Maybe it was the excitement of a 14–day cruise… Maybe it was the allure of an overnight visit in Quebec… Maybe it was the opportunity to meet Captain Kate, the first American female captain of a cruise ship on a major line… Whatever it was, we were really looking forward to our 2 weeks aboard the Celebrity Summit and all of the fun ports that awaited us on our October cruise through Canada and New England.
We have cruised Canada and New England before and we have cruised on the Celebrity Summit many times to Bermuda. The itinerary is one of our favorite cruises because of all the beautiful ports and sights to see. The Celebrity Summit is a favorite ship of ours as well. While it is not as big or modern as some of the newer ships, it is a beautiful vessel and not so big that you will get lost. The crew is helpful and friendly and, if you’re fortunate to sail while she’s at the helm, you will have the pleasure of meeting Captain Kate, the only American female captain of a major cruise ship. If you do meet her, be sure to give her our best. Get ready! You are soon to be on a voyage of a lifetime!
The voyage sailed round trip from Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey. This is a convenient port for most folks in the Northeast although not too many Northeasterners typically sail this itinerary as it calls on ports fairly close to home for many. You can expect many international travelers and quite a few folks from the West Coast, Texas, Florida, and other parts of the country. Yes, there were plenty from New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania but this cruise typically attracts a great many people from all over. You’re sure to meet people from everywhere. And don’t be surprised if you see blankets and not towels set up by the outdoor pool. This cruise can get a bit brisk especially the later in the fall you go!
After sailing past the Statue of Liberty as you leave Cape Liberty, the cruise is officially under way. The ship has much to offer and many are eager to explore her. You’ll find the usual gathering of shops and boutiques, an excellent coffee bar, an array of bars, including Cellar Masters where you can peruse and select from a wide variety of wines by the glass. There is entertainment around the ship and dinner is usually the first thing on everyone’s agenda. The Cosmopolitan dining room is nice enough and we had many delicious meals there. However, there are two specialty restaurants worth mentioning. Qsine is anything but your typical cruise ship restaurant. Dinner is served in multiple courses and the offerings are as delicious as they are unusual. Sushi Lollipops, Spring Rolls (served in springs), Disco Shrimp, Lava Crab, and much, much more. We went the very first night of the cruise and had a truly delicious and memorable meal. What a way to start the vacation! The second restaurant we dined at onboard was the Normandie, which was very similar to Murano on other Celebrity ships. Also excellent but has been replaced with the Tuscan Grill, which we expect to be as good as it has been on the other Celebrity ships we’ve sailed and enjoyed.
After a fun day at sea, it’s time to get ready for the ports. It all kicks off in Boston on Tuesday. It is a long port day (8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.) so you have time to explore. Unless you are on a ship tour, I don’t recommend getting off immediately as there will be a mad rush of passengers at the gangway. Instead, enjoy a leisurely breakfast and a cup of coffee at the Café Al Bacio. Get off the ship after the initial chaos has died down. You’ll be docked at the Black Falcon terminal in South Boston. You can actually walk to town from here by following the coast but it is a long walk. There aren’t too many nearby “walk to” attractions although Yankee Lobster and the Harpoon Brewery aren’t that far away. You can pick up a “hop on, hop off” bus which is a great way to see the sites of the city and get you to the most popular attractions. You might want to take in the Freedom Trail, visit Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, Boston Commons, or the waterfront. If you come across the James Hook Lobster Company on the waterfront, do stop for a lobster roll. It is Nancy’s favorite! Also, be sure to watch the planes coming and going at Logan Airport after you get back onboard. Combined with sunset, it made for quite a Boston spectacle as we left port.
Wednesday morning, you’ll arrive in Portland, Maine. Again, there is a vibrant waterfront with great restaurants and stores for shopping. There is bus service to get you around the town. Highlights include Monument Square in the center of town atop the hill. Lots of great restaurants for lobster and seafood although Nancy and I usually grab a big breakfast at Becky’s Diner which is a good walk from the pier, following the harbor front. There are plenty of excursions to choose from in Portland but I like to think of it as the day between Boston and Bar Harbor. There are breweries and restaurants and shops galore. Nancy and I enjoyed the new Kolette store on our last visit and also the Sea Bags store. Both had unusual goods.
