Our Favorite Port: Bermuda

Here we are at the end of my five part series, and we’re ending it with the trip that I started this blog with, Bermuda. We all agree this is our favorite to date, and it was a pretty easy choice. Since I’ve already talked about this port in-depth in my Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 posts back in June, I’ll do my best to bring new material to this entry.

When we were initially looking for a graduation cruise to take our daughter on, we were looking at Alaska. Jen and Bayley had never been there, and everyone who’s been on an Alaskan cruise seems to love them. After a bit of deceptive questioning to avoid letting Bayley in on the surprise, we came to realize that she’d prefer something tropical. My wife and I started the search over, quickly coming to the realization that we wanted to do something different from the normal Caribbean itineraries we’d been doing. We did consider cruises out of San Juan, since those go further south to ports we haven’t been, but most of those were out of our budget when adding airfare. That was when my wife brought up Bermuda. We’d talked about this in the past, but weren’t sure how we’d like a cruise where you basically park in one spot for three days. In researching it, she found it to be a favorite of a large percentage of those who posted reviews on Cruise Critic. Many people talked about how they’d been to Bermuda multiple times on cruises, which is something we really hadn’t seen with any other U.S. based itinerary. We were sold.

This itinerary started with two days at sea. On the morning of day 3, I got up early to watch the sunrise as we arrived in port. If you cruise to Bermuda, I highly recommend being up early and getting out on deck or a balcony to watch the sun come up as you pass around the island. The arrival provided some of the best views of the trip in my opinion, and as you can see, the Norwegian Breakaway beat us in to port:

1Sunrise2Island3Sunrise4Arrrival

5Island6Island

Getting back to the point of this post, this island is our favorite port of all time for a few reasons:

  1. The people were all incredibly warm and friendly, and you never felt unsafe. Wherever we went, people were always smiling, and willing to help you out with information or directions.
  2. The transportation system is second to none among ports we’ve stopped at. I talked about this in my previous posts, but when you first get off, there are transportation stands just off the ship where you can buy bus/ferry passes. If they can’t get you where you want to go, you probably don’t need to go there. We made use of the bus and ferry every day we were there. These are the same buses the rest of the island uses to get around, and the same ones kids take to and from school.
  3. A friend of mine at work is from Bermuda, and always talks fondly about the island (except maybe the cost of living 🙂 ). I’d heard about a few of the different landmarks on the island, like Somerset Bridge, so we made time to stop and see a couple of things most visitors aren’t aware of on his recommendation.
  4. There’s a ton of stuff to do. Even with 3 days in port, we still didn’t see everything we’d planned to. We definitely want to visit again and work on that list some more.

Number 2 above is a huge deal in my opinion. Going in, we had zero guided excursions planned, private or cruise sponsored, due to all we’d read about how good the transportation system was. When it was all said and done, we only took one guided tour, a last minute choice to take a jetski tour on our final morning there. As I mentioned in the Day 3 post in July, that tour was excellent and worth the extra money that was spent on it. Outside of that, everything else we did was on our own, utilizing the transportation system and our feet to get us where we wanted to go. It was nice to not be on a set schedule, not having to hurry to meet tour operators. We basically got off the ship whenever we want and headed out, and returned whenever we wanted.

This cruise also represented the first time we’d been parked in the same port for more than a few hours, which we all found pretty cool. On the first and second day in port, there was no stress about getting back to the ship before it left, since it wasn’t going anywhere. It was an awesome way to see Bermuda.

I think that about covers it. I highly recommend reading my three posts about our days on the island (linked in the first paragraph in this post) to get an idea of what we did. It’s been fun going over these five ports and reliving our time on these islands. My next posts will come some time next week and cover our upcoming trip to Daytona for the Rolex 24, a 24-hour sports car endurance race. In the meantime, here are a few more shots from Bermuda!

1Night 2Front 3Govt 4Fire 5BandS 6Bermuda 8Hamilton 9BandS 10Ship 12Beach 11Beach 13Beach

Cabin Selection – What’s the Big Deal?

