February 25, 2002
In order for my review to have meaning to you, I think it is important to try and understand what type of person and cruiser I am. This is my eight cruise and second aboard Princess. I have done the Ecstasy 96, Galaxy 99, Mercury 99, Sea Princess 00, Millennium 01, Zenith 01, and Grand Princess 01.
In order to better understand my review, I think it is important to know the type of person that I am and the type of vacation that I like. I am a type A vacationer who likes to snorkel, sail, and walk and look at shops. I rarely use the casino, and I am not a big bar/disco person, so bars are not high on my list. My wife and I cruise to dine, meet other people, and to see the ports and relax. Service is important, but I do not expect people to be perfect all the time. I am not, so why should they have to be. I just expect them to try and give their best effort. I also understand the difference between 5 start cruise cuisine and I don't confuse or compare it to 5 star restaurant cuisine. The ship has to feed 800 to 1700 people per seating where a restaurant only feeds 200 a night.
With that said, I will give my humble opinion of the Celebrity Summit.
This is our fifth Celebrity Cruise and second on the Millennium class ship. Princess is a great line and I would not turn my nose at cruising on them, but I still prefer Celebrity. We did the 11-night Ultimate Caribbean. We chose this because of the line, ship, and itinerary. We have never been on a cruise over 7-nights so we were looking forward to this cruise. Seven night cruises seem like you just get on and get relaxed and it is over, and I don't have the time to do a 14-day yet.
Pam and I are doing this cruise for our 10th anniversary and we were going with my brother and his wife who just celebrated their 25th anniversary.
Our cruise was on a Monday, but being in the Mid-west, flying through Chicago, we decided to go down on Saturday. Yes we suffered. Two days in Florida instead of Indiana in winter. We suffered. LOL. We flew American because I am Platinum with American.
We chose to stay at the Best Western Ocean Side Inn that is only a mile from the pier and it is on the beach on A1A. We had never stayed there but got the room for $95 a night.
Flew out on Saturday afternoon on American Airlines through Chicago. Everything went smoothly and both flights were on time. Arrived in Ft Lauderdale at 9 PM. Our checked bags made an earlier flight and they were waiting on us at baggage claim. Picked up a Hertz rental and we were at the hotel by 9:30 PM.
I would not include the Best Western Oceanside as one of my choice places to stay. It is okay. Here were the problems that we found. I provide this not to complain, but to give you and idea of what our room was like and whether you would want to stay there. First, there were nacho chips under the bed but very visible standing up. The cleaning person made no effort in her sweeping. The sink in the bathroom would not drain. The main thing is the noise. There were parties going on till 3 AM and the road noise from A1A was very loud. We take earplugs because we expect this, but even the earplugs would not block the noise enough to sleep.
We ended up moving to the Marriott Harbor View on 17th Street. This is a very nice facility. Next time, we will stay here and skip the rental car. You really don't need it. Most things are within walking distance.
We ate lunch at Bimini Boatyard. It is a great place for lunch. It is located on 17th St between the Embassy Suite and the Marriott. In that same area there are a couple of grocery stores and a couple of liquor stores. The Crown Liquor has the best selection of wines, beer and other liquor. We finished the day with dinner at the 15th Street Fishery. The Fishery is very good and we really enjoyed the breads.
We took the Marriott shuttle to the pier and arrived at 10:30 AM. The shuttle service is great because they take names/reservations. There was not a mad dash to fight on board the shuttle like the Amerisuites.
The pier was great. There was only the Summit and the Rotterdam in port that day so it was not crowded. When we arrived, Celebrity was still moving the bag handlers out, but we were through the curbside check in 5 minutes tops and into the embarkation area. You go in and they give you a returning form with your post cruise travel options to fill out. Suite and Captain's Club members go to the left and the rest go straight. They started boarding the suite and Captain's Club members at 11 AM. Took a few minutes to clear security and then they had a couple of dozen staff persons waiting to check you in. All in all, it took about 10 minutes and we were on the ship by 11:20 AM.
