My wife and I had just sailed the Norwegian Epic for our honeymoon in September around the Mediterranean, which was amazing, and were not planning to take a cruise again for awhile. Being from the Northeast, we were looking for a vacation for March to get away from the snow. After shelling out big dollars for our honeymoon, we were looking for a deal (All inclusive in Mexico, The Caribbean, etc.) We planned to go with another married couple who we went to college with.
After searching through multiple deal sights, our friends were able to find a deal on CruCon where by booking a cruise on Celebrity we were able to get both the daily per person gratuities and the basic drink package (All beer, coffee, juice up to $5 & wine and mixed drinks up to $8) usually $44 dollars pp per day FREE! As drinks generally are the largest expense on a cruise we booked immediately. This saved us easily $800.
We flew South West direct to Ft. Lauderdale early Saturday morning and took SAS from the airport to the port. SAS took over an hour to pick us up, citing a large concert of thousands being held at the Port that was causing traffic delays throughout Miami. When we finally got to the terminal, the check in rush had mostly subsided, and we were able to check in quickly. We decided to upgrade our drink package to the premium by paying the difference, $10 pp per day, as we walked up the gangway (All drinks on board up to $12) normally $54 pp per day. Nice to be handed champaign as you boarded. We got to our ocean view rooms on the third deck around 3:00, changed and b-lined for the buffet before the muster drill. Note: this was one of the largest rooms/ bathrooms I have ever had on a cruise ship.
Our previous two cruises had been on Norwegian, so it was a change of pace to have an assigned meal time again. We chose the late seating in order to have time to get ready before dinner on port days. This also gave us the chance to order room service mid afternoon to tide us over. Dinner was at 8:30 and usually concluded by 10:15. The food in the main dining room was very good. They had a changing menu each night, and had to order more then one maine course on a couple of occasions. With the premium package picked a wine by the glass and they kept it topped off throughout the meal like it was my glass of water. Got to know our wait staff well, and they went out of their way to make our experience enjoyable.
We were excited to be on a new ship, and were impressed by the decor. The furnishing was truly first class. There were at least 100 different types of chairs to sit in throughout the ship, we kept making movie quotes from Knocked Up as we would see several different chairs in each space. Definitely set up for someone who is looking to relax with a book. Not much in the way of entertainment. There was a great acoustic group that played at the bars which we enjoyed. The main theater shows were ok, kind of a let down after going on the Epic.
We are in our late 20s and felt really young on this cruise. 80% of the ship was 50+ and their were a scattering of families. As Celebrity is the higher end brand of Royal Caribbean we kind of suspected this ahead of time. We were happy not seeing a bunch of kids running around, but it would have been nice to see more people our own age. Further Celebrity needs to develop more activities aimed at an active crowd. Getting out of dinner at 10:15 we felt like the night was just starting, but much of the ship started to shut down at 11. We were at Sun Set bar one night at 12, the closing time was listed as "Till late" and they shut the bar down.
This was our first experience with an all inclusive on a cruise ship, and it was incredible. They limited you to one drink at a time, but not having to sign after each purchase was priceless. Started each day by getting fresh squeezed orange juice $2.5 in the buffet and then a Caramel Macchiato at the coffee place $4.5. Beers $5-6 and mixed drinks $7 - $11 by the pool. Afternoon specialty coffee , followed by drinks from the lobby bar while getting ready for the evening. We would generally go to the Molecular Bar (Specialty drink concoctions $12) and then to the The Martini bar (A large selection of vodka/gin martinis $10-$11) before dinner. My favorite bar Michaels Club was not open enough. Stated time was 5-11 each night but there seemed to be a specialty function every day. We were actually kicked out one night for a function that was going to begin. They had a selection of 50 bottled beers from around the world ( $5-25) and I sampled at least 20 throughout the week. To maximize the package I learned by day 2 to call the higher end alcohols in mixed drinks. I am a fan of scotch and was able to get Glen Leavitt on the rocks throughout the week. At the end of the week when we received our bill they actually itemized each time our card was swiped with a zero next to each drink purchase.
We visited San Juan, St. Maarten, and St Kitts. We booked a great excursion on St Kitts, independent of the cruise ship. Greg's Safaris - where we were driven with 6 others to the rain forest where we were able to do a 2 hour hike. Greg was extremely knowledgable about the plants and wildlife. He personally maintains the trail, and is the only one who does such a tour. He cares deeply about the island and protecting the rain forest. At the end he provided fresh fruit, sugar cane, and other island specialties for us to enjoy. Well worth the money ($60pp).
Instead of a chocolate buffet or a mid night buffet, Celebrity decided to do a Brunch buffet on the second full sea day. Hosted in the main dining room it was a bit of a chaotic mess. The food seemed to be the same as what had been offered in the normal buffet, but they had some decorative table displays. There was little order, and finding a table was difficult. I would have much preferred doing a late night buffet where fewer people would have come.
We had an early flight on Saturday morning and decided we needed to walk off with our luggage. We were warned by Celebrity that due to the sequester budget cuts there were going to be fewer customs officers in Miami checking us in. We thought it would be prudent to get through the line quickly. Unfortunately 600 of our fellow passengers had the same idea. They had 4 officers working our entire boat, and it was causing severe delays. Ft. Lauderdale airport on a Saturday Morning is a zoo, TSA line was 1.5 hours.
All in all had a great time on the ship. Food was very good, and didn't feel need to go to specialty restaurants. We would go on Celebrity again but would hope for more activities aimed at a younger crowd.