Review of the Celebrity Summit 6/29/2014 - 7 night Bermuda
I booked this cruise fairly last minute (approx. 1 month from sailing). This cruise was my second choice; I had cruised on the NCL Breakway 5/11/14 to Bermuda and had hoped to return to her for this date as well, but prices dictated the final choice.
About me: This was my 2nd Celebrity cruise; I had cruised on the Solstice last summer to Alaska and thoroughly enjoyed her. I generally cruise on Royal Caribbean mostly, but will cruise any of the lines (usually 2x/year), having cruised on 4 different lines in the past 6 months (RCCL, CCL, NCL and Celebrity). Please excuse if the review jumps around a little.
Embarkation at Cape Liberty was easy, although the wait was longer than we are accustomed to; we arrived at about 12:30pm. Since this was last minute, we were cruising in an oceanview, no special treatment in the lines; they did have a separate security line for concierge and above, so if you were booked in one of those cabins, you got to go to the shorter line.
We got through security after about a 20 minute wait, and then once to the main check-in area, they did further breakdown the lines based on your status; we are Select, so got to go in a shorter line, although it still was at least a 20+ minute wait.
Check-in was quick once we got to the desk, we got our cards and headed for the ship, where we were able to embark pretty quickly (we were greeted w/ champagne or mimosas). We headed to our cabin and dropped off our things and headed to lunch. I should have gone with my original instinct and gone to Bistro on 5 for lunch, because the Oceanview Café was the usual embarkation day chaos, magnified x 10 due to the ‘new’ trial concept they have implemented on the Summit.
If you have not heard – the new ‘concept’ is that all food is now individually portioned in small silver pans, dishes. There are no chafing dishes for you to serve yourself. You have to choose from the pre-made meals that they have available. Some say they have gone to this to decrease incidences of the norovirus; others say it’s to get away from the ‘buffet’ concept and go to a sleeker, more-hip or inviting concept; to me it’s like an old style cafeteria; nothing fancy about it in my opinion. They still had a self-service cold salad bar, in addition to the staff making your salad bar.
The verdict? I disliked it for a number of reasons (which I will get into below). Again, my opinion; I cruise a lot and know what I like and don’t like; that doesn’t mean you will agree – it’s all about personal preference, and we all have ours, especially those of us who have been cruising for a while.
Smaller than I am used to, but public areas are typical celebrity and they were clean and did not seem in disrepair. The outside areas did show a lot of age – railings were old, rusty and with many layers of paint.
Our room was an oceanview cabin on deck 6 forward, starboard side. The room in our floor was soft in main traffic areas and you sank at least an inch and almost twisted your ankle or lost your balance when you walked on it. I found a few other areas like this around the ship – especially in the MDR and Casino walkway. I almost fell when my heel got stuck on formal night. Told the cabin steward and he was not very helpful; told the loyalty host Ashley and she was going to report it. I can’t see how something like that can wait until a 2016 refurb; accident waiting to happen. We joked the entire cruise that we were going to end up on deck 5 one day…
We had to visit the loyalty desk because our cabin steward never delivered our coupons and welcome letter; we ended up missing the first get-together and the wine tasting. grrr
We went to most of the headline production shows aside from 1, which was a musical performer we didn’t think we would be interested in. The production shows were more entertaining than most I’ve seen recently, so I give them a thumbs up. They also had a guest entertainer – The Tenors of Rock – they were an act on X Factor UK last year. They were good; did mostly popular rock songs and some ‘a cappella’. They had a comedienne one night – Michelle Balan from Last Comic Standing; I didn’t care for her style. The Sin City Comedy on the other hand was very funny; they did that up in the Revelations Lounge.
Musical Performers – There was a piano guy, an acoustic guy and then a musical group with 4 people I believe. The piano guy did a lot of Billy Joel, Elton John; The acoustic guy did a little of everything; the musical group I really didn’t see much of due to conflicts. The guys were pretty good.
