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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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,
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Amazing balcony. Quiet location as it was at the end of the corridor. Huge amount of wardrobe/cupboard space but needs hanging space for long formal gowns.