One of the most stressful parts of booking a cruise for me is cabin selection. As my wife can attest to, I generally put more time in on this than I do cruise selection, and I tend to change my mind more than once along the way.

So what’s the big deal? Why not just select a category and go along with whatever default cabin the booking site selects? Well, for me, the last thing I want to do is end up spending all that money and have the family annoyed by the cabin we end up in. Our first few cruises were group ones with the staff of my wife’s office. Her boss was very generous with them, and if they made goal for the year, he’d take the staff on a vacation, which most of the time was a cruise. On those, I never had cabin selection, we basically went with whatever the travel agent he used gave us. We never really ended up with bad cabins, I’d say, but nothing memorable, either.

Prior to our Thanksgiving cruise on the Freedom in 2011, I’d never actually done any cabin selection research. When we booked that one, I felt somewhat overwhelmed. We knew that within our budget, we could only afford interior or certain ocean view classes. With the available ocean view cabins in our budget being the two lowest decks, I started researching interior options higher up the ship. After a long hunt, I settled on an interior on the Panorama deck, room 1053. It seemed like an interesting location, being one deck above Lido and in the forward section of the ship. This area also seemed like it would have less foot traffic with a smaller number of cabins in that section. Here’s a shot of the deck plan, with our cabin circled in red:

FreedomCabin

We absolutely loved that location. It had the added benefit of quick access to the “secret deck” on that floor that very few people ventured out to, so it was almost like having your own balcony at the front of the ship. One of the really nice things about this location was having easy access to the outside areas of the upper decks. No waiting for an elevator, walking down a long hall, etc. Just walk out the door, turn right, and head out to deck. It was also a very quiet location, I don’t recall ever hearing anyone running, or any voices, and never heard any noise from the Lido deck. That became our new favorite area for a cabin.

When it came time to select a cabin for our Thanksgiving 2012 cruise on the Legend (also my 40th birthday), I went through another lengthy hunt. This time, our budget allowed for a balcony, which complicated things a bit. We’d never had a balcony, and after reading so many people say how they’d never go back to an interior/oceanview after having a balcony, we finally decided to try one. I’m pretty sure I took even longer finding the right one, as I now had drifting cigarette smoke to worry about. The last thing we wanted was to end up with smoke blowing back on us from any cabin ahead, as non of us can really stand cigarette smoke. After a long hunt, I decided on 4204, which had a group of lifeboats in front of it, meaning there were no balconies immediately ahead of us to worry about:

LegendCabin

No complaints on that cabin either, and that lifeboat right ahead of it doesn’t detract from the view in any way, as shown in the Photosynth I did of the balcony while we were in port in Roatan. I will say that we never got the “once you go balcony, you’ll never go back” feeling from it thought. It was nice having it, and we got some great views, but just weren’t wowed to that level.

Moving on, when deciding on a cabin for our Thanksgiving 2013 sailing on the Breeze, we once again found ourselves a little budget constrained, limiting us to inside or oceanview. Somehow I managed to get us booked in to 11203, which is a forward room on the Spa deck, which also meant we got the Spa cabin ammenities:

BreezeCabin

As we discovered later, this is categorized as handicapped accessible, something not indicated on the site we used to book. We didn’t even realize it until a week or so before the cruise when I changed the bed layout to king on Carnival’s site. Regardless, the room was huge, with plenty of space to move around in, and the same went for the bathroom. The window was pretty good sized, and looked out the right front side of the ship. Additionally, this room also had very easy access to the “secret door”, basically giving us an almost private forward balcony. Just turn right out of the room, and walk out the door :).

