May 13, 2002
Celebrity Summit Cruise Report
We've just returned from the May 13/02 sailing of the Summit, Honolulu to Vancouver. My reports for CruiseMates pretty much focused on the social aspects of cruising with the group. Now I'll focus a bit more heavily on the ship, the food, the service and the crew.
The embarkation process was a breeze. We were there early, and the Celeb staffer checking us in was efficient and pleasant. This went so quickly we even had time to joke a bit with the check in agent. She was unwilling to let me use her credit card to deposit on my sail and spend card. We were one of the earliest to board the ship, being in our cabin by 11:45, and managed to find the cabin ourselves.
I did notice that guests boarding a bit later were being escorted to their cabins by white gloved crew members.
Within minutes of arriving in our cabin our cabin steward Miguel was there to introduce himself and ask if there was anything he could do. I told him I'm a big Diet Coke drinker, and would appreciate an ample supply to be placed in my mini bar. He left the cabin, and appeared about a minute later with Diet Coke. Our cabin was one of the CAT 3 cabins at the farthest point stern, and on the edge of the port side. A fabulous cabin, with a sliding door which can be used to separate the sleeping area from the living area. The living area has a full sized sofa and a love seat. Both are hide-a-beds. Though folded out you could only use one or the other, not both.
The truly fabulous part of this cabin is the enormous (250 sq. ft) balcony. While its furnishings are cheap plastic lawn furniture , it was a wonderful place to relax on sunny afternoons, or romantic evenings.
There is a slight drawback to this cabin location. That's the vibration felt when the ship is maneuvering to pull in or out of the pier at ports of call. A number of times we were shaken awake from a great sleep earlier than we would have liked when docking.
Other than that I found the cabin location very convenient for the important stuff; getting to food. The aft stairways and elevators are a short walk. Going up 3 decks you entered into the center area of the Waterfall Cafe, and down 3 decks you were at the entrance to the Cosmopolitan Dining Room.
We had PLENTY of storage space, lots of hangars in the closets, two television sets (one in both the sleeping area, and the living area).
Because of how the cabin is situated on the deck, you had to enter two doors before getting into the cabin. The "foyer" or vestibule was long and narrow, and was an excellent place to leave extra luggage that wouldn't fit under the bed, and my golf clubs. I told Mrs. Kuki if she behaved badly we'd get a rollaway put in the vestibule for her.
At 91,000 gross tons, the Summit is huge. However, her layout makes getting to know her, and getting around her a breeze. Also, very noticeably, we rarely felt crowded. When entering the ship, in her lobby area, one is immediately struck by the impressive backlit marble and glass staircase between Decks 3 and 4. To your right is a bank of 4 elevators, with the two outside elevators offering a view of the ocean as it rises through all the decks.
In this central area of Deck 3 you'll also find the guest relations desk, the shore excursion desk, and the bank, as well as the office of the Future Cruise consultant (who doubles as the ship's group coordinator). The Normandie restaurant, as well as conference rooms and a comfortable cinema are also located on this deck.
The Rendezvous Lounge, on Deck 4, and the Champagne/Martini Bars, a deck up on 5 are really the center of the "people action" on this ship. With their locations just outside the dining room on both levels, they're convenient places to meet for pre or post dinner drinks or conversation. There is a large circular hole in the ceiling of the Rendezvous/floor of the Champagne, which allows one band to entertain both lounges.
The Champagne bar became a favorite spot for us, as it was bit distanced from the band playing below in the Rendezvous Lounge, and we were able to carry on (our conversations silly) more easily. As it happened, the group playing also seemed to play the "you're getting sleepy, go to bed" type of music, so the further we distanced ourselves from them the better.
Most people traveled through these lounges on their way to or from dinner, so they made for excellent people watching spots.
One shortcoming, aside from these two large lounges, Revelations Disco, and the cigar bar, Michael's club, there were no small, more intimate, bars indoors. Perhaps Celebrity knows their audience, because on this sailing, none of the bars were very busy. Most were practically abandoned after 10 P.M.
My personal favorite was the Champagne and Martini Bar. I loved the furnishings and interior design work in these bars, particularly the high backed sofas and finely upholstered chairs.
>From Deck 5 thru to Deck 10 were passenger cabins, except for the library and "notes" located amidships on Decks 6 & 7.
Deck 10, known as Resort Deck is well laid out, with the Aqua Spa located forward, then flowing to the stern were the Waterfall swimming pools, the Waterfall Grill (pool-side), the Waterfall Cafe (the buffet), and my favorite spot on the ship, the stern deck, outside the Cafe. My only negative comment about the resort deck would be the tables and chairs set out for Alfresco dining, or simply relaxing upright, playing cards or board games, watching the sea go by. These particular tables and chairs reminded me of 1970s kitchen furniture, and it seemed they were just placed to fill empty spaces, with no thought given to creating any type of ambience. I thought smaller versions of the wooden furniture used on the stern could greatly enhance this area, and would likely see them used much more frequently than they were.
