Bahamas Celebration Cruise Review by Twinswithtwins: Did a B2B on the Celebration
Did a B2B on the Celebration
My 18 year old twins and I had a great time. A few things could have been done differently and I hope my hints can help you. We flew down to West Palm Beach the day before. We've taken 7 or 8 Carnival cruises but all were 7 days. I didn't think a 2 night cruise would be worth it so booked a back-to-back(4 nights total).
We stayed overnight at the Best Western Palm Beach Lakes hotel- was very pleasantly surprised for the $99 we paid. Keep checking their website- prices went up and down many times- if you find a rate lower, just cancel and rebook. Beautiful pool(nicely heated). They have an airport shuttle/take you anywhere within 3(5?) miles for a one time fee of $18-. A taxi to the hotel would be $25 and then another $25 to the port. Once at the hotel asked for pool-side room, downstairs. It was already about 5:30pm when we arrived and requested the shuttle take us to Friday's or Chili's. Richard at the front desk said "oh, no- you want to go to CityPlace- you REALLY want to More go to CityPlace". He listed some of the restaurants down there- called the Cheesecake Factory for us and was able to make us a reservation for 7pm. Well- he was right. CityPlace is an outside pedestrian mall with lots of restaurants and entertainment. We had fun watching the salsa dancing to the live band and exploring the shops. Called for the shuttle and they came in 10 minutes. He was right- we can go to Friday's or Chili's at home. CityPlace is a 'destination'.
Arranged the shuttle for 10am- were at the port by 10:30. Crazy as every port is. Checked luggage downstairs then went upstairs to 'Check in'. At the first table you arrive at you are asked to fill out a credit card form(if you didn't on-line already). Then onward to the 'DisneyWorld' type line. No wait since we were so early- but by no means were we the 1st there. A tiny bit of panic at the desk when I was asked for the kids birth certificates- we all have passports so didn't even think to bring BC's. But once she realized they were twins and over 18- everything was OK and I could breathe again. Have never had to show BOTH passports and BC's before. Then you are sent to the excursion counter. I always arrange private tours so walked right on by. Two(2!) people came running after me- "You must plan..." "Must arrange something..." etc, etc, etc. Nope- both were SHOCKED I didn't make arrangements thru them. Don't let them fool you...More on that later. Then you go to arrange your dining times. Did it all online and printed out the confirmations. BUT- you still have to stop at the Dining desk to 'reconfirm' and get the tiny paper you hand to the Maitre D. Otherwise they won't let you in the dining room.
Had been told on the phone that they would start boarding at 11:30. Nope. We waited and waited. I could see the gangway off the ship was still loaded with people so I knew we weren't getting on anytime soon. Someone from Celebration came out and said it was a Customs backup- nothing to do with Celebration. He actually said- Call your Congressman about the wait- they only sent half the customs agents that are needed to disembark everyone in a timely manner... Out of our hands... Sequestration...Not our fault... Not sure how much of that was the truth. Finally started embarkation around 1:30. Debarkation was messed up BOTH times. Though the 2nd time we embarked we were on the ship by 1pm. So try to get to the port by 12noon or wait until 3 or so. You'll miss a ho-hum buffet lunch but will not have to stand in any lines. Pizza place opens at 4- VERY good.
Had lunch- seating very hard to find. Don't seem to have enough tables for everyone to eat at once. Ended up eating on our laps on the lounge chairs. Food not horrible- just basic. Best thing they had was a cold Thai noodle salad. Chimichangas with taco meat inside (but no sour cream), carved beef (way too tough to chew- waste of a nice cow if you ask me), Coconut chicken (no breasts). They had iced tea(unsweetened) and a red fruit punch to drink. Three desserts to choose from. All OK.
Frequent announcements about the 'Required' 4pm meeting-sales pitch for the excursions. He kept announcing that you NEED an excursion to have fun in Freeport. You MUST have an excursion... Don't listen- don't even go to the meeting. The safety briefing is done on the TV in your cabin. Repeated so you can't miss it. Amusing- everyone is smiling during the 'abandon ship' video- they don't look the least bit concerned.
