Let me say this up front: This was the best, bar none, of all eighteen cruises we have taken. That being said, you might expect that it will be for the most part complimentary. This is not to say that there were not some little glitches along the way, but certainly nothing that would be construed as cruise disasters.
Travel: All travel arrangements were made through Celebrity. They did a good job of meeting our time and airport criteria. We used Alaska Airlines. In this we were quite satisfied. Since we had never seen the NW coast, we chose to fly to SeaTac airport and bus to Vancouver. This was not a good decision. First, we were very late leaving SeaTac as the bus waited for late arriving passengers. They never did arrive. Second, the bus was not in real good condition. The brakes squealed, the transmission bumped and jumped, and generally it rode quite rough. This made the three hour ride most uncomfortable. In addition, we got to Summit only a half an hour before scheduled sailing.
Embarkation: Since we were so late, embarkation was no problem. In fact, I was told by someone an acquaintance already on board that we were the next to last to get onto the ship. Because of this, I can make no first person assessment of the boarding process at a busier hour. Our late arrival also contributed to not receiving the usual greeting found on Celebrity. We were not greeted, did not receive a glass of champagne, and there was no music playing in the lobby. Not a big deal, but it did take some of the glitter off the arrival. We were, however, escorted to our stateroom.
First Impressions: Since we had not eaten in more that twelve hours our first mission was to find something to eat. This was not difficult since a buffet was still available on the Resort Deck. Although it was a little crowded, we had no problem finding some good food and a nice window table. There was attentive service at these tables to provide any assistance we might have needed.
We returned to our room to find our bags already there. This was about as quick as we have ever experienced. Unpacking was easy. There is plenty of storage in the cabin. Note: The shelves in the closet fold up so it is no problem to hang long garments. The bags fit easily under the bed.
The room itself was not as big as some we have had on other ships, but was well laid out and easy to get around in. There was a small sofa, a table, and vanity next to the sliding doors to the verandah. The verandah was big enough for two chairs and a small round table. This was sufficient for snacks, etc, but I wouldn't have wanted to try a complete meal there. The bathroom was adequate. Large enough to towel off after a shower and well stocked with toiletries one might need. There was however little above sink storage. I had to put my gear under the sink. My wife made do with the small shelves and some cabinet storage.
All-in-all, the room was clean, tidy, and comfortable. Our steward, Sudi did a good job of keeping it that way. If we had and problems or requirements, he attended to them right away. He also offered to store our bags if we did not have room for them.
After unpacking, we took a familiarity tour of the ship. We found it to be easy to find our way around. Aside from a few small wear spots, the ship is in good condition. After some of the comments I have seen about Celebrity ships not being well maintained, I expected to find a few problems. None found. In addition to being a beautiful ship, there is a plentitude of interesting art to enjoy. In your walk-around, do not miss the greenhouse. Beautiful flowers of all sorts. It was a good start for the week.
Ports and excursions: All off boat activities were booked via internet prior to sailing. This is a convenient way to assure availability. To be sure, one could go on-shore and find similar tours for less money, but there are risks in doing it this way. There were three off-boat ports on this cruise: Juneau, Sitka, and Icy Strait Point. I will touch on each of these briefly.
Juneau: This was a tender port, as they all were. Aside from a short wait to get our tender ticket, it was no problem. (CC passengers get priority for tenders). The area immediately off the dock is a typical tourist area. Lots of stores catering to the memento trade. It was late in the season so most were selling out there stock at great prices. It would be a good place to do some Christmas shopping. We ate at the Twisted Fish Restaurant on the dock. Good food at Alaska prices.
Our tour out of Juneau was a whale watching boat ride and a trip to the Mendenhall Glacier. The bus and boat were very nice. Our guide was knowledgeable and interesting. We did see plenty of whales. In fact, we were somewhat delayed returning to the dock because one animal decided he liked our boat and came close and would not leave. Law says that the skipper could not start the engines while "Spot" was so close. Consequently, we were somewhat late getting to the glacier and by that time is was raining and a little cool. Still, all in all, a very nice tour.
Sitka: Not my favorite port. Prices were very high and seemed more "touristy" and we found in Juneau. We did have a very nice meal at the Victoria Hotel. This is a short walk down the main drag past the Russian Church.
Our tour in Sitka was another boat ride, this time looking for sea otters, seal, sea lions, and or course, whales. We saw plenty of both, along with some great scenery. This tour included a naturalist who kept a running narrative throughout the entire trip.
Icy Strait Point: This is a new stop developed jointly by the State, the local Indians, and the cruise line. If you want big time entertainment, glitzy stores, and plenty of shopping, don't get off the ship. It is not here. If, however, you would like a glimpse of what old time Alaska might have looked like, this is the place. It consists of an old cannery,its support buildings, a nice walking trail in the nearby rainforest, and the town of Hoonah. (maybe a thousand population).
We took a walking tour through the meskeg and along a small stream to look for bears. We didn't find any, but it was interesting none-the-less.
Hubbard Glacier: Not a port, but a great experience. Summit entered a short fiord to find the glacier face. Great weather and calm seas allowed the captain to come within 75 yards of the face. What a great experience. Plenty of calving, great photo opportunities, and some Baily's lace hot chocolate made a memorable two hour visit.
Entertainment and activities: This ship provided plenty of diversions for those so inclined. We did not see many shows so I can not give a good review of those. Folks who did see them said they were enjoyable. The one show I did see was performed by a group of very talented musicians, but the selections were somewhat dubious for a cruise venue. (Titanic??)
There was plenty of music around the ship to suit most any reasonably adult taste. Dancing was provided in at least two rooms.
The casino was sufficient but not particularly friendly to the casual gambler.
One can find the usual trivia games, bingo, art auctions, and cooking schools on board. We particularly enjoyed the wine tasting and the wine/food paring seminars. If you are an oenifile, get involved. One disappointment was the Photoshop seminars. The instructor, although well versed in the material, was poorly prepared, had no teaching experience, and in my mind caused more confusion than education.
The food: For many folks, the dining experience can make or break a cruise. They would not be unhappy with the food on Summit. We took most of our meals in the Cosmopolitan Room and found quality and service to be first rate. Josue and Rameses our servers did an excellent job. In addition, the Sommelier Clint Clive gave great advice and took good care of us. We had one meal in the Normandie Room, a specialty restaurant. Don't miss it. It costs a little extra, but the experience is worth it. Five star dining at sea is truly something to remember.
Disembarkation: A piece of cake. A leisurely breakfast in the dining room, finish packing in the stateroom and a short wait in the Cinema had us off the ship by 9:00AM. Since we were bussing to SeaTac, our luggage was already on the bus and we only had to clear customs to leave.
Another long ride to Seattle on a better, but not good bus. We did at least get a great stop about half way there. This was a good thing since the light in the head on the bus did not work.
As I said in the beginning, this was a wonderful vacation on a good ship crewed by a friendly, cheerful, helpful group of people. We are ready to go again. I almost forgot to mention Naomi, the Concierge. She was always ready to help when we found some little problem.