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starsjohn

Our B2B Summit July 2nd and 9th Review

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We've been to Alaska on more than twenty cruises, so this year we tried out the new Concierge Class that Celebrity is offering to passengers who would like some of the amenities of the suites.

 

So, John, his 86-year-old mother, and I, opted for a taste of the suite life without the hefty price tag. Our TA booked us a wonderful stateroom on deck 9, aft. Our verandah overlooked the wake of the ship.

 

Our early morning flight on Air Canada placed us in the terminal before noon. After our brief bus ride from the airport, we found that there were no wheelchairs available for Mom, and so she had to walk through the initial screening area. But the only way to the ship was via a steep escalator that is unable to accommodate her walker. The terminal staff tried to remedy the situation by telling us that a wheelchair would soon be made available, but it was nearly 30 minutes before it arrived, and others also needed assistance as well.

 

Eventually, though, the wheelchair did arrive, we were escorted onto the ship, and shown to our stateroom. Yes, Concierge Class was in evidence wherever we looked. There were numerous floral arrangements (a bud vase with roses in the bathroom), a small spray of flowers on the desk, and another larger bouquet on the small table. The bathrobes were fluffier, and the pastel colored towels were a nice accent. A pillow menu by the bed allowed us to order and try various types of pillows, and underneath the bedspread was a duvet and soft bed linens of Egyptian cotton. Rodel, our room steward, always opened our stateroom door ahead of us and was always very helpful and cheerful.

 

Promptly at 4 in the afternoon, an assortment of bite-sized canapés was delivered to the stateroom with dependable precision. The ice bucket was filled in the afternoon, and the champagne or wine was iced for our cocktail hour before dinner.

 

Lance was our very capable waiter in the Cosmopolitan dining room, and he did his best to accommodate our special dietary needs. One of our dining companions often ordered the special "vegan" selections from the vegetarian menu. We had one of the choicest tables in the dining room...table 400, which is right next to the panoramic window and alongside the captain’s table.

 

We returned to our favorite restaurant on the Summit–the beautiful Normandie. At $30 per meal, it is one of the best-kept secrets on the ship. For those who appreciate good food, incredibly attentive service, culinary presentation done with élan, and the intimacy of a smaller dining room, then the Normandie is your destination. We appreciate this haven, with so many delightful choices on the menu, most of which we’ve now sampled on several occasions. The menu never fails to delight us, and more importantly, the food keeps us returning cruise after cruise. A jacket is required for gentlemen, so splurge, dress up, and step out for a meal you will long remember.

 

One evening, we returned too late to dine in the Cosmopolitan, so we went upstairs and tried out the "casual dining boulevard" in the aft portion of the buffet on deck 10. While a guitarist softly plays in the background, you can choose from pasta, pizza, sushi, or comfort foods in a bistro setting. The bistro has a nominal charge, but it’s well worth it, when you’re in search of quiet.

 

The four production shows have been altered and fiddled with from time to time. This year, some of the staging, choreography, and song order have been changed. But the costumes, talented dancers and singers, and the inclusion of aerialists, continue to charm and entertain audiences weekly. While considerable revenue goes into the creation of these elaborate shows, it would be nice to change or trade shows with other ships in the line. Also, it seemed to me that there was a shortage of dancers, since some did not have partners. The stage is certainly large enough to permit at least five pairs of dancers without feeling that one is watching a pared down version of the show yearning to burst forth.

 

Dropping Valdez on the northerly run may have been a good idea, but the loss of Sitka on the southern return voyage is sorely missed. Also, please restore College Fjord! In place of the two ports, a new port has been added Icy Strait and it’s quaint village of Hoonah. We did have to tender to reach the port of Hoonah, but once there, it was a pleasant respite from the crass commercialism of the other ports. The restored Cannery is fun to explore with its museum and small shops. The boardwalk offers plenty of benches where you can relax while enjoying the view.

