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NnJ2010

Tips/review from Summit 12/6

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A few things first because I know sometimes this helps people to evaluate what their reading :) My husband is 37 and I'm 30. This was our 5th cruise. Our second on Celebrity. (We have been on RCCL, Princess and Disney as well.) We do tend to keep to ourselves on a cruise, we're not social butterflies as this is our time to really relax and enjoy our time together.

 

This cruise was the 11 day cruise that went to Key West, Cozumel, Costa Rica, Panama, Aruba and Curacao.

 

First a few tips

 

1) Spa packages. There are some spa packages mentioned on Celebrity's website. You can book those in advance (I don't think they're just captain's club only but I'm not certain). Just call and ask the pricing and then if you decide you want to do one of those BOOK IT before the cruise. You can't schedule the appointment times though you have to do that onboard. When I called I asked her what the advantage was to booking it prior to the cruise...she said nothing. Well that's not true at all! There is a significant savings! (Like around 100 bucks!) The spa staff let me book it at the pre-booked rates only because I explained what had happened.

 

2) I did ask about behind the scenes tours for a friend. She kind of gave me a funny look. She said no. Then I said not even for CC members. She asked what level and then said no again. Not sure if I could have gotten a different answer if I asked another person at a different time?! So you might want to go in not expecting it but then ask about it anyway just in case.

 

3)The Thalossotherapy pool is a wonderful place to hang out and relax in the evening if you don't feel like going to the casino or seeing the show. There were only like 2-3 people in it if that each evening.

 

4)If you ever have the opportunity to book a corner aft cabin (FV class). Book it. The room is huge and the balcony is almost just as big as the room. It was amazing. You have great views because you can see from the side and from the back. My husband is now spoiled and now I'll have to try and find a way to book this again...

 

5)If you want to snorkel anytime/anywhere in the Carib the best way to do it is by booking your own excursion and if you can book a private tour all the better. The little bit of extra money spent is WELL worth it. This was the second time we did it and I don't think I will ever book with a group again. It was wonderful not having other people's arms, legs, feet in your face while snorkeling. We did it once in Cozumel...last cruise...we got lucky there because we booked late and the first boat was full so we got the second boat all to ourselves. We did it in Aruba this cruise and it was great. I have a vendor there that I'd recommend too for just about any watersport you're interested in.

 

6)Eat in the specialty restaurant at LEAST once if you are going on a Celeb M Class ship. It is phenomenal. We ate there twice when we were on the Millenium and we actually splurged and ate there 3 times this cruise. I think it's the most expensive alternative restaurant on the mass cruise line ships (at least more than the others I've been on). The service though and the food is better than any of the others I've been on and I've tried them on every cruise. You have at least 3-4 servers. You have 4 courses...an appetizer, entree, cheese course and dessert. The Goat Cheese Souffle for an appetizer is a must. We tried a couple different entrees this time....veal, lamb (which was done Wellington style with the puff pastry and mushroom duexelle -sp) and chateaubriand. Desserts were outstanding as well...we had the chef's mini plate with like 6 different desserts, the chocolate souffle and the SS normandie which was a white and dark chocolate mousse with raspberries and something else... The third time we went...I don't know if it was because we went multiple times or because we dined there on the last night of the cruise but they had a special non-published menu that they told us about.....I had a shrimp and lobster linguini as an appetizer and then they prepared steak diane table side and they had grand marnier souffles for dessert. It was outstanding.

 

We were hesitant to do the 3rd time because it was the last night. However, we just went down at our seating time and handed our tip envelopes to the waiters and they seemed just fine with not having seen us too much but still getting the same amount of gratuity....

 

We also opted to eat dinner on our balcony a few times. Your room steward will bring you the menu and take your order. He and his assistant will bring the dinner tray(s) to your room as well. This is a must IMO if you have a balcony. So relaxing and romantic. Although I always felt bad since Celebrity has its room stewards carry the trays in. I felt like we were creating more work for him so we tipped him well to hopefully help compensate.

