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2tsquared

SUMMIT REVIEW 6-11-04

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PRE CRUISE

We spent 2 days in Anchorage and then 2 days in Seward prior to boarding on Friday morning, June 11th. We had rented a car through Hertz as we wanted to return the car in Seward (were able to use AMEX points for the rental, saved us big $$).

 

We spent Monday driving the Glenn Highway towards Palmer and Matanuska Glacier. After enjoying a leisurely drive, we stopped first at Thunderbird Falls and walked the mile through the forest to the falls (bring your Deet! The mosquitos are very aggressive!). Continuing on our way, we then visited Eklutna Village Park, proceeding on to Matanuska Valley where we were able to spend a couple of hours climbing and walking the glacier (something you can not do at Exit Glacier in Seward or Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau). Also, you are able to get “up close and personal†at Matanuska without having to pay $200+ per person to fly out to a glacier where you can spend only 30 minutes or less on the selected glacier.

 

Tuesday had us heading north two hours to Talkeetna, an old mining/railroad town that is now a base for many flightseeing trips to Mt. McKinley. We had lunch at the Talkeetna Lodge; the dining room has beautiful picturesque views of the surrounding mountains. We spent the remainder of our day exploring several backroads and enjoying the views. One note: all the main roads around Anchorage are torn up in several places – apparently snow tends to hinder the ability to do road repair in the winter! So, if you are driving, throw in some water, your favorite car snacks, and sit back and enjoy the ride.

 

Wednesday, after checking out of our hotel, we headed south via the Seward Highway, once again taking our time to stop many times along the way. Some highlights: the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood; had it been a less cloudy day (it was drizzling rain), we could have taken one of the ski lifts up the mountain for what are apparently spectacular views; the visitor center at Portage Glacier is well worth the stop; by the time we arrived, the weather had cleared and we enjoyed seeing icebergs that float right up to the shoreline (touching allowed!); we continued on through the tunnel towards Whittier, what a trip! You’re driving almost 3 miles on railroad tracks. Whittier really doesn’t have much to offer, at least this year. The town was completely torn up and had minimal “tourist†stores within a short 2 block area.

 

Back through the tunnel (you do have to wait depending on which way the one-way traffic is going at the time – or if there is a train scheduled), we continued south on the Seward Highway and reached Moose Pass for a late lunch. There is a great lodge and restaurant just off the road surrounding a lake. Good food, great scenery!

 

Thursday was Exit Glacier day in Seward. This was our only rainy day, but our golf rain suits provided us with plenty of protection to stay warm and dry (and it really wasn’t that cold, even considering the light rain). We took the (free) Ranger walk out to the Glacier, which lasted about an hour and which we found very informative. The tour takes you to the base of the Glacier and then you are free to explore the trails (although not the Glacier) on your own. There had been several bear sightings the night before, to the point that the campground was closed down. While no bears crossed our path, we were fortunate enough to see a black bear scampering across the upper elevation of the Glacier twice.

 

Friday, we awoke with great anticipation and boarded the Summit at 11:30. "Part 2" to follow.

 

2tsquared

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Review - Part 2

PORTS OF CALL

Hubbard Glacier

We had absolutely awesome weather the afternoon we arrived at the Glacier. As mentioned in posts from our fellow shipmates, we were able to get within 200 yards of the Glacier and calving provided quite a show!

 

Juneau

Picked up tickets to a city shuttle near the dock ($5 one way/ $10 RT) and we were on our way to Mendenhall Glacier. While a bit overcast, the weather was warm enough for sweaters or sweatshirts. We were able to take a very easy hike out to the waterfall and get some great pictures along the way! (I’m working on getting pictures posted shortly). By the time we were through exploring, it was back to town for lunch. We asked the bus driver for a recommendation and he suggested the Twisted Fish (right at the tramway and on the waterfront); the food and service were excellent. By the time lunch was over, it had begun to rain and I had an appointment for a massage on board. (How does one describe sheer bliss? An Aroma Therapy Stone Massage (90 minutes) at the Aqua Spa! More on the Spa in “Part 3†of my review.)

