by Gary - September 5, 2010
Back-to-Back Review aboard the Summit
Bermuda (7) and N.E. / Canada (14)
My partner and I just returned from another wonderful Celebrity vacation, just a week ago. This particular cruise we chose to do a back-to-back cruise on board the GTS Celebrity Summit. The itinerary was as follows:
September 5-12: Bermuda, sailing out of Cape Liberty
We have only been cruising for about 10-years now, so we do not quite have our Masters in the High Seas, but we have sailed many times with 95% of our cruises on Celebrity. The other two were on Princess (an awful experience as noted on another review - staying on the banks of the Amazon would have been better) and Carnival (which was fine for a first cruise to get my feet wet).
Our Concierge Class cabin was 9038. We have stayed in this cabin on all of the M-class Celebrity ships. The room is nice and provides a "bump-out" veranda, which is close to two times the size of an average veranda. The views forward and aft are amazing - as well as directly out to sea. We also like being directly below the Spa.
So, our flight into New York was uneventful thanks to American Airlines. We overnighted at the Marriott Residence (if you have the opportunity, the Courtyard next door is a star higher). Our adopted Jewish mother, Parrot Mom, e-mailed us Saturday evening to let us know the Summit was going to be late coming into Bayonne as the ship had battled a couple of days at sea thanks to an earlier hurricane. Rather than an early arrival, we opted to arrive around 2:30 or 3 PM, which was smart. Others who did not get the message were waiting to board for many hours. We breezed right through check-in, got our Sea Pass cards and joined the throng of cruisers waiting. The =X= ship had recently arrived, so passengers were still in the process of disembarking and the crew was cleaning her for our voyage.
We boarded around 5 PM and set sail just after 8 PM. The red, white and blue lights from the Bayonne Bridge were beautiful. We were serenaded all through sail-away (and our dinner on our veranda) by our neighbors who brought along their guitar. It was peaceful and beautiful listening to them both sing for a couple of hours.
After two days at sea we enjoyed docking at the Royal Naval Dockyard. We followed an avid Bermuda-Cruiser's advice and decided to work our way back in. That is, our first port day we took the ferry out to St. George's. (We purchased the two-day ferry / bus pass - great deal!!). The high-speed ferry was a nice ride. We enjoyed the sun, while we had it. St. George's seemed like a sleepy town. Lots of shops, but truthfully we never saw much of anything we wanted to bring back. Perfume shops seemed to be the big push from =X= and St. George's. We visited the "Unfinished Church" which was amazing to see, and also the Somer's Garden which was a great experience. We had a Dark and Stormy and a Rum Swizzle at the Swizzle Inn, along with a huge plate of excellent Nachos! This was after our tour of Crystal Caves (which was a joke to us). The tour guide "Ron" at Crystal Caves was over the top. Actually, he aided in ruining the experience. Just an awful, awful guide. Nonetheless, the drinks at the Swizzle Inn took that bad vide away!
The following day we took the ferry to Hamilton which was a bustling town. Hit the touristy shops on Front Street. The HAL Veendam was docked there as well, but there wasn't too much traffic. When we returned from Hamilton we decided to do a Jet Ski tour. In Bermuda one cannot take off on a Jet Ski rental, but must go in a group. This was fine. The Yamaha jet skis were all brand new and large! The "tour" was about 60-70 minutes. There were around 8 of us. Our leader took us all over, under the "Worlds Smallest Drawbridge", through St. Georges, and even out in the Atlantic! At one point he had to come back to me (I was the last in the formation) and told me I needed to "keep up with the group". After awhile I abated the fear of wiping out and had a blast. While we were skiing in the ocean, the skies opened up and it began to rain. If you haven't been on a Jet Ski while raining, it feels like little needles all over your body! All in all, it was very fun.
Our last day we stayed local in Dockyard and visited the craft market, stores, the fort or Dockyard and had an amazing lunch at the Frog and Onion. We tried hopping on the little white train that stops at the ship (complimentary) and takes you through Dockyard, but the train would always stop at the NCL ship first, so when it got to =X=, it was full of NCL passengers... and they weren't getting off! Once again, we walked to the town, which is a very nice walk around the marina and only takes about 10-15 minutes.
