Our first cruise, we did everything backwards but don't regret our experience. We booked based on our availability of vacation time off from work and how exotic/different the destination would be. So over 1 day, we picked this cruise line/destination without doing any research about 7 weeks before the sail date from Ft. Lauderdale (we did plenty of research after booking). My review will cover our departure from California and the first day impressions on the ship, followed by a quick wrap up of the overall trip.
We booked flights independently through American Airlines to fly into Ft. Lauderdale the day prior. Quick review is that this was horrible through AA! We initially had a non-stop flight that landed at 5:00 p.m. local time, AA cancelled this flight 5 days prior to us leaving over what we saw on the news as seats coming apart on their own. We were now seated separately and leaving at 12:10 a.m. that morning, they offered to sit us together if we paid an additional $35 fee per person. To be fair, they offered a full refund but booking new fares would cost us $150+ from what we originally paid. So after changing our departure plans and not getting any sleep, we arrived at Ft. Lauderdale.
We stayed at the Sheraton a few minutes away from the cruise port. We called them ahead of time and asked if they offered airport pick up, the answer was no so we ended up taking a cab. Only to arrive and see that there was an airport shuttle dropping off other passengers. This was the only set back at the Sheraton, the rest was pure accommodation and I would recommend them. We were allowed to check in at 9:00 a.m. (check in is normally 3:00 p.m.) and they allowed us to check out at 2:00 p.m. the next day (normal check out is at noon). We booked a shuttle through Sheraton to the cruise port for $10 and they handled the luggage, couldn't be more than happy.
Arrived at the cruise port and what a mess! Huge line to get in, there was staff outside apologizing and handling out a form saying there was a full customs check from the previous cruise that has delayed boarding the ship. Although plenty of people were saying it was due to some outbreak where they had to clean the ship?? not sure and honestly didn't care but we had to wait forever to get on. After about over an hour of standing and seeing aqua class ticket holders skip to the front of the line, we finally get checked in. Only to take a long walk around a corridor to find out there's another 30 minute line before you can board!
Finally on board and we're on the same floor as our stateroom. We find our room and are quiet happy with the room itself and the huge window. If I had to be picky, it would be the set of 6 small drawers with a height clearance of a few inches and our window view had a huge mildew/orange stain that appeared to be within the glass (took pictures, don't see an area here to post that in review). We don't drink alcohol and based on advice we got here on cruise critic, we had our stateroom attendant to clear out the mini bar fridge and put in our 24 pack of diet pepsi which we purchased in Ft. Lauderdale.
Our first dining was going straight to the buffet and trying all kinds of snacks before having our first dinner on the ship. We were both happy with the food and there honestly was no lines, this trend continued until it became a zoo on port of call mornings (which I expected). We never had an issue finding a seat to sit down an eat on any day.
We briefly returned to the stateroom to find our luggage delivered, we then spent the next hour settling in and emptying out our luggage. We had 3 carry-on's and 2 big briefcases which all fit snugly under our beds. The few hours before dinner we toured the ship and took some photos.
Dinner time! we got dressed and were very happy with the receptionist and initial waiters. We selected open dining to come and go when it was convenient to us. Our first night didn't go very smoothly, there was a wait time of about 20 minutes between a soup and a salad, followed by 25 minutes before our main course, then another 20 before having our dessert. We were offered wine, but never any soft drinks. We looked around and spotted a diet coke at another table and finally inquired during our main course. This lead to disappointment as we were brought two room temperature sodas with no ice, poured into glass. Sad to say, we didn't order soft drinks the rest of the cruise. Regarding the wait time, we didn't feel like complaining since it was our first night and we weren't sure if this was normal or expected (read later). The food itself was great!
Back to the stateroom and our first look at the turn down service, everything was nice and neat, had some chocolates and the attendant made an elephant out of towels on the bed. First impressions are mostly done, following is a quick wrap up.
Service overall was great, with only a few exceptions and we took the time to identify the staff members that stood out to us. Port of Call tours were organized with high attention so that people wouldn't get lost and I thought it went smoothly. Some of the best nights on open dining was asking to sit with other guests, we met very interesting people from around the world and had a great laugh. They also shared their knowledge on what to expect on other cruise lines compared to celebrity and were what made the cruise overall great.
Entertainment was great, there was maybe one or two acts where we left early but otherwise I thought it was worth attending (they had broadway shows, musicians, magic, comedy, singers, etc, different every night). Fitness center was a mess every morning and jogging on the deck was not an option since many people walk and basically block any kind of jogging rythym (a small circle, where 6 laps = 1 km). We had to deal with this until we found out that going at 6 p.m. meant you can finally use the equipment about half way through the cruise. We participated in trivia on sea days and played bingo a few times, the night life was mostly geared towards older folks (we're in our 30's) but overall we still found something to do.
Deembarkation I was not to happy about, we filled out a questionaire where we basically stated that we lived in california and were renting a car back home. This meant you're last to leave the ship! We arrived at port at 7:00 a.m. and got kicked out of our stateroom at 9:20 a.m., we headed to the buffet only to find out it was closed. Apparently the hours were stated on the newsletter but we werent aware and the cruise director didnt mention this on the previous nights show. So we were hungry and were stuck sitting at the buffet for the next 2 and half hours until it was our time to leave the ship. They should at least have some kind of entertainment or activity, instead of having guests feel stuck on the ship.
Briefly, there is a port not selectable within port reviews, which was Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala and we took the self-guided tour in Antigua. About a 90 minute bus ride and we had an entertaining tour guide for ride, many people took this excursion and the city itself and the views before getting there were spectaculor with the volcano backdrops. I would recommend this tour to anyone who is considering it.
I would cruise again through Celebrity, but I'm interested in a few other cruise lines which I won't mention that were recommended by onboard guests. I didn't like that laundry was close to $40 for one bag (thank god for clothes line in shower), we packed enough and stored our worm clothes under the bed. Water I felt like I was being nickled and dime for $2.50 + gratiuity for such a small water bottle. The overall experience was positive, but not perfection.