My husband and I (under 35) travelled with my parents (under 70), none of us having cruised before.
Flying to Miami from Vancouver was a long journey that I don't look forward to attempting again any time soon (waiting for our luggage to come off the plane for over an hour, after arrive at 12:30 am was excruciating!). Pre-cruise we stayed overnight at the Comfort Suites (not the airport location), which as it turned out was inconvenient to both the airport and the cruise terminal. (Trip Advisor doesn't always get it right). Lesson learned.
We were exhausted from the late arrival, so we didn't rush too much in the morning. It took over an hour to get a taxi to the port, so it was after 12:30pm when we finally arrived. Embarkation was quick and efficient. Although we did not appreciate the surly attitude of the porter at curbside (tip begging). Because of our slightly later arrival time, we were on the ship very quickly. We tried to skip past the photographer, but they absolutely insisted. Fortunately it was over quickly. The photo was terrible, so I don't know why they were so insistent.
PREMIUM DRINK PACKAGE:
Once on board my husband and I went straight to the sunset bar for a drink. We purchased the Premium drink package in advance (got the 10% discount when it was offered) and it made for a very relaxing and enjoyable experience. My husband probably made it more "worthwhile" than I did, but I appreciated being able to order whatever I wanted, try new things, and not worry about the cost, especially when one or two of the drinks weren't as tasty as I had hoped.
Like another reviewer said, we also found the bartenders weren't super friendly in the first few days of the cruise. But we found they lightened up as the week went on. Regardless, everybody was very professional.
AQUA CLASS STATEROOM:
Our room in Aqua Class was well appointed and spacious. We enjoyed the bed by the balcony, and looking out to sea in the morning. Plenty of cupboard and closet space for our needs. Bathroom was bigger than I had expected and the shower was fantastic (I liked the curved glass doors). Not a lot of sun on the balcony, but it was nice to sit out especially in the mornings with room service, or relax in the afternoon with a cocktail from a bar and sit on the adjustable chairs with the footstool. Afternoon canapes were pretty blah, but a welcome treat after a day spent exploring.
My parents had the neighbouring room (1641) and as soon as we saw our room attendant, we asked him to remove the balcony divider. It was nice to have a chat together over the balcony, but due to the large beam separating our balconies, we were not able to cross over onto each other's balconies. Our cabin doors were also not the closest side-by-side, but separated by the width of their room.
The housekeeping staff were excellent and always quick with a "hello". A couple of times they would wait by our door and open it for us. Classy touches.
We ate every evening in the Aqua class dining room, Blu. I understand now why people would say on the CC forums that they booked Aqua class just for Blu. The Maitre D was outstanding, the waiters were very professional, the room is beautiful and intimate, and the food is divine. Our sommelier was nice enough, but did not provide as much information as I would have appreciated.
Once we had breakfast in Blu, and my husband was disappointed in the eggs benedict. My omelet was a bit cold and blah. We made sure to go to the big Brunch in the MDR, and again I thought the breakfast was a bit okay. But it was really nice to see the dining room and see everything set out so extravagantly.
We generally had lunch in the Skyview Cafe. Above par buffet food. One day we had "lunch" at the Aqua Spa Cafe. I say it in quotations because the portions for the plated food were extremely small, even for this small eater. Delicious, but small. There was a salad bar where you could serve yourself. Or the yummy chocolate frozen yogurt soft serve.
We regularly ordered breakfast from the room service menu (ordered the night before). It always came at the earlier of the appointed time range. The breakfast shakes were yummy, but the toast and other accoutrement's tended to be on the cold side. However, I ordered basted eggs twice and was amazed at how they were cooked perfectly!
One afternoon we ordered two Shrimp Cocktail appetizers before dinner, and it took longer to arrive than was quoted (over an hour). It turned out to be just three large shrimp in a bowl with a piece of lettuce and some cocktail sauce. It tasted just fine, it just wasn't what we were expecting, and we couldn't figure out why it would take so long to arrive.
CRUISE CRITIC CONNECTIONS:
I signed up for the Cruise Connections "party", but was quite disappointed with what it turned out to be. It was in the morning and they served coffee and
and pastries. Mike, the seeming indefatigable entertainment director, gave a nice little speech about how great the ship is and how much they appreciate "us". There wasn't much to socialise over and I felt it was a bit of a waste of my time.
My mother and I participated in a Pilates class and we were underwhelmed with it as well. We are not experts by any stretch, but have been doing it for a few years. I felt the instructor was more of a "fitness, muscle guy", than a Pilates instructor and thought the newbies had quite a bit of difficulty following. Not enough options for the different levels were given and people could have hurt themselves. It's hard to do Pilates on a moving boat, by the way! Both my mother and I also had incorrect charges on our ship board accounts from the fitness/spa. Instead of $13.80 being charged for the class, we were each charged $138! So that was a nuisance to have to go to guest services to correct.
