Back Onboard: A First-Hand Account of Sailing Celebrity Summit
Oh, c’mon, who takes a cruise to the Caribbean in July? Well, an industry that looked like it might not survive after more than a year of being idled by the Covid pandemic lockdown could not be happier that some 300 or so vacationers did. In one of the first demonstrations of the resilience of the cruise industry after 15 months of idle ships and no cash flow, Celebrity’s Summit just proved that cruise lines and cruisers are bouncing back, ready to trust the science even if many of us are still wearing masks in our daily lives.
Over the July 4th weekend, some 300 vacationers, the overwhelming majority of them American and Canadian, decided to throw off the masks and board the Celebrity Summit for her first post-Covid voyage. A seven-day trip around the Caribbean that was as much about testing the post-pandemic waters as it was a sure sign that the cruise industry had successfully weathered the crisis and is now ready to go full steam ahead.
Embarking from St. Martin, the Summit’s voyage got underway with twice as many crew as passengers, a ratio that Celebrity deliberately set, yet something that allowed everyone white-glove service at no extra charge. At times the staff was so overjoyed and grateful to have returned that it was hard to leave one’s stateroom without repeatedly being stopped by effusive crewmembers wanting to thank and get to know every passenger and assist with any and all requests. Celebrity brought only a portion of the Summit’s staff back for this initial journey, perhaps because that was all that was needed for what was, in many respects, an experimental voyage.
Typically, the ship would sail fully loaded with 2000 passengers, so that meant on this voyage, there were no lines at buffets or any of the other onboard crowd-related hassles that can happen when a ship is fully booked. No clamor to reserve shaded cabanas for fear that they would be snatched up by 9 am or trouble making dinner reservations at any of the ship’s specialty restaurants. True to form, the ship’s nightspots were hopping, everything from silent discos to martini bars – all the amenities in full that one would expect on a pre-covid voyage. For anyone who wanted it, the gym was fully open with no restrictions.
Perhaps best of all, there were no mask requirements for guests even though all crew members were always required to be masked up and were not allowed to go ashore when the ship made its port calls in Barbados, Curacao, and Aruba. Vaccinations were required for all guests, along with negative covid tests. It was seamless sailing with spectacular customer service and never a feeling of being in a crowd. Nothing not to like, but at the same time, nothing Covid-related left to chance. And in what is likely to be considered the ultimate indication of success for the return of cruising, no one aboard tested positive for Covid before disembarking where we began, in St. Martin.
One difference from pre-covid cruising and a change likely to be welcomed by vacationers if it is adopted on future voyages: the mandatory muster drill was conducted virtually. That meant there was no unruly stampede to line up on deck while fumbling with safety vests. Instead, everyone on board was required to watch a channel in their stateroom with brief emergency instructions and then report to staff via the Celebrity app that they had completed the process. So if we’re lucky, perhaps we can at least thank Covid for eliminating the muster drill.
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