This was our second cruise, both on Celebrity, the first being an Alaska Inside Passage cruise. Although we've been intending to take a special vacation to celebrate my recovery from cancer, we booked spur of the moment after some extra funds showed up unexpectedly, and we were limited to Christmas week because of the school schedule. We were afraid it wouldn't "feel like Christmas." We were wrong. :-)
Our only basis for comparison was the Galaxy in 1999. We loved that cruise, and we loved this one just as much, if not more. We like fine dining, even our 10-year-old, and the food on the Galaxy was a high point. Happy to say that the main dining room here was just about comparable to our other experience. Other aspects of the experience were better, so our overall impression was just as good. First, the ship is lovely. As with the Galaxy, there was wonderful art everywhere and the public rooms were elegant and modern. Our stateroom was nicer, as we were in Verandah class. Although we were on the 6th deck and partially obstructed, with a prime view of lifeboats, our room was relatively large and bright. We enjoyed our verandah -- husband spent hours out there reading on sea days. As in 1999, we had an efficient "cabin genie" who kept our room neat and clean.
We ate most meals in the main dining room. Almost everything was very good. We ate a couple of meals upstairs in Oceanview and they were pretty good, too. We had tea there a few days as well and hubby and daughter had sushi and ice cream (not together!) snacks. I would say the one dish we really didn't like (both adults had it) was more because it was geared towards a European palate.
What we thought was even better than 1999 was the entertainment, especially the little troupe of singers, dancers and acrobats who did the nightly shows in Silhouette Theatre and the interactive events. They were multi-talented -- we saw several different shows during the cruise, including a special Christmas Eve show. There was also good guest talent, especially a young singer named Michelle Bianco. Another big improvement, we thought, was the accessability of the senior staff. They were everywhere and very much a part of our experience. We met several at the Captain's Club reception and they sort of kept up with us during the cruise. The captain is highly gregarious, BTW, with excellent spoken English. The cruise director is also very visible.
Our daughter did not participate in the kids' programs -- she considers it "warehousing." Fortunately, virtually all the evening entertainment was child-appropriate and she had a blast with us. Not all parents supervised their kids well; unfortunately, the staff had to post repeated reminders in the daily newsletter, and we witnessed "kids gone wild" one day ourselves.
I availed myself of a few spa services that were a decent value and bought some jewelry in Exquisites for a good price. Good experiences both. We did not dine in the special restaurants -- the cover charge is pretty steep, and you could do worse than the main DR. If you're on Select dining as we were, reservations are in order. You'll get seated much faster. The hostess is a sweetheart and can multitask with the best of them. We did not consider the beverage packages a good deal. We got a softdrink package for our daughter, but there is no way she can drink enough soda to justify doing it in the future.. We did get a bottle of wine each night with dinner, but because hubby knows his wines, we came out a little ahead of what we would have done with a wine package. We don't drink enough to get the other packages, and coming from an expensive area, the prices weren't really that bad in our view. We did a couple of shore excursions. The water park at Cococay was a rip-off -- when you go to Cococay, just get there early, grab a chair and rent an umbrella and you'll be fine. The St. Maarten/Martin tour arranged thru Shore Excursions was actually cheaper than a tour we arranged ourselves on St. Thomas, so it was a good deal. We're not into jet skis, etc. so we just did the fuddy-duddy tour bus thing and went to the beach. We did feel that there were a lot of added-fee extras, but you can still have a good time without spending a lot of extra money.
Boarding and disembarkation went smoothly for us. We did an airport transfer on arrival, and had preferential check-in and lunch on the ship. We made our own hotel arrangements for an overnight stay on departure.
As for it "feeling like Christmas," we were pleasantly surprised. The ship was decorated to the nines. There were extra activities, including a delightful show in the theatre on Christmas Eve, caroling, Santa's arrival and time with the kids on Christmas morning, and religious services for Catholics and Protestants (there were gatherings for Jewish passengers as well). There were special menus that day, too, including turkey and dressing. Felt almost like home.
The one really negative thing I can say is not Celebrity's fault, and in fact, they tried to combat it, but some of the other passengers were real pigs. You aren't supposed to save seats at the pool (which gets really crowded on sea days) or the theatre, but it happened A LOT. Additionally, they had a lovely display of dozens of gingerbread houses in the Grand Foyer, and people were stealing them. There were the out-of-control children, and I witnessed some appalling and blatantly racist behavior towards staff persons "of color" in one of the gift shops -- I felt so bad for the shop manager that I personally apologized to the staff after that particular customer stomped out in a huff.
All in all, though, it was a wonderful experience.