Celebrity Cruise Lines - Cruisemates Reader's Cruise Reviews
Celebrity Cruises

by Kristine
December 3, 2001

SUMMIT made her first appearance this year in October. She is sister ship to INFINITY and MILLENNIUM and like her sisters, she is gorgeous. She holds 1,950 guests with an excellent guest to staff ratio of two to one. SUMMIT is 965 feet long with a beam of 105 feet. We selected this cruise because of the 11-night itinerary.

We flew to Ft. Lauderdale without incident the day before the cruise. I recommend flying to the port at least a day before a cruise to allow some extra time in case of bad weather or other delays. We stayed at the Amerisuites near the port in Ft. Lauderdale because it's clean and has reasonable room rates. After getting our luggage at the airport, I used the nearby hotel courtesy phone to arrange for their free shuttle. Their shuttle service wasn't running that evening (driver absent), but the hotel desk clerk said to get a cab and bring them a receipt for reimbursement. Cabs are readily available just outside the luggage retrieval area at the airport; it's a 10 minute ride to the Amerisuites, and at check-in we were reimbursed in cash for the cab. The rooms at the Amerisuites include a separate living room area with a sofa bed, and there's a kitchenette with mini refrigerator, microwave oven, and coffee maker for your use. In the cabinets and drawers there are a few plates, cups, and silverware. There's a grocery store and liquor store within a few blocks' walking distance from the Amerisuites, just ask for directions at the hotel desk. Next door the hotel is an Outback Steakhouse, always good food. In the morning, the hotel has a continental-type breakfast in an area near the lobby. Since this was a Monday, there were only a few people milling about. On weekends, this place is bustling with activity and full of cruise passengers. The hotel's courtesy shuttle was running that morning but we decided to take a cab, total cost for two about $10. The taxi stopped at the security check point at the port to show ID and then was waved through.

Day #1, boarding SUMMIT in Ft. Lauderdale:

We arrived at the terminal about 10:30 AM and had porters take our luggage. There were plenty of Celebrity representatives around, checking paperwork to make sure everyone had all the required documents completed in order to make check-in quick and easy. We sat in the designated area for Captain's Club members and Suite guests. We were on the ship quickly after first going through the metal detectors and having carry-on bags checked by x-ray. Celebrity has really made things comfortable for early embarkation; your cabin is ready by Noon. Until that time, guests can relax in public areas on the ship, some bars are open, and there's a 'Welcome Aboard' buffet at Noon in the Waterfall Cafe. We peeked in at our cabin shortly after embarkation and it was ready for occupancy, so we dropped our carry-on bags there and headed down to the specialty restaurant, Normandie, to make our reservations.

The Normandie Restaurant:

The Normandie is SUMMIT's specialty restaurant, honoring the ship, SS Normandie that made her maiden voyage in 1935 from Le Havre, France, to New York City, US. The specialty restaurant seats about 150 per night in lovely surroundings, complete with original wall panels from the SS Normandie. Spend some time in the restaurant's foyer where you can learn about SS Normandie and see original menus and other interesting ship articles. We made our dinner reservations with the Maitre 'D, Dario Salinovic. A $25 per person fee is charged to your shipboard charge card. You will be served by three or four persons, sometimes simultaneously, as they do things with flair! Attire for the Normandie is dressy, a jacket and tie for men is required. The dinner is four courses and each has a suggested wine from the Normandie's extensive collection. Be sure to see where the wines are stored; the Sommeliers enjoy explaining about the wines. Some wines are reasonably priced and others, well, if you have to ask, you can't afford them! You will have an appetizer, a main course, a cheese course, the entree, and the dessert. For an appetizer, the goat cheese souffle is highly recommended. There is also lobster veloute, Caesar salad, onion soup, boned quail, and others. The entrees include rack of lamb that receives rave reviews, Chateaubriand that is fork-tender accompanied by fresh duck liver and sauce Perigourdine or Bernaise. Other choices include sea bass, Dover sole, shrimp Scampi wrapped in pancetta, and several other selections. All dishes are made to order and most are finished at the guests' table. Take your camera! Desserts are decadent. The chocolate souffle is totally yummy, and there are other temptations including a few bites of each of Michel Roux's favorite surprise desserts. To enhance the enjoyment of your 2.5 to 3-hour dining experience, live dinner music is provided. All this makes for a very memorable evening.

