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lentronic

Part 1 - Summit 12/6 Western Caribbean review

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Part 1 of 2

 

This is a long review of the Summit 12/6 11-day western Caribbean itinerary. My boyfriend and I are both 30 years old and from Chicago. This was our very first cruise, taken in honor of my 30th birthday. I'm extremely grateful to everyone on this board for all of their tips, insight and information, which helped us not only in the decision to go on a cruise, but armed us with lots of tips that made the first time even more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise. I have tried to be as objective as possible, but this obviously should be taken as one person's first-time cruise experience. I'm very happy to answer any questions or fill in any possible details that I can!

 

 

PRE-CRUISE

 

I booked the cruise via Orbitz and had no problems at all dealing with them (got docs in plenty of time, etc.). We chose a Concierge Class stateroom because it cost little more, the extra pampering sounded nice, and we knew we wanted to have a balcony/veranda for such a long trip. Heeding the general advice from this board, and not trusting the weather in Chicago, we flew in to Ft. Lauderdale the night before and stayed at the Airport Sheridan. This was a great choice and value (Priceline $60) and was about a 10-15 minute cab ride from both the airport and Port Everglades. The hotel room was very clean and comfortable, and we enjoyed a nice hot tub out by the pool in back that was open late.

 

EMBARKATION

 

We arrived at Port Everglades via taxi at approximately 11:00 and were directed to sit in a large room with many people sitting with their luggage. After about fifteen minutes, a line formed in one corner of the room and we gathered up our large bags, carry-ons and garment bags and waited. Soon it became apparent that there was another line forming in another corner, and one of us ran to check it out and confirmed that this was the "Concierge Class" line. After moving our things, we were promptly told that we were supposed to check our large bags with a porter outside - whoops. After this was taken care of, the line for the x-ray machine was swift and painless. We were quickly ushered to the "Concierge Class" line where we supplied credit card information, received our SeaPass cards (which were also our room keys), and were on the Summit within minutes. The entire process took approximately 30-45 minutes.

 

SHIP

 

As per previous reviews and the general consensus on this board, the Summit is very well laid out, easy to navigate and a beautiful ship. It's huge and there were still areas we probably didn't even get to by the end of our trip. We thoroughly enjoyed the artwork, most of which was on the fairly whimsical side, and we were still finding new art to look at even at the end of our 11-day voyage. The indoor lounges were all plush and comfortable, and there was always somewhere to sit. The casino, shopping emporium and other public areas were roomy and well decorated. Nothing felt claustrophobic, and as past reviewers have stated, it never felt in any area like there were 2000 other passengers on the ship. I found it fascinating how invisible the the crew's areas were in relation to everything else. We also noticed that most areas of the ship seemed to be getting cleaned constantly (railings wiped on stairways, etc).

 

STATEROOM

 

Our stateroom was ready after we ate lunch and seemed to be in good condition (no signs of wear or any obvious problems). There was ample storage space for all of our belongings. Our stateroom attendant Josefino was wonderful and accommodated any request we had, and was very conscientious and friendly, and always seemed to be in good spirits. He seemed to have perfect timing, and we always left our room and came back to a clean room with either a made-up or a turned-down bed. Our ice bucket and water pitcher were always filled. It was obvious he worked hard almost all day and didn't really have much time off. The shower was a bit small, but otherwise the bathroom was very clean and efficient. The shower conveniently contained a retractable clothesline for hanging up wet bathing suits and any items we chose to wash by hand. The overhang on the deck didn't bother us at all.

 

The little canapes delivered by our stateroom attendant came around 5:30 every day and were a nice snack. It would usually be some smoked salmon, some cheese, shrimp, or melon wrapped in prosciutto. The bread always seemed a little stale, but usually whatever was on top was fairly tasty.

 

Another "CC" perk we enjoyed was the pillow menu. My boyfriend was a big fan of this, and repeatedly ordered "better" pillows to be brought. So we ended up with 4 pillows each and a full body pillow. It was always amusing to see our ridiculous quantity of pillows stacked up in different arrangements by our stateroom attendant.

