We are pretty new to cruising, our first and only other cruise was 2 years ago in the southern Caribbean with Carnival. Booked this trip to Hawaii with Celebrity for our 25th anniversary, along with friends. All we kept hearing from people was how upscale Celebrity was, and that it would be much more luxurious than Carnival. Really?
We had a great trip to Hawaii and a lot of fun while there, but that had more to do with Hawaii itself and the friends we were traveling with. To be honest we didn't find Celebrity to be better than Carnival in any way, certainly would not consider it a luxury line.
Embarkation in San Diego/Ensenada was crazy. All passengers have to go thru the Pier in San Diego, they had limited sandwiches and water/lemonade available while we waited. No secure place to leave your carry on luggage, so unless you want to drag it around with you you're stuck there until the buses start to leave. We were just lucky to have been given the wrong bus number (the girl asked me if I was in a suite and not knowing any better I said yes - we were giving bus 6, our friends were given bus 30, but we managed to switch them to bus 6 when we noticed the difference) so arrived in San Diego 12:30 pm, on a bus at 4:00, boarding the ship at 8:00 and able to have a full dinner. Looking at the people getting off the last bus at 10:30 - 11:00 I recognized a few people that had been at the San Diego pier when we were there and heard lots of grumbling that there was no dinner provided for these people once they were on board.
Found the food to be pretty average overall. Very little variety in the buffet, pretty much the same thing every day. Found I had to be careful with the omelets and fried eggs, staff tended to rush when there was a line up and you needed to make sure that the eggs were actually cooked. We did not try any of the specialty restaurants, don't see spending an extra $49 per person when I have already paid for my dinner.
Formal nights? We made a conscious decision ahead of time not to bother with the formal nights - guys didn't want to carry suits just for 2 dinners. Sitting having a drink in Rendezvous we were very surprised to see what was passing as formal wear for some of the other guests - Hawaaiin shirt and jeans? golf shirt, khakis and running shoes? Didn't see any of these people turned away. Formal night on Carnival was more formal.
Attended a couple of seminars while we were at sea. "Suffer from Back Pain" or "Want to Improve your Posture" - that is Celebrity code for Buy this Orthotic Insert ($179). "Learn How to Make Crepes" - Celebrity code for Come and Buy Crepe's for lunch or dessert ($5) or Come and Eat in Our Fancy Olympic Dining Room ($49 each)
Accosted every time you passed thru the lobby on Deck 10 on the way to the pool by staff trying to sell you on the specialty restaurants.
One thing we did appreciate is that we weren't forced to have our photo taken every time we turned around.
Average age on our cruise was 60+, and we were told by one of the staff that it was much better than the previous cruise where it was 70+.
Entertainment was very bland with 2 exceptions - Glenn Smith was very entertaining and native Hawaaiin entertainment from Honolulu was excellent.
Ran into a few issues with the tipping. Our friend booked some training sessions at the gym and noticed afterward that they had added the 15% gratuity to the cost of the sessions. When he went to Customer Relations they wouldn't take it off. Sorry but if you are paying $120 for a personal trainer why do you need to tip them too?
Also on our final night, we had a drink at the pool bar before going to get ready for dinner. My husband noticed the bartender look for the extra tip amount when he picked up our bill, and scowl when he saw it was empty. Not sure what he thought he did that warranted more than a 15% tip.
We found the stewards and wait staff all very friendly and helpful.
The final issue we had was the fact that you have to be off the boat by 9:30am on the final day - doesn't matter what time your flight is. With Carnival we were bused to the airport, but this time around we were on our own. It was suggested that we try to book an excursion that would drop us off at the airport - but that still would have had us at the airport about 6 hrs early. We decided to go to the airport and rent a car for the day since our flight wasn't until 9:30 pm. Looked into the shuttle provided by the boat but they wanted $25 per person to get us to the airport, checked with the taxis outside and it was < $30 to get all 4 of us to the airport.
Despite spending a lot of money for our luxury cruise, I feel like Celebrity had their hand out for more, more, more every where you looked.
Recommendation: Baked goods in the Cafe are much better than those in the Oceanview buffet, worth the trip downstairs to grab a muffin, croissant or sticky bun in the morning.