by Pam Kane
May 13, 2002
I was tickled beyond belief to co-host the Let's Get Lei'd cruise with the legendary Kuki. The lead-up months were filled with plans, challenges, the occasional problem, and a lot of US/Canada giggles and snorts. Eh? The comparison between Millie - a group cruise just a little over a year before - and Summit was inevitable. Another comparison, from another cruise line, came into the picture, too.
It seems that the first ship out in a particular class (Millennium, Rotterdam VI) tend to be a bit stodgy in their decor while the younger sisters (Summit, Amsterdam) have considerably more joie de vivre.
We had our priorities in order. No less than two nights in the specialty restaurant, the Normandie. One night in the Olympic on Millie left us wanting more.
Our cabin, a 1-A, was a little bit light on closet and drawer space though there was plenty of room in the head for under-counter stowage of sponge bags. The balcony was small, just room for two chairs and a table. Enough for two, but not enough for a party.
It was nice to see four electrical outlets by the desk/vanity area. I could listen to Jimmy Buffet on the laptop and dry my hair at the same time.
Our cabin stewardess, Joanna, and her sidekick, Johnny, were happy that we were late risers when we had the opportunity. "Psheew," she said one day, "those early people want us to have everything done in the time they take to eat breakfast. And they eat fast."
We didn't attend any shows, rather we chose to attend the money-grubbing casino after dinner. I ended up a couple of hundred ahead, Queeg broke even and had fun doing it.
If Celebrity fails in any one reliable way, it's what we call "The Polish Duo." (On Meridian, they were really called that.)
Doesn't matter which ship it is, the PD is there, making something vaguely resembling music and singing by transliteration. Definitely something to be missed at every opportunity.
Balancing, the string folks who play to an almost empty area every night are a complete delight. Too bad more people don't find them and a quiet place for a drink and a chat.
Dining room breakfasts are rather OK and Celebrity is the only cruise line we've ever found (except for the truly high-end ones) which offers basted eggs. The Eggs Benedict were worth a pass. The Waterfall Cafe (buffet) reliably offered a terrific hash and soft-boiled eggs to go along. The morning potato offerings were excellent and there was plenty of fruit. We ate more than our share of Kadota figs. The custom omelets were about an OK+
So, who needs lunch? The buffet entrees are an exercise in high weirdness and the "Lido Burgers" would be better used as sandal soles. The custom pasta station made us wonder just how long the pasta had been out of the box. VERY al dente. My dentes didn't quite go there.
The room service cheese and fruit tray was just the thing around 4:30 PM. Brie, blue, cheddar, and a boursin. And all the pears I could eat.
Of the 11 nights, we missed four at table. One for the luau, two for the Normandie, and one night with the Captain. We tipped more than the recommended amount anyway. They were waiting for us; we just weren't there. Excellent table service except for a rather surly wine stewardess. The waiter inquired as to how I would like to be addressed. "Pam." From then on, I was "Mrs. Pam." Sweet. The waiter's assistant was a totally beautiful blonde from Budapest. She shyly shared Hungarian "stuff" with us along with a dazzling smile.
Queeg and I were at a table next to the Phlamingos with Jose and Jennifer, Kay and Chuck Sorrentino, and the Boudreaux. Jose and Jennifer were inducted into the Royal and Ancient Order of Plamingos at a party in Michael's Club. We expect to see applications from the Sorrentinos and the Boudreaux.
The high point of the cruise, at least for us, took place at the Hilton Hawaiian Village the night before sailing. We knew that two couples from our long-time cruising and partying group, The Phlamingos, would be along. Only TWO? The rest all had such good excuses. Nine of 'em, plus Kuki, kept a secret for six long months and marched into the party wearing snappy yellow uniforms (see Ray's photos). I'm not sure that my screeches of delight were not heard on the mainland.
Other shining moments included dolphin/whale watching with the Merms on a charter boat captained and crewed by two marine biologists. (Daryl and Kathy were keeping the mystery guests busy on the other side of the island so we wouldn't run into them). Geology freak Queeg decreed an inspection of the Haliakela volcano way above the clouds. We helicoptered on Hilo to get a good look at an active volcano.
Then there were the oddvents that Kuki and I had been cooking up for months. The PJ sail-away party was a total hoot … lots of comments about "usual" PJ's … the kind you wash but don't have to fold. But they do wrinkle over the years! The Wild Kingdom cocktail party was one of the most energetic we've ever seen for a group event. And there were some animals there.
The World's Ugliest Aloha Shirt Contest? Just see the photos.
Best of all had to be the kite-flying. According to research the previous record for kites flown from a ship was nine. Mgram put us over with #10 and we went for extra credit with a total of 15.
I was delighted that my Web Wahini efforts were of good service. It was great fun to see someone walk up to another person and say, "You're Fred, aren't you?"
A thousand thanks to Kuki for putting up with little phone calls that began, "Um, I was just thinking …" Thanks, too to Ingrid Green (Merm) for her excellent trivia challenge and that "What ship am I" game. Linda Griggs made wonderful magnets for our cabin doors and produced a dandy phone book. We might have had a quorum of staffers on board with Robo, Steve, Rix, Tweety, Kuki and me.
All around, it was one of the finest cruise experiences we've ever had in the mainstream fleet. Being with other CruiseMates just made it all that much better. Now, what are we going to do with all those aloha shirts and shell leis?