No trip to Seattle is complete with a walk-through of Pike Place Market. Every time I’ve been to Seattle, I do it. Generally, it’s during the height of tourist season. Back in June 2016, we felt like sardines shuffling through the throngs of people.

But in January on a Sunday morning? I felt like I had the place to myself.

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Pike Place Market

Each morning before I began my work conference in Seattle, I would walk down from my hotel to the market.

In the fog…

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Pike Place Market

And blue skies too…

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Pike Place Market

As I was walking through, a woman told the fishmonger how she wanted to catch a fish! So she tried…and missed!

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fish throwing

But the second time was a success!

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fish throwing

Being from the Midwest, I enjoyed seeing (and eating!) all of the fresh seafood.

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fresh seafood

Even though the market closes up in the evenings, it is worth a walk to see the neon sign all lit up. Yes, it’s touristy, but you can’t miss this classic Seattle experience.

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Pike Place Market

Below are photos from Pike Place Market. For a full set of Seattle pics, check out my Flickr album.

So my work conference in Seattle was good, but now I found myself “stranded.” Owing to a once-in-a-generation extreme cold back in the Midwest, my flight back home to Milwaukee was canceled. Then it was canceled for the next two days. So I ended up extended my trip by three days in Seattle.

What to do? I had been to the Space Needle before, the Museum of Pop Culture, and the Pike Place Market. I decided to take an Uber and visit the Museum of Flight near Boeing Field, located in Tukwila, just south of Seattle.

I was not disappointed. I think one of my earliest memories is flying with my mom out to California. I remember the flight attendant affixing wings on my shirt!

For me, the star of the museum is their outdoor covered aviation pavilion. This place is every aviation geek’s dream!

I was able to go onboard a British Airways Concorde.

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British Airways Concorde

And right next to the Concorde is an Air Force One that was used extensively by LBJ and Nixon.

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Air Force One

You can also go on board the City of Everett, the first Boeing 747 jumbo jet ever built.

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First Boeing 747

Then it’s on to newer jets like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

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Boeing 787 Dreamliner

The grounds also feature the “Red Barn” – it was an original Boeing manufacturing facility.

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The early Boeing headquarters

The rest of the museum features exhibits dedicated to aviation history and advancements, both military and civilian.

It’s definitely worth a visit for aviation enthusiasts. I visited on a weekday morning in January, and at times, felt like I had the place to myself.

Here are more pics from the Museum of Flight. Check out my Flickr album for more Seattle pics.

In late January I was visiting Seattle for a work conference. This wasn’t my first time. I had been out a couple years prior to our Alaskan cruise. I had also been to visit family–and another time for a work. I had done the usual things like the Space Needle. It was time to do something different.

With sunset approaching, I walked from the my downtown hotel over to Columbia Center, the tallest building in the Pacific Northwest. After entering the building and paying admission, I whisked up the elevator to the 73rd floor of the Sky View Observatory. From here you have a perfect 360 degree view of Seattle.

What I like about the Sky View Observatory is that you can capture Seattle’s most famous landmark, the Space Needle. Because when you’re actually at the Space Needle, it won’t be in any of your shots (sort of like when you’re at the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris). Sunset turned the sky cotton candy pink and blue. It was amazing to see Mount Rainier, the Seattle skyline, and Puget Sound.

Here are a few select pics:

The Seattle skyline

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Seattle skyline

Space Needle

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Space Needle

Mount Rainier at sunset

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Mount Rainier

Below are photos from the Sky View Observatory. For a full set of Seattle pics, check out my Flickr album.

As we were swimming at the beach in Barbados we heard a mix of people from Celebrity Summit and the Crown Princess (also in dock that day) complaining about their respective cruises. For the Celebrity folks, I just had to think: ARE WE EVEN ON THE SAME CRUISE? Because we were having a great time! Were there things I would change and stuff to improve on? Of course…but all in all this was another great cruise. Now we have three under our belt!

