I have cruised many times before on many cruise lines. This was our first Celebrity cruise and I had heard it was a step above Princess and HAL. I am 49 and was traveling with my 75 year old disabled mom. We had cruised to Hawaii before on the Carnival Spirit from Vancouver several years ago.
My mom had a stroke 10 years ago and is unable to walk unaided due to her balance issues. She depends on her electric scooter for mobility. She can walk short distances, with difficulty, with her walker. This was to be our last mother/daughter cruise as her physical and mental disabilities are getting too difficult to allow her to travel. I put a lot of time, money and homework into this vacation. You have to do your homework when you cruise or vacation with someone who is disabled. You always have to expect the unexpected.
I had been in contact with Celebrity Special needs many times before this cruise. They were aware my mom would require a bus with a lift for her scooter for the transfer from the airport to the pier and from the pier to the ship. Celebrity Special needs advised me many times all was taken care of. I booked an accessible cabin with a balcony on deck 6. My mom just loves having a balcony on a cruise. She will sit out on the balcony for hours. She would sleep out on the balcony if I let her. Not on this cruise. More on that later.
We arrived at the San Diego airport at 8:45am. It was a much too early a flight but we didn't know that then. We collected our luggage and found the celebrity reps. They quickly took our luggage and told us transfers to the pier would not begin until 11am. They told us they had no accessible transfers and we would have to pay $15pp for an independent accessible transfer to the pier. I couldn't understand this when celebrity told us that an accessible transfer would be available and complimentary. I had even given Celebrity my flight information. I still don't know what happened to the accessible transfer we were promised. The rep at the airport advised us if mom could get up the steps onto the bus they could put the scooter under the bus in the luggage compartment and they would be able to transfer us for free. We agreed. We went and had a bite to eat in the airport and began our 2 hour wait for the transfer. We were finally called to the transfer bus. The rep was insistent that mom get the front seat as she was disabled. As mom struggled to get up the steps into the bus, I watched as the men tried to get mom's scooter under the bus. It would not go right side up so they put it on it's side and slid it into the luggage compartment very roughly. I could only hope it wasn't hurt or damaged. Upon arrival to the pier the Celebrity Millennium was there and we wished so much we could board her there. Unfortunately, we were not allowed due to a law called the Jones act. Thankfully the scooter worked when taken out of the bus but with a few more scratches by it's rough handling. The pier was basically a warehouse. We checked in and then began the 4 hour wait for the bus to Ensenada. Celebrity did provide us with a light lunch of small sandwiches, potato salad and water or lemonade.
Finally at 3pm the buses started to arrive and people began boarding the buses. Mom and I continued to wait until 4pm. We were then told that a lift bus would take several more hours wait. They said we could leave immediately if mom walked the few steps up into a regular bus and the scooter was put into the luggage compartment. We agreed. They made sure they boarded us onto an empty bus so mom could have the front seat. Several nice men helped mom up the bus steps. The scooter was put under the bus and we waited as people were loaded onto the bus. At 5pm we started on our journey to the border. At first our bus driver got lost and couldn't find I-5. He had to go around the block twice. Thankfully he found the freeway after that. We had to wait 2 hours at the border as all 50 buses were put in one line at the border. In the two hours the only excitement was a drug dog inspecting the luggage compartment of the bus and even entered the bus and walked up and down the aisle. Of course the dog found nothing. I thought this was useless as I don't think drugs are going into Mexico. This should be done on the other side in Mexico where drugs are coming into the US.
We finally got through the border and began our two hour drive to Ensenada. We had a Mexican bus driver who did not speak or understand English. The bus driver drove very fast and we had to hang on for dear life so we were not dumped into the aisle of the bus at every turn. The views from the bus would have been beautiful if we would have been able to see them in the light, however it was already dark by that time.
We were never so glad to see the lights of Ensenada. We finally arrived at the pier in Ensenada where the men broke my mom's scooter getting it out of the bus. We arrived into our cabin which I though had to be a joke. It was TINY. I have been on many, many cruises and I have never seen such a small accessible cabin. However I had no time to think of the small cabin as the broken scooter was of the utmost importance. It would not run and it's charge indicator was broken out of the dashboard of the scooter. I went down to guest relations and told them that my mom's scooter had been broken. The guest relations worker quickly told me that Celebrity did not break my mom's scooter but the bus company had. This confused me. Wasn't the bus hired by Celebrity? I asked if a maintenance man could please come look at the scooter. They said under no circumstance would they touch my mom's scooter. They explained they might break it worse and then would be responsible. I was beside myself. My mom's cruise would be ruined with out the use of her scooter. Not only the cruise but our 10 day post cruise vacation booked in Honolulu. Our room steward saw how upset were we about the scooter. Somehow, a maintenance man did come up and look at the scooter. His English was very poor and he refused to touch the scooter. I asked to use his screwdriver and as he watched I unscrewed the dashboard of my mom's scooter. I tried to put the indicator back in place but it was cracked. I then noticed the wire that went down to the battery compartment in the scooter was unplugged. It could not be plugged back in because the prongs were all bent. I used the screwdriver as best I could to re bend the prongs. I was then able to plug it in and low and behold it worked!!!! I was relieved beyond explanation. I was so proud of myself and my husband would have been too. The cord and plug must have been pulled out and damaged as the men pulled the scooter out of the luggage compartment. I thanked the maintenance man for lending me his screwdriver.. Later guest relations would call me and leave a message on my phone saying how glad they were that their maintenance man was able to repair my mom's scooter!!!!! What? I didn't care about this at all as all is well that ends well.
