This was our very first cruise with Celebrity. We have always sailed with Norwegian and have been loyal customers until now. Celebrity caught our attention, since they drastically limit smoking aboard ship (we hate it when people smoke around us!), we'd heard great things about the cuisine, and we'd heard they catered more towards "adult-cruising". We were drawn to this particular cruise because of the many stops and since the itinerary featured so many places we'd never been.
Embarkation was so easy. Literally, we walked through security, straight to the Aqua Class desk, and there were NO LINES! Never has an embarkation been as fast and simple. I was very impressed. Staff greeted you with trays of Mimosas and juices as soon as you set foot on board. Sweet!
We boarded around 1pm, and our staterooms weren't ready yet, so we were invited to go up to the OceanView Cafe for lunch which we did. My husband and I were really surprised with the large seating capacity and easy access to the food at the buffet. We've never liked cruise ship buffets on NCL, since they're usually over-crowded and insanely busy. OceanView staff certainly handles the crowds well and instead of just grabbing at things and helping yourself, they serve everything for you, make salads for you, etc. Very nice touch at a buffet. Also, I have to mention the ice-cream. Celebrity makes home-made ice-cream every day. It's to DIE FOR! It tastes just like my Dad's home-made ice-cream, and they always have Vanilla, Chocolate, & Strawberry, but then rotate other flavors into the mix on a daily basis. I went to the OceanView Buffet daily for my ice-cream fix. Fantastic stuff! Around the time we finished eating, an announcement was made that staterooms were ready, so we headed off to find ours.
Our stateroom was fine. There's not much space between the bed and mirrored wall, but that would be my only issue regarding design. I really loved the balcony/verandah and it WAS more spacious than ones I've had before on NCL, even in Suites. We traveled in Aqua Class, and I had a lovely little satchel with facial mist and lip-balm on the bed as a gift. There were brand new Frette robes in the closet, Champagne chilling on ice, a fruit bowl that was constantly replenished, and everything seemed really tidy and nice. The deck chairs are especially comfortable and can be adjusted to lie back some, which makes your private verandah a nice place to lay-out. My husband sleeps with a C-pap machine, and (like on most ships we've been on) there was no outlet next to his side of the bed. I called twice to request an extension cord for him. It was never sent. However, his cord turned out to be just long enough, so we made-do. All other room service was very prompt and our steward (Naik) was courteous and prompt with servicing our room.
I was anxious to check out the spa. On NCL, one may purchase an "spa-pass" for the week which allows you access to a thermal suite (each ship has a different thermal suite layout/facilities.) I was pleasantly surprised to find that I didn't have to pay extra to use the sauna, thermal area, etc. Plus, since I was in Aqua Class, I had use of the Persian Garden. This turned out to be my "Happy Place"! I would spend several hours there daily with my Kindle, reading and relaxing, enjoying the benefits of the aromatherapy, steam-rooms, and heated, tile lounges. Love, love, LOVED that!
I did use the thermal suite area, called "Thalasso-therapy pool". NCL has Celebrity beat in this area, and even though I didn't have to pay extra, I did miss NCL's nicer "menu" of therapy pools and ambiance. The therapy pool is in the Solarium, which had surprisingly little "personality". It's a fairly good-sized area, with very little decor. The rest of the ship was so beautiful, that this particular area surprised me a little in its plainness.
My biggest complaint concerned the pool deck. First of all, there are two pools... one for kids and one for adults, which (ideally) makes for a good plan. However, kids were constantly in the adult pool, and the ADULTS ONLY posting that was delineated was completely ignored by staff. My feeling... if you post a "regulation", STICK by it! One afternoon, I was taking a swim and a kid jumped in the pool nearly on top of me and whacked me in the face with his foot. Second, I was hoping to take a swim after dinner, but the entire pool area, thalasso-therapy pool, etc. was closed promptly at 8pm! NCL always left their pool open for night use until at least 10pm, and the whirlpool tubs are open later than that. I made sure I shared these pool concerns on the cruise critique they gave us at the end of the week.
If we had any other complaint it was that there were very few activities on board, aside from the evening shows, boring talks about how the ship runs, or annoying sales pitch speeches from the jewelry stores about gemstones (LOL!) They only held Bingo two evenings, and my husband loves Bingo. NCL definitely has Celebrity beat on varieties of activities on board.
I went to one of the shows, featuring a very talented comedian/impersonator who supposedly will be starring in a film about Bill Cosby in the near future. It was an enjoyable show, but some of his racial humor was a little too edgy for me. However, he was a talented gentleman, and aside for some of the comments on race, I loved the show.
Now, the food. Wow. Where does one even begin? Since we were in Aqua Class, we had the privilege of eating in the specialty restaurant, "Blu". We LOVED it! NCL couldn't possibly compete with Celebrity in this regard, even in their specialty restaurants. The food quality on Celebrity, the presentation, taste, and service was WAY above standard. Let's see, we had Filet Mignon, lobster, Lamb, duck, New York strip, and those were just the main courses. On NCL, whenever you dine, you have different waiters. On the Summit, we had the same wait-staff, who we came to know, respect, and appreciate. Soo-Bass, Putu, Oni, and Marcel the Maitre-D went out of their way to make our dining experience top notch. I never had to ask for tea, water, or much of anything. Service was always prompt, and whenever we had an early shore-excursion, they wanted us to tell them so they could hustle our breakfast along and get it to us faster. They did just that. At Breakfast in Blu, they have delicious, freshly squeezed OJ and smoothies. Also, you can request fresh Muesli. They bring over a big cart and mix it up to your specifications. DELICIOUS!!! All the pastries and breads are home-made, and the pancakes especially are wonderful. I like eggs over medium, and they were the very first cruise ship to get my eggs cooked "just right". Frankly, the issues with the pool, activities, etc. all dim in relation to how fabulous our dining was. We looked forward to going to Blu each day. And by the way, if you want something fast for lunch, the Poolside grill has hamburgers to DIE FOR!
I will proceed to discuss our shore excursion experiences below, but generally speaking, we loved our cruise and are planning an Alaska cruise with Celebrity this coming summer!