Our previous cruising experience includes four cruises on two other cruise lines and we traveled with and without children once on each of those cruise lines. We were looking forward to this cruise as a time for us as a couple to relax and enjoy lots of activities and pampering like we'd experienced on the other ships. That is not what we received.
The boarding/embarkation experience and the disembarkation experience were both better than we have experienced on other lines so that part was terrific - the highlight of the trip, sadly. Hardly any waiting getting on or off the ship. Our last Carnival Cruise had horrific delays getting off the ship so this was a welcomed experience. However, it went downhill from there.
We were not informed that this cruise was the "last before 3 weeks in dry-dock". If you find out that kind of info about a cruise...RUN AWAY QUICKLY!!! They weren't waiting for dry dock to begin repairs. This news was evident from our first encounter with staff once aboard. Our cabin steward informed us her assistant had already gone home because they were headed to dry-dock the following week. That is how she explained the empty tissue holder in our bathroom and unlocked mini-bar missing items when we checked into the room. We never had any opportunities to get to know her or feel like she cared about us at all since we had prepaid gratuities. There were none of the famous towel characters we have always had on other ships (a highlight for our kids to see pics of when we return home), or polite conversation with her as we passed in the hall as she was always too busy talking on a radio or to other staff. We've always tipped our stewards above and beyond when they go above and beyond. No extra tips earned on this cruise. This lackluster service continued throughout the ship. It was the most unfriendly crew I've ever seen. They don't seem to care if they receive extra tips or not.
After an exhausting travel day, we were looking forward to sleeping in until 10 or so on that first morning but that was not to be. We were greeted at 8am by the banging of large hammers on steel directly below our room. This continued non-stop until we finally got dressed and left the room 1.5 hrs later. So much for relaxing. Many areas of the ship were closed. Many of the open areas were often filled with the smells of paints and stains. The main thing open was the pool area which was so crowded we couldn't find chairs so we only got to use the pool once and it was so deep we couldn't touch so there wasn't much relaxing to it as you either had to tread water or hold onto the rail since there wasn't much room to float.
We did work out once in the fitness center but many of the group exercise classes offered had an additional charge which was another disappointment. We love to be active on our cruises and this ship did not offer any of that. To compare, Navigator of the Seas on RC offers: roller-blading, ice skating, mini-golf, rock climbing, pools, sports court, fitness center, towel-folding classes, and more. This one had only the sports court (which we didn't make it to because it was secluded amid lots of construction so we weren't even sure if it was open), pool, fitness center, and the closed down mini-golf. We went to the "movie theater" which consisted of a projection screen in a small conference room with uncomfortable chairs and bad picture quality on the screen. This ship seemed more like a con to try to get you on board to bleed you dry of additional funds rather than an all-inclusive vacation experience. Other ships in their fleet may be different but we're not willing to take that chance.
We had friends who brought their children on board at a charge of $700 per child and were greeted with news that every area of the ship for the children was closed. They moved the children's "camp" area to a storage closet with some video games in it. Mini-golf was closed, ping pong was closed the first few days, shuffle board sticks were broken or missing, etc. They were so livid they are pursuing refunds for the children because there was nothing but a very deep pool to entertain them. The staff at the guest services desk made no effort to rectify the situation for them. We were thankful we'd left our kids at home. This is definitely not the ship to bring young children on. Stick to Royal Caribbean or Carnival if you are bringing the family. We took ours on the Navigator of the Seas and we'll be hard-pressed to get our kids on a lesser ship after that. On this ship, even the older guests were complaining of nothing to do. One older couple told us they had complained and been given a complimentary dinner in one of the paid dining places. Wish we'd have complained more loudly.
They seemed to roll up the sidewalks at midnight. I heard complaints from many of the older folks that they were kicked out of the casino at 1am with nothing else left for them to do. For those of us who like to get the most out of our vacation $, this was not the place to do it. If you didn't like dancing in clubs or singing, there really wasn't anything else to do after the main stage show of the evening.
