This was my third cruise on Celebrity. I chose Aqua Class because my traveling companions were booked on that level and they told me that their restaurant, "Blu", was phenomenal, both for its food and service. (More on Blu later.) We were informed before the cruise that that there was a norovirus outbreak on the prior cruise from Sydney, so our embarkation would be delayed. That's fine...let's keep as many people safe as possible. The line getting to the check in area was crazy long, and the bag drop off was hectic (at 3:30pm). Once inside the un-air conditioned terminal, we finally found our check-in point and were given a number that would be called when the ship was ready to receive us. We moved to a part of the terminal that was suppose to have provided us with water and something to eat, but all we found were two empty tables with crew members breaking down boxes that once held cookies. So, we received nothing to quench our thirst as we waited 10 minutes for our number (14) to be called.
Once called, we waited on line 30 minutes until we could go up the escalator to join other passengers before we could get on the ship. That line was another 25 minute wait. We situated ourselves in the Cafe on deck 14, and sat to listen to numerous announcements saying that our crew was working hard to disinfect the ship BUT OUR ROOMS ARE NOT YET READY. OK...we are expecting a 5:30pm "all clear" based on Celebrity's earlier pre-cruise communication, so we continue to wait...have a little bite...a beverage... At this point, the every-15 minutes communication on the loud-speaker is getting annoying, because there is nothing encouraging about them. FINALLY, at 6:15pm, we get the all clear. I'd like to suggest to Celebrity that if you are going to be so bold as to put a time down that guests can expect to get into their cabins (in our case, 5:30pm) that you stick to that OR you do something to make the who-knows-when-this-is going-to-end waiting period tolerable by bringing around trays of wine and beer, at your expense. That gesture would have brought you some goodwill and probably lightened the mood for most travelers on this cruise who had already been traveling 12 hours or more that same day, to get to Honolulu on time.
So, finally in our rooms...let the cruise begin.
Blu: I went to Blu Friday morning, solo, and the service was terrible. My understanding was that Blu is assigned seasoned servers, but you would never know this by my experience. The greeter, Anita, was great and personable, but the servers were bumbling for the most part. I get that we were still on "anti-noro" alert - I've been on other cruise lines that have had to deal with this issue - but this group had no clue what they were doing. My first morning took FOUR servers to get cream to me for my coffee (which was cold by the time they arrived.) I asked the coffee server, who had only coffee and milk....he said he would get the cream. I waited 5 minutes then asked a server who had bowls of sugar if they could find some cream...he left and so another 5 minutes goes by. (FYI - no one has asked me what I want to eat for breakfast yet, and only 15 other patrons were in the dining room at the time.) My next request was made to the (I assumed from his uniform) dining room captain, who looked to his left, then his right and then walked away to find someone. ANOTHER 5 minutes, and then some poor soul comes with a pitcher of skim milk and I was like, FINE, I'll take it. Ridiculous. For the next several mornings, the service was pretty much the same, but I was "armed" with more info based on morning one's experience. So, when I found the sugar person, I knew to ask for salt and pepper too. (Somewhere in their training, these servers were never taught to ask if you would like sugar, cream, milk with your coffee...butter and jam with your toast...salt and pepper with your eggs. They were all 'thrown' by the extra measures taken to avoid our contact while they tried to ensure the noro wouldn't spread to our cruise...these servers had no clue to ask if they could get us the basics you would expect for breakfast in a lovely dining room experience.) This experience was repeated every morning until I couldn't take it anymore and wrote to the hotel director. My comments were dealt with immediately and the service improved...for me. But, I wonder about those that didn't speak up? Many other cruisers spoke of the pitiful service in Blu when I was on different excursions in ports in Hawaii. I knew my experience wasn't unique based on these several conversations, but I kept my critical comments to my own specific experiences when I complained. (and, if you are wondering, dinner service in Blu was hectic and uncomfortable for at least one week. I don't know what was going on with this group of servers. Was it the Maitre d'hÃ'tel? Was it the training? All in all, it took at least a week before service seemed to be of the caliber I was expecting from Blu.) On the other hand, I had dinner one night in Murano, and it did not disappoint! (I've had dinner in Murano on other Celebrity cruises and it was also a fabulous experience.) To make a final food footnote here, the Oceanside Cafe on 14 was terrific. Very good food considering they are cooking for the masses and the bar service and busing service were very strong.
My cabin (1525) was wonderful and I had terrific attendants who did a great job of incorporating items back into the room as the virus concern lifted. I had a manicure our first day at sea and I would say to you "save your money". Not worth it. The actual manicure (polish and top coat application) itself was botched and I had to go back for touchups...and for $60, I was not happy. It still looked pretty bad after that, but I wasn't going to waste any more time in the Spa on a manicure. All the bars were great and efficient with the bartenders at the Martini Bar being as entertaining as I've come to expect. The ship was very, very clean throughout and overall I would rate this a good experience...until we get to the disembarkation in Ensenada, Mexico.
Ensenada: If Celebrity keeps the same itinerary as we had (Honolulu to Ensenada), I would say to you to be VERY careful about your flight plans from San Diego. Let me explain: You get on a bus in Ensenada, are driven at least 1.5 hours to Border Control in Tijuana by someone who does not really speak english and there is no Celebrity representative with you, go through Customs (thankfully for us, ON THE BUS) for 30 minutes, then another minimal 45 minutes to San Diego airport and/or nearby hotels. We were to be in Solstice theater at 8:30am for departure...and we were...and our bus was called at 11:00am! We pulled out of Ensenada port at 11:15am and arrived at our hotel (five minutes from the airport) at 2:30pm. Thankfully, I had a 'red-eye' and my traveling companions were staying overnight and flying out the next morning, so we had no schedule worries, just general aggravation. However, there was one woman put on our bus (#65 - the last bus) at the last minute who's luggage was on bus #59 and her handicapped husband on an entirely other bus. Our driver went to San Diego airport first...I saw bus #59 go by and stop about four buses ahead of us, and so this woman jumped off to at least get their luggage and then figure out how/when she was going to locate her husband. (I can only imagine the letter she is going to write to Celebrity!) ...and to say nothing about the fact that she left her passports, credit cards and other travel docs on our bus -someone found them on her vacated seat while we were stuck in airport traffic, handed them to me and so I raced off our bus to find her to return them to her. INSANE!
I would definitely take a cruise with Celebrity again, (my other two cruises with them were superior to this one) but this itinerary was ridiculous. The funny thing is, our ship was in San Diego the day after we disembarked in Mexico. So, I don't understand, why we could not have disembarked there instead...why did we have to go through all that craziness in Ensenada? Celebrity never clued us in on what to expect at disembarkation. They left all of us stranded in the theatre for hour upon hour with no water, juice, Danish set-up. Everything was closed at 8:00am so we couldn't get coffee, sodas, etc even if we wanted to pay for it. (Although at one point it was announced that the Cafe would be open until 11:30am that, in fact, was not true.) The weather - rain - had been forecast and we were told that the disembarkation process was halted after the first five or so buses left at 6:00am because of the rain - they didn't want us to get wet waiting outside. What? So, grab the porters, all the large umbrellas in the state rooms and let's get going! They had no contingency plan for rain? Really? Celebrity left us in the hands of a lovely guy from Spain named Andres, who did whatever he could to keep us occupied during our long, long wait. He was fantastica and should get a raise and promotion plus additional port time for his efforts in keeping us engaged and not enraged. (Note: Not an officer in sight either during embarkation delay nor disembarkation craziness.)
Oh...Celebrity...you let us down this time... I'll still love you, but I'll give you only one more time to redeem yourself.