We went to check out our 1st cabin- chose an Inside Category 5 Cabin 8203. Loved the location. Down a little private hallway next to the main 'Circle' elevators. Didn't hear a peep above us or next to us. Doors don't slam as on the Carnival ships- but do make sure you pull them closed until they click. Couple of times found the door wasn't latched all the way. Had a Queen bed with 2 berths. They have a bunch of different bed configurations so choose wisely. Found out a few weeks before we left that they had 'assigned' us a cabin with a queen and 1 berth and were planning on bringing in a roll-away for the 3rd person. Can't even imagine where that would go. Cabins are QUITE small- smaller than Carnival, anyway. I went 'poking' around to peek in to the other cabin categories (the steward asked us to be out of our cabin by 10:30am on the last day and just leave the door open so he knew we were gone. There are some TINY cabins. Best inside cabins I saw were #'s 8425 thru 8445. These run longways down the ship instead of side-to-side. They had 2 twins and 2 upper berths- but more floor space. In our cabin- bed in the center and then the 2 berths came down from the side walls- so you could only get out of the queen bed by scooting down to the end of the bed. Awkward. Bathroom adequate. Shower had a tri-screen door. Not much room for toiletries (no shelves like Carnival).
I had chosen 3 nights in the Crystal Dining Room and 1 in the Rio. They also have 3 'pay' restaurants- The Cove-$25pp, The Rock Grill-$20pp and The Bull(fancy hamburgers in the $13- range), priced separately. The Crystal has 2 menus, Day 1 and Day 2. Both menus similar to Carnival. Though not quite as many choices. We usually get an entree each and then 'one for the table'- something different and more unusual to try (like one of the Indian dishes). No assigned tables- we sat at a different station every night. The 1st waiter said 'sorry madam- only 1 entree per person'. Then recanted and said he would 'ask the Chef'. None of the other 3 waiters blinked an eye when we ordered 4 entrees for 3 people... So order whatever you want to try. Prime rib came out a bit on the rare side- enjoyed the Beef Wellington on nights 2/4 more. Let's talk about Rio (evening 3)- didn't care for the idea. Were told they have the same menu- only difference is that everything-except for the entree-is buffet style. The gaucho-guys came around a few times with chicken or pork on a skewer. Never did see any beef. But not everything is served at the Rio- MUCH more limited menu. We had SO enjoyed the tiramisu from the Day 1 menu- not available in Rio on Day 1. Told our waiter- he went and 'stole' (his words)some for us from Crystal. Nice! Spoke with other people- they did NOT make on-line reservations for dining before they checked in at the terminal. Said they were told they HAD to pick 1 night for Crystal and 1 for Rio. When I did it on-line it did allow me to choose Crystal for both nights of our 1st leg. Crystal was WAY nicer than Rio.
Second leg I chose an Outside cabin #8304. Around the corner from the 1st. Bad choice. Above us was the outside eating area near the buffet and the ice cream parlor. Constant running back and forth by children. Same bed configuration. Beds have mattresses only- sitting in a metal box (think 80's waterbed frame) so it is a bit uncomfortable to sit on the edge. But slept great on both beds. Kids said berths were good, too. Never saw our stewards, got ice each day but ,sadly, no towel animals.
Saw 3 of the 4 shows- loved them. Even the one we saw the second time. Some aspects were different between the 2 cruises. Different jokes, different comedians and different acts. Maybe they switch things around so they don't go crazy. Loved the 'variety act' type of show. Comedians, Serge and Alina- hard to explain what they do- he balances things... , magicians, singers, aerial fabric dancer(Alina)and more. The cruise director does his usual bit of 'The 10 Dumbest Questions...'. Saw Quest for the very first time. SO funny. Not to be missed. All drinks were $3- during the 'search' portion of Quest. Bar waiter came around twice during this 15 minute period. Would love Carnival to do a variety-type show-- HAS to be cheaper than the faux-Broadway type they do now.
And they could 'trade-off' entertainers when they are in port with other Carnival ships.
Disembarkation- If they ever want anyone else to do a B2B on Celebration, they will need to fix the system. I stopped at the Concierge Desk the 1st day (as told on the phone) to let them know we would be staying again for the next cruise and asking how they would like to handle the disembark/embark again. No one had ever heard of such a thing before. Were told we had to get off with everyone else (OK) and then go thru the whole thing AGAIN. Luggage, lines, excursion desk, dining reservations, etc. No privileges at all. The only, and I do mean ONLY, concession we were given was that our 'electronics' (their words)-the curling iron, flat iron and hair dryer that we had 'checked out'(220 current)could be left in the 1st cabin and 'someone' would bring them to us in the 2nd. Fine. But when we left the ship on our way back to the terminal maze we were stopped by security because 'we hadn't returned the electronics'. Again the explanation of what a 'back-to-back' meant.
