Upon entering the ship the decor is stunning. It's got that "new car" smell and everything is shiny. No purple & florescent pink lounges here.. they are replaced by plush silver and blue-grey lounges surrounding an ice bar where bartenders serve up "smokin' drinks" made with dry ice. The cabins are great. Larger than your average ship cabins and with in-cabin bathrooms where you can dry yourself off without knocking yourself out on the cabinet door when you turn around. This must be where they get their 5.5 star rating but for us, it was all down hill from here.
This is my 14th cruise, and my families 10th cruise with Celebrity. Here's what I thought......
Food & Service
The main dining room food is below average for this class of ship. Beef was either sinewy or tough, with exception of some select dishes. Chicken was almost always dry and chewy. Fish was always overcooked or tasteless as with the vegetables. Starters/appetizers were boring as was the desserts. At least there was always a decent selection of ice cream and sorbets and the coffee was good.
The main buffet restaurant, with the exception of breakfast which isn't difficult to get right, was a disaster. The same selection everyday, food was dry and overcooked, the carvery was either overcooked, undercooked, unseasoned or so salty you couldn't eat it, food even looked unappetizing ! With the exception of pastries. If that wasn't bad enough, the service was horrendous. Plates sat on tables for ages, staff walked around either in a daze or just chatting to each other and forget friendliness or pleasantries. Complaints to staff or even guest relations go unnoticed. One morning I watched as one particular wait staff just walked in and out of the kitchen area with the same empty tray, stopping just to ogle at passing women, or chat with a mate. This is Celebrity 5.5 star service ?
Other dining areas were either chargeable , $5 for a sandwich, $3 - $4 for a cupcake or ice cream or up to $40 for a specialty restaurant. The Aqua Spa dining area which used to be open all day long till late was now only open 2 hours for breakfast and 2 hours for lunch. Little extras, like make your own pizza stations or Yogurts and Smoothies were now $5, Hot sandwiches or panini's previously included in your cruise, were now $5 extra. Everywhere you looked there were extra charges. What happened Celebrity? It wasn't like this on your Millennium or Infinity ships!
Excursions/Activities and Entertainment
As any seasoned cruiser knows, the excursions are overpriced and you can have just as good a time making your own itinerary but to arrive at a port and then have to pay an additional $8 to $15 just to get from the port to the destination is unbelievable! I paid for a cruise to Istanbul , Mykonos and Athens, etc.. not a cruise to the ship terminal then make your own way to town if you want to walk yourself. The folks that did do the tours were sadly disappointed as they were nothing but a glorified "do it yourself" tour with stops at this shop or that shop to purchase items.. some times for over an hour !!! as with the carpet shops in Istanbul! Ridiculous!
Activities were few and far between. The few we did make it too were either cancelled or were progressive, for example the Trivia.. you couldn't just join in it was like a tournament that you had to join on day one. I cant say too much about the shows in the Theater as I only saw one (because the babysitting fee was extortionate) but it was comedy and I actually felt sorry for the poor woman as no one laughed or got into it... In fact, overall I felt the ship was boring and had no atmosphere to speak of. Thank goodness for the guy doing a daily "Zumba" class by the pool or there would be no life on the ship at all!
I hate Casinos but my husband loves them and went every night. Needless to say the Casino always wins in the end but the dealers don't need to give you any snide remarks about not tipping them. "News Fash" pit master ... Cruise guests are from all over the world, and casino rules vary. We are from England and my husband is Australian... It is completely illegal to tip dealers in casinos in both of these countries! If it is policy to tip dealers on Celebrities ships then have a sign on the table!
This was our BIG mistake..we believed the Celebrity Refection brochure when it stated it had "something for everyone" including kids. Well, at least you hope it had something for everyone especially as they charge full adult price for your 1 year old and 4 year old. We cruised six months earlier with Royal Caribbean on the Radiance and it was unequivocally superior! Not to mention cheaper! We expected the same or even better from Celebrity as after all,it is rated as a 5.5 star ship. There is unfortunately no crèche , although the ship could easily offer this service as their teen area was massive and always completely empty. It does do babysitting for the extortionate price of $20 per hour plus gratuities ($6 per hour on Royal) but we declined that generous offer and is it that difficult to put a baby change table in the handicapped toilets ? At least a few of them so you don't have to change the baby on the bathroom floor?
Celebrity, at least mention online or in your brochure that kids under 12 can't eat in any of the specialty restaurants and if I ask you about making an exception if we came to dine early or off-peak at least get back to me.. I'm still waiting for a call!
Thank goodness it does have a kids club for the over 3 yrs. old , which I have to say was excellent and without it, the cruise would have been complete torture for us. The staff in the kids club were complete professionals and my 4 year old loved it. So Celebrity got something right here but listen... Don't market your ship to families if that is not your target customer! It's better for everyone that way !
All in all, it was not a pleasurable experience for us as a family and we are not the only ones who thought so on the ship. So if you are Honeymooners or 50th Wedding Anniversary cruisers and want to spend an extra $40pp a night to eat in the specialty restaurants.. then this ship is for you.
But for us.... we bid Celebrity farewell as we will not cruise with you again. Goodbye!