A brief background- I have a BS in hospitality and have worked in the hotel industry for 15 years, so, when I went on my first cruise on Disney in Feb of 2011 I thought I had found Heaven. It was great to let another team spoil me and enjoy excellent food. I slept so well on that ship- she rocking just lulled me every night. It was a 7 night. 4 months later I went on a Royal Caribbean 3 night- food wasn't as good, paid for a suite just so I could have a balcony. I was disappointed- the customer service just wasn't there.
My grandpa was turning 90 on March 29th, so I planned a family cruise to celebrate. We had 17 of us- ages 90 to 3. My brother had been on a couple of Celebrity cruises and was very complimentary of them. As much as I had loved Disney, I thought this would be more appropriate for grandpa's birthday.
The booking process: We had booked a group- so since we had over 8 rooms we were able to get one 1/2 of a room paid for. After we booked they started the 123Go promo- but were were told that we couldn't do that by our travel agent. I kept waiting for the beverage package to go on sale- like it did last fall, but never did- probably due to the 123 GO promo. Booked through Choice Air and I was happy with that whole process.
The trip- we arrived on time, no problem with our flights. Upon arriving in San Juan found our bags and got them to where they needed to be in the airport. They were loaded on a box truck and that was that. The next time we saw our bags was outside our state room. We paid for the transfer to the port from the airport- the bus was in poor condition- it felt safe, but it was dirty and there were holes in the back of the seats.
The port was dirty and hot- just not the best welcome for what I thought was an upper crest cruise line.
Since we were in concierge we just flew through the check in process.
Boarded the boat and was handed glasses of champagne- nice.
Immediately went to the first bar we saw and added the premium drink package. pretty easy process.
First- the good stuff: our state room attended was very nice. Bed was relatively comfortable. Staff at bar at pool were very friendly. Staff at Cafe al Bacio were very friendly. Staff in Normandy and Quisine were very, very good- friendly, knowledgeable. The food in Normandy was excellent and Quisine was very good with unique presentations. My daughters, 3 and 7 yr old really enjoyed the Fun Factory- 7 yr old said even more than the Disney kids club- and her reason was because there were a lot less kids. We did complain in the Main dining room on our 3rd night (discussed in bad stuff) and seemed after that our server tried harder. Our Asst. server, Kristian was very good and friendly. After our complaint we had special cooking requests and they were met.
If you have 9175 or 9177 or 9179 booked, I HIGHLY recommend you change your room. Every night around 2am we would start to hear noises above us. My dad- in room 9175, when I asked him if it woke him up said "oh, you mean the bowling alley above us"? I figured my mom didn't hear it because she is hard of hearing- but she even heard it and woke up with it. My kids were in 9179 and I don't think that they heard it. I was so looking forward to a great week of relaxing sleep with the rocking of the boat... but it did not happen. From what I understand from other reviews is that they are rolling carts to get the buffet set up in the buffet restaurant.
Our bed skirt had a pretty big stain on it- looked like oil or grease.
Our bathroom stunk from the first time I opened the door- mildew? I knew from my last cruises that this is normal- but it was much worse than the last two cabins I had been in.
Bathrooms seemed to have much more storage than the last two cabins I had been in.
I understood before I got on the boat that the thalassotherapy pool indoors was supposed to be for adults only. So, I was surprised to find that the the sign for both outdoor pools says "adults only" and the indoor pool says "adult supervision for children 16 & under- and when it rained was packed with kids. I let my kids play in the outdoor pools, but not the indoor pools. Saw more than one child in the pool with diapers on and one completely naked (3 year old?) and I told the pool butler about the one in diapers. They did have them get out, but it didn't seem like they monitored them well at all. They did drain all of the pools that night- not sure if it was a coincidence but it was good that they drained them.
The pool butlers however, were watching about the "reserving of chairs"- I had our stuff on 3 chairs (mind you, for the 17 of us) and then was playing in the pool with the kids. When I went back about 20 minutes later all of our stuff was moved to one chair. So, all of us took turns sitting in the one chair, including my grandpa.
The food in the main dining room was mediocre to poor. I ordered the fish the first night- it was bland and had a coating on it that almost seemed like it was put on after it was baked. It was also overcooked. The second night the fish was overcooked and covered in barbecue sauce. The third night I ordered the fish as well as a second entree in case the fish was bad again. It was bland and overcooked- so this time I told our server (we asked the night prior if we could have the fish pulled off the heat a little earlier and was told by our server that we couldn't do that.) Our server on the third night got the supervisor and she said that we should ask for it to be less done. 4th night we went to Quisine- we got a discount because there was more than 10 people and it was a fun experience for a big group. We did leave the kids at the kids club. The next night the food in the MDR was better. The next night we went to Normandy and it was excellent. 2nd formal night was much better than the first. Food in the buffet had a few hits, but many more misses. Pasta station-Alfredo had no flavor. most of it just wasn't good. However, many of my family loved the eggs Benedict in the morning. So, moral to the story- for the most part, unless you paid extra in the specialty restaurants, the food was disappointing. I realize that food taste is very subjective and personal, but I, as well as many of my group, were disappointed.
At dinner, when we first sat down on the first night we asked our server for a drink. He didn't take drink orders. The next person was the sommelier- she couldn't take mixed drink orders either, that it had to be the bar server, who finally came. It was very inconvenient, slow and not abnormal the first couple of nights where we were only able to get one round of drinks. When you have a drink package, you really want to be able to take advantage of a glass of wine and a martini and then an after dinner drink during dinner. It was not very customer-service oriented. Literally being told "oh, I don't do that"- not what you want to hear. On the last night Kristian did go and get my dad another drink when the bar server was no where to be found.
Fun Factory- My 7 yr old filled out the survey and said that the it was great, the staff was good, and the activities were great. I asked why the staff was just "good"- she said because they "Yelled a lot"... now, I am sure it is hard living on a ship and working for 10-14 hours a day and dealing with kids all day long, but that really did bother me. I wasn't aware until the day we left. My 3 year old didn't seem to really enjoy going to the FF, but did go some.
The staff listed above were good- however, much of the rest of the staff, when you asked for something, it seemed like you were bothering them. Even our main server always seemed to be looking over you like he had somewhere else he needed to be, even when he was taking our order.
I saw a lot of rust, however, it seemed pretty clean over all. Food and service are of utmost importance to me when I am spending $2,100 for a week per person inc the cruise, air fare and drinks. So, for this reason I would not recommend this ship and probably not Celebrity. Really, after I got off the Disney ship I couldn't wait to go on another one and didn't want to leave the ship. This time I was ready to get off and get a good night's sleep. My dad and husband have both said that they don't ever want to cruise again.