Summit - Hawaii: Celebrity Summit Cruise Review by Jaynak
Overall Member Rating
Summit - Hawaii
Embarkation: Los Angeles
This is likely to be long so Ill use headings to help you skip to parts that may interest you.
OUR BACKGROUND -- This was our second cruise, our first being on Royal Caribbean last year to the Mexican Riv. We are 40 and 41, not partiers or drinkers but we do love good company, music, food and due to living in Northern Canada we especially love the sun! We were joined by my parents, both 63 who enjoyed their 4th cruise.
PRECRUISE -- We arrived a day early as per everyones advice and once again stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn LAX. Their shuttle met us minutes after we called for it and delivered us to their lovely hotel. Again, we were duly impressed with the cleanliness, and friendliness of this establishment. After settling in, their shuttle driver took us to Manhattan Beach where we did the usual touristy adventure of walking the pier, watching surfers, looking in a few little shops and then More enjoying a scrumptious dinner at Rock N Fish. Dont miss their roasted corn and crab cakes. We had arranged for the Hiltons shuttle driver to pick us up again, which he did. We tipped him generously and agreed it was much more convenient and pleasant than taking a cab. After enjoying the Hiltons complimentary, huge, warm, white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, soaking in their hot tub and checking our e-mail in their complimentary office (which was loaded with complimentary office supplies) we went to bed. Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny, so we walked to Ralphs groceries and stocked up on some Diet Coke (which we later carried on in our hand luggage with no problem at all) and a few things we had forgotten, then walked back for a delicious complimentary buffet breakfast. Did I mention that I like this Hotel? We had called Golden West Express the night before to arrange for an 11:30 pick up to take us to San Pedro. We requested a van due to the copious amounts of luggage we had. Cost was $58 plus tip.
ARRIVAL AT SAN PEDRO -- We arrived at 12:00 and wondered what we were in for! As it turned out Summit had arrived late due to fog, so the disembarking passengers were still there trying to get cabs, porters etc as well, Vision of the Seas and an Oceania Ship were in port. My husband is persistent, big and friendly and in no time we had a porter taking very good care of us with our huge pile of luggage. Remember a smile and a tip go a long way. There were some grumpy and mean people there that day and they were not getting porters. The line to board looked a mile long but it was a lovely day and we were on holidays so who could complain? Eventually the line reached a tent that offered shade and a few chairs for the elderly, then we reached security and finally Celebrity check-in. We had done the online paperwork and honestly I dont know how it could have been quicker. We had a second line to go in being we are Canadian but that only took a couple minutes. We then had our picture taken, but had to wait again in another line up to actually board the ship. I think that was because Celebrity likes to have someone take you to your room, which takes extra time. If everyone herded on the ship like a pack of wild elephants it would likely be quicker.
FIRST HOURS ON BOARD and ROOM 6018 -- We were offered a lovely drink upon boarding, were delivered to our room which was ready and dropped off our hand luggage. Room 6018 is very far forward and is one of the secret rooms with an extra large balcony. It is the middle of three rooms that are surrounded by the metal cladding that youll notice if you look at a picture of the Millennium class ships. I was worried about the metal cladding interfering with sunlight and our view but this was unfounded. I was also worried about the motion from being so far forward however I cant comment on this because our sailing was virtually like glass all the way there and back. Finally, it had been mentioned that staying so far forward meant a lot of walking to get anywhere. Perhaps, but this didnt hurt us. The theatre was right below us which was handy in the evenings. We will definitely book one of these rooms again and would not hesitate to book 6018. The room was spotless, roomy and there were plenty of hangers although I had brought skirt hangers from home which I used. There are loads of drawers and shelves. The washroom was roomy and the shower big enough to do the hula if you so desire. Lots of shelves here too. Some have mentioned mold, cracked tiles, and worn upholstery but we saw none of that in our room.
After a little walk around a spotless ship, we headed to the delicious buffet. Walking through the pool area, the loungers were still vacant and had been aligned using a rope, so they were in perfect rows! Each lounger had a perfectly folded yellow towel on it. The care in which this area was prepared was stunning! All the staff were most pleasant everywhere we went, particularly in the buffet and we found the buffet to be a definite step up from Royal Caribbeans. This cruise was off to a good start& and it got better.