Back to the cabin:

Our cabin was a Category 3, located aft. These cabins are few in number and have generous space, a 271 sq. ft living area and 242 sq. ft. veranda. The bedroom is separated from the living room via a frosted glass and wood sliding door panel, very nice for privacy if two couples or a family are occupying these cabins. In the living room there is a full sofa that makes into a single bed, plus a loveseat that makes into a double bed. A television, coffee table, night stand with drawers, end tables with drawers, and storage cabinet with drawers and shelves are all located in this area. In the bedroom, the twin beds make up into a queen size bed with firm mattress. Extra pillows and blankets are stored at the top of the large, multi-door closet where drawers and a pull down rod for men's trousers, plus a tie rack, are found. A safe with key pad is in the closet and written instructions are provided for use of the safe. A very nice vanity area with more storage, and a corner hutch with glass shelves and decorative pieces (affixed to the shelf for safety), plus more shelves behind wood doors were located in this cabin. There is a television set and VCR. The bathroom is small, wll-lit, with a shower. Nice quality shampoo/conditioner and vanilla-scented skin lotion are found in the bathroom in dispensers. There is ample storage on shelves and below the sink and vanity. A waste bin is also discretely provided below the vanity and pulls down like a bin for use. A hair dryer and shaver receptacle is in the bathroom. (Many veteran cruise passengers take along a multi-plug strip and extension cord for use in their cabin.) The veranda had a shaded area and a large and small table, two chairs, and two chaise lounges. Part of the veranda area is shaded. The colors in the cabin were blue carpeting and orange plaid bed spread, orange print draperies. At first, the orange seemed a bit overwhelming but as time passed, the color scheme seemed appropriate; probably just a sign that we were truly relaxed and enjoying everything! Our cabin steward, Lourence, introduced himself shortly after our arrival. He and his assistant, Munir, did a superb job of keeping the cabin and bathroom pristine, and a fresh supply of Egyptian cotton towels at the ready. Shower caps and vanity packs are supplied. There is a mini-refrigerator in the cabin, stocked with beverages and snacks for purchase; if you ask your cabin steward/ess to remove them, they will do so. A carafe of water and ice are provided twice daily or more if you ask.

The Celebrity cabin attendants and Butlers all wear pagers/phones and respond immediately to your calls. If you want to dine in your cabin, you have many options. You may request the restaurant menus from your cabin steward/ess and be served from this menu during restaurant hours, you may order from the items on the cabin service menu, or you may place an order for a light breakfast from the cards at the back of the book you'll find in your cabin. You simply complete the card and place it on your door to have the light breakfast delivered at the specified time the following morning. They even call you several minutes prior to the delivery being made. The cabin service food was hot and tasty; we sampled these meals on several occasions. All of this, of course, is provided to you at no extra cost.

The Waterfall Cafe:

Our luggage arrived shortly after we returned to our cabin so we unpacked and then headed up two decks to the Waterfall Cafe for the 'Welcome Aboard' buffet. Celebrity's white-gloved staff carries your tray to the table, a hint of how pampered you will be for the entire cruise. They will also bring you tea, coffee, water, or juices. These people really want to please you with their smiles and excellent service. Trays are lined with linen. There were many tempting salads, homemade dressings, raw and cooked vegetables, fruits, cold cuts, breads and rolls, various entrees, carved-to-order meats and poultry, fish, etc. Save room for the desserts! You will find some of the best pastries on Celebrity, not only tempting to the eye, but delicious. All foods are fresh, not frozen, and made on board the ship. That includes the delicious ice creams and sherbets in exotic flavors like coconut, passion fruit, guava, mango, banana and others. You must taste these! Frozen low fat vanilla and chocolate yogurt is available each afternoon along with 'tea'. The tea time on Celebrity is a misnomer since a wide variety of garnished finger sandwiches, fresh fruits, luscious cakes, pastries, and cookies are available. There are also sugar-free dessert selections. Oh yes, pizza is prepared fresh in the ovens at the grill just outside the Waterfall Cafe. You can also call to have a pizza (sized like a 'personal' pizza) delivered to your cabin at no charge, in a Celebrity pizza box. The Waterfall Cafe was a very popular place for buffets at breakfast and lunch. At the aft of the ship in the Waterfall Cafe, there is a separate buffet offering different foods each day, e.g., Mexican food, Alaska seafood, Oriental, American, Italian, and so on. Don't forget about the omelet stations; selections change daily and you can also go here to have your eggs freshly scrambled or fried to order (say hello to Tyrone Aiken, Omelet King!) These same areas at lunch turn into pasta stations; pasta selections and sauces change daily but the tomato marinara sauce is always available. Note that the buffets and the omelet/pasta stations are identical in their offerings on each side of the ship.