Our room wasn't ready, by Miguel let us put our carry on bags in the room. We wondered the ship and then went and made our Normandie Restaurant reservations and up for a pizza lunch. The pizza was the normal great Celebrity pizza and it was good and hot. I then had some desert at the buffet and we went to the grill for some fries. Celebrity has very good fries as long as they are hot and these were hot.
Went to our room at around 1:30 and 4 of our 5 checked bags where there so we started unpacking.
I would have to give Celebrity an A+. I'm not sure how it could have been done better.
Deck 2 (Continental) - all staterooms.
Deck 3 (Plaza) - Half of this deck is occupied by staterooms from mid-fore to mid-ship. The Celebrity Theater stage level is on this deck but there is no access to the theater from this deck. You have to go to deck 4 and deck 5 to enter the theater. The lower level of the Grand Foyer is here. Guest Relations is on this level as well along with Shore Excursions. The Cinema/Conference Center is on this level along with the Specialty Restaurant (Normandie). In comparing the Normandie to the Olympic on Millennium, there are several differences. The Olympic, wood panel front room on the Millennium is beautiful, but I found the back half plain. The wine cellar in the Olympic is very beautiful with all the solid wood shelves and racks. The Normandie is very elegant all over. It is not divided into two distinct rooms like the Olympic. The wine cellar is, well, just a wine cellar. Nothing special about the wine cellar.
Deck 4 (Promenade) - This deck is not even close to a true Promenade deck. It does not go around the front or back of the ship. It is rather disappointing because Pam and I always like to stroll around the Promenade before and after dinner. This is a very busy deck on most ships, but on the Summit it is not used much. The lack of Teak wood takes away some of the charm that you would normally associate with the promenade.
Starting from the fore of the ship is the main entrance to the Celebrity Theater. A main problem is it gets a little tight entering here because you have the Photo Gallery on the starboard side and Michael's Club on the port side. The Celebrity Theater is beautiful. In my humble opinion, it is the nicest afloat. The sight lines are very good and the seating is very comfortable. Moving toward mid-ship you then enter Fortunes Casino. The casino is very large and has all the standard slots and table games you expect on a ship this size. Celebrity did not make the Summit casino as crammed as the Millennium. I think that it has more style that it's sister ship. It was normally very crowded. You then enter the second level of the Grand Foyer. As you move toward the aft of the ship, you enter the Rendez-Vous Lounge. This is a wonderful place to meet and have a drink and listen to music before dinner, and is a main staple of Celebrity ships. The main entrance to the Main Restaurant connects to the Rendez-Vous Lounge. I love the Celebrity Dinning room. The large windows on the aft are wonderful to watch the world go by while you eat! We were seated at table 471, which was a table for ten. The key thing I hate is that it was up towards the entrance and our seats were right on the major traffic path for all the waiters. It was very busy and noisy. The bad part was that you could not see the central dinning area or the upper level. My opinion is you really want to be on the upper level. When you get your table assignment, if it is a 400 number you are on the 4th floor and if it is a 500 number you are on the upper level. If it is an odd number you are seated on the port side and even numbers are on the starboard side. The dinning room itself is very elegant especially the stairs that go up to the second level. One down fall in certain areas (we happened to be in one) is that they put the table very close together so when everyone is seated at both tables, it is hard for one server to get through and it is compounded when there are two staff teams assigned to the different tables.
Deck 5 (Entertainment) - This is another of the main traffic decks. The balcony level entrance to the Celebrity Theater is at the fore of this deck. Moving from the theater towards the middle of the ship, you enter the specialty shops. Celebrity allocates a large amount of space for their shops. At mid-ship, you enter the Grand Foyer. You can see down to the other two levels but there are no stairs going down to them from this deck. There are the glass elevators on the port side that can take you up or down from here. Moving towards the aft from the Grand Foyer, you will enter one of my favorite places. On the port side, you enter The Champagne Bar and on the starboard side, you enter the Martini Bar which is another staple of the Celebrity ships. There is a large, circular hole in the middle between the bars that you can walk around to get to the other. The whole allows the crowd and the music from the Rendez-Vous Lounge to come up to this deck from deck 4. It is great. The music is not as loud, so I found it a better place to hold a conversation.
