This was my first cruise with Celebrity after 6 cruises on NCL. Since we wanted to travel from Puerto Rico, NCL was not an option this time. I reviewed the available cruises and cruise lines online (thank you, cruise critic.com) and decided on the Celebrity Summit Aquaclass, based on dates, ports, features and reviews. The cruise left from Puerto Rico on Saturday Dec 22 and returned on Dec 29. I travelled with my mother.
Overall, the cruise was a very pleasant experience, at least until Friday night. The Aquaclass staterooms are all about relaxation and pampering, with larger verandas, full body shower and access to the Persian garden, which is a warm relaxation area in the Aqua Spa. And most important, it includes access to the Blu restaurant for Breakfast and Dinner. Blu is fantastic, food and service. The dinner menu changes daily, with 4 appetizer, 2 soup and 2 salad as well as 6 entree choices. Everything is superbly prepared. The staff is very professional, friendly and polite, making it a wonderful experience. The Aquaclass is a reason for me to book Celebrity again, especially since it allowed me to avoid the fixed dinner seating times and sharing the dinner table with strangers...
We also tried the specialty restaurants: Qsine was a wonderful experience that was unexpected as well as delicious. We chose the lobster escargots, trio of ceviche, sushi pops, potato munchies and NY strip with 4 sauces. Everything was exquisite and fun to eat. It was so beautifully presented that I broke my own rule of never photographing food... The only critique would be that the desserts did not keep up with the high benchmark the rest of the meal set - I chose the Surprise and ended up with a mediocre bread pudding (mushy and single note sweet).
We went to Normandy on Christmas eve, and while the service and most of the food was excellent, compared to Qsine, it was somewhat overpriced. Disappointing was also that the restaurant was in no way decorated for Christmas, no tree, no wreaths or other decorations, not even a single poinsettia. Standard elevator music in the background, no Christmas.
We had booked excursions ahead of time for 4 of the 5 ports. The excursions were all professionally conducted and very interesting. The equipment looked safe and clean. The guides were very good, with good humor and excellent knowledge and very friendly. My mother had some problems walking around the rain forest in Dominica, and our guide Leon was wonderful in helping her whenever I myself was challenged by the path. My favorite excursion though was Grenada, where we took the Spice Island tour, with visits to a spice farm, a nutmeg factory and a rum distillery. Lunch was served in a former plantation turned restaurant. The restaurant was wonderful, a large patio with heavy furniture, very polite staff, real silverware and ceramic plates and delicious local food selections. We finally were able to taste all the Caribbean staples we had heard so much about on all our tours. And no plastic chairs, tables, plates and cutlery! Clean restrooms.
We were very happy on the cruise until Friday evening when things started to change. Celebrity apparently has guest complete the feedback forms by the 2nd to last evening and we had been reminded of that by the staff everywhere on the ship all day Thursday. Clearly, by Friday, our evaluation was no longer important: when we came back from dinner on Friday, we found that our stateroom had been already prepared for our departure, with the minibar locked, the binoculars gone, the umbrella we had kept on the balcony as shield against onlookers from below (we were on the 11th floor, with people on the longer deck below being able to look up onto parts of our balcony) cleared away, together with the towels on the deck chairs, and new bath robes in the closet, clearly for the new guests.
Since we were staying a few additional days in San Juan, I had asked at guest services for a late debarkation time, at 10:30 am. When I received the luggage tags, I saw in the note that we were to vacate the stateroom by 8:00 am. I reached out to Guest Services and our stateroom staff to extend, to no avail. Why we had to leave at 8:00am when new embarkation started at 3pm, nobody could explain to me. In the end, we left at 8:30am and went with our carry-on to the public area on deck 10 which was of course overcrowded with all other passengers who had to vacate their stateroom at that time. And sat around the noise in uncomfortable chairs until we had to assemble in the theater which was on the opposite side of the ship from our stateroom. Based on our experience on our previous cruises, we had planned to have a leisurely breakfast on our balcony before leaving the stateroom and ship at 10:15... Well, that did not happen, and the debarkation experience was not very pleasant, leaving a sour taste. Especially after I discovered that there was only 1 rest room available on deck 10 for all the passengers waiting, with 3 stalls, one of which no usable anymore since the facility was clearly not serviced that morning. The other restrooms were locked.
We booked another cruise on Celebrity for next Christmas on the 2nd to last day, but are now considering to forfeit the deposit because of the treatment at the end of the cruise. I tried leaving a review on the Celebrity website but have still not figured out how to do so - apparently, Celebrity is not interested in an overall and detailed review once the cruise is completed...