Leaving Ft. Lauderdale:

Back to the first afternoon and evening on board SUMMIT, the muster begins at 4 PM and lasts about 20 minutes. All passengers are required to take part in the drill; instructions are provided in writing and on the television in your cabin. The place where you go with your life jacket to meet for muster is in the area assigned to your cabin. The crew reviews important safety information and shows everyone how to properly wear the life jacket. After this, you're led to the lifeboat deck with your assigned group until the drill has been completed. Don't forget your sunglasses as you may be assigned to muster on the sunny side of the ship during this drill.

The best Caribbean band on the seas, Onyx, began playing at poolside after the muster. At about 4:30 PM, the ship leaves port and sets out to the Atlantic past the houses and high rise condos from which people wave, horns blow, and Celebrity flags fly! Bar wait staff walks around to offer special sail-away drinks, but some of these are in souvenir glasses you keep, so be aware of this and ask if you aren't sure or you may be buying something you really don't want.

Shortly after leaving Ft. Lauderdale, the casino and the all the shops open. During the cruise there will be various tournaments held in the casino and many sales in the shops. You can buy anything from toothpaste to diamonds! There's also a cinema on board; however, the free movies shown were not recent releases. Pay-per-view movies are available on your cabin television. The free cabin television choices include the ship's information channels, CNN, music channels, and a couple of movie channels. Often, movies were dubbed over in Spanish. On your cabin television, you can also order wine for dinner, preview and book shore excursions, play casino games, order from the cabin service menu of food, and check the status of your on board charge account.

Main seating for dinner was at 6:30 PM, with late seating at 8:30 PM. The Cosmopolitan Restaurant is lovely, a two-level room aft, all non-smoking. Just behind the Captain's Table is a spectacular wall of windows. At night, it's covered with different 'scenes' on draperies, but if you dine there for breakfast or lunch, the windows are not covered. Note that there is an intermittent vibration felt if you are sitting on the lower level of the dining room. This was not bothersome to most I spoke with. We were seated with friends at a table for four on the upper level. We had the best Waiter, Ercan, and the best Waiter Assistant, Deniz! Matter of fact, Deniz was serving as an assistant for the last time, having just received a promotion to Waiter. Always trust the judgment of your Waiter and seek his advice about what's best on the menu that evening. The first few nights, the fish dishes were overcooked, but for the remainder of the cruise, fish was delicious and prepared to perfection. One menu item to avoid is the sirloin strip steak. On every Celebrity ship we try this, and on every ship, it's tough. The menus are changing in January, and hopefully the strip steaks in the restaurant will just go away. I should point out that all the other steaks and beef dishes on board are just fine.

There was a Welcome Aboard Show and Introductions in the main theater and later there was an Italian midnight buffet; we did not attend either. The show was called, 'A Taste of Things To Come' and featured the vocal styles of the a cappella group, Metro, and the Celebrity Orchestra, singers and dancers.

Day #2, Key West, Florida:

Key West has arts, crafts, souvenir shops, restaurants, bars (including the famous Sloppy Joe's), water sports, and marine museums. For a small charge, you can take a trolley to tour the town but you can also cover a lot of ground in the downtown area by walking. Excursions available include catamaran sailing and snorkeling, kayak adventures, etc. Check out the Key West Aloe stores for great aloe lotions and similar products. Go to the Key Lime store and have a frozen, chocolate-covered key lime pie slice on a stick but be aware, they are very, very rich.

Always take your Celebrity ID card and a photo ID when you leave the ship, as it will be checked upon your return. Bags are subject to hand examination and x-ray.

Late afternoon, I met with Nestor, the Assistant Food Manager of the Buffet. This nice gentleman is in charge of the Alternative Dining area, held each night in a roped-off area of the Waterfall Cafe. The menu changes every two days or so. I have menus and will be happy to give you more information if you send me an e-mail. Celebrity has realized that more and more cruisers are enjoying the option of no formal or dressy attire for dinners. One can call to make a reservation here and there is no charge for the meal or service. The entree is prepared to your specification; this and your beverages are served by wait staff. You go to a small buffet area to select and pick up your appetizer, salad, and dessert. I spoke to many passengers who ate here, and they all said the experience was very good, some returning several nights during the cruise.