 

Michael’s Club has been reconverted from the former cigar-smoking den, to a chicly smart piano bar. What a wonderful escape to relax in prior to bedtime.

 

There is a cyber café on the ship, but at 75 cents a minute, it does seem a bit steep, in that the satellite service is painfully slow. The Internet and email are no longer an electronic convenience, but a necessity. Celebrity could well emulate the service Princess provides their elite passengers in providing free Internet use.

 

The shore excursions often seem overpriced, considering that one can book the same or similar trips ashore. The one caveat though, should be that make sure you have plenty of time to return to the ship should something go wrong, such as a vehicle failure, etc. The ship will not wait for you to return to the ship if you are not on a ship-sanctioned adventure. Some of the popular adventures sell out rapidly, so if you have your heart set on something, I would suggest you book it on the net either with Celebrity or an outside vendor. I also recommend scouring the Cruise Critic site for tour recommendations in Alaska.

 

Follows are my favorite shore excursions in Alaska. This is a compilation from many trips.

 

Ketchikan:

-Snorkeling-this is a new trip this year and is just great.

-Saxon Native Village. Cultural displays, totem poles, and tribal show are excellent.

-Walk uphill via Creek Street to visit the Eagle Tribal Hatchery and Museum. Nice pair of Eagles and fine displays of the various stages of the Salmon hatchery process. The Museum has a fine display of old totem poles local to the area. While walking along the creek you can watch the spawning Salmon swimming and jumping up a small waterfall.

-Misty Fjord flight seeing. Large steep walls and wonderful waterfalls make this one of the more scenic tours.

-Bicycling along the highway to Ward’s Cove and nearby lake system for fine views and fishing.

-Fishing for King Salmon in July from the public dock and bridge, downtown Ketchikan. You can rent fishing tackle or bring your own.

-Neets Bay Bear Watching tour. You take a floatplane out to Neets Bay to a large commercial salmon hatchery. The Black bears are plentiful, feeding on the salmon as they approach the hatchery. Have seen lots of cubs here and the photographic opportunities are excellent.

 

Juneau:

-Tram up the Mountain. Great vistas and an excellent trail system for hikes at all levels.

-Whale watching with Larry or Bob. Book at the big blue building across the street from the tram. The offices are upstairs.

-Mendenhall Glacier via the buses near the tram station. The blue bus and green and white bus charge 5.00 each way. Good system of hiking trails and excellent views of the glacier. Bears are in the immediate area in August feeding on the spawning Salmon.

-Pilot’s choice helicopter glacier landings. This is a chance to see features of the glaciers close up.

 

Skagway:

-Train ride up the White Pass on the W P & Y Railroad. This railroad is one of the greatest architectural feats next to the Panama Canal in scale and precision. This trip is also offered with Kayaking, bicycling, hiking, and bus ride-back options.

-Free National Park Service guided walk in town. Pick this tour up at the Park Service office located within the railroad depot buildings.

-Ferryboat ride to Haines. I have seen Orca many times in the channel. The ferry usually stops for viewing and photography of the whales.

-Dog sled riding on a glacier reached via the helicopter. Lot of dog petting included.

-Eagle Preserve by jet boat. This is a scenic ride to Haines on the ferry and then on a river by jet boat. While you may see eagles, and a moose or two, it should be remembered that the Bald Eagle mating season is in January and February, so eagle sightings doing the summer are but few.

-Hiking to the upper lakes above Skagway is a good way to burn off those calories. Pick up the trailhead midtown next to the railroad tracks.

-Skagway Extravaganza tour. This tour is but pure fun ending up in the whorehouse above the Red Onion Saloon. Gold panning show is quite entertaining.

- For railroad buffs, I suggest a small hike to the rail yards to see historic rail stock and steam engines. You can also visit the cemetery where Reid and Soapy Smith are buried. The cemetery is but a short distance beyond the rail yard.

 

Hoonah:

-Whale watching tour. I have mixed feelings about this tour as the boat takes 250 people and has limited open deck space for photography.

