My husband and I are mid-60's. We have sailed all major cruise lines except Holland America in 10 cruises over the last 15 years. This was our first Celebrity cruise, our longest at 15 days and our first with friends--two other couples which added a lot of fun and comraderie. The ship seemed very well run and friendly--a tone set by the ship master--Michael Sympouras. We saw him more times around the ship than we have ever seen the captain. It was the 11/22/13 cruise out of San Diego through the Panama Canal ending in FLL. We knew this was an older ship with a few signs of wear and tear but nothing that hindered our enjoyment. The size of the ship also made it easier to find each other.
Phoenix was being deluged with rain as we headed to the airport--first rain in 75 days! I had broken my rule of getting to the embarkation port a day early because of the short flight to SD but was questioning the wisdom of that as we sloshed to the airport. The port of San Diego seemed a bit disorganized and it was raining as we embarked. Once we left San Diego, we encountered almost no rain which we had wondered about since it was the tail end of the rainy season.
Overall, we were very pleased with both the food and service on Celebrity and would rank them both the best of the cruises we have taken. Mario (Mendez) and Stefan took excellent care of us in the dining room and gave us tips on the best items of the night. We did "assigned" dining which worked out very well for 3 couples.
Being a "foodie", here are a few more details on the food. We thought Celebrity did a very nice job on their meats. Steak or prime rib ordered medium or medium rare was usually right on and quality was very nice. Slow cooked items like Osso Bucco, braised beef and chicken were very tender and succulent. Veggies were crisp-tender and presentations were nicely done. If there was a weakness or unevenness, I would say it was in the pastries. American standards like strawberry shortcake, chocolate chip cookies and pineapple upside down cake tended to not be very good. There were some desserts that were excellent--chocolate cake with leche was top notch. A special Grand Marnier soufflé was yummy. Bitter and blanc bread pudding on Carnival remains my favorite cruise dessert. Many of the desserts in Café al Bacio were very good--we loved the Coconut chiffon cake, the chocolate/coffee cake and several others. I would also say morning buffet pastries were about average. Princess has the edge there. A lovely touch was being offered an afternoon chocolate while we were relaxing in Café al Bacio. We also thought it was a very nice part of the Captain's toast to receive a glass of champagne and a truffle as we entered the theater on the first formal night.
We ate at the buffet most mornings. It is true the selection is nearly the same every morning but that does not bother me. There is such a wide variety of items I could personally have breakfast for a year with those items and be fine. The eggs benedict station was very good. Lox and bagels were good and red onion, tomato and capers were handy. Omelet stations were quite plentiful and toast was made to order and nice and hot--always a plus. We also had crepes at Bistro on Five ($5 pp.) twice and that was a nice addition although they seemed a little understaffed. The dessert crepe with nutella, pistachios, and whipped cream is not to be missed. We had one breakfast and one lunch in the main dining room and they were nicely done. The ice sculptures and food at the Brunch was a nice change of pace but it was on Canal crossing day which was a plus or minus depending on your viewpoint.
Buffet lunches were good. Salads were interesting and Indian curries were good. Hamburgers and hot dogs on deck were very good and the French fries were hot. You lose on this one Guy Fieri--French fries on the Breeze were bad!
We dined at Q-sine one night. We thought the food presentations were very memorable and fun and most were tasty. You definitely have to be open for a brand new experience. Certainly a unique Thanksgiving dinner for our group. We did them for $30 pp. which is a fair price. I feel the Celebrity specialty restaurants are over-priced at $45 but they are often offering specials to fill them.
We had an inside cabin which was fine. Beds were a bit firmer than we prefer but OK. Our steward Frank took good care of us. Nice flat screen TVs and a settee were nice. I liked the weight of their coverlets on the bed--not too heavy. Space under the bed ample for storing suitcases. There is a clothesline in the shower which came in handy. I liked the soap, shampoo and hand lotion. Good control on the temps.
Entertainment on the ship was very good. We really liked the various groups playing around the ship and they were very appropriate for the demographics of the older crowd on the ship, We found ourselves pleasantly surprised by the Finkel brothers--who would have thought a xylophone virtuoso could be so much fun? The comedy of Rich Ceisler had us in side-splitting laughs. The production shows were very well done and we really appreciated the Celebrity orchestra, singers and dancers. The loss of live music is a big downside for us on some cruise lines. The weakest link here was the juggler Steve Carte in our estimation. Cruise director Pete was a man of few words but did a very good job and the man could sing too.
We really enjoyed some of the Celebrity activities. My husband attended several of the lectures. I thoroughly enjoyed the culinary talks though a bigger venue to avoid SRO would be better. Watercolor class and the trivia were lots of fun. I gave my first Zumba class my best shot. Many activities involved the officers which was entertaining. We thought running the Nova documentary on the Panama canal was very nice but earlier than 10:30 pm might have been a better choice. The commentator that came aboard for the Canal crossing did an excellent job.
Ports on this cruise are fairly weak. The big event--the stunning Panama Canal crossing--is what makes it worth it. We had been to Cabo and Puerto Vallarta a couple of times previously so skipped them. Guatemala and Colon also did not have much to offer and safety is an issue in those ports. We did a independent tour in Costa Rica with Gio tours. Chris did a great job of showing us around his country and did a good job of improvising when a land slide made doing one of our activities impossible. We would recommend Gio as others on Trip Advisor and CC have. We took a ship tour in Cartagena but it was in the 90s with equal humidity levels which certainly impacted how much we enjoyed the tour. We prefer to do independent tours when possible.
This was a super cruise and we hope to sail again. Our cruises depend on the cost of itineraries we want to do and we are not loyal to just one line, but Celebrity certainly won us over on this one.