by Michael Harrington
November 18, 2002
Our 'Ultimate Caribbean' sailing November 18 on Celebrity's Summit was our fourth cruise, the second on Celebrity. Our cabin was 8136, class 2A -- nice, but crowded, with two adults and two teenage daughters. (Thank goodness for the balcony!) Our overall summary: The ambience, food and service were excellent, the entertainment was good, and the shore excursions were fair. There was no Norwalk virus, but there was very interesting and satisfactory security. We plan to cruise on Celebrity again.
We flew into Ft. Lauderdale the night before and stayed at the Largo Mar, a nice resort that had dramatically slashed its prices. The next day, we arrived at the dock about 12:30 p.m. and boarded the ship shortly thereafter. However, our luggage did not arrive at our cabin until 5:45 p.m., just before dinner, and then we had to send our cabin attendant to look for it.
My guess is the average age of the passengers was 62 or higher. Fortunately our teenage daughters were prepared for this, and had books or sun-soaking already planned; there were almost no teens on board. (My wife and I are 50-ish and 58.) Most were Americans, but there were a number of British and Canadians and a few Germans and Hispanics. It was a pleasant group, with only a few of the usual old crabs who complained about everything (and whom we avoided thereafter).
FOOD AND SERVICE
We always ate in the Cosmopolitan for dinner and often for breakfast and lunch. The dinners were all good, although my daughter and I had to send back our beef several times because it was overcooked. (We learned to order rare instead of medium rare.) Our wait staff was excellent, we had the best sommelier we have ever had, and the bar service was attentive and prompt. Our girls liked how their favorite drinks were always waiting for them or brought as soon as they arrived.
Breakfasts in the Cosmopolitan featured the same menu every day. We got tired of them, and started going to the buffets more often. The theme buffets at noon were satisfactory in all respects, as were the buffet lunches. We did not go to the Normandie restaurant because we didn't want to take two and a half hours for dinner.
My wife and daughters went to the Celebrity shows most nights and liked them all except for the juggler. I thought the music and the dance bands were a little better than those on the Millennium last summer, though I wish they began a little earlier. All the drinks were more expensive than before.
The two Captain's Club parties were nice but crowded in the Celebrity Theater, giving us very little opportunity to mingle. No problem though, because this was primarily a family outing.
For once, we came home a few hundred dollars ahead in the casino.
Since we had been to Key West, we did our own. At Cozumel, we took the Mayan Ruins and Xel-ha excursion. The ferry ride was very rough and a third of the passengers became violently seasick (including my oldest daughter). The ruins were a disappointment, because the only information we could get was from a guide who focused on minutiae and was very rushed for time. Xel-ha was great; my daughters went swimming and snorkeling in an underground river.
The Green Train at Limon was quaint and a lot of fun--it really took you into the country and away from the tourist traps. The Two-Ocean Panama Canal Tour Dome Car was terrible. Be warned there are 14 seats on the train's bottom level just like on the regular cars--guess where we sat? The guide concentrated on the passengers in the dome and left us to ourselves. Instead of a guided tour, we were dumped at the locks with no explanation and only a brief movie. (Watching a lock fill is like watching paint dry.) All 14 of us lower-division passengers asked for our money back and got a partial refund from the ship. The Aruba sightseeing was good, the Grand Cayman sights OK, but our daughters revolted in both ports; they went to the beaches instead and had a great time.
One of the reasons we chose this cruise was that it had four days at sea: wonderful times to eat, to read and to sun, to play and in general to forget about the outside world. We did not bring our laptop, despite the very nice Summit in-room Internet access, because my wife and I would have been tempted to work. (I did suffer a little from Internet withdrawal and the lack of a decent daily newspaper.)
A NOTE ON ROUGH SEAS
I suffer terribly from motion sickness. Even sitting in the back seat of a car makes me green, and my daughters are only a little better. So we used the transderm scope patches or the wristbands or dramamine when needed. As long as we kept up, we were fine. The real test came on the night from Cozumel to Limon when we encountered 15-20 foot seas and winds of better than 35 knots. All of us "sat" on the balcony and watched the ship crash into the waves and roll from side to side. We didn't have a single moment of seasickness then or on the rest of the trip, but we understand there were a number of sick passengers.
Leaving a ship is never a very happy time for us, but it was bearable and reasonably done. There was a little excitement when we noted a flurry of customs activity. (We later learned six passengers tried to smuggle cocaine worth $6.4 million ashore.)
So, we had a great time! When we can afford another cruise, we are looking at the Celebrity 14-night Northern Europe cruise in the summer.