 

Skagway

Thanks to “Yukonâ€, we had an Avis rental booked and were on our way to Carcross and Emerald Lake, Canada. Yukon’s (Murray’s) MilePost Guide is phenomenal! If you set your trip mileage indicator the moment you start to leave town, you will be guided mile-by-mile with Murray’s Guide. We stopped numerous times along the way to view the points of interest and enjoyed a great round-trip drive. Starting out in Skagway, the weather was a bit ominous. By the time we started “up the mountainâ€, fog set in and became quite thick. Pressing on, we reached the summit and started down into Canada (don’t forget your passports!). Within minutes, the clouds began to part and the sun appeared. The rest of the day we basked in warm, sunny weather and took advantage of the many sights along the way. Murray wasn’t in town, but Carcross is a small, charming little town. The view of Emerald Lake is worth the drive. At that point, we turned around and started back to Skagway. The weather cooperated all the way back, and we were able to get the pictures we missed earlier in the day.

 

Icy Strait Point

Our cruise was the 5th to arrive in ISP. While still in the initial phases, the folks in ISP and Hoonah have put a lot of time and effort into creating a nice place to visit. Everything is well marked and it is a 1.5 mile walk (one way) into Hoonah. As we passed people making the “hikeâ€, many stated that there was “nothing to see or do†in town. Well, we saw things a bit differently. The walk was right along the shore and had many great photo ops. We stopped in town for coffee and were able to talk with some of the “locals†about their town and their feelings on having cruise ships now a part of their lives (they like it). As we were now in our 8th day of non stop “vacationingâ€, we walked back to ISP, did some shopping and headed back to the ship for a late lunch and a relaxing afternoon in the spa.

 

Ketchikan

Generally hubby and I are “loners†and like to explore on our own. However, we did take the plunge and booked 2 tours in Skagway: Lois Munch’s “Classic Tours†and Michelle’s Island Wings floatplane tour over Misty Fjords. Wow to both!

 

Lois is a former high school teacher and inherited a ’55 Chevy a few years back. With her love of Alaska and Ketchikan, a tour business was born. We were fortunate enough to have booked the first tour of the day and made it out to Saxman Village before the whole place was besieged by tour busses. From there, we enjoyed the full road system of Ketchikan (all 34 miles of it) and were educated to the area and its people. Lois is a delight and we highly recommend her tour (www.classictours.com).

 

After lunch, we were on our way to Island Wings where Michelle, the owner, took us on a fabulous floatplane tour of Misty Fjords. The weather was absolutely perfect for flying (bright blue skies and sunshine), so we were able to fly farther and higher than Michelle usually goes. Mid-tour, she landed on a beautiful lake and allowed us plenty of time for pictures and just enjoying Mother Nature at her finest (the only tour operator to do this “shore landingâ€). Michelle is a wonderful pilot and tour guide, and her tour is not to be missed. Her website is www.islandwings.com.

Last Day – Inside Passage Cruising

What can one say when you know that in 24 hours you will be back “among ‘em� Well, cruising the Inside Passage on your last day of vacation can certainly help to ensure you relax and enjoy the sights as well. The weather cooperated with lots of warm sun, and the pools and deck chairs were full of people taking in the last day of rest. Top that off with another 90-minute massage, and stress was miles away.

 

Part 3 -- The Summit, will be coming soon.

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Wow Terry and Tom!

Great review--it felt like I was right back there! We too went to Whittier (through the tunnel) and were able to use one of our TourSaver coupons for a Prince William Sound cruise. Some really great glaciers back in those fjords and we had sunshine all day to boot! icon_biggrin.gif I told Lauren, we messed up by not doing a floatplane tour in Ketchikan--what a great day that was!!

Keep it coming!

Kel

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OK Kel, here's Part 3 (a bit lengthy, but hopefully informative). Tom and I really enjoyed meeting you and Lauren; perhaps our paths will cross again in the future.

 

Summit Review - Part 3

 

THE SUMMIT

We boarded at 11:30 Friday morning, June 11th. Embarkation was quick, friendly and efficient; Social Hostess Jessica even appeared at the check-in desk and introduced herself (more on her later). Posed for the Welcome Aboard picture and up the gangway we went. Service staff was available with a tray of champagne and OJ. We were handed an information sheet on what was open and told that our Sky Suite would be available after 1 pm. As we had had a late breakfast, we decided a tour of the ship was in order, and off we went to explore.

 

The Stateroom

We were in SS 6125, Penthouse Deck. The room was very well maintained, had a large bathroom, and extra room on the veranda due to location. Gene, our butler, appeared very shortly after our arriving in our room; our Cabin Attendant, Milford, showed up about an hour later. Both individuals were very friendly and quietly maintained the cabin throughout the cruise.

