by Wes & Barb Carter
January 4, 2002
Embarkation: First, we'd recommend to all, if possible, to plan on arriving at your host port a day before sailing from two reasons: 1. with air travel, the way it is, you may not arrive in time for sailing, and 2. after spending a night in the home port city, your stress level is not the same as the 'day of,' and worrying about 'getting there.'
After a good night's sleep, and a relaxing morning at the Ft. Lauderdale AmeriSuites, we decided to go to the cruise terminal about 11AM, just to see if we'd be able to board early. Procedures started about 11:30AM, and was a bit confusing at first, but things smoothed out and we were on board the Summit before noon. Hint: If you are a 'Captain's Club' member, tell the host/hostess when they hand you a number, which allows you to go to the head of the line.
Cabin: #9040, cat. 1A, Sky Deck. This was one of the larger cabins we've had (other than suites) Very roomy (191 sq. ft), with two beds made into a queen, a sofa-sleeper/couch, more than enough storage space, plenty of space to move around, safe with a keypad to enter your own code, interactive TV, so you can access your shipboard account, book excursions, order room service, pay-per-view movies (also, newly released movie videos - no charge), dresser/desk with chair, large glass coffee table, plenty of mirrors and lighting, brightly decorated, carpeted, and accessorized, good sized bathroom and shower that is large enough so the curtain isn't attracted to your body, and a refrigerator which is actually set up as a minibar. Hint: we removed all the items and stowed them away and replaced at the end of the cruise - otherwise, you would be charged for "missing" items. Before you do this, count the number of bottles and snacks, and if anything is missing (there's a list) tell your room steward/stewardess right away. The balcony, though not huge, was a little larger than standard balconies on other ships, maybe because it's a new ship. The balcony measure approx. 4.9' X almost 9,' with 2 chairs and a small cocktail table.
Although stateroom #9040 was one of the best cabins we've ever had, the location was less than desirable, for several reasons. First, being on Sky Deck, we were directly below the Thalassotherapy Pool and the crew/staff started rolling the towel carts above us at 3AM.......... and it's like a train - you can hear them coming and hear them going........ all directly above your cabin! Second, we had a little rough seas our first 2 days out of Ft. Lauderdale, which in itself wasn't bad, but the location of our cabin's balcony (more toward the bow) prevented us from using it too much because of the salt spray. But the next 8 days were wonderful. And third, a problem for sun worshippers, because of the superstructure, there is about a 20' overhang above Sky Deck, so 90% of the day was shady, which didn't bother us. In hindsight, we would book an aft or stern cabin and, probably, on Panorama or Vista Deck.
Dining Room: The Cosmopolitan Restaurant is a very attractive, 2 level affair, with a beautiful mural curtain that covers the entire stern, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling picture window. There is also a center staircase between the two levels. Spacing of tables and chairs was uncrowded, and one could easily sit or leave without bumping into someone at the next table. Since we were on the second level, we didn't notice, but some guests said the first level was somewhat noisy, which kind of made sense, since it held almost twice the capacity as upstairs. A nice touch was the diner music provided by a pianist or a instrumental quartet.
Pools and Hot Tubs: The main pool has 2 parts, sectioned off for the deep end (approx. 6' deep) and the wadding end (approx. 4' deep). There are ample lounge chairs (many with cushioned covers), and easy to find on the Pool Deck or Sun(rise) Deck, except on sea days, when you get the typical lounge hogs, who 'reserve' their spot at 6:30 in the morning and don't show up until Noon, or later. There are 4 hot tubs spaced around the pool, and most of the time, 1 or 2 remained unoccupied until the afternoon. Hint: The pool is chlorinated salt water, and was comfortably refreshing for this Northerner, but for some with thin blood, it was cool.
The Thalassotherapy Pool is the latest fad on the Millennium Class ships, and a very nice one at that!. It's like entering a giant hot tub, but not too hot. There are jets of water shooting out from the sides and pool bottom, hugh faucet-looking jets overhanging the four corners (great back massage), and chrome, in-water, loungers on two sides, with bubblers underneath (can accommodate 6 easily). There are two hot tubs, one on either side of the pool, and neither was crowded at any time. Hint: This pool is off-limits to children, and, it is also chlorinated salt water........ but, warm. Surrounding the TPool area are very comfortable, pillowed (lower back and head), teak lounge chairs. Again, gets busy, as does the main pool, in the afternoon.
Celebrity Theater: We aren't into shows! But, this theater is something to behold. We were fascinated by the decor, sight lines, comfort, lighting, etc., of this venue. Just the "flames" on each side of the gallery is something to check out (actually, light silk scarfing, lighting, and a blower, give the illusion of a flickering fireplace - great affect). We 'visited' often, but didn't see any shows (sorry). But, through the grapevine, we heard, "fantastic," to "very good." But, the productions were as follows: "A Taste Of Things To Come," "Encore," "The Comedy Of Cary Long," "A Night of Stars," "International Showman, Craig Dahn (pianist)," "The Magic Of Broadway," "Celebrity Variety Showtime," "Celebrity Showtime" (comedy & song), "Classique - La Danza," "Celebrity Farewell Showtime."
