This was our first cruise with Celebrity, and overall we were pleasantly satisfied with the experience. Here's a lengthy review:
Embarkation: Our cruise was set to depart at 4:30pm. Our flight arrived in Miami early - around 8:45am. We hopped in a cab and arrived at the Port Miami by 9:30am. The $25 flat rate fare is nice, considering our cabbie was new and didn't know how to get there. But, since we were early, we had plenty of time, so it wasn't that big of a deal. We arrived at the cruise terminal around 9:15am, and the porter took our bags and informed us that they would start checking in passengers "between 9:30 and 10:00". We meandered over to the check in area around 9:45 and they said "Not yet. Come back later." Around 10:15, we saw people lining up quickly, so we got into line. We all waited in that line for over an hour before they finally started the check-in process. Once the process finally started, we got on board smoothly, without issue. There was a lunch buffet served up on deck 10 when we boarded, but before the rooms were ready. However, because we followed a tip from a previous review on cruisecritic.com, we didn't go to the lunch buffet. Instead, we went to deck 5 to Bistro on 5, paid the $5/pp cover charge and ate a delicious meal. We were the only ones in the restaurant the whole time, and we sat there for hours in total comfort and peace & quiet! It was completely worth the $5/pp. The room was ready around 2pm.
Stateroom: We were in a C2 cabin (#8074), and it was good. Relatively small, in the grand scheme of things. I can't imagine how small the inside staterooms are. But, we had sufficient storage space. We upgraded so we could have a nice balcony. The balcony was satisfactory - a little small, of course. Just large enough for 2 chairs and a small table. The bathroom was good, and the shower was nicer than I had expected. If the shower had been 6 inches wider, that would have been nice. Good water pressure, and I never ran out of hot water. A nice quiet location.... decks 9 and 7 are both for staterooms only, so we didn't hear any of the foot traffic or music from deck 10.
Staff: Our cabin steward, Peter was good, for the most part. We didn't want the contents of our mini-bar, but wanted the space to store our own drinks, and asked him to remove the mini-bar contents, and he told us to just move the other things aside, to make room for our own drinks. On embarkation day, there was a bottle of champagne in our room, which was warm by the time we got to our room. We asked Peter to remove it, and he said that he would, but he didn't. My husband ended up pouring it out on our 2nd last day. The waiters and bartenders were all excellent. They always seemed to remember our preferences for drinks, etc. They often recognized us and some even remembered our names by the 2nd day, which was quite impressive. For the most part, I was called "Madame" or "My Lady". Anytime you walked past a crew member, they always said hello, or asked how you were doing, if you needed anything, etc. Very professional and friendly.
Dining: MDR - We only ate in the MDR (San Marco Restaurant) on 2 evenings - both were satisfactory. We were on the early fixed seating time (6pm). Our waiter, Ronald was fantastic. The MDR is noisy, and the food quality is ok. We had read reviews that the MDR didn't do beef very well, but I had steaks both nights and they were good.
Tuscan Grille - For Christmas Day dinner, we made reservations at Tuscan Grille, which was excellent. The restaurant is dimly lit, with large comfy chairs, making for a more intimate dining experience. I had the crab cake as a starter, which was ok. I was nervous that it would set the tone for the remainder of the meal. But, the Tuscan onion soup was incredible. So cheesy, so rich, so decadent. My filet mignon was cooked perfectly. My husband's ribeye wasn't nearly as good as my filet. Our dessert of creme brulee was delicious. They put pop rocks on it, so it tingles in your mouth and takes you on a bit of a nostalgic trip to your childhood. Very lovely.
