drink them! Sail away: We left Venice at 3pm and The Summit arranged a spectacular event up on deck with fitting music as we slowly departed from this beautiful city. This must be one of the most spectacular ports to leave as the ship has to negotiate a tight pass out of the port past St. Mark's square on the port side and various other islands. For our first experience of moving on a cruise ship it was simply breathtaking. We all had a lump in our throat and tears at the somewhat surreal experience of moving slowly above with an unforgettable view of Venice and waving goodbye to the people below. Sea-sickness As this was our first cruise we were a little worried about the movement and possible sea sickness. As a doctor I came armed with medication! It was amazing that for most of the cruise it felt like the ship was sailing on glass. For anyone worried about this I would state that please don't be worried about getting sea sick. We had excellent weather for the first ten days, but after leaving Rome (Civitavecchia) we encountered one of the worst storms with high winds and swells up to 10 feet. The ship did rock back and forward and right to left somewhat. My father is really susceptible to motion sickness, and he did feel a little queasy - but I can categorically state that this has NOT put him off from cruising again. Information: Every night Celebrity provided an extremely comprehensive 'newspaper' of the following day's activities / information on the port of call. This included information about the history, culture and maps of the area, as well as the important weather forecast. In addition there was the excellent port guide Fiona, who gave a presentation about the next port in the Cinema, which was repeated on one of the television channels. In addition there was a channel showing all of the activities on board, and a map showing the ships location. Celebrity has a policy of keeping announcements over the PA system to a minimum, which we found good as continual announcements could have become irritating. Cleanliness: Being a doctor I was surprised at the high level of consistent cleaning of all public areas. There are dispensers of alcoholic gel at the entrance to all food areas, and when boarding the ship, which is more than found in an average NHS hospital! Celebrity also continually reminded passengers to wash their hands with soap and water to prevent the spread of viral and bacterial infections. At one point a few passengers did become unwell, and in the Waterfall cafe people were not allowed to 'serve themselves' but were served by staff wearing gloves. I was most impressed by this obvious commitment to ensure the health of all on-board. Dining: The main Cosmopolitan Dining Room on decks four and five could not be faulted. It is a beautiful contemporary two tired room that did not feel crowded at any stage. We had the early sitting at 6:15, which was sometimes a little tight to meet after some excursions - but the excellent Croation Maitre'd accommodated our request to be seated alone on a table of five. Our waiter Jujur was simply superb. He was friendly, slick and professional. He was particularly fond of my Nan as she reminded him of his Nan who had sadly passed away. My Nan is somewhat of 'a picky eater' but Jujur took the effort to explain the menu and learned what she liked and suggested menu items to her that she might like - which she invariably did!! We all found the level of service slick - the food was of Michelin star quality and served at the right pace, so that we never felt hurried or waiting long between courses. We appreciated 'the emergency menu' where salmon, chicken or steak was always offered as well as chips and fresh vegetables, on occasions where the main menu of 3 appetizers, 3 soups, 2 salads, 4 main courses and at least 5 deserts did not appeal! The assistant waitress always ensured that water and soda glasses were never empty. Our expert wine waitress soon learnt our taste and recommended an excellent wine, ensured our glasses were not empty and even steamed off the label and stuck it onto paper at the end so we could purchase it at home! We were quite amazed how food of this quality could be served to nearly 1000 people at the same time. We had pre-ordered a birthday cake, but had to have this delivered to our stateroom as we could not return from Rome on my Nan's birthday in time for dinner. Despite this our waiter and maitre' d arranged for another cake to be presented to my Nan on the nest day complete with a Happy Birthday sing-along from a group of waiters which was a great surprise for all of us! The Normandie restaurant is simply divine. The ambience of having actual pieces of the original art deco style cruise liner, complete with five star silver service really did 'transport us back to a different age of cruising' The seven course menu for just a $30 cover charge would have cost at least £100 in London. Everyone must eat here once if they are on the Summit - words cannot describe the quality of the service and food here. Having eaten in several Michelin Star restaurants in London, it is simply amazing that this restaurant beats them all hands down and is at sea! I can't wait for my next cruise just to eat here! The Waterfall cafe on deck ten was also quite amazing in the endless choice and variety of foods available. For a 'food court' it was of high quality and never felt crowded or difficult to find a seat. Special praise should be given for the on-board pastry Chef for producing such delicious and elegant cakes at 'afternoon tea'. In summary - if you are on a diet (like me) then cruising on Celebrity is a hazard! Drink: We purchased the 'soda package' for $5 a day for un-limited sodas - this included a large 'souvenir mug' which was useful to fill with soda from any of the various outlets. This a great value and well recommended - it seemed that many fellow passengers did not know about this. We found the alcoholic drinks to be slightly above typical English prices but not excessively so. We are not great drinkers so were not bothered by this. Public Areas: The Celebrity Summit is a large, stylish, upscale and contemporary vessel which has been well maintained and does not feel like it is seven years old. It has a stunning three deck open atrium with an illuminated onyx staircase, which makes an immediate impact and good impression of the ship. Concierge, Guest Relations and Shore Excursion desks are located on deck three under the atrium, giving the feel of an exclusive hotel check-in, and we found the staff here to be helpful.# We found the stunning large glass lifts located mid-ship on-the port side which whizzed up and down giving views of the ocean, a nice design. My Nan also liked the aft lifts with their numerous mirrors as she is somewhat vein! We never had to wait long at any stage for lifts to arrive - another amazing fact given the number of people on board. We found it easy to find our way around the ship, with the main public areas on four and five, and ten and eleven. it was very easy to find a comfortable spot in the two main lounges 'The Champagne / Martini Bar on deck five or the 'Rendez View Lounge' on deck four to relax in private during the day, considering that there were nearly 2000 people on-board. The ambience of these lounges is totally different, in decor, seating, lighting and live music, particularly at night so it was easy to find a spot that 'fitted the mood'. The Summit has many pieces of art and sculptures dotted about the ship. These complement the rooms they are in, and many are whimsical and fun. There is also a full art gallery, with numerous art auctions, but we did not participate in these. The casino was surprisingly large, and if you have been to Las Vegas it felt like a mini version of any of the casinos there with numerous slots, blackjack tables, roulette and a craps table. There were even free texas-hold'em lessons and competitions. Bingo seemed to be a popular activity with many games played in the main theatre. The shopping emporium was mainly upscale, with clothing, jewelry, watches and duty free items for sale. There were various 'promotions' and after Turkey the middle stall area was converted into a 'Turkish Bizarre' which was a nice touch. I felt that the 'sundries' shopping for toiletries and other basic items was somewhat limited. There was an exceptionally large photographic area where numerous professional photographs taken could be purchased. I was particularly amazed that there was an on-board film producer who shot a DVD of the cruise that was specific to the actual cruise with film of the ship, excursions, activities and behind a behind the scenes tour. I purchased this and was pleasantly surprised of its high quality, given that it was made and edited on-board! (I know this because we are in a couple of the shots!!!!) None of us were smokers and had read reviews that the ship can get smokey in some of the public areas. These reviews must have been before the current smoking policy, where it is clear where smoking is allowed, and these are in defined areas which do not cause smoke to fill any other areas. We played some games in the 'games room' which was conveniently located next to the Cova cafe where excellent speciality coffees were available. 'Words' - the two deck library was conveniently located on our deck and was a nice spot to browse for a book, or look at the large globe. It also had very comfortable chairs to relax and read in quiet. Pool / Deck Area: I found it amazing that on a vessel with nearly 200 people on-board that it was always possible to find lounges, areas on deck where you were 'private'. There were ample lounges on the pool deck and deck 11 to accommodate those who wanted to sunbathe or sit and read. We were impressed by the two types of lounges - the traditional adjustable flat lounges or more upright lounges which suited my Nan as she was able to sit down and get up with ease. Pool towels were amply available. The pool area is compact, but the water in the main pool was of the right temperature to swim and the four hot tubs were never full of people even on 'hot' sea days. Having never cruised before were a bit surprised to find the water salty, as the ship obviously takes its supply for this from the ocean!!! The whole pool area felt clean. The clearly marked 'jogging track' was also excellent for a run on deck so that you did not have to keep dogging other people! Spa / Fitness: We did not have any treatments, or use the gym, but were impressed by the amount of exercise equipment available and ambience of the Spa area. The 'Thellasotherapy Pool' in the Spa that is free to use is covered by a glass dome and is hot with spa jets, whirlpools, and water massage. Again, this never felt crowed, and was surrounded by comfortable loungers. Entertainment: The theatre on-board the Summit is simply beautiful. The seating is comfortable, with tables for drinks, and viewing of the stage from every seat perfect. The Cruise Director James was perfect in presenting the entertainment. The first night featured a sequence of all the live entertainers on-board, so that we knew what was going to be available and could choose to listen to them at the various venues which was a great introduction. The variety of entertainment exceeded our expectation. There was comedy, a brilliant concert pianist from England who made his passion for the piano obvious, and even included a delightful afternoon classical performance, an English magician, who also provided an amazing presentation on memory techniques, a brilliant singer, and no fewer than three major grand scale 'Broadway' performances from the professional singers / dancers and orchestra on-board. The variety and quality entertainment was on-par with any show in the West-End, and amazing that there was a show nearly every night of the cruise. On three nights they showed a recent release of a film, but we did not decide to watch any of these. Activities: According to the newsletter there were numerous organized activities on-board - nearly every hour! As we were more interested in seeing each port, and then relaxing we did not participate in any of these. There was an excellent 'enrichment program' with expert talks on the history of some of the destinations, and other speakers in various locations, including an excellent talk about acupuncture which I found interesting. (The ship has on-board acupuncture to book for reasonable rates of $150 per session) Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
This was our Third time in the past 3 years that we have cruised in the Mediterranean. This is our first time with Celebrity. We found a dysfunction with the line and the ship that we have not experienced elsewhere. Early on when ... Read More
