This is a long review with a lot of info...I am trying to hit on all the points I had questions about before this cruise.
HOTEL: Arrived the day before at Fort Lauderdale. We were the last to be picked up on the shuttle...about a 1/2 hour wait. Stayed at Holiday Inn Express on State Rd 84. A strip mall across the road had a grocery and liquor store and fast food plus some shopping. The room was as you would expect for this chain. The outdoor pool was too cold to swim in and there are no hot tubs. Took a taxi to Blue Moon Fish Company for waterfront dining. A great meal: expect to pay $200 with wine. On the taxi ride we realised we should have stayed closer to downtown for walking and nightlife...maybe around Los Olas Blvd. Breakfast the next morning (Included at hotel) was usual fare..nothing special. Shuttle to the ship was fast and efficient. Celebrity boarding was fast and easy and we had a quick lunch in the buffet.
ROOM: we had a balcony room over the lifeboats. The bathroom was bigger than other ships and a good size shower and lots of storage. The cupboard over the bed is tricky to get to but there are few drawers so you need it.The bed is the usual 2 twins pushed together but comfy nonetheless. Balcony is wider that RCL and Carnival: nice chairs. Be sure to take advantage of free movies on the in room flat screen TV. They are recent and a great way to relax before or after dinner.
DINING: we had early dining.We asked for a table of 10 but initially got a 2 squeezed between another 2 and another for 4. We have never had our dining request honored on any cruise and always have to change. (That created and awkward moment later on when a lady at the original 4 table asked why we left!) The dining room is crowded and noisy and when we moved to a table of 10 (6 after more drop outs) we had a hard time with conversation over the din. The dining room food was good, not exceptional. I ate vegetarian and they have a separate menu for that and a vegan one too. Ask your server. My husband found some portions too small. Of course you can always order 2 apps or app AND salad or like one young man we met, order one of everything in an attempt to "get your money's worth". Good thing we don't all do this or cruises would be twice the price! Breakfast in the buffet is great: good coffee, made to order eggs, fresh fruit. Lunch was also good: always some Indian food which is never served in the dining room. Buffet dinner is repeptitive and sparse. We ate 1 dinner at the Tuscan Grill, a special 7 course wine and food dinner organised by the sommeliers. It was my birthday and unfortunately a very rough sea evening and I had to leave after 2 courses. My husband managed to stay however he said, although good, he would not pay to do it again ($100 each)
ENTERTAINMENT: we are not gamblers but like to watch. Thankfully, and unlike Carnival and RCL, the casino is smoke free. What a relief! No breath holding while you walk through. Shows are ok but sometimes hard to get a seat. Unless you love song and dance don't worry if you miss them.
ON BOARD: the adult only pool was closed in so no sunning and too hot most days. The pool volley ball was fun fun fun and we came away with Celebrity gold medals for beating the officers! The pools were clean and cool and the hot tubs hot: no complaints.The progressive trivia on sea days was fun but some groups took it too seriously: it's a GAME. The prize is a small canvas Celebrity logo bag....
SHORE EXCURSIONS: we book these on line before the cruise as I have no interest in standing in line on board to find the most popular ones are sold out, or worse, booking privaste and missing the boat: see youtube for video of those who did. Yes, it's cheaper to go on private tours but price out how much it would cost to fly to the next port if you miss the boat and you might change your mind.
COZUMEL: we did a Passion Island tour. Choppy catamaran ride and no swimming because of rough water but a great beach walk and superb salsa and guacamole at the buffet.
BELIZE: snorkeling. Not the best we've ever done but clear waters and lots of fish. Nice risde there and back.
COSTA RICA: banana plantation. Nice to see but a boring train ride to the coast where the bus was waiting. Do something else here. The market at the pier has wonderful local wood products: bowls and boxes...shop here of all ports.
PANAMA: bus ride to Panama City via the Miraflores lock. Tons of people waiting to get in at the lock...we stayed outside on the grass. Took us to a "shopping center" 2 floors all the same and obviously just for tourists..then a "cultural center"...boring again. We sat out in the sun...and the LUNCH!!!what a joke. A "mystery meat" dry sandwich and dry banana muffin with water. Almost every one threw it out and the bus driver went to a local bar for take out. Smart! Take your own energy bars and fruit and drinks on this one.
CARTAGENA: "Best of" tour was not good. Poorly prepared tour guide repeated everything at least 5 times! The stop at the fort was 10 minutes and the street vendors took that much time to get away from. The shopping stops were only 10-15 minutes...off the bus, see 1 shop, get back on the bus! Do see the fort but do a different tour.
CAYMAN: been here before and we had no tour here but with 5 ships in port we knew 7 mile beach would be a zoo. We walked the main drag and shopped then tendered back to the ship.
Overall...for my dollar, I will do RCL whenever the itinery suits. Second would be Celebrity and I would be hard pressed to do Carnival again. We have Alaska booked on Princess in August... stay tuned
Hope I can help at least one fellow traveller...Cruise On!!!!!