Newly added dining experience, Qsine, takes clients on a culinary journey onboard the Summit. // © 2013 Celebrity Cruises
About the Author
Marc Kassouf owns Pride Travel, which specializes in gay and lesbian travel. Kassouf holds several certifications, most notably CTIE by Travel Institute and Elite Cruise Counselor by CLIA.
Shortly after launching the Solstice class, Celebrity Cruises embarked on a three-year, $140 million program to revitalize, or “Solsticize,” its four Millennium-class ships. The revitalized Summit is a good example of how the cruise line accomplished the upgrades.
Before boarding the ship, my partner and I discussed how we would measure the revitalization’s success: We wanted to see how Celebrity could keep the original design and feel of Summit while injecting the right amount of Solstice amenities and offerings to bring her up to par with the fleet’s newer vessels. Ideally, we wanted to see the original defining elements, such as the alabaster staircase in the foyer or the Normandie restaurant, preserved and upgrades to venues such as Blu, Qsine and AquaClass executed well. What we didn’t want to see was anything that felt forced, such as new venues that felt out of place. Fortunately, the right balance of old and new was struck.
Amenities and Public Areas
When your clients board the Summit, they’ll still be welcomed by its grand foyer spanning several decks, where the centerpiece remains its illuminated alabaster grand staircase, a hub of social activity day and night. Working their way around, they will discover a renovated Cafe Al Baccio with menu updates, the addition of Cellar Masters, a 24-hour wine bar with pneumatic machines dispensing wine, and casual dining at Bistro on Five. The martini bar has new decor and there is also a new freestanding bar, Crush. Tucked away above the hubbub sits the new Celebrity iLounge, where Apple-enthusiasts can buy the latest iPad, take computer classes or speak with an Apple expert.
We did sorely miss the Molecular Bar. This Solstice class-staple serves up truly unique drinks featuring eclectic ingredients and preparations such as herbal infusions, foams or bubbling liquid nitrogen. Hopefully, Celebrity can find a way to incorporate this guest experience into the next revitalization for parity and consistency across the brand, but, for now, make sure to let clients know ahead of time that Summit may not include their favorite beverage options available on the Solstice class.
Looking around, we could easily see that the public spaces have truly been refreshed to the standards of the new Celebrity brand. Overall, the interior design has been greatly modernized to bring the feel of Solstice class into the Summit, and to do so unobtrusively.
Always a focal point for our clients, dining was perhaps the most noticeably Solsticized element onboard. In addition to the main dining room, Celebrity added what has become one of its most lauded food innovations: Qsine. Celebrity calls the restaurant a “culinary journey” and the concept, which features a new take on culinary favorites, is available on the Summit in what was formerly the conservatory. While some clients may miss the park-like space, we believe that most would gladly trade it for the fun-filled experiences available at Qsine. The space seems more intimate yet airy, perhaps due to much higher ceilings and an irregular floor plan that lends itself well to the unique nature of the venue.
Perhaps the most pleasantly rewarding dining experience was at Blu, Celebrity’s spa cuisine restaurant exclusively for AquaClass guests. Breakfast includes complimentary specialty smoothies, granolas and other healthy options alongside traditional morning fare. Dinner offerings were consistently excellent, and the open seating means clients can saunter in at their leisure. For luxury aspiring travelers that like food but don’t necessarily book into suites, agents should recommend that they seriously consider AquaClass and the access it grants to Blu for healthy, wholesome and creative dining options. For repeat Celebrity cruisers, tell clients that Blu is on par with the best specialty restaurants Celebrity has to offer: The restaurant has its own kitchen and line as well as senior wait staff.
Dining at Blu never introduced a worry that we were missing the main dining venues, since the menu consistently exceeded expectations. Instead, clients will be offered options that balance clean, healthy cooking with variety without compromising quality.
AquaClass Cabins – Tips for Selling
Many former Veranda cabins on Decks 9 midship and 11 aft have been upgraded to AquaClass and outfitted with in-suite signature amenities such as a special shower system. Celebrity appears to have overcome most of the challenges inherent to such reclassification of cabins, and the transformation was executed well for the most part. It’s important to note, however, that many of the AquaClass cabins on deck 9 are under the pool and lounge areas on deck 10. Make sure to book clients seeking the promised spa serenity and quiet haven away from any open deck spaces. On our sailing, several Zumba classes were held during sea days, causing very loud noise, which detracted from our spa experience. By choosing the right cabin during the booking process and informing clients of possible noise, agents can ensure that their customers have a better vacation. Some clients will book into the category strictly for the unique dining at Blu.
We disembarked satisfied that Celebrity Summit has been truly Solsticized, contributing to an upgraded Celebrity brand for agents to sell fleet-wide.