This was our Third time in the past 3 years that we have cruised in the Mediterranean. This is our first time with Celebrity. We found a dysfunction with the line and the ship that we have not experienced elsewhere. Early on when booking, we found that the Celebrity agent quoting one price with a lower price quoted on their web site. Further inquires confirmed the lower price, it seemed at each step we had to confirm the information given to us because it was often incorrect or misleading. THE SHIP The Summit is an older ship with some signs of wear. However of greater concern was the cleanliness of the ship. The exterior railing was filthy on the Promenade deck; leaning on it would soil your clothes with black soot and sea salt. On this same deck if you left a cup or dish on one of the tables you could come back in 3 days and it would still be there. The aluminum loungers were old and dirty. Again touching the aluminum part of the lounger would soil your clothes with a white residue. Other parts of the ship were cleaned every day, but many areas were not touched for the entire cruise. Although the ship has a high passenger to space ratio we found the ship very crowded. Many areas of the ship were empty and the ship organized things in ways that didn't help. They set up shop to sell items right outside of the elevators and hallway to access the Waterfall Buffet on the Resort deck. This bottleneck made it difficult to access the buffet and then return to the poolside. It did however increase sales for the ship so who cares if the passengers can't move and have their lunch knocked to the ground. Food and Dining The food quality was generally good with an excellent selection for Breakfast and lunch. We found that the single main dining room with two floors had too many people and was so loud it was nearly impossible to carry on a conversation with someone across from you. A better selection would be to reserve a table on the resort deck (Waterfall Grill) for $2 a person. It had a similar menu but a better dining experience. The Dinner Buffet was not an option for more than a night. It consisted of the same 3 things each night. Staff We found the staff generally did a good job but were less happy and less engaging then we have experienced, they also seemed to be less experienced and trained. On our one tender port I watched as two crewmembers were being instructed by another on lowering the tender boat. It seemed like it was their first time. On another occasion our wine Sommelier filled my wine glass without letting me taste the wine first. Entertainment Some of the entertainment and entertainers were excellent. No complaints here. Excursions We generally do the ports on our own. On this cruise we took only one cruise tour which was good and of good value. The cruise concierge provided excellent information on the ports including train schedules and the like; on this aspect it was the best we have seen. The Summit charged for some of the port shuttles, which we have not had to pay for before. Drinks The Summit held to the rule of not allowing wine to be brought on board and consumed in your stateroom. Other cruise lines in the Mediterranean also have this rule but have allowed it. For us, we like to bring the odd bottle back from this great wine region and reflect on the day while enjoying the wine from the port of call. The drinks on the Summit are expensive and the wine selection under $40 is negligible. There are no wine packages or deals like 5 beers for a lower price by the poolside. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
My wife and I have had many cruises over the past 10 years with other lines. We found out early on that this type of holiday suits us. Last year, my wifes brother and his wife came with us (P & O) they enjoyed it again seemed to have ... Read More
My wife and I have had many cruises over the past 10 years with other lines. We found out early on that this type of holiday suits us. Last year, my wifes brother and his wife came with us (P & O) they enjoyed it again seemed to have developed into 'cruisers'. Having spent hours on the internet and calling in at our local agent trying to book for 2008 we were running out of time. Then our agent (Coop Travel) sent us an invite to attend a 'special weekend' in Meadowhall, so off we went. On our selected cruise lines we had no luck at all, nothing fitted in regarding dates. Then the agent looking after us found one!!!. Right dates, acceptable ports, only reservations I had was the fact that we would have to fly to Venice. Having spent many years flying while at work, I like a UK departure, weight of bags, not a problem. Anyway, we were offered two cabins with balcony, next to each other on 9 deck, price was a little more than we wanted to pay but hey, this was Celebrity!!!! so we booked it. I should have known what lay ahead, as the little booklet you get with your 'E' ticket and cruise information not only had our tickets, but someone elses as well. In trying to do 'the decent thing' I called them and was told, don't worry, it will sort itself out ? ,customer first Hmmmmmm. We were due to fly out to Venice from LHR, so we spent the night before in a hotel at the airport. Flight was on time, scheduled with BMI, we landed and were 'escorted' to the coach having retrieved our suitcases. We boarded without any problems, and then shown to our cabins (or as our colonial friends call them 'Staterooms'). It seemed fitting that we were on the 'Summit' because it all went downhill from there on. The cabins were fine, however one look at the minibar price list was enough, none of us are hard drinkers, but we do enjoy a G & T in the evening on our balcony. So, off we went for a look round and to take note of where things were situated. The following day we had booked tours, not cheap but hey ho, were on holiday. The ship sailed out of port on route to Dubrovnik, so while at sea (as most of us know) the shops open, they had all sorts of offers in the wines and spirit's, only problem is....if you buy you can't have it for your cabin, company rules. Yes, I know it's all been said many times, but this does get me going, it can't be anything to do with drinking in your cabin, you could (if you can afford it) get out of your head and when you have consumed all the original stock, they will come along and fill up your minibar again. Anyway, we arrived in Croatia, very nice place it is too. The ships 'tour' guide gave us all the information you could want, only problem was most of it was wrong. We were told the only currency they would take was their own, but don't worry, on the dockside you have a place to change currency. You would need your passport, perhaps some other form of ID. The exchange was NOT on the dockside, I found it on the main road, and they did not need my passport or anything else. I found that in general the communication on board was 'pathetic', no information was given as to where we were, weather forecast or anything else for the first week. When I did ask about it they said, oh we don't want to disturb people, they don't mind disturbing people when they want to sell something. Next port of call was Athens, been many times but well worth the stop, then Turkey for two days. On to Naples, I suppose the ship has to dock somewhere so you can visit ancient sites !!!. Onto Civi. and Rome, we bought a tour called 'Rome on your Own' not cheap, dropped us of at the Vatican, picked us up same place 5 hrs later. Next port allowed us to go to Florence, and we went on a tour to Luca. Then onto south of France, as we had been before, it was decided between us all to use local transport to Monaco. We contacted the ships 'tour' desk (for want of a better description) who on the surface seemed only too pleased to help, they provided us with a complete list of bus and train timetables. So, off we set, in search of adventure and a train. I know where the station is, and after being tendered in made our way to it. Armed with my timetable, I went to the ticket desk, and in my best French bought four return tickets to Monaco. The timetable from the ship said 10 euro return, it was actually only 5 euro, (they must have got confused and added the Celebrity fee) the first train was due in 10 minutes, stand by everyone here it comes....and there it went, never stopped. Going back into the office I found out that not all trains stop for Monaco, the next one would not be for 50 minutes. Of course the same applies for your return, only thing you need to remember is that the ship won't wait and that left us about 2 hours in Monaco in order to be sure to get back for last tender. And now for my biggest critical point, it is about 280 nautical miles from Villefranche to Barcelona, the ship can make up around 20 knts / hr. we left France at around 20.00 hrs on Thursday to arrive in Barcelona for 08.00 on Saturday. At times we were only making about 3 or 4 knts, why could we not have remained in France or docked in Barcelona on Friday. I asked the question and was told that Spain costs too much to dock. Then again, if your ashore your not spending are you, at least not with Celebrity !!!! I know this sounds all moaning, and to be fair, the cabin stewards were superb, as was the waiter, the food was in my opinion 3 star (not 5) many of dishes lacked that 'a bit special' feeling one is used to on a cruise. I asked for cheese and biscuits after a fairly poor dinner, and was brought three crackers and some 'plastic cheese' the overall experience is one I will not be repeating. I think my wife got it about right, the ship had 'no soul', just a floating money pit. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
Part I Introduction. I thought that I would write the outline of this review on my laptop during the cruise, but the time or inclination to do so was never there. I am sure that I can recall most of the details though and if I ... Read More
Part I Introduction. I thought that I would write the outline of this review on my laptop during the cruise, but the time or inclination to do so was never there. I am sure that I can recall most of the details though and if I forget anything, it is surely not too important. Let me start off by introducing ourselves. We are Roy (me), 55 years old and Val, 53, from Cape Town, South Africa. This was only our 2nd cruise; the first was 2 years ago for 4 nights in the Bahamas on Carnival Sensation. Also, I had been to Venice and Rome previously, but Val had not. One other thing to mention is that we were only going to be able to do this (or any) cruise after our trip to Toronto if we stuck to a relatively tight budget. This meant cheapest cabins, low-cost excursions etc. Unlike our first cruise which had been organized by our travel agent, I researched all the possibilities as far as available cruises that would suit our dates and the places that we wanted to see. The one important factor was that we did not select this cruise at all based upon a cruise line or ship. We were returning from a wedding in Toronto on the 25th August and wanted to cruise in the Med, thus we required a cruise departing within a day or two from our arrival at Heathrow. Our first choice would have been a departure from Southampton or Dover, but I couldn't find an itinerary that suited us, particularly one that would include Venice. This itinerary was the perfect match, even though it was going to mean travelling to Venice and then returning from Barcelona in order to fly home. In my research for the cruise, I discovered CruiseCritic.com and that really changed the way that the remainder of our planning was conducted. Instead of asking the travel agent to help us plan, I ended up telling her what we needed done. Through CC and the Celebrity website, I obtained 3 price reductions which the travel agent was unaware of. Travel Day We had initially considered taking the Eurostar from London to Paris and then an overnight sleeper through the Alps to Venice. Our idea was that this would allow us to see a bit more of the French and Italian countryside than we would by simply climbing aboard another short flight and arriving in Venice. Thanks to a great website (www.seat61.com), I gathered all the info necessary and came very close to booking the train trips. Then in discussions on these boards and elsewhere, we came to the realization that all the train boarding, buses, taxis, re-boarding with 2 suitcases each was going to become a real problem. So, that idea was ditched in favor of simply changing terminals at Heathrow, flying to Venice and as a bonus, spending an extra night in Venice. After an uneventful flight from Toronto to Heathrow, we changed terminals and took the 2 1/2 hour flight to Venice, arriving about 15:00 on Tuesday, the day before embarkation. We chose the cheapest way into Venice from the airport; €3.00 each for the blue bus to Piazzale Roma. I had booked a small hotel, Locando Salieri (no elevator, 8 rooms) very near P. Roma for €95.00. At one point we had considered leaving our 2 big bags at the baggage storage in P. Roma, but somehow we forgot to repack accordingly and so had to get to our hotel with all 4 bags. In reality this was not too bad, but at the time it was rather strenuous in the heat of a hot Venice afternoon with 2 small bridges to cross and then 2 flight up at the hotel. (Sorry Val). I must just skip back to the bus trip. Purely by accident we discovered another couple on the bus were also arriving for the same cruise as ours, we chatted on the drive in, discovered we had a lot in common and before heading for our hotel, we had arranged to meet with at 6pm at Harry's Bar (the only sure landmark that I could remember, except for something ridiculous like "in the middle of St Mark's square. Anyway, back to the remainder of our afternoon. We resisted the urge to lie down and have a quick sleep after losing so many sleep hours. I took a quick shower and then I had to go find conditioner for Val after discovering that there was none in the hotel. (Grrr... that an afternoon can be dominated by the need to find conditioner... it's not quite like the need to find toilet paper in the bathroom). As us men have learned, it is much easier to say "yes dear" and trot off to get the article in question, than to