This is our second cruise with Celebrity, the first being on the Eclipse last year and we loved it so much we bought the guaranteed onboard spend voucher for the next cruise, which we used on this one. We had a good deal with a travel agent (found it in the paper) and decided to opt for Aquaclass.
Embarkation was smooth. Got to our stateroom and was greeted by the Aquaclass extras. We had a balcony room on the Eclipse, so this is what the difference is in Aqua. We got fluffy bathrobes, extra large fluffy towels, canapes delivered daily even when we were not in (despite what they say on the order form), fresh fruit daily, bottle of champagne on arrival (so far I think this is the same extras in Concierge Class), a few extra toiletries (facial mist, lip balm), shower jets that were really nice, extended room service menu (which we made use of almost everyday for breakfast, which included smoothies and freshly squeezed orange juice for no extra charge), the use of the Persian Gardens (amazing steam room, hot stone beds), 2 bottles of water daily, plus the amazing Blu restaurant which only Aquaclass can make use of for breakfast and dinner.
Blu Restaurant was amazing and we ate there everynight except on 2 occasions when we went to the Tuscan Grille and Murano. All the speciality restaurants there are amazing, but the prices are a little steep ($40 per head at Murano and Qsine). We managed to get 50% off for dining in the Tuscan on the first night, and 20% off at Muranos during the second week. Had to ask for the latter.
The food on Celebrity is the best we have ever experienced on any ship.
Entertainment was simply amazing. Their production show (there were 3) were absolutely wonderful! Best ever!!!
Service onboard was very good. Our stateroom attendent was very good, very efficient, polite and non intrusive. He brought us our breakfast every morning though sometimes we did have breakfast in the Aqua Spa cafe.
Now for the ports, which I hope you will find helpful!
Naples - we did a ship's excursion that included a hike on Mt Vesuvius, and a trip to Pompeii. A thunderstorm meant the hike was not possible and it was a wasted journey all the way up. Pompeii was good, despite the rain. Wish we had just done the Pompeii trip on our own as opposed to a large bus group. The ship did a Pompeii transfer as well which we would have done if we'd known Mt Vesuvius was going to be cancelled.
Catania,Sicily - Did a ship's excursion to Taormina and Mt Etna. Taormina was very nice, though it was very crowded with so many visitors. Mt Etna was enjoyable though it was extremely windy and cool up there. We didn't have time to go up the cable car since we were with a tour group. Again, wished we could have been independent and done more walking on our own up there. Some people rented a car for the day when they got to Catania and paid 40 euros for it (they asked in several rental places and took the cheapest) and had a very good independent day.
Valletta, Malta - This was our first sunny and warm day. Very pleasant, walkable from the port, nice shops just outside the ship. It is quite a hilly place with nice views and pleasant old town.
Corfu - the old town is walkable. This ship provided shuttles at $12 but able bodied people will take about 20-25 mins to walk into the town. There is also a local bus #16 that goes from the terminal at the port gate to the old town for just 1.50 euros each one way. We took the #16 into the town, and walked back. There is a free bus that takes you from the ship to the port gate, but it is only a few minutes walk if you don't want to take that bus. Corfu town is completely touristy - shops selling souvenirs of all sorts in their old town. Kumquat liquers, kumquat delights, wooden items, lace, leather etc. If you don't want to walk, take the local bus. It does the same thing as the ship's shuttle at a fraction of the cost! It's a direct bus - doesn't stop until you get to the old town.
Bari, Italy - we were told on the ship that unless we were on an excursion, Bari was not worth visiting. Might as well stay on the ship. However, after spending a very quiet morning on the ship, we decided to walk into Bari after lunch. The ship provides a shuttle @$10 and tries to discourage you from walking. Again able bodied people will find it takes about 10-15 mins walk following a very safe path to the old town. It is a pleasant walk, not at all that bad. Bari old town was very nice, cobbled, lots of character. It was quiet as it was siesta time, but we saw how local people lived and it was pleasant walking through the streets and alleyways. Definitely no need for a shuttle bus!
Dubrovnik - we loved Dubrovnik. We definitely needed a shuttle here as we were docked quite far away. Shuttles were provided by the ship @ $12. Make sure you have local Kuna in Croatia. Some places do take euros, but we found it a lot easier having kunas with us. We walked the city wall first thing (less crowded) which took about an hour with camera stops), then we took a boat trip out (paid 10 euros each for that and there were 8 of us on the boat). Choose a small boat with less people. We noticed some rather large boats with a lot of people - not so nice. The boat trip was nice as we saw old Dubrovnik from the sea. After that we went up the cable car, which we highly recommend. The view from up there was fantastic. After that, we came down and mooched around the Placa and sat around in cafes before returning to the ship with plenty of time spare.
Kotor, Montenegro - We loved this little gem of a place. The sail in and out is brilliant. Picture postcard type views. We tendered into Kotor and wandered around the town. Walked up the mountain towards the fort. Took us an hour to climb up very uneven steps and stone paths. The views are breathtaking from high up. It costs 3 euros to go up (ie if a man is there to collect the money). There is an alternative route up the mule path - you can see it on the left that zigzags up the mountain. It is less steep but a lot longer, and free. We went up the steps and came down the mule path for a different perspective. We loved Kotor.
Split - again another tender port. Split was very busy. With 2 other cruise ships there, the whole place was packed. We went up the Bell Tower (extremely scary for those who hate heights and rickety stairs!). Nice view though. Nice market there and a promenade full of cafes and shops.
Ravenna - now this is a place we wished we hadn't bothered with. Needed a shuttle to get into town (25 mins journey). When we got there, there was really nothing much to do there and to us was the most boring of all our ports. There are a few Unesco sites, but after the previous ports, Ravenna just seemed very bland. If we docked in Ravenna again, we'll either go to Bologna or stay on the ship!
Koper, Slovenia - the ship docks within a few minutes of the town. Pleasant town with shops and cafes and a tower to see the view. We also visited Piran, which is about 30 mins away. Another pleasant place.
Venice - this is where we ended our cruise. We got off the ship and took our luggage to the left luggage (4 euros per item) next to the ship. We then took a waterbus to St Marks. From there we wandered around Venice, had a gondola ride (150 euros for 40 mins!), ate pizza, icecream, took a #1 waterbus from St Marks down the Grand Canal (7 euros each). 5 hours in Venice and we were then on a taxi to the airport to fly back home.
Absolutely loved this cruise and loved our Aquaclass room. Worth it just for dining in Blu.
One downside.... a bit too much hard selling on Celebrity - trying to push excursions, shuttles, speciality coffees, wines, speciality restaurants. They do not give enough information about each port for independent travellers, prefering you NOT to be independent! But it is only a small downside and as long as you are aware of it, do your research before you get onboard!
Will definitely sail with Celebrity again and hopefully Aquaclass!