Thing big thing for us is this: For one blissful December week, someone else cooked for us, someone else made our bed and cleaned our room, and we had ample sunshine and warm temps. What’s not to like? That’s the appeal of a cruise: it’s your hotel; it’s your transportation; it’s your entertainment; it’s your sightseeing.

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Celebrity Summit

We sailed in December 2018. The ship is due for a dry dock renovation in spring 2019. Was there some wear and tear? Sure. But nothing major. It’s a beautiful ship. We like the slightly smaller size of it. Never felt crowded.

I would categorize the food as OK. I didn’t enjoy as many items in the buffet as I did on last year’s cruise on the Celebrity Equinox. The Main Dining Room food was mostly OK, with a couple stand out dishes. Service was excellent: from our cabin steward to the wait staff. We found the entertainment lacking, but we chalked it up to being a port-intensive cruise.

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Celebrity Summit, balcony stateroom

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Celebrity Summit, pool deck

Speaking of ports…

St. Croix: Be advised if you have Sunday port stop here, either book an excursion or make it a beach day as most shops will be closed. We enjoyed our island tour though.

St. Maarten: We did a beach day here. No complaints. Kim Sha Beach at Simpson Bay is a nice area. Very relaxing!

Dominica: Beautiful green and verdant island. Really loved our rainforest/waterfall excursion. Some of the scenery reminded me of Hawaii.

Grenada: Similar to Dominica in being green and pretty. Loved our river tubing adventure. Would not hesitate to do that again.

Barbados: We did another beach day here. Harbour Lights at Carlisle Bay has a fantastic stretch of sand with crystal clear water.

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St. George’s, Grenada

So what did we learn?

Well, on our 2017 Caribbean cruise we had three ports and three sea days. On this cruise we had five ports and one sea day. I think we’re like Goldilocks trying to find what’s right for us! We LOVED all of the islands we visited, but maybe next time we will look for four ports and two sea days? At times, we felt like we were in constant motion and needed just a bit more time to relax.

A few of the islands were not the “typical” Caribbean stops (unless you’re a frequent cruiser) that come to mind on a lot of itineraries like St. Thomas, Nassau, Cozumel, Jamaica, etc. I enjoyed that though. Dominica and Grenada were beautiful. I liked the mix of islands. I also liked leaving from San Juan and heading south to guaranteed WARM weather (we’re coming from Wisconsin, after all!). San Juan is a special place to us and we enjoyed our time there pre-cruise touring around Old San Juan. We will be back!

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Looking towards La Fortaleza

A couple fellow passengers on the ship inquired why we chose Celebrity–maybe insinuating we were too young (well, thanks but I just turned 40!). We like Celebrity because it’s peaceful and elegant…even classy. But then again, it’s not stuffy either. It just works for us.

That said, that doesn’t mean we’re Celebrity loyalists either. Price and itinerary are major components for us when booking. If I see a Celebrity sailing that works for us and matches our interests, we’ll be there!

I posted a full review on CruiseCritic.

Here’s a geography fact: Although Barbados is considered a Caribbean port of call, it’s actually surrounded completely by the Atlantic Ocean. It doesn’t touch the Caribbean Sea at all. A minor quibble, because it has some of the most beautiful Caribbean beaches.

Waking up, we were already docked at Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados. We looked out our window and saw an old friend – the Crown Princess – the ship that took us on our Alaskan cruise. Barbados was the only port of call where we experienced another ship in port – so that was an unexpected bonus for this trip!

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Docked next to an old friend, the Crown Princess

After breakfast we exited the ship and followed the lines through the port terminal for ship excursions. Today, was a beach day. Here’s the description for the “Barbados Beach Break”:

Unwind, relax, and explore the palm-fringed beach, warm white sand, and breathtaking turquoise waters of Harbour Lights. Your journey begins with a scenic drive through the historic capital of Bridgetown. Admire the parliament buildings and iconic landmarks. Then, arrive at Harbour Lights and receive a complimentary welcome drink. Relax on a beach chair under the shade of an umbrella. Access the facility’s many amenities, including changing rooms and showers. Bring your own snorkel gear and explore the shipwrecks in the protected bay. Or, work on your tan and bask in the sun. Duration: 3.5 hrs.