Aqua Spa, Sauna & Gymnasium: Again, although we didn't use this facility, it is quite impressive. There are saunas for men, saunas for women, saunas for couples, and a fitness center and aerobics studio (treadmills, cycle machines, step/stair masters, weights, benches, etc.) that seemed to bring up, in my mind, 'Gold's Gym.' Again.......... sorry. I didn't do anything here, and I've never visited a 'Gold's Gym.' But, that's our impression.
Other Public Areas: While walking the ship, we frequented/visited the following:
*Rendez-Vous Lounge - on Promenade Deck - nice lounge where we got together with other members of various cruise bulletin boards.
*Reflections - on Sun(rise) Deck - deserted when we brought our (very) early morning coffee up to view the sunrise. Very nice! We're sure it was hopping late at night and into the wee hours of the morning, but we enjoyed it well after all that was done.
*Waterfall Cafe Bar (area) - stern. Again, another nice place to have early morning coffee and pastries. Outdoors, and predawn to dawn.
*Celebrity On-Line Room - Deck 4. Fun to play on the internet....... if you know what you're doing. You can send/get e-mail, surf, explore your favorite sites, check stocks, find out about upcoming ports, send postcards with a digital picture of you, or plan your next cruise. ($0.95 per minute for internet time; $6.95 to send postcards to up to 2 e-mail addresses).
*Notes- music library - very interesting. Headsets, computer technology, lots of bells and whistles. Never quite got the knack, but it was fun and entertaining.
*Conservatory (Floral & Gift Boutique) - Sunrise Deck - amazing plants and floral arrangements; some not real, but lifelike. Very interesting to see. Visited several times, and saw something different each time.
*Fortunes Casino - WE LIKE THIS ROOM. Got lucky!!! We only played the quarter slot machines, and came away.......... well........... not big losers. The machines were kind to us this sailing. This is very busy between dinner and shows, and after shows. But you can always find a machine, either quarter or dollar ones. The nickel machines are something else. You have to reserve one before you board (joke) or wait for someone to die. The tables were busy and got more active as the night went on. *Emporium Gift Shops - much like the same on most other ships, just a little larger and with a little more "stuff." Enjoyable to visit each day to see what's "on sale," (or what they want to get rid of).
Food: Cosmopolitan Restaurant (main dining room)
- Dinner: very good to excellent. Beef selections were outstanding, fish/seafood was very, very good, and poultry (duck) was good. Everyone seems to be interested in the dress code for evening dining. For the 10 day cruise, it was: Day 1 - casual, Day 2 - formal, Day 3 - casual, Day 4 - informal, Day 5 - casual, Day 6 - formal, Day 7 - informal, Day 8 - casual, Day 9 - formal, Day 10 - casual.
- Breakfast: had breakfast in the main dining room 4 days; eggs benedict every time for me, fried eggs over medium for Barb; all with hash browned potatoes, bacon, toast and bagels, juice, coffee, and pastries. Everything was done perfect.
- Lunch: never made it to the main dining room. A first - only cruise in 16, where we didn't experience lunch in the main dining room at least once.
- Dinner: alternative dining - main entree is ordered, appetizers, salads, desserts, are all buffet. Limited menu, but very good. Reservations are requested for dinner seating. Anyone with a late shore excursion (like us) might want to consider the Waterfall Cafe, especially if they have early seating.
- Lunch: Buffet style, much of the same items every day, pasta bar different every day and ice cream bar (good stuff, i.e. nonfat free, goes fast). Also, there is a theme food bar in the aft section of the Waterfall Cafe, which varies daily - Italian, Mexican, etc. Most food items are portioned out by the servers, and if you want a little more of something, you have to ask; but that's not a problem - they're just programed to give one scoop!
- Breakfast: Fair to good. No changes in the menu items from day 1 to day 10. Most items are warm when you get them, but then you have to wait forever (seems like it) for toast or bagel, and then move on to another station for eggs the way you want them (usually a line). Everything is lukewarm, at best.
Waterfall Grill - Lunch: very, very good hamburgers, good hotdogs, and pretty good pizza.
Normandie Restaurant - alternative dining with reservations and an additional charge. Jacket and tie are required all the time. A more upscale dining experience. Plan on dining for at least 2 1/2 hours. Minstrels visiting your table. Ambiance. People who dined in the Normandie compared it to the finest dining they've ever had. Rated 5-star by everyone.
Shore Excursions: On other cruises, we do no excursions or just one or two. This time we did three!
