Let's Get "Lei'd"

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The day before our cruise was due to end, we awoke to sunny skies but cool temperatures as we headed back to the mainland. People weren't rushing out to the Resort Deck to save lounge chairs, but there were more people outside on the decks.

Our CruiseMates group met in the morning to tour the ship, looking at the cabin doors and balconies that our members had decorated. All those who went on the tour got to vote for their favorites, and eventually winners and runners-up were chosen in each category. The creativity of the CruiseMates gang was truly impressive.

In the afternoon, we met on the stern to test-fly a couple of kites, seeing how they would react on a moving ship. The test went pretty well, so we gave the go-ahead to everyone who had brought kites to try to get them airborne.

It took a bit of doing, as some kites got up in the sky, then crashed. But at one point we managed to put 13 kites in the air simultaneously, apparently setting a world record for the most kites flown off a cruise ship. There was something magical about the enthusiasm of all the adults acting like children with their kites.

This evening Pamda, Captain Queeg, and the Kukis dined with the Master of the Vessel, Captain Panagiotakis. Hotel Manager Daniel Elias joined us. Also at the table were four other "adopted" CruiseMates friends, and two unsuspecting ladies from Oregon.

On occasion, dinner with the Captain can be formal and stuffy. Fortunately, such was not the case this evening. The Captain and Hotel Manager were gracious hosts, sharing a delightful few hours with us. The drinks and wine flowed as easily as the conversation and laughter, and time passed much too quickly. To top things off, the service was impeccable.

I've spent a considerable amount of time in the casino on this cruise, but lady luck hasn't been riding on my shoulder. I've probably lost more than I should have, but the staff at the tables has made doing so an almost pleasant experience. I did experience a first on this trip, which is unusual considering I've been playing Blackjack for 30 years: I saw someone refuse to take another card when their first two cards totaled six. I may be Kuki, but they were obviously something much more descriptive than that.

The ride on the Summit across the Pacific has been incredibly smooth. For the most part the movement was barely noticeable.

As the cruise draws to a close, I should mention the food onboard. The dining room food has been excellent. Only once during the entire cruise did anyone at our table send something back. That was me, trying an appetizer just because from its description I had no idea what it was. After sampling it, I still don't know.

The buffet line food in the Waterfall Cafe was somewhat underwhelming, as were the hamburgers at the poolside grille. The breakfast buffet included pretty standard menu items, with a fresh, made-to-order omelet station close by (which was very good). The lunch buffets somewhat surprised me due to their lack of choices. However, in addition to the regular buffet line, there was a station making fresh pasta daily, along with another small buffet station at the stern offering different theme foods daily. Between the various locations--and the hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza--I always found food to stuff into my mouth. And the frozen yogurt station was a nice treat on warm days.

Quite often I hear some people complain of the somewhat limited hours of Celebrity's buffet restaurants, but I didn't have a problem with this. What I did consider inconvenient was the fact that the drink stations--offering iced tea, lemonade, and even coffee--were turned off when the Cafe was closed. There was one coffee station that stayed open 24 hours, but you had to know where it was. Even when these juice stations were operating, the glasses they used seemed unnecessarily small.

Obviously the above criticisms are rather minor. The overall quality of the cruise is proved by the fact that these were the only complaints I had after an 11-night trip.

Tomorrow, during our last day onboard, we'll be presenting the awards to the winners of the door and balcony decorating contests, and then we'll be running the CruiseMates horses in the Owner's Derby, which is sure to be fun.

One last event will be the CruiseMates ship building contest; the rumor mill has it that there are a couple of unusual creations waiting.

Then we'll be packing our things to prepare for debarkation in Vancouver, and filling our tip envelopes for the deserving staff.

Discussions of particular ships and cruises often include praise for the interior design work, or the eclectic art, or the layout of the public rooms. In Celebrity Summit's case, the thing that set this ship apart from previous cruises was the staff, in my opinion.

Everyone--from Anne, the group coordinator to our cabin steward Miguel, our service team of Ronald and Christian, and on up the line to the Hotel Manager, Daniel, and Captain Panagiotakis--had one goal: They wanted to please, and please they did, in every way imaginable.

This has been one hell of a group cruise. If anyone has any reservations about joining a CruiseMates cruise, they should talk to the people who sailed on this one. I believe each and every one will tell you what a great way it is to cruise.

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