I don't take breakfast or lunch in the dining room, so I can't comment on those experiences at all. Rumors had it that open seating lunch in the dining room was a much longer experience than it should be. These are not particularly important meals to me, so I tend to just grab "whatever" from the grille or buffet. I found the lunch buffet offerings under whelming, and often settled on pastas from the Pasta Station, or pizza, or less than inspiring hamburgers, from the Grille.
Dining room food, on the other hand, was mostly just this side of excellent. Presentation generated an appetite, and the food was served hot and in correct versions of preparedness (as ordered) when it came to meats.
Perhaps surprisingly, some of the very best food I tasted were the appetizers served both at our CruiseMates Group Cocktail Party, and a cocktail party I hosted in my cabin. The kitchen selected the offerings, with everything from seafood, to mini pizzas, to chicken bites, and they were all a nibblers delight.
This is the area where the crew of the Summit hit a home run. Service was professional and attentive, yet more friendly than I remember from previous Celebrity cruises. In my past experience with Celebrity, service was very "European". that's to say, professional but with much more social distance between the servers and passengers.
On the Summit the service staff seem to have found a much more palatable (to me) level of social interaction with their guests. They are still most professional, but seem to be able to use their own judgment to determine which guests prefer more social interaction, and which appreciate the staff limiting themselves to servicing them well.
Our dining room team of Ronald and Christian picked up fairly early on that we were a fairly friendly bunch, and proceeded to allow their personalities to come through, and participate in our "antics" at dinner. The same was true of the Head Waiters, and assistant Maitre d.
In the Waterfall Cafe, everyone I walked past offered a smile and a friendly hello, and would chat freely, if invited. And, of course, service in the alternate Normandie restaurant was perfect, and made our evening there a highlight of any meal anywhere, land our sea.
In fact, the only complaint I had in the area of service was that it was difficult to get a soft drink (soda) in the dining room. But once I mentioned it to our ass't waiter Christian, he'd fetch a bar waiter immediately. The bar staff however seemed to continue to forget me each night, until Christian went to get them.
Others at our table were wine drinkers and the Sommelier took very good care to come by each night, take their wine orders, and refill their glasses.
The only reason I'm even mentioning the Entertainment is people will ask why I didn't. Simply put, I didn't make any of the evening shows in the Celebrity Theater. Because this was a sizeable CrusieMates Group Cruise, we had a lot of activities we had scheduled, and I passed on most of the entertainment scheduled by the cruise staff.
I did find it somewhat interesting that because of this I never did meet any of the cruise staff until the last night of an 11 night cruise. That night I met one of the cruise staff in Revelations disco. Sure they were busy with their normal duties hosting the activities they have planned, but I never saw any just out and about on the ship, mixing with the passengers. I ended the cruise not even knowing what the Cruise Director looked like.
Most of our CruiseMates activities were scheduled on the 5 sea days, and many people within our group mentioned that they were surprised that we weren't running into conflicts with many of the ships planned activities. In other words, they didn't have too much going on.
This really is the only are of crew responsibility that I found could use some more attention.
Most of my entertainment was supplied by watching and interacting with those in our CruiseMates group, and my few hours of escape in the casino each evening. The casino staff were friendly, and fun to spend my time (and money) with.
Perhaps because of the wonderful people we were cruising with, I didn't notice very much wrong with this cruise. While things weren't perfect, there was nothing that irritated me enough to even really give it a second thought.
When we were flying kites off the stern, there was one female passenger sitting on the deck one below the one we were "flying" off of. At one point she commented that if this sort of thing was going to go on, she may as well have booked a Carnival cruise. This displays pretty well how attitude can have a lot to do with the enjoyment of one's cruise. I'd hazard a guess that it's probable this same woman found many other things on this cruise to complain about. Not that she didn't' have the right to be there undisturbed by a bunch of kite flying cruisemates, but she certainly could have found other spots to sit and enjoy the quiet and the sea for the short time we were there. But, instead she chose to stay and complain about it. On the positive side almost all other passengers who stumbled across us during various cruisemates activities expressed their enjoyment of our antics.
The general attitude of the crew onboard the Summit was exemplary. Their friendly and helpful spirits more than made up for any shortcomings we may have experienced. If there was a problem, they did their utmost to remedy it. I don't think you can ask for more than that.
One thing that supplied some laughs to many of us were a couple of oddities in our Summit Daily (the newsletter delivered to your cabin). On the day we left Hilo, it said we were sailing from Cabo san Lucas, and the last day it said we were debarking in San Diego. Pretty funny stuff actually. Sure it confused some of our more inebriated cruisemates.
Debarkation was smooth and painless, even for those I talked to who got off well after us.
What Could Be Improved-
- variety of choices in the buffet, especially for lunch
If after 11 nights onboard my list of "complaints" is this short it should be obvious this was a cruise I would repeat in a New York minute!!