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H. Michael Ball

Age: 53

Occupation:Federal

Number of Cruises: 5

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Summit

Sailing Date: April 25th, 2003

Itinerary: Panama Canal

~~~~~~~~ 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...

~~~~~~~ Stateroom ~~~~~~~~~

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 suites!!! Hmmmmm........

~~~~~~ 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 comfortable seating.

Emporium: More variety than I expected. Everything from drug store items to diamonds and amber necklaces.

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 smoking.

Champagne Lounge: Port. Smoking permitted and martinis can be ordered.

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 can 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 luxury.

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 cruise staff.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. I 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 coast and being a mere 600 miles from the mouth of the Orinoco River. The great 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 in Cabo San Lucas. We had eight days at sea to do nothing but enjoy this wondrous vessel called Summit.

~~~~~~ Assessment ~~~~~~~~~~

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!

H. Michael Ball
hmb01@attbi.com

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