Cruise International Contributing Editor Sara Macefield gets a first look at the radically transformed Celebrity Summit, the second ship to be given the ‘Celebrity Revolution’ treatment.
There’s nothing that really compares to stepping onto a new cruise ship and being the first to savour a clutch of ground-breaking designs, cutting edge décor and shiny new fittings. But such launches often come at a high price, as strong demand from customers keen to tick off the newest cruise experiences, means sailings get booked up far in advance at premium prices.
So what about the next best thing? An older ship which has undergone an extensive, bow-to-stern makeover leaving it completely transformed.
Step forward Celebrity Summit. At 18 years old, it is one of the oldest ships in Celebrity Cruises’ fleet, but anyone who has ever cruised on this 2,218-passenger vessel previously wouldn’t recognise the sleek and modern reincarnation that has emerged from a month-long refit in the Bahamas, where it was stripped down to its steel hull.
It is the second of nine ships in Celebrity’s fleet that are being radically updated as part of a massive $500 million ‘Celebrity Revolution’ which is designed to breathe new life into the cruise line’s oldest ships.
Some of the coolest new features have been inspired by the company’s most modern and ground-breaking flagship, Celebrity Edge, which was launched last December in a fanfare of glory when it was named by Nobel Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai.
The first ship to be transformed by the ‘Revolution’ was Celebrity Millennium, with Celebrity Summit following hot on its heels and showcased to the world’s media at a special event in Puerto Rico in March.
While walking through the shiny surroundings, it’s as though you’ve stepped onto a ship that is only just making its debut. The change is radical in many ways, although the layout and some structural clues do point to the ship’s older years.
But it’s clear this ship has been given a new lease of life. There’s even the distinctive aroma and ambience that comes with new ships thanks to gleaming glass and chrome, springy carpets underfoot, swish furnishings and eye-catching artworks.
The spirit of Celebrity Edge is clearly evident throughout the interior. Exuding sophistication, clean lines and cool curves stand out against a neutral colour palette of grey, mink and cream, interspersed and enlivened with carefully-curated artworks and vivid splashes of colour.
British designer Kelly Hoppen of Dragon’s Den fame, who played a pivotal role in the design of Edge, has left her distinctive hallmark on Celebrity Summit too. This is most evident in The Retreat, the hedonistic-style sanctuary reserved for suite guests, which debuted on Edge and can now be found on Summit. An al fresco deck area is an exclusive enclave dotted with lavish cabanas and loungers, complete with a bubbling hot tub.
Inside is the similarly stylish Retreat Lounge, which replaces the former dark, sombre surroundings of Michael’s Club and is now a chic haven open 24/7. Suite guests can enjoy complimentary drinks, gourmet snacks and live entertainment here, plus the benefits of a concierge service.
A new restaurant called Luminae, solely reserved for suite guests, features dishes created by Michelin star chef Daniel Boulud, who has recently joined forces with the line. He is famous for his award-winning restaurant group, which includes his flagship Daniel restaurant and Café Boulud in New York.
His dishes – and a new Chef’s Table by Daniel Boulud, which in addition to a private galley tour, promises a tantalising five-course feast – are debuting on Summit before being introduced to other ships in the fleet.
The suites themselves have been given the Hoppen treatment, too, and are a study in understated elegance, subtly fusing Eastern and Western influences with muted tones and carefully placed signature artworks.
As for the staterooms, they have not only increased in number following the refit, with 13 new AquaClass spa staterooms – 10 inside and seven ocean view staterooms – but they have also been vamped up.
California-based hospitality design gurus Hirsch Bedner Associates have been in charge of giving this accommodation a boutique hotel feel, with neutral tones and opulent touches, including plush bedding with cashmere mattresses, plus redesigned en-suite facilities boasting marblesque finishes and new fixtures.
Another partnership making its debut on Celebrity Summit is Celebrity’s tie-up with the New York-based American Ballet Theatre (ABT), which brings classical dance performances from the company to a cruising audience.
Aside from watching exclusive onboard performances, featuring ABT dancers, guests can take excursions to ABT productions in some ports of call; join the dancers for seminars; and even practise their tendu and plié postures during ballet barre classes.
And after such workouts, where better to soothe aching limbs than the refurbished Canyon Ranch Spa? This wellness-focused haven has been given a facelift by New York design firm Krause Sawyer which has transformed the treatment rooms, salon, fitness centre and locker areas.
Alongside the latest technological equipment, there’s an additional studio for cycle and yoga classes and a new salon with a blow-dry bar and area for luxury manicures and pedicures.
Other updates in the spa include an enhanced Persian Garden thermal suite, featuring a new sumptuous Turkish bath, infra-red sauna and salt therapy room, perfect for relaxation.
Shoppers aren’t forgotten either with new boutiques offering watches and jewellery by the likes of John Hardy, Hublot and Shinola, while gamblers can go for a flutter in the new-look casino with its redesigned bar and state-of-the-art slot machines.
Dining has also been taken to a new level in Celebrity Summit’s main Cosmopolitan Restaurant, which has become an airy, modern space with a vast signature window overlooking the ship’s aft. Meanwhile, the buffet Oceanview Café is lighter and brighter, with a more marketplace feel and an emphasis on serving local produce reflecting ports visited on each cruise.
The Rendezvous Lounge and on-deck Sunset Bar have also gained a new sophisticated look, while across the ship, passengers will find it easier to get online thanks to improved wifi.
Such an avalanche of new and improved changes has not only given Celebrity Summit a new edge but guarantees this popular ship will scale new heights in the years ahead.
A 14-night Canada and New England round-trip cruise from Cape Liberty (New Jersey), departing 8 September, starts from £1,269pp, based on two sharing, not including flights. For more information, call 0800 441 4057 or visit celebritycruises.com.
To read about Celebrity Cruises’s newest ship, check out Sara Macefield’s Celebrity Flora review.