We walked up to the man-made beach at Dockyard, where they boast of Jet Skis (not the two we rented, which was right at the Marina and ferry ticket booth), a food court, canopied bed areas to lounge about, etc. We took one look, walked around for maybe 15-minutes and left. To us, it was a joke. They were trying to get us to come back for an evening party and kept saying, "And we have beautiful girls... lots of beautiful girls... " yeah, whatever, LOL. It looked like a younger party scene anyway. Just kind of trashy and blah.
Luckily for us we were in between hurricanes. As we were having lunch at the Frog and Onion, once again the clouds opened up but this time it was a non-stop downpour. The thunder claps were some of the loudest I have heard. Soon thereafter we were back on the ship and headed back to Cape Liberty, with another day at sea.
Bermuda was a great trip. I proposed to my partner on the journey back to the US, so it will be memorable for us. While we would consider going back to Bermuda, we prefer the Polynesian Islands and other Caribbean islands to Bermuda. It was a fairly clean island though and glad we were able to go!
When we arrived back in Bayonne, we were able to disembark quickly as we were sailing on the New England / Canada voyage as well. We visited Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty while we waited for our second boarding. Visiting Lady Liberty is an emotional experience, or it was for us. What we both found not only endearing but warm-hearted were the thousands of tourists we saw and how ethnically and culturally diverse everyone was... not the stereo-typical White person, but so many groups were there to honor and respect our country's freedom and one of the symbols of her freedom. I found myself being extremely proud to be an American... and we found ourselves very proud for walking up to the crown in Lady Liberty. It was a memorable experience, for our legs and calves as well as our well-being!
When we re-boarded the ship, there was a slight problem with our Sea Pass cards. They ushered us over to a couch and kept us content on champagne while we waited. Then it was time to sail away, again!
This was our second time on a 14-day N.E. / Canada cruise. The colors were just beginning to turn, but we saw many deep reds and oranges while in Canada.
We had 5 "Sea Days" along with the following ports:
Newport, Rhode Island: Our second favorite port on this cruise. Typical white-steepled churches, quaint shops and very nice locals. We took the morning and traipsed around the marina-town and later took an excursion to see the Mansions and do the Cliff Walk. We saw the Breakers (Vanderbilt's) mansion, which was a great tour! The Cliff walk was partial, but so glad we did it. The weather was nice, sunny with some clouds. Tour directors were great and the people we met were fun!
Boston, Mass.: We couldn't wait to arrive in Boston. Our adopted Jewish parents live here, Parrot Mom & Parrot Pop. They picked us up at the pier in the late morning. After some great hugs and a port-side reunion, we hopped in the car and Parrot Pop drove us to the Prudential Building where we boarded a WW2 amphibious vehicle for the Boston Duck Tour. It was an 80-minute tour and quite nice! The tour guide was hilarious and informative. After the tour we were treated to lunch at Skip Jacks, where we had by far, the absolute BEST lobster rolls (1/2 pound of meat!), clam chowder, Bloody Marys and Steamer clams. This was followed by the restaurants very own and famous Chocolate Bread Pudding. We made the trip back to our Summit, said some tearful farewells and re-boarded.
Portland, Maine: After arriving, we quickly boarded our coach and headed for downtown Portland, where we enjoyed a down-town educational tour. Then we were taken to Kennebunk and Kennebunkport where we enjoyed more history from our luxurious coach, a couple of hours of shopping and clam-eating (the best fried clams is at the Clam Shack!) and strolling through this very quaint town. I have to say though (and being a liberal doesn't spark this question), why does Bush fly his TEXAN flag at his estate in Maine? I was put off by that alone... oh well. I digress...
Bar Harbor, Maine: (Otherwise known as "Baaa Haaaba"). The last time we visited this quaint village, was during Hurricane Wilma in 2005. We didn't get to see much. This time however, we were able to enjoy our walk through town. Enjoyed a repeat lunch at Geddy's (Crab and Lobster sammies, but not as good as Skip Jacks!). We found a couple of pet stores where we enjoyed spending time and buying souvenirs for our "Bear" who we had to leave at home. The shop keepers and shops themselves are fun to visit. The people are nice, and [generally] quite happy to visit and welcome you... except for one shop, "Sun Catchers". We won't get into it here, but will be posting a negative review on the shop keeper. In short, one of the grumpiest, unhappy people we've ever met. We felt compelled to actually picket his store after his abrasive and rude treatment, but thought better of it. We decided to just snap a picture and post on the Internet. Much better coverage that way!