We waited until 10:30 in our cabin then went up to the Ocean Breeze Patio (with luggage)to wait for Last Call. Very pleasant area- it IS the smoking area but not many people were ever there. They announcedd Last Call about 11:15. We made our way back down to Deck 3. STILL had to wait 1 hour to get thru customs and then do the turn-around. Good thing was- we were back on the ship by 1pm having another ho-hum lunch.
We had lots of fun at Paradise Cove- nice rustic beach with snorkeling- $35 package online. Second day in Freeport we took a taxi to Lucayan Resort. Big and beautiful. On their website under FAQs they list a daypass for $10-. Had read on the boards that someone paid $15pp. So took a copy of the page with me. They honored the $10- price(but didn't really want to). So you can try. The lady did emphasize that the 'beach' was free- we were buying use of the pools and lounge chairs. Hammocks, hot tubs and many very, very cold pools. No umbrellas on the beach- only around the pool. Can't see the water very much at the pool. I like to SEE the beach while AT the beach- didn't feel like we were at the beach- but a nice resort if that is what you want. No roaming waiters. We walked (and walked- its quite a hike to get in/out) over to the Marketplace for lunch. Ended up at Pizza Hut(teens!). Ordered a large Cheese Pan pizza and breadsticks. Came to $20- tip already included on the ticket. Not too bad. Marketplace seems to be mostly jewelry shops and bars. No need to ever go there again. Let's talk taxis. I had read on the boards that the taxi drivers will try to get you to purchase a round trip ticket- $10pp to Lucayan. Then he comes back to get you at a prearranged time. Had done something like that in Cabo. Water taxi to Medano Beach- he was late, I was worried. I read that you could just pay 1 way and grab another taxi for $5pp going the other way. No can do, anymore. I DID pay for 1 way. We packed up at 4pm to head back to the ship (had to be back by 5:30). Walked over to the Casino circular driveway where you get taxis. No one wanted to take us because we didn't have a return ticket. Seems that the taxis are all one company now. You pay for a return trip at a certain time only. If you have a 3:00 'card' then you show up a bit before 3:00 and wait for the van to fill up. If they don't have a full van and it gets to be your 'time' they will take you anyway. But if you DON'T have a card you must wait for 6-8 MORE people to show up to fill the freelance van. I made the mistake of staying too long at Lucaya. The security guard at the Casino told us lots of people go to the Port between 3-4pm. But not many after 4:15. So we waited -and waited- hoping more people would come to fill a van for $5pp. Ended up paying one of the rogue driver $25 + tip to take us back. Got there at 5:20. WAY, WAY too close for comfort. So- pay for round trip, you don't have to wait for the same driver.
We WILL go on the Celebration again. Planning another mini-cruise in May when we will be in Florida again. I don't think I can recommend a B2B. My recommendation would be do a 2 day cruise then do something else for 2 days then do another mini-cruise. Better use of vacation time. But we had a great time- I think you have to work REALLY hard to NOT have a good time on a cruise- even on a smaller line like Celebration. They had everything the mega ships we have been on had- just more compact. Same library and card room. Same martini tasting. Hint- the 437Pub (nice place) has a martini tasting everyday before dinner. A set of 6 pre-selected flavors for $13.95. But 'The View' show lounge has a martini tasting menu where you CHOOSE which 6 you want to try. Daughter and I did the $10- wine tasting. We learned a bit and shared plenty of wine for the $10. Speaking of alcohol- they have a 'drinks' package available in the terminal. They sell a set of 10 drink coupons for $60+15%= $69. You can order any drink up to $8.75 Drinks were very good. Still came home with extra tickets. You need to be 18 on Celebration and in the Bahamas to drink alcohol. Even with this being a Spring Break cruise- we never saw any bad behavior. I will say the passenger 'mix' is different from the 7 day cruises we've taken. Lots of 'locals' from the Miami area. If I was local, I would do it once a month! Less
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Cabin review: 48304
8203- Great location, easy to find, private hallway, no drawers but plenty of closet space. Bring hangers if you need more than 5 or 6. Bathroom has no storage space but many hooks. 8304- Kids running constantly overhead to ice cream parlor. Only quiet after 10pm. Would not choose again.