This was my 14th cruise, having sailed 8 times on Princess, three on RCCL, and the last three (including this one), on Celebrity with Equinox and Solstice my last two ships. So, having been so very pleased with Celebrity on the previous two cruises, I was looking forward to this cruise. A previous review by agathasmum was very similar in many ways to my thoughts on this cruise... for the most part, I agree with the points made in that review and I'll just add my thoughts here.
We flew in from JFK via Lufthansa through Frankfurt. I wanted to fly on the new A380 and I must say, that is one big airplane! But it was comfortable, quiet, and we even had the center seat empty on the way out so it was a great way to start! No issues with the connection to Venice either... good job Lufthansa.
Upon arrival in Venice we had a car waiting for us and we drove directly to the port. We arrived at the port at approx. 11am local time and after a very short wait, we were one of the first to checkin. We were Aqua Class, 1610 (the most extended of the "hump" cabins right in the center). This was the first time I tried AQ class. The price paid really made it a great deal as it was part of a great deal offered by celebrity when booking a guarantee AQ. We ended up getting an A1 which I moved to 1610. The balcony is enormous facing forward. Was a great spot on the ship as you could literally walk off the stairs or elevator and almost be in your cabin. The cabin itself is really no different than any other regular balcony cabin on the ship... storage space is less than even on Solstice or Equinox as they reconfigured the closet and drawers... it's actually WORSE than before and they should have left it alone. Princess certainly knows how to make use of space and this is not Celebrity's best effort. Glass doors on the shower vs. the miserable Princess curtain is always welcome. The shower with all the extra jets was cool, and having the free access to the thermal suite which we used daily was worth the AQ class. On Equinox I booked Concierge Class and it really was not worth it at all. You also get priority with the tenders so that benefit helped a few times. On Solstice we had a regular balcony cabin and it was really almost exactly the same aside form some fancy towels, robes, and other odds and ends. AQ, if you get a decent deal, is however worth the extra few bucks.
Food is always subjective and we eat very strictly at home maintaining a very fit lifestyle. So, on the ship, we tend to go pretty wild and eat and drink as we please getting multiple entrees, three or four shrimp cocktails, escargots, etc.. Waiters were always very accommodating and actually had fun with it at times too. We had the premium drink package and once you include all the bottles of water, coffees, Vitamin Waters, martinis, wines, molecular bar drinks, etc. etc. etc... I can only say we easily were ahead on that one, and gratuities are already included too... it truly is one of Celebrity's best selling points and Princess needs to get onboard with it! Food on this cruise was just not as good as on Solstice or Equinox. We had access to blu as part of the AQ class, but only used Blu twice. Selection and overall options were better in the main dining room including the always available Escargot (YUM), and Shrimp Cocktail... but I should note, you CAN get the shrimp in Blu, just ask... the Escargot however was not available. Kudos to "The Muffin Man" in Blu... one of the most awesome waiters... personable, funny, and top notch. He's awesome! Main Dining room was pretty good... some days however the menu is just not very appealing... kind of "blah". But to be honest, we never left empty!! As for specialty restaurants, we were given a two for one on the first night to try QSINE, so for $20 each... why not. It was pretty cool... neat presentations, good food, and a fun concept. Would I do it again? Probably only if I were traveling with someone that has not done Qsine before. We also did Muarno, and the Lawn Club Grill. (We got Murano for 25% off and Lawn Club for 30% off)... you need to bargain with the people selling!! (I agree with agathasmum here... TOO MANY PEOPLE TRYING TO SELL STUFF TO YOU... **STOP IT** CELEBRITY!!) That said, DO NOT pay full price as $40 is TOO DARN MUCH! Murano was a disappointment... nothing really spectacular here.. good, yes... but that's about it. No, I would not do Murano again... it is NOT worth $40 per person. Lawn Club Grill is new to this ship... and it's a cool concept. You make your own flatbreads, you can cook your own meats alongside the pro chef, and they show it up on the two big TV's... it was fun, and the food was really good! It's worth the additional cost especially with a discount! Neat idea Celebrity! Bistro on 5 is always good and great place to get some awesome crepes. We also tried the panini place which was very quiet... it's right next to Lawn Club Grill. It was good too and worth the five bucks. As for the buffet, it was as expected... and the layout is the best thing because you almost never had lines... but overall, it is decent aside from the one chef that could not make eggs without them being watery, running all the time. Over MEDIUM not half cooked!! Clueless. Pizza is OK... Princess has the pizza down... thin crispy crust, good stuff. Deserts overall were just OK... again, nothing spectacular here... pretty boring. Previous cruises on Celebrity had some really good deserts, even in the buffet... not this time.
Bars are plentiful, but we generally hung out at the Martini Bar, Molecular Bar, or Michael's Club... the changes made to the latter were very nice.. the flat screen TV's and beer selection changes were welcome... the ship made potato chips were yummy too! Most importantly, there were people in there this time!! The Martini Bar is always a hit.. a favorite spot.
Spa and gym facilities are quite good. Had one massage which was kind of a few treatments built into one... was very nice, but again... too much time spent on sales BS. After a nice relaxing massage, I do not want to hear the stupid sales pitch. I basically made it clear that if she tried to sell me ANYTHING else, the tip would be ZERO. Sales pitch ended.... I later found out that 15% was already added in! The Persian Suite was nice and used it daily.... they keep it on lockdown too so if you are no AQ or do not pay for it ($199 for a couple on this cruise), you don't get in. The mens locker area is ridiculously small. Pool areas are very nice and the Solarium is always a nice relaxing place. Never had problems getting sun beds, generally stayed up on Solstice deck where it was very quiet.
Ship public rooms overall were very new, clean, and very nice. Music piped through the sound system during dinner and at the bar areas was louder than previous cruises... too much so. Especially at dinner. We really don't do much with regard to the entertainment but I have to say, this Cruise Director was pretty dull overall. I also hardly ever heard from the Captain... I don't think I saw him once the entire cruise! Totally opposite from the 7-night cruise on Solstice where we saw and heard the Captain regularly. Did not use the casino... another cruise line money pit. TV selection was pretty much crap... not even ESPN! Given the time of year, the itinerary, and length of the cruise, we did not expect an active crowd... and it certainly was not... but again, this was anticipated.
I'm not going into the ports... see agathasmum's review for a good overview of the ports on this cruise. Staff overall were very nice... but these damn photographers need to just GO AWAY. They are like ants running around at a picnic... dinners, bars, off the ship, on the ship, staircases... sick and tired of being interrupted at dinner for those stupid grossly overpriced photos constantly. GO AWAY!!
Debarkation was painless. We had to be off early to get a car to the airport for an early flight. We took our bags off with us and did not wait at all... 7am and we were on the dock and in the car.
So in the end, the cruise was very nice and enjoyable... another sea day would have been nice, but the weather was fantastic so no complaints to be had, I cannot say it was the best of the three Celebrity cruises I've taken... in fact, probably the least favorite overall... enough so to make me look more closely at the new Royal Princess ship coming out soon. As with all the cruise lines, Celebrity does some really great things... like the drink packages for example, but there were some misses this time too... and for the first time, Celebrity gets 4 starts instead of 5. It is still an excellent product and it was a great value for the money paid, especially in AQ class.