This is the night of the Captain's Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party, held in the grand foyer on decks 3, 4, and 5. The Scherzando String Quartet provided music.

The show tonight was 'Encore!', a production show featuring the Celebrity Orchestra, singers, and dancers. There were some very nice vocals. I still think Celebrity has a way to go with providing great entertainment. Not that the singers and dancers don't give 100%, it's just that Celebrity remains weak in this area by not providing more headliner entertainment.

Day #3, Cozumel, Mexico:

There is a lot to do in and around Cozumel including shopping for all kinds of souvenirs and liquors (buy your .925 or higher silver jewelry at great prices), water sports of all kinds, excursions to ruins, adventure tours, dolphin encounters, etc. We were in port with five other ships that day; oh yes, the town gets very busy. Taxis are abundant and cost about $5 per person from where most of the ships dock to the downtown area, a bit more to go to beaches.

I had the pleasure of meeting today with Mr. Daniel Elias, Hotel Manager on SUMMIT. He was recently promoted to this position, and one can understand why immediately. This man leads by example, shows attention to detail without any fuss, and he is very charming and warm. His job is to provide Celebrity's guests with an exceptional cruise experience from a hotel perspective. He supervises all personnel and ship functions except, of course, for the Captain and the food and beverages. These things he accomplishes with perfection and sincere Greek hospitality.

Tonight's show was 'The Hilarious Comedy of Noodles Levenstein'. We missed this show, but others said Levenstein was entertaining and they enjoyed his performance. The Tex-Mex celebration was held poolside beginning at 11 PM, with Onyx playing. There was also a Mexican buffet.

Day #4, At Sea:

A day to catch sun or sit around the pool or take part in any of the on board activities including organized sports, culinary demonstrations, bingo, arts and crafts, wine tasting, etc. I have copies of all the scheduled activities for each day on board SUMMIT, so let me know if you would like specifics. Remember to read your daily ship's newsletter to keep informed of each day's events because Celebrity has a policy of making no announcements on the PA system. Don't try to go to everything or you will ruin your cruise!

I think it was this morning that the ship had a problem. We decided to eat in the Cosmopolitan Restaurant for breakfast to sample the Eggs Benedict and the banana pancakes (the only things not available at the buffet). Suddenly, the ship began to list to one side and there was a pronounced shudder. The silverware and some plates and glasses slid off tables, and the sounds of breaking china could be heard from the galley. An announcement came on the PA system that the ship had suffered a loss of power in the electrical steering system and the technicians would be working on it. We were told that the ship would proceed slowly on course until the problem was resolved. This took about 30-45 minutes, and another announcement was made saying everything was once again normal. Over 700 souvenir mugs in the gift shops, Lalique crystal bowls in the suites, numerous pieces of china and glassware in the galley, were all lost due to sudden and severe listing.

There were a large number of elderly guests on this cruise and most of them seemed to be enjoying themselves but unfortunately, there were a few who needed medical evacuation from foreign ports (a good reason to buy trip insurance!). There were many New York and Florida residents on board. And yes, there were some guests on board who seemed to find fault at every turn. So, if you happen to be on a cruise with one or more of these people who may be speaking out loud in the negative, remember that they are probably not very happy even when they're home. I believe that a cruise vacation is what you make it. If you ever encounter a situation on board any ship that you dislike, go see the staff at Guest Relations. You can believe it, no cruise line would purposely make a guest unhappy about their cruise experience.

This morning I met with 'Sam' who is the Assistant Maitre D' in the AquaSpa Cafe , located forward in the ship in the thelassotherapy pool area. Sam can also be found in the Normandie Restaurant. He was obviously proud of the AquaSpa Cafe and encouraged us to be sure to feast on the poached salmon served with grilled asparagus and ratatouille for one of our on board lunches. (We did so and it was delicious!) In this cafe, you select from light and lean cuisine. A chef stands by to prepare your entree as you wish. If you don't like poached salmon, simply ask for it to be grilled. The menu here changes every couple of days. They also serve a spa cuisine breakfast. All of these offerings are well worth exploring, so don't miss them.