Deck 6 (Penthouse) - This deck is completely made up of staterooms. The loan public area is the The Tower at mid-ship by the glass elevators. They do not have CD's here anymore but there are listening stations that you can select songs or albums and listen to them in there.
Deck 7 (Vista) - This is also made up of staterooms. Again, the lone exception is The Tower at mid-ship.Deck 8 (Panorama) - This deck is all staterooms except for Words at mid-ship.
Deck 9 (Sky) - This deck is the last deck with staterooms. Words is located at mid-ship on this deck as well.
Deck 10 (Resort) - During the sea days, this is a very busy deck. In the fore of this deck is the Aquaspa, Salon, Weight Room, and Treatment Center. The weight center is very nice and has a large selection of weights (a few free weights), treadmills, stationary bikes, steppers, and rowing machines. Right off the Aquaspa is the Aquaspa Cafe for those that are looking for a more health conscious lunch. Going from the Aquaspa, you go outside to the main Pool. The pool is normal size for a cruise ship and there are 4 hot tubs along with the standard lounge chairs and tables with chairs. Going from the pool area to the aft of this deck, you enter the Waterfall Cafe where buffet style breakfast and lunch are served. At the very aft is the Grill and you can take your food from either offering out on to the open air back area and eat, drink, and watch the world go by. You also get pizza and ice cream in the cafe area as well.
Deck 11 (Sunrise) - This deck has the Revelations lounge on the fore of the deck. It is enclosed by glass windows and is a nice place visit. Mid-ship on this deck is open to the pool below. The jogging track circles this opening and goes back to the aft of the ship. The Video Arcade and Ship Mates Fun Factory (for kids) is on the aft of this deck.
Deck 12 (Sports) - Not much of a deck. The basketball court is stashed away up here and that is about it.
Overall, I really enjoy the Millennium class ship. It fits me personally along with my tastes. It may not fit everyone's tastes but that is okay. Yes, they use artificial plants and flowers, big deal, I thought they looked nice. The art work is a little strange, but then, I am not there for the art. They had a much better selection in their Galleria than on the Millennium. This class of ship really puts the others that I have been on to shame.
The only time I felt crowded ones once on deck 4 coming out of the Celebrity Theater, it was hard getting through the casino. Otherwise, it rarely felt crowded and you could always find deck chairs somewhere.
We booked almost a year ago and took advantage of a great prepay deal. We booked a CAT 3 on the aft. We were in room 7199 on the Vista Deck. This room was in a great location. I found the sound of the wake very relaxing. There are rooms above and below so it is quiet. To get to the room, you go down a short hall and then turn left into the room. This helps keep the room very quiet.
This room is huge. I feel bad having this room for only two people for a few minutes, but that lasted only a few minute. Since Pam and I have been to three of the seven ports before, we were treating our room as several shore excursions. LOL
The room is really three distinct areas. There is the entry area with the closets and bathroom, the main sleeping area and the back sitting/sleeping area. Over all, the cabin measures 283 Sq. Ft. The entry is 86 sq ft, the main bedroom is 97 sq ft and the back area is 100 sq ft. The back room and the main room are divided by a partitioned wall with sliding door.
The closet space and drawer space is beyond belief! No joke. There are 5 (yes 5) closet doors. Four of them are for hanging clothes from hangers. We had a his and her space. The other is the area with drawers and the safe. The safe was great! You could use your room key to lock and unlock it or you can enter a code everytime. There were 20 drawers spread out through the main bedroom and the back bedroom. A huge desktop table was in the main room. This was the first time that I did not lack for counter space. I could type on the computer, sit the wine up on the shelf, Pam could plug in her curlers and have plenty of room left over.