Save your energy for Thursday morning when you arrive in Bar Harbor. This is a tender port so you’ll need to get tender tickets or wait until the masses are ashore. Bar Harbor is perfectly quaint but it is built on a hill so walking to town can be a bit tricky. If you want to see Acadia Park and Cadillac Mountain you should look at the ship’s excursions or book an independent tour operator like Oli’s Trolley which you can pick up right at the pier. As you would expect, there are plenty of places for food, lobster, and shopping. We usually venture to Jordan’s restaurant for Maine Blueberry pancakes but there are plenty of other places to eat. We highly recommend Sagegrass Gallery downtown for shopping. And, if you have a sweet tooth, we enjoy Ben & Bill’s ice cream. Maine Blueberry ice cream is awesome there but you can even try some lobster ice cream if you dare. Cadillac Mountain is the “must see” attraction if you want to say you’ve been there. Just remember that you have to tender back to the ship. We usually head back early to enjoy the views of the town from the upper deck of the ship.
That wraps your American vacation. You’re off to Canada after a relaxing sea day. Enjoy your ship and check out all there is to do. Saturday is another big day! I like to plan at least one special thing on a sea day. If you haven’t already had a meal or snack at Bistro on 5, today might just be the day to do it. It is midship, right next to Cellar Masters and offers a fun menu of foods with some specials that change daily. My favorite is when they have the lamb but all of their meals are quite tasty and quite affordable. Go there at least once if you can.
On Saturday, you’ll arrive in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (PEI as the locals say). This is a gem on this cruise and is a great way to kick off the Canadian portion of your vacation. There is bus service “hop on, hop off”, horse and carriage rides, and numerous shore excursions to choose from. The port is quite walkable but it is a good distance to town. There is shopping and a cultural center right at the port but neither is extensive. There is great architecture to take in, an amazing coastline, Anne of Green Gables galore, and the best mussels anywhere. Downtown is like many other downtowns and there are a few districts worth exploring. For a meal, we are partial to the Olde Dublin Pub above the Claddagh Oyster House but it is up three flights of stairs so choose one of the ground level eateries if the stairs are a challenge. I don’t know of any that aren’t very good in PEI. In addition to their mussels, the island is also known for their delicious potatoes. Enjoy!
You get one more sea day before your overnight visit to Quebec. The day is spent cruising down the St. Lawrence River. Be sure to keep an eye out for whales and dolphin which have been known to surface near the ship. We have seen numerous dolphins and Minke Whales in these waters.
Monday and Tuesday, you’ll be in Quebec! This world-class city is perfect for exploring in two days. You will likely dock a bit away from any attractions so consider taking the cruise line-provided bus when you want to go to town and taking a “hop on, hop off” bus or taxi to get to where you want to go. I recommend splitting the two days as follows. Use one day to explore the lower level known as the Petit Champlain. Numerous stores, restaurants, attractions and sightseeing are in the Petit Champlain. Our favorite restaurant is the Cochon Dingue (Crazy Pig) but there are many great choices for a lunch or breakfast meal here. Slurping a Café Au Lait at the Cochon Dingue is a favorite Quebec experience. My favorite store is the Capitan D’Abord but there are many great shops here to choose from. It feels like Paris here and many merchants speak French and English. You might even want to ride the Funicular which connects the lower level to the upper level of Quebec.
The other day in Quebec awaits at the top of the hill. The Chateau Frontenac towers over the city and is a “must see”. It is also the central hub for all of the great sightseeing that awaits you. The French Quarter is nearby as are all of the major attractions of Quebec. You can tour the old city and venture into the new city as well. You will want to see the government building in the new city and the Plains of Abraham park. You will want to see Notre Dame in the old city and the most beautiful Post office building and the statue of Samuel de Champlain. One of our favorite activities in Quebec is a horse drawn carriage ride. The drivers are chock full of Quebec facts and tell colorful stories as the horse and buggy takes you through the streets of the old and new city. It was an absolute highlight from our last visit. We also like Le Chic Shack for a great burger, truffle fries, or poutine while in town. It is very close to the Frontenac if you want to give them a try.
