Ugly American moment, a group of German guests talking among themselves prior to entering a Celebrity sponsored reception for their German speaking guests. Sloppily dressed American strolls by and says to the group, "anyone here speak English?" Geez! What a jerk, makes Americans look pretty jingoistic to those German citizens.
Jet Blue non-stop to Ft.Lauderdale lower hassle than a transfer in Atlanta, plus one checked bag per person and more leg room. Good deal.
LaQuinta Inn in Hollywood, FL provided a quick airport pick up. Nice hotel, second time we've stayed there. We really like the nice pool area. Its a 10 to 15 minute walk to restaurants so travelers with mobility limitations would be better served elsewhere. The complimentary breakfast was standard fare for motels with included breakfasts. The transfer to the cruise pier was timely and efficient. Our driver nicely handled the number of pushy retiree guests.
Embarkation was a breeze. Some queuing up, but the lines moved quickly, just a few minutes in the waiting lounge and then a smooth walk onto the vessel. Elite preferred lines did not yield any faster boarding than standard lines, because the escalators to the boarding level were not working. Sparkling wine in flutes presented by smiling Celebrity crew set the stage for a fine cruise experience. Disembarkation was less smooth with long lines to claim luggage and long lines to clear customs.
The muster drill was conducted pier-side prior to any movement of the vessel. Checking names on a list against sea pass cards as we entered. More serious minded presentation by crew in the lounge. More attentive passengers, still some slackers though. Changed instructions, if not in state room proceed to muster station instead of retrieving life jacket from cabin, when exiting muster station form a single line and hold back of waist band of guest in front of you. Heard some complaints later in the cruise that non-English instructions were too abbreviated. At the end of the drill, however, things got confusing. The crew in the lounge said we could not leave until they finished checking their lists and started calling names of non-attendees over their local microphones. Meanwhile, the ship wide P.A. is announcing the drill is over. Guests unsure what to do. Some start leaving, others calling questions. The question arises, if a practiced drill under calm, repeatable conditions ends in confusion what would happen in a real emergency?
Norovirus precautions have been increased significantly. Sanitizer stations at the entry to any public area. Crew dispensing sanitizer conscientiously to every guest at the entry to any dining venue, changing out tongs and "grabbers" frequently used by guests in the buffet line Improved signage in all restrooms suggesting hand washing and use of a paper towel to open the door at exit.
Our stateroom was spotless upon arrival and was maintained to an excellent level for the entire cruise. Our stateroom attendant was personable, called us by name,opened our door when in the vicinity. He quickly learned our schedule and his twice a day room service was invisible and timely, room serviced and refreshed by our return from breakfast.
Public areas were sparkling clean. Carpets, decks, elevators clean and litter free. Chrome, metals , glass constantly polished. Restrooms clean, tidy and fresh. Pool deck restrooms on sea days had a full time attendant.
Upholstery fabrics, carpets, draperies showed little wear and contributed to a luxury feel to the interiors. Dining room chairs pretty beat up, good thing the lighting is low in the evening.
The cruise director was pretty lame. Cheese and smarmy come to mind as adjectives. The 3 production shows were well done. We saw two of the three on the Summit in the fall of 2011. Those must have been "user testing" shows as the versions we saw this cruise were significantly improved. The guest entertainers were the usual mix of acts we walked out of and modestly entertaining shows. One of the two on-board lecture series, astronomy/space offered on sea days was just OK.. Activities like putting games, trivia etc. were poorly attended as was the casino. This crowd were not party people.
The musical offerings ranged from an excellent Celebrity Orchestra and a very fine classical trio, to an average Caribbean/Reggae band followed by a very ordinary a'cappela group and a dreadful off key, not in time lounge group.
Well-stocked library particularly if you get there on day one.
This cruise's dining experience was much better than Summit in Fall/2011. We were reassured that the overall quality of the foods on offer was more in line with our earlier experiences on Celebrity.
The breakfast and lunch buffets offered a wide variety of choices, each day offering regional specialties at each seating. Entrees were not dried out or mushy. Custom dishes, eggs Benedict, omelets at breakfast, Caesar salads and sandwiches/panini at lunch allows for fresh made, one serving selections. Presentation of desserts at buffets was very well done. And of course the outstanding ice cream. A special brunch late in the cruise offered a full array of breakfast and luncheon choices upgraded with well prepared roasts, smoked fish, boiled shrimp, etc. Ice sculptures highlighting the presentation. Smiling, friendly servers were a constant in our experience.
The Aqua spa cafe at lunch had delicious grilled fish (and more) to order plus salads and other healthy choices.
Evening dinner meals were generally very good. We had a few 5* courses, the majority 4*, a few just average and 2 or 3 poor. When you think that an app, a soup, a salad, an entree,a dessert is five courses per dinner, times 14 you have 70 courses per person per cruise. Its amazing that they can do so well serving 2000 passengers. Our waiter/asst team were average. It seems the level of service quality of wait staff has declined since we've had 4 cruises in a row lacking top quality service. Our maitre'de was top notch, 5*, and assured that all was right and added a touch of European flair to our dinners.
The Elite perks were a step "way" up from the perks at other loyalty levels. The breakfast in the specialty restaurant was quiet. Real linen tablecloths and napkins, Upgraded pastries and fruits. Smoothies, fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juices, specialty espresso drinks, bloody marys, bellinis, sparkling wine were included. Table service if you wished for the buffet and automatic for the beverages. The Captain's Club host circulating daily easily engaging guests and inquiring re: our cruise experience. The evening cocktail hours, 5 to 7, provided a nice selection of cocktails, spirits, wines, beers and non-alcoholic beverages accompanied by waiters offering hors d'ouevres at your seat. The Elite clientele ensured a more elegant ambiance than might be expected in the presence of a free drinks event for a general guest group. All this in a lovely lounge with huge expanses of glass, views of the port and sea during sail away as sunset fell on the scene. Great.
Internet packages, laundry, pressing and dry cleaning services were also available either free or at a reduced cost. Other offers were also available on the coupon listing provided. A captains club buffet and formal high tea were also offered although we did not participate.
Overall a dramatically better experience than Summit in New England, Maritime Canada last fall. To be honest we were really wondering if Celebrity had lost its niche as a top provider in its class but were reassured by this cruise. Hopefully, future cruises will consistently offer a excellent experience rather than a one good cruise followed by one poor cruise inconsistent experience.