This was my eight cruise, my third visit to Hawaii and also my second with Celebrity. This was also Celebrity's second chance at getting my vacation right after the awful cruise I had with them in 2010. I'm sad to say that Celebrity screwed up their chances within hours of me setting foot on the ship in Ensenada. This review isn't going to be very complimentary as a lot of things went wrong (although I will concede that some problems were not of Celebrity's making) and in my conversations with Tony (KangarooCruiser) on the ship, I have promised him that I will be very fair and I will include the good bits of the cruise (but there weren't many of them). I am going to put the review in catergories starting with....
Landing at USA airports. Despite the fact that several people on the Roll Call said that there were going to be Celebrity staff to "meet & greet", I didn't see one member of Celebrity staff anywhere at San Diego (SD) airport. We were left to fend for ourselves (I had to fend for myself in 2010 too) and the vouchers supplied by Celebrity were useless. I used the free Sheraton shuttle to get to the hotel.
Embarkation. We were all taken to the (B) Street Pier in SD to check in. This was a very large building with lots of chairs/benches etc. and on one side all of Celebrity staff waiting to check everybody in. The ship was already there (and it had been since around midnight the same day) but we were not allowed to board it because of something called the Jones Act. This is a 19th. century maritime law which boils down to this...if a ship comes from an American port to another American port without visiting a foreign port in between, then all 50 US states can come and collect taxes from you. So you have around 2,000 people milling around doing nothing as we were not allowed to board the coaches to Mexico. Celebrity did supply refreshments but they were soon gone and people starting to complain that there was nothing to eat/drink. I was told that my coach was number 43 and would be leaving around 5.20 with an approx 2 1/2 hour drive to Ensenada. I was told that I could go out of the terminal to explore SD on my own-this I did but where we were there wasn't a lot to see. I have been informed on a Roll Call (on this site) that the ladies toilets were only three stalls, one of which was broken. This was for around 1,000 women. The "VIP" area was exactly the same as the rest of us. We eventually started to board the coaches around 3.00pm with my coach leaving at 4.05pm. This meant that there were around 55 coaches leaving within minutes of each other going to the San Ysidro USA/Mexico border crossing-THE busiest border crossing. We ended up at the border in one lane as we were in coaches and all of the coaches had to do this. My own coach took over two hours to travel less than 400 yards. Which idiot at Celebrity decided to send 55 coaches to the border at one go? why didn't Celebrity send a coach as and when it was filled by guests that had already checked in? I was also told that some of the drivers got lost in Mexico and didn't get to the ship until very late-I heard of coaches arriving around 11pm. My own journey took five hours and not the 2 1/2 hours predicted.
On board. The sail-away was going to be midnight and I decided to video the event. We did sail around 12.30am and I went back to my cabin. I still didn't have my suitcase and I found a letter from Celebrity that they were holding my suitcase on deck 1. I went to deck 1 and found a room with a small fenced off area with several bags (I estimate around 30) in it. There was also an American woman who was clearly very distressed and crying. She was wearing a bathrobe (out of her cabin) and she said that Celebrity wouldn't give her her cases as they wanted to examine them for "contraband". I asked why my case was being kept and I was told that I "was smuggling alcohol on the ship". At this stage I let rip. I am not a patient man at the best of times and this guy got both barrels. I can't write what I said in this review, but I used several words beginning with F, C and whatever else I could think of. He also accused me of bringing a clothes iron with me. Why would I bring such a heavy item with me when I am restricted to 50 pounds in my checked-in bag on a plane? The guy wanted to examine the contents of my case and asked me to open it. This I refused. I also told him that if I didn't get my case back, I would leave it there and walk around the ship completely naked with just a bathrobe and a pair of sandals. All of my toiletries were also in my case so I would not have been able to use any deodorant-and it wouldn't take long for me to start smelling. After a lot of shouting and screaming, he eventually gave me my case. I do not know what happened to the woman, but I seem to recall that she was threatening to sue Celebrity for all the distress. By this time it was very late (I was still unpacking at 2.00am), I was very tired and extremely angry that I was accused of smuggling.
