We gave ourselves some peace of mind by flying into Fort Lauderdale the day before our cruise. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express 17th Street - a very good choice. Nice room, great location; we were able to walk up to the bridge to view the ships in port that day, and the day we sailed. Van transport was provided by the hotel the day we arrived, and a concessionaire in the hotel provided a ride to the port terminal for $8 each. Nice breakfast included, and very friendly service.
On boarding day, the van stopped first at another line's terminal, where we were shocked to see hundreds of passengers lined up, waiting to be checked in. Our arrival at Celebrity terminal was a breeze. Just a few minutes of pleasant formalities, and we were aboard, being greeted with flutes of sparkling wine.
Our first impression of the Oceanview Cafe was outstanding, and that impression stayed throughout the cruise. The setup is the best we've seen, with rarely any waiting while others got their food or drinks, wonderful presentation, and very good food. Especially pleasing were the curries, Pad Thai, roasts, made-to-order gyros, sushi, tiramisu in a glass, and ice creams. We ate all breakfasts, lunches, and snacks there. Hamburgers, from top deck, were very fine.
MDR service was excellent, and the food mostly good to excellent. Vegetarians must ask for that separate menu, unlike some other lines. DH says if you are from Maryland, don't order the crab cakes. And we were told they are no longer able to offer escargot, as suppliers can't keep up with the demand. Overall, the variety was good.
We did have two significant disappointments with this cruise. One, no real Promenade Deck. I guess this is no longer an amenity that people appreciate. There are walkways along part of both sides of the ship, but the view is mostly blocked by lifeboats. Second, the seas the entire 14 days were completely smooth. Not a moment in which one could feel the motion of the ocean. My toothbrush stayed upright on its little tip the whole time, even in our all-the-way-forward cabin. I felt cheated.
Ok, back to things we liked. Activities, especially during sea days, were varied and numerous. I enjoyed Zumba every day, and the Hot Glass Show was very interesting.
We were able to dance virtually every evening. The party band, Great Ideas, with Cherryl, was excellent in providing a variety of music that got people up on the dance floor. Dance music was also provided in Quasar, with mixed results, and Sky Lounge for big theme parties.
We saw porpoises, dozens of them, plus ocean sunfish, and a sawfish, from Decks 14 and 15. It would have been fun to see them from the much-lower Promenade Deck.
All crew were extremely pleasant, professional, and helpful. Officers were visible throughout the ship daily, and were very approachable.
Passengers adhered to the dress codes.
All five ports were varied and interesting. We did Celebrity excursions in two, and they were both excellent. A city tour in Barcelona, with a good itinerary and excellent guide, and a bus trip to Pisa and back, also with a very fine guide. Both tours were also inexpensive. We walked around the other ports on our own, and enjoyed them all.
Disembarkation was fast and easy. As we had a flight home that day, we were off the ship at 6:30am, with our Celebrity bus waiting to take us to the airport. That bus also had a very good hostess to give us information along the way.
We had booked air through Celebrity's Choice Air program. The cost was one-quarter what it would have been through the airline. I highly recommend it.
In summary, it was an extremely pleasant and rewarding cruise. The downside is being awake 24 hours or more, to fly home. Would we do it again? We'll see...