Our first introduction to cruising was on a 3 day 'cruise to nowhere' on Star Cruises. Since then, we've taken every opportunity to cruise (well, as often as the bank will allow!). We have no allegiance to any particular cruise line, having sampled Princess, Holland America, Azamara, P&O, Star, Seabourn - and now Celebrity.
Our first impression on embarkation was that it was pretty easy and friendly, though a bit disorganised. Never mind - we loved our verandah stateroom right at the bow of the ship. Our cabin steward was helpful, friendly and looked after us very well. One of the most comfortable beds we've had on any ship, and the best bathroom!
Normally on a cruise we don't book shore excursions as we prefer making our own way - this cruise was no different. This turned out to be a very good thing!
Our first port of call after embarking in Perth was the mining port of Port Hedland. As the comedian commented in that night's show - why? 'Nuff said.
This cruise had quite a few sea days, which was one of the attractions for us this time. Just wanted to read, sleep and eat. Eating was very good - the food in the buffet, main restaurant (Epernay) and the specialty restaurants were a high standard, particularly Murano's whose service was excellent. We didn't try the Bistro or Silk Harvest. Likewise, we have room service on a number of occasions - food was good, always arrived quickly and food was hot.
The day prior to our second port of call (Bali) an announcement was made that negotiations were continuing with Indonesian authorities to 'clear' the ship without the need for 'face to face' clearance. From listening to other passengers, this caused some consternation to those with shore excursions booked, as clearing a 2800 passenger ship could take some time. But, to cheers from the audience, an announcement was made after the (very good) show that night the negotiations had been successful.
We anchored off Bali the following morning, and tendering began. Unfortunately, after some time an announcement was made that the ship had been ordered by the authorities to stop tendering immediately until further notice. It began again about half an hour later. Dinner conversation that night was full of horror stories of people waiting in line for tenders for a couple of hours, being on a tender and not being allowed off, and rude Celebrity staff. One fellow who was deputised by those in the queue went to ask a uniformed officer at the front of the queue how much longer they had to wait and was sharply told to 'get back in line', and the officer wanted the passenger's name 'so I can report you'!! (Who to and for what, we thought!)
Our next port was Darwin (no tendering but still very long queues and holdups), with Cairns back to the tendering debacle.
By now, we were getting slightly irritated with a number of things onboard. Maybe its just our expectations were too high. Little things annoyed us - settled down in one of the lounges with a book, and a short while later two workers in overalls asked me (the only one in the lounge) to please leave as they needed to fumigate the area. I duly packed up my stuff and moved to the coffee lounge, and five minutes later a couple of workers turned up with ladders, power tools etc and started doing something with the lighting. (I retired to my cabin!). Another reviewer has also commented on the carpet sweeping everywhere. Our experience was not just the carpet sweeper, but vacuum cleaners going full blast at breakfast around tables. Not only an irritation, but from what we saw, a safety hazard.
We disembarked at Brisbane, rather than continuing on to Sydney as time was short. Even though this was booked as Perth to Brisbane, we had a little tussle being 'allowed' to get off. (We went to the Guest Relations desk the day before to see what the process was, and had to sign - again - requesting 'permission' to leave).
For the first time (and I hope only time) ever we cancelled the automatic tipping, choosing to give the bulk of the tips to our cabin steward who was excellent.
We have tried to articulate to ourselves just exactly why we didn't think this cruise was more than so-so. The ship is beautiful, the food good, the cabin comfortable - the service, I think, was the weak point. Staff generally (and there were exceptions) were not trained very well, seemed to lack confidence and provided the minimum. Little things like groups of officers chatting among themselves in the buffet, blocking aisles, seems trivial but maybe an indicator of a 'them and us' attitude. That really is the overall impression we were left with.
A real shame, and we sincerely hope Celebrity addresses this as they have so much to offer otherwise.