Now I know we could have taken a taxi to Harbour Lights, but we just decided to book everything through Celebrity and not have to worry about anything.

The shuttle bus took us through Bridgetown and over to Harbour Lights on Carlisle Bay. Wow, what a great beach! The sand was like sugar…super soft.

You know it’s gonna be a good day!

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Harbour Lights, Carlisle Bay, Barbados

The water was so clear!

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Carlisle Bay, Barbados

This beach was perfect for us! After some swimming and sunning, the bus took us back to the port area. We did some souvenir shopping. I could get used to a Caribbean Christmas!

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Carlisle Bay, Barbados

Here are a few pics from Barbados. For more from our Caribbean cruise, check out my Flickr album.

Port #4 of our Caribbean cruise was Grenada. Again, we lucked out: 4 for 4 on being the only cruise ship in port! Grenada reminded me a lot of Dominica–lush, green interior, but with perhaps nicer beaches.

First we woke up to a beautiful view of Grenada.

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Grenada

After exiting the ship we met our tour group and boarded our shuttle bus in St. George’s, the capital. Our Grenadian adventure was river tubing! We booked directly through Celebrity Cruises. Here’s the description for “Adventure River Tubing:”

Channel your inner adventurer as you explore Grenada’s rainforest on a river tube. A scenic drive through the hilly interior of the Grand Etang Rainforest Reserve brings you to the launch site at the Balthazar Estate. After a safety briefing, you’ll gear up to embark on your journey down the river. Spin and swirl in the currents as you gently glide down the tranquil waters. After, you’ll be treated to rum punch or fruit juice. Duration: 3 hrs.

The shuttle bus wound us up through the hills of Grenada and into the rainforest. After arriving at the river tubing site, we suited up with life jackets and helmets and got our inner tube. They recommend water shoes. If you don’t have them, you can rent them there. I wore my flips flops and was a-ok. I had wanted to bring my smartphone along on the journey, but it’s not recommended unless you have a way to keep it dry.

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Grenada river tubing

You’ll get plenty wet. In fact, we were soaked! But it was an absolute blast. The river tubing team did a great job of keeping us together as a group. There are a few couple feet drops here and there and some rocks to dodge, but otherwise it’s nothing too difficult. Just hold on to the inner tube and follow instructions!

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Grenada river tubing

The water was “refreshing” (read, cold) and there are no creep-crawlies in there that I was aware of!

At the end of the river course the shuttle bus was there to meet us. We made the way back to St. George’s while we got a little history and culture of the spice isle and got to see nutmeg, cinnamon, and more in its natural habitat.

After getting back into St. George’s, we went back on the ship to grab a quick lunch and then back out to do some more exploring.

When you exit the port terminal, turn right you will see the Sendall Tunnel. The steps to the right of it will take you up to Fort George where you can get some great views.

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Fort George, St. George’s, Grenada

We thought Fort George was a “historic” fort, but it appears to still be in use despite its decayed look? There were some barracks with people, a gym, and a dining area presumably for military.

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Fort George, St. George’s, Grenada

I like this shot…looks like Celebrity Summit is about to take a hit!

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Celebrity Summit, docked at Grenada

Here is picturesque St. George’s.

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St. George’s, Grenada

We did a little souvenir shopping and walked around town. Another great island adventure!

Here are a few pics from Grenada. For more, check out my Flickr album.

Some islands in the Caribbean are known for their beaches, while others are more famous for their rainforests and eco-adventures. Dominica is one of those islands: lush and verdant. A place to get off the beaten path.

First, let’s get to the pronunciation: I always thought you pronounced it similar to the Dominican Republic. The correct way to say Dominica is like doh-mee-NEE-cuh — more of a French pronunciation.

