- Background Information
We were a group of 4 adults, 3 had cruised before, one was a new cruiser. The cruise was booked partly as a celebration -- my niece graduated from university with a Masters in Geology, and my brother and his wife are both retiring next year. I just went along for the ride, having wanted to visit Hawaii for the past 40 years!
As a disabled traveller, I'd had considerable contact with both the Shore Excursions department and the Special Needs department, and both seemed efficient and reassuring -- I felt I'd covered all possible issues, and made sure that the holiday would go smoothly.
- Hotel Info (if any)
We flew into LA, and expected a flight to San Diego, though as it turned out that flight was cancelled, so we were transferred by bus. No sign of any Celebrity representatives at San Diego airport, so in spite of having vouchers for transfers, we had to find our own way to the Sheraton hotel -- we used the hotel shuttle. This was the first sign that things might not go as smoothly as it should -- the room booked for me and my niece was not wheelchair accessible, despite assurances I'd received from Celebrity's Special Needs department that everything had been arranged. We were able to transfer to an accessible room, so we put it down to 'one of those things', and prepared to enjoy ourselves as the holiday developed.
- Travel To Port of Embarkation
Transfers from San Diego to Ensenada were a nightmare. We were transferred from the hotel at mid-day, and waited in what can only be described as a warehouse, with little in the way of facilities. Catering was joke, as were restroom facilities. In spite of contact with Celebrity, no-one at the pier seemed aware that I needed a bus with a wheelchair lift. Eventually we boarded a coach, and had to sit for over an hour while other buses were filled, and they started to put people on ours. Then came the long, slow journey to Ensenada -- the whole transfer took over nine hours from the time we were collected from the hotel. Surely it's not beyond Celebrity's capability to allow those staying in hotels to remain there until there's a realistic chance of them being able to leave the port?
We eventually arrived at 9.20pm, just in time for the muster -- no refreshments and no chance to use the restrooms.
- Ship Info
We'd seen the ship in San Diego, and thought that, in spite of the refit, she was looking a bit 'scruffy'. However, on boarding our first impressions were good -- everything was clean, bright and polished. I wasn't keen on the glass lifts, but that's a personal thing, and I soon found enclosed lifts I felt more comfortable with.
This is where things started to fall apart. We'd booked an accessible balcony cabin, but it was anything but accessible. There was no room to get the wheelchair next to the bed for transfers, and even after the stateroom attendant moved the furniture, I couldn't get onto the balcony with the wheelchair. There was barely enough turning space for the wheelchair, and no seating for my niece, apart from the desk chair. It was difficult all through the cruise to move around the stateroom. My niece kept turning the main light on during the night, since her bed was right next to the wall where the switch was located, and she knocked it when she turned over or moved at night. The bathroom was huge, and easy to use. The balcony is overlooked from the lifts, since for some reason Celebrity have put a transparent panel at the end of the balcony, unlike on other decks where there is a solid panel.
Meals in all venues were fantastic -- I think the only places I didn't eat were Blu and Cafe al Bacio, although I had several coffees at the Cafe -- great place to wait for dinner, and listen to the piano player. The Metropolitan was great, and our waiters were just attentive enough without being annoying. The sommelier was fantastic, we never had to ask for a refill. We also ate in the Olympic and at Qsine, where we found the staff very friendly and informative, and a great laugh! Most lunchtimes found us in Aqua Spa Cafe -- fantastic food -- and occasionally at the Pool Grill, where I had the best cheeseburgers and fries I've ever tasted! Oceanview Cafe was a bit difficult to negotiate, as the servers didn't seem to see me sitting low down, and it was difficult to attract their attention. I would just like to give extra points to the ice-cream station, which not only served great ice-cream, they seemed to be more on the ball than the rest of the cafe -- maybe because they weren't so busy.
We didn't take part in a lot of organised activities, although I did go to talks on Astronomy given by Michelle Thaller -- great lecturer, made difficult concepts easy to get a grip on, even if I didn't understand them all as well as she did! We did the quizzes in Rendezvous, and didn't disgrace ourselves, at least! My niece was involved in some volleyball sessions, which she enjoyed greatly. Mostly on sea days we sat by one or other of the pools, taking the occasional dip or soak in the Jacuzzi -- although the jigsaw in the Library saw a lot of activity when it was too hot to sit out.
We all found other passengers very friendly and helpful, and had some great conversations with people we met at various venues.
On the whole, service was great -- there was one major exception, a Guest Services representative who dismissed my concerns about the stateroom being unsuitable, and kept telling me to phone the travel agent! Completely uninterested and offhand. In contrast, when I broke the footrest on my wheelchair, another Guest Services representative went out of her way to make sure I got a temporary repair -- so many thanks to her, and to Greg the maintenance man who carried out the repair.
The entertainment was good, though we missed some of the late night shows -- it would have been nice if they could have been on a little earlier. I particularly enjoyed the 'casual' entertainment -- the piano player, the string quartet, and the a cappella singers.
- Port & Shore Excursions
I can't comment on these -- in spite of informing Celebrity at several points about my capabilities and needs, they sold me excursions at tendered ports, which they knew I would not be able to take. A cruise to Hawaii became 'a cruise to near Hawaii'. I was never so disappointed in anything in my life -- I'd spent almost Â£3000 on a cruise that was not, and never could have been, what I'd planned. All Celebrity had to do was to tell me there was no roll-on capability, and that 8 steps would be involved in tendering, and I wouldn't have booked the cruise. Right up until the morning in Kailua-Kona, I believed that I would be able to tender, and that was confirmed by the Shore Excursions rep, who gave us instructions about where to go for transfer to the tender. It was only after waiting for an hour, and asking several times what was going on, that we discovered that I wouldn't be able to tender -- and by that time the tour had left from a different gangway, so my family couldn't go on it either. They enjoyed the rest of their excursions, while I spent time on the pool deck or exploring the ship.
Disembarkation went fairly smoothly, though again, the staff didn't seem to be aware that I need a bus with a wheelchair lift for transfer to the airport. We flew from Honolulu to Los Angeles, and again in spite of vouchers, there was no transport to our overnight hotel arranged, and no sign of Celebrity anywhere.
This cruise was very disappointing for me, since I was unable to visit the place I had booked the holiday to see. The cruise itself was good, with the exception of the unsuitable cabin. For my family, their experience was good, although they didn't feel Celebrity's standards matched those of the MSC Splendida, which they'd travelled on earlier this year. None of us have any wish to travel with Celebrity again.