spend half an hour discussing whether it is really required and then still having to go get it. Enough said. After we had both donned clean clothes for the first time in 2 days (well, only about 12 hours, but that's what flying east makes one feel like), we headed off to explore a bit of Venice before our 6 pm rendezvous at Harry's. We headed for the nearby Vaporetta stop and purchased a 48-hour pass for about €26 each. Although walking through Venice is delightful, there also comes a time when one needs to get from one end to the other a little faster (particularly when Val is there and there are clothing stores open) and in addition the water taxi ride is really the only way to see all the beautiful buildings down the Grand Canal. In fact, we took the slow ride down the canal that stops at every stop; I think it took about 40 minutes from P. Roma to St. Marco. Although we had arranged to meet Gary and Debbie at Harry's, we did not intend to have a drink there as a Bellini inside costs the same as a 48-hour Vaporetta pass. We ordered a glass of wine at a nearby cafe where we could keep an eye on Harry's and about 15 minutes later were joined by our new cruise friends from Chicago. After a drink there we strolled around St Marks and then decided to head for the Rialto Bridge. I was the only one to have previously been to Venice, which meant that as soon as we got lost, I was to blame. (I tried pointing out that they should have bought a map, but was assured that they had trusted me, so that was unnecessary). Of course, the truth is that you will get lost in Venice despite a map, but it is never for too long and is really part of the fun of being there. After a lot of walking and dragging (the women away from designer shops) we decided it was time to eat. As we were nowhere near the real touristy areas, we ended up having a delightful meal that looked to be about half the price of other establishments that we had seen earlier. The only downside to eating in places off the beaten track is that the English of the waiters is not that good. After supper we wandered around a bit until we chanced upon a sign pointing the way to a Vaporetta stop. Phew!!! We were no longer lost !! We then took the water taxi up the canal and a few stops later saw that we were just about to stop near the casino. On a whim, we informed our friends that we wanted to go look inside, so we hopped off the taxi, waved goodbye to them and then spent 10 minutes lost again before finding the entrance to the casino. Of course we never wondered why we were getting strange looks as we entered the foyer, forgetting for the moment that we were still in shorts and sandals. Maybe they would have allowed us in, but when we discovered the hassle of paying €10.00 each just to get in, as well as the identification they required in the absence of our passport, we decided to just leave. We took the Vaporetta back to P. Roma and just strolled around some more quaint streets before deciding that a final glass of wine would be a good idea. Before ordering though, we realized that we might order two glasses each though, and in that case it would be cheaper to order a bottle, which we did. However, that full bottle of wine looked so lonely without a plate of food next to it, we took pity and each ordered a small entrEe to help the bottle along. It was the end of a lovely evening and just a short walk back to our hotel, where we fell fast asleep till 7 the next morning. Embarkation Day Breakfast at our hotel was only between 8.00 and 9.00 the next morning, so after my shower I took a 15 minute, early morning walk for a cup of coffee and a bit more exploring. Of course I got hopelessly lost again, but managed to find the hotel after about 30 minutes. We had a delightful breakfast of cereal, croissants, rolls, jam, cheese and prosciutto, all washed down by several cups of coffee. Breakfast was in the restaurant adjoining the hotel and was included in the price of the room. We then went upstairs to pack our bags, leaving them in the hotel to be collected on our way to the ship. Our morning was going to be spent exploring the Jewish ghetto. Let me explain firstly that Val is Jewish, I am not. I love old buildings, famous places, monuments etc, Val does not. Val likes shops, I do not. Despite all these seeming differences, we have been together for 3 years and never had a single disagreement. Our secret? (well, mine, anyway) All that is required is to understand how a woman's mind works. Once you have that mastered, you will never have a problem. So, if you want to see St Marks Square, tell her that it would be fun to stroll past all these wonderful designer shops near St Marks Square, where she can do some great window shopping. Then arrange to meet her at a predetermined spot in half an hour and guess what - everyone is happy. (There can be problems with this arrangement sometimes, but you will need to wait till we are in Athens before we get to that - come to think of it, at this rate I don't even know when we are going to get to the ship, let alone leave Venice). So, where were we? Oh, on the way to the ghetto. I had been to St Mark's Cathedral previously, as well as the Doges Palace and glass factories, and because there were no designer clothes stores in any of these Venice landmarks, Val was quite happy not to see them. The Jewish ghetto was a good compromise, as I hadn't been there before and she was quite keen to have some photo's taken there to show her children that she had made the effort to visit the ghetto, even if it meant not getting to see the more famous sights. (As I already stated, understand the mind) However, what should have been a delightful and relaxed morning before boarding the ship, turned into a bit of a nightmare. Halfway through the morning, after strolling slowly towards the Jewish quarter, she suddenly stopped me and pointed ashen-faced at her left hand. I could see nothing wrong at all, but eventually she managed to stammer "ring, ring"!! At that point I thought that her mobile was ringing in her bag and only after a sip of water was she able to tell me that she had left her ring on the bedside table that morning. I assured her that I had personally checked the room before we left and had thrown all the small, last minute items into her bag. So, at the side of a busy canal, we proceeded to look for the ring in her bag. Of course there is no need to describe to anyone how long it can take a woman to search for an item as small as a ring in a handbag. She searched and searched. I searched and searched. Then, we both searched together. There was no ring in the bag. If you were guessing that it was on her other hand, you would be smart, but wrong. She wanted to rush straight back to the hotel, but I persuaded her that if we did that first, we might never get the pictures to show her children of her visiting the Jewish ghetto in Venice. So, with a bit of encouragement from me, we proceeded to spend an hour or so exploring, but neither of our hearts was really in it. I even offered to walk with her to the shops near Rialto to help cheer her up, but she just wanted to get back to the hotel. Once there, we asked to get into the room, only to be told that it had already been cleaned and that there had been no ring found. Of course we could not accept that, and were taken to the room where beds and tables were moved in search of the missing ring. The receptionist was asked to telephone the police so that we could report the ring stolen / missing. It transpired that if we were reporting a theft, then we would have to lay charges and remain in Venice till the case was resolved. I didn't think that missing our cruise over a ring was worth it. As I looked at it, our insurance would cover a lost ring, but not a missed cruise because of a lost ring (and certainly not both). All this time I was sure that the ring would turn up in some item of clothing hidden away in our bags. (I was still convinced that I had put it into her handbag) It was just not appropriate to try and unpack four suitcases on a small landing in the hotel, so we headed to the ship with our luggage, hoping the ring would turn up in a suitcase once we were able to unpack. After negotiating the 2 flights of stairs down and then the two bridges back to P. Roma, we searched for the shuttle bus to the pier that Celebrity promises. Of course, with Val still in a state over the ring, someone else had to carry her cases over the bridges and because none of the people around us offered to help, I had to do the 8 trips for each bridge. Those of you that have been there know that P. Roma has lots of buses. They are all clearly marked with their destinations, but none of them indicated the pier or Celebrity. Eventually we started asking groups of people with suitcases if they were waiting for a ship shuttle. On about the 3rd group, we hit gold and found that this was the group waiting for the bus. Unfortunately, there was no bus waiting for the group. It occurred to me that maybe the group was not waiting at the same place as the bus was waiting, and after several circuits of P. Roma, this proved to be the case. As the bus was unwilling to move to the group, we all moved to the bus, left our luggage beside it and boarded. Then we all filed off again when someone recognized a few words that the driver had been muttering the whole time. We had to load our own bags under the bus, which we did and then all boarded the bus again. (For those that are going to be there soon, if you face P. Roma with the Grand Canal behind you, the shuttle bus is to be found across P. Roma on the extreme left). It was a short 5 minute drive to the cruise terminal, where we were directed to the baggage drop-off (we still had to take our own bags out from under the bus), labelled our cases, and then walked to the check-in facility. Everything went quite smoothly at this point, which was quite a relief after all that had transpired earlier. Being South African, our check-in took a bit longer because we have Visa requirements for EU countries and for Croatia. Boarding At about 13:00 on 27th August, we walked the plank (so to speak) to board the lovely Celebrity Summit. Comparisons are odious (so they say), but we were a little underwhelmed by the grand foyer compared to the Carnival Sensation 2 years earlier. There was no 6 story atrium with glistening elevators but we were determined to accept that we were on a different ship, different cruise line and a different offering. The marble staircase looked good. At this stage let me just pause and say that any and all negative comments that I may make in this review are to be taken in a spirit of observation rather than outright criticism. The bottom line is that we thoroughly enjoyed this cruise and would do it again at the drop of a hat. I seem to recall that there was champagne and cordial after boarding, but we were not escorted to our cabin as I had been told we would be. Once onboard, we headed for the nearest bar (remember, the ring was still lost) to calm distraught nerves. Because it is not wise to drink on an empty tummy, we also had a snack from the hamburger bar. Have I mentioned that we are both smokers? This means (because I had read all the literature) that there are certain places where you can sit to drink and smoke. Generally speaking, there was no issue with smoking on this cruise. The smokers observed the rules and the non-smokers, for the most part, understood them too (more on this in a moment). So, hoping that our bags were already delivered, we headed to our stateroom. They were not outside as we had hoped, but imagine our delight when we opened the door and found the 4 bags already placed in the room. Needless to say, everything was rapidly unpacked in the hope that the ring would be uncovered. Item after item was hung up in the ample wardrobe space, but no ring. Clothes were unfolded, refolded and placed into drawers, but no ring. Oh, forgot to mention our introduction to our cabin steward. Soon after we arrived at our room, J. was there to greet us and tell us he would be at our service for the next 12 nights. We asked him if he could please bring us 2 ashtrays, as there were none in the room. He then told us that we could not smoke in the cabin. Huh??? Does he not read CruiseCritic.com?? Has he missed all the violent discussions that I have been reading about for 3 months? Does he not know what the current policy is? I quietly informed him that we WERE allowed to smoke in the cabin; but that this would be changing from 1st October and we were glad to see that he had our health at heart and eager to implement the new policy, but please to just get the ashtrays. So off he went and returned with an ashtray. I pointed out that we both smoked and would each like an ashtray. He then told us we were not allowed to smoke in the bed, which I thought was a bit presumptuous on his part. Eventually we got our 2 ashtrays but there is more to this story later on. All our clothes were now safely stowed in wardrobes, drawers and anywhere else that seemed appropriate. Still no ring to be found. Finally we got to the last few items in Val's suitcase; the vanity bags, toiletry bags, cosmetic bags and other bags which don't have names including her other handbag. Other handbag? Like I have another mobile cover? Or another laptop bag? Anyway, she has another handbag. Ok, you all guessed correctly!! There, tucked away in a little side pocket, was the ring. I knew I had put it there!! I am to remember if the bag