Returning to Celebrity after a six year absence, and the last Celebrity cruise we did was a 15 day Infinity Hawaii. Have cruised twenty two times on various lines and we're Celebrity elite. Chose this cruise for the amazing itinerary- ten Mediterranean ports in twelve days. This was our fifth time cruising the Mediterranean, two Oceania and three Celebrity. Love all of these ports and can never get enough.
Arrived the day prior and took the train straight to Civitavecchia from Fiumicino. Stayed at Hotel Miramare which is a great little hotel and within walking distance of the port. We shopped for our two bottles of wine, boarded about 11:30 and all went very quickly and easily. While having lunch in the Oceanview Cafe it was announced that our rooms were ready. Stateroom was lovely- category 2C on a balcony guarantee. It was well laid out, very comfortable bed, lots of bathroom counter space and biggest shower outside of a suite we've ever had. Supposed to be a partial oceanview, starboard last cabin aft, but the view was terrific only blocked by the roof of the restaurant below. Halfway through the cruise, because of a loud rattle in the wall of the cabin we were upgraded to a C1, aft cabin with that amazing view. Lucked out as the only cabins available previously were insides. The day we switched just happened to coincide with someone moving out of it because they did not like it (?). Obviously we had no complaints about it (!) and guest relations was amazing in taking care of us.
The ports were fantastic and Celebrity was able to get us off the ship fast at each one. Tendering in Santorini was a breeze. Did not use any of the cruise lines shore excursions- all independent.
Yet I knew immediately on laying eyes on the ship in port that yikes, this ship was way to large for me. On the exterior the massive top heaviness was not aesthetically pleasing. The atrium of the ship while gorgeous to others felt stark and closed in for as big as it was. Can't explain why but the ship felt claustrophobic in the center atrium. Most people like the art we felt it wasn't as pleasing and maybe even controversial as previous Celebrity ships. They were photographic reproductions, subtle but uninteresting. Even the decorative wood, say around the elevators and other public spaces wasn't wood, but artificial-plastic like a page out of Las Vegas. But I NEVER spoke to one person on board who felt quite like we did. Everyone thought the ship was gorgeous.
Can't comment on the activities, as the cruise was port intensive, and we only utilized the gym, jogging track, pools, library and enrichment talks. They were all terrific. But another reason we're no longer Celebrity people but Oceania/Azamara people as we're not interested in the casino, theatre, bars and ship activities. Cellar Masters was great- enjoyed tasting a variety of wines.The gym was fabulous and loved the pool area, always lots of padded comfy chairs in pool and solarium, and never felt crowded on the two at sea days. The library left much to be desired. While it was beautiful the books were dated and several copies of the same books no one seemed to want.
Dining is subjective but we felt it was hit or miss, yet mostly hit. Had select dining, and some great meals in the MDR and some OK ones, but dining staff knock themselves out trying to please. I'm vegetarian and always found something on the main menu, even tho there is a vegetarian menu. One night when our
waiter noticed I wasn't eating my meal, she insisted on getting me something else and returned with a fabulous portobello mushroom dish. Some dishes were just bland and not anything like the Celebrity of old. Lobster was huge, infact all portions were huge and we couldn't finish. Desserts were so-so, although you must try the carrot cake in Cafe al Bacio (no charge).
Tried all three specialty restaurants and Qsine was our favorite- fun and delicious. None of them are worth the $90 extra per couple however and food not spectacular as it used to be. Lots of half price meals on our cruise, and at $45 worth trying once. Not impressed with either Murano or Tuscan Grille.
OK, big deal- the coffee. It was horrendous in the Oceanview cafe, a tad better in the dining room, pretty good in the Solarium. If you like coffee plan on paying $4.50 for specialty coffee, or maybe bring your aeropress.
Service was outstanding, and a smiling friendly face everywhere. and one thing that is always constant on every Celebrity ship we've cruised. Our comment card was overfilled with glowing praise for employees. Even Guest Relations was ever accommodating.
Disembarkation was very smooth.
Have to reiterate that even thought there were 2500 passengers, the ship never felt crowded.
Overall, we'd again do the same itinerary, but not cruise Celebrity again. Remember the day when Celebrity was near perfection, just a notch below lines like Oceania. But now between the size of the ship and dining it's not for us anymore. We prefer the smaller, intimate ships. Solstice class are so massive you barely feel that you are on water which is a plus for those who suffer seasickness. They look top heavy and barely like a ship anymore- it feels like a 12 story hotel, or like six Nordstroms glued together. The dining has declined as have most cruise lines so only fair to say in it's class it's probably very good. For our tastes we'd rather pay more and cruise less for the luxury class like Oceania or Windstar. We like to "feel" the ocean/sea as felt in the smaller ships, and like the old style wood and intimate ships. We cruised this because of the fabulous itinerary, and while we'd do the itinerary once again, wouldn't do it on Celebrity. There were some excellent parts of the experience, but the larger picture made it not the line for us. Came home and booked another Oceania Med for next spring.
Again I talked to no one onboard who felt quite as strongly as we did. Most people loved it, and the complaints we heard were about music, some noise in cabins, and shore excursions- never dining. If you like big ships this is probably a great option.
Lastly we stayed in Venice at Hotel al Ponte Mocenigo for three days and it was superb. We've been to Venice many times and this was one of our favorite places to stay.