FOOD ROOM SERVICE AND BUFFET -- Everyone asks about the food on a cruise, so Ill get right to the point. We ordered room service every morning for our pre-breakfast/ breakfast (juice and coffee, - ok a Danish too). It arrived promptly every time, was hot, cold or however it was meant to be! Dont order anything else for breakfast though! Twice we tried the eggs, bacon etc and they were absolutely terrible. My parents had the very same experience. The eggs were in a puddle of sludge and the bacon in a slick of grease. Really gross. After a workout we would rush to the buffet before 10:00 when the waffle station closed. These waffles are melt in your mouth fantastic. With cherries and yogurt, it is divine. My family loved the fresh danish, made to order omelets, and the fresh fruit but the rest was fairly ordinary buffet fair. What more can you ask than fresh waffles and fresh omelets? My only complaint is the coffee. It was hard to get it hot and those dumb little cups are useless. I suggest bringing your own full size insulated coffee mug. The room service coffee and juice was far superior to the buffets.
LUNCH BUFFET We intended to try the dining room for lunch, but honestly the buffet was lovely for lunch and therefore we never made it to the dining room. On Royal C. we were sick of the buffet almost right away and ended up eating most of our meals in the dining room. Not so on the Summit! There was a daily theme buffet down one side of the buffet and a usual lunch buffet down the other side. Some of the themes I remember were, Mexican, American, Oriental, and Hawaiian. The Pasta Bar kept calling my name but I never made it. I did however, make it to the Home Made Pizza Station, the Sandwich Deli and the Caesar Salad Station no complaints, except that I gained 7 lbs in 14 days.
SPA CAFÉ At the THALASSOTHERAPY POOL is amazing. Apparently the staff from the Normandy work there during the day (??). If only I had eaten there all the time. The food is low fat, low cal and amazing. It is presented beautifully and couldnt be yummier. The only problem is that there arent very many tables to sit at so sometimes you end up wandering quite a ways with your tray. The coffee there is terrible though dont bother.
THE NORMANDY is the specialty restaurant. It costs $30 each, and you need to make reservations DONT miss it. Much has been said about the goat cheese soufflE which I would never have even taken a second glance at had it not been for cruise critics high recommendation it is all it is praised to be. We were surprised with a lovely smoked salmon and caviar treat to start with, then the soufflE, then my mom and I shared the Chateau Briand perfect. My dh and pop had the lamb which they said was the best they had ever had. Then the cheese course, then the dessert. We went for the six mini desserts. I wish we could have just taken a doggy bag but that just didnt seem right! We were soooo stuffed. THEN, came the petit fours. We did not do the wine pairing which is 5 glasses of wine (each) to go along with your meal for another $30 and is a terrific value they said. While Im sure it is great value, I would not be able to find my room afterwards if I had 5 glasses of wine, value or not!
THE COSMOPOLITAN DINING ROOM -- We were at a table for 6 and were ironically seated with Joe and Judy the very best couple ever to sit with we knew them from CruiseCritic so could hardly believe that with 2300 others on the ship we were seated with them! I did love a table for 6 although we had asked for a table for 8. Conversation was intimate and service was terrific. Our meal however always seemed to be really, really slow coming and dinner took 2 ½ hours every night. That was fine being we were in good company but if you were anxious to get on with the evening you might have been become annoyed we love the leisurely time to visit. Celebrity Secrets Thread suggests many hot tips that we enjoyed: Shrimp cocktails nightly and a plate of blue cheese to go along with salads every night (thanks a lot Judy, now we are all addicted!! ;) & fresh berries with dessert every night, Crème Brulee kindly made special just for us, andplainsalmon for me one night when I just didnt feel like anything else on the menu. I didnt feel that meals were superior to Royal C but certainly they were great. I did get a little tired of saucy things but that is the problem with a two week cruise such a problem to have! Desserts were fine the only outstanding menu item was the Crème Brulee. However, the Cherries Jubilee was just heated up Cherry pie filling! Not to complain though, we waddled away from the table every night and many times our waiter insisted that we try several desserts! Meat is on the rare side so order accordingly, pork was very tough both times I had it, salmon was delish, chicken ordinary, lamb gross (but my husband absolutely loves lamb and said it was amazing!!!). Other fish was always moist and tender. Soups were hot and tasty however is mint pea not a little weird? The cold soups seemed like melted ice cream or like juice to me but each to their own. The Corn Carolina was amazing. The salad dressings are great, especially Celebrity dressing. My dh just likes a plate of lettuce which he then doctored it up with blue cheese and dressing. They brought this for him each night.
COVA CAFÉ is a lovely coffee house where the string quartet plays and where you have to pay for your coffee. A latte is $2.50 and comes with a yummy wrapped chocolate. Although it seemed rather dumb to pay for coffee when I could walk a ways and get one for free elsewhere, as I have mentioned it was hard to get a good cup of coffee on this ship, and this was good coffee. Plus there was the lovely ambiance. In the afternoon there are beautiful cookies, which are complimentary (and pastries in the mornings). Just before dinner they pass around hors dd'oeuvres as well (sometimes). Do not miss the quartet.