The thelassotherapy pool on board SUMMIT is in a lovely indoor area, and use of it is included in the price of your cruise. The warm sea and mineral water bubbles up to soothe you. There are Jacuzzi tubs and saunas in this area, too. The teak deck chairs with lumbar supports and head rests are very comfortable, and one would see guests snoozing here or enjoying the quiet area with a good book. Soft, pastel blue towels are provided for use after the thelassotherapy pool or Jacuzzi, or to place on the deck chairs.

The spa on SUMMIT is an amazing place and well-recognized as being one of the best and largest at sea. For spa enthusiasts, you will be in sensory heaven here with a wide choice of treatments including Rasul, aroma stones, salt rubs, aromatherapy wraps, massages, etc. Some 'ceremonies' take about 5 hours to complete and are advertised for 'guests who desire complete rejuvenation'. Spa treatments are not included in the price of your cruise, but are charged to the credit card you gave for on board charges. SUMMIT's gym contains state of the art equipment. It is at the forward portion of the ship, allowing for an unobstructed sea view while you walk or run on treadmills, or use the bicycles.

We only saw about a dozen or so children on board SUMMIT for this sailing, but all of them had happy faces as they were escorted by the ship's children's program staff to various organized, age-specific activities.

Tonight we dined at the Captain's Table, a large table all the way aft on the lower level of the Cosmopolitan Restaurant. We met first with Amanda Reid, Social Hostess, in the Champagne Bar, to enjoy a cocktail with our other tablemates. Amanda is truly gracious and makes all guests feel special. Shortly after the main restaurant opened for second seating, she led us all down the restaurant's grand staircase to the Captain's Table. Excellent wines, great food, and interesting conversation were had by all. What a special formal event to enjoy and as always, long stemmed red roses were presented to the ladies upon conclusion of the meal. The ship's photographer had delivered the complimentary Captain's Table photograph to our cabin by the time we returned there that evening.

The show tonight was 'A Night of Stars!', featuring the Celebrity Orchestra, singers, and dancers.

Day #5, Limon, Costa Rica:

To appreciate the beauty of Costa Rica, you have to book an excursion! Some excursions take you into the interior sections to view the rain forest; other excursions were available including sightseeing tours and white water rafting. Local vendors had set up tables and booths outside the small port terminal building. Handicrafts and souvenirs of all kinds were available for purchase and haggling over price was expected. Outside the fenced-in terminal building, you will be approached by local taxi drivers and tour operators. We walked a few blocks to the market area just to have a look. The area is dirty. The people here are obviously poor, but we were not approached by panhandlers. From the market, we walked along the sea wall. There's a city park near the market area, quite lush and overgrown with tropical plants and trees. Coffee is a recommended purchase in Costa Rica and if you have any questions, the ship's Port and Shopping Guide is available to assist you. Her talks run continuously on the ship's television in case you don't want to go to the Celebrity Theater to sit and listen. Of course, she does give away nice door prizes at these talks! Coupons for discounted merchandise in all the ports are available at her talks as well as at the ship's gangway when you exit for your day in the ports visited.

As on other cruises, art is auctioned almost daily for those interested and free art is sometimes given away along with champagne, just for attending. This is in the area of SUMMIT where the Cova Cafe de Milano is, so stop by and enjoy some hot-from-the-oven croissants and pastries (no charge), and specialty coffees, liquors, and teas. Pleasant harp or other music is played in this area.

The guest participation 'Newlywed - Not So Newlywed' show was held tonight in the Celebrity Theater. In the Revelations Club, Metro and Onyx performed.

Day #6, Colon, Panama

The port terminal building is fairly new and clean. A group of Panamanians performed as we exited the ship, dancing and playing their musical instruments. They were interesting to watch and hear. Tips were being placed in the hat of one member of their company. There are many excursions available, but we had arranged a private tour with Giovanni Smith, a tour conductor. His supervisor is Raul. Both speak English. Giovanni first drove us the 15-20 minutes to the Panama Canal Gatun Locks. It was of great interest to see this in person, up close, how the huge and heavy ships are moved along the Canal. Don't miss this tour! Full transit through the Canal takes 8-9 hours and ships have paid over $200,000 to do so, still less money than having to sail around South America. SUMMIT was built to Panamax standards, allowing her to go through the Panama Canal, but she barely fits with only inches to spare all around! After the Canal tour, our driver took us through what he called the 'rich' neighborhoods, homes he said were mostly occupied by Americans, with burglar bars on all windows and doors and lush, tropical landscaping. We also saw the Hotel Washington and El Catedral. We then went with him through the downtown area, an extremely busy and very noisy place. We didn't shop here, but waited until we were back at the various shops and vendor stands at the terminal building. Again, haggling for price is expected here.