 

Turn-down service was wonderful, and the chocolates and weather report were a nice touch. We would always spend a half hour or so reading through all the documents left for us about the next port and next days' activities. It was a really nice to have all the information for the next day to read before going to bed.

 

There was at times some noise in our cabin from chairs scraping above in the AquaSpa cafe, but this only seemed to occur after we were already awake. There was almost no discernable hallway noise or sounds from adjoining cabins.

 

PASSENGERS

 

Most of the Summit passengers were by far in the 50+ age range. I had previously surmised that this would be the case, based on what I had read from this board, and it in no way detracted from our enjoyment of the cruise. We didn't really meet too many of our fellow passengers on board as we mostly kept to ourselves, but as I stated earlier, it was our first cruise, and our vacations together are few and far between, so it was nice to have some "alone" time.

 

Most passengers seemed very friendly and courteous, with the noteable exception of a few incidents: a rather amusing poolside argument over some lounge chairs, a woman seated near us at dinner who seemed to repeatedly give our waiter a hard time about how her meal was cooked (but proceeded to put ketchup on whatever she was eating), and a man rather over-zealously disciplining his child for what seemed to be a fairly minor infraction. I did not really notice any of what seem to be common complaints from previous reviewers of excessive smoking, rude elevator behavior, buffet-line cutting, or jeans in the dining room. But we are easygoing people, and none of this would really bother us that much anyway.

 

The chair-hogging, that staff seemed to do nothing about, began every day early in the morning -- throughout the day you could walk by the pool and see entire rows of empty chairs with towels and maybe a book or magazine, with no person in sight for hours at a time. However, I would always be able to go one level up from the pool to deck 11 and find an empty chair with no problem. Honestly, in the whole scheme of things, the lack of chairs near the pool did not really hinder my enjoyment of the cruise. I spent way more time in the warm and relaxing Thalassotherapy pool anyway.

 

There were very few children on this sailing and they seemed well behaved and practically invisible except by the pool, which was to be expected.

 

FOOD

 

Ahh, always the topic of so much enjoyment as well as much debate. I will say overall that I ate more than I've ever eaten before on a vacation, and that nearly all of the food was good to very good, and the service was excellent. Most notable was the sheer quantity of food available. Desipte quite a few visits to the gym during the cruise, I returned about 5 pounds heavier (I pretty much blame the waffles).

 

Breakfast: I enjoyed the waffle and omelette stations on Deck 10, while my boyfriend usually partook in the buffet, which offered standard hot items such as scrambled eggs, potatoes, breakfast meats, all sorts of various breads to toast, etc. Also enjoyed tasty chocolate croissants from the pastry area, which I previously thought were only available for a charge in the Cova Cafe.

 

Several times we ordered from the Concierge Class breakfast in-stateroom menu, which was a great option when we wanted to get an early start when we were in port. The smoothies were consistently good (if a bit melted), and the french toast with marmelade was tasty as well. Bagels and bread for toast seemed a little stale, however. Other juices, such as cranberry and pineapple, were available from this menu as well that were not available at the Waterfall Grill or anywhere else. Our order got screwed up once but it wasn't worth the effort of complaining.

 

Lunch: We ate lunch every day at the Waterfall Grill/Cafe on Deck 10. The main lunch buffet was usually pretty decent with a lot of choices, but we mostly enjoyed the themed lunch buffets, especially the Mexican and Indian buffets. I do not eat meat (I'm not a vegetarian as I do eat seafood) and always found plenty of options. The pizza and burgers (veggie burger for me) were always a tasty option as well. As neither of us are big soda drinkers, we had no problem with the main beverages that were offered in the Waterfall Grill/Cafe area: iced tea, lemonade, fruit punch and guava punch. I enjoyed creating new drinks by combining beverages. We never tried the main dining room for lunch - most of the time we forgot it was an option, and there seemed to be more choices available at the Waterfall Cafe. Servers always plunked down a larger portion of food than I wanted, which was generous I guess but I can only imagine the amount of waste on a ship this size.

 

 

to be continued........

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continued...

 

Afternoon tea: This was offered every day around 4:00pm in the Waterfall Cafe, with several varieties of tiny sandwiches, pastries, tea cookies and mini desserts. As we had the late seating for dinner, this was an nice snack most days.