Finally, the room selection on our most recent cruise on the Celebrity Summit. This one was a bit of a nightmare through our own doing. When we booked this cruise, I did so with the understanding it would just be the three of us, and our budget allowed for anything up to (and including) a Sky Suite, and having never stayed in a suite, we decided to give it a shot. Adding that in made it far more difficult, as the Sky Suites available were all on deck 6, which frankly didn’t appear to give really clean views of the ocean below due to the presence of lifeboats right below the cabins. After a long process of trying to hunt down pictures, asking advice on the Celebrity forum on CC (which I never did get a response to 🙂 ), and reading reviews, I finally settled on 6128, towards the aft:

CelebrityCabinNo1

Pretty sure that decision took me about a week to make, which all turned out to be a waste of time. About a month later, we (and by “we”, I mean my wife and daughter) decided it’d be fine to bring her boyfriend with us. His parents had agreed to pay for him to come along, and since they hardly ever see each other (they live in another state), we agreed. The problem at that point was that a Sky Suite only sleeps three. That left us with two options, look for something in a lower category that sleeps four, or he can book a single. We ended up choosing the latter, at least initially, as the Family Veranda rooms weren’t available when we called initially. That brought us another snag, you can’t book a single if you’re under 21, and he’s only 18. My wife called the travel agent, who conferenced in Celebrity, and we finally got things set. My wife would be listed in the single interior on deck 2, and the rest of us would be in the suite. When we got on board, we’d switch it up and just have him stay in the interior, which Celebrity said would be fine.

All set, right? Not quite.

About a month before the cruise, I noticed that the family veranda rooms (which sleep up to 5) had opened up. We decided we liked the idea of having us all together, especially since it was his first cruise, so my wife called our agent back. Again, I had to do more research before-hand to see which one of the available FV cabins we wanted, but we ended up moving all of us to 9156, an aft corner FV:

CelebrityCabinNo2

That room was awesome, and we’d finally found a balcony that gave us the “yea, it’ll be hard to go back” feeling. As I mentioned in my review of the ship, there are plenty of pictures of this room available here, and you’re more than welcome to check out my Photosynth of that balcony to get an idea of how big it is, and how wide of a field of view you get. I’d definitely jump on an aft-wrap room again if the budget allowed. The picture I have set as the featured one at the top of this post was shot off the balcony showing the sunrise as we approached Bermuda. We spent a ton of time, including multiple breakfasts and dinners, enjoying that aft view.

So really, cabin selection boils down to the following for me. I want a cabin that meets as many of the following criteria as possible:

  • Provides easy access to upper decks whenever possible. That 10-15 second walk to Lido on the Freedom, Breeze and Summit was awesome!
  • Has as little foot traffic as possible, so we’re not peppered with loud talking / running kids all night. This means selecting something in an area with few cabins, or even at the aft of the ship.
  • If we have a balcony, one that isn’t going to be impacted by smokers, whether they be from another balcony, or from an open deck below. Tip for those wanting to avoid smoke: Most lines only allow smoking on the open decks on one side of the ship. Find out what side that is, and choose the other one if your cabin is near an open deck.
  • Another balcony wish: Has a clean view of the ocean, with no lifeboats in front or below that might obstruct the view
  • If choosing an oceanview, ensure it isn’t so low that we might get to watch waves coming and going over the window (that’s the only thing that’s caused my wife’s motion sickness to pop up so far)
  • Won’t be subject to noise from anything above or below the cabin

That last one is a big one for me. Some of the most common complaints I hear about cabins center around ones situated above or below active areas of the ship. For example: below the gym, directly above or below the main theater or clubs, near the galley, or for higher cabins, below busy decks where you might encounter scraping chairs, noise from sports courts, etc. Our last two cabins, on the Breeze and Summit, violated that rule, but I did a ton of research online to prepare myself. For the Breeze, we were directly below the fitness center, and yes, if you were in the cabin during the day, there was the occasional noise from some of the equipment, but it was never an issue, and we never heard anything in the evenings. On the Summit, we were directly below the outdoor aft bar area. We did hear chairs being moved from time to time, but it was pretty quiet and was never an issue, even for someone like me who’s oversensitive to stuff like that. I’d stay in either one of those rooms again without question. On the Summit, there was one nice benefit of being there. In the evenings, they have live music, so you can sit out on the balcony and enjoy some relaxing tunes :).

So what do I do to find that perfect room?