Back on the way to the ship, a troupe of Panamanian children in brightly-colored dress performed dances and sang for the crowd.

SUMMIT has an internet cafe where you can connect for 95 cents per minute. For $6.95 you can have a photo taken and send it with two e-mail messages. On board, there were classes available for how to use Word, Excel, etc.

The show in the Celebrity Theater tonight was 'The Magic of Broadway', featuring the Celebrity Orchestra, singers, and dancers.

Day #7, Cartagena, Colombia, South America:

Book an excursion to see Cartagena and surrounding areas. It is not advised to go out on your own here. Friends went to the Monastery and the Fort and enjoyed these tours, but said they were surrounded by hundreds of children panhandling and asking for American dollar bills. The excursion buses stop for a brief period of shopping on the way back to the ship. Coffee and emeralds are big sellers here. The ship's Port and Shopping Guide can provide valuable information. At the new terminal building, several shops and a bar have set up business and this is within walking distance of the ship. A wide variety of souvenirs are available here.

While on SUMMIT, visit the Conservatory Floral and Gift Boutique where you will find a peaceful setting and beautiful Emilio Robba silk floral arrangements, orchids, plants, and candles. For formal nights and other special occasions, corsages and boutonnières are available for purchase.

For cigar and pipe smoking guests, Michael's Club offers a private lounge that is well-ventilated and very comfortable. Enjoy a cognac here.

Hannakuh services were held on board SUMMIT this week in the Celebrity Theater.

For those interested in board games, cards, listening to music on CD's, or reading, all of these are available on SUMMIT in Words (the library) and Notes (music library).

Tonight, the show features Metro and Kirby St. Romain, the 'sound effects' guy. Big Band dancing follows the show in Revelations, with music played by the Celebrity Orchestra.

Day #8, Oranjestad, Aruba:

This is one happy island, really! That's what it says on their car license plates! Walking into town for shopping and a casino takes only a few minutes. There is a mall in which you will find designer clothes and various items. There are beautiful Dutch handicrafts and collectibles available in shops located a few blocks away from the immediate downtown. All kinds of souvenirs are also available from local vendors set up all along the main walkway. Many of us took excursions or tours to see the beautiful beaches and other island areas.

Tonight in the Celebrity Theater, we are treated to the piano performance of international recording star Antonio Salci. Later, there is the fun 'Island Night Celebration' and be sure to take your camera to capture your favorite 'melons on parade!' Onyx plays at poolside for this event. Enjoy the tropical fruit and sherbet buffet (yes, there are lots of other things to eat at this buffet, too!)

Day #9, At Sea:

Lots of deck chaise lounges for sunning were available on this cruise. Pool and deck chair towels are available pool-side. Your cabin attendant will put large, nice quality beach towels in your cabin each time the ship goes to a port. They ask that you return the towels to your cabin for pick-up. The towels are available for purchase for $29 each. The cotton, waffle weave bathrobes for use in your cabin are also available for purchase at $49 each.

A lovely surprise tonight, chocolate-covered strawberries and fine wine, are delivered to our cabin! We very much enjoyed these as we sat on the veranda with only the sound of the ocean and the beautiful night sky full of stars.

In the Celebrity Theater, comedian Noodles Levenstein entertained along with vocalist, Darby Pope.

Day #10, Georgetown, Grand Cayman Island:

SUMMIT and all ships visiting Grand Cayman Island anchor off the island and tender (boat) service is provided to shore. Tenders run continuously throughout the day; it only takes about 10 minutes to accomplish. If you are not on a shore excursion purchased on board, you will go to the Celebrity Theater to get a tender ticket and in a matter of minutes, you'll board the tenders.

Once on the island, we took a taxi ($3 per person) a few miles out of town to the part of Seven Mile Beach that's wide and has soft sand (towards Conch Beach). Close to town, the beach is narrow, the sand is very coarse and full of shell bits, and there are rocks immediately off shore. Although the beach is public property, there are some motels and hotels that have staff posted at their alley-way entrances charging $3-$5 per person to allow you to cross over onto the beach. This is supposedly because you might use the 'facilities' at their properties. These places also charge extra for chairs, umbrellas, etc. Some taxi drivers may take you to these places, so clarify this point with the driver if you want these facilities or not. If not, tell the driver to drop you at a public access.

