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Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Celebrity Summit Christmas Cruise - [Day 1] Miami Embarkation

Rise and shine, it's Embarkation Day!

I should listen to my own advise because I didn't allow enough time to get my camera gear ready to go and found myself rushing to repack my bag. It's always a bit awkward because the things in my backpack for the plane aren't the same thing I want in my backpack to board the ship. So I try to shuffle things around, and nothing fits quite right.

I got an UberXL to take us from the hotel to the cruise terminal ($14). If you're a party of four people with suitcases, make sure to order an UberXL rather than an UberX so that there is room for your luggage. This is because a vehicle just needs the third seat fold-down option to be considered XL, so if you need to put suitcases in the trunk, you won't be able to use the third row seating in smaller SUVs. If you have more than four people and luggage, you'll want to order two separate UberXs.

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It was a very short 8 minute drive to the pier. We were at Terminal G, one of the Royal Caribbean terminals.

I had secured our luggage tags earlier using Highwind cruise luggage tags sized to fit RCCL/X luggage tags. It's so much easier and more durable than attaching with a stapler.

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We dropped our bags off with the porter (I typically recommend tipping around $2 per bag, and a little more around the holidays is always nice). 

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Our Port Arrival Time was 10:30 AM, and we were exactly on time. We headed inside to Terminal G to check in.

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Spotted the Virgin Voyages ship nearby -

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There's the Summit!

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Check in wasn't crowded at all. Aaron and I didn't even need to go to the check-in desk. An agent was able to check us in using an iPad.

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It's an X.... for Celebrity.

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They weren't actually boarding passengers onto the ship yet, so we were seated in a waiting lounge. While we waited, we downloaded the Celebrity App onto Aaron's parents' phones and completed the first steps of the Muster Drill (watching the video on the app).

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After 20 minutes or so, we were called to board the ship.

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No tapping the SeaPass card (didn't have them yet), just walked right on.

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We were directed to go to our Muster Assembly Station (Theater Deck 5 Forward, starboard side) where we checked in with the crew. And that was it for our Muster Drill - easy peasy!

We then headed to our rooms to drop our bags and grab our SeaPass cards.

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Time to get lunch! In the three cruises that Aaron had been on, I never took him to dine in the buffet on the first day. On the app, it showed that Luminae was open for lunch. Thinking that was just a name for the dining room and forgetting that it was actually the name of the dining room reserved for Celebrity's Retreat Class, I started leading to in that direction - Deck 4 Aft. As we were walking, I realized my mistake (so we didn't embarrass ourselves at the hostess stand). Luminae is right next to the Cosmopolitan Dining Room, the main dining room on the Summit, so we walked over to see if they were open for lunch. They weren't, but we were able to peep the dinner menu.

We then headed up to Deck 10 Aft to eat lunch with the rest of the commoner class in the Ocean View Cafe & Grill (a.k.a. the buffet).

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While we were seated in the Ocean View Cafe, we were visited by no less than 10 different crew members attempting to sell/upgrade our drink package, as well as sell specialty dining. One guy trying to sell dinner at Le Petit Chef explained it to Aaron as a special, unique experience, and Aaron responded, "Yeah, it's all new to me, so it's all unique." He didn't know how to respond to that.

It wasn't very enjoyable to sit in the Ocean View Cafe due to the constant pressuring to buy drink packages and specialty dining, so we ate our lunch and went to explore the rest of the ship.

There were already people enjoying the pool deck -

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In hindsight, it was a good idea, because this would be our best weather for the entire cruise.

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The Virgin Voyages "Terminal V" opened in February 2022, and it looks pretty cool.

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Downtown view -

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We found the Sky Lounge (Deck 11 Forward), which we would all refer to as the "Observation Lounge" because it reminded us of the Observation Lounge on the Norwegian Encore. It's a multi-purpose venue that hosts activities during the day and a dance club at night.

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We headed downstairs to the Solarium (Deck 10 Forward). It's fully enclosed and for guests 16 and older, but they do have designated "family swim" times so that kids can swim in the indoor pool, too.

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I remember swimming in the Solarium on the Radiance of the Seas on our Alaskan cruise when I was a kid. It's nice to have on the colder itineraries, as well as in bad weather.

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I figured this would be a good opportunity to tour the spa. I wanted to get photos, so I was hoping that Aaron or his mom would talk to our tour guide while I hung back to document, but I could tell that no one understood my silent wish. Our tour guide was giving the tour primarily to me, and I felt a little awkward snapping photos while she showed me around, but not awkward enough not to do so.

