We are not experience cruisers, having been on only two previous cruises, but before going on this one we consulted several friends who had been on a number of high end cruise lines and said that Celebrity was their favorite.
The Good. The ship was well laid out, clean, comfortable and easy to navigate around. The stateroom attendants were superior, prompt, courteous, efficient and hardworking. Our cabin was large with a desk and couch, the balcony easily big enough for two and a shower that had good water pressure and a hand wand for rinsing off. We partially chose the trip because of the itinerary. We were not disappointed. The two times we used the cruise line shore excursions, they were good, once in Panama for the train and again in Guatemala for a bus to Antigua. There are many features on the boat that we did not use. We are not gamblers, jewelry buyers, cruise clothes purchasers, tango dancers, spa frequenters or game show watchers so we missed a lot. But those who did, seemed to enjoy them quite a bit.
Embarkation was slow and made more difficult by our wonderful Customs Service who halted the whole process for a period of time for some unknown reason. It took a couple of hot, sweaty hours to get on board. The exercise oval on deck ten was right in the middle of market. Those of us who wanted to walk a couple of miles a day had to constantly navigate deck chairs, running children, drinking tipsy people people just standing around in the track. Deck chairs were hard to come by on the pool deck because despite signs asking guests not to leave towels on the chairs to "reserve" them, people did. Celebrity to my knowledge did nothing to support the ban. There were occasionally rude guests who felt they were entitled to whatever they could grab no matter what. My wife was actually pushed out of the way as she was about to sit in a chair by a woman who thought she should have it. Not Celebrity's fault but some kind of reminder from the cruise line about common courtesy would be helpful. Several of the restaurants were not worth eating at. Mediocre food indifferently prepared. We did not try the premium restaurants that charged forty dollars per couple more for "fancy" food. Some of the staff were not well trained. The cruise had the feeling of it being a shakedown cruise for new staff. When we went for out safety orientation we received three different direction to the place we were suppose to go. The public address system was inadequate. To hear the announcements enough people in the public areas had to want to hear the announcement so that they would stop talking for the rest of us to hear. You could not hear them at all in the cabins. The wait staff in the dining room was adequate enough though Celebrity could have used a Parisian head waiter to train them better. They did get the food on the table but frequently in an obtrusive manner, bumping, elbowing, interrupting conversations in the process of serving and just generally not aware of what was going on at the table. The assistant waiter would fill your water glass if you took a sip and after each course had to clear the excess silverware for the place setting.
The food in general. The meat was not choice or prime. It was barely low restaurant grade. Generally tough, flavorless, too fatty or somewhat of a mystery meat. One of our friends gave up after a few days and just ordered the chicken off of the daily menu. Vegetables were overcooked and mushy. The mashed potatoes were the consistency of a thick paste. I don't think they used butter or cream on dishes where it is important to do so. Celebrity does not use spices when they cook. I thought I was loosing my ability to taste until I got home and discovered well seasoned food again. Our friend had a watercress salad as a course for dinner but there was no watercress in the salad, not a leaf. Toward the end of the cruise the lettuce was frequently brown at the edges. I ordered a lobster tail for dinner one night and when it arrived it was mushy throughout. How does a lobster tail get mushy? We learned quickly that if the menu said that the dish was being prepared "Celebrity's Way", we should definitely not order it. And that is just the main dining room. The upstairs cafeteria was worse. Bland tasteless food, the same stuff every day poorly prepared and sitting around in the trays way too long, the same desserts day after day, over cooked fish, dry french fries, greasy corned beef hash, tough chewy roasts and hams, and the list goes on. One of the pleasures of a Princess cruise we once took was the food. I gained some weight! I gained no weight this cruise and as a matter of fact lost a little. A sorry state of affairs.
The safety orientation was an abomination. About 250 of us were crowded into a space that was meant for about 100 folks. People were strewn about the floors because there did not even begin to be enough chairs. It was poorly ventilated, hot, stuffy, and not enough oxygen. We waited twenty minutes past the time for it to begin because not everyone had arrived! Duh. Start the orientation and make the the latecomers stay afterwards since everyone by law has to hear the information. Do not inconvenience 250 people just because there are two or three inconsiderate ones. And Germans made up a some portion of the passengers. So we had to listen to the announcement in English and German. It took more than twice as long than if they had just done one language. Put all the Germans in one area and deliver their instructions to them there.
Uncle Marty Uncle Marty was their Panama Canal expert. He was a self-centered, boring, uninformed, egotistical name dropper. To be fair though, we only attended one and a half lectures out of the five he gave. We just could not take any more.
Disembarkation was gruesome and highly anxiety producing again partly because of our wonderful customs service. But Celebrity played their part also. Two days before we arrived in San Diego the ship announced that customs would be doing a full customs screen on all passengers regardless of nationality before anyone was allowed to leave the ship. Celebrity seemed to have never encountered this procedure before because they had no information to give out. People who had air connections to Europe, Las Vegas, New York, etc. were forced to rebook their tickets at increased prices because they did not know if they could make their original flights. Very expensive. And then the situation changed and then it changed again. The upshot was that we all sat around from about six-thirty AM to ten-thirty not knowing when we would get off the boat or if we were going to make our connections. Several passengers could not be found to be cleared so we all sat while they were either found and cleared or ambled down to be cleared. We were all given color coded passes. When our color was called we were suppose to go to the gangway and disembark. After about half an hour of people leaving the ship, my wife noted that most of the people who were in line and leaving had colors that had not been called. So we went on down and got in line and went through easily; no one asked for our colored chit. Celebrity was doing nothing to enforce a procedure that they had instituted to ensure an orderly disembarkation! Amazing.
The Germans I know that this will sound horrible but I have never encountered such a rude, entitled, disrespectful group of individuals in all my travels. They were without a doubt the worst thing about the cruise. The pushed, they shoved, they elbowed, they crashed lines, they smoked like chimneys. They acted like they were the only ones in the world who mattered and they seemed to have no regard for any others except themselves. Sad but true. I am not sure where they came from in Germany but after this experience I sure do not want to go where they are.
We will not be sailing with Celebrity again. There were not enough good things to rescue it from all that was simply mediocre and just plain bad. Sign me up for Princess. It was a much better experience and it was less expensive too.