This cruise was somewhat blighted by the outbreak of norovirus which, as another reviewer mentioned, caused a major dislocation to the ship's procedures. Small examples: the library was closed for a couple of days because all the books were being sterilized: items such as glasses in cabins, kettles etc disappeared on the last day at sea - again to be sterilized. The worst disruptions were in the self service restaurants - they were no longer self service: we had to ask for everything. We weren't permitted to just pick up the bowl of melon sitting there in front of us, we had to find a member of staff to hand it to us. The combination of staff shortages and communication problems made getting breakfast/lunch in these restaurants a bit like Russian roulette. Definitely not a pleasurable experience. In fairness, the staff were doing their best under very difficult circumstances.
I don't know whether the same problem was having an impact in the San Marco Restaurant, but as Celebrity Select diners, I would say that this was probably the worst flexible dining experience we have had on any ship. And we have been on an awful lot of ships on different cruise lines. In fact, as I said to my wife on our 2nd or 3rd day, if this was our first experience of Celebrity, we probably wouldn't do it again. However, we do have "previous" on the Eclipse in Aqua Class, an altogether better experience. To be specific, we frequently had to queue at the dining room entrance, once for ten minutes or so. Then if we wanted a table for two, there was a 50/50 chance of having to wait, up to 15 minutes. In contrast with other cruise lines who have got this better organised, there were no pagers - we just had to sit down and wait in the adjacent Cellar Masters. Once inside, the staff were just on the edge of coping, but sommeliers were so rare it sometimes took real persistence to even get a wine list before our main course was served.
Whilst still on the subject of dining, we had two complimentary cover charge dinners, one at the Tuscan Grill and one at Ocean Liners. In the former, in addition to signing for wine, we had a $10 "service" charge to sign for. There was no equivalent charge at Ocean Liners. Curious, I queried the charge with Customer Relations.
Me: "We prepaid our gratuities, so why are we being charged again for service?"
CR: "Because service charges in cover-charge restaurants are not covered by your prepaid gratuities".
Me: "Where does it specify this on the Celebrity web site?".
CR: "service charges in cover-charge restaurants are not covered by your prepaid gratuities".
Me: "Why is this charge imposed in the Tuscan Grill but not in Ocean Liners?"
CR: "service charges in cover-charged restaurants are not covered by your prepaid gratuities"
After a while, they got fed up with me asking the same questions and I got fed up with hearing the same answer repeated, so they agreed to reverse the charge.
In a nutshell, this is an example of one of the things I don't like about Celebrity: they appear to make up the rules as they go along. Their web site says absolutely nothing about service in cover charge restaurants and in fact gives the impression that prepaid gratuities cover everything. If they could find a way to charge cruisers for the air breathed in when on board, they would certainly do so, and then add a 15% service charge on top. Even the self service enomatic wine dispensers in Cellar Masters attract a 15% service charge when topping up your wine card. And I didn't have the heart to repeat to our butler that we had prepaid our gratuities and that would take care of his tip, because I think he might have thrown himself off our balcony in response.
Cabins: we had a guaranteed suite, and this turned out to be an Accessibility Sky Suite. I was very pleased initially because the floor area appeared to be much more than a standard Sky suite. However, when we got into the cabin we realised that virtually all the extra space is squandered by the need for wheelchair access to the cabin and bathroom. This meant that there was no bathtub, and the shower was miserably inadequate, especially when compared with the excellent showers in Aqua class on the Eclipse. And despite there being large areas of wall space near the door, there were no coat hooks whatsoever. The cupboard and clothes hanging space was just about adequate - for one person that is. For two it was quite inadequate.
Ports and excursions: as other reviewers have pointed out, some of the ports on this cruise are a long way away from places of interest. For example, Le Verdon is a coach drive of nearly two hours from Bordeaux. As a matter of policy, we decided to book excursions on every port day, and we did indeed have some very memorable excursions. To anyone considering this cruise, I would say this: you should be prepared to bite the bullet and pay up for Celebrity's ludicrously expensive excursions, because if you don't, on too many port days you will be wandering around aimlessly in less than attractive surroundings.
This is getting far too long, so I'll just sum up by comparing this cruise to a curate's egg: good in parts, but with some pretty dodgy bits as well....