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Well, here it is: a review of a short land trip and 11 day cruise on the Summit. I usually book my own air, but because this was an open-jaw itinerary, I ended up using Celebrity's air/sea program, it came in over $1000 cheaper than what I could find on my own.
On May 11, I left for Honolulu from Milwaukee via St. Louis on American Airlines - I ended up on a TWA plane which did not have the extra legroom in coach like American has. I arrived in Honolulu about 4:00pm (9:00pm at home) to find it was raining...this was to be a theme for most of my time in the islands. Took a taxi to my hotel in Waikiki where I met up with some friends. We walked down the street to a small local restraunt where we had a light supper - and our little group ran into some more friends....we did a little shopping then headed back to the hotel to crash for the night.
Sunday was spent driving around Oahu - we went up past Diamond Head up the coast to the North shore where we stopped at Sunset Beach and the Bonzai pipeline - the waves were not to spectacular that day, and it was starting to drizzle a little. We then drove down through the center of the island back to Honolulu and Waikiki. That night we went to the Hale Koa (a couple of friends were staying there) for their Sunday night buffet (which just happened to be on Mother's Day). After dinner we walked over to the Hilton Hawaiian Village where we surprised a couple of people - they had been planning this cruise for over 9 months and we had all said there was no way we could make it, but we decided about 6 months out to book the cruise and try to surprise them...and we sure did! As we were walking back to our respective hotels that night we got caught in a downpour....not a quick tropical shower, but this rain lasted all that night and til about noon on Monday.
Monday was the day we boarded the Summit - we got to the pier around 11:00AM - we had to wait in line til about 11:30 to be let into the building to begin checking in.....i can truly say my friends, April and her mom CeeCee, Doug, John, Pat and Don were within the first 30 people in line - we went through the check in process and were on board by 11:45am. April, CeeCee and I went to check out our cabin - we had a cat 1A (9154) on Sky Deck - it was the last cabin on the starboard side before the aft cabins. We were pleasantly surprised with the cabin - 191 sq feet - it had a king size bed and a double bed that pulled out from the sofa bed. There was ample closet space; two of the closets you were able to hang your clothes and store some stuff on the bottom of the closet. The third closet had shelfs and drawers in it - 6 pull out drawers, and three shelves - one of the shelves held the safe - you could operate the safe either by putting in a code or using a card with a magnetic stripe. Three bathrobes and three beach towels were in the cabin when we arrived along with two flower arrangements sent to us by some friends.
I guess now would be a good time to talk about food and dining options on the Summit. There were 15 in our little group within the larger group - two had chosen early seating, the rest of us chose late seating. Those of us on late seating (except for one couple) were at a table for 12 on the first floor of the Cosmpolitan dining room. Our waiter, Ronald and his assistant Christian, had to be the best servers I have had on seven cruises. Nothing was a problem for them - all special requests were met with a smile, and we never had to ask for anything a second time. One of my tablemates had requested mashed potatos on the first night we all sat at the table - they brought out two plates of them that night - we just kept getting more and more mashed potatos every night.
First night of this cruise, we did not sail til midnight, so it was open seating for both early and late seatings...as some people were still arriving at the ship during supper.
I found the food in the dining room for supper on the Summit to be better than the food we had on the Millennium in February 2001 - everything was done to perfection. Beef, fish, veal and chicken were all very good and the desserts (especially the chocolate ones and the ice creams) were to die for! AS for breakfast inthe dining room - all I can say is stick with the eggs and danish - the pancakes and french toast left something to be desired. I only ate one lunch in the dining room and it was ok - nothing really special. For breakfast I found the food in the Waterfall Cafe to be much better - a great selection of fruits, meats, potatoes, salads, desserts, breads. Also in the Waterfall, in the morning there was an omelet station, which at lunch turned into a pasta station. There was also an area that at lunch had a themed buffet each day - Italian, German, American, etc. There was also ice cream and frozen yogurt available during lunch and the afternoon. The Waterfall grill was open for burgers and hot dogs and fries. This turned over to pizza after 3:00pm and was open til 7:00pm. You could also get pizza from the room service menu from 3:00 to 7:00pm and again from 10:00pm to 1:00am. There was also room service available 24 hours a day and also a special breakfast menu from room service besides the continental breakfast menu that you could put on your door at night. Oh, and how could I forget about the Normandie restraunt? A group of 4 of us dined there one night - I had alway been one to question why people would pay for eating at an alternative restraunt - I know the answer now - it was fabulous! The chateaubriand I had literally melted in my mouth and the chocolate souffle was exquisite. The service was perfect. I would dine there again in a heartbeat.
I must also say that the crew on the Summit was much friendlier than the crew on the Millennium in 2001 - everyone I ran into smiled and said "Hello", or "Good morning - How are you today?" Nothing was a problem except at the purser's desk...and they were usually very pleasant too, but some passengers did run into some problems with them.
