In my opinion, the best part and the main reason to go on cruises is the ability to visit a number of destinations during the same trip. The comforts and amenities of the ship, food and entertainment programs are secondary. Again, this is my personal opinion, and for other people priorities may be different. But, when and if I go on a cruise, it is usually to reach a certain array of destinations and to be able to do it in a comfort of a clean and comfortable ship that serves good quality meals. Based on this criteria, I can only give this cruise 3 stars. These are the reasons why.
One of the major destination points on this cruise was infamous Cape Horn, the most Southern piece of land (besides Antarctica). After leaving Puerto Madryn we were on the way there when one of the 85-year old passengers had a minor heart attack. There is no doubt that a human life is more important than anything else, and all actions should be always taken to save a human life, in spite of any circumstances. Thus, the captain purportedly consulted with the local authorities about possible ways to evacuate the sick person. The authorities refused to send a helicopter and denied him entrance to Rio Grande port that we were passing at the time. So, the captain decided to go to Ushuaia right away bypassing Cape Horn all together. We arrived to Ushuaia about 14-16 hours ahead of schedule and the human life was saved. The only compensation for the failure to reach Cape Horn was a meager "I am sorry" statement from the captain later.
Again, I praise the Lord (not the captain), that the human life was not compromised and our fellow passenger was safely transported to a healthcare facility in Ushuaia. Nevertheless, I believe the chain of events revealed a fundamental flaw in Celebrity's policies and organization. Here's why I believe so. I have been a business owner for a number of years and in the past managed a high profile company that went public at the London Stock Exchange. I know what businesses can and should do to fulfill their responsibilities to the public (or their clients per se). I know that in corporate codes there is always a contingency plan in case if something unusual happens. A company like Celebrity having two thousand passengers with majority of them being over retirement age definitely has a contingency plan that dictates actions in case of statistical emergencies as such that happened on our cruise. People over 65 do have a greater chance of a heart attack than people between ages of 25 to 55. Statistically, on a cruise like this there is more than a half of people older than 65. This is just statistics. So, when a "normal" statistical event happened during the cruise, there should have been some contingency plan in place to either efficiently evacuate the person without affecting the rest of the cruise, or to make arrangements to compensate the rest of the passengers if an evacuation attempt fails. However, on Celebrity Cruises the contingency plan was either absent or simply bad. It was definitely not a good plan, for it easily failed with no complicating circumstances such as bad weather, equipment failure, multiple accidents, etc.
It is possible that there was no a reasonable agreement between Celebrity and local authorities in place. We really don't know in what manner the local authorities were contacted by the cruise line and what they were told. But, the fact is, they refused to send a helicopter and denied entry into the port of Rio Grande with no specific reasons. As I mentioned earlier, the weather was calm and our ship had a perfectly designed helipad for accepting helicopters (obviously in case of emergency).
Personally to me the decision to go straight to Ushuaia seemed to be more financial in nature than anything else. An emergency helicopter or a stop at an extra sea port would be related with some heavy out of pockets expenses for the company. On contrary, cutting a hole leg out of the cruise and bringing a patient to one of the ports on the itinerary definitely saved the company a lot of money. The sad part of the whole thing was that the company decided not to compensate the rest of the passengers for its failure in any way. I think a mere "open bar" for the night would be at least a small token of company's remorse and apology. Of course, I am not a drinker as many other passengers on board, so maybe a little souvenir from the company with a "sorry" note would do it. No, there was not even that. The captain just told us about the situation from the TV screens and apologized with an indifferent statement "we are sorry".
The other disappointment on the cruise was the food. Good food is what a lot of people anticipate when they go on cruises. Unfortunately, Celebrity failed in that regard as the food on the ship was not at par with the other cruises (like Princess) I've been to. First of all, I was disappointed to come to the buffet restaurant (Oceanview cafe) every day and find exactly the same selection of items time after time. It does get old after the first week. Second, nothing ever seemed fresh. I know that the cruise lines don't buy local produce during the cruise. So, they have to store everything up for 2-3 weeks in their refrigerators. But, I don't think that adds to a good experience. Greens were always wilted, meats had a pre-frozen feel to them and other foods seemed like they had survived an extended shelf-life on board. Even the special dining restaurants (like Trellis) could not avoid these problems all together. I know that one passenger on the ship was so appalled by the quality of food that after a scandal she received a special "Manager's" diet - dishes cooked for her by the chef individually.
Other than that, the ship was clean and nice, and the staff was doing their jobs at every other department. All the staff members were very friendly and hardworking. Our stateroom attendant did an outstanding job cleaning our room each day and making sure we had everything we needed.
The tours scheduled through Celebrity were good and reasonably priced. We went on three of them at Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego National Park), Punta Arenas (Otway Sound bay) and Puerto Mont (Osorno Volcano and Petrohue Rapids). My favorite was Tierra del Fuego just because of the best tour guide we had. He knew his job, was a lot of fun, very informative and made sure we were separated from other tour groups to get the best experience possible. My least favorite was the Osorno Volcano tour, again, because of the tour guide. The microphone on the bus broke, so she just chose to sit and tell us almost absolutely nothing about the area. It was a very quiet excursion.
Considering that I had been on Princess cruises before and it was my first time on Celebrity, I will probably choose to stay with the Princess. This is not a review for Princess, so I am going to end this here. I humbly recommend Celebrity to review their contingency (emergency evacuation) policies and food storage and preparation techniques. I think Celebrity is a wonderful cruise company, that has great fleet and staff, but they do need improvement in very important areas.