Ocean Liners - Totally disappointing. We went for our last night and wish we hadn't. It took them 45 minutes to bring me my cocktail that I had ordered (and never offered me a 2nd one). It took over an hour for our appetizers, which were not very good. Well, my goat cheese souffle was lumpy and grainy, but my husband's risotto was yummy. I couldn't eat the souffle, so I chose another appetizer...the crispy pork belly. It was better, but certainly wasn't delicious. (It took them over 30 minutes to bring the 2nd app). We both ordered the 3 petit filets, and both of our orders were way overcooked. It seemed like they had been sitting under a warming tray for a while (they probably had, since it took nearly an hour for our entrees to come after our apps). The waiter came by and asked how everything was, and I mentioned that our steaks were overcooked. He immediately brought over the manager, who apologized profusely. He said it was a very busy night (as my husband and I looked around and saw several empty tables...) He asked if he could get us anything else instead... by this time, we've been there for several hours, and we kind of just wanted to get back to our rooms so we can pack for disembarkation the next morning. So, we politely declined but he talked us into staying for dessert. He personally cooked my tableside flambeed crepe, and it was delicious. After all of that, he comped our whole meal, which was nice. Paying $40/pp for that meal/experience would have been unacceptable.
Seaside Cafe: Lots of options, lots of people, lots of food. The pizza station was definitely popular. As soon as a pizza hit the station, poof - it was gone. People stalked it like vultures. The asian food station was yummy. The breakfast buffet had a really nice poached egg station. Very delish. We always sat outside on the aft sunset bar. Breezy, comfy and the staff there were great.
Room Service: Severely lacking. We were hoping that we could sit on our balcony and have a nice quiet breakfast. However they often forgot items that we had ordered. One morning, my 2 fried eggs arrived, but my husband's omlet was nowhere to be seen. Instead, they gave him some cereal...but no milk. Food was cold and late. With so many other food options available, I wouldn't recommend the room service.
Ports: Falmouth, Jamaica - A very nice gated community. Not a true representation of the Jamaica experience. Lots of high end shops for jewellery, diamonds, etc. You can tell this is a new port and was designed specifically for cruisers. The entertainers on the street were not pushy, and we weren't bombarded by annoying merchants. However, once you stepped into one of the jewellery shops - watch out! They start laying jewels and watches and all sorts of gorgeous and incredibly expensive things on you, trying to convince you to buy. They are pushy, but back off once you tell them no.
Grand Cayman - A beautiful island. The tendering process went smoothly. However, when we were there, there were six (6!!) cruise ships tendering at the same time. It was crazy. Approximately 20,000 cruisers descended upon the same very small pier area at the same time. We waited for a long time for our excursion, which ended up getting cancelled. We were told that there were 3 different buses that were in accidents, so they had to cancel. We immediately went back to the ship. It was far too crowded and chaotic there to be comfortable. I think 4 of the cruise ships were Royal Caribbean. Seems like poor planning to schedule so many cruise ships at the same bloody time.
Other: The ship was decorated in fine Christmas spirit. Lots of Christmas decorations helped keep you in the mood. In the tropical setting, it was easy to forget that it was Christmas time.... apart from the continuous Christmas music playing. As I mentioned earlier, we often sat at the Sunset bar on deck 10, and they kept playing the same Christmas CD over and over. It must have been "Destiny's Child Christmas album", because now Beyonce is haunting my dreams.... Don't get me wrong, she's got a lovely voice, but I don't know how the bar staff could tolerate her voice all day and evening every day. At any rate, the ship was kept very clean at all times. The pubic restrooms were immaculate. I had read reviews that the ship seemed old or antiquated, but I thought it was lovely. Yes, you'll see a few rust stains across a railing here or there, but the ship is traveling through salt water constantly. Rust is inevitable. The elevators move very quickly, but the stairs are roomy and wide, and are a good alternative for a quick bit of exercise amidst so many calories. The casino was nice, although some blackjack tables with lower min bets would be ideal.
Disembarkation: Went very smoothly. We opted to take our own luggage, so we didn't have to follow the ship's schedule. It was nice. We woke up, finished packing some last minute things, and just walked off the ship. Very easy.
Overall, it was a nice relaxing Christmas holiday.