We noted that the gym was probably the busiest place on the ship, second to the pool. There were lots of beautiful new machines and treadmills.
I only went to a couple of shows, and of that only stayed for a few minutes. I heard the Cirque style show was excellent, and my parents really enjoyed the singer/impersonator, but my husband and I found the shows a bit boring. We tended to go for dinner at such a time where we missed both shows, but I was happier to have the more quiet dining experience instead.
My husband participated in the Battle of the Sexes trivia game, and we both played Xbox Kinnect the day it was offered. The trivia was fun, but the xbox game could have been better organised. The fellow setting it up didn't know how it worked, so my husband helped him figure it out.
We kept missing the other trivia games as they always seemed to happen at bad times. We don't gamble so didn't play Bingo and didn't spend much time in the casino, but we didn't find it as obnoxious as some of the casinos in Vegas, for example. I did put in about $5 in the penny slots, but hardly ever got a pay out, so it was over very quickly.
My parents and I attended a couple of the Celebrity Life talks. We found the speaker to be quite good, but he started off point and by the time he got around to the "interesting" stuff, he had little time to finish.
The first time the photographer came to our dining room we obliged him with a picture. The second time he came through, we knew better and said "no thank you". My husband and I did pose for a couple of the formal night photos. Out of all the pictures that were taken over the week, only one turned out nice enough to shell out $20 for. Point being, I felt the photographers could have done a better job with the posings.
We didn't book any excursions through the ship.
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - We caught the free tram and rode it up to El Morro. Explored it on our own for a few hours and then took the tram back to Old San Juan. Wandered around, did a bit of shopping, stopped in for a drink and an appy at The Parrot Club (meh).
ST. MAARTEN - Couldn't figure out how to walk out of the port area to the downtown area. Finally decided to catch a taxi (van), and shared with several other people. $5 per person. Walked along the beach and shopped, stopping for a beer when a brief rainstorm came. Did more shopping along Front St, but found the prices to be fairly high, despite being duty free and tax free. In the afternoon we did a three hour snorkelling tour on the Lord Sheffield Tall Ship, which I reserved on my own. Only later did I discover that it was also offered as an excursion through Celebrity.
ST. KITTS - Found via Trip Advisor, a full day tour with Royston. He was incredible and I felt like we got an "insider's view" of St. Kitts.
DISEMBARKATION (a.k.a. THE SADDEST DAY):
Since we weren't flying out of Miami until the following day, we thought we could request a later check-out time and sleep in and enjoy the morning. However, we still had to be out of the room by 8:00 am and they stopped serving breakfast at 8:30 (no room service). We just hung out in the coffee lounge, enjoying the last of our complimentary specialty coffees, until they called our number at 10:30.
Getting off the ship was a cold reality check and once we picked up our luggage we had to wait over an hour in the huge queue for a taxi.
We took the taxi straight to our new hotel, the Hyatt House near the Airport. This was a much better choice than our first hotel and we were able to get a lovely two bedroom suite. They stored our luggage and quickly got us a taxi to take us to Miami Beach (Ocean Drive and South Beach) for the afternoon. We enjoyed some beach time and lunching at a restaurant on Lincoln Road.
- The Lawn Club for suntanning, picnicking and sitting and relaxing
- the Sunset Bar
- The Corning Museum of Glass Hot Glass Shows
- Not trying a wine from the wine bar (not included in the drink package. We weren't being cheap, just didn't find the right opportunity to taste the Amarone I wanted to try)
- Not discovering the martini bar sooner
- Having too much to drink at the wonderful Molecular Bar ;-)
- Not finding the time to play bocce, croquet, or participate in more trivia games
- Not finding enough time to just sit around and do "nothing" or read my book
- Not spending any time around the pool. It was very busy and loungers seemed always in use. (Instead I lounged on the lawn. Although we did get to spend some time in the hot tub one quiet afternoon after port).
- Not getting up early to watch the sunrise on the top deck
- Not spending more time taking advantage of the Aqua class spa privileges. I managed to squeak in about an hour in the Persian Garden and spent most of it asleep. Just try to stay awake on those warm beds... I dare you!
- Not booking a longer cruise or a back-to-back cruise!
For a first time experience, everybody had a great time. We are used to doing a bit upscale all-inclusive resorts (Excellence and Club Med) and Celebrity seemed pretty top notch in everything. Aqua Class definitely ruined us for other cruises. How do we top this?!