-The fishing charter is productive, although on our trip, the Celebrity shore excursion staff was not recommending it. The charter boats went full anyway and I had a good time. I never did find out the reason for the non-recommendation.

-We did not see any bears on the bush country exploration tour. The salmon had not come up river yet. By August, the river should be full of fish and Brown Bears. There are large wooden viewing platforms for the bear watching. We found a blueberry bush and quickly picked and ate all of the nicely ripe berries.

 

Celebrity is still on the top of the heap in providing wonderful cruises for a passenger market that wants and expects service that is a cut above the norm.

 

Andy and John

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Great review. We leave on Thursday to board the Summit for Northbound cruise. I am really looking forward to seeing the wonderful Alaska scenery. We have also pre-booked dinner in the speciality restaurant. We are planning on the Island Wings tour to Misty Fjords, doing the ships tours in Juneau of mendenhall glacier/whale watch/salmon bake. In Skagway we are going dog sledding. In Icy Point I think we are just going to explore on our own. Also want to take the train from Seward to Anchorage at the end.

 

Thanks again for the great review.

 

Walter and Ben

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What a great rewiew - sounds like it was a wonderful trip. Did you have a regular aft cabin or a handicap one? What was the furniture like on the balcony? Was there a table large enough to eat lunch or breakfast?

We have an aft CC cabin (it will be a CC cabin next year) on deck 7. I love the aft view and it was the best in Alaska. Those are the prize cabins.

 

Thanks,

 

Kathy

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Hi Kathy,

 

Our balcony was very oversized. It had two padded chairs, two padded chaise loungers, and a nice larger table which made it great for outdoor dining. The decks below us seem to offer the same arrangement. Deck 6 houses the hugh Penthouse suite which is very luxurious.

 

I think Alaska is what Celebrity does best, even though we are signed up for the Xpedition in the Galapagos. Have a wonderful trip.

 

John

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John-

 

Thanks for the info. Those Penthouse suites are wonderful - we were just above them on our last cruise on Millie - we had a chance to look around inside and it was gorgeous - oh to have the money to cruise that way!!! It will be nice to have lunch out on the balcony - the table we had on Millie wasn't big enough.

 

Kathy

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I haven't had a chance to experience the virtues of Summit nearly as many times and you and John have, but it was a great ship. We had a chance to see the two of you and Mom coming out of dinner one night after we met you at the Cruise Critics party. It is obvious that Mom enjoys her cruise.

 

I posted a review of the trip on the Cruise Critics Reviews section if anyone wishes to read a newbie's viewpoint.

 

The only area that I think we disagree on is the quality of the shows. I would have rather had the singers and dancers each night. Paul Boalnd did a great job as the Impersonator, but the comic was poor.

 

Glad we had a chance to meet. Enjoy the trip on Xpeditions.

 

Rick

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Great writing! Enjoyed reading your review and recalling our Southbound cruise on the Summit last August. Thank you!

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Rick,

 

Your review is wonderful and more detailed than ours. Rember the night show with the inpersonator? Where he kept pointing out some poor guy in the front row that slept through his show? I understand he even stopped the band. That was ME! I woke up finding him in my lap with his microphone signing a love song to me. Egads!

 

Andy liks to critique the shows where I just watch and enjoy.

 

Mom did well till the end where she got a bit tired and then got the traveler's diarrahea which got to Andy and I as well. Quick way to lose the extra pounds. First time we have ever had a problem on a Celebrity ship. I heard one other person mention that they had been sick and had to go to the infirmary for dehydration from the illness.

 

We go back in September for a repeat as Mom is ready for the Casino and food again. By next year, this trip looks to be too difficult for her.

 

John

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Sorry to read that we won't be cruising together on the Summit on 9/3/04 southbound cruise. Sounds like you all had a great time.

 

Maybe another time,

 

Karen

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Hi Karen,

 

We are on the 9/3 southbound trip on the Summit. We will have to arrange a get-together. Have not checked the roll calls lately.

 

John

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