was brown or black? I am to know she changed handbags that morning? Enough said; ring found, everyone happy, so head back upstairs to celebrate. Although we had planned to head back into Venice that evening, with all the excitement (and tears) of the day, we changed our minds and decided to eat onboard (remember our budget) and watch a show, leaving more Venice exploration till the next day. It was casual dining that evening, meaning we didn't sit at our allocated table. We found ourselves at a table with two couples from England and we all got along fine and had a great dinner until the main course arrived. There had been a lot of discussion on CruiseCritic.com of the passenger makeup for a Mediterranean cruise, both country of origin and age group. Our experience for this cruise was that the largest contingent was from the UK, with USA and Canada a little way behind. There were very few from Europe, certainly not as many as we had been led to believe that we would find. There were 69 children aboard (I didn't count them, the activities staff informed us). In fact, I can not recall seeing more than a dozen children. We were informed though that the sailing prior to ours had 480 children, which had worn the staff out completely. The reason for this information just supplied is to better explain the incident that took place at dinner, after my grilled steak arrived. I had declined the horseradish sauce that accompanied the beef and politely asked if I could have some mustard. About 5 minutes later our waiter dropped a little jar of Dijon mustard in front of me and rushed off to attend to another table. I eventually managed to attract his attention again, and requested some hot English mustard. (We all call it Colman's hot mustard, but there are other makes). He then informed me that they didn't have any hot mustard!!!! What?? The mouths of all six of us at the table dropped!! I was sure they just hadn't covered the hot mustard definition in his training program, so I asked him to just check with the assistant Maitre'd or perhaps with the kitchen. He returned to tell me that there definitely was no hot mustard on the ship. We were flabbergasted. I know that the American readers are going to be unimpressed that I make such an issue of this, but British eaters know that hot mustard is always on the table. Every fast food place back home has hot mustard. Even the barrow vendors selling hamburgers and hot dogs have hot mustard. There was nothing more I could do about it, so quietly finished my steak. There was another issue that was slightly irritating at dinner. As soon as we were seated, our waiter brought us menus and a short while later someone appeared to take a drinks order. I ordered a bottle of wine but he informed me that he did all the drinks except for the wine, and that the wine sommelier would be along shortly. This was new to me as on our Carnival cruise one waiter managed drinks and wine quite adequately. His idea of shortly and my expectation were not quite the same and it was somewhere between the soup and salad that he finally arrived at our table. I know that it is a great idea to have a knowledgeable sommelier advising one of the correct wine to order for the dinner, but we are not wine connoisseur's and our method of choosing wine, particularly on Celebrity is very simple. (remember the low-budget?). We simply narrowed the choices down to anything that was less then $30 a bottle, which made for a very small selection. Overall, the discussion on these boards and onboard was that prices of drinks on Celebrity were higher than elsewhere and we certainly found this to be true. This applies to the $25 corkage as well if we had chosen to bring one of our two allowed bottles of wine to dinner. I believe that on some other lines there is no 2-bottle limit and that the corkage is $15.00, which certainly sounds more reasonable. After dinner, we went dancing for a while and then attended a show at 10:30, which was not particularly memorable (meaning that I can't actually remember what it was). We went up to Revelations for a while after the show and then decided to get to bed. Sailaway Day Val, cunning as she and every other woman is, remembered my offer of shopping at Rialto Bridge. It was an offer of mine, made in good faith to cheer her up the previous day, but I guess there is no statute of limitations on offers such as these. So, we headed off the ship the next morning after grabbing a quick bite for breakfast at the Waterfall place. I love smoked salmon, so that set the tone of our breakfasts for the next 11 mornings. Salmon with toast, salmon with bagels, salmon with croissants, salmon with anything else that they had on offer!!! After that we headed off for the trip to Rialto bridge and the shops. $20 dollars for the Celebrity water taxi to St. Marco for the day seemed unnecessary, so we did the 10 minute walk from the cruise terminal to P. Roma and took the Vaporetta (48 hour pass, remember) to Rialto. I needed about an hour on the internet (more about this later), so left Val to do her shopping while I found an internet cafe. We met up as planned an hour later, wandered around together for a while before heading back to P. Roma and the walk from there to the cruise terminal. While in P.Roma, we bought a couple of bottles of wine from the delightful supermarket just next to the Vaporetta stop. There were such attractive local hams and cheeses, but we had to keep reminding ourselves that food was waiting for us back at the ship. (also, Val doesn't eat ham) We had no issues boarding with our purchases and our wine, but that was set to change later during the cruise. We had a light lunch at the Waterfall Cafe and then prepared ourselves for our departure from Venice. This is now an appropriate place to introduce our CC roll call. The first post took place exactly a year before our sail date, but never really gained momentum till 6 months before. For a long time we weren't sure that we would get 25 people registered, but there was a late surge of people joining and we ended up with 33 registered guests for the Celebrity get-together. We also setup a website to share excursion information and to post our mugshots. http://www.freewebs.com/ardy53 We had also arranged an informal get together at the Mast Bar for 3.00 pm as we sailed out of Venice. About 18 of us were able to recognize each other from our pictures on the website and we had a great time enjoying a drink, meeting each other, enjoying a drink, snapping pictures, enjoying a drink, listening to Botticelli, enjoying a drink and waving goodbye to Venice. Such fun was had that we found it necessary to go have a little lie-down in preparation for the evening. After I had enjoyed a short nap, I went to explore areas of the ship that I had not yet encountered. I found the library and checked out a book that I thought I would enjoy. There is a fair selection of fiction, hard and soft cover, but no organization or filing that I could determine, so one just has to scrounge each shelf, much like at a book sale. It was very cool in the library, so this was definitely a place to head for on a hot day. We had late dinner seating at 8.45, so after a drink in the lounge we headed into the dining room to our allocated table. Our Chicago friends had asked us to try and obtain a seat at their table, but we left it too late to arrange for that evening and promised to make an arrangement for the next night. We were seated at a table for six, but only had 2 ladies as dinner companions that evening. I thought that we would have an uneventful dinner after the mustard issue the previous evening, but that was not to be. After ordering our food and waiting the interminable 10 minutes for the sommelier to arrive at our table, I decided to break the self-imposed $30 limit on a bottle. On the dinner menu, there is a chef's recommendation for each of the courses, as well as a list of 4 or 5 recommended wines for the evening. I chose the Pinot Grigio listed there only to be told that it was not available. Huh???? Thinking that the wine had been so good that all 2,000 people on board had ordered it that evening, I asked the sommelier how many bottles they had loaded on board. Appears it hadn't yet arrived on board, which is strange, as I am sure it should only be recommended at dinner if a bottle or two from the same consignment had been tasted by the head sommelier. I asked for an alternative dry white recommendation and a Riesling was suggested. This eventually arrived and was not bad, but then after half a glass, we found it really wasn't dry enough for us. I often drink a Riesling and can't ever recall that it ever comes less than dry. After managing to catch the attention of the sommelier, I told him that the wine was not really dry enough for us. He then told me that certain Rieslings are definitely less dry than others, and this was one of them. After pointing out that we had asked him to recommend a dry white, he offered to bring us another bottle of wine and only charge us for the two glasses that we had half-consumed. By now the 2 ladies at the table were getting edgy, so I decided to drop the issue and finish dinner. We met up with our friends at the late show, which was quite good and they persuaded us to ask the Maitre'd to get us shifted to their table the next night. Then we headed to the casino for the first time. As smokers, we were glad to see that one half of the casino is smoking. Val did have an issue at a blackjack table with a gentleman who asked her not to smoke. She pointed out that this was the smoking half of the casino, but he said he wanted to play a $20 table, and there wasn't one in the non-smoking side. She then pointed out that she really wanted to play a $10 table, but that wasn't available in the smoking section. He was adamant however, so like we so often do, she just moved away. Have I mentioned the waiters at the bars yet?? If not, this is an appropriate time. It might seem that I have done nothing but complain so far and had nothing but trouble the whole cruise long. This is not the case however; we had enjoyed everything so far and a few hiccups along the way were not too serious. I recognized the waiter in the casino from the pool deck earlier, but was amazed when he greeted me by name. Then I was nothing short of astounded when he asked if I would like a glass of Pinot Grigio, which is what I had been drinking earlier. Then I actually did fall out of my chair when he asked if Miss Val at the blackjack table would also care for a glass. I had of course heard that the waiters got to know you by name, but I really hadn't expected it to happen so early in the cruise. (Of course, one of our rude friends pointed out that they are actually trained to spot those that are going to be ordering lots from the bars, and learn their names first). I only play the slots, and they weren't too bad; very much up and down and I ended up an hour later perhaps $10 down. By about 1.30 am we were ready for bed, which is what we did. Part II Dubrovnik We had not planned to do too much in Dubrovnik, where the ship was only due to arrive at 09:00, so were in no real hurry to wake up and rush ashore. Those of you that have stayed in an inside cabin know that once the cabin lights are switched off, it is impossible to tell whether it is day or night. It is really weird to wake up and not have a clue whether it is 04:00 or 10:00 in the morning. I actually woke up early that morning and went upstairs while Val had coffee in the room. It was a beautiful morning watching the cliffs near Dubrovnik come into view and all the other little craft flitting around. I decided to go have breakfast in the dining room, which proved to serve almost the same food as the Waterfall Bistro did. The only difference on the plus side was that there were kippers or haddock available, which I never saw upstairs. The other plus was the fresh juices that were served. On the downside, unless you insist on a table for two and also insist that you are in a hurry, the breakfast takes quite a while to get through. This is partly because they wait till a table is full before even bringing menus to the table. Then they let each of the juice waiters, the pastry waiters and the coffee waiters have a turn at serving the table. I was able to get a coffee out of turn by grabbing onto a waiter. We were not able to dock at the cruise dock, so were tendered in the bay outside the old harbour entrance. If we had docked, we would have required a taxi or else paid $10 each for the ship shuttle to the old town. We left the ship at about 11:00 once all the queues had disappeared and had a quick lifeboat trip to the harbour. At this stage, there is no need to explain why we were splitting up for a while. We arranged to meet in the small square just inside the walls an hour later and I hurried off to an internet cafe for a while before heading for the wall. Because there were 3 large ships, more than 8,000 passengers ashore, the place was crowded. In the end I decided not to walk on the wall and instead walked for a while on the inside and outside, thereby avoiding the crush to get on top. I then joined Val and we visited a few shops because I was actually looking for a specific item to buy. I didn't find the pair of shorts that I was looking for, but I did spot a rather stunning, short black cocktail dress. I asked Val to try it on and she loved it, so I bought it for her to wear to the formal dinner that night. While we were in the store, there