For the first two days the lights in our cabin did not work. On the first night we really didn't care as we were so tired we just wanted sleep. They tried to fix them that evening but right after the electrician left they went out again. The next day the electrician had to return two more times. This finally fixed the problem and we didn't have a problem with the cabin lights again.
We couldn't move in our cabin it was so crowded, with us the furniture, the beds and the scooter and walker. I removed the little table and chair that was in the cabin and put it on the balcony. This still didn't give us any room. There was no room beside the bed to get the walker or scooter near it so my mom would be able to transfer. We discovered the bed was too close to the mounted desk against the wall to allow mom access to the balcony. We were so disappointed. Here I had gone to all the extra expense of getting a balcony accessible cabin and the balcony was not accessible to my mom. What is the use of offering a handicapped balcony cabin when the balcony is not able accessible??? The balcony even had a lovely ramp but due to the smallness of the cabin the bed was on it. So, mom was not able to use the balcony at all on the entire cruise. The bathroom in the cabin was accessible. It had grab bars and a shower with a seat. Thankfully, our cabin was right next to the open area near the stairs. We stored our scooter out in that area. Mom used the walker in the cabin. This made it difficult to constantly get to her scooter but we survived. There was no place to charge the scooter out there so periodically we would have to have it in the cabin.
Needless to say we were exhausted after the day we had. I went to the muster drill but mom was too sick and tired to go. We were so tired we didn't even go to dinner. We ordered a little room service and ate it in the dark as the lights weren't working.
We slept late the next morning. Mom was still exhausted from the day before. So she stayed in the cabin for the most part. That is the reason I got a balcony cabin. I knew she would stay in the cabin quite a bit. Whenever, I think of this I still get upset.
I explored the ship. I really liked the layout of the ship. It was not one of those mega ships. It was not too small and not too big. The ship was gorgeous. All shiny and clean. I really liked the clear elevators.
I had brought my lap top and bought Internet with the ship. It was quite expensive. I think I spent $200. I was able to use my lap top from my room or anywhere on the ship. I was glad I had brought my lap top as the Internet lounge sometimes was very busy with a line of people waiting to use a computer.
The next 5 days were sea days and after that nightmare of a embarkation we needed the relaxation. I went to our cruise critic meeting to meet all the people I had been chatting with before our cruise. Celebrity had champagne, orange juice and snacks for us. The cruise director came too. It was nice meeting and talking with some people but the group was so large it was overwhelming.
During the sea days Celebrity offered many things to do. Hair seminars, space lectures, trivia and computer classes to name just a few..
The food was great on this ship and the dining room was very nice and the waiters were exceptional. We had 6pm fixed seating. One thing Celebrity did right was at dinner they seated mom at a table right near the entrance so she didn't have to do an obstacle course in order to get to her table.. Our table was also right next to a window. Mom would drive her scooter up to the table. The waiter would help mom transfer to her seat and then the waiter would drive the scooter away to park it out of the way. After dinner he would go get the scooter for mom and help her transfer back. I had asked Celebrity Special needs for large print menus but we never did get them. There are obviously some serious communication problems between Celebrity Special needs and their ships.
The waiters learned our names and learned our likes and dislikes. The waiter wanted to make sure we enjoyed dinner. If we ever didn't like something we ordered he would encourage us to order something else. Our assistant waiter was also good but his English was not as good as our waiter and got confused or didn't understand some things . My mom just loves desserts and she would order two. She would eat both of them too. My mom is very skinny so doesn't need to worry about her weight. Our waiter encouraged us to do this. The lava cake, cheesecake and souffle's were the best. Lobster night was great. Nice big lobsters that were very tender. I ordered two. Then some nights nothing really looked good. Those nights we would just order two or more appetizers skip the entree and order dessert. The waiter allowed us the freedom to do anything we wanted. We were seated at a table of six and we loved our table mates.
We would always get room service breakfast. We would order it the night before on a card and hang it on the door. It was always right on time. It was not always accurate. There was usually always something missing. One morning the coffee was missing. Another morning the toast. No butter on another morning etc. I would call them and they would bring whatever was forgotten. We couldn't imagine going to breakfast in the dining room when we could eat in our cabin in our pajamas. Twice we did go to the buffet to get waffles in the morning. They were so yummy.
For the most part all the crew were very kind and helpful. I must say the only time we saw a bad attitude once or twice was at the guest relations counter.
Our cabin steward was so nice and did her job so well. We would often sleep in and then just leave the cabin for 15 minutes before we would return again. I don't know how but we would come back to a clean, made up cabin. She must have been watching for us to leave.