Food. This was excellent. The main dining room was very well attended and the food on offer was top notch. The buffet was a also quite good. Breakfasts were in the American taste-VERY crispy bacon (almost cremated), hash browns, corned beef hash, several styles of eggs (scrambled, coddled, Benedict to name a few) a wide selection of fruits, cakes, danish, yogurts etc.....Lunchtimes were nearly all the same with a varied selection of sandwiches, hot and cold food/snacks etc. and the evening meals didn't change a bit (as was the case in 2010 on the Infinity). there were "Chefs Specials", a pizza bar, pasta station, a varied sushi bar and the usual currys/meats/vegetables.
What really spoilt the buffet was the people who were behind the counters. The buffet was not self-service and you had to ask the staff several times for the foods that you wanted. Celebrity needs to sort this out. Make the buffet self-service or don't put morons behind the counters. The staff either didn't want to know, didn't care or were half asleep all the time.
There are two speciality restaurants on the ship. One was the SS Olympic and the other was Qsine (this is the correct spelling!). A group of us did Qsine. I must say that the style of Qsine is very different. We were given small tastes of everything instead on three or four courses like a normal restaurant. The menu was very good and I thoroughly enjoyed the meal. I didn't go to the Olympic but I was told that the fare was very good indeed. There is a small cover charge for these restaurants but I would recommend doing one or both.
Entertainment. I cannot comment on the shows as I didn't see any. I was told that the productions were very good and there was an American comedian on board who was very good indeed (if second-hand reports were true-and I have no reason not to believe them). There were two guest speakers. A Dr. Michelle Thaller who is a NASA scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Centre (along with her husband). She gave lectures of our place in the universe. I really enjoyed these lectures and Dr. Thaller is a very approachable woman who is willing to speak (at length) and to respond to any questions that were asked of her. I was on the same coach (on disembarkation) and thanked her personally for the lectures. There was a Mr. Hall (I forget his first name) who gave lectures on the history of Hawaii which were also very interesting.
The Chefs on board also did a cooking demonstration and had an "Iron Chef" competition in the main theatre. Both shows were very entertaining and very amusing. There was also the usual Guest versus Staff shows such as "Dancing with the Stripes" and a Karaoke/Talent competition which (I have been told) were very good.
Disabled persons/access. I am not discriminating against disabled persons (my own father is disabled), but Celebrity needs to look at this. The disabled people on the ship seemed to think that they owned it. If you didn't get out of the way of an electric scooter, they just drove at you anyway. Anybody that didn't get out of the way were "bigots". I had first-hand reports of disabled persons knocking people over because they didn't get out of the way. I am all for access for all people, but what about my rights as a fare paying passenger? Don't I get some respect? An example I personally experienced...At breakfast in the buffet, there were a group of Americans (three couples) one of whom was disabled. Do you think that they took the first accessible table available? NO. They had to have the furthest table away from the entrance to the buffet and that meant that everybody had to stop with their breakfast and move chairs out of the way to accommodate this woman's scooter. Not only was this disruptive, when they got sat down, they started to steal other chairs from tables without asking and snatching condiments from other peoples tables as they didn't have enough. There is a word for this-IGNORANT! I would suggest to =X= that the buffet needs to be split up to give disabled persons their own part of the restaurant and not disturb the rest of us.
Customs/Immigration at Hawaii. After five days at sea, we had to go through US Customs (again). This was because we has sailed from Mexico and not SD. Do US Customs think some of us had swam back to Mexico? Had we visited another country? NO.
The customs inspection was in the Cosmos Lounge. I was told to report at 0745 and when I got there, there was around 500 (maybe more) people waiting to have their passports checked. This included US citizens. After an hour, there was very long line and there was only TWO US Customs officers doing the checking! Eventually, four more officers turned up and they received a round of applause from all of the guests in the lounge. I was in there for one hour forty-three minutes and only just got to my bus for my excursion. There was absolutely no organisation from Celebrity, no apologies and it was a complete mess from start to finish.
