We recently returned from our first Celebrity Cruise. We are cruise lovers and firmly believe that a bad day at sea beats a day at work any day. We've sailed on almost all of the mass market lines including, Carnival, NCL, Princess & RCCL. This review will be written from the perspective of a comparison between Celebrity and the other cruise lines, especially Royal Caribbean which has been my favorite line to this point. Prior to boarding I corresponded with many of my co-passengers for many months on Cruise Critic, many of which were fans of Celebrity. I was told that I would "love" Celebrity and that "they just do it better", etc. I went on this trip with an open mind prepared to enjoy the "premium" service and experience Celebrity markets.
Since we live only about 10 minutes from the port in Bayonne, there was no need for pre-cruise arrangements. Because this was a repositioning sailing we would be flying back into Newark so we parked our car at the airport and arranged for a ride for the short trip to the pier at Cape Liberty. I did another repo cruise from Bayonne at almost the same time last year on the Voyager of the Seas. That departure was in cold and windy conditions, but still a lot of fun. Just about a week or so before boarding the Connie I realized that because Daylight Savings Time had ended that we would be leaving port in the dark at 6:00 pm. I figured that this would add to the excitement of sailaway, being on deck, going under the lit up Verazzano bridge. I was looking forward to it.
Embarkation-We arrived at Cape Liberty around 12:15 or so and gave our ample luggage to a waiting porter. This was a 9-day voyage which included 3 formal and 2 informal nights, so we had more luggage than in the past. We tipped him appropriately and made our way inside the terminal. Since boarding had already started, there were no lines and we walked right up to an agent with our previously printed Xpress Pass and were checked in within 5 minutes. Took our boarding photo and walked right onto a waiting bus to shuttle us to the ship. We were onboard and enjoying the welcome champagne and orange juice by 12:30. Grade-A+
Cabin/Ship-Our cabin was ready when we arrived so we went there right away to check it out. About a month or so before we sailed there was a rock bottom sale on this sailing. The prices were originally great anyway, with us paying less than $700 for 9 days. We originally booked an inside guarantee. During the sale, inside guarantees could be had for $450 per person! I'm not kidding. Instead of requesting a refund, we took advantage of the low pricing to upgrade to a balcony cabin for only $80 more per person. What a deal. We were assigned cabin# 6048. One of my CC buddies advised me that that was the "special" cabin he had specifically booked, but gave up in favor of a guarantee to get the price reduction. I was anxious to see what was so "special" about this cabin. From the deck plans it appeared as if this cabin had a slightly larger balcony than the standard balcony cabins. It was a bit larger, however there was a downfall to this location. This specific cabin on all decks had a kind of slanted, triangle shaped balcony. This make them slightly larger, but they were angled so that every time you step up to the railing of your balcony you're looking out at all of the balconies down the side of the ship. And more importantly, they're looking at you! It meant for a little less privacy because I didn't feel free to walk up to my balcony in nightgowns or even less J, but the slightly larger space did allow for us to put a padded lounge chair out there which I enjoyed many times during this voyage. I liked the mirrored walls in the cabin as well as the small couch. The overall dEcor was very inviting. There was a mini fridge and enough storage space for us to put away all of our things. I liked the extra drawer space in the closet. The bathroom/shower is definitely on the small side, but aren't they all? I believe this was the smallest bathroom I've ever had. The best bathroom would be on the Norwegian Dawn, with the sectioned layout. Overall, a comfortable attractive room.
The rest of the ship was equally as attractive. I liked the elegance of the ship. The public spaces were very comfortable and nicely decorated. The layout of the ship was good, and easy to get around. One disappointment, though, was the Thelassotherapy pool. After hearing so much hype about this venue, I thought it was going to be a tranquil, solarium type atmosphere. I walked by this pool several times before I realized that it was THE T-pool. I was envisioning a more secluded, out of the way area in the spa for this pool. It was basically just the indoor pool as on the Solarium on RCCL ships. However there wasn't as much tranquility in this area as in RCCL. I found it to very noisy in this area, not conducive to quite conversation or reading. I definitely prefer the Solarium on RCCL ships which are decorated with a tropical theme. Just more relaxing and pleasing to the eye. Grade-A-
Food-After checking out our cabin we headed to the buffet area for the welcome aboard lunch. This was the best buffet lunch I've had on a ship. There were excellent choices including carved meat, rice, salads, fresh pasta. I was disappointed in the choices of salad dressings, however, which was limited. Only 3 choices, and not the usual offerings like Ranch, French. They had tomato basil or something like that. Throughout the week, I commented that the buffet here definitely beat that on RCCL. My last trip on the Voyager last year had a dreadful buffet, where it was difficult to get a hot meal. I also ordered room service for the first time ever on this trip. I enjoyed a full service breakfast one day before going ashore. I even took the advice of some other reviewers and wrote in some items that were not on the room service menu. I also made sure to write in all of the condiments we wanted since I'd read previously that if you don't do that, you won't get them. The room service menu offered a plain omelet, so I wrote in the things I wanted included, such as cheese, onions, etc. It came just as ordered. The entire order was perfect. The freshly cooked pancakes and waffles were very good at the breakfast buffet.
