We flew from Australia to Ft Lauderdale precruise to get over jet lag and were glad we did. Stayed at Embassy Suites and were very happy there. Booked a transfer from there to port $8 pp. We booked this cruise as an interesting way to get to Spain for 4 weeks holiday touring there.
Embarkation: Arrived at 12 midday at Pier 18 and there were no long lines and as we had done our online checkin it took 15 minutes from walking in to being handed a sparkling wine on board.
We had lunch in Aqua Spa Cafe as we could get a seat easily and just relaxed till we cabins were ready at 1.30pm.
Cabin: Aquaclass 1604 was midships starboard and was in a wonderful position close to lifts, stairwells, pools, Persian Gardens and Spa. No noise at night from Foyer music, and a lovely extended balcony facing forward allowed good visuals forward to the bridge. There was noise however from pool deck chairs being moved most mornings from 7.30 am onwards and on pool party night it was like a herd of elephants was dancing overhead. Our cabin steward was Gladwin, the most efficient and helpful cabin steward we have ever had on any ship. Thank you Gladwin.
Dining: We upgraded our 3 Speciality Dinner package to 5 onboard for an extra $US28, a bargain in our eyes. However, you arent allowed 2 nights in Murano, only one.
First nights dinner in Blu was delightful, lump crab entree, rib eye and duck for mains were fantastic. Other meals that were memorable in Blu were lobster salad and back ribs, a delicious strawberry and icecream dessert, crispy beef tartare, chicken, mushroom and coconut soup, osso bucco wrapped in proscuito with
beans, milk fed veal chops, crispy soft shell crab and baked alaska.
Murano we visited for our wedding anniversary dinner the second night. They weren't full but we waited 15 minutes to see a menu or be offered a drink. After that, service improved immensely and the dinner was delightful Baked goats cheese with Caviar and Pork Belly for entrees, then two cooked at table lobster tails, good sizes, tender, juicy and full of flavour. We couldnt eat dessert we were satiated!
Tuscan Grill we enjoyed twice and loved it both times with the quality of the steaks excellent, Fillet Mignons to die for. Also memorable were the entrees, Seafood soup, Seafood Linguini, French Onion Soup and the Crab Cakes, as were the Calamari, Seared Scallops and Prawns and Sea Bass for Mains. Desserts we loved were the Caramel Panna Cotta and the choices of icecreams. Wine service was a bit hit and miss and we helped ourselves to our own bottle left on the table. Table service was great.
Silk Harvest we went to twice and will not be visiting again. Food was bland, dull and uninspiring. Could be much much better than it is. The exception was the ribs and salt and pepper calamari.
We didnt dine in the MDR, but enjoyed the Bistro on Five for food, not service, it was like Fawlty Towers the day we had lunch there.
Aqua Spa Cafe used to be one of our favourite places to have lunch. It was innovative, good seating, with friendly staff. Sadly not anymore as the selections have just become the same as you get in the Ocean View Cafe. Very sad.
Mast Grill we tried after returning from a tour late and they were the best hamburgers and chips we had anywhere.
Room Service, was mostly good. Hot water not hot for tea as only served in a teapot not a flask, but hot food was hot and service prompt and reliable.
Bars and Cafe al Bacio: because there were so many elite members on board we had 3 drinks vouchers per person so we used these to try all the bars. Our favourite was the Sky Bar as it wasnt noisy and overwhelmed with music, as the Passport bar and Martini Bar were at times with the foyer music. If you wanted to just sit and listen those bars were great, but if you wanted to talk you couldnt when the music was playing. Molecular Bar we didnt try.
Cafe al Bacio always a favourite place to go for coffee at anytime of the day was a real disappointment. There seemed to be a lot of tension between staff members there and that resulted in very poor service. We saw several people leave without ordering after waiting 15-20 minutes being ignored. They tended to serve staff and passengers who came up to the counter for takeaway before people who were sitting down, so there was no orderly service followed at all.