For this port of call, we booked the “Dominica’s Favorites” tour from Celebrity Cruises. Here’s the description:

Set against a backdrop of lush forestry and exotic wildlife, this sightseeing tour through Morne Trois Pitons National Park showcases the incredible beauty of Dominica’s rainforest. Begin your adventure at Morne Bruce for a spectacular panoramic view over Roseau. Then, escape to Trafalgar Falls to discover the twin cascades known as the “mother” and “father”. Continue to the Emerald Pool, a lush grotto replete with magnificent rock formations and exotic flora and fauna. Duration: 4.5 hrs. 

We docked at Roseau (pronouced liked rose-oh)–the island’s capital–where had a nice view of the city at breakfast.

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Celebrity Summit, docked at Dominica

After exiting the port, we boarded our shuttle bus and made our way through the streets of Roseau and up to the scenic viewpoint of Morne Bruce where we could see the ship. Then it was on to the rainforest!

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View of Roseau, Dominica

Up, up, up into the hills of Dominica we first visited the twin falls that is Trafalgar Falls. It’s about a 10-minute walk from the park’s parking lot. The views are outstanding. The whole area reminded us of our trip to Hawaii in 2015: lush forest, shades of green, and fresh air!

Plenty of time was given to tour the falls.

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Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

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Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Then it was back on our shuttle bus. We stopped at a roadside stand for some ginger-spiced punch before arriving to Emerald Pool. It was another 10 minute walk or so to get to the site.

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Dominica

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Emerald Pool, Dominica

Again ample time was given…you could even take a dip if you desired!

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Emerald Pool, Dominica

The scenery is outstanding and it was good to learn about Dominica’s natural and cultural history. Then we were returned to Roseau where we did some souvenir shopping.

Walking back on to the Celebrity Summit there was a picture perfect shot of the ship!

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Celebrity Summit, docked at Dominica

Below are more pics from Dominica. Check out my Flickr album for the full set from our Caribbean cruise.

 

In planning for our 7-day 5-island adventure, we decided to pick two of the islands for driving tours, two of the islands for beach days, and one island for an “adventure.” I posted on the CruiseCritic boards seeking advice on which islands to do a beach day. Hands down, St. Maarten was a top pick.

We booked a beach day excursion directly through the cruise ship to avoid the hassle of planning. Here’s the description of the St. Maarten Beach Rendezvous shore excursion:

Travel through the Dutch side of beautiful St. Maarten during this unforgettable day of fun, sun, and relaxation. Sit back and enjoy the narration given by the guide during your journey to Kim Sha Beach. Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted with rum or fruit punch, as well as a lounge chair. Enjoy ample time to participate in a water sport, sunbathe or explore the stretch of beautiful white sand before heading to the beach restaurant for a delicious seaside lunch. On the way back into town, you will have the option to stop in Philipsburg for some leisurely shopping. Duration: 4.5 hrs.

After about a 20 minute shuttle bus ride, we arrived at Kim Sha Beach on Simpson Bay. Chairs were included. We also purchased a shared umbrella for our two chairs for $4.

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Kim Sha Beach, St. Maarten

The beach was not crowded at all. We all had front row seats. Kim Sha Beach on Simpson Bay is calm and has a very gradual drop-off. The first few feet in the water has sand/shell bits that are rough, but then it smooths right out and is quite nice!

Lunch and a complimentary drink were included in the excursion at the Greenhouse beach bar. Choices were a bang-bang shrimp baguette, chicken breast, or grouper. Wifi was included as well.

Even though this was a Celebrity Cruises excursion, I didn’t feel rushed. We had ample time to enjoy the beach. The first few minutes we got there, we kept getting interrupted by vendors (foot massages, back rubs, jewelry, dresses)…but after the first 5-10 minutes they all left.

On the way back on the shuttle bus, you had the option of being dropped off near downtown Philipsburg, or being taken back to the port shopping area.