The main bedroom had two twins pushed together as a queen. Pam is tall (5'8") and I am 6'1". Our legs were longer than the bed which was a very minor problem. It keep me awake about an extra 30 seconds. The main room has a Standard TV and there is a VCR along with the standard stocked refrigerator with food they charge you for. The back room had a two seat love seat and a three seat couch with a counter and a second TV. The room is a light wood color (not white). The carpet is burnt orange with white spots. It all seemed to fit very well.
Have to give our room an A+. My fear was we would get upgraded to a suite which I didn't want.
I found the staff to be the normal Celebrity staff, which I like. They are very efficient and are very willing to help you. They are not buddy-buddy with you, so many people think they are arrogant or unfriendly. Our cabin steward was Miguel. He did an excellent job. On our first day, we had several things we needed or wanted done and he did they quickly and efficiently. This continued through out the cruise. Probably one of the best room stewards we have ever had.
Our waiting staff was Joseph and Cinbar. They did an outstanding job. They worked very hard and were very friendly. Our table was a table for 10 and we were with a group of 6 that really wanted to be at a table of 6. They were fine, but I always had the feeling we were intruding so it was a little uncomfortable. Half way through, they changed to first seating and a table of six. This left Paulfredo, Dixie, Pam and I at a huge table for 10. This was great because we set by the window and we were out of the major path of the waiters in the aisle. I felt bad for Joseph and Cinbar with the group leaving because I don't know if they tipped them for the first half of the cruise. Again, the service was first rate.
The food is what brings us back to Celebrity. First, we have our expectations set correctly. It still amazes me that they can produce the quality of food when serving 1000 people per setting. This was the first time that we choose to take the 2nd seating for dinner. We like to eat about 7 but we hate missing the sail aways.
Upon arriving, you can choose between the buffet at the Waterfall Cafe on deck 10 or they have Pizza by the Waterfall Grill or there are hamburgers and fries on the grill by the pool on 10. The buffet looked good, but we opted for the famous Celebrity pizza. It was hot and is the best pizza at sea (sorry Princess fans, JMHO). We then had a helping of the French fries. They are excellent and they were hot. Hard to beat that. Finished the lunch off with the frozen yogurt cone which was great. Tasted like true ice cream.
Dinner was excellent the first night. The fish and the veal were excellent. Deserts were to die for as well. I love the traditional swan puff and the apple desert was great as well.
The breakfast buffet at the Waterfall Cafe is good. It is a standard buffet. I like the French toast. They have a very good selection of fruits, cheese, breads, hot dishes, and cereals. There is an omelet station back by the Rainbow Grill that makes fresh to order omelets as well.
Lunch's at the Cosmopolitan Restaurant were very good. We ate there on Key West Tuesday and the Rock Fish and the Thai dish were very good. Some may thing the Rock Fish is over cooked, but it wasn't. Rock fish has a firm to hard texture and it can come off as dry or over cooked. In this case it was prepared excellent. The mango cheese cake is very good as well.
In order to keep the review short (LOL), I will omit the other items. I found the meat dishes to be excellent especially the lamp and steak. I did not have any chicken so I can't really say how it was. The fish seemed a little drier than I remember it in the past. The sad part was I have now noticed a down grade in the Celebrity dinning experience. These are small points, but none the lease they have started cutting costs. In cruises past, the ice tea in the dinning room was freshly brewed. They have now switched to a mix from a machine in order to feed so many people they say. Right, that is cost cutting. The other thing I noticed was the bread in the dinning room was not as good. It was not as fresh and many times it seemed to be day old. Again, nothing major, just a change.
Okay, I have to eat crow (and if it is from the Normandie, I'll love it.) I have always made fun of those that dished out $25 a person to go here. I didn't go to the Olympic on the Millennium. My stance has been that I paid for food once, why should I pay for it again.
Now for the crow. We decided to try it on the first semi-formal night. After that, Paulfredo held me down and made me go back two more times after that! Honest, I really didn't want to go, they made me!
Ladies and Gentlemen, that was true, restaurant 5 star dinning. I have never been so pampered or entertained. The food was outstanding as was the service. I have heard that Celebrity really doesn't make any money on the fee the charge and I believe it.