Halifax, Nova Scotia: Again, the last time we were here it was pouring down rain and we did not see much. We enjoyed this visit very much. We took the HOHO bus on their three different routes. We enjoyed getting off at various spots such as the Citadel, Public Gardens (a true Victorian garden) and downtown Halifax. We walked, and walked and walked. Had a wonderful lunch at a cozy jazz club / pub tucked far away from the tourists! There were a lot of bees though! Early in the morning we were enjoying some coffee and pastries at a coffee house, across from where the ship was docked and the bees just came out of nowhere! We found lots of bees in Prince Edward Island and Quebec too, though. Interesting.
Quebec City, Quebec: Our favorite port on this cruise. We overnighted here and enjoyed our two days in Quebec. We walked through Old Town the first day. We found a jeweler who was able to repair my partner's bracelet. The cobblestone streets make for a good workout, too! We found a French pastry shop and brought back to our cabin some yummy maple desserts! The second day we tried to get lost away from all the tourists. We took the funicular to upper or "new" town, walked through the Chateau Frontenac and then found a cozy little restaurant where we enjoyed first-hand, Canadian French Crepes for breakfast! What an amazing experience! We tried the ham and cheese crepes with Béchamel sauce... truly it was a wonderful treat. We found that most shop keepers and locals appreciate a "Bon Jour" or "Merci". This really goes a long way with the locals. Even if one doesn't speak French. They appreciate the tourist respecting their homeland and native language. Sadly, we found so many tourists and cruisers who really didn't care... or wouldn't make an effort (remember the term, "Ugly American"?) Of course then there are the tourists who sport their HUGE red, white and blue flag covered sweat shirts, ball caps, American slogans, etc. I don't get it... you're in someone else's country, and you're advertising your own. Hello? The weather was amazing the first day, and the second day we experienced cold and lots of rain! We made it in time to our ship where we were cozy and cocooned in the Aqua Spa. We floated around in the Thalassotherapy Pool and watched the rains come down, pretty hard as we sailed away from our favorite port.
Charlottetown, P.E.I.: I really tried to get into the "Anne of Green Gables" movie before we left home, so I would understand this fictional person and her hometown. I couldn't, but still enjoyed Charlottetown! The town is very walk-able. It appeared as though they have a large theater following, and were currently running, "Hairspray", starring George Wendt as Edna! It's a shame a matinee was not playing, as we would have enjoyed watching the show. Instead, we walked and walked, taking pictures of churches, gardens and the beautiful sea before us. We stopped for lunch at the Lobster Wharf for a (you guessed it) lobster lunch and then strolled through the terminal where we enjoyed the local artisan crafts. We boarded the ship and sadly bid our farewell to Canada and prepared for two glorious days at sea.
So I'm afraid we weren't able to share too many "exciting" events at our ports of call. This particular cruise was a wind-down for us. It wasn't as jam-packed as our European or exotic cruises, but still, just what we needed after a year of work and daily structure! Besides, we have been to most of these ports before, so it was refreshing to step off the vessel and walk around town, taking in whatever new sites we could.
A little about the GTS Celebrity Summit:
Our favorite ship so far is the Constellation. Although she is an older ship, her service speaks volumes. We were under the assumption that the Summit would be a close second, if not a steady tie. We were sadly mistaken. Please don't get us wrong, we immensely enjoyed our two cruises on board the Summit, but it surely isn't the Constellation. No, there were no "pod problems" as one particular avid Princess cruiser continually slams the Celebrity forums about, lol. Not one mechanical problem on either cruise actually (unlike the many on our one Princess cruise). That's a different review though...
Sure the Summit is older and she is beginning to show her wear and tear, but the staff does an amazing job ALL day and ALL night. Every time we stepped foot outside of our cabin we found the staff vacuuming, dusting, sterilizing, wiping down banisters and rails, painting, cleaning... you name it! Yes there is rust in some areas, but come on people... it's a SHIP! She spends between 48 and 52 weeks a year, at sea! To all the crabby and grumpy cruisers who find a chip of rust or worn carpets / wood distasteful, perhaps you're vacationing in the wrong venue. Honestly, by the time we got off the ship, we turned around and looked at her and both of us commented on how quickly they were able to re-paint everything! If not the whole hull, they re-painted a good portion of it. She is still a beautiful ship.
Although the service was great, it was not to be compared with the Constellation... perhaps even a little less than the Infinity. Still, the staff for the most part went out of their way to please every guest. We were more shocked with how many of the tourists spoke to the staff, in condescending tones! I don't know what it is about some vacationers, maybe they're as arrogant and rude at home... but I was always taught to treat others with courtesy, dignity and respect. I wasn't taught to bark orders at someone if I was patronizing their store, hotel or ship.