Something that disappointed me – all of the musical groups stopped playing at 10:45pm; it was disappointing since I had late dining, so I barely got to see a half hour of them; I find on most other lines they keep the performers going until at least midnight. I usually like to go listen to live music and have a few drinks until midnight or so; couldn’t do that here. So, most evenings we were forced to go up to revelations; they did 70s and 80s themed music some nights which was fine by me of course; and then late night club/techno music after midnight usually. They seemed to be trying to please the younger crowd rather than their demographic average cruiser. Even the music in the buffet and MDR was off; sometimes weird techno that was annoying. Overall, entertainment outside of the production shows was average; I had so much more fun on the Breakaway when I sailed on her 5/11/14 sailing.
Oceanview Café – aka the Buffet
After 2 months of this ‘trial’, you would expect kinks would be worked out and they would have it running a little more smoothly than what I saw; this was not the case.
When you arrive, you can stop and get a little tray; when I say little – I mean little; you can fit quite a few of the pre-portioned meals on your tray, but if you put a plate on it; you can’t fit anything else really except some silverware.
The tray sometimes come with little anti-skid mats (which really don’t work); but not always. When the dishes get on your tray, they slide all over the place. God forbid someone cuts in front of you and you have to stop short (not that this would EVER happen at a cruise buffet….lol); everything goes sliding off of the tray. This happened once to my traveling companion; no staff around to even help him clean it up.
The Food: Some of the meals are pre-portioned with meat/veggies/starch; so you can’t just choose to have some fish, or get some veggies; you have to take the whole thing just to get one thing that you might want. I find this to be a very wasteful concept for this sort of thing (some things it does work for) but if I want a piece of fish, or maybe just some plain white rice; that is not an option because it’s all comingled together in a cute little pre-portioned pan.
I feel very sorry for people who have any special dietary needs or food allergies; this would be a true nightmare honestly.
They also have little ‘baskets’ of food – like a small version of a basket you would use to deep-fry your food. They line it with paper and put food it in. Mostly I saw fish and chips, French fries, burritos and such in this type of presentation.
Again, I didn’t like it – why you say? Well, because, the baskets are small and exactly fit the food within. If you want tartar sauce or salsa for your item you have to plop it on top of the item.
There are 2 things wrong with this – 1) you only get the condiment on the end that sticks up in the basket – there are no little cups to put your condiment in; 2) in order to eat said food – you have to either try to eat it in the basket which isn’t really feasible, since they are so small, or you take it out and plop it on your tray so you are eating on the paper. What’s wrong with this? Well, first of all they have some foods that aren’t finger-foods set up like this; I don’t like eating some things without utensils – so you either eat with your fingers (there goes that reduction of norovirus theory) or pull it out of the basket and put it on said tray or the table; what’s wrong with that? Well, I booked a Celebrity cruise, not a trip to my local McDonald’s where you would expect to eat food on paper wrappings on a tray. One day my fingers were greasy from eating with my fingers and my beverage glass just slipped right out of my grasp and made quite a mess Why not get a plate you might ask? Well, after I’ve stood in line and ran around the buffet for 15 minutes to get said food, I don’t feel like getting up a 3rd or 4th time. Plus, finding plates is not that easy (and foot traffic is unmanageable at times). They are usually only available in areas where staff are serving you (ie carving stations, salad station, pizza, etc).
Celebrity’s reasoning for doing this new trial concept is supposedly so they can have the meals eaten as the chefs intend for them to be… so all the flavors and such aren’t bastardized by people making a mess of the chafing trays.
I can see this concept working with a combination of self-serve items and pre-portioned items. I’m not totally opposed. For example – they did shepherd’s pie one day – it worked for that (although the portion was too big IMO); it works for the paella so people aren’t digging out all the good things and leaving just the rice for the next person; it worked for the burritos, fajitas, etc. when they put them in the silver dishes as opposed to a basket (again the condiment issue and eating w/ fingers issue); they also did mini veggie lasagna’s one day and mac and cheese another; so for some things it does work, but for many it doesn’t IMO.
