by Rob F
July 4, 2010
Why do we cruise? In my experience, we decide where to go and if we have a Cruise Company favorite we try to book with them. Often times we may jump around the industry to find and try a new Company's experience. After that, and aside from the ports, we base our on-board experience upon 3 major items. Our cabin and staff, the entertainment and amenities, and the food. Let's face it, the rule of thirds applies, but I think we weigh heavily on the food. My Wife and I are Foodies. We own and operate a very high-end gourmet food establishment for healthy gourmet and cater some of the most decadent parties involving 5 Star Food. We are predisposed to being hard on chefs, recipes, presentation, and quality. I will never bash a chef for an errant mistake. Kitchen staff are human and we all make mistakes, but there is never an excuse for anything beyond one bad meal. Before I do the ‘food' portion of my review, I'd like to start with the Ship, Cabin and Staff.
The Celebrity Summit is a nice old ship. I am not a fan of the Oasis or Liberty "city" experience. Having been on the Liberty last New Year's and hating the size and crowds, we opted for a nice romantic getaway to New England and Canada. For us, this time was to be mostly about relaxing and recharging. This aspect of our Cruise experience was a homerun! Our Cabin was a Royal Suite. Plush wood, 2 rooms, and a huge bathroom plus the veranda were delicious! While the furniture was old and the couches could have been updated; the bed being a bit too hard for my taste and pillows that never alleviated a sore neck, I was more than willing to overlook this. Our Butler Rikki, was an extraordinary individual who was always eager to please and seemed to anticipate all of our needs and desires, and this is why he got a great tip on our last day. The ship and noticeable from our veranda has quite a bit of rust. Looking up from our balcony and the underside of railings and rigging revealed a ship in need of a major re-paint and refurb.
The wood decking needed sanding and a lot of TLC. The veranda hot-tub was disgusting and uninviting so we declined to use this nice private amenity that could have provided a romantic bonus. The staff tend to clean only what they can see, and many have blinders on. There is a boatload of dust everywhere. In the Waterfall dining area there are several square Plexiglas displays that have paper decoupage' inside them. On the top was a layer of thick dust, and this is in an area where people are eating 4 feet away. I pointed this out the staff and they basically brushed it off almost as business as usual. Again to me, disgusting. So in a nutshell, many areas, the pool, bars, exterior and interior are in need of rehab.
The entertainment is not Broadway, but more like a professional summer-stock theater. Not bad! A couple of decent comedians rounded out the mix. The onboard bands we just ok. They were perfect for the older crowd, but not my cup of tea; and I really wasn't expecting more than what was delivered so I was ok with all of it. I just went with the flow. In all, the onboard experience was perfectly fine. If you wanted to relax, this was ideal. The AquaSpa was terrific as an experience and it attracted the older guests as expected. There are no kids allowed in this pool area so if any parents wanted to retreat for some down-time this was the place to go. The Casino the (Apple) iLounge, and club areas were all great and seemed to be well kept.
The food quality in Main Dining Room (MDR) was always poor and in most every case horrible. We dined with two other couples and we were in constant agreement along with other passengers that the food needed a complete overhaul. One of our tablemates is a vegetarian and her food offerings were disgusting. In fact until the third day of the cruise, none of us had any idea that there was indeed a Vegetarian Menu. A rib-eye streak served to us was ¼ inch thick, tough, and overdone. Food was overcooked, and cold. Dishes were inedible and poorly presented, but the promises for improvement never came. Omelets in the Waterfall were loaded with oil and grease. Poached eggs were hardboiled, and scrambled eggs were a mix of real and powdered. Desserts looked great but tasted disgusting. Simply, there is no fineness to any of the food. Nachos at the outdoor grill were stale, and the burgers and hotdogs simply tasteless. The burgers sat in their own grease before serving. I just don't know where to end this assault on my gastronomic senses. Everything I have learned about food from my mother and in my profession as a gourmet food lover and provider defied logic.
Our first night in the Normandy was mostly a good experience. I had Lobster that seemed to be seasoned with 5 Spice powder. Anise and Lobster do not go together, ever! The service and our 3 other visits to the Normandy were excellent, but at the additional $35/pp fee we found this a necessity to actually enjoy any dinner meal. By about the fourth night we totally gave up on the MDR. Overall and with exception to the Normandy, food quality was poor and this represents at least a third of the cruise experience.
The food service staff are mostly from India, and struggle with every ability to provide quality. Breakfast buffet meals were never really hot, and the struggle to move through the lines and retain a completely hot meal is a challenge. Celebrity touts their food and in no way did it come up to our expectations, and never did it exceed or excel. I have learned as a professional in the Gourmet Food Industry, NEVER over-promise and under-deliver. Now comes the question you really want answered, "Will I cruise on Celebrity again?" I'm really torn about this. Sure, there will be people who say the food was fantastic, and I respectfully say you are nuts, SORRY! I liked the service staff and most everything not associated with the food but unless there is a major change and a commitment to the menu, I can't say for sure that I'd return as a Celebrity guest. As of now and because of the serious problem with the food, I do not recommend Celebrity and in particular the Summit with this Executive Chef.