Excursions. I booked mine online before the cruise and they were very good. I did Mount Kilauea (big island of Hawaii), a Luau in Lahaina, a tour of coffee/chocolate plantations and a general sightseeing tour. These were very good although a little pricey. Several people did independent tours from locals on the piers at each port. If you do these independent tours, they are NOT obliged to get you back to the ship on time. If you miss the ship, you will have to get to the next port at your own expense.
Commendations. This cruise wasn't a complete mess. I would like to commend several staff who went above and beyond their duties-Kian and Vince in the Sunset Bar and Shaun in the Rendezvous lounge were very friendly and got to know all of the guests preferences. The rest of the staff were very attentive and nothing was too much trouble. My cabin was very clean all of the time (if a little threadbare) and the ship was kept neat and tidy all of the time. Decor in the general public areas of the ship wasn't to my taste but was in keeping with other cruise ships I have travelled on.
On a personal note...my evening meals were spoilt by one of the people on my dinner table. This person was a thirty something US citizen by the name of Jeff. I am certain that he didn't change his shirt for the entire cruise. He was completely naive and didn't have a clue about any other part of the world. He kept saying that the wanted to visit the UK and would be based in London. He didn't seem to understand that we in the UK do not drive on the same side of the road as he does. He also didn't accept that the price of petrol in the UK was at least 2 1/2 times as much as the US. He also wanted 110 volts so that he could bring all of his gadgets with him-we use 240 volts. I could go on about this guy but I eventually snapped and told him in no uncertain terms about which side of the road we drive. I also told him he couldn't drive to Scotland and back in one day (as he said he wanted to do) and that I lived 240 miles north of London and Edinburgh is a six hour drive from my location. I left my dinner table early that night so I didn't say anything I might have regretted later. Two of my fellow diners-a British couple Helen & Karl-were of the same opinion as me and I apologised to them the next night for storming off.
Disembarkation. Another mess. We were each given luggage tags so that we got off the ship in time for our respective travel arrangements. My time was 0730 in the Rendez-vous lounge. We were told that all of our luggage had been off-loaded the night before. This was a lie. All you had to do was look over the side of the ship to see shore staff still unloading luggage!
When I eventually got to the exit (over half an hour later than scheduled), I was prevented getting off and was told to report to Guest Relations for a message. This I did only to find one person behind the counter. After a few minutes with still only one staff helping and around twenty people behind me, I walked up to the counter a shouted at the top of my voice "..is there anybody here? I have a plane to catch..". With that, three or four staff members suddenly appeared. I said that there was a message for me. Firstly, the staff asked me to stop shouting at them-this I refused to do. I was told that there was no message and that I could leave the ship immediately. This I did still shouting (with lots words not printable in this review) included.
When off the ship, Celebrity staff had absolutely no idea which coach we were supposed to be on and I was nearly put on a coach that was going on a tour before dropping people off at the airport. I eventually got on the correct coach only to be confronted by yet another "Jobsworth" (as in '..it's more than my jobs worth..') who insisted on seeing all of my documentation. Were does he think I've been for 11 days?
Honolulu airport. I must say that US Customs Officers seem to have been on a charm offensive since the last time I travelled through the USA. Instead of being constantly shouted at and intimidated, I was pleasantly surprised to find very nice people who were very courteous and polite.
Finally, if any US citizens are reading this, can I ask you to write to your Congressman/Woman to get the Jones Act repealed. I will not be doing this transfer again!
1. If you are going on a cruise that involves being transferred from a US port to Mexico-make your own travel arrangements. Do not rely on Celebrity to get you there in comfort.
2.Celebrity does not provide "Meet & Greet" staff at airports-you will have to fend for yourself.
3. Don't expect any proper organisation from Celebrity. Everybody I spoke to (including US citizens) was disgusted with the treatment that they received.
4. No explanations.
5. No apologies.
6. And finally....DO NOT book a cruise with Celebrity! This was Celebrity's second chance. I will not be booking a cruise with Celebrity again.