For the pre-portioned salads – it also worked, but for some, the serving size was much too large and created a lot of waste. The cous cous salad was in a large glass dish and if I was serving myself, I would have only taken a small spoonful.
The whole area is very disorganized – especially condiments and such. They have carved meats and no au jus or gravy until we complained. The condiments they had for the carved meats? Ketchup, mustard, mayo in serving dishes – but no little condiment dishes to put it in.
The pizza area was staff served; the problem is they couldn’t keep up the supply of pizza even at low traffic times; it was pitiful honestly. It was almost always empty no matter what time of day you went.
The make your own pasta bar area – lines were very long most of the time; I tried it once and found the alfredo sauce to be very salty (as was a lot of the food onboard; I like salt, but I found much of the food to be way too salty; no wonder we all get cankles). *One thing they need to add to the Pasta Bar is an ‘start’ area with instructions. Many people didn’t realize that you had to choose your own ingredients because they started on the left side of the bar and just got pasta; the crew member cooking the food never asked people who just ordered pasta if they wanted some ingredients (ie shrimp, prosciutto, mushrooms, etc…). Having a Starting point with a small sign that says – 1) choose the ingredients you want 2) choose your pasta 3)choose your sauce – would be extremely helpful to newbies who have never visited a pasta bar like this before.
The Panini area was another disappointing area; always empty and unable to keep up with the demand of the line, no matter what time of day.
This area also, was the only place in the buffet you could get French fries if you wanted them (or a packet of ketchup or mayo).
Can you believe – on a buffet, on a 7 day cruise – not once did they serve mashed potatoes.
Breakfast – if you went before 10, they had omelets, waffles and French toast; after 10 they had late breakfast which mostly consisted of some pastries, breads, fruits, yogurts, pans with scrambled eggs, egg-sausage-bacon platters, or some sort of egg sandwich which changed daily.
I really hated getting the egg platter with the 2 meats as I do not eat sausage and it got thrown out every time; very wasteful; the eggs were usually pretty runny too. They basically had the same items every day; no change aside from the breakfast sandwiches. The breakfast potatoes had the potential to be good, but they were too spicy, and not a traditional American breakfast potato; not sure what the spices were, but I did not have more than a bite or 2.
Waffles and French toast were back at the Panini area I believe; they again could not keep up with the demand. The French toast and waffles were always empty. The waffles – I expected it as they only had 1 person and 1 wafflemaker that made 4 mini waffles at a time; I really don’t know what they were thinking; 4 waffles at a time when you have 1000 people to feed? Do the math on that one.
Overall – the trial is a failure in my opinion; they need to rework it and keep it as a trial.
One of the biggest problems is they cannot keep up with the flow of traffic at the buffet. Where staff would just quickly put out a new chafing dish in the past, now someone has to take the time to put together these little dishes in an attractive manner; popular, comfort food items were always empty and stayed empty for 5 – 10 minutes; then as soon as they put out the 10 dishes, they were immediately gone, and the vicious cycle started again.
Main Dining Room…
We had fixed dining in the MDR at 8:30pm. The service was good, but slow, it took us about 1 hr 45 minutes for dinner every night. The food was average and kind of bland; I found the food on my previous 3 cruises (NCL, CCL, RCCL) to be much tastier. The desserts were the most disappointing; no soufflés at all. The everyday chocolate cake was delicious and became my choice for most evenings. The desserts in Café al Baccio were better than those in the MDR, as were some of the offerings in the buffet area. I enjoyed the Café al Baccio and had coffee there a number of times, as well as something to go with it. They always had nice cakes, cookies, cheesecake, etc and were complimentary; coffee is a la carte.
We didn’t make it to the gelato bar, although we had a coupon, but it looked good and the folks we dined with said it was very good.