During the week we only went to the formal dining room for dinner. I don't pay for the extra charge venues. We went to the DR for breakfast twice as well, including the day of debarkation. The food was always very good, with one exception. The lobster I received on formal night was terrible. The worst I've had on any trip. I spoke to others who said theirs was good, but I didn't enjoy mine at all. I enjoyed a delicious hot chocolate with pastries at the Cova Cafe. Overall the food was very good, but not extremely better than that on RCCL. Grade-B+
Entertainment-While I enjoyed what was offered on the ship, I found Celebrity to be very lacking in this area. There just seemed like there wasn't much to do. Daytime activities were very few. I mentioned to several of my fellow cruisers that I was very disappointed in the daily activities or lack of them on this ship. While on other ships, I'm always afraid to nap during the day for the fear that I'd miss out on some fun activity. Not on this ship. I took many naps and slept later than normal, comfortable knowing that there wasn't much going on to miss. Good thing was I caught up on some much needed sleep. I liked the fact that there were few onboard announcements and the usual belly flop and hairy leg contests were not missed, but I do like the other type of game shows that are offered on other ships. I always make a point to go see the ship's version of the Not so Newlywed Game, it being one of my favorite activities. They had no such game on this ship. Nothing like RC's "Quest" or anything of that sort. There was one, I repeat, ONE stand up comedy act during the entire 9-day voyage. One show only. I was extremely disappointed with this. I enjoy comedians on the ships and couldn't believe that only one show was offered. I also enjoy Karaoke and only 2 sessions were offered during these 9 days. Some Celebrity fans have told me that these are the things they like about Celebrity. I guess that would mean I'm still a RCCL fan because I missed these things. The cover band on the ship, Onyx was excellent, with the drummer/singer Johnny something. I forgot his last name. I really should have kept my daily sheets. He was an excellent vocalist. He was featured during the welcome aboard show. I thought this meant that he would have a full show later in the week and I looked forward to it. Didn't happen. He sang in the Rendezvous Lounge with the band, but did not have his own show in the theater. I only attended 2 of the production shows, as I'm of the mind, you've seen one you've pretty much seen them all. I enjoyed "Fantaseas" immensely with it being up there as one of the best shows I've seen at sea. That top honor goes to NCL's Dawn and their presentation of "Bollywood". The lead singers and dancers of the Connie were all very good. Grade-C
Ports/Excursions-The itinerary on this ship left something to be desired. One of the original ports we were scheduled to visit was Charleston, SC. Many of us were excited about this port and were looking forward to exploring it's many historic sites. However, it was replaced with Freeport, Grand Bahama. No one was excited about this port at all, especially since we were already scheduled to visit Nassau. 2 port in the Bahamas is really not that exciting. Also since I've been to Grand Bahamas twice before for land vacations, I was even less thrilled. Therefore I used this day as a "ship" day. I envisioned myself having the empty ship to myself. Unfortunately, many of the other passengers had the same idea. There were lots of folks onboard this day. The rest of the itinerary was the standard Eastern Caribbean visiting St. Maarten, St. Thomas and ending in San Juan. We took one ship sponsored excursion which was in St. Maarten. We did the 4 X 4 Jeep Safari excursion and we had a blast. Even my DH who isn't easily excited had a great time. We met a nice couple who we shared a jeep with and had a great time. We drove through town on both sides of the island and stopped at Orient Beach for a few hours before ending the tour with some off road driving. While at Orient Beach we had a delicious lunch and enjoyed the beautiful beach area. It was a great day. In St. Thomas we just did a little shopping and visited a nearby phone/internet center to call home and check email.
We had beautiful weather all week, but we did have 2 very rough days at sea. One of which prevented my husband from attending the formal dinner in the dining room. I went alone, and since we had a table for 2, I was dining alone. Some of the nearby diners took pity on me and asked me if I wanted to join their tables. Lol. I must have looked like a lonely, pathetic lady. It was very nice of them to ask. Those 2 days onboard were a bit uncomfortable, difficult to walk with many folks feeling seasick, but other than that we had warm sunny skies.
