It's a long review, so stick with me!
A little about Me:
I was 6 years old when I saw my first cruise ship. I was in Aruba, and I remember watching a Celebrity ship sail into port and being completely blown away. So it was no surprise to my parents 6 years later (12 years old) when I told them to book a Norwegian Jewel cruise for spring break. Sound a little ridiculous? Yes. I like to call myself strong willed, or motivated. My parents call me expensive and demanding. It was February of 2008, my parents just got back from Aspen and I was jealous. I told them they owed me one, dragging them into a travel agency down the road. Dad gave in, and I found myself having the time of my life! Something is so special about your first cruise, I was hooked for life.
A man on a mission...Cruising on the cheap!:
Now 16 years of age, it was time for another cruise. All fingers pointed at Celebrity, for excellent food, service, ships, ports, etc. It was pretty easy making the choice! By collecting Marriott Hotel points, i found we would be able to get $1000 off the cruise price. By collecting Delta Sky Miles, we flew the family of four for free! And the precruise hotel? Taken care by Hilton points.
We flew in one day before the cruise, and stayed at The Hilton DoubleTree (Free on points) about 15 minutes away from both the airport and cruise port. It's an all-suite hotel, but fairly average. Really nice location next to a mall, grocery store, and the beach. I would recommend the hotel, because it was extremely easy getting to the port on embarkation day.
Very easy, took a shuttle over to the port with a few other people right from the hotel. We dropped off the luggage, and walked right over to concierge check-in. Very light lines around 1:00. Very quickly took pictures and was Onboard in 20 minutes or so. We knew the buffet would be too busy, So we walked right over to the Bistro on 5. $5 cover charge and good food, but slow service. Maybe it was just because I was so desperate to run around the ship and explore!
Overall, excellent layout and interior design. Reminded me of a Westin Resort in the ways of art, furniture, color schemes, etc. All of the public areas are pretty nice, including the many bars and lounges. All very clean and new looking. The pool area is nice, just needs more deck space for chairs. The lawn club looks cool, and is at times, but the smoking area in the back ran us away everytime.The only problem, no elevators aft. Yes, I'm 16 and I'm complaining about walking... But it's a haul walking to your stateroom all the way aft.
Honestly, I don't know what I was thinking when I booked a concierge veranda stateroom. Family of four in 196 square feet?! It was a challenge! Despite the fact of having two teens, madre and padre, we all had enough room for clothes, including formal wear. If your considering this room for 2, you will have absolutely no problem. I found the pullout bed to be ok. When the bed is out, it blocks entrance to the balcony. Nothing like a wake up call with your dad stepping on you...
Over my 16 years of existence, I've grown to know what good service is. When I booked the cruise for my family, I was expecting a level similar to that in a Ritz-Carlton or Four Seaons. I'm not sure how I got that expectation, but I was disappointed. Don't get me wrong, everyone Onboard is extremely nice and will do everything they can to make your stay enjoyable... But it simply comes down to how many virgin pina coladas, Fiji waters, and chilled towels I'm given. Why I expected this from Celebrity? No clue. I did my research! The people who really stood out to us were Joe, our server in the MDR and our stateroom attendant who knew what hors d'oeuvres I liked. The only guy who wasn't on par was the sommelier in the MDR. He was snobby, and I swear he didn't know the difference between a Pinot Noir and a Merlot. For heavens sake, I know the books of the bible and types of wine like the back of my hand! No. I'm not Catholic.
As previously stated, Bistro on 5 was good. Slow service.
Unfourtantely, we didn't try any of the specialty resturants besides Bistro. We invited my Aunt, Uncle and four cousins to cruise with us. Does 10 people from Kentucky in the center of the specialty resturant sound like a good idea? I don't care how much class you can have, at family dinners in Kentucky, it gets crazy.
We were, however, placed dead center in the MDR. People stared at us. Food in the MDR was just ok! I've eaten at some fabulous land based 5-star places, so it's hard to compare. Some nights were better than others, of course. Steaks should of been of higher quality.
The buffet was disappointing! The food options were the same everyday. Of course, some foods were exceptional while others were just ok.
Lots of options for everyone. Very impressed with the productions at night, as well with the pool Olympics. The Shops onboard were awesome! Spent too much time and money in those, really. One problem... I was disappointed in the teen club. So many immature, annoying kids from south Florida! Parents, I know it's fiesta time for your kids, but continue to force them in taking their various medications, I felt like it was a stressful place to be in.
Old. Young. Foriegn. Domestic. It's a huge mix. However, all had the same reaction to the 10 of us walking around with no shoes on. Dirty, dirty looks.
San Juan... was a pleasant surprise. Sailing in past the fort was incredible! We (the 10 of us) walked to the fort looked around and took pictures. Pretty interesting. My 12 year old cousin took special interest in the fake handbags, as the rest of us raided a large Ralph Lauren outlet. The good deals didn't keep us long, however, because the weather was dreary and we all got moody.
St. Thomas... Beautiful! We wanted to spend the day at the Ritz, but got lost in a rental car and ended up at a Marriott with a nice beach. The rental cars are right next to port, and are extremely reasonable.
St. Maarten... Our favorite stop. We got a cab to the Westin, and spent the day ordering food and drink poolside and had a private cabana on the beach. Very nice! We will return to the resort.
Conclusion: if you are considering Celebrity, I would encourage you to book. Just dont go with some false expectations as I did, and you will be impressed! As for me, I will continue to serve my family as the travel agent. For now, we will continue to stick to The Ritz and Four Seaons, and cruise every 2 or 3 years. When we do cruise next, we've heard awesome things about Crystal Cruises and will probably give them a shot.
Thanks for Reading! Enjoy your cruise.
-The 16 year old traveler