After two days in Quebec, you’ll be ready for a sea day. With all the hills and cobblestones, navigating Quebec can be a real workout. Relax and enjoy the ship. You’re off to Nova Scotia! The Thalassotherapy Pool might feel real good right about now. It is completely enclosed so you can enjoy it no matter the weather. It was one of our favorite onboard spots to hang out.
On Thursday, you’ll arrive in Sydney, Nova Scotia. You’ll know it’s Sydney when you see the world’s largest fiddle right at the port. The fiddle is a tribute to the music of the Highlands and Sydney’s Scottish heritage. Sydney is a sleeper of a port and you can do as much or as little as you like here. There is a heritage center and shopping right at the port. If you venture to town, there is a casino where we’ve been known to visit and some more shops. It is a quaint town to be sure just not too glamorous. Sydney is a jumping off point to explore Cape Breton Island if you so desire. There are some interesting tours here but they are all pretty far away. We usually walk through the cultural center and then walk the Harborfront where they just put in a new Boardwalk. Where the Boardwalk ends we hike up the hill to town and stop at Tim Hortons for a cup of coffee and some TimBits which is just like going to Dunkin Donuts and having Munchkins. FYI, the casino is right next door to Tim Horton’s so if you’re looking for a place to work off those TimBits…
The next day you will arrive in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This is your final port and while they didn’t save the best for last, Halifax is a world-class port. We love to walk the HarborWalk to town and explore all the docks and shops along the way. Salty’s is a restaurant on the waterfront where we usually stop for some outstanding Atlantic Seafood Chowder and a table right on the pier. There are many other sights to see and Halifax offers a “hop on, hop off” bus that does a nice job of getting you around town to see the sights. The Citadel is a most impressive fortress with a rich history and soldiers dressed in period garb to interact with you if you decide to visit. If you are looking to see Peggy’s Cove, this is the place to book the excursion. It really is as pretty as a picture. Oh, yeah, there is also a really nice casino at the Sheraton hotel at the far end of the HarborWalk where we’ve been known to frequent…
One more restful day at sea and you’re back to Cape Liberty. There is much to do onboard during your cruise. Without telling you too much (exploring is half the fun), let us point out a few things we enjoy on this ship. The aforementioned specialty restaurant Qsine sits atop the ship and is worth a visit once (maybe twice) during your cruise if you want a truly fun and unique dining experience. We usually go the first night of the cruise (sometimes they have a special price for the first night). Don’t miss the Painter’s Mignon course and the Silver Bullet for dessert if you go! The brand new Tuscan Grille has just been added. While we haven’t eaten at this one (because it’s new), we have enjoyed the restaurant on other Celebrity ships. Steaks and Northern Italian cuisine. It is really delicious and worth a visit. Bistro on 5 is a fun place for a meal and not too expensive ($10 cover). We have been there for lunch and dinner. Over 14 days, it is nice to try something different and Bistro is quite good and underused by most passengers.
As previously mentioned, the shops onboard are typical cruise fare although Celebrity does have an arrangement with Apple. You can get Mac and Apple products onboard and they even offer classes on IPhone, IPad, and Mac. I actually learned a great deal by attending one of their free classes. Celebrity offers some enrichment programs as part of their Celebrity Life series. These are quite good if any of them interest you. There are also many cooking demonstrations and culinary events worth checking out.
Of course, there is entertainment galore. The shows are very good and lively. They will also have some guest acts that are usually quite good. Wine Tastings, Beer Tastings, and even whiskey tastings are offered. The officers are usually available around the ship. Even Captain Kate can be found in the Al Bacio many mornings and always welcomes a photo with a guest. Also, the casino onboard is 100% smoke free all the time, in case you want to visit and are worried about getting smoky.
All in all, Celebrity Summit offered 14 days of fun and adventure. We had U.S. cell service for the first half of the voyage while in port so we were easily able to keep in touch with family and friends back home. The final morning offered a sunrise view of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty as we sailed back into Bayonne. It was sad to leave the ship but a perfect ending to a glorious cruise that we highly recommend. If you want to see all 615 pictures we took to document the voyage, head over to Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/gp/69524660@N07/a8695V.