Accessible Celebrity Summit Cruise
by Vladimir and Elfrieda Drobashevsky © 2002
Join the cruise-loving pair as they visit such top Caribbean
destinations as Key West, FL, Cozumel Mexico, Puerto Limon, Costa
Colon, Panama, Oranjestad, Aruba and Georgetown, Grand
Cayman to discover
what possibilities await disabled travelers.
Elfrieda and a Grand Cayman "pirate" (left).
As always, it is good to be home, after 11 days on Celebrity, GT Summit,
the Ultimate Caribbean Cruise, October 28, ' 02, roundtrip from Ft Lauderdale.
First of all - a fantastic cruise. How can one go wrong with sunny skies and temperatures of 86 degrees every day! This was our first on Celebrity, making it number 12, most on Princess, one each on Costa and RCI.
Not very smooth. There were two large groups at the airport, us for the Summit and another for the Millennium. It took about an hour to assemble our group from various airlines, following the luggage ID. Then, a wait for the buses. Another glitch at the Summit
Terminal: our bus was seventh in line; it took over 15 minutes for each bus to unload tons of bags, exit the passengers and again to ID the luggage. So, another two hours wait. Once in the Terminal, more ID with birth certificate and passports and off to the ship.
Finally, we were in our stateroom 6107 at 3 p.m. Not a bad cabin. I did request a HP room and found a spacious , accessible area, balcony and a large bathroom, easily accessible with my wife's wheelchair. As for the number of HP staterooms on the
Summit, there are ONLY five out of a total staterooms of 1019!
Our steward was this
time a very nice young lady, Jammy from Jamaica. Elfrieda called her "our invisible
stewardess." In 11 days, we saw her twice, the first day and
the last. I don't know how she did it. Every time we would leave our room
and returned, after breakfast for example, our room was made up to perfection,
including our "no tuck" preference that obviously meant more work for Jammy.
Food (and more food!)
The Waterfall Cafe on deck 10 had an abundance of choices, even on some days a specific nationalities menu, such as Mexican or Italian specialties. Excellent delivery, all fresh and service second to none. Elfrieda and I had a couple of lunches there, but all other times we ate at the main "Cosmopolitan Restaurant, on the, upper level. Here a surprise: instead of assigning a table accessible to a wheelchair, our table of six happened to be smack in the center of other tables, which meant to come early for dinner and leave last, to prevent moving furniture or disturb nice people during their dinner with our ever present wheelchair. So much for planning!
Yes, we could have asked for a different table, but we did not want to leave a wonderful couple from Newburgh, NY, at the our table. The food for breakfast and lunch was just great, but somewhat disappointing for dinner. The bad evenings included sirloin steak that I had to help my wife cut. My pork chops was so dry that it could not be cut, and on yet another night - "fishy" fish. I did not complain because I know from experience, it gets
to a big chain reaction, from thetop and to the kitchen, and worst of all would make
our super great waiter (Toric, from Istanbul), although totally innocent, an
embarrassed and upset person. On the bright side, our lobster, prime rib, shrimp
and, of course, the desserts were excellent.
We were as happy with the shows on RCI, Nordic Empress, to Bermuda last June.We thought that the shows on Summit were even better. I can't say enough for the dancers, singers and musicians. Also, for all future cruisers, try not to miss the Comedy of "The Sound Effects" guy - Kerby St. Romain, plenty of tears from laughter and more laughter the next evening from "My Big Greek Wedding." The library on the Summit is what a library should be. Plenty of excellent choices of books and tapes ( TV & VCR in our room) and very quiet. If one did not mind the "music" (noise pollution) from the Casino, there were numerous game and card tables and a card room on decks 4 and 5.
Speaking of the Casino, obviously I am not singing praises; my wife handsomely
contributed to the Celebrity coffers. Seriously though, as a designer, I know that someone did not do their homework. In the lay-out of slots and gaming tables, it was like stuffing 10 pounds of potatoes into a 5-pound bag, not to mention the nonexistent ventilation from clouds of cigarette smoke. In fact, it is appropriate to call the Summit the "Smoking Ship"-- ashtrays were everywhere from deck 10 by the swimming pools and down to deck 3. One more thing: the Summit was most smoke-filled of all other ships, that we know.
On Princess, they have No- smoke areas and they enforce it well. Everywhere, however,
the Casinos are a one total "cloud" of smoke.
We did have a problem in the
Celebrity Theater. There were NO HP accessible places other then the last rows in the theater on the 5th deck. To make it worse,
one did not have a place to bring in the WC, since all had been occupied by loose chairs. What I had to do, is bring my wife, like one hour
before show time (!), move one chair the (*^@!!7)(%$#) out of there, park my wife there, sit next to her and then wait and wait.