 

Aqua Spa Cafe: This was conveniently located near the Thallasotherapy pool, but we didn't eat here very often. I tried a couple of items which were very good, but I think I was mentally taking a vacation from eating healthy food.

 

Dinner in the Cosmopolitan: We had the late seating (8:30) which was nice as it allowed for plenty of time to relax and get ready before dinner. We sat at a table for 2 (again, not being antisocial, but wanting to enjoy each other's company) and our waiter Ricardo and his assistant Dimce were efficient, conscientious and friendly. It was obvious they worked very hard. Though I only really had the seafood entrees, in summation, the food in the main dining room ranged from good to pretty good, but always very ambitious, at least per the menu description. The menu wording was usually quite enticing, but I felt the food often fell a bit short. For example, a seafood entree could be described as "accompanied by a melange of bell peppers" and there would maybe be one large awkwardly cut chunk of green pepper. Most of the soups were tasty, but I wasn't particularly a fan of the cold soups that previous reviewers had raved about. The salads didn't always live up to their menu descriptions, but the Caesar salads were probably the best and most consistent. Desserts were always delicious.

 

I requested the vegetarian menu several times and the 1 or 2 veg entrees I tried were pretty good. Items on this menu were denoted as vegetarian or vegan (no eggs or dairy).

 

Zhana, our sommolier, who was from Lithuania, was extremely friendly and talkative and usually made excellent recommendations for both bottles and by the glass. She was not exactly "pushy" when we chose not to have wine with dinner, but did check on us several times throughout the meal to see if we needed anything. It was a little overbearing at first but she was very pleasant and very often offered us suggestions of what to do in port. We didn't once experience any pushy bottled-water sales except when we ate in the alternative casual area at the Waterfall Cafe.

 

The dinner sometimes took as long as an hour and a half from start to finish, and it was simply just too much food to eat every single night. We'd often skip several courses, including dessert, which was always commented upon by our waitstaff. It started to feel a little monotonous after a few days, so one night we took a break and ate in the "alternative casual dining" in the Waterfall Grill, which was pretty good, and also in the Normandy.

 

Normandy: We dined here once, in honor of my birthday. The service was excellent from our maitre'd, waiter, and sommolier. The food was what I'd consider pretty good, but neither of us really considered it equivalent to any of the better restaurants we've been to in our home city of Chicago. I'll begrudgingly admit we are what most would probably consider "foodies," but honestly, I would not consider this one of my more memorable meals of my lifetime. (I had the Dover sole and my boyfriend had the prawns wrapped in pancetta.) We thoroughly enjoyed the cheese course and probably spent a half an hour trying every cheese they offered. The desserts were really good (had Bombe and chef's selection), but far too much in quantity after all of the cheese we ate. Then our waiter brought a birthday cake that I had to have delivered to our stateroom and then stored by our stateroom attendant as we were both stuffed to the gills.

 

ACTIVITIES

 

Gym: It was very clean and well equipped with ample towels. There are about 12 treadmills, 4 elliptical trainers, 4 stair steppers, 4 regular bikes, several spinning bikes, and a smattering of various stationary weight trainers, as well as mats and a free weights area with benches. I ran several miles each day on the treadmill before dinner, and it was usually a very pleasant experience with a nice view from the bow of the ship. I wish there had been a greater variety of the lesser free weights (only had a choice of 5 lb, 10 lb, 15 lb, etc.) Several times when we were at sea and things got choppy, the treadmill became too wobbly to run on. I did not take any of the classes, free or otherwise, offered by the fitness staff, because I kept forgetting when they were.

 

Aqua Spa: Neither of us indulged in any of the spa treatments because they were simply too expensive. The cost of both a facial and a massage were higher than prices at what I know are very high quality facilities at home, and I am very particular when it comes to paying a lot for an experience for which I really had no prior recommendations. Even though specials were offered frequently, we were very conscious of our ever-growing ship account. On one of the last days at sea, we indulged in a day pass ($25/pp) to the Persian Gardens area which included the use of three different steam rooms of varying levels of intensity. It was nice and relaxing. Incidentally, the Persian Garden area is co-ed which was nice for couples.