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St. Maarten

It was a relaxing and sun-filled day!

Here are some pics from St. Maarten. Check out my Flickr album for more from our Caribbean cruise.

Caribbean Cruise: St. Croix

On our winter 2017 cruise we stopped in St. Thomas. Now on our 2018 winter cruise, we got to add another one of the U.S. Virgin Islands: St. Croix.

The ship docked at Frederiksted. After breakfast onboard, we exited the ship and made our way to our pre-booked tour, the “Panoramic Drive.” It was booked directly through the cruise line for sake of convenience. Heres the description:

Explore St. Croix’s historic, cultural, and natural sites on this exciting driving tour of the island. Marvel at St. Croix’s tropical beauty and captivating views as you make your way along the island. Learn about the cultural traditions of the islanders before arriving to the historical town of Christiansted. Browse the shops or enjoy a stroll over to the famous Fort Christiansted before departing to port. Duration: 3.5 hrs.

The tour was aboard a small shuttle bus. At no time did the tour feel crowded or rushed. We drove through the island, learned about the history and culture, and made a few stops along the way for pictures.

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St. Croix USVI

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St. Croix USVI

The tour stopped in Christiansted where we had an hour to putter about. Because it was Sunday, almost everything was CLOSED. So if you have St. Croix as a Sunday port stop, I suggest booking a tour or making it a beach day. Otherwise there will be lots of closed shops.

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Christiansted, St. Croix USVI

The tour dropped us off back at the port in Frederiksted where we walked down the beach by the pier and picked up a few souvenirs from a couple of the shops that were open. Also saw some cool stilt walkers!

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Stilt walker

After coming from cold Wisconsin, the warm temps, blue skies, and greenery of St. Croix was much appreciated!

Below are a few pics from St. Croix. Check out my Flickr album for more.

In December we spent one week island hopping through the Caribbean on the Celebrity Summit. Not a bad way to spend a week! We have grown to love cruising. It’s your hotel. It’s your transportation. And your place to eat, have fun, and relax.

This was our third cruise. We started in 2016 with an Alaskan cruise on Princess Cruises. We did that to get our feet wet. We weren’t sure if we would like it. But of course, we got hooked! Then in 2017 we did our first let’s-get-out-of-wintery-Wisconsin cruise and sailed on the Celebrity Equinox. That was a great trip too.

Choosing this Cruise
We enjoyed the Celebrity Cruises experience last year. We don’t need water slides or belly flop contests to keep us entertained. We just want to RELAX. So, Celebrity is a good fit. We also wanted an almost absolute guarantee of warm temps and sunshine, so that’s why we opted for a Southern Caribbean itinerary from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Plus we fell in love with Old San Juan when we visited in 2017 and wanted to see it again. In the depths of winter in January 2018, we booked this cruise when a good deal came along. All of the ports-of-call, except Puerto Rico, were new to us.

Below is an overview of the cruise experience.

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Itinerary

  • Friday, Dec. 7: Fly to San Juan, PR. Spend night at Sheraton Old San Juan.
  • Saturday, Dec. 8: Leave San Juan on Celebrity Summit
  • Sunday, Dec. 9: St. Croix, USVI – island tour
  • Monday, Dec. 10: St. Maarten – beach day
  • Tuesday, Dec. 11: Dominica – waterfall/rainforest tour
  • Wednesday, Dec. 12: Grenada – river tubing
  • Thursday, Dec. 13: Barbados – beach day
  • Friday, Dec. 14: Day at sea
  • Saturday, Dec. 15: Return to San Juan, Fly home
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Celebrity Summit, pool deck

Embarkation
Painless. There was a port strike that happened earlier in the morning but was resolved by noontime. From the moment we stepped out of our taxi at the Pan American Pier to the moment we were in our stateroom, only 15 minutes had elapsed. And we have no special “perks” or “status.” Just luck I guess. Our room was ready when we got on board.

