We were on the December 14 day itinerary. We arrived the day before the cruise, stayed with friends who delivered us to the port about 11am. We dropped our bags, and headed through the check-in process. I had my documents on my ipad (what a waste of paper) but she wouldn't accept looking at them and had to look us up on a paper list. This took a few extra minutes. Otherwise check-in was pretty efficient. They did miss my including my pre-paid drink package on my Sea Pass Card.
Even though rooms were not available yet, we went to check out our cabin which was S1, 9299. It was completely clean and ready, as were most cabins, but staff was still working hard in the halls, and a few cabins and I'm sure they wait for ALL of the cabins, so we headed out to stop by guest services to deal with my drink package and explore the ship and spend some time by the pool. The cabin had ample storage, including closet, 4 larger drawers in the desk, two in each night stand, 4 shelves in the closet, plus the overhead shelf, some cabinets and lots of storage in the bathroom, however overall the bathroom is small. The shower was nice, with a handheld and overhead shower. The shower was in the tub, not separate as we have had on most suits of this level/value. The deck furniture is okay but the deck is barely deep enough and while there are foot stools, there is no chase lounge. Compared to other similar suites on other lines (Grand Suite, Aft Penthouse, etc), overall it was the same size or smaller.
Our steward, Maria was efficient and our cabin was clean. We only received a towel animal on one night. Our butler Andy, was good but we didn't feel any of the service was extraordinary. We've had butlers on ships previously and not only did we feel they did more, but we felt suite benefits were better. Even once he knew our preferences, we never knew if those would be met (just as afternoon snacks) or just anything would show up. No biggie, but not special. He also wouldn't let us know about things until it was too late. For example, on one of the last sea days there is a big buffet with beautiful ice cravings in the main dining room, but by the time he told us (left a message on our phone at 10:30am), we were gone for the day and didn't find out until we returned to our cabin after 5pm.
We did grab a late lunch at the Buffet on embarkation day and were able to find a table pretty easily though it was busy. Overall we though the buffet was good, but it's not gourmet, especially when you compare it to a buffet like the Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. When we headed back to our cabin, we were happy to see our luggage had arrived!
She ship is understated and while beautiful it didn't "WOW" us. It was easy to navigate even from the very aft to the midship elevators, we didn't find this distance to be a problem at all and waits that we've seen some complain about we never felt were bad. We also felt the ship was very clean and VERY well maintained inside and out.
We only ate in the Main Dining Room once, on the second Formal night, and it was ok, nothing special with ok service (Select Dining). We ate three times in Quisine, which actually got pretty old midway through the second visit, but was good for one visit. We ate twice in Murano was very good but certainly rich, with lots of food. We visited Tuscan grill three times and we happy with both food and service, it's not something extraordinary but decent food and service and certainly better than the MDR. One night we attended a Chef's table with 6 other guests that included a mini galley tour, visit from the Captain, dinner with the Hotel Director (equivalent to the captain for the non marine operations) , wonderful wine pairs and a special meal in Murano. We also received their special cookbook with signatures from the F&B Manager/Head Chef. We also ate in Blu three times which, while the food was good, was disgustingly dirty. The room has all white chairs and banquets which are showing LOTS of dirt. They need to be replaced as does the carpet. You won't really notice this in the evening, but you certainly will while having breakfast.
We had six sea days we spent time at the pool, and while chairs were sometimes scarce, we always found ones together we were happy with. This has not been the case on every cruise we've been on. The first one or two sea days were pretty rough, with 5-8 m sea so they actually drained and closed all of the pools, including in the solarium. The ship was definitely moving, but after the second day, it greatly improved.
We often ate lunch on sea days in the Aqua Spa cafe, which while harder to find a table, served excellent food, including the made to order grilled fish (Tuna or Salmon) and excellent and varied salad items.
Bistro on 5 was good, if you like crepes (I do, my partner doesn't) but nothing really special.
We had eight port days.
First in St. Marteen we rented a car and visited Gallion Beach, near Orient Bach, past the butterfly farm. It is more protected, less windy with a nice little restaurant. It is NOT resortish, but cute. The restaurant rents chairs and umbrellas inexpensively. More a local place, but it had some tourists too. You can get a taxi there, but getting on back could be more of a challenge, we had another couple from our cruise who's taxi didn't return to pick them up, hop back in our jeep.
On St Thomas I went diving (Aquaaction, I'd recommend this small out of the way dive shop) and my partner headed to St. John. It's hard to add anything that you can't find elsewhere about St. Thomas.
On Antigua (Port of St. John) we've visited a nice resort, like Galley Bay previously, which I think was about $100/person all inclusive except for the taxi. I know someone on the island, so we tried something different this time and got a taxi for $12 each way headed Fort James, chairs were again, very inexpensive and we had a palm tree, but they had some permanent umbrellas as well. Again, not a resort, but there was a restaurant which we didn't try).