CASUAL DINING is more than it sounds it is something you make reservations for and takes place in the buffet area, however you sit at white tablecloth covered tables and have your order taken. It is a 4 course meal and 3 different menus rotate. This was my BEST meal. I had the salmon dinner and it was marvelous. I would have eaten here every night but our dinner companions Joe and Judy were so lovely we hated to miss them in the main dining room as well our waiters in the dining room were great. The waiters in the Casual Dining seemed to be understudies for the main dining room and they tried really, really hard but were real nervous. We enjoyed them too. The dress code is casual (surprise, surprise) and therefore this venue is very popular after a day in port. Our day at Kauai was followed by a Formal Night rather a nuisance if you ask me so casual dining was booked right up. Call a few hours ahead and remember to let them know in the main dining room that you wont be there.
ENTERTAINMENT Being younger than the average age by about 20+ years, we expected the entertainment to be a little slow for us and we were in fact correct. That is not to say we didnt enjoy it. When we filled out our comment cards rating each evenings show, we surprised ourselves when we realized we had filled out 11 excellent! There were 4 Broadway productions which were 3 too many for me however& their costumes and dancing skill are a sight to behold. Pearl Kaufmann, pianist for over 250 movies, gave us two shows, as did Ping Xing Xu a dulcimer player. The comedian was certainly very funny as was the Newly Wed- Nearly Dead game. The very best show was on the last night, Darren Williams and his Poparatic Program. How he can sing Phantom and sound like all three parts including imitating Sarah Brightman perfectly is just amazing. I hadnt expected much out of the Talent show but I was pleasantly surprised at how talented our fellow guests were put me to shame for sure. If you are a night owl, dont expect much to be happening after 11:30. We just loved the pianist/ singer in Michaels Club, but he shut down at 11:30, as did the quartet at the Cova Cafe. We arent dancers/drinkers but the one night we went to the Bar at the Edge of the Earth, the Karaoke was really, really bad and it shut down shortly after 12:00 due to lack of interest! Speaking of the Edge it is a really interesting bar area decorated seemingly in an underwater ?? theme. however there are beds and cushions here and there for what purpose, Ill let you decide. Many have said it is ugly, but I beg to differ. It is just different.
PUBLIC AREAS An understated elegance best describes the ship. The Centrum is not nearly as breathtaking as that of The Vision of the Seas but lovely just the same. The Art Work aboard has been called controversial. Different and unusual, it is, however there was nothing that offended my tender sensibilities. The Casino never seemed very busy and not nearly as smoky as on the Vision where I would walk outside the ship to avoid walking thru the Casino. The flooring is truly beautiful everywhere, both carpet and tile work. We enjoyed the variety of shops but found the staff thoroughly bored and rather unpleasant. This is one of the very few places where staff could have improved in moral.
POOLS Yes, there was the typical chair hogging around the pool BUT there were always lots of chairs on the upper deck and sitting beside the pool isnt that important to me anyway. On the two cooler sea days there were lots of Alaskan blankets so the pool decks were always in use. The pool stewards were in full force and didnt have a problem moving towels off chairs. If you wanted to save a chair you needed to leave something personal on the chair or you would lose your chair for sure. The T-POOL is wonderful. On the warmer days it would have been great if that roof would have retracted. The ambiance is beautiful and the fat granite lady that overlooks everything is really something! There are far too few loungers here but there really isnt room for anymore so I wouldnt know what the solution would be. The negative is the strange smell that gagged me every time we entered the area. I did get used to it in time but it certainly wasnt a fresh air smell.
ENRICHMENT SERIES A chef, astronaut and a naturalist from UBC were on board and their seminars were well attended. In fact the naturalists series had to be moved from the cinema to the main theatre due to popularity. I found the timing a little early in the day for me and only attended one but I only heard good things about them.
FITNESS CENTRE/SPA Im happy to say that we did use the fitness center and it was great. The excellent treadmills overlook the front of the ship and were always available within a few minutes wait (actually I never did have to wait). The room was always full but not over-full. Exercise classes were in full force (for a fee). I must say that the change rooms were spectacular. We used them for morning showers after our work-outs and after using the T-Pool as the showers were just beautiful with rain-shower heads, nice soap and shampoo etc. The sauna has a huge window as does one of the showers rather exotic. We did the SPA tour when we boarded the ship (recommended) and although tempting I couldnt justify the high prices. In comparison to what I would pay at home it was 2 3 times the price.