As for the ports, our first stop was Kauai; and let me tell you Kauai is beautiful - it is probably more beautiful if it would stop raining once in a while! A couple of friends and I rented a minivan and drove up the the east coast of the island all the way up to Ke'e beach, where between raindrops, we saw the Bali Hi Mountain of South Pacific fame and the start of the NaPali cliffs. We also stopped in Hanalei and had lunch at Bubba Burgers...man they were good! We also stopped in Princeville to do some shopping; the sun actually did come out for about half an hour - the clerk at the store said it was the first time in 2 weeks that the sun had come out - we had been hearing on the news about the unusually heavy rains in the islands, but there was a lot of flood warnings that were issued while we were in the islands. One thing though, the waterfalls on the island were spectacular! We also stopped at Kilauea lighthouse and Opaekaa Falls.
Next we headed to Lahaina, Maui...we were there for two full days. This was the one stop where we actually had sunshine! The first day some of our group rented a convertible and did the road to Hana; one friend and I rented a minivan and drove up to Kapalua and down back through Lahaina down to Maalea and up to Wailuku - stopping up at the Iao needle and the Tropical plantation. We then drove back up through Lahaina up to Kaanapali and to Whaler's Village where we had lunch and did some shopping. That night, some of my friends stayed on board the ship and dined at the Normandie restraunt, while the rest of us went to the Old Lahaina Luau - the food was fair, the drinks were ok, the show was pretty good, but the best attraction that night was the sunset! The next day in Maui - we were all off the ship well before 6:00am - we had booked independent snorkeling and diving tours - the snorkelers went out to Molokini and snorkeled there - on the way out we saw sea turtles and on the way back we were entertained by a dolphin that decided to play with the catamaran.
Next stop was Kailua-Kona on the west coast of the big Island of Hawaii. Some of us did a ship's tour that day - went to a painted church, to a Kona coffee mill, and to Puuhonua o Honaunau National Park - it was a place of refuge where those who had angered the Gods or had broken some taboo came to to find absolution. By the way - it rained again that day.
Our last day in Hawaii was spent in Hilo...where we had expected it to rain as it is the second wettest city in the USA, behind Ketchikan, Alaska. It rained off and on all day, but those who had booked helicopter tours were able to do them. I had chosen to do Volcanoes National Park - we did the Crater rim drive. This place is not to be missed. You can actually tell where the different flows of lava are and you can see how nature begins reclaiming the land. We also went to the Thurston Lava Tube and we stopped at the Mauna Loa Macadamia nut factory.
As we sailed away from Hilo that night, we started our 5 straight sea days.....that was the roughest night of the cruise, the ship was moving at 23.5 knots and it was very rough that night.
The first two days at sea were wonderful - sunny and warm enough to sit out in the sun and relax. The next two were cloudy and very cool. Our last sea day started out that way, but by 2:00pm we had spotted the coast of the US and the sun came back out - down near the pool out of the wind it was more than warm enough to get some more sun. That afternoon and evening we sailed in to and up the Straights of San Juan de Fuca - that evening we had a great view of Mt. Baker before we turned north to heads toward Vancouver. This are of the Pacific northwest is absolutely beautiful.
After 11 days on the ship we arrived in Vancouver friday am, May 24th. I was off the ship by 9:40am - to the airport by 10:45, and checked in for my return flight on Northwest (I really don't like flying Northwest) by 11:00am. I arrived home after 9:00pm that night and found out I was still on Hawaii time.....and still very laid back from my cruise and my trip to the islands.
There were a couple of negatives on this cruise and it related to some misinformation that Celebrity printed in the Summit Daily. The most important one happened on our second day in Maui. Some of our group had to be down in Kihei by 6:15am and the rest of us had to be in Maalea by 7:15am. Celebrity was running a tender all night long - according to what was printed in the daily the night before, the tenders were to leave the ship for the shore on the half hour (ie: 4:30 and 5:30am) and leave the shore for the ship on the hour (5:00am and 6:00am) - well when we got down to the tender embarkation area, they told us that that was wrong...well, let's just say after showing them what was printed in the daily and trip up to the pursers' desk (which really was wasted as the girl got the "deer in the headlights" look when we approached her) they called the tender back to pick us and the others who had gathered to catch the 5:30 tender - we got on shorejust before 6:00 am - and we found out that those of our group who had shown up for the 4:30am tender had to go through the same thing. Not everyone single one of us who showed up on the half hours could be wrong - a case of one hand not knowing what the other was telling the passengers. There was also an incident in one of the tender ports where some crew members who were returning from personal time on shore literally pushed passengers out of the way to get off the tender first - it was totally uncalled for and someone could have been injured. I know that the passengers had requested a meeting with the staff Captain to address these issues - I don't know what the result of that meeting was. Also, and this is just a personal thing, I think the itinerary needs a sea day in the middle of all those island days, just to let everyone rest and recharge - we were exhausted by the time we got to our first sea day.
This was absolutely one of the best vacations I have ever had....and a special thanks to Servio, Jose, Ronald, Christian and Milla for making it special. Also a special hello to Jovan who was one of the good crew members I had met on the Millennium and who is now on the Summit - he was my waiter on the Millennium and remembered me and my tablemates.