Grand Cayman Island, like Cozumel and Aruba, has an abundance of shopping and excursion activities. If you have never snorkled with the stingrays, this is your chance! The excursion boat takes you out to a sand bar where you can stand in shallow water to watch or snorkel with the stingrays. Remember to take along a disposable underwater camera. Buy plenty of film and your disposable camera before you leave home. On board, a roll of 36-exposure Fuji film for 35 mm cameras is over $12. In the ports, it's not much less. If you are a fan of the Tortuga Rum Cakes available at the stores in Georgetown, they cost the same on the ship as they do in the stores.

Tonight, 'Classique, La Danza' was the show in the Celebrity Theater. Also performing were Antonio Salci and the Chinese Acrobats, Ming Li and Guidon Xu. After the show, 'Le Grand Buffet' opened at 12:15 AM for guests who wish to take photos. Shortly thereafter, it reopens for those wanting to indulge in the impressive buffet. If you haven't seen this buffet, it's worth attending.

Celebrity has done away with every night Midnight buffets. It was explained to me that there are so many opportunities to have food (this is an understatement!), the second seating dinner guests don't finish up their meals until 10-10:30 PM, and the amount of buffet food that they were discarding was enormous. On nights when there are no Midnight buffets, wait staff circulate throughout the ship's lounges serving 'Gourmet Bites' from Midnight until 1 AM. These are delicious tid bits of various kinds including excellent Beef Wellington and crab puffs. Dessert items such as chocolate truffles and lemon tarts are also brought.

Day #11, At Sea:

A somewhat cloudy day, probably reflecting the gloom of knowing the cruise vacation is about to come to an end. Tonight, it's customary to tip those whom you feel have given you excellent service. Last night, envelopes were left in your cabin for this purpose. Tipping is by nature a very personal matter, but suggested guidelines for tipping are as follows: $3.50 per person, per day for the Waiter and Cabin Attendant, and Butler, if you had one; $2.00 per person, per day for the Waiter Assistant. There are other suggested tip amounts that are less, for the Chief Housekeeper and the Maitre 'D. This is the packing day and tonight before midnight, you will place your packed luggage outside your cabin for pick-up. Colored tags will be provided to you by your cabin attendant to affix to the luggage. The color represents when you will be leaving the ship the following morning. Captain's Club and Suites, and those with the earliest flights, leave the ship first. Don't forget to leave something out to wear tomorrow morning, plus medications, valuables, and any airline and other documents you need!

The Farewell Show tonight featured comedian Kirby St. Romain, vocalists Metro, and the "Our Cruise in Review" video. Tonight is also the final jackpot bingo. The amount won on this cruise was well over $2,000 to a lucky retired woman. When asked what she would do with the money, she quickly replied, "go on another cruise!"

Day #12, return to Ft. Lauderdale:

Since the tragic events that occurred on Sept. 11th, each cruise passenger including children are required to report in person this morning to US Immigration Officers on board the ship. A letter of instruction is provided to you by your cabin attendant the night before. You take this letter with you, along with proof of citizenship and photo. The times for reporting were staggered; we reported at 7:45 AM, our Canadian friends reported at 6:30 AM. The line was long, but the entire process moved right along and only took 15 minutes. Afterwards, we ate breakfast in the Cosmopolitan Restaurant with our friends. It's open seating (meaning you may be eating at a table other than where you were assigned for dinners, and you may be seated with strangers). Ercan, our Waiter, saw us and escorted us to 'our' table in his section, a very thoughtful gesture. If you wish to have breakfast elsewhere on the morning of debarkation, you may arrange for Cabin Service or go to the buffet in the Waterfall Cafe. We waited in our cabin until about 8:30 AM after breakfast, and we were off the ship by 9:15 AM. You'll locate and fetch your luggage down in the terminal building. It will be placed in the 'yellow' area if your colored luggage tag was yellow, red area if tag was red, and so forth. Porters are available to assist you with your luggage. Plenty of taxis are available outside and if you arranged transport via the cruise line, a bus will be waiting for you (and others) who've made such plans. A taxi ride to the airport is about $10 for two persons. There will be plenty of Celebrity staff to help you this morning.

This cruise was wonderful! Please feel free to contact me by e-mail or at www.cruisesinc.com/kmajor if you have any questions or would like further information. This was my seventh cruise on Celebrity.