 

Note to Celebrity: 1 bath towel, 1 hand towel and 1 wash cloth per person is a bit chintzy, don’t you think? Women use 2 bath towels (1 for wrapping up their wet head and 1 for the ol’ body). I know we can ask for more; but really, couldn’t ample towels be provided from day one and then replaced as necessary? Also, it’s time to replace some of the “suite†robes. Both of our robes showed wear; and one had a ripped pocket. It would also be nice if the cabin attendant would replace a robe that is obviously soiled (mine ended up with quite a bit of makeup on the front the 3rd day out). I put it in the tub with the wet towels thinking it would be replaced, but returned to find it had just been hung back up on the door.

 

The Public Rooms

Overall, attractive and very well maintained. There was plenty of comfortable seating in the various bars; our 2 favorite hang-outs were the Martini Bar and Michael’s Lounge. What we found “cheapâ€, however, were the same plain peanuts and borderline stale breadsticks that were passed out each night with your drinks. Come on Celebrity! At least spring for the premium mixed nuts and maybe throw in some pretzels or “chex†mix. The Casino was a different issue, smoke-filled with only a very small designated non smoking space at one end with a few slot machines; if one wanted to play the tables you would have to sit in the middle of all the smoke.

 

Restrooms

What happened to cloth hand towels? Other than finding them in a restroom the first day, the only restroom I found for women that had hand towels – and not paper towels – was in the Aqua Spa. My husband, on the other hand, said that there were cloth towels in each of the men’s restrooms he used. And as for hot, running water in the ladies rooms, it was virtually non existent in most of the public bathrooms I used.

 

Restaurants & Food

Good selections in both main dining room and the various “alternative†restaurants. Variety of choices was good, with always a fish, poultry and beef selection at dinner. Top of the list – the chef’s Coq o’Vin and roasted quail; fish selections were usually quite good, but tended to be fairly boring in presentation. As stated on these boards previously, the lobster is not particularly great (spongey and tasteless). Soups were also lacking in imagination and taste. The same consommé broth was recycled each night into a different “flavorâ€, and the cream soups tasted more like the flour thickener instead of the asparagus, broccoli or cauliflower that was listed. Soup chef needs to pop up the flavor!

 

Celebrity Staff

Other than the Aqua Spa staff who provided 5 star service and attitude, both my husband and I felt that while service was efficient, there was no effort to go "above and beyond" as stated by Boo's Mom in another thread.

 

Our dining service was actually good, with the exception of the Assistant Maitre'd assigned to our area. Our first encounter was on the 3rd night when he appeared at our table and introduced himself. He began asking how we were enjoying our cruise experience. We told him that we were finding Alaska a wonderful place. He then inquired as to the type of "experience" we were having on Summit. We replied that we found service to be adequate, but not stellar. We asked him if there was a lot of new staff on board, thinking that this could be the “problem†as staff in several areas seemed unsure of what they should do and when. Mr. M’d stated “no†and said that Summit staff was exceptionally experienced. Well, from that night on he persisted in showing up at our table and going through lengthy discussions of how we were perceiving staff and service. He would start each "greeting" with a monotoned, canned speech on how much Summit wanted to please and how Celebrity certainly wanted us as return customers. No matter how we changed our answers to his inquiries (we got to the point that when he said hello, we immediately said "EVERYTHING IS GREAT!), he continued to ramble on and on. I actually hid behind a menu one night in hopes that he would pass us by -- he didn't.

 

And lastly, but actually our first Staff encounter was with Jessica, the Social Hostess. She introduced herself while we checked in; and upon retiring the first night, we found an invitation to dine with the Chief Engineer the following evening, the first formal night. Only problem was, the invitation was for the early seating and we were “late shift.†As such, I had already made appointments at the Aqua Spa that I really didn’t want to cancel (my vacation, my stress relief time, my dining choice). First thing the next morning, we went to Guest Relations and offered our regrets to the invitation. We returned later to our stateroom and had a phone message from Ms. SH. I called her and again expressed our apologies and tried to explain, but she was not interested in any reason. She was extremely curt and dismissive in tone and hung up the phone after saying, “I got your message from Guest Relations.â€

 

Ms. SH was also the person in charge of scheduling the Cruise Critic gathering. Once again, her timing was way off – she scheduled our party at 1:30 pm, exactly the time we were entering Hubbard Glacier (and all wanted to be out on deck). So, from a reserved group of 28, we had about 12 people show up, stay for 10 minutes and leave to go see the glacier.

 

Overall impressions of the staff: they seem to be intimidated by the senior staff. We were unfortunate enough to have the Hotel Manager at the next table to ours on the first formal night. As such, any table in the surrounding area was pretty much ignored as all staff were hovering around the Manager and his table to ensure his service. Our waiter actually apologized the next night for any lack in service the previous evening.