This is a massage room, set up for the tour -

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This is an anti-gravity massage bed. Our spa guide explained that this was a good option for people with limited mobility.

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They were doing a first day promotion that was actually a very good deal, but I didn't take advantage. If you booked your treatment that day, they were adding 50% additional minutes for free. So if you booked a 60 minute massage, you'd actually receive a 90 minute massage for the same price. Now that I'm writing this, I really want a massage.

The gym has many forward-facing treadmills so that you can run "with the ship" when it's sailing.

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Also four Peloton bikes. From what I understand, these are free to use. However, I didn't use them, so I can't provide any more information about the type of clips or whether or not you need/can use your own Peloton account to take classes.

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After walking through the Persian Gardens (too steamy for photos), we ended our tour in the Salon. They have a variety of hair services from updos and shampoo and blowout to permanent color and cut and style. For nails there is traditional polish, as well as acrylics and Shellac gel.

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We continued our tour around the upper decks.

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Deck 12 Aft is where the sports court is located.

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Also Deck 12 Aft is the outdoor terrace. The Summit doesn't have a large screen near the pool, but they do have a large outdoor screen here where they show movies. It's a little out of the way and easy to forget about, but I suppose it does keep that loud movie noise away from the pool.

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The Carnival Conquest was docked behind us.

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The other thing about this outdoor theater is that it's (obviously) very weather-permitting as far as use/enjoyment goes.

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From the terrace, you can take the stairs down to the Sunset Bar which is located Deck 10 Aft, adjacent to the Ocean View Cafe.

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By now, it was 2PM and our rooms were ready. Also, our bags had been delivered, so we could go ahead and unpack... but first a room tour!

Aaron and I were in Balcony Stateroom 6020, and his parents were next door in 6018. Something I didn't know at the time of booking but learned later is that these two staterooms are part of the "Sweet 16" - there are 16 staterooms on the 6th floor of the Summit that have a larger balcony (8 per side). This isn't shown on the floorplan, so you just have to know.... or accidentally book one like I did!

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The Summit was "Revolutionized" (Celebrity's very dramatic term for refurbished) in 2019. The design is by Kelly Hoppen, a South African interior designer. All of the bloggers who were invited to promote the Summit's Revolutionization rave about the Kelly Hoppen interiors (it's very obvious that they were told to name drop her, and I'm glad that the designer is receiving credit), but I've found that members of Cruise Critic often snark on the design.

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I liked the design for what it is. I think it reads more corporate hotel (nice, but generic) than bespoke, but it feels appropriate and not like it's trying too hard. The design definitely makes the older ship feel more contemporary. However, I do wonder how designs like this will age..... probably similarly to how the previous design aged.

Like with most cruise ship staterooms, the bed can be configured either as two twins or a single king. There was some fun strip lighting that ran across the headboard panel, but I wish there were more controls so that you could leave on only the strip lighting without the other overhead lights being on.

Also common with hardgood and softgood rehabs.... the hideous room phone remains an eyesore. Seriously, why is it so difficult to source an elegant phone? I notice this everywhere (including on projects that I work on), so consider this a casual reminder to all of the interior designers out there to not forget to specify a phone, or you'll certainly end up with some 90s-looking hunk of junk covering up your thoughtfully selected nightstand.

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The sore thumb, in my opinion, is the large television that just sits on the blank wall. This could have been a nice opportunity to use wall treatment to make the television placement feel more grounded and intentional.

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The vanity is small, but thankfully not cluttered with ice buckets and glasses. The round mirror has an integrated light, but the color temperature is very white - like 5000 Kelvin. Not ideal for evening makeup. However, I always assume that the lighting situation when traveling will be bad. I travel with an illuminated makeup mirror that Rachel gifted me, so as long as I have a place to setup, the lighting provided in the room isn't too important.

Rather than a loveseat or sofa, there is an oversized chair with a little table. The chair served mainly to hold my camera bag. I think I would rather see a normal sized chair in that area with a little more floor space around it.

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Near the bathroom, there is a dual-height counter with glass cabinets above. There was a single wine glass in one of the cabinets - perhaps leftover from a previous sailing? I didn't touch it.

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The bathroom was a decent size. Aaron pointed out that the toilet was oriented in a way so that taller people don't hit their knees on the wall/door (not a problem that I've ever personally experienced, but I'm told this can be an issue in these ship bathrooms).