*St. Maarten - Catamaran ride to a deserted island, on the Golden Eagle ($69pp). Nice, invigorating sail to and from the island, with all the beverages you could consume (this was an older crowd, so not too many took advantage of this), and a nice 1-1/2 hour stay on a pristine beach, with just us (small boatload of people), and another small group later on. Crystal clear, warm, water, pure white sand, and, oh, yes, more liquid refreshments. Also, you were entitled, if you dared, to get a mud bath done with the assistance of the crew. The sail back to the dock included sandwiches, all you could drink champagne, as well as other drinks. It sounds like a lot of liquid was consumed, but the operator made money on this excursion - most of the booze stayed in the bottles, and they didn't get carpal syndrome, by opening too many beers. This was one of the best excursions yet, and we will do the exact same thing next time. The Golden Eagle staff did everything right and enhanced this pleasurable trip.
*St. Lucia - North Coast and Beach Tour ($35pp). Nice narrated bus ride through the Castries area, visited the Caribelle Batik Shop, Pigeon Island Park and then about 1 hour beach time at Reduit Beach. Nice bus ride and nice beach (some hawkers) but next time, we'll do it on our own. *St. Thomas - St. John Safari/Snorkeling ($48pp). Fun trip, but also one we'll do on our own next time. We've visited St. Thomas about 9 times, but have only been to St. John once, so we booked this excursion (on the internet, about 1 month before sailing). We, and passengers from the Dawn Princess boarded the Island Girls (a ferry/tour-type boat for the ride to Cruz Bay. Nice narrative/informative ride over. Once there, we boarded an open-air taxi bus for our ride over (this must have been the 'safari' part) to Trunk Bay. Trunk Bay was our very first Caribbean excursion ever, and this beach hasn't changed - it's still as beautiful as ever. Anyone who hasn't visited this beach at least once, should do so, whether by an excursion or on your own.
*Our cabin stewardess was excellent. She knew we were out (early) in the morning and, as most of them do, when we're gone for diner. We didn't see much of her, but she and her assistant did a great job of taking care of our cabin.
*Dining room waitstaff -waiter, assistant waiter, head waiter - fair at best. Got the job done, sort of, but not with much enthusiasm, except for the sommelier - she was one of the best we've had the pleasure of dealing with. Again, talking to others, they gave their waitstaff rave reviews. We just happened to get a combination of duds. *Rest of the staff and crew - all were pleasant, smiled, said "hello," but not overly friendly. Can't really put our finger on it, but would have to say they were a little standoffish, but not offensively so.
Since most longer sailings attract an older crowd, this cruise was no exception. A very rough breakdown is as follows: About 62% of the passengers were 50+ years old, the 30 - 50 year age group was about 27%, and then a big dropoff, to 8% for young adults (20 - 30 yrs. old), and about 3% teenagers or younger.
This was probably the friendliest group of passengers we've come in contact with. Most everyone struck up conversations with total strangers, whether it was in or around the pool areas, Waterfall Cafe, out on deck, in the hallways, on excursions, or cabin neighbors. People just wanted to chat. You could tell everyone was there for the same reason - to enjoy.
Disembarkation: The Summit arrived back in Ft. Lauderdale around 6AM and was cleared by customs very early (a formality, since everyone had to 'visit' a customs official on board ship in St. Thomas). Since we had made air reservations almost a year in advance for a 10AM flight, we didn't think we'd have a prayer in making that flight. But, midweek, we spoke with the staff at the Guest Relations Desk (Purser's Desk), about our predicament, and they assured us that there wouldn't be a problem. We would be issued (and received) the appropriate colored tags for early disembarkation. The started the process about 8:20AM for those who needed assistance, and then our color was called, and we were off the ship by 8:35AM. We zipped through the terminal, grabbed our luggage, hailed a van taxi ($6 per person) who whisked us to the airport, dropped us off at the curbside checkin, and were at the gate with about 25 minutes to spare........ and that's even with all the tight security. We made it, and probably broke a record doing it!
Ship Impressions: Overall, this 91,000 grt ship is very attractive and pretty well planned out. One drawback, in our opinion, is the lack of a centrum area. Of the 15 other cruises we've been on, most of the ships had a central atrium or centrum. The Millennium Class ships have a 2 deck area, with a staircase in the middle and there is a closed-in feeling to it. Also, the "Guest Relations Desk," aka 'Purser's Desk,' area is not as open and inviting as on most ships. And, finally, there are bursts of "art," or "art deco," throughout the ship that make you say, "Why?" An example is outside the casino near the middle of the ship. The wall is filled with squiggles of color and two plastic chairs are placed against the wall. We weren't alone in wondering why this would be here.
Everything else about the ship is beautiful, from the cabins, public areas, pools, spa, sauna, gymnasium, shops, the Conservatory, to the the lounges, and the open-air deck space. The itinerary appeals the those that like to island hop AND enjoy days at sea (2 days at sea, followed by 5 islands, and then 2 more sea days). The food was excellent, she sailed nicely, even though the first two days had rough seas, the ship was spotless and still had that 'new smell' to it. And the entire cruise went without a single glitch - smooth sailing, so to speak, from embarkation to disembarkation.
If anyone has questions about the Celebrity Summit, feel free to ask. The next best thing to sailing is talking about it......... and planning the next one.