Stateroom
Balcony cabin, deck 7, room 7020. Spacious, comfortable bed and pillows, couch, good storage. Quiet–never heard any noise from above or next to us on either side. Balcony space was nice…we spent a lot of time out there. A slight smell coming from the shower drain and a couple of the shower tiles were cracked. We also knew that the ship was scheduled for dry dock soon. Great location, easy access to elevators. I thought being more forward in the ship we might feel more motion, but all was calm.

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Celebrity Summit, balcony stateroom

Service
Great service from Ryan, our cabin steward. He worked like a magician, that guy! Also enjoyed our wait staff in the MDR from Tammy and Kelvin. Took time to explain menus and suggest items. Had to make three trips to Guest Relations because we kept de-magnetizing our seapasses. Service was quick and friendly. They also happily exchanged some larger bills for smaller bills for us.

Food
This is highly subjective, so take it with a grain of salt (hey, that’s a food pun!). I wouldn’t say I would rave about the food here (last year on Celebrity Equinox we had a 3-night specialty dining package–so it’s unfair to compare). This year, we ate all dinners in the MDR. I had two things I would rank as “excellent” — a braised beef ragout with gnocchi as a starter (I could have eaten plates and plates of it as a main) and the slow braised lamb wrapped in phyllo. There were a couple misses: the seafood in the Mediterranean seafood orzo was chewy (a la rubber bands) as was the sirloin steak. I also had the teeniest tiniest chocolate lava cake I’ve ever had. Breakfast was good in Oceanview Cafe (the buffet), but lunch found me circling a couple times to pick something out and I’m not picky. Pizza in OVC could be good…or not. Sometimes nice and crispy, other times greasy and limp. But at least I didn’t have to cook for a whole week!

Facilities
This was the smallest ship we’ve been on and found it naturally easy to navigate. It did not feel crowded at all! Easily found open tables in the Oceanview Cafe. It was easy to get on and off in each port. There was some evidence of the need for the dry docking. Carpet frayed here and there. You could tell our balcony probably needed scraped of the many coats of paint and be redone. There generally wasn’t a problem getting a chair in the pool area if you wanted some sun…or even some shade too. Because this itinerary was so port intensive, we didn’t have time to enjoy as my areas as we have done on previous cruises.

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Celebrity Summit

Onboard Activities
Again, since this cruise was so port intensive we were not expecting a lot. And in return, Celebrity did not provide a lot. The singers and dancers are always good, but the plot-less shows can get kind of repetitive. Neither of the comedians were funny to us, but we like edgier humor and that doesn’t really match us with Celebrity’s demographic. The magician/comedian (how about pick one!) was awful. On the plus side: We really enjoyed the live music. Since the cruise left from San Juan, there was more Latin music…another plus for me.

Disembarkation
Super simple. Walked off when our group number was called. Luggage was already waiting. Line moved fairly quick for Customs and Immigration and then again to get a taxi.

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Celebrity Summit, docked at Dominica

Ports…

I’ll blog more about the ports-of-call later, but here’s a quick overview:

St. Croix: Sundays in St. Croix are SLEEPY. So be advised to plan an excursion as a lot of shops are closed. We enjoyed our island tour though.

St. Maarten: We did a beach day here. No complaints. Kim Sha Beach at Simpson Bay is a nice area. Very relaxing!

Dominica: Beautiful green and verdant island. Really loved our rainforest/waterfall excursion. Some of the scenery reminded me of Hawaii.

Grenada: Similar to Dominica in being green and pretty. Loved our river tubing adventure. Would not hesitate to do that again.

Barbados: We did another beach day here. Harbour Lights at Carlisle Bay has a fantastic stretch of sand with crystal clear water.

With this port-intensive itinerary, the week flew by so fast. But all good things must come to end. We enjoyed our week in the Caribbean and look forward to booking future cruises!

Here are some pics from the ship. For more, check out my Flickr album.