Service-Service was excellent throughout the ship. Here, Celebrity lived up to my expectations. We had a wonderful room steward, Agnelo, and wonderful dining room wait staff. Our waiter was Dzoni from Croatia and his assistant, "Mr. T" from Thailand. Mr T didn't resemble the famous character from the 80's, instead a petite man who liked to crack jokes. They honored all of our requests, even for Crème Brulee on the nights it wasn't on the menu. We met some very friendly bar servers, some of the nicest from Jamaica. The casino dealers were also very nice and they liked to joke around with the players. There was even a nice pit boss, a tall lady with red hair, that was on point. I gave her my room card to get cash at a table, and she greeted me by name after that. Nothing to complain about here. Grade-A
Debarkation-We debarked in San Juan, which would be my first time doing so in San Juan. We were scheduled to meet at 8:45 am in a specified meeting place based on the color of our debarkation tags. We arrived about 5 minutes late and I asked the lady by the door if our color had been called yet. She told me to just walk out the door. We walked right off the ship into the terminal where a waiting porter helped us locate our luggage and secure a taxi to the airport. No problem at all. Grade-A
Celebrity hosted, not one, but 2 Cruise Critic parties on this sailing. While this was a nice gesture, I don't even know what the purpose was at the first meeting. When I went to the meet and mingle on the Voyager, the cruise director staff actually hosted the meeting and got the participants actively involved with mingling with each other. They had a trivia contest and gave out some nice prizes. For our first meeting all they did was basically announce that it was a cruise critic meeting and then left us to our own devices. We had an informal meeting of our own the day before at Michael's club, which was much more fun than this. The 2nd meeting was a bit more exciting because the captain of the ship attended and held a sort of question and answer session. He graciously answered our questions regarding the ship, future ships, itineraries, etc and that was appreciated.
One other thing I should note really didn't affect me, but is worth mentioning. We had a serious medical emergency on this sailing. I'm told that while enjoying an evening of dancing in the Rendezvous Lounge that one gentleman passenger simply passed out on the dance floor, apparently from a heart attack. They evacuated the lounge and proceeded with emergency life-saving procedures on the man. They even had to use a defibrillator on him to restart his heart. Some of the passengers there at the time said it looked very serious. We heard the next day that the man had been medi-vaced off of the ship during the night. I had the opportunity to speak to the wife of the patient several days later while waiting in line at the buffet. She praised the response of the medical staff very highly. She said they responded very promptly and were very professional and treated her very well during this difficult time. She wasn't able to go with her husband in the helicopter because of limited space and was unable to get a flight to Florida that didn't involve flying all the way back to Newark, NJ then back down to FL. Since her adult son had flown to oversee his father's care until his mother could get there, she stayed on the ship. However, she was just sick and miserable about the situation. She said the staff took care of her and were very concerned about her. They even allowed her to use the ship's phone free of charge every day to call her husband. She did say that he was having surgery and was doing well, thank God. While we don't normally think about these things, it's good to know that we will be in good hands if an emergency does arise.
When we first boarded and were eating lunch in the buffet, all we saw boarding were much older passengers. We were wondering if we were going to be in the minority of passengers under the age of 50. Throughout the week we did find some more younger passengers, but the definite majority was definitely over the age of 60, maybe even 70. While I don't care for the party like atmosphere offered on some ships, I do enjoy fun activities while onboard the ship. For that reason I feel RCCL is still the best fit for our family offering a more laid back atmosphere with a nice passenger mix and fun activities. Not to mention beautiful ships. I mentioned in the beginning of this review that I envisioned a high-energy, fun sailaway while on deck. Wouldn't happen. I bundled up and went out on deck, but there were very few others out there with me. No music, not the typical sailaway. I don't know if this because of the time, 6:00, and many folks were at dinner, or if this is the usual for Celebrity. They were also having a sail away party in the Bar at the Edge of the Earth, which is a great lounge which also doubles as the disco. When I didn't see many folks up on deck I figured there would be a lot of people who didn't want to brave the cold at the party. Wrong again. The place was pretty much empty. I don't know where everyone was but I was a bit let down with this less than festive sail away. Overall this was a very enjoyable cruise, one that I wouldn't mind repeating if I was in the mood for a quiet, relaxing vacation and wanted to catch up on some sleep.
I hope this review has been helpful to some of you and feel free to contact me with any questions.