was an unexpected cloudburst which lasted all of 5 minutes then disappeared. Val was not certain that it wouldn't turn around and come back though, so we decided to head back to the ship before that cloudburst saw her hair in Dubrovnik and came hurtling back to do maximum damage to an easy target. There has been plenty written here on CC about bringing wine onboard at the ports. The policy states 2 bottles of wine at embarkation. Presumably this means that there is no problem in principle with enjoying wine that you have uncorked yourself in your cabin. So the reason for the policy is actually not provided by Celebrity, but there is plenty of speculation, the most common of which is that it is another great source of revenue for them. In one corner of this debate there are the "believers in adhering to policy" no matter what the policy. In the other corner, there are those who believe that their freedom to enjoy a wine of their choosing from a port or even wine estate that they visited that day is being curtailed. Coming from South Africa where there was previously a "policy" that curtailed freedoms, it is pretty obvious where my sympathies in this debate lie. So, the bottle of wine that we purchased in Dubrovnik was put through the scanner at security whilst boarding and we were told to head for the "bottles" table with our purchases. Of course this meant they would take away my bottle, so I gave that bag to Val, told her to go to the elevators and walked to the "bottles" table with the short, little black dress that I had purchased in a shopping bag. They took one look inside and then nodded me through. So, now we had a new ships game to play each port day. We'll revisit this game a little later on. We had lunch aboard and then spent most of the afternoon at the pool, because the rest of the ship was still fighting to get up or down or across the walls. About 6.00 pm, we found the sushi bar and had a quick snack to tide us over till dinner at 9.00 pm. Although we didn't know it at the time, we suspect that the quick sushi snack was responsible for events that occurred the following day. Our first Formal Dinner Right after the sushi, we headed to the dining room to speak to the Maitre'd about changing our table. He took down all the details and promised he would sort something out by late dinner. We proceeded to get ready for the evening and Val was particularly pleased with the new little black dress from Dubrovnik. We enjoyed a drink and a bit of dancing before dinner, then went to see the Maitre'd (I keep saying that but I think it is actually the Assistant Maitre'd for the starboard side, upper level of the main dining room, but I'm going to just stick with Maitre'd and hope you will all understand) about our new table. He gave us a new table number and assured us that we would be happy there and he would sort out the details about our old table. We met our Chicago friends and their fiends, but there was another couple at the table who were not expected to be there. We were expecting a honeymoon couple, but instead found a couple our age from Australia. Our honeymoon couple, it transpired did not want to attend the formal dinner, not because they wanted to be alone, but because she had forgotten to tell him that a suit was required to be packed. So now we were eight at the table, but two more were going to arrive the next night. So we went and had another word with the Maitre'd and he said he was really stuck to find a 10-seater, but he would try his best. We then proceeded to have a fantastic dinner. I haven't made a note of what we ate each night, except for a few special items on the menu on a few occasions. What made every evening special was the camaraderie around our table. We ended up referring to our table as the "United Nations Table" and when we got home I even created a website for us. http://www.freewebs.com/table571 Although we now had a new waiter and a new sommelier, the issue of service in the dining room never lived up to our expectations. In comparison to our Carnival cruise 2 years earlier, the availability of the waiter was not as good and as I have mentioned previously, the sommelier really just took too long to get to our table each evening. We found an easy solution to that problem though. Before dinner we would sit down in the lounge for a pre-dinner drink and order a bottle of wine from the dining room wine list. Once we had assembled there with our dinner companions, we would ask for the bottle to be sent to our table and so once we were seated our wine would immediately be available at the table. On another occasion, we left a half completed bottle in the dining room and the wine sommelier ensured that it was waiting there for us the next night. It is hard to pinpoint exactly where the problem with Celebrity is around these issues. My feeling is that it could just be that our ship was quite full and the dining room was packed each night. We had far too much fun on this cruise for any of the little issues to worry us. I mention them because they did occur and if they hadn't, we could have claimed that everything met our high expectations. After dinner that night we headed off to a show which was pretty good and then headed to the casino. This was the 2nd night that the casino was open and the captain had adjusted the little win meter percentage in the backroom, as everybody was winning on the slots. I think I came away $200 better off for the evening. The people at the tables were also having a good time. However, the evening came to an end earlier than we thought, because they shut the casino before 2 am, no doubt because the house wasn't doing too well. That reminds me of another difference between Celebrity and Carnival. After 12.30 or so the ship has nowhere to grab a bite to eat, other than room service. I had expected at least the pizza station to be open very late, if not all night. I guess it all boils down to the market that Celebrity is aiming at and the average age and lifestyle of their typical cruiser. So once the casino was closed, we headed back to our room to order a late night snack. We were in no hurry to go to sleep as the next day was a sea day and we could sleep late. Our only arrangement was the Celebrity CruiseCritic party, scheduled for 10:00 am. Little did we know of the trouble that would befall us the next day? Our first Sea Day We both woke up the next morning with the room still dark, so our first thought was that we should roll over and carry on sleeping till the sun came up. Then we realized that the sun might already be up, so checked the clock, only to discover that it was already 10:30 in the morning. Oh no!!! We had missed the CC party!!! I dressed in a hurry and ran up to Michelangelo's where our party should have been, only to discover that it had already finished. (apologies again to all my CC friends). I returned to the cabin to find that Val was extremely unwell. At first we thought it was perhaps a bit too much indulgence the night before, but it soon became apparent that this was something a bit more than overindulgence. She basically spent the whole day in the cabin vomiting and we eventually decided that I should take her down to the hospital when it reopened at 17:00. They were very pleasant there (a fellow South African was the nursing sister) and they decided that Val was suffering from a bout of gastro-enteritis caused by an unknown virus. Could it have been the sushi the night before? Who knows, but I doubt that Celebrity would be keen to admit that any food they served could be off. We are also not pointing fingers anywhere, as I know how easy it is for things like this to spread. She was given an injection and put on a drip for 2 hours to rehydrate, then released back to her cabin. She ordered room service, consisting of chicken noodle soup, grilled chicken and salad, whilst I went up to join our friends for dinner. I must just add at this point that all our friends, CC and others that I bumped into through the course of the day were all very concerned about Val and I thank them all for being so thoughtful. Our Maitre'd had managed to perform a miracle!! At this point I am not sure whether I entirely believe his story, but if it is not true, I give him 10 out of 10 for a great yarn. He told us that there were no more 10-seater tables available, but he had got the ship's carpenters in to add an oval top to our previously round table. I almost tend to believe him, as it was a bit wobbly, which would not have been the case with a proper table. Anyway, we now had our full complement with the addition of the Irish newlyweds. (Val was missing that night, but we were all there from the next night onwards) Everyone at the table was of course very concerned about Val, but I assured them that she was feeling much better (a sure sign was the fact that she actually wanted to eat, for the first time the whole day) After dinner, I checked in on Val again then headed to the casino for a while. The tables (or rather slots) had turned from the night before, and it didn't seem like a good idea to keep pumping coins into a slot that never returned anything. After chatting to a few friends and spending a bit of time on the open deck, I decided to head back to the cabin in preparation for our arrival in Athens the next day. Reflecting back on the day, where I spent a lot of time by myself just reading, sun tanning or people-watching, I realized that the ship was actually a great place to be. I found that on the sea day it was very crowded around the pool area and also on the deck overlooking the pool. It was actually very hard to find a deck chair at any time on that day. I believe that this is a common problem on all ships and the way it is handled by the crew varies from ship to ship. However, enough has been written about this topic so that I have no need to dwell on it here. I found a particular spot that I loved on the port side (smoking) on the 4th floor, below the lifeboats. There are plenty of loungers there, no crosswinds and very few people. Depending on the time of day and which direction we were travelling in, one had the choice of sunny or shady, definitely quiet and perhaps one of the most peaceful spots on the ship. I know that people want to know what the state of the ship was like. Well, I always saw crew working in various parts of the ship; painting, cleaning, varnishing etc. We really had no complaints at all as far as the condition of the Summit was concerned. I hope that this is turning out to be a balanced review. Did we enjoy our cruise? Yes. Are there some areas that we were disappointed in? Yes. Would we do it again? Yes - but only before 1st October!!! Guess no more is needed to explain that comment. Athens We woke up the next morning rearing to go. Val was feeling fine, I was looking forward to Athens and it looked like a lovely day. I haven't commented much on the weather yet. We were told to expect sweltering hot days, but we had not yet encountered this. Venice was quite hot, but not as bad as the previous time I had been there, which was in June. Dubrovnik was hot to start with, but then clouded over with a few thundershowers, which cooled the day off. Athens looked as if it was going to be quite hot and we had been warned that climbing the Acropolis in the heat would be a real killer. Well, we were in luck. There was actually a cool breeze blowing right after we docked in Piraeus, there was patchy cloud and I was suddenly convinced that the climb would not be as bad as anticipated. We were off the ship after a quick bite to eat and were headed for the train station when we were accosted by a bunch of taxi drivers offering us a full day tour of Athens. This was not unexpected and we had been warned that they were very difficult to deal with. We bumped into another couple also headed for the train station and after debating the issue for a few minutes, asked the Greek taxi drivers if there was anyone that would take us to the Plaka, one way only. All of them jumped forward offering a one-way ride, but promising that they could do a better deal for us than just that. So we just continued walking past them until one of them ran up behind us and told us that he would drive us to the Plaka for 20 Euros. We weighed this up against the 2 Euros per person train fare and decided the lack of walking, buying the ticket, waiting for the next train was probably worth it. So we jumped into his Mercedes, were subjected to another string of attractive offers, which we ignored, and eventually found ourselves dropped off in the middle of the Plaka. Our plan was that Val would have 2 whole hours of shopping while I ventured up the hill behind us. Being a Sunday however, many of the regular shops either weren't yet open or would not open at all. Nonetheless, we arranged to meet at the Starbucks in the middle of the main square in the middle of the Plaka at 12:30. If the other was not there within 5 minutes, we would return again half an hour later and again each half hour after that. It sounded like a great arrangement, which left each of us with plenty of flexibility to enjoy what we wanted to do. I left Val peering into shop windows, quivering at the thought of at least 2 hours of uninterrupted shopping, and headed to the Acropolis with our shared taxi friends. I have got to tell everyone that it is really a magnificent feeling to meet the Acropolis and the Parthenon in person after reading so much about them and looking at all the pictures. It looks really daunting when you