  • Scour the Cruise Critic boards for the line we’re looking at. In several cases, I’ve found pics of a given room in one or more of those threads, or have been able to get members to send pics simply by asking about a room on the boards.
  • Also check cabin reviews on Cruise Critic
  • Run a search in Google or Bing, as someone may have written about the cabin in a blog
  • Search photo sharing sites like Flikr, Photobucket, etc for pictures of the cabin. I found a ton of pictures of our Summit cabin that way, including exterior shots showing where it was, what sort of view it provided, etc.
  • And finally, spend hours going through all that data to make an educated guess on what the best cabin will be within our budget.

I think that about covers it. I know I probably obsess over cabin selection more than I should, but I’m that way with anything I’m spending large sums of money on. If you have any suggestions to add, feel free to comment!

Choosing a Cruise

Now that I’m done with posts on our last cruise, I figured I’d walk through our selection process for choosing one. This is something that has evolved over the past few years as we’ve visited more ports, had more sea days, and really taken a look at what it is we like about cruising. Note that these are all subjective and obviously won’t be the same for everyone. We want to get the best bang for our buck and visit places we’ve never been, so we’re not really loyal to one line. We certainly don’t choose a cruise based on loyalty programs, as we like to get a taste of all lines and experience the different things they have to offer while enjoying our time together. So how do we choose? Going in order of importance:

 

Itinerary

This always comes first when we start looking. We weed out the vast majority of cruises in the first couple of days based on itinerary alone, and usually end up with 6-8 cruises that we spend the next few days applying other criteria to. While a cruise we select might go to one or two ports we’ve already been to, we’ve never repeated an entire itinerary. That’s not to say we won’t, and we certainly have a couple in mind we’d like to repeat, it’s just that we like to visit new ports whenever possible.

When reviewing itineraries, we also look at the number of sea days. All three of us enjoy those days at sea, as they provide plenty of time to unwind. The best itineraries in our eyes provide a good balance of sea days and ports, as we find having several ports back to back can make things run together and be tiring. Our favorite cruise to date provided an outstanding mix of ports and sea days, and that was our 2011 Thanksgiving cruise on the Carnival Freedom. That itinerary consisted of:

  • Leave Ft Lauderdale
  • Sea day
  • Cozumel, Mexico
  • Sea day
  • Limon, Costa Rica
  • Colon, Panama
  • Sea day
  • Sea day
  • Arrive Ft Lauderdale

Only having two back to back stops was great, and we loved having two sea days on the end to decompress. Having stops in Costa Rica and Panama was outstanding as well, we loved both stops as I hope I properly expressed in my reviews of both ports.

As another part of our itinerary hunt, we generally hit the “ports of call” forums on Cruise Critic to get an idea of what types of activities people do at a given stop, and to get an idea of what the port area is like.

 

Price

Once we have a few cruises on the list based on itinerary, we start to narrow that down by price. The list usually includes at least 2 or 3 cruise lines, as we don’t cruise for loyalty benefits, so we can usually knock it down further pretty quickly based on price. Now that’s not to say we’re always going with the cheapest cruise, it’s more about combining this with the next item, cabin selection. It just so happens that three of the four previous cruises we’ve done have been on Carnival, and it’s due in large part to what we could get in an itinerary and cabin selection within our budget.

 

Cabin Selection

This and price go hand in hand for us. I spend hours pouring over cabin options to try and get us in to the perfect cabin within our budget. I’m definitely not one who’s happy just booking and seeing where we our room is after we board, I do as much research as possible on a cabin before I book. I’ll go into more detail on cabin selection in a different post, but when we’re booking, I’ll be looking to get the best cabin I can within our price range, so if we decide we want to be in a particular section of the ship, like the upper few decks forward, for example, I narrow our list down further based on available cabins and pricing in that section of the ship. Honestly, this part has been a major factor in two of our past three Thanksgiving cruises not being on Royal Caribbean, as we’re not as fond of the layout of their upper decks. I’ll be sure to cover that in my cabin selection post as well.