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I thought the shower was on the large size as far as cruise ship showers go. Also, there's a little bar mounted in the corner to prop your leg up to shave - nice touch! However, there wasn't a good seal on the shower door, and it leaked water all over the bathroom floor.

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This was a nice touch - two Celebrity-branded hand sanitizers. It was necessary for them to do this because it was really up to you to sanitize your hands. Even before Covid, cruise ships have always had crew members at the entrances of the dining rooms reminding everyone to sanitize/wash their hands because of the Norovirus which spreads rapidly on cruise ships. "Washy Washy." This didn't happen at all on the Summit which I thought was really weird. Not only were we not reminded to sanitize, but the sanitizing units were typically out of sanitizer.

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They provided body lotion in a pump.

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As well as shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel, mounted in the shower. I brought my own shampoo and conditioner, but I did use their body gel, and it smelled nice.

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The shower head is an adjustable height, but I didn't mess with it. Also, you can see the shaving bar I mentioned in this photo -

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Four hooks on the back of the door. Aaron and I were both able to hang our hanging toiletry bags here.

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Moving to the closet, my main gripe is that the full length mirror is mounted inside of the closet. It's usable, but it's also annoying. There are plenty of blank and available walls in this room - why hide the full length mirror in the closet?

You'll also notice that there are two robes in the closet. I love a hotel/cruise ship robe! This one was very cozy.

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My other gripe is that the shorter hanging area was just a wee bit too short to be able to hang Aaron's suit and blazer in here, so we had to hang them in the longer section with my dresses. We had enough room since it was only a five day cruise, but on a longer cruise, I'm not sure if I could've had the room to share with him.

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The safe was located in the glass cabinet thing. It's very small and definitely not large enough for a laptop. I thought the see-through cabinets were a little odd. This is typically done when you want to see what is on display behind.... but in this case it was a safe. And then whatever you choose to store here? We didn't really use these cabinets because there was plenty of storage elsewhere.

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The water shown here is not free. Our stateroom attendant was Eka, and he had our room and Aaron's parents' room. However, our rooms were set up very differently. They had a menu with prices for all of the items in the mini bar, and also a note with a price of the water. We had no prices for anything.

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The mini bar setup also seemed very random. I asked Eka to empty it, so we could use the mini fridge for our own items and didn't have to worry about accidentally taking a for charge item, or accidentally being charged for something we didn't use.

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Moving back to the vanity, that's where the receptacles are located. There were two traditional outlets, two USB outlets, and one 220V outlet for the provided hairdryer.

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Now, the "sweet" balcony -

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The Sweet 16 balcony is about double the depth of the standard balcony, and it's partially double height.

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The three most forward balconies (6020, 6018, 6016 starboard) are fully covered, while the other five are partially covered by the balcony above, and partially open to above.

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It didn't look like there was any way to open the balcony divider between our room and the adjacent staterooms.

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While the balcony is twice the size of a normal balcony, there is a little less privacy. The stateroom above looks down onto your balcony. Also, while the deck 6 "Sweet Sixteen" balconies are sought after, I would think that the deck 7 balconies above them.... let's call them the Sucky Sixteen.... are balconies that most would probably rather avoid.

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Overall, I thought the room was efficient, and there was plenty of space for Aaron and myself. I did notice that there was a pullman bunk above our bed for a potential third guest, and I think unless it was a small child, three people in this room would feel a little crammed.

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One other thing to note is that only one side of the bed had outlets (the side with the table lamp). The other side had the phone.

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My favorite stateroom organization hack is to use magnetic hooks to organize, hats, necklaces, bags, and purses. The stateroom walls, ceilings, and doors are metal, so the magnets will stick almost anywhere!

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To make this cruise feel more Christmas-y than last, I wanted to bring along some decor. I decorated our door and Aaron's parents' door with stockings. These are burlap stockings that I purchased from Amazon. I hand embroidered our names and hung them on our stateroom door with magnetic hooks. I had nicely ironed them before packing, but of course they got wrinkled in our luggage.

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After unpacking, we set out to explore the ship a little more before we set sail.

The main level of the theater is deck 4, and the balcony is on deck 5. I like the lounge style theater with cocktail tables and benches, rather than individual seats.

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The Summit has many works of art on display throughout the ship.

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And there's also the Park West Gallery which hosts art auctions throughout the cruise. Last year on the Encore, we attended our first art auction at sea, and I wrote about some of their strategies in this post.