We did a tour on St. Lucia with Spencer Ambrose (not a ship tour), it was ok, but only saw the island by water. They have other mixed water and land tours. The beach had some snorkeling, but the area the tour was allowed use chairs was very, very small, and not very sandy. We didn't want to fight for a prime spot, so we paid some more for chairs from the resort on the beach. You could lay anywhere on the beach you wanted, just not have a chair. The food they served was ok, local food which was nice. I did get to see a bit of the town as I went for a run before we left port though I was the last tourist in town and I am not sure how safe that run was as it was Friday evening and the town was turning into a block party.
Our original plan in Barbados was to visit the Colony (resort), but it was about $100 a person and didn't include a meal and we were having good success "winging it"' so we rented a car and drove up the west side of the island, almost all the way. We hit a nice beach, one of the only ones we could find parking at, north of Holetown and got two chairs under a big tree for $5 I think. All of the beaches are public, so parking was the issue, not access. In this way a cab might be easier. in Holetown there were high end designershops, but also a cute little "village" of more local looking shops just to the south. After 2-3 hours on the beach, we did some shopping here. Some were more boutiques and some were more souvenirish I like shiny things so I made a few purchases at iCandy but a number of the stores had things I liked. We then headed to a late lunch at the Beach Club (I think that is what it was called, right across the street). It was laid back with OK food, some items we liked, others not as much, but had a great view of the water.
It rained hard in Grenada in the morning and the locals were VERY push about selling things once you left the cruise terminal. We did hire a private taxi in the afternoon for a 2 hour tour as we had never been there and wanted to see the island. We were glad we did and thought it was money well spent (negotiated to about $40). We did buy some spices for gift at the outdoor market.
In Bonnaire I went diving, which was amazing. If you dive, Bonnaire is a place to dive. We used VIP and they were great. My partner visited the Donkey Sanctuary. We were both back on the ship early so I headed out for another run. Again, not sure how safe this was for a woman to be out running on her own.
In Aruba we went horseback riding for a couple of hours with Rancho Notorious. We were the only guests on this group tour. It was a good trail ride in an area of the island that is a desert (I guess the entire island really is) and looks like it could be in the southwestern US. We rode through this park (LARGE park) and down to the ocean, but not really on a beach, though the views were great, the ocean here was VERY rough. We did get a chance to trot and even gallop on the horses on a few sandy stretches. The trip included transfers to and from the ship, but we had them drop us off at the Marriott as we wanted to see it. We were going to have lunch, but thought it was ridiculous to pay nearly $20 for a roll-up. We took a taxi back to town, and between downpours (in this desert!) walked around the shops, and found a place to eat to the side of the marina in a "market" area.
We enjoy dressing up, and formal nights were relatively dressy, though many were more casual as only the main dining room is officially formal.
Getting back on the ship each day was relatively efficient, as long as you were patient to wait for the (many) older and less mobile cruisers on the ship. It was delightful to come back to the ship to cold water, fruit juices and iced towels.
The shows were good, but not great, some better than others, though we only went to headlines, and not the "production shows". The theater was nearly full every night, and with our meals it would be nice if suite guests had reserved seating as on other lines we've sailed on.
Disembarkation was horrible for most on our cruise and there is big thread on the Celebrity forum on this. I believe it was combination of a late clearance by Customs causing people to disembark when their time came, even if their number was not called, VERY steep ramps from the ship to the pier, a large number of less mobile passengers, and the fact they had everyone going down the same stairway. We were supposed to have priority disembarkation as suite guests but we saw none of this. We weren't in a hurry, so we took our time and walked off without too much effort (though far from perfect). W e found our luggage quickly, and without having to search and after looking for short while we found a porter to help take our bags down the sidewalk to where we were quickly picked up by the rental car company (Hertz) so we could continue on our vacation in FL.
I did leave my jacket in the cabin, and though I called long before the ship left the port, there was little help, and while Celebrity followed up over a week later, I was advised it wasn't found and that clothing is generally discarded for health issues?!
Our biggest disappointment was how they resolved issues. While we kept hearing from officers and staff to tell them when there was an issue, when we did bring it to their attention they blamed someone else and didn't always fix the issue. From issues with a specialty dining package, to problems with our wine package to having to visit guest services 4 times for the same issue. For some reason even though we used the same credit card at check in online at check in on the pier and twice at the guest service desk, we got another note in our cabin to see them again. When we went to guest service, they would say that was not them, but finance, but when we asked to speak with finance, we couldn't do that. When finance finally came out, they said they didn't send the letter (yet we had it in our hands). All in all, we spent way too much time waiting in line to deal with something they already clearly had (the front desk manager actually knew us pretty well by the 5th trip. It was almost funny and she felt bad enough to give us a generous onboard credit. We felt a lot of these problems were due to "rules" that prohibited staff to be empowered to make simple fixes to make our trip easier and better. While we enjoyed our cruise greatly, and would choose Celebrity over the other lines we've cruised, we were disappointed in the little things that would be so easy to fix.