 

On Board Activities

As part of our enjoyment of sea days, we like to make sure that the ships we’re looking at are active ones. We’ll spend a bunch of time reading through past reviews, as well as different forums for each line, to see what people have to say about the activities on board. I’ll admit that we did give this one less importance in booking the Summit to Bermuda, as our cruise line choices based on the dates we had available were slim, and there was no way I could have talked my wife and daughter in to sailing NCL again (a topic for another post :)). This last one aside, we’ve learned that the energy on a ship during the sea days is an important factor for us. Now, I do take my sources of information with a grain of salt, especially posts in cruise forums. It seems boards like those on Cruise Critic have turned in to a place where people either spend their time complaining about their chosen line’s loyalty program, or playing “fanboy” and bashing anybody who says anything bad about their line. The most time consuming part about going through reviews and forum posts is sifting through the noise to get to the truly objective reviews.

 

Past Reviews of the Itinerary and ship

This happens in conjunction with the previous item, as we spend a bunch of time reading those reviews and forum posts to see what people thought of the stops and the ship. I will say that this isn’t an exact science, and we do learn from our mistakes here. Our 2012 Thanksgiving cruise on the Carnival Legend was a perfect example, as the majority of the reviewers seemed to love the ship, and many had cruised multiple times specifically because of how much they liked it. I have to say, none of us agreed. It never seemed crowded, which was a plus, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to sail on it again unless it was a really solid itinerary.

 

I think that about covers it for us. People choose cruises for varying reasons, but my biggest tip here is to know what you want out of your time on board, and book the appropriate itinerary and cruise line accordingly. While I get the desire to be spontaneous, these things aren’t cheap, so I like to know what I’m getting myself in to before I drop the money on it. In cases like this last cruise where we really wanted to see Bermuda, we’ll adjust some of the other priorities accordingly, but for the most part I’ll stick to the criteria set forth above. Do you have additional things you look at? Feel free to add it in the comments to share with others!

As I’ve alluded to a couple of times, I’m fairly methodical when it comes to cabin selection, so my next post will give some insight into what I look for when choosing one.

Visiting Bermuda – Day 3

From the start, we’d decided to hold off on going to the beach until the last day. Most of what we’d read going in suggested not going on day 1, as that was the busiest time, so we decided to heed the warning. As mentioned in my last post, we’d stopped by the watersports booth at the docks the evening before and booked an early morning jet-ski tour, so we had that on tap as well.

We got up a little before 7, and headed up to Lido for a quick breakfast after getting ready. We were supposed to have room service delivery before 7am, but it didn’t show. I think they finally got to the room at 7:30, but by that time we’d already grabbed some food from the buffet. The meeting time for our jet ski tour was 7:45, and even with the kids being slow to get moving, we made it on time. Upin arrival, they went over some basic safety procedures, gave us all life vest, and we hung out for a few minutes while they prepped the jet skis. Once they were ready, we boarded in groups. My wife and I on one, and my daughter and her boyfriend on another. There were a handful of others in our group as well, so once we were on, we did slow circles in the harbor while we waited for everyone else.

Here’s where I should stop and make an important point. If you can’t swim, you probably shouldn’t be out in the ocean on a jet ski. One of the couples in our group included a woman who apparently can’t swim, and in true Murphy’s Law form, as soon as they got on the ski and were pushed off the dock, they rolled it. With the ski completely upside down, they were left to climb back up on the dock. We felt for the woman, after she got helped back on the dock, she sat there hugging the railing for a bit. I’m sure that was terrifying, but it would have been far more scary if it had happened while we were well off shore. The man with her decided to come out on his own, and seemed to have a blast.

Back to the tour itself, we took a 75min tour of that section of the island with one of the guides from KS Watersports. It was spectacular, taking us into Ely’s Harbor, and then out to the HMS Vixen, which was intentionally sunk out there in the late 1800s. While at the shipwreck, the guide feeds some bread to some local fish as well, and they know it. A ton of fish were out there hanging around waiting on it, and once he threw the bread, they were swarming like a bunch of piranhas going after it. After that, we circled back around and came around the end of the dock area, which gave us great views of the two cruise ships. Here are a few screen grabs from my GoPro that I’d strapped to the front of the ski, including one showing the swarm of fish when bread was thrown their way.