They messed up our order every single time. I’m not sure what the problem is. The menu is ok, although nothing jumped out at me; I usually had the turkey club if we ordered. No comfort foods or kids menu on room service (sometimes I like just a PBJ, you know?). Also, there is no charge for room service.
I did not have a beverage package on this cruise; I booked last-minute, so it was not a promotional option. I don’t drink enough to purchase a package, so I’m an ‘a la carte’ drinker. Drink prices were ridiculously high; when I opened the menu in Revelations to get a drink, they all started at $10 and up. If you have the classic beverage, your options would be very limited I suspect; even beer was very expensive – I only saw 1 or 2 beers that would have been able to be used on the classic beverage package; all the others were way over the included price.
Drinks of the day were $7; lots of the usual suspects and they were good. They also ran drink specials during certain times of the day in different venues, or during certain activities like the 70s or 80s nights in Revelations (they did $5 drinks during those times; Golden Cadillac, which was very good, and something called Passion Punch). Overall, I drank less than normal and did not drink any wine at all due to the exorbitant prices. I am cruising on the Reflection in November, so I guess I will have to upgrade my ‘free’ classic beverage package to the premium one.
We did 1 excursion through the cruiseship – it was the long Bermuda Tour via Bus, about 5 hours. It was way too long; I would not have chosen this tour as I did one similar in 2008 and didn’t enjoy it. We rode over to Hamilton, but it was raining so we skipped that stop for shopping and such; the rain dissipated by the time we got to St. George so we had extra time to explore; unfortunately it started raining there as well. Overall, if you want to spend a lot of time riding around on a bus looking around at the sights and having a short amount of time in St. George or Hamilton, then this is the tour for you (it also included the Light House). I would have preferred to take the Ferry over to St. George and done it on my own; same with Hamilton.
The other excursion we did was the same one I did while I was on the Breakway – ‘Famous Homes and Hideaways’, however it wasn’t offered by Celebrity, so we booked it through the Island Tour Centre in the Dockyard for $55 per person.
This is a really great tour and one of the best I’ve been on in many years. It is run by a husband and wife team, Captain Jamie and his wife Tammy, a native Bermudian. It wasn’t just famous homes and sightseeing – Tammy was extremely knowledgeable and gave a lot of history about the island that I hadn’t heard before. I really recommend this tour to everyone. It was great (as I said, I went back for a 2nd tour since my traveling companion didn’t cruise with me on the Breakway). It’s also great for people who aren’t able to do a lot of walking around Bermuda; you do have to be able to walk a short distance to the boat pier and down the steep ramp to get to the boat though. You could take the free trolley from the ship to the first stop and then walk back about 50 feet to get to the pier entry area.
You can book it online ahead of time.
We had planned on going to Harbor Nights in Hamilton, but I was so tired from the long bus tour that we skipped it; I will definitely go next time. Harbor Nights is on front street in Hamilton and they close off roads and the locals set up booths with local foods, crafts, etc. It’s like a little streetfair; very popular. It is only on WEDNESDAY nights 7 – 10pm, so the day you arrive. They run the ferries until 10:30pm on the nights do the Harbor Nights, so you can just hop the ferry to Hamilton from the Dockyard.
I enjoyed my time away on this cruise, but I very much preferred my Bermuda Cruise on the NCL Breakway that I was on just 6 weeks prior to this cruise.
So overall, from my point of view - If they were to roll this new buffet concept out fleetwide, I can’t say Celebrity would ever be top on my list again; it would not be worth the aggravation for 2/3 of my cruise meals to be as stressful and annoying as they were this past week. This may sound like a lot of complaining, but I was not the only one who was not happy with this new concept.
Overall, I was on vacation, and like any vacation or cruise – I’m happy and thankful to be able to get away so I have a great time. But, that being said, I am a paying customer and frequent cruiser and I know what I like. So, all of that goes into consideration when booking my next cruise.
So, again, this is just my opinion on the week; read it and use it as you will.