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Embarkation was VERY quick and easy. We arrived at the terminal probably 10 min to 11 am and were on the ship by 11:15 am with a glass of champagne in hand. If you wait till a bit later I believe they have people to escort you to your room. I however, would rather get on the ship as soon as they let us. The room was already done by that point. Dropped the carry-on and went to explore the ship. Took lots of pictures while it was still empty. Went to lunch then to check on our dining table situation (we had requested a 2 person table) and something told me to ask. So we went to the Lounge that they were dealing with dining changes and asked. We were at a 6 person table so we asked to be changed. They took our stateroom number and we proceeded to wait. It came time for me to go to the spa so John was nice enough to keep waiting. However, I think when they saw me go they crossed off our number...because I finished at the spa, went to the room and then went back down to the lounge and John was still there. I asked how much longer and they apologized profusely. They moved us to a different table. It was a table for 4 but only had the 2 of us at it. They said if another table opened(?) they'd move us. They did move us to another table for 4 the next night (card on the door). Not sure why but it was fine with us as it was a better view.

 

Food....only really made notes the first few days...the embarkation buffet was very good. Although the lines were a bit slow. (Anytime we went at a more typical time for the buffet the lines were a bit slow.) A few people have mentioned this and I always thought it was a bit rude but they blamed it on the old people. Ironically...it really was the older passengers who seemed to be slowing it down but don't tell anyone I said so and it really wasn't a big issue. More humorous to me at that point since I had said previously how awful it was to blame older people. :)

 

The food on the whole was very good. It wasn't as good as when I was on Celebrity a couple years ago though. As I said though it was still good and still IMO better than the other mass market lines that I've been on. I think their buffets need a bit of improvement.....breakfast is the same with minor variations every day. BUT with that said they offer just about EVERYTHING at breakfast you could want. Scrambled eggs, hard boiled eggs, bacon, sausage, corned beef hash, ham, some form of potatos, blintzes, french toast, oatmeal, cream of wheat, etc etc etc etc. They even have an omelette station and a waffle station (YUM). We could have and should have gone to the dining room at least once for breakfast. However, the one morning we were moving in time and thinking clearly to do this the menu didn't really catch us as ooh gotta have it. So not really a 'complaint' just an observation that just changing it up a bit would have been nice. Lunch buffets...a couple of the themed ones just weren't very good... I specifically didn't care for the caribbean one or the asian one. However, again there are other options...burger stand that has great hot dogs also has pizza, plus a pasta and pizza station and a station in the back of the buffet (where the waffles are at breakfast) that usually had some sort of featured salad and sandwich for the day. We never ate in the dining room for lunch either as we were usually quite lazy. Dinners were very good. I do think that they need to change a few things a bit on their menu...their appetizer, their soups, their salad dressings and the main dish of the entree were always great. However, the salads were boring (same old pretty much each night with minimal variation...and it's really not difficult to put some cheese, fruit or nuts or something different on the salad) and their side dishes with the entree. MANY of the nights my entree came with a couple steamed vegetables and a plain chunk of potato that had been shaped attractively but had no seasoning or anything interesting to it. I know I'm being very picky on this.....because they still have IMO the best food on a cruiseline. However, Celebrity is 'known' for the food. So I just think they need to pizzaz it back up a bit. (I don't recall off-hand if the side dishes and salads were this way before or not so I can't honestly say if those things have changed in the last couple years.) I just know that the first time I was a bit more 'wowed' with the food. This year there was actually one night where none of the entrees appealed to either John or I. Although never fear any night - as with most cruises - you can always get steak, chicken or salmon --same with ceasar salad and shrimp cocktail.)

 

Now for the oh-so offensive bottled water. Personally, I don't understand where the offense comes in because I'm capable of saying no. The first night they offered and I went with the Evian because I'm kinda picky about the taste of water...and couldn't recall if ship water was any good or not. My husband got regular water. I sipped his and after that at meals drank regular water. The waiter(s) only offer it on your first night. They will then stick with your choice unless you tell them differently. I also love it when your asst waiters are on the ball and have a good memory and bring you whatever you normally drink without asking for it.

 

Speaking of service....everyone on the ship was great. We never encountered a rude employee nor a non-helpful one. About the most non-helpful one was the one I mentioned at Guest Services when I inquired about the tours. She wasn't rude but she wasn't overly friendly either so...no real complaints there!

 

So back to embarkation day....muster was at 4 pm. Had one little interesting moment which made me laugh. Again, if you read here for a bit you'll know that a few people seem to think they are the cruise police. Well I did witness it first hand at the drill. As we were walking to the outside location a girl had a drink in her hand and I joked with her that that was the way to do the drill. I said this as we walked by a couple who was intentionally lurking against the wall so they could be last in line which meant first to leave.... Anyway the guy (who was at least mid 50s) made the comment when he heard me say that.....that bringing alcohol to the drill wasn't allowed. I just kind of rolled my eyes at it and wondered why it bothered him when there were plenty of staff around and no one said a word to her about it.

