Embarkation went very smoothly. We arrived about 11:30 that morning from a directly flight from Washington DC which I booked independently from the cruise line. We did not purchase transfers because a cab ride is less that $20 for two people from the airport to the docks. Advice is to make sure that you have a passport. It will make the embarkation and debarkation go much smoothly. I traveled with a passport and my husband did not and he was the one they questioned. He was traveling with a government identification but it nearly became necessary for him to have a "birth certificate" in addition to his government ID. Word to the wise, have a passport.
The ship was having a special event that afternoon in the Celebrity Theater which we attended before being able to get in our room at 1:00. The buffet was ready to serve all those that arrived early in the Waterfall Cafe.
Our room was a balcony room, mid ship, and our cabin stewards were terrific. Our every wish was fulfilled. We asked that a pool lounge chair be put on our veranda when we checked in at the Guest Services desk and it was there when we arrived in our room. There were always fresh towels and ice in the bucket whenever we left our room for the entire 11 days. There was only one night that they forgot to leave for us the Daily Newsletter so that we could plan our activities for the next day, but it was not a problem to get one at Guest Services. You will want to study this newsletter at night or in the morning to make sure you don't miss any of the instructions or activities of the day. You can stay as busy as you want with the variety of activities, or just sit at the pool and bake like a fish. Remember to stuff your luggage under the bed. There is plenty of room. The rooms also have refrigerators and safes. You can also take sodas on the ship. We stopped at the local market before boarding, carried an extra duffel bag in our carryon and packed it with sodas for the week. You can join a soda program which is $5 per day.
The AquaSpa was a wonderful area to hang out. We loved the AquaSpa Cafe for lunch. We ate there everyday. It made us feel better about not gorging ourselves in the middle of the day. If we needed a snack in the afternoon, there was always Tea Sandwiches, Hamburgers and hot dogs, french fries, ice cream, pizza or pasta. Believe me we tried them all. They also have veggie burgers and turkey burgers which are prepared on request and we did that a bit. The hydrospa was great after returning from a tour on the islands. We did not participate in any SPA body treatments, however we did use the gym nearly on a daily basis. There was a need to reserve treadmills on sea days which we did and had no problem. One day there was actually a gentleman waiting for me to get off mine when my time was up.
What can I say about The Bar at the End of the Earth, Cirque du Soleil. It was wonderful. You either like it or hate it. It is a very interactive "event" and my husband and I became interactive with the characters and it really made for an enjoyable evening on more than one night. The entertainment on the ship was outstanding. The Celebrity Singers and Dancers, the Orchestra and the sets were unbelievable for a cruise ship. There was special entertainment with a comedian one night and he was terrific. He really spoke frankly about some of the experiences on ship and believe me when I say, you could relate to everything he was saying. Just to give you an example, when you flush the toilets it is a very strong suction noise. He made the comment during his performance that we should all flush the toilet at midnight. It would jet propulsion us right to the next port of call in a matter of minutes. Brooks Aeron an accomplished pianist was also there and we had heard him before when cruising on the Millennium. He gave two additional concerts on ships days in the mid afternoon and the Celebrity Theater was packed for a sunny afternoon.
THE FOOD....We ate at the Cosmopolitan Restaurant every night. This is an event that you don't want to miss. There are other venues to eat dinner throughout the ship, but we enjoyed getting to know our waiter and assistant waiter on a personal level. We had requested a table for two when we booked the cruise 8 months in advance and when we arrived the first night we were paired with two couples that could have been our parents. Well, needless to say, that was not going to work for us. We were given a table for two that night and the Restaurant was very accommodating to find us a table for two (which was really a table for 6) however we were the only ones sitting there for the entire rest of the cruise. We don't particularly like to share our evening meal with people we don't know, and didn't care to make lasting friendships on a boat if you know what we mean. The one sad thing about the restaurant were there were many couples who never bothered to show up the entire cruise. People were assigned to the tables around us, however, they never came one night to the Restaurant. The waiters and assistant waiters make their livelihood on the tips they receive for the service they perform and if there is no one at their tables, their cruise is not as profitable as it could have been. It does not affect their level of service which was OUTSTANDING our entire cruise. We hope to stay in touch with both our waiter and the assistant waiter.
The ship is beginning to show a little age. Our carpets were a bit faded in our room, the bed covering was a bit soiled, but not worn in any way and the toilet was missing a couple of pieces of paint. The wood railings on our veranda were in need of a new coat of varnish and there were small spots of rust that could easily have been maintained.
Some of the ports of call were good and some were OUTSTANDING. Key West was fun and definitely a place where more time needs to be spent. Lots of eclectic shops that you will want to visit within walking distance of the dock. This is a tendered port and that experience was not hard at all. Cozumel was a bit drear. Puerto Limon, Costa Rica was also a bit drear around the port. We did not take tours at either of these ports. The Panama Canal trip is well work the money. We started by bus and traveled to the Pacific Ocean and then came through 3 locks back toward the Atlantic, docked and then bussed back to the ship. It was an experience you will not want to miss. This trip is 7 hours long, but once you are in the locks, you understand, why it is such a long trip. It is a very interesting trip that you will remember for a long time. Aruba was beautiful. Nothing like you would expect since one-half of the island is uninhabitable. The Natural Bridge is not to be missed. Pictures there will make great Christmas Cards. Grand Cayman was fine. We are not snorkelers or divers and I am sure there is a wonderful world below the surface that we did not see. Definitely would like to explore this further and then back to Ft. Lauderdale.
Disembarkation was a breeze. We would recommend an afternoon flight to return home that day. Our flight was at 4:00 and we left the ship around 11:00. By that time almost all the luggage was gone from the holding area, customs was a breeze too because we picked up our luggage and were out of the building catching our cab to the airport in no more than 10 minutes. If you leave the ship early in the morning it is very crowded with everyone's luggage and you having to find yours in this room completely packed.