Cruise Review: Celebrity Summit

(note: thanks to everyone for stopping by! Head’s up that this post is from 2013 & the Summit has been in dry dock since then. I’m sure she’s gorgeous now!)

After we fell in love with Celebrity Cruises last spring on the amazing Celebrity Equinox, we were excited to try the cruise line again on a different ship. This trip was a much, much different (far less glamorous) experience, but still fun in its own way.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

The Celebrity Summit is an old ship (from 2001) that has been “Solsticized” – that is, it has been retrofitted with some of the features that are on Celebrity’s Solstice class ships (like Equinox). This includes Aqua Class cabins & dining room, a Persian Garden, expanded specialty restaurants (including Bistro on Five & Qsine – more on those later), the ever popular martini bar, & an Internet cafe (& on-board) featuring Apple products. The biggest changes during “Solsticizing” happen in the public areas; staterooms are untouched, with the exception of Aqua Class rooms, which are renovated balcony rooms. All this sounds really fancy, but it doesn’t cover up a harsh fact: it’s a 12 year old ship. Ships can age gracefully if they’re taken care of, as Summit largely is, but it’s nothing like sailing on a newer ship. We sailed in one of these “new” Aqua Class cabins & couldn’t have been more disappointed by the experience. Solsticizing in cabins is, to put it harshly, lipstick on a pig. Keep watching here next week for a whole post on sailing Aqua Class.

Some people complain that Summit is too small. In fact, she’s no smaller than two of the other ships we’ve sailed on out of the Port of Baltimore: the Carnival Pride & Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas (which has since been replaced in B’more by the Grandeur of the Seas). We really don’t mind the smaller ships. They’re much easier to get around & the smaller number of passengers creates a bit of intimacy: you tend to see the same people over & over again. Of course, a smaller ship means that there are fewer innovative spaces & less room to spread out. It’s really a matter of personal preference, I think.

Our Room
Putting Solsticizing aside for a moment, our room was a decent size for the age of the ship. Located on the ninth deck, about mid-ship, it was in a great location, not far from the mid-ship stairs. An “Aqua Class” standard balcony room, it consisted of a king sized bed (two twins pushed together, as is traditional on a cruise), a small sofa & coffee table, a small desk & a decent sized closet. We initially were disappointed at the amount of storage (compared to previous cruises we’ve been on), but we were able to store everything comfortably for our seven days at sea.

The bathroom showed the most wear of anywhere in the room – a chipped mirror, rusty & moldy spots in the shower, & a very tired feeling. Despite our cabin steward’s efforts, it never felt clean.

As you can see from the photo below, our balcony was a decent size, but had a disappointing feature: since we were on the top deck of cabins (the pool deck & buffet restaurant were above us), our balcony was dwarfed by the expansion of deck ten. This made the balcony claustrophobic, made watching sunsets difficult, & made star gazing impossible. The only positive thing about the overhang is that we were completely shielded from the weather. Celebrity should consider categorizing these balconies “obstructed view,” or at least differentiating the view from other, traditional balcony cabins. The other downside on being under a public deck? It’s really noisy – another poor planning move by Celebrity to put their Aqua Class cabins there.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Dining
The food on the boat was, unfortunately, not as good as we remembered it being. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t fantastic. We dined nightly at Blu restaurant, an exclusive dining room for Aqua Class guests, & had breakfast there several mornings as well. I’ll share more in my full Aqua Class review, but it’s fair to say that Blu wasn’t the extra special experience we were hoping for. The Oceanview Cafe, the ship’s buffet restaurant which B dubbed “the horse trough” (“because I feel like an animal having to slog through a crowded line to get my food”) was horribly laid out, leading to lots of crowds & angry diners. We ate at the Oceanview twice for breakfast – both times not because of our choosing – & it was just disappointing. Unlike on the Equinox, the quality & variety of food was lower than on the rest of the ship – it’s like they didn’t really want you to eat there. In fact, I don’t think it’s too harsh to say that buffet restaurants like this are why people hate cruising.

I’ll also be sharing more about specialty dining on the ship, but here is a quick run down:

– Normandie: horribly disappointing (unexciting food, really bad service),

Bistro on Five: excellent (second best meal on the entire trip, best service of the whole trip),

– Qsine: very fun & worth every penny (best meal on the entire trip, extremely high level of service).

Room service is always complimentary on cruises & is, honestly, one of my favorite things about cruising. We had a very mixed-bag with our room service (which is placed by you in the room & delivered by your cabin steward): the breakfast we ordered by hangtag after the first night never arrived, then arrived ice cold after we called twice; the cheese plate we ordered the next afternoon took over an hour to arrive & then only arrived after we called; but the last port day in Bermuda we had a fantastic room service lunch on our balcony, which arrived hot & on time. Go figure.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Clientele
The ship cruises from Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey (just outside New York City). Unlike cruising out of Florida, when most people are from somewhere else, this convenient east coast location meant that 90% of the passengers were from New York & New Jersey. So many, in fact, that the staff joke that it’s the “Tri-State Cruise.” Readers know how in love I am with NYC, but some of the behavior I saw on the ship made me less-so. New Yorkers acting like stereotypical New Yorkers (who never seem to act up in NY), being rude to staff & each other. Once we got off the ship, I equated it to a Real Housewives of New Jersey combined with Jersey Shore theme cruise. No offense to people from those areas – I have friends & family who are totally lovely from those locations – but my fellow passengers gave them a bad name. Perhaps the most disappointing part about my fellow passengers? Many of them ignored the dress code. Shorts on formal night were not an uncommon site; B was actually the only passenger we saw in a tux. Not exactly what I’d expect from Celebrity.

Fortunately, not everyone was awful & we made friends with another young couple who were also sailing Aqua Class (& trying really, really hard to like the cruise). As with any trip, it was nice to be able to share the experience with someone like-minded.

Spa
A highlight of our time on the ship was the spa. We both had fantastic massages & I actually fell asleep during my facial, it was so relaxing. B had a massage with warmed bamboo sticks, which he said was “the most intense deep tissue massage” he has ever had – he loved it. This was, without a doubt, the best spa experience we’ve ever had on a cruise.

Embarkation/Disembarkation
Cape Liberty is located a stones throw from Newark International Airport, making it an easy cruise port for those flying from elsewhere (but, seriously, consider flying to Florida instead & hopping on a Solstice class ship!). We drove to the port & paid $133 to park for the week; the convenience of not having to fly cannot be beat. Embarkation was super easy & efficient – from the time we pulled into the parking lot to the time we were on the ship was less than an hour. You *have* to take a shuttle bus to & from the ship, which is a little obnoxious, but keep an open mind & remember you’re on vacation.

Disembarkation was also relatively painless. Tip: choose a departure time on the earlier side, as you’ll have to be out of your room & waiting in the public areas by 8:00am.

The best thing about sailing out of Cape Liberty? This is your view:

(that’s the new Norwegian Breakaway sailing away)
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Overall
Despite everything above, we still enjoyed the trip. It wasn’t perfect the way our Equinox cruise was, but we’re beginning to realize that we had something very special that trip which may never happen again. Cruising is still one of the best value vacations you can take & one of the best – if not the best – way to completely unplug from your daily life.

Would I cruise on the Celebrity Summit again? Probably not. Would I cruise out of Cape Liberty again? Probably not. Would I cruise on a Celebrity Solstice Class ship again? Absolutely.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

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About christina

Christina is a 30-something D.I.N.K. travel writer & photographer who travels the world often wedged into the middle seat. Follow her on Twitter & Facebook.

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