You only get four courses. The first time, I started out being disappointed because you get 1) choice of soup, salad or appetizer; 2) main course; 3) choice of cheeses; 4) desert. There were so many items in course one I wanted to try, but couldn't. I thought I would leave hungry. Wrong! The cheese souflee is to die for. It may not sound good or appetizing, but it was out of this world. The Caesar salad is huge and is authentic. The onion soup was wondrous per Dixie and several others were outstanding as well.
The main courses were excellent. Some are strange like the vegetable lasagna. The sea bass was very good, but I think the best review was of the rack of lamb and the beef tenderloin. They were prepared excellent. I can still taste them!! The veal was excellent as well.
The cheese course was outstanding especially with good wine. We brought our own wine most of the time and were charged the $6 corkage charge. The deserts are out of this world! The vote was for Michael six desert sampler. The chocolate souflee was great but very rich! The crepes suzette were very good and they make them in front of you. The white and chocolate mouse that they served on the Normandie was outstanding. Yes, they had to roll us out of there three times and they knew us by name on the third night.
Shows and Entertainment:
This is not something that we spend a lot of time with. Once you have seen a few production shows (doesn't matter what cruise line), you have pretty much seen them all. We did go and see a few of the solo performers and they where very, very good. The group Metro was very good The sound effects guy, Kirby St. Romain was excellent as was comedian Noodles Levenstein. The vocalist Les Lankhorst and Darbie Pope Korkmaz were both excellent.
Lots of big band and dancing in the Revelation Lounge. Most people that I saw were having a very good time.
Disembarkation was fairly easy. They disembark on the fourth deck for just in front of the casion. We started at 8:40 AM. We were off the ship by 9:10 AM and we were at the airport by 9:30 AM. Since we were the only ship in port, getting a taxi was easy. The only compliant is the passangers ignored the color codes and just went. How rude but then what do you expect. All of our luggage was together. All in all, it was pretty easy.
Ports of Call
Key West (Tuesday) - This was our fourth time to Key West. My main complaint is that you don't have enough time here. It would be great if you could be there until 10 PM. Oh well, maybe someday. We had supper weather. It was sunny and about 80 degrees. This was new in that we docked at the new pier and not the Navy pier. This was great because you could walk right to the downtown area and Duval Street with in minutes and not have to take the trolley. The town is great. Again, wish we could be there latter and longer. If you are looking for quality tee shirts, there are two Crazy Shirt stores on Duval St. The tee shirts are expensive $23 to $27, but they last for years (I have some that are 9 years old). There are shops right on the pier. I like Key West. May have to go back and stay longer.
Cozumel, Mexico - This was our sixth time in Cozumel. We took a cab to town and walked around. It was very windy and cool this day.
Puerto Limon, Costa Rica - This was our first time in Costa Rica. The pier has a shopping area right by it. The shopping is okay. The vendor's bother you but it is not overwhelming. When you leave the pier, there are very few tourist on the streets. I never felt unsafe, but it felt strange to not see other ship passengers. We walked by the Market and by the Cathedral. The Cathedral wasn't much. I wouldn't waste my time.
This was our only ship tour. We did the PL-5 Toruguero Canals tour at 8:45AM. I really enjoyed it. I found it interesting to see the canals, jungles, grasslands, and wildlife. Was it worth it, yes for me. I think Paulfredo, Pam and Dixie would disagree, but I did enjoy it. I am glad I did it once. It was an hour drive to the dock and there ARE restrooms on the buses. There are restrooms at the pier and the line can be long. There are no women's and men so it is a free for all for the 8 stalls. Try and make sure you get a two seat boat instead of the four seat wide boat. Much easier to view from the two seat wide. We had a great guide and he spoke very good English. The poverty is amazing in Costa Rica. You will see that on the ride to the pier. The ride back is only about 10 minutes.
