This was our second cruise with Celebrity and had high hopes that this would be as good if not better than our first around the Caribbean in 2012, how wrong we were!!
Things started well with the flight from Heathrow, transfer at Barcelona was very slick and much better than our first cruise into Miami. Boarding was also very fast having completed all the paperwork on-line beforehand. In fact we were on board quicker than those that had paid extra and upgraded. It was the same when the ship returned to Barcelona, this was very impressive Celebrity.
First impression of the ship were very good, extremely well maintained, lots of space inside; a beautiful ship. Our cabin was mid ships, port side, rear facing on deck 9 with an angled balcony that gave plenty of space for two loungers. The cabin was what we expected, comfortable bed, enough storage space, with a bathroom was far superior to our first cruise ship, now with a decent sized shower cubicle with a healthy flow of water from the shower head.
A stroll up on deck for a pre sailing cocktail at the bar near the grass area and a look around confirmed our first impressions. So far so good.
Lifeboat drill was carried out before the ship left port and followed the usual pattern of attendance in theatre for a pep talk and roll call.
We had Select Dining so didn't rush to dinner and hadn't bothered to pre book a time as we found as with our first Celebrity cruise you could just turn up and be seated most times within 5 minutes. This was true throughout the cruise.
Food in the main dining room proved disappointing and overall nowhere near as good quality as our first cruise around the Caribbean in 2012. We suspected this maybe due to cost cutting and Celebrity sourcing the supplies in Europe instead of in the USA. Confirmed to me by one of the grill chef's. Items that were previously on the left hand side of the menu and routine items were now on the speciality restaurant menu's for which you pay an up lift. Filet Mignon for example used to be a standard item, but didn't appear on the main dining room menu. Other popular dishes were also missing especially Lobster Bisque.
The room service menu has also been radically stripped down since 2012 and items that were included free are now extra. Once again quality was well down on 2012.
So having sampled the very poor room service breakfast, next morning we decide to eat in the Ocean view Café. What a big mistake.
My overall view of the Ocean View cafe was organised chaos.
No trays are provided to place your food and drink on, instead you have to pick up a hot plate and make multiple journeys to serving stations to collect food and drinks. All the while dodging what seems like the whole ships company trying to do the same. The next challenge is to find a vacant table and once you have done that any hot food you had is now cold. The whole area needs a total re think and re design. Breakfast should be a relaxing affair at the start of the day, but on this ship it was worst dining experience I have ever had. All for the sake of a few food trays. Take note Celebrity.
It wouldn't have been so bad if the food was of good quality, but it wasn't either. I have eaten better in a UK Motorway Service area. A couple of times we dined here in the evening, some of the food served up I wouldn't feed my cats.
So once you have negotiated the "Breakfast Scrum" you might like to sunbathe?
Well you better be quick on sea days to secure a lounger and when you do they are so jam packed together that its like being in bed with a total stranger. You can't even get a fag paper between the loungers and the overall noise in certain areas is not conducive to relaxing in the sun. Not 5 Star cruising!!!
Our first Celebrity ship was not like this.
Shore days when the ship is more or less empty is a fine, but then they all come back!!
Basically there is not enough open deck area in the sunshine for a full ship's compliment. We spent a lot of time in other areas of the ship or on our balcony. It just didn't get any better throughout the whole cruise.
Having been given a large amount of OBC when we booked, we decided to use this for Celebrity Shore excursions. We booked a trip for every port.
Rome was great, except it was on a Wednesday and is heaving with people because on this day each week the Pope has a session talking to his subjects in the Vatican. Consequently a trip that should have been 4 hours, turned into almost 7 hours because of the traffic. Don't go to Rome on a Wednesday.
Naples was our next port. The port area and suburbs are a total dump, in fact my Dad was there in the last war and said the same. But a trip along the coast to Sorrento was fantastic, wonderful views, excellent on board coach courier and time to walk around for two hours and see a bit of the town. Well done Celebrity.
Next was Santorini. Once again we had a Celebrity trip, well organised, reasonably priced and a thoroughly enjoyable day. Sadly we sailed before you could take a picture of the sunset from Santorini.
As we had holidayed in the Eastern Med before, we found many of the shore visits very similar to other Greek islands. Athens is a larger version of Limassol on Cyprus apart from the historic sites. Turkey was lovely and would like to revisit again. All the Celebrity trips were excellent value for money and would recommend them.
Overall we felt the ship was much too large for us, our cruise on the Constellation with less than 2000 on board was exceptional and would be keen to sail on her again. For us a large ship like the Equinox albeit with more facilities, many of which we didn't use, is just not for us. But it would appear to be the trend for even larger ships, so we may have to review who we sail with in future.
Many we spoke to who had sailed with Celebrity in the past, thought standards of service and food had slipped. However those that were first time cruisers, thought it was great. You can draw your own conclusions from that.
In summary - In 2012 Celebrity was something special - In 2013 not so special.