start out, but it ends up being not too bad if you take it slowly. We had two things in our favour, and one against. Firstly the weather, we actually ended up having a shower or two after we got to the top, so it really wasn't as hot as it could have been. Secondly, because it was a Sunday and also because we had no other large cruise ships in port that day, it ended up being nothing like we had been expecting as far as crowds go. The downside was entirely my own fault - I had left the bag containing the water with Val so that she could stay hydrated and had forgotten to buy another one. I bumped into 4 of our dinner companions (the "United Nations Table") at the top of the Acropolis, so we walked back down together, after admiring the stunning views of the city from the hill. I then headed back to the main square in the Plaka to meet up with Val. I didn't actually wait in the Starbucks, but sat in an adjoining cafe which had a perfect view of the entire Starbucks. Although I had enjoyed a refreshing coca-cola once we got down the hill (Nope, they are NOT paying me to mention their name), I was still very thirsty, so I ordered a refreshing local beer while I waited for 12:30. By 12:45 I reckoned that Val was really enjoying the shopping and so I ordered another beer to wait for her. 13:00 came and went and I thought nothing of it as I was going by our arrangement that we would check every half-hour until we met up with each other. By 13:45 I was getting a little concerned as I was also unable to reach her on her mobile. Around 14:00 I eventually received a message from her asking where I was. I messaged back (our phones were set to only message, not make/receive calls) that I was at Starbucks; when would she be joining me. Imagine my surprise when she said she was at Starbucks and had been waiting for me for over an hour. So I got up and walked into the Starbucks indoor area to meet with her, but she was not there!!! Slowly it dawned on me that there might be more than one Starbucks in the Plaka and sure enough, after checking with the cafe owner, there was. By this time I was on my 2nd carafe of the house wine and had also ordered a plate of calamari, so after messaging her with the exact address, I sat down to finish my lunch and wait for her. About 20 minutes later (did I mention that there had been another short thunderstorm?), a very tearful and bedraggled Val threw her arms around me and swore she would visit every ruin and monument with me in future, as long as I never left her alone again. How on earth was I to suspect that, after asking directions to Starbucks, that she would not recognize the fact that she was not at the same Starbucks where we had last parted company?? (I hope she doesn't spot this entry, but how can someone who confuses the Parthenon with the Colosseum, ever hope to distinguish one Starbucks from another??) Happily reunited, we shared another carafe of house wine and then decided to splurge on a taxi back to the ship instead of taking the train as planned. We had to haggle the cab fare down by 5 Euros, but then I ended tipping the driver those 5 Euros as he was such a delight, keeping us in stitches all the way to the ship. I found him genuinely funny; I think that Val was just laughing hysterically, glad that we had found each other. (Her story is that she asked directions to Starbucks, sat and waited an hour and a half for me, and when I eventually messaged her the correct address, set out looking for someone to show her how to get to me. She even offered a waiter at Starbucks 15 Euros to walk with her to the other Starbucks, but he said it was too far, and just pointed her in the general direction). All's well that end's well, and we got back on board the ship safely, ready to enjoy another great evening. That night we were a full complement at our table of 10 and had a thoroughly enjoyable dinner (as always it was the companionship). I really can't remember if we visited the casino that night (probably we did) but we did end up having a fairly early night and were probably in bed soon after midnight. Tomorrow we would be in Santorini, which we had heard so much about and were really looking forward to visiting. We had also made telephonic arrangements to have lunch on Santorini with one of our CC friends that we had not yet met (remember the missed party?). Santorini You will probably have noticed by now that we were on this cruise to relax as opposed to a "cram as much possible as there is to see in one day at every port" type of holiday. Sure there were some things that were kind of "must see", like the Acropolis, but quite frankly there is always more to do than one could possibly get done, so there will always be things left out. We started the day with a relaxed breakfast outside, watching the ferries heading to shore below those towering cliffs dotted with hundreds of little white buildings. It was truly beautiful. Our plans for Santorini had been to wander around Fira for a while and then take the bus to Oia. Once all the queues for the ferries had disappeared, we headed down and were soon bobbing our way to the little dock. We boarded the cable car without any queuing and enjoyed the spectacular ride to the top. We then wandered around together till 11:30, which was the time that we had arranged to rendezvous with our friends from Minnesota. We met outside the little restaurant next to the upper cable car station, were introduced to another couple of friends of theirs and arranged to meet back there at 13:00 for lunch. There is no way to describe how quaint the little streets of Fira are; the views across the water are stunning, our little ship in miniature below us, the roofs of the white-washed houses. We had already discarded the idea of taking the bus to Oia, as there seemed enough here to keep us happy. We had at one time even thought of renting a car or bike to explore the whole island, but it occurred to me that the less we ended up seeing, the more reason there would be to come back here again. Our Irish dinner companions did that; they rented a quad bike and spent the day driving around the island, which they thoroughly enjoyed. I needed to spend some time on the internet, so arranged to meet Val at the restaurant at 1.00 pm and spent an hour catching up on emails etc. (luckily there was not even one Starbucks on the island) As I was wandering slowly back to the restaurant for lunch, I saw a man sitting on the steps just outside one of the tourist shops. Although we had seen a few beggars in Athens, I didn't expect to see this in Santorini and was planning to just walk by. As I drew level with him, he muttered "please help" and held out his hat for a donation. I refused to make eye contact and continued walking. Only after I had passed did something strike me as odd and out of place and I realized that it was his clothes. He looked just like a holiday-maker. I turned around for another look and realized I had been caught, hook, line and sinker by one of the four people we were due to meet with for lunch!!! Fred had seen me walking up the narrow street where he had been sitting on the steps, waiting for his wife who was inside the shop. Not even thinking that he would fool me, he held out his hat begging style and then watched in amazement as I refused to catch his eye. He could not get over how I fell for it, and this story was recounted many times over the next few days. We had a great lunch together with some delightful local food presented to us and some lovely wine produced on the island. We were in no rush to get anywhere else and it was just so relaxing sitting there with the most beautiful views around us. After lunch we went shopping for some souvenirs and I bought two bottles of Santorini wine as well as a gift box of Ouzo for a friend. We headed back down the cable car and by 3.00 pm we were back on the ship. We did at one point consider walking down, but all the stories I had read about the donkey mess on the stairs put us off that idea. I had expected that we were going to encounter problems with our wine at security again, so this time we put the 2 bottles in Val's handbag and left the Ouzo in the shopping bag. However when they asked us to go to the "bottles table" and I presented them with the boxed Ouzo, they waved me through. I was quite disappointed; I actually wanted them to look after this in case I was tempted to open the bottle in the cabin. For those of you that haven't sailed in the Med, there is traditionally a Greek themed "White Night" party on the pool deck as one leaves the last port in Greece, known as the Flava night. Traditionally, the wind always blows like crazy on this night and it did not let us down. Despite that though, it was very well organized and the buffet style food did make a change from the 5-course dinner. There were various food stations with a little flag denoting the food style; I recall French, Italian and of course Greek, but the might have been another one too. There was some great music and performers were dancing on the pool stage and we actually rather enjoyed the evening. Because we were in a great party mood (well, we were every night) we decided to go up to Revelations a bit earlier than usual and spent quite a bit of time dancing there. We then headed down to the casino for a while, discovered we were hungry after all that exercise and so we went to our cabin to order room service. The next day would be a sea day so we retired knowing that we could sleep late the next morning. Day 6 This was to be another lazy day (which is why we were here in the first place). The only item on our agenda for the day was a second CruiseCritic get-together that I had arranged. Our first meeting (the official one, which we had missed), had failed to be attended by about half of the registered members. Fearing that they may have suffered the same fate that we did (oversleeping), I asked Guest Relations to drop a note to all the CC registered members that we would be holding another informal gathering at 4 pm on this sea day at the pool bar on deck 10. They were very obliging and printed out an invitation card which was placed in our cabin the day before. There are so many areas that Celebrity is just great at, that it really bother me to report incidents that caused us irritation. We had a really peaceful day at sea, marred only by several "deck chair incidents" and were looking forward to meeting a few of our missing CC friends. Surprise!! Nobody that had not been at the official gathering turned up at this get together (except for Val and I). We did subsequently learn that there were some of our roll call that would have liked to attend, but it clashed with other functions, like a meeting with the Captain. That can certainly be forgiven!! Out of the 32 roll call members signed up we only met 16 of them during the cruise. I often wonder if the others actually were there or not. Tonight was another formal night and we decided to go see the 7:15 show before dinner. This was one aspect of cruising that always struck me as a little strange. I fully understand that if one is going to be dining at the late seating and then expect to see a show afterwards, that it would be a really late night performance for the artists concerned. It is time to have a small diversion here to talk about the entertainment on board our cruise. There is really nothing much to say. Nothing that we went to watch was really bad, nothing was really gripping; the rendezvous lounge band was OK to listen to as one walked by (I think they only played 5 different songs the entire cruise). The extravaganza shows were pretty OK, but nothing that I would go back to watch again. The bottom line is that it was OK but could have been a lot better. The formal dinner was once again not attended by our honeymoon couple because he didn't have formal dress for the evening. Whilst we did see a number of people not formally dressed, it was certainly only a handful. However, because the dining room was so full and hot, almost all men removed their jackets immediately upon being seated. By this, the 2nd formal night, many men were carrying their jackets over their arms into dinner, especially those (like us) that had been dancing for a while in the lounge. So we decided that our honeymoon couple could just as easily have joined us if he just wore a borrowed tie. Really, could anyone care less? We certainly would not. There were even some men that got dressed up in skirts for dinner!!! (only kidding; there were about 3 or 4 Scots dressed in their formal kilts and it really looked great) The memorable part about dinner that night was my first time seeing frog's legs on a menu. I was really in two minds about the idea of eating them but I thought that I would be adventurous, so I did. They were really lovely!! I offered Val a taste of mine and she also enjoyed it. So then, everybody at our table that had not tried them ordered Frog's Legs as a second starter. It is worth mentioning here that the waiters are extremely obliging when it comes to choosing items off the menu. Earlier on all the ladies at the table had decided to place a standing order of shrimp cocktail for starters. This in no way meant that they could not also a starter off that night's menu, which they did. Also, if there was a really difficult choice between two attractive starters or main courses, the waiter suggested ordering both and managed the delivery of food very well. After dinner we visited the casino for a while and decided to get off