 

Note to the Hotel Manager: encourage your staff to accommodate your passengers; a good manager always put himself (or herself) second to the needs of his/her guests.

 

Lastly – The “Rulesâ€

Celebrity needs to decide whether or not to enforce their own rules: no jeans in the main dining room at dinner and no children in the Aqua Spa/T-Pool. Blue jeans appeared in the DR every night except the 2 formal nights; and children were in the T-pool every day. The spa staff would run the kids off when someone complained (I did one day), but unless someone said something, kids continued to be in the pool. Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that children are allowed to “eat†in the Spa Café, but not swim in the hot tub or pool. Maybe this whole, one area should be designated Adults Only? Perhaps since Alaska is a very casual environment, jeans should be allowed in the DR except on formal nights?

 

Will we sail Celebrity again? Possibly, but not on Summit. There are many comments on this board supporting a great cruise experience on the other X ships. Chances are, we will give one of those ships a try next year.

 

ALASKA = OUTSTANDING and not to be missed!

 

Terry and Tom

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Guest jjl

Great review, 2tsquared!! We are on the Summit for the July 2 departure, northbound, and your comments were very helpful.

 

thanks for the details,

 

JJL

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Excellent review, 2tsquared!!!! icon_smile.gif

 

Your concerns are very real.....and this is rather unfortunate for Celebrity.

 

Do try another Celebrity ship, though. I don't know why they have allowed the Summit to operate at a lower level of service than their other ships, but they have.

 

We have experienced Superior service on both the Century and the Mercury.

 

Celebrity is still ourcruiseline and we're not giving up on them yet! icon_wink.gif

 

Now ALASKA...... what a trip! Everyone should experience Alaska at least once! icon_biggrin.gificon_biggrin.gif

 

Boo's Mom

 

...as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15

 

 

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It was interesting reading your comments on the cruise. I was also on this sailing, and it was our first cruise on Celebrity. In general, we thought it was a nice cruise. We liked the ship's layout and thought the public rooms were very nice. The staff I came in contact with throughout the ship were very pleasant and courteous.

 

Both our cabin and dining room service were very good. Our assistant dining room steward was so personable and funny that we had a great dining experience, and we were pleased with most of the food. However, I was a little dismayed when our steward made a little speech toward the end of the cruise about the comment card in our cabin and asked us for an excellent rating. I have never had that happen before. We were well satisfied with the service and would have done that anyway, but asking for it seemed somewhat inappropriate.

 

The only problem I had with the ship was the noise level. We were seated in the back of the lower level dining room, and when the ship was sailing under full power, the vibration and noise were more than I've experienced before. We also had a noisy cabin. We were on Panorama Deck in a 1A cabin, which unfortunately was a connecting cabin. While the cabin itself was fine and the location was great, the connecting door between our cabin and the one next door had a lot of open air space, which meant that we could hear much more than we wanted to from the cabin next door...and they were not quiet or considerate people. Honestly, at one point we could hear them rattling paper bags. We could also hear more noise from the hallways than I have experienced on other ships. I consider this a lesson learned, however, and if I sail another Millenium class ship, I'll choose a different stateroom location and try to get a different table in the dining room.

 

You are right about the attire in the dining room. I saw not only jeans, but sweats, cutoffs, and leggings. On informal night the man entering the dining room in front of us had on his bowling shirt....with his sponsor's name and team name on the back....and it looked like it had been worn....a lot! I'm not sure if this relaxed dress is a Celebrity problem or a change in cruising from now on. It seems like you hear this comment on all the cruiselines these days.

 

I did like the ship and wouldn't hesitate to sail Celebrity again if the right opportunity comes along. Every cruise is a different experience.

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Thanks for the additional comments. Boo's Mom, I believe Tom and I would consider Celebrity again, just another ship.

 

Tricia, under no circumstances should your (dining room?) steward have approached you on the comment card. See... this is just another example of the "uncomfortable" feeling we got from the staff. They all seem so focused on what management thinks about them that they forget to just relax and provide good service to their passengers.

 

We, too, felt the major vibrations on at least 2 nights, with the first formal night being one of them. We were seated at a table for 2 upstairs on the rail (great for people watching!). Hubby said he thought the least the Captain could do was to slow things down for dinner. The vibration and the added noise did not make for a very pleasant dining experience (remember the CALM cruising from Ketchikan through the Inside Passage?)-- made for such a relaxing experience!

 

2tsquared

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