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We then stumbled upon the Martini Bar, located on Deck 4 Midship.

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Also located Midship was this gingerbread village display which obstructed the central staircase.

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Speaking of the central staircase, it's massive! It takes up such a large central area of the ship, and it wasn't even useful as a staircase during our sailing. I'm very surprised this wasn't removed and reworked during the 2019 Revolutionization.

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We found the Rendezvouz Lounge (Deck 4) where we stopped to get drinks before watching us sail away. The bar was very empty, but it took awhile to get service. There were definitely more people selling drink packages than serving drinks on the first day. When we did get service, I told the bartender that we had the Classic Beverage Package, and I asked if Stella was included. He told me no, Stella was a Premium Package beer. What I wish he would have told me and that I would later piece together after several conversations with different bartenders is that the Classic Beverage Package includes drinks up to $9 (reportedly increased to $10 in 2023), and you can get drinks that are greater than $9 and pay the difference. So a $10 Stella would cost $1 with the Classic Package. I think it's a little ridiculous that a bottled Stella costs $10, but maybe I'll look back at this in 10 years time and think that sounds like a fair price for a bottled beer.

Anyway, with Stella off the table, I opted for Dos Equis, and we headed up to Deck 10.

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Ready to set sail!

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Celebrity didn't have a sailaway deck party. The Summit made a very quiet departure.

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The Carnival Conquest, on the other hand, was bumping. Now they looked they were sailing into a good time!

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Like the Conquest, we'd be doing a full rotation before heading out into the channel.

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Bye, Conquest!

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The Oasis was also in port today, docked down at Terminal A.

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Just checking out all of the fancy yachts...

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WOW, that's a big one!

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There's so many planes flying in and out of Miami!

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Caught another one!

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The funky looking building is the One Thousand Museum, designed by the late Pritzker Prize-winning Zaha Hadid. Despite having "museum" in the name, it's actually an ultra luxury high rise condominium and was Zaha's first residential building in the United States. Unfortunately, she died before seeing its completion in 2019.

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The low-rise building to the right of the tower, by the large head sculpture, is Perez Art Museum of Miami.

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The round white building is the FTX Arena, home to the Miami Heat.

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When doing our turn-around, we got a great view of the Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady.

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I'm curious to try Virgin Voyages, but they're definitely on the pricier side.

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Consider these images my shameless pitch that Virgin Voyages invite me aboard for a Victoria on Vacation review. Victoria on Vacation on Virgin Voyages... I mean, how perfect is that? (wink, wink)

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See you in five days, Terminal G!

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Great view of the Intercontinental. I looked into staying there pre-cruise, but it was a little more than I wanted to spend.

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On our flight from ATL to MIA, the people sitting across the aisle from us realized they were going on the same Azamara cruise as the people in front of them.

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I wonder if it's anything like Triangle of Sadness.

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Overcast weather really makes for some gorgeous sailaway shots.

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The NCL terminal was empty today.

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The Oasis is on an interesting Thursday departure itinerary. You can fully take advantage of your weekend - I think I like it!

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The Oasis also looked like a good time! It's so fun to sail by the Oasis-class ships. They truly are monstrous in size.

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Construction is underway on MSC's new cruise terminal, "Terminal AA," soon to be the largest cruise terminal at PortMiami. The terminal will have three berths, two of which will be built by MSC at 2,460 feet in length, and the third to be build by Miami-Dade and made available to other cruise lines.

This is a HUGE investment by MSC in the United States market. I have a feeling they'll be bringing the MSC World Europa to Miami sometime in the future.

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Lots of dredging!

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Perfectly caught the shipping container being loaded onto the cargo ship -

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I suggested that we move to the other side of the ship so that we could see South Pointe Beach as we sailed by.

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Sail Away

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South Pointe Park didn't look very crowded. Perhaps because it was a Thursday.

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Last year, after our cruise, we went to South Pointe Park to watch the ships sail away.

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As we left Miami, we went down to the Sunset Bar which happened to have a gorgeous view of the sunset. The Lotus Duo was playing live music, and they were one of my favorite musical groups on that cruise.

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This was definitely my favorite bar on the ship. It's kind of weird that it was tucked away behind the Ocean View Cafe, but I think that helped keep it a little bit of a "secret," especially later in the evenings.

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After the sun set, we headed back to our rooms to change for the evening. We were planning to see the show in the theater at 7 PM before dinner.

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The hallway ceiling had mirrors on them which was a little weird, but fun for selfies.

