This was our third cruise on Celebrity having gone on 2 last year. If you check those reviews we were not pleased with the cruise line but we had a worse experience on Holland America. We chose this week knowing that it was a bad week due to the large number of ships at the port since it was the week that was available in March for us. Also we hoped the other ships would attract the younger children and that guess turned our correct.
On our previous cruises, we always left from Miami and the first time at Fort Lauderdale was a mess. The arrival at the port was traffic mess since there were too many ships in port and the traffic flows were not organized. It took almost 20 minutes from the port entrance to get to the unloading point. The rest of the embarkation was relatively fast except for the long line up the gangway.
As usual we boarded after the time specified but the cabin was not ready. The lunch in the Oceanview Cafe was barely ok, which turned out to be the same for the rest of the trip. I got the impression that they just recycled the leftovers until the next day. The only good point was that we learned how to stop waiters trying to get you to order additional drinks. Turn the drink menu sideways on the table.
The cabin was ready about 2 and the luggage arrived at 3, which was better than earlier cruises. It took a while to find the cabin attendant but she was GREAT. Once we told her what we wanted she never had to be reminded again and the room was kept spotless each day. We had a concierge cabin, which we noted in the review the last time was not worth the extra $. It wasn't this time either except that we got a free upgrade to that level. The only real benefit is that the room service breakfast offers a better choice.
In comparing the past voyages with this one it was very clear that Celebrity has reduced its food budget. This was readily apparent in the previously mentioned Oceanview lunch service. We did find the service to be good although some of staff were still mastering English. Most of the time we had breakfast in the room but on two occasions we tried the Oceanview and AquaSpa Cafe. If you wanted a light breakfast with fresher ingredients then the latter is superior. For lunch we also looked at the Mast Grill but the stack of partially cooked hamburgers convinced us otherwise. The last point is that the line moved the sushi service from 5pm on last year's cruises to 6pm on this one. Also the quality of the sushi has gone down considerably since always there was only one or two fish with lots of vegetable ones.
We alternated dinner between the MDR and the specialty restaurants. In the main dining, our first indication of a real problem was that the waiter showing you to your table had to check a handheld map. Two out of four times we were initially seated at the wrong table. Service in general was good but again the problem of English was readily apparent. The major issue was that if you ordered a steak, roast beef or a chop in the MDR and also in the Tuscan Grill it came overcooked. Medium rare was always medium or medium well. Finally they must make their soups from seawater since all of them were too salty. The final issue in the MDR is that the wine list has no years for the wine.
Our specialty stops were 2 at the Tuscan Grill and one at Qsine. We had been to both on several occasions on past cruises. Qsine's menu and service were first rate and are worth one visit. You do need to bring your appetite since you can get carried away in ordering. If you order the frozen dessert the "Silver Bullet", you need to wait a while since it felt like it was cooled in liquid nitrogen.
The two nights at the Tuscan Grill were different. The first night the service was bad with a 20 minute wait between ordering and the arrival of the appetizers. The service on the second was significantly better than on the first visit. The calamari appetizer was tasty but limited to six small pieces. The cioppino soup was inedible due to the salt content. A great appetizer was taking the pasta dish in a smaller size. It was suggested by the waiter on the second night and not the first night. The quality of the beef and veal has come down substantially in the restaurant. Last year you could a veal chop now it is breaded veal cutlet. The waiter indirectly suggested that it should NOT be ordered. As mentioned above the filets were overcooked. The restaurant could also increase the desert options.
In summary, the specialty restaurants were worse than last year. This was shown by the fact they were not full during our visits. Maybe the price increases of $10/person had to do with this dropoff. Finally we ate on the "formal nights" but it was clear that the dress code was not enforced in these restaurants. Most diners were dressed appropriately but there were a number more causally dresses with a few slobs in jeans. I guess they were not going to turn down a paying customer.
The entertainment on the ship was worse than last year. It looked like the dancers and singers never practiced together and there was no relationship between the music and the dance. This is not a big issue. The other nighttime activity was the Casino, which took great pains to tell you daily how much they paid out on their slots. Considering that payout included the money deposited by the player. I found the casino dealers for the most part to be less friendly than other casinos. Maybe the fact that the vast majority were from Eastern European countries and the casino training was done by ex-KGB personnel. If you enjoy casinos I would stick to blackjack since it is the only game were you might have a chance. Perhaps the biggest ripoff is the poker table. The tournament game available during sea days was a reasonable cost for the house. The evening cash game had a house rake of 10% up to $15 maximum. As a comparison almost all Las Vegas casinos take 10% but to a $4 or $5 maximum. The $15 max is practically stealing, but as caveat emptor !
The rest of the ship's "entertainment" is the attempt to sell you everything "duty free" or trying to take your picture in almost any possible location. Unless you are from a EU country with high VATs and tobacco and alcohol there are very few bargains on the ship. If you are going to buy alcohol, the best place on this cruise was Grand Cayman. It is the liquor store right after you exit the tender. The prices for the liquor I purchased as Â½ the price of the ship. They also packed it better than the boxes I saw people carrying from the ship.
This leads to the port experience. We learned the last time not to take a Celebrity excursion unless you wanted to overpay. Cozumel was consistent with the last time we visited, it rained. Aside from the inexpensive liquor the stop in George Town was terrible. Having spent a week there 10 years ago we were really surprised how it had gone downhill. It has become just another cruise port in the most negative way. The other benefit is that the library a 10 minute walk from the dock has free internet. If you do not bring your computer you can register to use on of their computers, no charge if you come from a cruise ship.
We were looking forward to Falmouth since we had never visited. Outside of the recently manufactured cruise building areas with the typical jewelry, diamonds and other junk, you quickly are immersed in another poor country and constantly badgered to buy tours, cab rides, etc. The final stop at CocoCay is just another way for NCL to sell you something.
Getting off was a mess. Since we had a late flight we decided to wait to the end. We left our cabin at 910 for a 925 departure time from the ship. They held us on-board until 1005 and then we waited on a 50 minute line to get the bags . Then another 30 minutes to customs with 4 agents.
The taxi line was long about 30 minutes but moved rapidly when cabs showed up after making dropoffs. Someone mentioned the vans, they were a ripoff since they wanted $15 per person versus the cab ride for 3 that totaled $12 plus a $3 tip Although there were customs issues and a number of ships in the harbor the the cruise port is poorly run and has a terrible access areas. Having done Miami several times it is well run where Port Everglades is a joke.