On this ship, we had a balcony room on deck 6 but it was so covered in sea-spray/salt and had such cheap "Motel 6" type lawn furniture made of plastic straps and was so unclean we had to clean it off before being able to use it. I tried to sit outside one night at sea and birds kept dive-bombing our balcony and almost hitting me. One got injured and laid out there on the next balcony making sad noises all night. Our friends had a child lean up again their balcony rail and it bleached her brand new shirt - apparently some cleanser the staff had used on the rail was not washed off or else had blown onto it from the construction on other decks, we're not sure. The cost of the balcony was definitely not worth it so we'll save our money in the future and stay inside like we have done in the past.
The caliber of entertainers they had on board was great but there just weren't enough options for things to do. Some of the best activities offered were offered on days we were in port and out on excursions so we couldn't participate. Other times, when they offered something good, they offered all their good activities for that day at the same time or in the same location so you had to choose and then had nothing else to do. While listening to the staff answer questions for the galley tour, we were constantly bothered by the trivia challenge game going on right behind us in the same room. Thank goodness we like to dance because we wouldn't have had anything to do the entire last day at sea if we hadn't gone to the different dancing classes taught throughout the day. We hoped that the renovations which were forthcoming for the ship would add activities and upgrade existing things but we were informed they are primarily just adding 5 new dining experiences which will all charge you extra money.
This being a highly rated ship, we found the focus was almost exclusively on the food and very little on the service. Even the chocolates on the bed at night were "fancy" - chocolate with some added thing like lavender or citrus which skewed the flavor so we gave up on them. What happened to mint?
While it was nice to be able to choose what time we would eat dinner on the select dining option, many times the time we wanted was already full so we had to go earlier or later than we wanted anyway. Once there, it usually took 1 hr 45 minutes to 2hrs+ for them to complete meal service which kept us from being able to enjoy many of the evening activities. Again, the food selections were either very plain (the set menu of options on the left side of the menu didn't change all week) or very "fancy". For someone who doesn't adore mushrooms or seafood, this was very disappointing. Few were the appetizers that sounded appetizing to the average palate and other than mushrooms and seafood there really isn't much that I don't love. Some of the dishes were wonderful such as the quail (which had lots of mushrooms) my husband had and loved but this was the first cruise where he didn't ask for a second lobster because this one was not cooked properly. For a ship boasting of their food, I gained half the weight I did on previous cruises just because there wasn't much tempting me and I'm quite a foodie.
Our waiter barely spoke to us except to take our order and made no conversation to try to add to our experience or earn add'l tipping. On other lines, we have enjoyed fun shows from the waitstaff during dinner so this was another disappointment. The atmosphere at dinner was blah. One evening they attempted some form of show but only a limited number of tables could see or hear what they were doing and we had no view at all from where they seated us and dozens of other tables around us - a complete waste.
I could not note one point of service that I felt came close to what we've experienced on other ships. We can still recall the name of our waiters from most previous cruises because they were so fun and friendly. Not this time. He kept disappearing and didn't have time to visit. The only time you got attention was if you dared to touch the wine list, if you did there were two folks ready to take your order. We don't drink alcohol so us touching it was only happening so we could see each other or make room for other things.
The food on the ship is touted as top notch because everything is made fresh on board. Don't be fooled, that doesn't make it taste better, it just takes longer to prepare. The ice creams were homemade but only one flavor tasted as good as any brand we've had from a supermarket.
We were sent a bottle of champagne with a note that said for us to enjoy the rest of our trip. We don't drink alcohol so I asked if we could trade it for sparkling juice or anything. We were told no, that it was the thought that counted. Thought doesn't count when it's thoughtlessly something the person will never use. We just left it in our room. There were no credits offered on our room price or anything that would be a gesture on the part of the cruise line to acknowledge they should not have had passengers on board with all the construction on board. That lack of service being tolerated is why you won't likely ever find us cruising on any future Celebrity sailings. We docked in Cozumel next to the Oasis of the Seas and everyone we talked to on the pier said they wished we could just go and take an excursion over to that ship where there might actually be things to do and to plan our next cruise on that ship. For the price paid for this balcony room, we could have been on the Oasis and that's probably the most disheartening thing of all. Our plane ride home was spent next to a couple who had been on the Oasis and they couldn't stop talking about how amazing it was and describing the shows, the activities, the ship. That ship will likely be our next cruise destination.