to bed in anticipation four consecutive days of ports to be visited. Part III Naples As I have previously mentioned, we had not booked for any ship or private excursions and so basically decided what we were going to do each day when we woke up and saw what the weather looked like. We bumped into our Australian friends at breakfast and agreed that we would take the train to Ercolano to visit the Herculaneum ruins. From there we would take the train on to Sorrento for lunch and then return by Hydrofoil to Naples. Of course, as with all our plans, they never turn out the way that we originally plan them. Another couple from Mexico, two ladies that we had previously met, joined us as we were leaving the ship and so the 6 of us set out for the train station, which can be reached by bus, taxi or a bit of a walk. We tried the taxi option, where we were inundated with all-day offers, much like in Athens. We eventually opted for an offer to drive us to Herculaneum, thus saving us the hassle of catching the train and the long walk in Ercolano from the station to the ruins. On the way to Ercolano, we discussed our driver’s offer to wait in Herculaneum for us, drive us to Sorrento and then bring us back to Naples any time in the afternoon. At €30 per person each it actually sound like a good deal for us, meaning no hassles finding stations and trains and also cutting out a lot of walking. So we accepted his offer, which actually worked out perfectly for us. After spending about an hour and a half in Herculaneum, which I found fascinating, we met up with our driver and then sped to Sorrento. Italian taxi drivers all think that their Fiats are actually F1 Ferrari’s and they only know two speeds; Fast and flat out!!! Somehow we managed to arrive in Sorrento without suffering any physical damage. En route, we had stopped at a couple of scenic spots for photos (and a quick cigarette) and the trip only took about half an hour. In Sorrento we all parted company, arranging to meet our driver in the main square at 3pm. The two Mexican ladies went off by themselves while Val and Felicity headed for the shops and Richard and I strolled around together for a while before settling down to enjoy a lovely cold beer. We had considered going down the hill to stroll along the beach, but it really was quite hot and probably looked nicer from the top of the hill than down at the bottom. About 2pm, Val and her friend joined us and we had a lovely outdoor lunch. They really were a fantastic couple and we spent all our further port trips exploring together with them. After our lunch, the waiters brought us Lemoncella on the house; at least 3 glasses each before we realized that it was just about time to meet our cab driver. He was there as promised (of course he would be, he hadn’t been paid yet) and soon we were on the formula one track back to Naples. Al in all we had a really enjoyable day, saw enough of what we wanted to and were glad that we had taken the cab ride instead of on and off trains all the time. I was a little sorry that we had missed out on the Hydrofoil back to Naples but we will return to take it to Capri next time. Later on we spoke to several people that had tried to do all three; Capri, Sorrento and Pompeii and they all indicated that it had been such a rush that they later regretted trying to pack too much into one day. At this point the evenings start fading in my memory, but they almost invariable followed a standard pattern. We were convinced by now that the sushi had not been the cause of Val’s illness earlier, although she was still a little wary. However, our evening routine was to stop by the sushi bar at about 5.30 (actually, that is when it opens) for sashimi, as I really think that sushi is overrated – most of it is just rice, which I am not fond of, while Val would quite often have a little Asian stir-fry. After taking the edge off our appetites, we would head for a bar to relax with a beer or a glass of wine. After that, depending on how warm it still was, we would either enjoy a dip in the pool or hot-tub outside or else relax for a while in the thallasotherapy pool. I haven’t yet made mention of the spa. Nor can I, because we did not even set foot in it. We are not Gym types nor did we really find the need to do the massage thing at any stage. We did however enjoy the t-pool on numerous occasions. After that we would either hurry to our room for a quick shower and to get dressed before heading to the 7:15 show or else skip the show and have a short lie-down or relax with a glass of local wine in our cabin. Dinner would be the highlight of the evening (except for the night that I hit the jackpot on the slots), as much for the food and atmosphere as for the company at our table. We were invariably amongst the last to leave the dining room. After dinner we also followed one of two routines. This was a show such as the comedian or contortionists and then the casino or else the casino first, followed by whatever was happening in Revelations that night. Most nights when I was not doing too well at the slots, I would take a walk while Val was happily ensconced at her blackjack table (the obstinate non-smoker never appeared again). My favourite spot was the aft deck bar where I would sit and watch the wake of the ship trailing behind us. This was really where I made friends with a lot of others and had some really interesting conversations. There were a lot of people that I saw time and again by themselves, either at a table for two in the dining room or sitting by themselves at various places around the ship. I often wondered if they perhaps wanted to meet new people and enjoy the company of others or just preferred to be on their own. Many times I would join them if they nodded a greeting, but just as often it appeared as if they wanted to be by themselves. There was a very nice singer that performed each evening at the aft bar between about 6 and 7. I never saw him anywhere else on the ship, but of course he may also have been in areas such as the Cova Café, which I never visited. Civitavecchia The plans for this day had been made as far back as the previous evening, so at about 8.30 am we got together at disembarkation with our Aussie and Irish friends to spend the day in Rome. It was a short 10 minute walk to the train station, which was quite busy, but after a while we discovered a short queue in the newsstand next door also selling train tickets. The tickets were €9.00 which was an all day pass to Rome and back as well as travel on the metro in Rome. I’m not sure how often the train runs (every half hour, I think) but with 2 or 3 minutes we had one arrive and were on our way. I seem to recall that the trip to Rome was actually just less than an hour, but I could be wrong. The first Rome stops were definitely less than that, but we had planned to go all the way to Termini, the last stop. Once out of the station, we debated taking a cab to the Spanish Steps but eventually decided to walk. Our planning the evening before had been as follows; walk, shop, Spanish Steps, walk, shop, Trevi Fountain, walk, shop, Coliseum, walk, shop, train back. Well, that was the plan of the ladies. As it turns out, they only found one area to do some serious shopping, while the guys sat around in the sweltering heat waiting for them, but in the end it put everyone into a good mood. We spent quite a bit of time at each of the places that we stopped, just soaking up the atmosphere that we found there. After we had finished at the Coliseum (we walked around, didn’t go inside) we found a lovely sidewalk café where we had some ice-cold beers, wine and a lovely meal. We had not planned to go to the Vatican as three of us had been there before, two of us were planning to return another time to do that, and one of us doesn’t like doing places like that. After our lovely outdoor meal, we headed for the nearby Metro and took the underground to Termini, where we were just in time to catch a train back to Civitavecchia. On the way back to the ship we split up. I went to spend some time in an internet café, Val and Felicity went to browse through some touristy shops and the others were off to buy some wine. (Actually, I did that too) I got back to the ship just before 6 pm to find that Val had got back shortly before. We went to have a drink at the aft bar and reminisce about our day in Rome. We once again had a lovely dinner with our friends and then headed for the casino. Luckily it was not so busy there that night; I think that the past 2 days had tired a lot of people out. I had been about $100 down at this point in the cruise and then that night I hit the top jackpot on the “Bulls Stampede” machine. It was a great feeling as I had never done anything like that before. Unfortunately it was actually a very small paying machine and I only collected $400 dollars for my win. I was so excited though, that I ordered drinks for all my friends that were in the casino (thank goodness it was a quiet night, as I said) and then settled in to play a bit more. Val was also having a good evening at the blackjack table and we eventually had to leave when they switched off the lights. Livorno We had so enjoyed our trip to Rome with our Aussie and Irish friends, that we decided to stick together again for our outing today. I was ambivalent about Florence, but definitely wanted to go to Pisa, the Irish couple were not keen on Florence as they were going to come back to Tuscany soon and the Australian couple had been to Florence before. Val was quite happy to go to Pisa because we accidently forgot to tell her that the shopping in Florence is great. So, Pisa it was to be. When you get off the ship there are taxi’s waiting to nab you or a ship shuttle that takes you to the town centre for $10. We opted to get a taxi shared between 8 of us to take us to the train station, because from the town centre it is still quite a way to get to the station. The cost of this was €20.00 shared between 8 of us. We bought our tickets to Pisa (about €3.50 each return) and waited about 20 minutes for a train. I don’t think that I have mentioned this before, but once you have got your ticket you must ensure that you have it validated before you board the train. This is done by inserting it into the little yellow boxes that are dotted all around the platforms. Failure to do so results in an immediate fine on the train. We only once in all our train trips had a conductor ask to see our tickets and we were so glad that we had remembered to have them validated. Once in Pisa, we decided to forego the fairly lengthy walk to the tower and took another cab at less than €2.00 each. Then we enjoyed a leisurely stroll around the tower, the cathedral and other monuments. We all posed for the obligatory picture pushing the tower up straight again, then split up to wander around by ourselves. At our pre-arranged time (13:00, I think) we met up again to find somewhere to eat. I suppose it is like this everywhere, but for every 50 metres farther away from the tower one goes, the cost of a beer or a slice of pizza falls by €0.50. So we ended up around the corner, out of sight of the tower, at a lovely restaurant and enjoyed another great Italian lunch. All of our lunches at the ports had been great, with food choices mostly being pizza, calamari, mussels, pasta or just salad. All of our lunches were also taken at a leisurely pace, with lots of time for laughter and conversation. Some of our other friends, particularly those on ships tours, complained about how rushed their lunch stops were, with no time to really soak up the atmosphere of the places that they were eating in. After lunch we took a cab back to the station and from there a train and cab back to the ship. I think it was this day that our Irish friends had a major hassle bringing their 2 bottles of wine from Pisa onto the ship. At security, when they were told to move to the bottles table, I tried to switch their bag with mine, but the wine police spotted this sleight-of-hand and recalled them. They claimed that the policy stated 2 bottles at embarkation and as they were embarking, they could take their 2 bottles aboard. The wine police were adamant however, but our friends said they were off to their room with the wine and if there was an issue with this they would be available to discuss it in their room with an officer. Needless to say no officer ever arrived. If one reads all the threads on CruiseCritic (there are several active now) concerning this issue, it seems pretty obvious that this is a policy that is sometimes enforced and sometimes not, and the more that people read about it not being strictly enforced, the more likely the chances are that many people will disregard the policy, which makes one question what it is really all about. Although we had not done a tremendous amount of walking today, the cumulative effect of 3 port days had made people quite tired. One of the most common problems encountered was swollen ankles, which both Val and I and many of our friends were suffering from, coupled with a strange rash on the ankles. We asked the nurse on board but she couldn’t give us an explanation and suggested that we see the doctor. The problem did not seem to warrant seeing a doctor, but this has just reminded me that I left out an important part of the story when Val was in the hospital. If you recall, she had been vomiting all day and I took her to the hospital at about 5 pm. She was given an injection to relieve the nausea and then put on a drip for 2 hours