May 13, 2002
We too have just returned from the May 13 Hawaii cruise aboard the Summit, but our experience differs a bit from that of Cruisemates. We are seasoned cruisers including a prior Celebrity cruise (we last cruised 16 months ago), so we do have experiences as comparisons.
While I am not sure this will ever get published, our disappointments include being treated as "second-class" guests, as it was obvious that much of the cruise activity staff favored the groups on board (most notably Cruisemates) during ship activities. After a while, we found ourselves skipping the ship activities (which were rather sparse to begin with) as the outcome became rather predictable. It also is more difficult to meet many people (beyond simple pleasantries), something we truly enjoy on cruises. We experienced a similar phenomenon on a Christmas cruise, where it felt as if the ship belonged to the groups, and everyone else didn't really count so much. (We were unaware of just how many people return year after year for holiday cruises.)
While the Summit was nice enough, many little "corner-cuttings" were evident; although they certainly don't make the cruise something to avoid, some of the elegance is gone. The ship's decor is not as elegant as the Century or the Vision of the Seas; the cabin space is slightly smaller (we had a 1B cabin, foregoing the 1As, as they were mostly directly below the noisier pool deck). The layout is not as well designed - while the closets were sufficient, one could not exit the bathroom while a cabin mate had a closet door open, and the full-length mirror is at the foot of the bed, with so little room that at best your nose is only inches away from the mirror.) The walls are not wood paneling but rather a textured vinyl simulated wood; there were no throw pillows on the bed. The little bottles of toiletries are gone, replaced with wall dispensers for shampoo and lotion (personally, I like the dispensers better, but I question the sanitation aspect), and hair conditioner is no longer supplied. There is a pen in the cabin, but no paper should you need to jot something down. The ice was only filled once a day unless you called your cabin steward to request a refill. The library selection is smaller, and the checkout hours greatly reduced (no more honor system here). There are less included activities on board, especially for so many consecutive "at sea" days. (There are certainly plenty of "add'l cost" options, though - golf, spa treatments, bingo, art auctions, etc.) There are paper napkins in use for some food lines, and the amount and variety of food is greatly reduced for some offerings (afternoon teas, midnight "bites"). There is a $2 charge for "alternative [evening] dining" in the Waterfall Cafe. The variety of entrees offered has been reduced - the steak, roast beef, and prime beef were merely different slices of the same item, the side entrees were repeated (brussel sprouts 3X!), as were the desserts. Room service was efficient and the quality very good.
Check-in upon arrival at the pier was a bit confused but once inside it went smoothly. I would have appreciated being told during check-in that if we wanted to leave the ship after check-in, we would need photo ID.
Throughout the cruise the staff as a whole seemed very friendly and quick to greet you, although not quite as quick to offer actual assistance as on other cruises. Requests were pleasantly complied with, but you had to ask first. The day-to-day running of the ship (meals/activities/etc) was just not quite as seamless as in the past, perhaps because the best employees are always leaving to open the next ship coming on line, resulting in somewhat less experienced staff on board.
The entertainment was just fair to decent, although we too skipped a number of the shows choosing to watch the sunsets (between the frequent clouds and rain!) or listen to live music, etc.
The quality of the food at buffet breakfast and evening meals in the dining room ranged from fair to very good, although we were not impressed with the variety of selections offered, especially evenings. The lunch buffet entrees were fine if you prefer heavy, fat laden selections! Unfortunately, I did not discover the light and lean selections at the spa until well into the cruise. They were very tasty, although all selections were cold entrees. It was not very convenient as my husband preferred the main buffet and I chose the spa line, but service in the dining room was simply too long an ordeal. My husband has been a diabetic for years, so it was nice to finally see sugar-free selections offered without requiring special arrangements.
As with the Vision of the Seas, the pool in the spa area was a nice alternative, especially for those 50-60 degree and/or overcast days we experienced, and the chair cushions were quite comfortable.
The shore excursions were quite pricey, and were each a few dollars more than the prices quoted both in my cruise documents and on Celebrity's website. The excursion debarkations were chaotic, especially at Kauai - guests for many tours were all gathered together on the pier in a terminal building while a young woman attempted to shout out numbers over the echoing noise - no one was sure which number had been called, and even the staff was confused as to which buses were for which tour, etc. After that (plus a helicopter tour) we went back to arranging our own excursions.
With a passenger rating of 1,950 (the approx amt on the May 13 sailing), I would not want to be on this ship with another 200+ passengers or so (the count for the majority of the upcoming Alaska cruises) or with a lot of kids, unless the amount of activities were increased.
Overall, the ship was merely "nice" - not a "wow!" yet not a "geez, we'll never do this again!" either. As long as the price was right, we'd most likely return.