Sergei & Michelle Zvyagin
Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: April 25th, 2003
Itinerary: Panama Canal
This review I am sure will be a bit different that the usual. I will say straight away that we spent most of our time at the spa and searching for the yummiest food on the ship. We did not gamble or go to the nightclubs at all and we only saw a couple shows (which were great by the way). With this in mind I want you to know the majority of this review is about food and relaxing.
I am writing this on behalf of my husband and myself. This trip on the Summit was the 2nd of our 3 cruises- all on Celebrity Millennium Class ships.
This was a 14 night sailing and after spending 9 months in Russia (where Sergei plays hockey now) we were ready to see the sun!
At the time we had only been on one other 7 night cruise to the Caribbean. That was a last minute trip we took with my sister and her family- we had an inside cabin and even though we loved it we were ready to elaborate our cruising experience.
This time around we booked ourselves in a category A Balcony. It was NOT a cheap one but we felt that 14 days going through the Panama Canal deserved it. We also needed a bit more space because we traveled with our baby and at the time of this trip he was 9 months old. This went over very well as most of the other cruisers on this ship were Grandparents. And I will STRESS MOST OF THEM. We were only part of a handful of people in our 30's and 40's on the whole ship and our son was one of 4 or 5 children total! This did not bother us because we love to visit with older people and everyone loved our baby. We were there to relax and enjoy the sun.
We LOVE good food and good service and this ship has both to the top standard!
The food in the dining room was outstanding and our waiter and assistant waiter were so great. We were seated alone at a small table for 3 and every night they had it ready for us perfectly including the special crackers for our baby. At the end of every meal was a total mess due to the baby and all the crumbs and food was everywhere but they never even raised an eyebrow. We really over ate for the most part. Most nights Sergei would have 2 entrees and we had to try all the desserts. This might sound stupid and gluttonous to most but I promise if you spent 9 months in Russia and had to eat the same foods over and over you might be ready for a little gluttony yourself.
2 times on this cruise we ate at the specialty restaurant. The fee at the time was $25 per person. I believe they raised it now to $30 but I would pay $100 for the quality of food and service you receive. I can't remember what we had the first night there but our second meal was a Summit specialty-
Chateau-briand (sorry if I spelled it wrong.) Anyway- all I can say is that 2 years later we could still talk about that meal. It was by far the best beef we have ever eaten and we are not strangers to the top steakhouses in the country. Be ready to roll out of there with the fullest belly ever! Just when you think it's all over they bring out more food. It is possibly a 7 or 8 course meal- so if you plan to eat there- go in hungry.
The spa cafe is something that most people don't know exists or they don't think it's worth a look. It is a little bit secluded behind a wall in the spa pool area. Some might at first shy away and opt for the traditional hamburger and hot dog near the outside pool- but I can tell you that they would be missing out on something very special. They might classify this spa cafe as healthy alternative dining but I promise the food here was outstanding! And healthy too. I am NOT one who eats tofu and sprouts for lunch on a regular basis. I prefer a subway sandwich with chips and a coke. But this was so pleasant. They had an array of fresh salads and soups and even though they don't automatically shout it to everyone- they also have fresh hot entrees prepared to order that they will serve right to your table or lounge chair . We had fresh poached salmon and roasted pork loin and broiled chicken all with fresh vegetables and yummy sauces. Hard to believe these were even low fat. And we could order as many as we wanted so if something wasn't perfect- voila! Something else was brought out in no time. The desserts here were very good too. And again- hard to believe low fat.
We usually ate breakfast at the buffet. They have all the usual stuff. And most of it was pretty good. If there is ANY ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT ANYWHERE I would say it is at the buffet. Don't get me wrong- the food there was good- but not as good as the buffet at -let's say for example- the Marriott hotel. But I would compare it to most buffets in Las Vegas.
They have 2 egg stations with made to order eggs and omelets and I often made my way to the very rear of the ship where they had a Belgian waffle station. Sometimes the lines were long depending on what time you showed up. We rarely ate lunch here because the spa food was so good but we did make it there for the afternoon ice cream station.
We ate breakfast in the dining room a few times. It is open seating and we met a bunch of nice people this way. But to be honest we don't care so much for the formalness of it. I want to throw on some shorts and flip-flops and head out as quickly as possible. Forget the makeup and curling iron!
Another alternative is the fresh sushi bar at the rear of the ship every night from 6:00 to 10:00 pm. We made it here a few times. Sergei just loves sushi and was pleased to have this option.
They also have a casual dinner option at the rear of the ship-on the other side of the sushi. This requires a reservation but one night we showed up and they were happy to accommodate us without it. The food was very good. I had a New York strip steak and Caesar salad. I would still recommend the dining room but this was much more casual and laid back.
They have an interactive TV with 24 hr room service. Lot's of choices. We would often order up a fruit and cheese plate as a midnight snack. It would usually arrive within 10 minutes.
I can't say too much about ports except there weren't very many. We had a ton of sea days which for me is perfect. If I am on a cruise I want to enjoy the CRUISING part!