 

Dinner the first night...I did write it down (I think that was first and last time I did it)

 

I had the Mushrooms in a puff pastry box with a cream herb sauce; chilled pear and honey soup; prime rib and chocolate croquant. (ALL of it was fantastic) Definitely try the chilled fruit soups, each one I had was outstanding!!!!

 

John had the same appetizer with a salad with the veal picatta w/marsla sauce and the apple tart. His was outstanding as well.

 

Spa - Celebrity is also known for its spas especially on the M Class ships. They are gorgeous. Definitely go and have something done. They are unfortunately expensive. I spent way too much money but really enjoyed myself so I guess it was worth it!! They have a nice gym there as well. Pretty decent size for a shipboard gym. They even have a section off to the side for free weights. They do offer a few different classes and just like other cruise lines I've been on...they do charge for the pilates and the yoga classes.

 

Entertainment - We went to a few of the shows. They were good. I of course preferred the shows on DCL because they're well...Disney. However, these weren't bad. One we went to was a broadway show featuring a few vignettes and a lot of different songs from various broadway shows. It was good. We went to a couple others. They were good. Not outstanding but they kept us entertained. There's also always the casino if you like to gamble.

 

The room - As I mentioned earlier if you can ever get one...book it! It was amazing! It was by far the largest cabin we've had yet. (Even larger than the JS on I think it was Princess). The balcony is probably one of the largest around other than very large suites. We had an entire extra closet plus there was a separated sitting area. (All other balcony rooms I've been on just have a small sofa between the doors to the balcony and the bed.) This one had a sliding frosted glass and wood door/divider and 2 sofas plus coffee table and tv. It was very nicely done.

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The ports - Cozumel...we had a great time here. This was our day in paradise! We took a taxi to Nachi Cocom. It's a little beach a bit farther down the main stretch of road from the others (we passed Mr Sanchos and Paradise Beach along the way as well as few others.) It was beautiful though. It was peaceful and relaxing. The water was clear, the beaches were clean. We got there fairly early...I guess around 10 or 10:30 and there were only a couple other people there. The attendant did try to charge us a few dollars for the umbrella and chairs but I had read online that as long as you bought some food and drinks there was no charge. (They also had an all you could drink and a lunch buffet option but it was more than I knew we'd spend since we're not big drinkers.) I asked him about the charge and he said oh yeah no problem. So we ordered bottled water and some sodas and set about relaxing in paradise. We went in the water for quite a while. It was a little cool at first but definitely adaptable and we ended up staying in for quite a while. We ordered lunch a bit later. Decent food. Had a few drinks relaxed some more. Around 12:30 or 1 it started getting a bit more crowded. Still not bad though. One thing to warn about though is that service is slow. It's just the way it is most places down there from what I've seen. (That's something that I've had to adjust to in my travels....Europe was the same way as have other places in the caribbean here and there. They're just much more laid back than we tend to be.) There is also a pool with a swim-up bar there as well. I would definitely recommend this place for a nice laid back beach day.

 

We then took a taxi into town and went back to Los Cincos Sole. It's a neat store with a little bit of everything. Went there last time as well.

 

Costa Rica - we took a ship excursion on this one. We took the Old banana train tour. It was neat. We went through some fairly run down places though which of course is a bit sad. But the people all had smiles on their faces and were waving at the train. It went through some forest and we saw some monkeys and 2 fingered sloths. Pretty cool! Then we stopped at a banana plantation and they explained the workings of it. Pretty interesting.

 

While the excursion itself and how it was handled with the vendor and celebrity was wonderful...it did remind me why I don't usually book through the ship. The passengers were rude. I had one older lady completely push in front of me all but knocking me out of the way while I was standing waiting my turn to see one of the monkeys. I was just dumbfounded. Then another group of older folks was complaining about how the toilet on the train wasn't good enough to be usable. It was a VERY old train. And while she obviously is entitled to her opinion, she mentioned it at least 4 or 5 times in a very loud voice. It was sort of an 'enough already' we know you're opinion now move on sort of moment.