Food: We read some very mixed reviews on the MDR and other gastronomical venues. In short, we LOVED the MDR. We had a lovely table for 2 (table 537 first leg and table 555 second leg) on Deck 5, overlooking the MDR's 4th deck and a good part of the 5th deck. Our servers on both legs (and Sommelier) were very good and quickly memorized exactly what we liked or preferred. Sure there may have been an "off-night", but don't we all have off-moments? Their service was very good and the food was wonderful. If I could ask for one small change in the menu, it would be to use a little more spice. The food in the MDR was exceptional. The food was always hot, always! We never sent anything back. The portions are smaller as other cruisers have mentioned. This is a GOOD THING! Baked Alaska night was a blast; we enjoyed cheering for our team!
The poolside grill and Waterfall buffet were always good. We enjoyed the inclusion of Indian and Asian cuisine. Also, every night there was a carving station at the buffet where pork chops; steak, turkey and ham were in abundance. Of course the pasta bar, salad bar and pizza stations were good... as always. Sometimes it's nice to get away from the pomp and circumstance and find a quiet table for dinner. We did this a few times!
Normandie is the specialty restaurant. We had dinner here once. Since we had a $1200 cabin credit, we were actually looking forward to having 2 or 3 dinners here; however, once was enough. The quality of the food was amazing, as it always is... but the menu is lacking in options. The M-class specialty restaurants changed up their menus a couple of years ago (minor changes) and with a couple of exceptions, the same items are on there. By the time we ordered wine and an additional gratuity (and the $35 pp charge), we didn't feel it warranted a bill of $120, so opted out. Interestingly the same staff works in the Aqua Spa during the day as well. We found some of their behavior to be a little on the snobby side, which was weird. In Normandie, they were happy as clams, and bent over backwards but during the day at the Aqua Spa, they seemed put off.
Our cabin attendant was good. He was not exceptional, as we've had in the past. I think he had a few off days. His behavior was always respectful and courteous, and he would generally give us anything we needed. I didn't feel that "extra mile" that we feel from most of the staff. We did not give him an additional gratuity, but we did leave some San Francisco gifts from our homeland, for him and the assistant, along with some other goodies.
Charmaine is the Spa Manager and she is remarkable. She remembered us from a Baltic cruise a few years ago and treated us like royalty! We each enjoyed the Persian Gardens (almost daily) as well as hot stone / deep tissue massages. The Spa staff was always friendly and helpful.
We found the entertainment to have been the best we have ever experienced on a Celebrity voyage. Two different magicians (one was amazing, one shouldn't have come on board)... the aerialists were terrific and the Celebrity singers and dancers were superb. They didn't do any hokey numbers, in bad drag. Instead, they remained in professional dresses or evening wear and sang / danced their hearts off. What a refreshing experience for us! They had a special impersonator and she was just spectacular sang and impersonated: Barbara Streisand, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Arron Neville and many others. Definitely the highlight!
Oh yes, the chaise lounge hogs are still there. I think we sat next to the "epitomy" of them all. He strolled through the Aqua Spa area in the morning, and put some of his things on two chaises. He came back sometime after lunch (a few hours later) and put a NOTE on each chair, "We are still here, just across the T. pool on the other side." We were taken aback. He never did come back to sit on the chairs, but his wife did for about 15 minutes, this was well after lunch. Unbelievable.
Yes, the pushy people. One of our gripes (seems they were all cruiser-related, LOL) would be the passengers who, when the elevator door opens, they jump on, without letting other passengers get off first! Hello? Oy vey.
The buffet bandits. These are the people that have to get "every cent" worth... afterall, you hear them say, "I paid for it!" and by golly, their trays, and overflowing plates show it too. I wished Celebrity would show the movie, "Supersize Me". That ought to put a little damper in the greed, wouldn't you think? LOL!
So in short (although this was a little lengthy!) we enjoyed another fine Celebrity cruise, and will be looking forward to sailing with her in the near future. Currently we are booked for a Transatlantic Crossing on the RCL Jewel of the Seas for next September, but for the right itinerary, would definitely hop on board another =X= ship, no questions asked!
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to write us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. We both enjoy international travel and cruising immensely and not too long ago was a board moderator on a cruise board. It seems I am still meeting people!
Happy and safe travels to all.