We loved going to the shows in the showroom. The productions shows were our favorites. There were 3 and they were so good. We also had a fiddler, magician, pianist, a singer and a comedian. Some shows were better than others but we never missed a show. One night we had a Polynesian show. We thought it would be a professional show but found out it was just a hula school that brought their students to the ship to do a show. One group that we really enjoyed were the acapella quartet. They were such nice young men and very personable. Also very talented. They had a large number and variety of songs. We always searched the daily paper to see where and when they were performing. We loved the reserved handicapped seating in the showroom. Usually it is at the very back of the theater in the nose bleed section, however, they had front row seats that were also handicapped accessible. My mom loved this as she can't see very well.
The cruise also had the usual newlywed game, Liar, liar and dancing with the stars. I love these shows. The cruise director was always at these late night shows and he was so much fun. I really enjoyed our cruise director. What a busy guy, but so nice. Mom and I always had to go by his office to get into the showroom. There was a very heavy door we had to open to enter. If he was there, which he usually was, he would run ahead to open and hold the door for us. He was always out and about. Always very open to talk to anyone. After he had closed the show he would sprint up a deck so he could greet the guests as they came out of the main entrance of the showroom. I don't know when the man slept. He was up very late doing shows. Then was up at the crack of dawn. He said he lived on 6 hours sleep a night.
Upon arrival into Hilo we had to go to customs on the ship before we were able to leave the ship. We all headed to a showroom. It started out with one customs agent trying to check out 400 people. This did not go over well. People were afraid of missing their excursions. Finally, 3 more agents came in and the line began to move. It was a crowded, confusing mess. Especially when mom is disabled and there is not any space for her to maneuver. But after an hour we got through it and were soon off the ship. We rented a car here and headed to Walmart where we really needed to get some additional medical supplies for mom. We also hit Hilo Hattie's for some shopping. We drove around and checked out some sea views. We had been to Hilo many times before. It is usually raining here but not today. Our weather on this whole trip was exceptional. Also the seas were never, ever rough. It was the calmest seas we had ever experienced. We couldn't believe people complaining about the movement and rocking of the ship. Mom and I would look at each other in amazement and say. What movement?
Next stop was Kona. This was a tender port. We had quite a wait for a tender as they started with only one tender going back and forth. Finally they got more tenders going. Many disabled people were very, very upset as they were not allowed off the ship if they were not able to transfer onto the tender without their electric chair/scooters.. There were around 10 steps we would have to climb down and then had to step onto a swaying tender boat. The crew were very, very helpful. They would carry my mom's walker and helped her onto the tender. Some people who were confined to wheelchairs/scooters did not know of this requirement. Imagine going all the way to Hawaii and not be able to get off the ship. Thankfully, we were aware of this rule as we had cruised so many times before. In Kona we again rented a car and went to the place of refuge to snorkel. Mom didn't snorkel of course, she just waited on the beach. Some of the best snorkeling is here. We enjoyed the hour drive out here along the ocean with incredible views.
We were in Lahaina, Maui for two days. We again rented a car. We just loved the freedom of driving and stopping where we wanted and when we wanted. I went snorkeling many places. Black rock had horrible snorkeling. However, we did have fun using the Sheraton's pool here. We stopped on a beach at the side of the road once and we were the only ones there. We were able to swim and snorkel and have the entire beach to ourselves. We loved it. Since we were here two days we required some place to park our rental car. We found a place close to the ship behind Burger King. It cost $25. This may be expensive but it was worth the ease of getting to the car. Lahaina was again a tender port. I had to wait over an hour for a tender back to the ship one afternoon. There were only two tenders going at the time. Not that I really cared as I was on vacation and had nothing to rush to. The line of people waiting was snaked all around town.
Next stop was Honolulu. Our favorite. We arrived in the morning and stayed overnight until the next morning. We know Honolulu like the back of our hands since we have been here so many times before. Since we were post touring here for an additional 10 days we made this a ship day. It was wonderful to have the ship and pools to ourselves. We didn't have to fight over lounge chairs as hardly anyone was on board. We lounged by the pool, swam, sunned and ate at the near by buffet. Also there were the lovely views of Diamond head from the ship. The ship had wonderful soft Hawaiian music playing in the pool area. It was so peaceful and relaxing. We had the best day until around 2pm. This is when the crowds were making their way back to the ship. Loungers were getting full, and you could no longer hear the nice music over the shouting and laughter of all the people. Oh well, it was wonderful while it lasted.
We got off the ship the next morning with no trouble at all. I had arranged a private transfer with a lift from Roberts to take us to our hotel.
There were some bumps along the way but no cruise is perfect. I was ashamed by some of the behavior of the people on this cruise. Having fits, yelling and making scenes because they had to wait to get a tender or wait on a customs official, etc. Come on people, you're on vacation. I guess Mom and I are pretty easy to please. Feed us, entertain us, make our beds and at the same time take us to tropical ports of call and we are happy. I hope to cruise Celebrity again.