 

Aruba - this is where we rented a private boat. I found the place based on recommendations at cruise critic...>Roberto's. It was interesting finding this place we went to the beach they mentioned but when you got to the beach there were various operators all the way down the beach. (beautiful beach btw) We asked which tent belonged to Roberto and were pointed to it. He was very nice and friendly. The boat was there for us shortly after we got there. Just the driver and us. He took us to the shipwreck first for some snorkeling then to another reef. After that we were fairly tired, we had spent a good bit of time in the water and the surf was a bit rough that day unfortunately so it was a bit of a workout plus it was pretty cloudy. So he asked if we wanted to snorkel anymore we said we were ok so he asked what we wanted to do so we opted to just stay there and I laid in the sun and he regaled us with funny tales of past passengers. Let's just say that his stories were enough to make John now want to move to Aruba when he retires and become a boat operator. We were thinking of renting wave runners later on and Roberto offered us a pretty good deal since we'd already done the boat. (He made it sound like he offered a discount to people who booked more than one thing with him and considering there were quite a few other vendors on the beach, you might be able to talk him down in price if you think it's high. The prices we got I thought were pretty fair.) Unfortunately we were a bit too tired and we would have had to go find an atm to get more cash out so we decided to save it for another day (I think John was mentally counting how much I'd spent at the spa). There is a Marriott right there, a pretty nice one so we wandered through it then decided to get some drinks and an appetizer in their restaurant. Took a cab back into town and did a little bit of shopping. Then back to the boat.

 

Curacao- Very quaint little island with a lot of dutch influence. We decided just to walk into town for a bit and hit some shops to see if there was anything I couldn't live without. The walk in is not bad it is flat and you go over a cute pedestrian bridge that actually opens for boat traffic...it swings to the side. One thing though is if it is a warm day be careful....as there isn't a lot of shade on the walk into town from the pier and it was mighty hot. There were a few older couples that we saw having to sit down for a bit and were perspiring quite heavily.

 

That's about it.......one other thing to keep in mind if you've never been on celebrity is that unless you are going when kids are out of school...and especially if you are going on anything more than a 7 day cruise....it will be a quite older crowd. I think there were maybe only about 30 couples (max) in their 20's or 30's. The vast majority were 50-60 and older. There were hardly any kids on board....those we saw were younger. Don't recall but a handful of teens. Personally, this doesn't bother us or make a difference because we stick to ourselves so much. But I know others have commented on it before.

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Nikole

 

Thanks for taking the time to write such a nice review! We are on the Summit 2/28 for 11 days same itinerary except I think they are back on in the Caymens.

 

 

I have posted a question about what night is best to book the specialty resturant?? Some one suggested the first formal night, do you have any thoughts? We dont want to miss any great meals! Your suggestion about the last night sounds good as well, did you book both in advance?

 

Thanks Again...cant wait to get back on that ship!!!

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Nikole, thanks for a great review. I love the M class ships and Celebrity is my choice line. We plan to do Aruba in 2006 as we would like to see it from a different perspective. We own a timeshare at the Marriott and use Captain Roberto and his brother-in-law every year. They are very nice and go out of their way to make their passengers happy.

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fstcruise...I wouldn't book formal night. I would book informal or casual nights. Formal night is fun and they definitely kick up the food in the main restaurants a notch.

 

We booked the first two nights at the Normandie on embarkation day. The last night the maitre d' offered it to us on our second time. The restaurant was VERY empty on the last night. Each night we ate there at 7:30 which was a nice time for us. On the last night there were only a few other folks there at that time. There were more that seemed to book for about 8:30. Keep in mind this is a dinner that lasts about 2 hours!! It's fabulous :)

 

 

Judy- funny you mentioned aruba. A friend from another website was wanting to know about Aruba and I told her it was definitely an island that I thought I could spend a week at. Just the water sports and beautiful beaches alone would keep me happy. I was surprised at how crowded the beach was though...but it was a gorgeously warm day...we only went to that beach too so I would be curious to know how crowded other beaches get. Enjoy your 2006 vacation! :) I couldn't have been happier with Roberto and the Marriott that we stopped at was quite nice! Definitely a place I'd like to explore further.

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Hi Nikole,

 

Thanks for a great review. Question for you, do you remember what time the ship cleared cutoms in FLL on return and folks started getting off? Our flight was rescheduled and we want to see if we will be cutting it too close.

 

Thanks!

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It was pretty early. I think it was around 8 am. We were one of the last groups scheduled to get off I believe (9:30 departure as we had a later flight). We were off the ship, in a taxi, at the airport, through security by I think by a little after 10:30 am at the latest! There was an earlier flight leaving to Phl that if we hadn't checked any bags we could have just made it for.

 

It really depends on your fellow passengers though. Personally, I would say 11 am or after wouldn't be a problem. You could probably make earlier but the stress to me isn't worth it. Certainly not how I want to end my vacation.

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