Did complain to the PR desk, the second day, and was told "tonight" you will find a number of HP logos for the WC people... Well,
the 11 days passed and there were no HP logos and no room
for the WC.
Our itinerary included Key West, FL, Cozumel, Mexico, Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, Colon, Panama, Oranjestad, Aruba and Georgetown, Grand Cayman. We did not get off at Key West, been there before, but did have a great time in Cozumel, Chankanaab National Park and Beach. Sincere thanks to Tom and Linda for advising us prior to our cruise what is indeed accessible in Cozumel. We liked the dolphin show and there were many other sites to explore and enjoy. All that for a taxi fare of $8.00 each way and $10.00 per person to enter the Park.
We did not sign up for any of the ship- organized tours this cruise. First, I could not tell from the brochures what was suited for my wife and the wheelchair, and secondly, frankly, I did not like the prices. We did skip Puerto Limon and rightly so, after hearing that the shore tour buses were escorted by police cars and heard similar safety comments by others. Actually, to stay onboard when every one is off to shore is not a bad idea. Both of us like to have the whole vessel to ourselves and after lunch. My wife takes her "siesta" and I rush up to the pool deck and have plenty of choices for lounge chairs (and the nearness to ice cream and dessert counters!).
Our next stop was Colon, Panama. We did a little shopping there, but for
the rest of Panama: "been there, done that" on our Panama stop a couple of
years ago. In Aruba, the same shopping - much nicer stores then at previous
stops and on the way back we chose an island tour by a private vendor, $10 bucks
per person for more then two hours, with ab air conditioned mini bus,
lots of stops and a nice narration. This compared to $34.00 per
person from the ship....
Vladimir& Elfrieda Drobashevsky
The last stop was Grand Cayman. This was a tender transfer ship to shore.
Elfrieda hesitated to use the tender, but in a moment four crewmen picked
her up, wheelchair and all and off we were to shore! We did a little shopping
again and returned to the ship before lunch. I didn't intend to miss the
famous Seven Mile Beach and so after lunch,
it was back to the tender and the taxi.
It was truly a magnificent beach with glowing crystal-clear turquoise water. Elfrieda is not a "beach" person, and, being there by myself, I was anxious to grab a taxi ($7.00 RT, instead 18 bucks pp what the ship charged for the same beach) and headed back - the Summit was to leave the Island at 5 p.m.
The Summit is a fairly new ship (if my memory serves me - 2001). It pays to research on the Internet and RTC the individual vessels before booking. In our case, the newer the ship, the better handicap accessibility. We certainly were not wrong with Summit. In all, it is one beautiful lady, very well appointed, although I could not justify some funky art pieces and more so - sculptures. The Bridge is often emphasizing the added initials "GT" to the name Summit. It means Gas Turbine propulsion. It really wasn't that smooth. Our cabin was at mid-ship, and we could feel a little vibration, more so in the restaurant, at the stern, as high as as the deck 5. It had much better elevator service then any other cruise ship, to my knowledge. She is kept spotless; the crew members are cleaning continuously around the clock. A word about the tipping policy. Celebrity's approach is still the old fashioned one. Two days prior to the cruise end, one finds a number of envelopes in the stateroom and cash is the only norm. Certainly every one deserves a tip for endless pampering and "we are here to please you" attitude and service.
Try to choose a van taxi, not only in Cozumel, but in all of the Caribbean Islands.
The taxis are so tiny that my wife could hardly bend her good leg (and obviously the
prosthesis) in the front seat, next to the driver and there is hardly much room in the trunk ,
to store the wheelchair.
Secondly, if one can avoid the airline flight, and a scooter is available, take it onboard!
With a wheelchair, one has to stop at EVERY floor threshold to raise the front wheels and push over it, and a scooter just zooms right over it!
Our flight back home was from Miami at 12.15 p.m. There was the usual "sit and wait" 'till about 9 a.m. for everybody and then off to the terminal according to the colored tag. Ours was gray and we exited at 9.20 a.m. It is always a hassle to find the luggage and more so to fight for the never available porters. My wife was more energetic to find one in her wheelchair than I, and we were off to Miami in no time. It took exactly 35 minutes to reach
Miami Airport. For the suitcases and security, another 30 minutes, and we were on the way home - to rain, cold and a million of falling leaves.
The only thing now, is to tell everyone about our magnificent cruise, show our
pictures and silently daydream about the next cruise, hopefully soon.
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