DW and I have done somewhere around 17 cruises with no brand loyalty. Multiple Princess, RCL, NCL, Costa, one HAL and one CCL. Most cruises have been 7 days, but we've also done 4, 5, 9, 11 and 12.
Last year we did the Caribbean Princess from San Juan. It covered some of this area and we really enjoyed the islands. This year Princess has no ships in San Juan, so we decided to try Celebrity. We expected the shipboard experience to be similar to Princess or Holland America.
Upon stepping onto the ship DW and my first reaction as we looked up at the tall tan curtains was, "interesting" in a somewhat sarcastic tone. Not particularly elegant, nothing to go "wow" about, certainly different from other ships we've boarded. OK, so not much of a first impression of this new brand. But, as the cruise continued, the impression did not really change that much.
I will try to break it down a bit in no particular order.
The stuff we liked:
Staff seemed sincerely upbeat and friendly. About as good as we've experienced.
Cool moist towels and drinks when reboarding ship (Princess and HAL do this).
Embarkation/disembarkation was seamless/painless/efficient.
Time keeping -- without fail if arrival was scheduled for 8am, the announcement that we had been cleared and may now proceed came promptly at 8am. Same with departing; if 5pm was sail time we were pulling away from the dock at 5pm. This was the best we've ever had.
Trays at the buffet (absent from other lines).
Beds were very comfortable.
Food at MDR was tastefully prepared and beautifully presented.
The size and layout of the ship.
The things we did not care for:
Overall condition of ship -- Substantial rust on exterior (bulb in front of hull completely covered in rust). The decking on decks 10 & 11 was very stained/soiled and just looked bad.
Our stateroom was probably the dirtiest we've had (our Lysol wipes were really cruddy after wiping down surfaces). The old wooden toilet seat and seat cover was worn to the point of having wood exposed for about 10 inches on the rims. Balcony door track was cruddy w/ particles that could have been vacuumed.
The mat on the balcony had 10 inch pieces of trim ripped off in two places.
Plexiglas on balcony was never cleaned (cleaned it our self) and had adhesive residue in two spots on the inside surface (like it had been taped, it could have been easily removed w/ a razorblade).
The blue padded lounges on the pool deck (10) and outside on deck four looked dirty. You would not want to sit on them if you were wearing white. The non-padded lounges on decks 11 & 12 were even worse looking.
Hot tubs and thalassotherapy pool were barely luke-warm.
Navigation channel on TV was just a static map; no miles to next port, no wind direction, no wave height, outside temperature, pool temperature, ocean temperature etc.
Waiting procedure at MDR. We were given a slip of paper and told to wait in the wine bar for your number to be called. We once waited 50min. Other lines implementing on-your-own dining have the wireless vibrating, light up thingies so at least you are free to roam as you wait.
We typically use the buffet for breakfasts, a few lunches and a few dinners. We found the offerings very limited and presentations uninspired. The orange juice tasted like Tang. There was much confusion on which way to enter/depart various stations (beverage, carver, omelet, etc...).
Behind the buffet is an outdoor area (Sunset Bar) that is a very popular spot for diners at the buffet to eat. It was often hard to find a free table. One morning I made an early visit to the buffet and headed back there to eat. The tables still had stuff on them from the night prior and the chairs were sort of strewn about. Other times when dining back there we had to bus the tables ourselves. Sometimes they got serviced, sometimes not.
Some days we had a plush oval rug in the bathroom, some days other days a towel/mat.
Some mornings you had a spoon in your napkin wrapped silverware, other days not.
Service at MDR was spotty.
Some days there was a cloth liner/placemat lining your buffet tray, some days not.
Thankfully, the itinerary more than made up for the ship's shortcomings. This cruise called on St. Croix, St. Kitts, Dominica, Grenada and St. Thomas.
This was the first cruise where we walked off the ship each day and decided what we'd do. Nothing pre-arranged just some general ideas. We found places to sun/snorkel/fish at all locations.
St Croix - we checked out the town and walked to a couple of beach bars.
St Kitts - we took a taxi to Shipwreck Beach & Bar (don't take the last lounges to the right or you'll be paying the owner of the Mongoose Bar $10 as he puts a few lounges at the end just to take full advantage).
Dominica - we snorkeled at Champagne Reef... we went here last year and it was good, but the water was churned up. This year it was spectacular!
Grenada - we took the water taxi to Anise Beach and it was a bit crowded, but I took my fishing rod for a walk up the beach and was all by myself.
St Thomas - we went to Megan's Bay and it was great, only two ships in port that day so the beach was almost deserted except near the bar/restaurant.
Based on this experience, all else being equal I'd choose any other line I've sailed accept CCL. However, all things are seldom equal and for the right price and itinerary I'd give X second chance.