PORTS -- HILO It was good to land after four days at sea and we were able to watch our arrival for an hour or so. Of course it was pouring rain being Hilo is one of the wettest cities in the U. S. We exited the ship into a huge warehouse building where security personal go thru your backpacks, purses etc to look for contraband. We had brought sandwiches and fruit off the ship (ordered from room service) with us for our lunch and that seemed fine with them. There are lots of tour operators and flower sellers right there at your service but we had rented a car so didnt need a tour. We did, however, buy two $10 gorgeous arrangements of flowers to bring back to our cabins. The vendors kept them for us for the day. My husband left with the car rental shuttle to pick up the car whilst we waited being we were the first people off the ship, he was the first to do the paperwork at the rental company and thus the first back. Dont dilly dally or you will get behind 500 others doing paperwork and waste your day. We took off for the Volcanoes National Park. The way is well marked and once you are there you pass thru a toll booth and they give you a map of the park on which there are suggested outlooks on Crater Rim Drive (the main circle drive) and Chain of Craters Road (the road that branches off CR Drive and takes you to the ocean). We stopped at Kilauea Visitor Center first to see the displays and watch the movie and then proceeded to most of the stopping points. The Chain of Craters Road is a long drive but dont miss it it is beautiful, but it is likely to be hot by the time you make it to the sea. We saw the lava hitting the ocean in the distance. It would have been a 7 hour walk to reach lava the day we were there though. Once back on the Crater Rim Drive, we stopped at the Thurston Lava Tube very cool. The ferns are enormous making you feel like youre in a Disney movie. Heading back to the ship we took a quick pass thru the town of Hilo just to see it and then stopped at Hilo Hatties and ran into Wal-Mart for some essentials. Although it poured in Hilo the whole day, it was on and off at the Park and it really was a wonderful day.
KONA We loved Kona! This is a tender port and we were on the first tender. Just get yourself out of bed and to wherever it is they announce you are suppose to be and pretend you have #1 tender priority and youll find yourself on tender #1!!! If you wait around until they load all the tour passengers and gold passengers etc. youll be all day. Face it they want to get everyone off the ship as fast as possible and if you are there and ready to go, theyll put you on the next tender (trust me). We hailed a cab immediately and went to KAHALUU BEACH PARK. It is like a natural aquarium complete with giant turtles. We were there by 8:30 a.m. so practically had the place to ourselves (note& this park gets very, very busy as the day goes on - GO EARLY). This was our very first try at snorkeling and it was a piece of cake for my dh and for my Pop but it was a challenge for me. I ended up doing great but nearly had heart failure when a huge turtle went right underneath me not what I was expecting! It was amazing lots of gorgeous sea life. By 10:00 we were quite tired so bought a smoothy-drink and relaxed on the beach (not powder sandy but nice just the same). Then called the cab back to town (about $12 each way). We were starved by now and went to BUBBA GUMPS for a wonderful lunch. Dont miss it. It is right on the main drag and has a gorgeous view. Ask for a patio table of course. Then we went to the market right across the way from Bubbas bought a few souvenirs, then walked to Hilo Hatties (not a good walk if you are infirm as it is up hill all the way. There is a shuttle that will take you from the ship but we wanted the exercise). We stopped briefly at Hulihee Palace, which is right close to the pier as well. A great day.
KAUAI We love Kauai too! Another stop where we had rented a car. This is where you have to avoid the chickens they are everywhere. We had friends in Hanapepe to meet in the morning so drove the main hiway there, stopping at a little cafe in Hanapepe called Grinds for a Danish and coffee which was terrific. Called our kids at home in Edmonton and it sounded like we were next door. After a morning with friends we left at about noon for Waimea Canyon. It was a gorgeous day and the road winding up the Canyon was really lovely. The views are breathtaking. I have not seen the Grand Canyon but I surely feel like I have now. We only went to the PUU HINAHINA LOOKOUT as we were now running into time constraints therefore we did not see clear to the Napili Coast which we may have seen had we gone on further. However I cant imagine what better views we could have seen of the canyon itself. This lookout offers washrooms and refreshments (including yummy coconuts on ice) and excellent picture taking opportunities. Dont miss this stop. We then turned around and headed back on the hiway to Poipu Beach. (just follow the signs). We went to the MARRIOTT WAIOHAI RESORT and used their beach (the public beach is right there as well but the Marriott is worth a look at it is beautiful). Here, we snorkeled again. I admit to being a total chicken this time. The fish here are used to being fed and somehow they know when a new person enters the water and they swarm you that freaked me out completely! I eventually got over it once they realized I didnt have rice for them and they left me alone. However I was nervous as the currents and waves were strong that day. I dont believe it is usually that way according to the guide books. We did have a real treat as a very rare and endangered Monk Seal was on the beach right there with all hundreds of us tourists. He was fenced in by the conservation officers to protect him as he will lay there for hours and people tend to think they need to be pushed back into the ocean like a beached whale! Now we had to return our car to Budget which turned out to be an adventure because they had written down the mileage wrong when we picked up the car and now claimed we had driven 3600 miles in one day. Considering the whole island is less than 200 miles around that would be quite the driving. The idiot girl at the desk insisted she was charging us excess mileage we said we had a ship to catch and she should use common sense and realize the error. We didnt want to leave her with our credit card until it was sorted out but our time was cutting fine by now anyway a manager finally came and sorted it out. Note to self leave extra time for idiots.