Activities: there were the usual range of dance classes (held in the main foyer or out by the pool or Sky Lounge for line dancing), trivia galore, pool games, officers versus cruisers games, cooking classes, etc. One great addition to activities was jewellery making that was offered free in the lounge outside Michaels Club each morning at 9.30am. Well attended by both sexes and very enjoyable way to meet new people.
The Hot Glass Show seemed to be well attended each day and the three giving the demonstrations and talks on this cruise were much better than the previous cruise we had been on, more engaging and entertaining.
Spa and Persian Gardens: we book Aquaclass as I love the hot beds and use them frequently on board after long walking tours off ship and just to relax. My husband and I booked a hot stone massage for our wedding anniversary and can say it was very professionallly done and very enjoyable.
Guest Speakers: We thought the 3 speakers on this cruise were some of the most interesting and entertaining we have come across in 10 cruises.
Melinda Bates who worked in the White House during President Clintons administration, gave us an overview of the "Behind the Scenes", which was wonderful. It included the Presidents, parties and entertaining, White House dinner services and settings, all things you wouldnt get to see on a guided tour. Fascinatingl
Then Hiram Bleekers lectures on Science, Scientists, Global warming and eveything imbetween were also fascinating and very well attended. However, due to the theatre being used for rehearsals, we all had to cram into Celebrity Central movie theatre and it was standing room only. He would have filled the theatre.
The last speaker whose name I have forgotten as he had to present at 9am, too early for us on holidays and lots of others too we think, was also heard to be excellent from others who went.
Entertainment: we thought the entertainment and Jason the Cruise Director was some of the best we have experienced on a ship. The Equinox Band, singers and dancers were great and their production Cirque show was not to be missed. The Broadway Musical night was OK, the highlight for us being West Side Story and Mamma Mia songs, but other songs we had never even heard of.
There was an English singer who had sung in Les Miserables and he was very good, but the English operetta singer was awful.
Brooks Aehron the classically trained pianist who we had seen before was extremely entertaining and funny and delighted the audience.
An American comedian was also very very funny, but the English comedian was a real flop, stilted and not very funny at all.
David Howie was like watching Liberace on steroids, amazing and highly entertaining.
The 3 Celtic Tenors were excellent, beautifully harmonised voices and wonderful selection of songs.
The Dance Band from the Phillipines was the BEST dance band we have ever had at sea or on land, and they worked hard and diligently to entertain us. Their 60's and 70's dance nights were very well attended and great fun and their voices and music were magic.
Shore Excursions: didnt do any ship shore excursions but organised our own with CC members.
Elite Events:This is the first cruise we have been on since achieving Elite Captains Club status so we didnt know what to expect. The extra laundry bag, and the extra internet minutes were terrific, the welcome afternoon tea and Captains Welcome were all very good. The Captains Club hostess was wonderful.
The free ships tours of the galley and theatre we didnt attend as we had done these before. The wine tasting was a fizz as the wines were awful and we had done this previously as a paid activity with a food pairing and this was so much better.
The Honeymoon and Wedding Anniversary morning tea was a nice touch with free sparkling wine and cake held in Tuscan Grill.
Elite breakfast served in Tuscan Grill was also very good. It was a continental breakfast with good choices of fruits, juices, smoothies, sparkling wine, (Mimosas) and bloody Marys too, then breads, cheeses, meats and bakery items and coffees.
Captain and Crew: were always highly visiible and involved from the Captain down. We have not seen this level of officer involvement with passengers except on Azamara, and we thought it was wonderful, as did most passengers. Everyday there seemed to be events involving crew members and passengers and some were very amusing. Captain Manos had a lovely sense of humour and we enjoyed his morning bulletins at 10am updating us on all things to do with the ship, weather and seas.
Fantastic Equinox Captain and Crew, well done.
Fellow Passengers: were mostly in the 60's to 70's age group with a few wheelchairs but not many. There was a smattering of younger passengers 30's to 50's and some children who were largely unseen.
Our CC group was very large and we met some wonderful fellow cruisers who will remain friends.
Overall another wonderful cruise experience on Celebrity, and we would highly recommend a transatlantic as it is a very relaxing cruising style.