Bridge Fish Returning Shipwreck ThumbsUp

Again, it was a great tour, well worth the money. Our guide was excellent, and when he noticed that we were kinda stuck behind a couple of slower skis early on, told us he was fine with us breaking out of line to pass them and go faster if we wanted. I love jet skis, and was more than happy hit full throttle and oblige :). Good times were had by all!

Our tour over, it was time to hop the #7 bus for Horseshoe Bay Beach. Upon arrival, it really didn’t seem that crowded to us. Up near the entrance where the food/showers/restrooms are was where most people seemed to be set up, but walking down the beach a bit wasn’t an issue. Before doing so, we decided to climb the rocks to get a cool view of the beach. The first two shots are from the top of the rock, the last is looking back at the rock itself after we walked down the beach a bit

BeachFromTheRock TopOfTheRockTheRock

After we got back down, we decided to walk down the beach. Having read up on Horseshoe before we came, I knew that if we walked past the end of the beach, we’d hit a section of small coves, and a smaller beach that few people would be on, so that’s what we did, and it was well worth it. While it was still very humid, it was a beautiful day. We found a little spot on the beach with an overhang, and set up shop.

Beach Beach2 beach3 Cove

One tip, and this is probably an obvious one since they have a captive audience: bring your own food if you can. The food at the stand is fairly expensive, which we expected going in. We just didn’t have time to stop and get something on the way.

Horseshoe is awesome, and we were glad we chose it. We’d hoped to make it to Church Bay beach in the early afternoon, but were so happy with Horseshoe that we decided to stay put. Just gives us something to do next time! Anyway, about 2pm, we decided to head back to the ship so we could clean up and be out on deck for sail away. I will say that when you’re already hot and tired, the hike back up the hill to the bus stop is brutal. I admit I wanted to pay the $2 per person to take the shuttle that short distance, but was overruled. We hiked back up, and were met with a large line for the bus back to the dock. Once again, the local transportation board was prepared. While we had to wait 10-15min for it, they had an empty bus ready to go as an express back to the dock.

Once back at the dock, the kids got off at Clocktower Mall to stop and get some fudge from the shop in there (excellent fudge, btw). After they got off, we all realized that I had their passports, so I hung out over by the ship and waited for them to walk back over. While waiting, I snapped one last shot of the ships:

Ship Panoramic

Once they arrived, we headed back to board the ship one last time. As I hope I’ve conveyed in the past few posts, we had an awesome trip, and absolutely loved Bermuda. It’s a beautiful island with incredibly friendly residents, and we definitely plan to visit again!

Cruising the Summit

I’ve been going back and forth on what to write here. What I don’t want to do is make this a duplicate of my Cruise Critic review of this sailing, as that seems like a waste of typing. I’m still waiting for that to be published, so if you’re interested in my traditional review of it, keep an eye on the list of my CC reviews, hopefully it’ll be published soon (update – it’s published as of 6/24). That also shows reviews of our previous three cruises in case anyone’s interested. That said, on to the Summit.

After the afore-mentioned fun in Annapolis, we headed up to New York to catch the Summit for a 7 night cruise to Bermuda. We headed up a day early, in part to get a few hours to hang out in NYC, and also because we believe in giving ourselves plenty of time just in case something happened. As anyone who’s cruised before knows, the ship won’t wait for you if you’re late boarding, and I had no interest in missing two sea days and meeting the ship in Bermuda. Good thing we did, as we suffered a punctured tire an hour north of Annapolis and had to stop in some small town along the way and get it replaced. Things happen, and this is a prime example of why we like to get to our departure city a day early whenever possible. After that 3 hour delay, we made our way to a friend’s apartment we were staying at in Long Island City and had a fun few hours in NYC Saturday evening.

With Sunday morning came our departure day, and we were all very much looking forward to it. There’s something about stepping on to a ship that causes everything I might be concerned with in real life to just disappear. The idea of being totally disconnected until we arrive back in port is cathartic in a way that’s difficult to put in to words. This time around even more so, primarily because a few short minutes before we actually stepped on the ship, I was certain it wasn’t going to happen. My daughter occasionally gets motion sickness from riding in cars (but cruise ships have no affect on her), and apparently the drive from Manhattan to Bayonne triggered it again. After our boarding group was called, we got in line to take the bus from the terminal to the ship, and as we were about to get on she suddenly felt very ill, and ran to get to the bathroom thinking she was going to throw up.