It was awesome to actually go through the Panama Canal. They had people on board that offered a history lesson on the Canal. So many interesting things I never knew about how they built it.
I was shocked at the dense humidity and the rain that would out of nowhere start pouring! I guess I didn't give much thought to being in the rainforest until we got there. The rain was only a brief part of the trip and for the most part we had awesome weather. We spent many days playing shuffleboard and lounging by the pool. We took a lot of walks around the ship with our baby in the stroller. I could have stayed for a month if I had enough money.
Now about the spa. For us the BEST part of the trip.
My husband- being an athlete- worked out everyday.
The facility on this ship is great. The staff are well trained and friendly. I had several spa treatments-facials, hot stone massage, pedicure- and even though they are expensive- I would say it is well worth it. They have a very nice men's and women's locker rooms. Here they also have a dry sauna in each of the locker rooms that looks out to sea. But the hidden jewel of these Millennium class ships is the Persian Garden. (only available on this class of ship)
We discovered on this ship what we missed the first time around.
The Persian Garden!
This is a private area reserved for guests who pay an extra fee ( $17 per visit- but we paid $100 per person for unlimited use the entire 14 night cruise). You go in wearing your swimsuit and it is a very cozy and comfortable atmosphere. My husband being a native Russian ( where the sauna is part of everyday life) particularly loved this facility as it has many different steam and sauna rooms- all with wonderful aromas and heated stone benches. They also have 2 separate shower stalls with so many different shower heads you could stand there for an hour! And on top of that- the one had a burst of aroma just like fresh peeled tangerines and the other like fresh mint! I could go on and on about how relaxing this place is. We had a stateroom directly under the spa -one floor- and after dinner and sometimes a show we would take turns to run up the stairs in our bathrobes and use this great facility. NO ONE was ever there after dinner except us so it was like having our own private session. One night the receptionist even said she would be happy to watch our baby while we went in together. This was so nice.
I should also mention the indoor spa pool- This is only for adults over 18 yrs (which on this cruise was everyone)
and is so wonderful. It is perfectly warm and has bubbling benches were you just lay back and relax!!! Also -2 hot tubs where no kids are allowed. Our first cruise was over spring break and I can't tell you how many kids monopolized the outdoor pool area. This indoor pool is such a welcomed amenity.
The ship itself it beautiful and of all our cruises the cruise director-
Simon- was the best we have seen. I don't know if he is still on this ship but he was awesome.
The shows were great. Often we had a hard time to find a seat as there were so many elderly people and ALL of them went to the show after dinner. Sometimes we just skipped it and went right to the spa. The amount of elderly people also could pose a problem near the pools if you wanted a good lawn chair. These early birds snatched them up at the crack of dawn! No harm done really. We usually found a nice quiet set of chairs somewhere.
If for some reason you are wondering about the children's facilities I have a few things to say about it. These ships (and most others from what I have read) cater to children over 3 years old. It wasn't a problem for us because our baby was so good he spent most the time in the stroller or being carried around by one of us. When we needed it we had an in cabin babysitter that we arranged 24 hrs in advance. Also they would usually send the same person so your child can be familiar with them. But last year when our son was 2 years old on our 3rd cruise it was not so relaxing for us. He wanted to run and not sit still for a minute. He was too young for Kids Club and too old for the stroller! Luckily my sisters family was with us and absorbed some of the frustration. I would recommend that if you have a child in the terrible 2's that you bring your nanny along or leave your child at home. Once they reach the age of 3 they can be left in the care of trained professionals on the ship at the Kids Club. This is really a great place, I know because my sisters kids (now 12 and 13) have been on a dozen cruises since they were little and they LOVE LOVE the Kids Club!!! They keep them so busy and you don't even have to see them all day if you don't want to. I remember our first cruise with them and they refused to come with us to the show because they were watching movies with all the other kids. We would sometimes see them wiz by on a scavenger hunt or some other crazy game. They put them all with kids their own ages and what fun they have. I can't wait for our son to cross over to the big boy mark and have fun himself on the cruise.
TO WRAP IT UP-
I really don't have much else to say except we just love Celebrity. I don't know what each person is looking for. Some might want a party- some might want good food- some might want a great relaxing experience- others want great port destinations. For me it is all about the cruise itself. How well we are treated and if the food and accommodations are good. I think this cruise line has something for everyone. Even though I may have highlighted what was important to us- I am sure you will not be disappointed on ANY CELEBRITY cruise. This year we took a trip on the Celebrity Infinity to Hawaii. And again we were thrilled and pampered (even though our 2 year old was challenging).
I may not have any first hand knowledge of other cruise lines but I am by nature a very talkative person and asked everyone I met how many cruises they have taken and what they thought about the different cruise lines. On the 3 Celebrity cruises I have taken I inquired enough to know it will not be likely that we cruise with any other cruise lines in the near future. My sister with her dozen cruises and 9 of them Celebrity confirms all of this. I hope this helps you chose the best cruise for you.
Also- I found through someone else's review a very good cruise agency. They were a few hundred dollars cheaper than others I researched.
It is- cruisestar.com
Maybe you can save some bucks! Have Fun!