Colon, Panama - Like Costa Rica, this was our first time in Panama. We went out on our own and found a cab that took us to the Gatun locks. This is a must. It was a 20 minute taxi ride there and back. We spent 25 minutes there and there were ships going into the lake and then ships would follow them into the lock. It was amazing. I will do the trip through the canal one day. Our drive did not speak English. Fortunately, Paulfredo knew a little Spanish. We made it there and back without incident. The shopping by the pier is good, but you are hounded every step for taxis, beggars, or people selling things.
Cartagena, Colombia - First time in this country and port. We had read mixed reviews about this stop. Security always concerns me my first time in a country until I get a feel for it. As it turned out, the concern were way overstated. I felt safe in Caartagena. As safe as in Chicago, Dallas, New York, or San Francisco. Yes you have to be careful, it is a big city. I recommend that you don't wear your jewelry. We took a taxi on our own and went to the Monastery and then to the Fort. We beat most of the tour buses. These were great sites and a must see. The only problem is the vendors mob you before you can open the taxi door. There is a white line as approach the Monastery that they cannot pass and they don't so going through the Monastery is hassle free. The only thing there is children beggars stand 12 to15 feet below the wall and hold sticks up with cut open jugs trying to beg dollars. There are restrooms at the Monastery worth using so go there. The fort is huge. There are swarms of vendors there as well. There is a bathroom, but women should not plan on using it. There was no toilet paper and you could not flush it. There were to 55 gallon Rubbermaid trash cans full of water to flush the toilet. It was very hot, but there was a breeze. It was not nearly as bad as many posters made Cartagena out to be.
Oranjestad, Aruba - This was the port that I was looking forward to and wanting to see. Was I excited. Is a seven year old excited on Christmas morning? Lol It was better than I hoped. It is now my second favorite island behind Maui. We rented a car in Aruba via Avis. I recommend that. They drive on the right hand side of the road and the island is small. We went to the North West side of the island to Malmok Beach. The snorkeling was not good. For those that rave about it, you need to go to Maui to see good snorkeling. We then went to the Lighthouse and sand dunes. This was very cool and worth the time. The island is a desert. If you like to golf, the Tierra del Sol course looked great.
We then drove to the north shore to see the land bridge. That is a must see. The restrooms are nice at the landbridge but you pay a quarter but it is worth it. The rocky shore with the water breaks makes for great pictures. Shopping in the main town is great. I would have given anything for 3 more hours there. Pricing is very reasonable. In fact, it was equal to pricing in Indianapolis for gas and food. We had lunch at a traditional Aruba restaurant, McDonnalds (LOL). The cost of a double cheeseburger value meal was $3.50. I would have guessed it would have been a lot more.
Georgetown, Grand Cayman - This would have been our fifth time in Grand Cayman. This is one of my favorite islands in the Caribbean. It was very windy this day and we were delayed getting into the pier by the local authorities. There were six ships anchored there that day. Finally, Celebrity told us that it was too risky to tender passengers and they were pulling anchor and heading to sea. You could see the other ships starting to tender. There have been many people complaining on the boards about that, but personally, it was the right decision. I am not sure that it was too rough, but it was about 11 AM when we could have started tendering and the last tender back was 4:30 PM, there is no way it was worth going ashore. We would have been competing with five other ships of space and we never would have gotten to shore or would have had limited time. by heading out to sea, it became another sea day. They opened the casino and the shops at noon. They gave free rum punch's and buy one get one free drinks from 4 to 5 as comp. Many people gripped, but give me a break, Celebrity didn't have to do that. I felt bad for those that had sting ray city planned for the first time, but heck, every ship goes to Grand Cayman in the Western Caribbean.
This was a fantastic cruise. I still love Celebrity although the food as started to slide a little. I have determined that I like the 11 night cruise over the 7 because it is relaxing. There were very few kids which was kind of nice. Yes the crowd was older (50's through 80's), but we expected that since it was an 11 night cruise when schools were in session. I enjoy the older crowd. Most followed the smoking rules and dress rules at dinner. Oh well, to make up for having to leave, we booked the Brilliance of the Sea for this time next year for 11-nights.
(Future Cruises: NCL Star 7/02, Maasdam 10/02, Brilliance 1/03)