See where this is going?

The woman managing the line saw it, and asked if our daughter was sick. My wife instinctively said yes, and I immediately had visions of the ship leaving without us. They had no idea what was wrong, and had to assume it was Noro. We were then directed to some seats off to the side to wait for the ship’s nurse, and ultimately the ship’s doctor. After about 45 min, she was cleared by the doc (who’s very friendly, BTW), and we were allowed to board. Whew.

That first day and a half on the ship had us reconsidering our choice of line. The CC review covers each specific topic in more depth, but the sailing we chose (June 8th) was prior to the area schools getting out, which meant fewer families. We had an idea of that going in, and really had no choice, as my daughter’s working as a counselor at Woodward most of the summer, and had to be there the day we got back. Regardless, the average age on the ship was quite a bit higher than that of our last three cruises, all of which were over Thanksgiving break. That first 36 hours, the ship just felt dead. Activities were light, including only one trivia session on the first full sea day, and the overall energy level just wasn’t where we’re used to. On the second sea day, things picked up quite a bit (thankfully), with more trivia, and more activities overall. The activities staff really busted their butts from that point on to keep people entertained. By the time we got to Bermuda on Wednesday, our tune had changed for the most part. I do admit that when we docked in Kings Wharf, I looked over at the water slides and ropes course on the Breakaway with a tinge of jealousy, even with NCL being at the bottom of lines we’ll cruise again (more on that in a later post). For a sample of the things to do on board the Summit, here’s the list of what we did prior to arriving in Bermuda:

  • Attended trivia twice and got killed 🙂 (there were only three the first two sea days, if I recall)
  • Attended the flash mob practices
  • Won the Amazing X Race (only one other family showed up)
  • Took the galley tour, highly recommended
  • Went to the crepe demo in Bistro, and my wife even got to go up and make a crepe
  • Watched the cooking competition
  • My daughter and her boyfriend attended a couple of dance classes
  • Watched officers vs guests pool volleyball

That last one was awesome. I’ve never seen a group of officers so involved. The captain was everywhere, very approachable, and funny. Kudos to Celebrity here, that’s a guy you don’t want to lose. I’d bet he and his “GoPro moments with the captain” were solely responsible for a few dozen DVD sales, too.

As far as Bermuda goes, I’ll save our time on the island for a separate post. What I will say is that we see why so many people do this cruise more than once, and it’s at the top of our list of places to visit a second time. It’s a very beautiful island whose residents are warm and welcoming. I also loved being docked in one place for two and a half days. Not being stressed about making it back to the port by a certain time each day was nice, and having a place to go eat “free” meals between land activities allowed us to save some money. Oh, and the cold towels they hand you each time you get back on absolutely rock. Bermuda’s a bit humid, and walking around the island for a few hours will leave you hot. I think those cold towels were my wife’s favorite part of the cruise, and she let the guys handing them to us know that each time :).

Moving back to the ship itself, boarding on the afternoon we left Bermuda was uneventful, and we didn’t encounter a line. We headed up to shower, change, and head out to watch for “pier runners”, but never saw any. Everyone must have made it back on time, although someone did get off wearing pool gear holding a beach bag of stuff right before we left. Hope everything was okay.

The final sea day featured plenty of activities, fortunately. List of things we did on the port days and the final sea day:

  • Watched the ‘Not so Newlywed Game’
  • Played in the “Family Feud” game, my team almost won the whole thing in spite of me
  • Went to the deck party, which was fairly dead in our opinion (second port day)
  • Played in ‘Mind the Gap’, which seriously needs to be pulled, way too corny.
  • Played the wheel of fortune-ish game hosted by the DJ
  • Attended round 3 of progressive trivia, got killed
  • Went to the captain’s talk on ship navigation. We both loved it, and highly recommend it, especially if Captain Dimitrios is there as he does an outstanding job
  • Watched the final officers vs guests pool volleyball game. Just as awesome as the first ones.

