This was our third cruise. We chose this cruise for the itinerary and the ship's reviews/features. I should say up front that our overall experience with this cruise was excellent. We were thrilled with the quality of the food every place we ate on the ship! Our cabin was very nice and the bathroom was great (Concierge Class Verandah)! That said - I want to point out my gripes next before I detail all our positive experiences.
1. Arrival and Embarkation: We drove ourselves to the port and were a little confused by the signs as to where we were supposed to be; it wasn't clear if they had a drop-off lane and it wasn't clear what lane you should be in for the parking garage. Once we parked and dragged our luggage to the terminal, it wasn't clear if we should get in a line (again, not well marked) or take our bags somewhere else. We got in a line that said Concierge Class check-in and after a few people got behind us, we were told we had to take our luggage somewhere else - which was quite a pain since we had to go back through the line that had formed behind us. Not that we were expecting 'red carpet' treatment because we were 'Concierge Class', but we did think that status was supposed to mean a little faster check-in - it wasn't. All the lines were long and slow. Once we were on the ship, our luggage didn't arrive to our room for over four hours! Again, we did expect a little faster service, especially with Concierge Class.
2. Disembarkation: Because we drove ourselves to the ship, we elected to carry off our own luggage and depart at the earliest time. This was a BIG mistake! We were supposed to be on the 3rd deck by 745 am, so we left our room at 705. We went to the elevators and waited over 20 minutes before we decided to carry our luggage down to the 3rd deck from the 9th. The elevators were jam packed full, mostly of people going to and from breakfast. Once we got down to the 3rd deck, the line was already wrapped around and around - and only two crew members in sight to manage the chaos (but not to help anyone). Once the line started moving, though, it actually went quite fast. It was just insane that the elevators were so unavailable to move disembarking passengers with luggage!
3. Concierge Class: Is it worth the extra money? I don't think so. The evident 'perks' that we got weren't worth it. When we asked our steward about the 'pillow menu', he seemed almost sheepish about his reply and explained that our only options (different than the provided pillows) were a body pillow or a 'contour' pillow. We did have nice fluffy robes (fluffier than 'regular' rooms) but we didn't really use them. We did have afternoon canape but we had to 'opt in' every day by filling out the form and we often opted out. I guess the best 'perk' for us was the 'expanded' breakfast menu, which we enjoyed every morning delivered to our room. Not clear what other 'perks' we had.
Enough of my gripes! Like I said earlier, our overall experience was excellent. We never ate in the Main Dining Room (horrors, I know!). We had breakfast delivered to our room every morning. We ate many lunches at Bistro On 5 ($5 surcharge) and loved it (Mario's wonderful!). We bought a package deal for the specialty restaurants (5 dinners) and then added two more later (at a discount) for a total of 7 dinners at specialty restaurants. Four times at QSine (loved it that much! - again, Mario was wonderful, as was Alfredo and the restaurant's hostess - a beauty from Serbia), twice at Tuscan Grill (great service and great food!), and once at Murano (amazing, delicious, beautiful food and excellent wine list!). The rest of our dinners we ate at the buffet and were quite pleased with the selection and quality.
We loved to hang out in the late afternoon/evenings at the Oceanview Bar, which was open air behind the buffet with an aft view. We loved the servers out there (especially Ronaldo, who remembered us after the first night!) and the view/atmosphere was just what we wanted on a vacation - easy, gorgeous, warm. Perfect place to watch as the ship left a port, or even when we were just sailing.
Compared to our last cruise (on HAL), this one had a lot more people which was evident at the pools. But surprisingly, not really evident at the buffet - never really had to wait and could always find a table. Again compared to HAL, the crew was more diverse (we met crew members from Serbia, Honduras, Italy, Philippines, Indonesia, Montenegro, Jamaica, etc) but everyone was always cheerful, kind, and helpful.
One other bummer - we had to miss a port call. The Port Authority in Curacao wouldn't let the ship dock due to sea conditions (it was extremely windy and choppy that morning). At least we got to see the island from the ship. So we had one extra day at sea.
I must point out, that, despite my gripes here, we were so pleased with our experience that we took advantage of the Open Passage program - so we know we'll be sailing with Celebrity again soon! And we can't wait!