This was our first cruise on Celebrity having previously cruised on HAL, NCL, Princess and Cunard. Overall, we thought Celebrity to be a very good experience for the money. We booked a cabin in Aqua Class and were not disappointed. I would not be surprised if, once Aqua Class builds a larger following, prices will increase as it is an excellent product, well-worth the slight additional cost currently charged by Celebrity. The best feature of Aqua Class and Celebrity in our opinion was the dining experience in Blu. It is a first-class restaurant with outstanding service and excellent food. Since the subject of Blu seems to be an important topic on this forum, I will provide more detail on that than the other aspects of our cruise (other than to say, the Panama Canal which was the highlight of our 15 day cruise on the Celebrity Infinity is itself worth the trip as Michelin famously says).
We had read the complaints about the tables for two in Blu being too close for some tastes, but we found that we actually liked the ability to talk with people without having to share a table with them for an entire meal. The usual routine is that we would be seated alongside someone already into their meal with whom we would have a chance to talk and then they would leave and we would be partly through our meal when another couple would come with yet another opportunity to meet someone else (sort of like all the choices on the menu, giving plenty of opportunities to try different things).
Other than two couples who clearly did not like the proximity of the tables and pretended we did not exist, of the 30 or so meals we had in Blu, we had wonderful experiences meeting people. Some we never got to the stage of asking their names or giving ours, others became fast friends. Lest you think Aqua Class is only for the 'rich and famous' wannabes willing to pay more for fancy dining and some extra cabin amenities, our experience was just the opposite; our table mates included a retired Washington State couple who lived in a RV in Arizona and a couple from Germany about the age of our kids on holiday from their jobs as a truck driver and a secretary (they are the ones who we became dear friends with!). I assume the real 'rich and famous' would choose a suite (and then they cannot even use Blu anyway!).
However, what really made the Blu experience so worth-while were the staff. We own and operate a vacation rental villa on St. John in the US Virgin Islands and have done so successfully for more than 10 years so I would like to think we know how difficult it is to satisfy people on vacation who have paid alot of money for the experience. Having the right staff makes all the difference in the world. Blu, with perhaps only 100 tables, offers the opportunity for the staff to get to know you and, if you are so inclined, you to know them. By the end of our 2 weeks, we would request a table staffed by our favorite waiter (Isial from India) and favorite assistant waiter (Maria from Argentina). If our request for them could not be accommodated, they never failed to go out of their way to stop by where we were seated to greet us.
And then there were the sommeliers (oh, could I only have one at home!). We like to have wine with dinner and we had the Classic Drink Package (thanks to Celebrity's 1-2-3 Promotion). Having read previous concerns about being able to get the attention of the sommeliers in the dining room to order a glass of wine, much less a second, we had been planning to order a bottle of wine (with the Classic Package 10% discount) both to avoid the problem of getting served as well as to get a wine we liked rather than be limited to the $8 per glass choices, but that was never necessary. On our first evening, our sommelier, Nash from Zimbabwe, made it clear that we were in excellent hands even with only the Classic Drink Package. Each night he selected a different wine for us to try within the Classic Drink Package -- all in the $30 per bottle range which while they are the least expensive wines on the Celebrity wine list, there was not a single wine which we did not think outstanding ranging from an Australian Shiraz ("Lights Out") to a Celebrity-labelled Cabernet Sauvignon (with a Wente cork). Even better, our glasses were never empty until we said "enough, please!".
Ah yes, but I digress, from the food. I am the cook in the family. We are in good physical shape and work at staying that way between exercise daily and watching carefully what we eat. We try to consume meat only once per week, eating mainly fish (we live in Boston), lots of different vegetables (the usual good greens plus chard, kale, broccolini, etc), avoid caloric desserts and starches. The food in Blu was absolutely outstanding from our point of view.
Blu's dinner menu always had a choice of 3 interesting appetizers (as well as a standard shrimp cocktail or not-so-standard escargot), 2 interesting soups (one hot, one cold) or a standard French onion soup, and 2 green salads (or, of course, a Caesar salad). We would order 2 appetizers and 2 soups and 2 salads to try the different dishes, not planning to finish them all, but to taste them (although the plates always seemed to be emptied). The cold appetizers in particular were astounding; our favorite was a tuna parfait (I kid you not) which consisted of a cold piece of rare tuna dressed up as a parfait (yes, as in dessert), but instead of whipped cream and nuts, with goat cheese and wasabi green peas. There was also a remarkable seafood napoleon, again a play on a dessert, but made with cold seafood which was excellent.
There were 4 different main courses choices nightly -- a dish with pasta, fish, chicken or meat -- or a salad main course entree always interesting (like salad with leg of lamb). My taste buds salivate with the memories of short ribs, veal chops, duck, quail, nage (a sort of cioppino with clams, mussels, shrimp and calamari) and an astounding halibut wrapped in phyllo dough (I avoid halibut because it usually becomes too dry when cooked, but wrapping it in phyllo kept it moist -- I never knew halibut could taste so good). If none of that suited your fancy, there always was a choice of NY Strip Steak or salmon or a vegetarian entree. The dinner menu is posted each morning to peruse so if the choices available were still was not to your liking, you could, usually 24 hours in advance, request a special dish (which we did the night they offered Caribbean lobster tail which we are not enamored with, so we asked and found waiting for us at dinner that same night, the amazing tuna prepared the way it had been on an earlier night in Blu).
Whatever the main course, it was always accompanied by great vegetables ranging from the usual (asparagus) to the less-well known (endamame) and just enough of a starch (mashed potatoes or squash) to make the dish look and taste interesting. The dishes were always flavored superbly (we never use salt and usually always add ground pepper and sometimes hot sauce to whatever we eat, but we found the food in Blu to be so excellently-flavored that we surprised ourselves by never adding a thing -- not even lemon on the fish!). The portions were quite generous and we never, ever left hungry. We usually skipped the desserts (which looked wonderful) unless we were engaged in a particularly interesting conversation with our table mates in which case we could opt for sorbet or low fat frozen yogurt, perfect for our diets.
Oh, but I did not yet tell you about breakfast in Blu (alas, no lunch is offered). At home we eat yogurt with fresh fruit or hot cereal (to get us through the cold Boston winters) and eggs ,maybe once a week. In Blu, we ate muesli. Never had it before, and will probably never have it again except, I am sure, on our next trip in Blu where it is prepared table side giving you your choice of oats, granola, brown sugar, dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, apricots), nuts, fresh banana, yogurt and/or milk. While our young German friends would order the muesli and then eggs. our diets would only allow us to eat the muesli -- or we sometimes would order instead another Blu-specialty, a (egg white) frittata made with smoked salmon inside and goat cheese and, I kid you not, caviar on top accompanied by a few grilled asparagus spears, mushrooms and fingerling potatoes. While that was our routine, the breakfast menu offered, of course, any type of eggs with, or without, sides of bacon, sausage, ham, pancakes, waffles, and a couple of interesting looking parfaits made of yogurt and fruit compote along with fresh squeezed juice, fresh fruit, custom-made fruit 'smoothies', fresh baked croissants, danish, english muffins, breads, etc.
Blu, and thanks to it, Celebrity Cruises was a gourmet feast of food and service! A job extremely well-done which will entice us to return!