OAHU I guess we are easy to please because we loved Oahu too. Be sure to get up for arrival (actually dont miss any arrivals). Arriving in Oahu as the day breaks is spectacular. As the Summit docks the Hula Dancers sing and dance just for you and you feel like you are in a dream. We disembarked and caught a cab right away to Waikiki. Now, it may be cheaper to catch a bus and many do. However we are only here for one day and we didnt want to waste time waiting for a bus. Grab another couple and share the taxi fare if money is an issue. We mosied thru The Royal Hawaiian , the Sheraton Ala Moana Surfrider, walked the beach (wonderful to do right away before it gets busy), had an ice cream at Baskin Robbins, did the shops etc. Also went to the International Marketplace. this place has become a real dump. Reminded me of Mexico. I would expect that this prime piece of real estate will soon be remodeled into another resort. Many of the stalls are empty and they all have the same stuff anyway. Then we had lunch at DUKES in the Outrigger on the Beach (right next to the Royal Hawaiian the pink one). It was great ask for a table on the patio obviously. For the afternoon we sunbathed on the beach and swam a little then headed back to the ship via cab. My parents were tired out so decided to stay on the ship but dh and I showered and disembarked again to spend the evening at the Aloha Tower Mall which is right there at the pier. It is a lovely outdoor mall where you can easily spend a few hours browsing, having coffee, listening to music etc. The ship doesnt leave until 11 p.m. so we wanted to enjoy Honolulu as along as possible but were too tired by now to tour the city. This was a good alternative. Sailaway at night was lovely as we left the lights of the city.
MAUI - Now that we have been home a couple months we have decided that Maui was our favorite if we could only return to one island. That is NOT to diminish any other island though Hawaii is simply gorgeous! Arrival in Lahaina is very pretty as it is a lovely little former whaling village. We haled a cab immediately again and went to KAANAPALI BEACH where the cab driver dropped us off at the SHERATON (far end of Kaanapali Beach at BLACK ROCK). Here we found a perfect spot on the beach and began our third round of snorkeling. This is lovely calm, safe spot with tons of fish and turtles again. This is where we saw the whales breach right in front of us. After a couple hours we walked to WHALERS VILLAGE outdoor mall where we shopped and enjoyed more Kona Coffee the view here at the mall is terrific. We had planned to bus to Lahaina but once again the bus service was poor and we werent about to wait so jumped in a cab. (about $15 each way) Lahaina has dozens of shops and galleries (Dont miss Wylands Gallery of ocean paintings). Now came the fiasco many have talked about. Somehow the lines got mixed up for tenders and there were terrible verbal fights and I feared for the poor traffic officer. I dont understand how there could be confusion when cruise ships dock there all the time and Im not sure whos fault it was but it was terrible. It was also very, very hot and the line was soooooso long. In the end we were 2 hours late leaving and there were a lot of MAD passengers. Many people were mad that Celebrity only offers part of the day in Maui well I say read your itinerary. If you dont like it, dont book. I would like to have been all day in Maui too but Im not going to complain after the fact. Actually, by 2 we were all exhausted after 5 port days in a row and happy to get on the ship. Not to mention that the next 4 hours of sailing by the coast of Maui was absolutely beautiful and not to be missed. If we left at night you would not see that.
DISEMBARKATION -- Was very frustrating and it needn't have been. The line up to reach immigration stretched the length of the entire ship _I'm not kidding. Although we had all been given official times to be there - that seemed irrelevant to everyone else! People were queue jumping, complaining, the very old were forced to stand for a long time etc... There has to be a better system. The other odd part is how you are dumped into the big warehouse to find your luggage - how more luggage doesn't go 'missing' is beyond me! Those thousands of pieces of black luggage are really a sight to behold. Remember to decorate your luggage!
So there is my review. Would I go Celebrity again? Definitely!!! However I will likely look at Royal C for taking our kids as it caters to a younger crowd. I have to admit the extra Celebrity touches are awfully nice though!
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