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This evenings show was "An Evening of Music and Laughter with Award Winning Musical Entertainer Oli Nez."

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Aaron described the show as "cringe." I actually played alto saxophone in school (stopped after undergrad - didn't take it with me to California), so I recognized his advanced tone. He sounded very good, but the popular music that he was playing wasn't technically difficult. At one point he played Flight of the Bumblebee which sounds like a challenging piece, but I know the secret that it's actually not that difficult because it's all chromatic (the difficulty is all in the speed). I wanted to pull this trick for my talent in the Miss Clemson University Pageant, but my private instructor (who actually plays in a band on cruise ships) thought it was a total gimmick and pointed me in a different direction. However, I look back and think that the pageant judges would have been much more impressed with a piece that sounds challenging than one that actually is.

The strange part about Oli's show was when he stopped in the middle to show photos of himself rock climbing and hiking. The kinds of photos that men put on their dating app profiles. Then he went into the audience and attempted to find a woman to serenade, but the woman he chose didn't seem to speak English fluently, so it was all a little lost on her.

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After the show, we had an awkward 30 minutes before dinner. They told people to go to the Rendezvous Lounge where they did the evening activities. However, Rendezvous was always PACKED. We walked through, didn't see any available seats, then decided we'd give the Martini Bar a try.

When someone orders a Martini Flight, they have a fun little serving setup -

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The bartop is covered in ice. I don't think this accomplishes anything functionally because the martinis are in proper stemware, so the only part of the glass being kept cold is the very bottom of the stem, rather than the martini itself.

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My favorite, the Expresso Martini -

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Our table in the dining room was 430 (and 432) which was located on Deck 5. Interestingly, the My Time Dining seating was on the main floor, Deck 4, and the assigned tables were on Deck 5. I wonder if My Time Dining is growing in popularity.

We didn't receive the standard introduction to our dining team that we are used to on other cruiselines. Everything just kind of started. However, because of these little cards on the table, we knew that our waiter was Dipo, assistant waiter Rahmad, and instead of listing our head waiter (who was he?), it listed our sommelier Kan.

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Aaron and his dad had the Escargot. It's on the menu as a "Timeless Starter," so it's available every night. Aaron described it as buttery and herbaceous, but noted that the butter wasn't quite as good as he's experienced with Disney escargot. He gave it a 9/10.

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I had the Crispy Thai Beef Spring Roll which was just okay. I ate it mainly because by this point I was very hungry.

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Aaron had the Cream of Wild Forest Mushroom Soup which was small in portion, but the flavor was great.

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I opted for the Belgian Andive-Arugala Salad which was a little too bitter for my taste. I think I would have enjoyed it more if there were more dressing.

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For my entree, I had the Seared Salmon. I ordered it because it was different than the Broiled Salmon listed on the "Timeless Classics" menu. It was pretty good. It's just salmon, which is a pretty basic dish, but sometimes it's nice to have basic.

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Aaron's entree was the Aged Prime Rib of Beef which he described as juicy, big, and delicious.

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He ordered an Irish Coffee with dessert which was very pretty.

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Aaron ordered the Chocolate Cherry Trifle for dessert. It was like a mousse, but he said the consistency was getting a little sticky at the end. It was very rich.

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I ordered the Warm Banana Blueberry Crumble. The banana flavor came through stronger than the blueberry which I wasn't expecting. It was still very good, and the scoop of ice cream is a necessary pairing.

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Something unique about the Celebrity bathrooms throughout the ship is that instead of paper towels, there are small reusable towels that are rolled up. It feels fancy, and I appreciate the effort to eliminate single-use paper products.

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After dinner, we went back to the Sunset Bar, then did a little exploring around the ship. We went into the Sky Lounge where they were having a Silent Disco. Silent Discos are very popular on cruise ships right now (which means they are no longer trendy... I think they peaked in popularity over five years ago). Everyone gets a pair of headphones, and you can choose different stations to listen to, so people are potentially dancing to different songs. However, everyone in the Sky Lounge was singing out loud which kind of ruined the concept.

When headed back to our rooms, we walked through the Solarium, and I caught these two trying to sneak around us -

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It was a fun first day!

1 comment:

  1. We were on the 12/27/22 sailing of the Summit. Love viewing the ship again. I must say that the prime rib portion Aaron received on the first night was much larger than our portion. We enjoyed our first Celebrity cruise and re-living it with your post. Also, love the links to the luggage. Some very good ideas there!

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