to rehydrate her, before being sent away with some tablets for the next day. The next morning we received the account for her brief sojourn to the hospital. It was $454 for that little trip. We found that to be extremely high but luckily our insurance is covering it with only a $50 surcharge. Many people commented however that they also found it expensive. We must have had a fairly uneventful evening that night as I can’t really recall what we did. Just the usual, I guess, which was always enjoyable. Villefranche When we woke up and went on board, it was to see the delightful village of Villafranche lying in front of us. We were tendered in the small bay with little villages and houses practically surrounding us. The look was so different to that of Santorini, although it was probably about the same size. We joined our friends for breakfast while we decided what to do for the day. The unanimous choice was to take the bus or train to Monaco, followed by a visit to Nice, then back to the boat. We boarded the ferries once the crowds had cleared and headed for the small port. Once there, we tried to sift through the conflicting advice of whether the train or bus was the better option. Eventually we opted for the train and en route to the station we were introduced to a couple of ladies from Arizona that two of our friends had previously met. They decided to join us for the day, so now we were eight. We bought our train ticket and waited about 15 minutes for a train to arrive. It was a delightful 15 or 20 minute trip to Monte Carlo, with villages on the cliffs above and below us, as well as plenty of short tunnels. In Monte Carlo, we walked down the hill in the direction of the Casino, marvelling at the number of expensive cars and expensively dressed people that we saw. One thing that was truly amazing, apart from the views, was how clean everything was. This applied to everything, from the parks and buildings to the monuments and even the streets. I am referring to more that just not litter lying around. It looked as if someone actually came round and scrubbed and polished the street each morning. From the casino we ambled along the promenade in the direction of the palace, stopping at a small supermarket to buy some pastries and cool drinks. It was a beautiful day in Monaco, quite hot with a scattering of cloud to keep us from burning out. From the promenade it was actually a fairly exhausting walk up the hill to the palace. Once there, we watched the changing of the guard and then wandered around the curio shops, before deciding to find a table for 8 in the shade somewhere. Several of the establishments would only seat people if they were planning to eat, which we were not. We continued till we found a nice shady spot that would serve us drinks, only to suddenly decide that we were actually hungry. As we were in no rush to get anywhere, we ordered some light food such as pizza and seafood and enjoyed several glasses of wine. This would now be the fourth day in a row that we had enjoyed a protracted lunch in the town or village that we found ourselves, and I can honestly say that it came close to being the highlight of each of our days in port. Sometimes our café would include stunning views, such as at the Coliseum or Pisa, but other times it was tucked away in a quaint little street. It was the charm and friendliness (mostly) of the locals that went a long way to ensuring that we always enjoyed our lunches. After lunch we wandered back to the train station and yours truly decided he knew which platform the train would be arriving on for our trip back to Villefranche. Of course I got it wrong, but we only realized this as a train arrived on the tracks across from where we were and suddenly recognized some faces from the ship about to board. We started running down the subway to get to the platform, waving our arms and screaming at the driver to hold on another 30 seconds, but when we were within 30 meters of the train, the doors closed and he pulled away right under our noses (he received a number of rude finger gestures from us, but I guess he was used to that). We waited 20 minutes for the next train to arrive and debated whether to travel on to Nice or get off at Villefranche. The other option was to get off at Eze and explore a little bit there. I had read a lot about how pleasant the village of Villefranche was, so that’s what we did. Below the station was a lovely beach and some of our group decided that they had to wade in the water there. Being in the south of France, there were of course a great number of topless sunbathers on the beach. We decided to split up again after that, as the ladies wanted to do a bit more shopping, and I wanted to find an internet café. This might be an appropriate time to talk about the internet. I had brought my laptop along as I needed to check-in with email every couple of days or so. I have a data card that I have used for roaming before in Europe, the USA and in Australia. For some unknown reason I could not get it to work on this trip, which meant that my choices were limited to connecting through the ship wireless, using the computer on the ship or using an internet café on shore. The costs for internet on the ship were extremely high and from all accounts of passengers we spoke to, extremely slow. I find it very irritating that if someone is charging for usage on a time basis rather than a traffic basis, they can have anything other than decent broadband speed. It’s like charging for your trolley of food at the supermarket based upon how long you spend in the store, not how much is in your trolley, but then only opening one till to be served at. The option of using the internet cafes worked out fine. The cost there also varied, but in the region of €1 – €4 per hour, compared to the cost of $20 to $40 an hour on the ship, depending on the package purchased. The internet café in Villefranche was actually expensive, perhaps because it was the only one there. It is however situated in a pub where they offer happy hour between 16:00 and 19:00, so we thought that was a great place to relax while waiting for the ladies to meet us. When they eventually did, we decided to order some tapas to tide us over till dinner time. The ship was only departing at 20:00, an hour later than usual, and it was glorious sitting watching the sun drop over the Mediterranean from our café in the south of France. Tonight would be our last formal dinner and we would be joined by our Irish honeymoon couple who had borrowed a tie and jacket for the evening. It was also our “lobster” night at dinner, which was pretty good – Val ordered a second serving but strangely enough that night there were two other main courses that were very good too, so I ordered one of those (I think it was quail) As usual on formal nights, and especially before a sea day, the ship was a lot livelier, both in the casino and at the other venues. I think that was the night we went to the Karaoke and I was persuaded to stand up and sing out of tune. It could not have been too bad, as I got a decent round of applause and the next day we bumped into someone who said he had heard me sing, and it sounded better than the 5-song crooner in the lounge. The last Sea Day This was to be a great day for just relaxing. I seem to recall that this was the day that there was a brunch served, but it may have been the previous sea day. Nonetheless, we decided to attend it and found it a lttle strange trying to decide whether to have the bacon and eggs before or after the lovely shrimps and rare beef. It is a great idea and the display of the food was rather nice, but I think you need to decide if you are going there to have a late breakfast or an early lunch. It was open from 11 am till 1 pm, so it was really more like an early lunch with eggs on the menu. Now that I think about it, it was actually on the previous sea day, and they only did it once on the cruise. They also had these wonderful ice sculptures, but I missed the other occasion when they did even better ones. That afternoon we had signed up for a wine tasting, which was one of only 3 activities that we participated in. The other was a trivia game early on in the cruise, which was only attended by a dozen people; the other was a darts competition, which I won first prize for. This was not too difficult, as I was the only contestant. We actually never attended any of the bingo games; they always seemed to clash with something or else took place when we didn’t feel like playing. I think the bingo may have been well attended, but I got the feeling that most other activities were not. About 100 people showed up for the wine tasting and it proved to be very informative and enjoyable. A lot of effort was put into the program for this and it was well worth the $10 per head. It was slowly dawning on all of us that the cruise was going to be coming to an end very soon. You can always tell this is happening, because whenever you speak to someone, there is always an exchange of telephone numbers and email addresses. We had made an enormous amount of very good friends and had also made friends with a lot of other people that we will probably never see again. However, they all contributed to an amazing cruise, that will always be remembered fondly. Most of the last day was just spent in a very relaxed fashion. One problem that we encountered that would be unlikely to occur on other cruises is that the ship sailed between Villefranche and Barcelona at a snails pace. We had one day and two nights sailing to cover what the ship could probably do in 5 to 6 hours. This resulted in us cruising at less than half the normal speed. As a result, there was much more roll to the ship that day. I realize that they could not sail at normal speed without covering a lot of unnecessary sea miles, hence using a lot more fuel. What I would have preferred is that the ship tendered overnight in Villefranche and only set sail for Barcelona later in the day. I’m not sure if that would be practicable, but it sounded like a nice alternative. Late afternoon we went to pack our cases, keeping only one of our four bags for the last minute items that we would require. Then we headed for our last sundowners at the aft bar before making our way to the dining room. We had a pleasant dinner; made sure we exchanged all the last minute email addresses and then headed to the casino for the last time. I don’t think that we spent too much time there and were soon in our cabin for our last sleep. Barcelona This was to be the only day that we were booked to take a ships excursion. The reason was that we were flying to Heathrow at 16:00 and wanted to see a bit of Barcelona without dragging our suitcases everywhere. The alternative was to find a luggage storage somewhere, leave our bags there, walk and/or taxi to the places we wanted to see, then get back to retrieve our bags and then still get to the airport. For only $50 each, we were able to load our bags into the coach, be escorted to the 3 places of interest on the tour and then get dropped with our bags at the airport. The day started with us having breakfast with a few friends at 7.30 and then to the theatre for our disembarkation slot at 8:15. This was very well organized with our colour-coded tags, but then we had to wait a very long time for our bags to actually appear. Soon we were on our bus and headed off for a city tour, with the first stop at the Sagria Familia. It was rather impressive and our guide certainly knew the history of the building and of Gaudi, the architect. Too much history actually, we never thought he would stop talking. He then gave us 20 minutes in an adjacent tourist gift shop; I guess he gets a cut of the commission because he warned us to stay near him in that shop and not to wander off anywhere else. From there, the bus took us to the Gothic quarter and we spent an hour there, including a tour through the Cathedral, which was splendid. Our last stop was on the hill overlooking Barcelona and that was also rather stunning. We would have loved to stay an extra day or two in Barcelona, as we had heard from friends that it was really a great place. Alas, we were not able to, and so we were soon heading out to the airport, which we reached precisely at 13:00 as planned. We had almost 3 hours to wait before boarding our plane, so we bought some Spanish rolls (they looked like Panini’s, which I thought was Italian) and local beer and settled on a bench outside the airport (the smoking thing, remember) to wait. The beers were really good, so we ordered another round and soon it was time for our flight. It is always hard to pinpoint exactly when one’s holiday ends. It could be said that it is when you walk inside your front door, but for us, I think this was the moment, as we left Barcelona and started our long journey home. It was just a short flight to Heathrow and then another 2 drink wait (almost 2 hours) for our 9 pm departure to Cape Town. The 12 hour flight back home was uneventful, but certainly filled with sadness that our glorious holiday was finally over. The End Roy Alger Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
Celebrity Summit Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 5.0 4.2
Dining 4.0 4.1
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 4.5 4.4
Fitness Recreation 4.5 4.1
Family 4.0 4.1
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 3.5 3.7
Service 4.5 4.4
Value For Money 4.0 4.1
Rates 4.0 4.1

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