 

As I mentioned before, I spent a lot of time in the Thallasotherapy pool. It was very warm and relaxing. The hot tubs (both inside by the T. pool and outside by the main pools) were never really that hot. There is also a sauna (not co-ed, located in each locker room) that is free to everyone but never got hot. My boyfriend said the men's sauna was hot.

 

We didn't really participate in very many of the on-board activities (save for a cooking demo and bingo game) mostly because we forgot when they were, and didn't always know what time it was. Neither of us really wanted to be on a schedule, but I know we missed out on a lot of things we wanted to check out, such as wine tastings, art auctions, etc. Oh well, next cruise!

 

ENTERTAINMENT

 

We didn't see much of the evening entertainment except for the magician. I do regret not seeing more of the offered entertainment, but we were pretty tired after eating a huge dinner and rarely felt like seeing a movie (the offerings really weren't that enticing to us). I guess we aren't really big theater fans, and aren't really into lounge singers or pop music, so not very much of the entertainment really appealed to us.

 

PORTS/SHORE EXCURSIONS

 

We thoroughly enjoyed all of the ports on the itinerary despite the substitution of Curacao for Grand Cayman. The only tender port was Key West, and with Concierge Class we got "priority tender tickets" delievered to our stateroom the night before. I won't go into detail about each specific port, as I'd rather keep this review focused on the cruise itself, but if anyone has any specific questions I'd be happy to answer.

 

We did two shore excursions from the ship, and signed up for both using the in-room shore excursion channel on our TV.

 

Sloth Sanctuary and canoe tour in Costa Rica: This was very enjoyable and I recommend it to anyone who wants to really see the lush rainforest aspect of this country. The bus ride was about 45 minutes through rural Costa Rica. Our tour guide, a young Costa Rican woman named Priscilla, gave a very interesting talk during the ride about life in her country. The sloths are really cool, fascinating creatures and you get a chance to get up close and have your picture taken near one. We also got to see some baby sloths up close, in a box, which were adorable. On the canoe trip, we actually saw a lot of wildlife (lots of birds, crabs, monkeys, sloths and even a tiny croc in the water) that we never would have seen without our guide to point it out.

 

Snorkeling by Boat in Curacao: A fairly long boat ride out to a very good snorkeling area with a tugboat wreck. Lots of beautiful fish to see, very clear waters. Free rum punch for the boat ride back. Our guide offered to drop anyone who was interested off at a beach for a few hours (with a return ride back to the ship) for an extra $15 including beach chair and umbrella, but we did not opt to do this.

 

DISEMBARKATION

 

As unhappy as we were to leave the ship, it was a fairly efficient process. We were given colored tags the night before for our large bags and set those out the previous night. We waited for about 30-40 minutes in the Theater until our color group was called, then we got off the ship, retrieved our large bags from a big room full of bags organized by color code, and went through customs, which was quick and uneventful. Getting a cab at the pier was quick and easy, and then the vacation sadly came to a close.

 

OVERALL

 

We had a fantastic, relaxing first time cruising and being on the Summit and would definitely cruise again. We would not hesitate to book with Celebrity again, but may be interested in trying RCCL or a line that caters to a younger demographic. The ship was classy and elegant, service was top notch, and we had a great time. It was obvious to us that the staff works extremely hard and doesn't get a lot of time to relax. I sincerely hope that most of them were telling the truth when we asked if they enjoyed working on the ship (all said yes).

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Hello,

We also cruised on the Summit same sailing. This was our 3rd cruise and our first with Celebrity. Last year we sailed on RCCL Grandeur.

I agree with most of your critique of the ship. It is a beautiful and well laid out ship.

My biggest complaint of this sailing was the entertainment and the food. I found out towards the end of the cruise that the avg age was 74, so this could be why the food and entertainment were so bland. We are in our early 40's, but tend to never act our age. We found our waiters and bar staff to be fantastic.

Although we liked the Summit, I think our next cruise will be back with RCCL where the crowd was much younger.

Cheers!

Carina

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