April 25 - May 9, 2003
by H. Michael Ball
Prolog - A Comparison Cruise
We jumped ship. We were supposed to be on the Coral Princess and
ended up on the Summit. There were four of us on this cruise - my nephew Michael and his wife, Robin, from Vancouver WA. They
were joining my wife, Pat, and yours truly, from Portland, OR, to experience the
difference in cruise lines and to transit the Panama Canal.
I will state up front that, for me, Celebrity gets the nod. This line offered
many things that I desire from a cruise: I want traditional dining. I want
to tip the staff personally. I want a quiet stateroom without announcements and no advertising from a ceiling loudspeaker. I want a
well trained and friendly staff. It would also be nice to have a veranda
that is 'somewhat' private, (without being stared at from above.) Celebrity
took care of all these needs.
Let us skip pre-cruise and embarkation. Suffice to say we were on board
before noon because.... we took a taxi from the pre cruise hotel to the
berth. There were over 100 people at the hotel who waited for the courtesy buses. Many of them did not get on the ship until after three in
the afternoon!!! Remember - take a taxi to the dock.
8154 starboard, aft, Cat 1B. Perfect for two. Small bathroom with a big
shower. Ample closet
space, six drawers. 191 sq. ft. with a 41 sq. ft. veranda... nice. Michael and Robin booked a
cat 2A. A bit smaller but with a veranda. Robin was forced to hang her dinner gowns from the
bathroom door... maybe because Michael brought four suits!!! Hmmm...
Around the Ship
Atrium: Small by modern standards but remember - this gives more room
to the passengers. The
next time you are on a ship with a mega monstrous atrium, try to view it as a void. It may be
nice to view and it might add to the grt of the vessel, but it serves no purpose. If you need
expanse, go above deck.
Sun Deck: Plenty of deck chairs.... very little evidence of chair hogs.
Empty chairs here,
there, all over.... ones, in twos... lots of chairs. Good atmosphere on these M Class
ships...well designed pool area.
Celebrity Theater: Large, elegant. More arm rests would be nice. Very
Emporium: More variety than I expected. Everything from drug store items
to diamonds and amber
Michael's Club: No longer for cigar smokers. No more one deck
blackjack... now a piano bar.
Wonderfully adorned but empty most of the day.
Notes: $10 daily fee for rental of an MP3
player... that's it. I guess you download the songs
at Notes... again, empty most of the day.
Words: I enquired here about the navigational software used by the ship
which was broadcast on
one of the closed circuit channels. The attendant went out of her way to investigate the matter.
Turns out that the software is part of the ships navigation system. Not for sale and definitely
much more than I might need.
Martini Bar: Starboard. I did not know of so many types of martinis! No
Champagne Lounge: Port. Smoking permitted and martinis can be
Casino: The slots were not that tight. Pat won $300 on a dollar machine
and Michael won $100.
Cova Cafe: Fee based specialty coffees, free pastries. I guess you could
call it a piano coffee
house. Smoking port.
Cosmopolitan Restaurant: Good to excellent dishes, presented well. The
lobster, I am afraid,
will always be overcooked when preparing for so many passengers.
Normandie Restaurant: 5-star dining, classical French menu. Good
selection of wines. The
service is, perhaps, just a bit much, but entertaining.
Waterfall Cafe: The food is most adequate as an alternative. It never
seemed crowded and the
staff was very efficient. Fun to watch people on the first few days of the cruise as they
finished eating, picked up their trays and wandered around, looking for a waste can - as if in a
fast food joint.
Last Days at Sea
This is when many passengers seem to stop pretending and start believing
that they are, indeed,
wealthy, but perhaps not in the monetary sense. The wealth came in gaining the view of a
traveler, rather than that of a tourist and perhaps the knowledge of how fortunate we are in
having the resources to venture far and wide on the seven seas in air conditioned
The end of a cruise always scorches my
reality... from pompous elegance to the shocking
reminder of the mundane day to day life.
Claustrophobic coach fair with stewardesses who offer so much less than the angelic
Warp factor two on a 737 replaces the 25 knot drive of our formal vessel.
Back to our land and our homes with pets and yards and dirty dishes. I look to the cupboards and
find canned, bland vegetables, peanut butter, top roman noodles and the mildest of cheeses.
do, however, have the photos and memories of a moving event which will be embedded in my
memory for these remaining years. Memories of Pat and I sailing foreign
waters... images of the Cuban and Aruban coasts and being a mere 600 miles from the mouth of the Orinoco River. The
experience of a wondrous canal that spans the oceans. We spotted sharks, pods of dolphins and
sea turtles from our veranda and saw a Costa Rican sunset in brilliant shades of red and
blue. We revisited that gem called Acapulco and again inquired about Sammy Hager at CaboWabo
San Lucas. We had eight days at sea to do nothing but enjoy this wondrous vessel called
The Summit crew was genuinely happy, well trained and devoted to the
company. There were
literally dozens of times when I turned to Pat and remarked, "You will not find this on
Princess!" From the complimentary champagne or orange juice at embarkation to the cloth towels
in the public restrooms, Celebrity tried and accomplished their public claims - to
be the best
premium line in the world. The rebrand is in place. Sorbet and chilled towels are available on
the sundeck at noon. Chilled towels are presented when returning to ship from shore excursions. Many little things
which I kept noticing over and over and over... this is a very good line!