We did attend most of the evening shows, as well, but missed the production show on Wednesday, as we were in Hamilton. Overall the two production shows we saw were a let down, as they definitely seemed geared towards an older crowd. The singers and dancers aren’t the issue, they were great, but the actual shows and music just weren’t what we enjoy. The aerialists were great, as was the comedian.

So that pretty much leaves two things, the room and food. Hopefully you’re still reading 🙂

The room, 9156 (corner family FOV), was awesome. I’ll do a dedicated post on room selection later, but I think after this we’ll be looking for corner aft balconies from now on. The family FOVs on Summit feature huge balconies, and enough room for 5. If you want to see pictures of the exact room we stayed in, there are some really good ones in this thread. As the pictures show, the only downside in the room is that when the two sofa beds are made up, it’s hard to get to the balcony. That didn’t stop me from eating breakfast on the balcony most days. We absolutely loved it, and spent far more time out there than we did on the only other balcony we’ve had. The large field of view was awesome, and we even saw a few baby dolphins swimming by the ship on the first sea day! If you have any questions on the room, don’t hesitate to ask!

The last item on the agenda is the food. We went in with high expectations, as everyone we talked to said we’d be blown away considering our last three cruises were on Carnival. Honestly, we both felt like it was a bit of a let down. The MDR food lived up to the hype for the most part. We really liked it the nights we ate there. We did find a couple of nights where nothing on the menu really appealed to us, so we just grabbed food from elsewhere and ate on the balcony. Considering the view, no harm, no foul :). Oh, and huge tip: If you’re ordering room service during MDR dinner hours, you can order anything on the MDR menu (including appetizers and desserts) instead of ordering from the normal room service menu. Nice touch, Celebrity!

Moving on, the buffet is where the food fell flat, it just wasn’t that good. The breakfast items seemed the same every day, and while they did have different stuff at lunch each day, the overall quality just wasn’t there. We both agreed that the buffet on all three Carnival ships we’d sailed in the last three years was better overall, with one exception. The Summit is apparently a test ship for the new portioned servings in the buffet. We actually like that. You grab a metal bowl/tin/basket of what item you want and move on, no large communal bowl to scoop your food out of. The downside is that it’s hard to fit everything you might want on one tray, but that’s what seconds are for, right? We all liked that setup, but they need to work on ensuring the portioned food stays warm. Last three food items: The pizza stand was easily better than last year on the Breeze, and the pasta station was pretty good too. The pool grill was on the bad side both times I ate there due to the overcooked hotdogs and tasteless burgers. I’m a burger fanatic, and was only able to get through half of one due to lack of flavor. The argument that it’s hard to serve top-shelf burgers in a large-scale setup like this is lost on me, too, as other cruise lines pull it off just fine (Guy’s Burger Joint is a prime example).

I just realized I forgot the staff, so I’ll throw in a quick note. The staff was good overall, with the captain, officers, and entertainment staff being the highlights. The cruise director, Ken, was pretty good too. We’ve really grown to appreciate how a good cruise director can have a positive impact on a cruise, and Ken definitely helped to save our perception of this one. More on the staff is in the Cruise Critic review, so be sure to check it out once it’s posted.

I hope that covers everything as far as the ship goes. The Summit, while being nice and having an easy to navigate layout, is a bit small for our tastes, so I’d definitely like to try a Solstice class ship at some point if we cruise Celebrity again.

Also, please understand that none of the problems I expressed above ruined the cruise for us. Were the first couple of days slow? Sure, but we were still on a cruise, and still had a great time. A vacation is what you make it, not what you let someone else make it. We made ours great 🙂

Enjoy a few pictures from on-board!

Head pastry chef on the galley tour Central starcase The X Sunrise as we arrived in Bermuda Glassy seas, warm day Ahh, what a view Flash mob practice GoPro moment with the captain The captain talks about steering Yea, we ate out here more than once One officer makes a splashy entrance Panorama of a busy deck The captain introduces the officers

 

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