This was our 1st TATL cruise, and my 2nd overall cruise with Celebrity. My 1st cruise with them was several years ago on the Mercury, and I have great memories of the service we received. We have been looking both for a cruise line to settle in with as a favored-line and for a little step up in luxury or refinement. I was hoping that Celebrity would fit the bill. Overall, the cruise was fine. There were things we loved, things that were ok, and things were not good. Nothing to “wow” us and nothing to rise to the level of ruining a cruise, but enough little annoying things that gathered to leave a poor impression of Celebrity in general. In brief - I’d go with them again, but they did not succeed in making me a loyal X cruiser, either. I’ll split my review into 3 parts - Pros, Cons which Celebrity could fix, and Cons which cannot be blamed on Celebrity.
1) The itinerary. We LOVED doing a TATL. We loved the ports in Spain and Portugal - every one of them (Malaga, Cadiz, Cartagena and Lisbon) were easy to walk off and explore a cute little town, full of history and character. (Tenerife is the exception as a port - not really anything to see or do there without taking a tour of some sort.) The sea days were great. We love sea days, which is why decided to try a TATL. If anything, there were too many activities, and I often felt like I was missing out if I just wanted to sit and read. Finally, there is something particularly cool about looking at the globe and thinking, “I am here!” in the middle of nowhere.
2) Our balcony cabin was one of the largest we’ve had among several lines, and the layout was great. Very clever design in terms of storage. It was a nice, pleasant cabin. We also had one with an oversized balcony, so that was particularly nice, too. I will give a thumbs-down to the bed, though, as my back started to hurt after a few days.
3) The main headlining shows were top-notch and very well done. We had an Elton John impersonator, a couple comedians, a good singer, a classical pianist, and the normal theater-type shows by the ship’s cast. Some of them came back in the afternoons on the sea days to do encore performances. Particular kudos to Brooks Aehron, the classical pianist, who was amazing, did two separate encores and packed the house each time.
4) Interesting speakers. The port talk guy (when he wasn't scheduled during our dinner time) was informative. The enrichment series speakers were all extremely interesting. One had DNA as his specialty, and he gave talks ranging from TV shows to criminal case studies to the Romanovs to ancient Egypt. He definitely cut into my “free time” time. ;)
5) Our room attendant, waiter and assistant waiters were all so nice. The word that comes to mind is gracious, and kind, thoughtful and efficient. We felt very well taken care of by the staff. The waiters in the Oceanview were likewise friendly and always willing to help.
6) The no smoking policy. It’s great to know we can go anywhere and not be swamped with people smoking. That said, the smokers were shunted down to an entire half of deck 5, and while I don’t begrudge them having somewhere to go, that happens to be one deck which I would particularly enjoy using. Ah well.
7) The pushiness of selling isn’t too bad. They generally take a “no thank you” for an answer and let you move on. I’ve been on cruises where it felt much more like you were doing something wrong for not buying photos or ordering drinks at every turn.
CONS, which Celebrity can control:
Celebrity advertises their company as “modern luxury.” Luxury means making my life easy. It means providing things I didn't even realize I needed. It means taking care of details. Instead, I often felt vexed, and I felt like management was either incompetent or just didn't care. There were times when I honestly wondered if these people had ever run a cruise ship before.
1) Condescending attitude from management. As an example, the scones included raisins every single day. Some days, our other snack choices were raisin pound cake and raisin cookies. Not being a raisin fan, I finally asked a manager about it, and he gave me the distinct impression that I was not classy enough to realize that "All scones have raisins! Take away the raisins and you don't have a scone at all. Celebrity only offers raisin scones." I know that Celebrity actually does offer non-raisin scones, I know that non-raisin scones are available throughout the world, and mostly I don't appreciate the attitude. He couldn't even bother to pretend to care - I was just wrong for what I wanted. Indeed, although the waiters and room attendants and staff were warm and truly caring, every time I asked a question of someone at a managerial level, the ultimate answer was - “That’s how it is.”
2) Although the headliner shows were terrific, the bands for the evenings in the lounges were bad. Le Chic Duo and Sean the guitarist merit particular mention as being groups I could not even be in the same room with. The Spitfires were ok, as long as you wanted something loud and danceable. Elaine Abras was great when she was doing Portuguese and Spanish, but awful in English. One night, we were excited to hear decent music coming from the Sky Lounge! We went in only to discover they were playing a tape. I equate "luxury" with a quiet piano bar, a string quartet, or a quiet jazz combo. This was not to be found anywhere, and I felt like I had nowhere to go in the evenings.
3) In a similar vein, I was looking forward to seven straight sea days to sit quietly, read, and do some puzzles. The ship is so over-scheduled with activities, though, that is it nigh-on-impossible to find a QUIET spot. There's the solarium, if you don't mind the heat and humidity and if you can get a seat. There's the library, with its limited seating and noise from all the different levels. We found ourselves in the Sky Lounge whenever possible, but were frequently chased out by one activity or another. Sure, there was our balcony. But, if I'd wanted to stay in my room for a week, I could have stayed home, too.
4) Lunch in the Oceanview is cleared at 2:30. This is too early for those of us with late seating at 8:30. I was generally hungry after 3:00, and my choices were salad, (really bad) pizza, pasta, or burgers. Every day. Would it not be possible to leave even soup or one hot station with a bit more selection open 'til 3:30 maybe?
5) The pizza, as mentioned, was bad. I’d read glowing reviews of it on Cruise Critic, but we were severely disappointed. The bread products, too, were hit-and-miss. It was as though they would bake 3 days’ worth of croissants, then you’d have fresh ones one day and stale ones for a couple days. Food in the MDR was pretty good, but nothing to write home about.
6) Background music throughout the ship was played too loud, and frankly too repetitive. Also, the day after Thanksgiving, it switched to 100% Christmas music. This stopped after 3 days; I can only assume enough people complained?
7) Background music was also left to play while the Beyond the Podium speakers tried to give their presentation. Twice. Another time, a speaker was scheduled while a live band played right outside the door.
8) After one of the afternoon concerts, they took up a collection to support the Philippines relief efforts. However, there was no one upstairs outside the balcony, nor were they prepared just to take some cash. It was an absolute mess with everyone trying to get to a little table where they were passing out sheets of paper to add money to your onboard account.
9) There were typos and mistakes in the daily program, which ranged from egregious (Anne Frank wrote her diary while hiding inside the fortress walls of Cadiz?) to merely annoying (its vs. it's, incorrect start times for speakers, and spelling mistakes that a spellchecker should have caught.) Also, each and every piece paper looked like 1st grader had folded it. For a multinational corporation not to do some simple proof-reading or editing is inexcusable.
As I said, mostly nothing there to ruin a trip. But, "luxury" is about the details, and Celebrity isn’t paying attention there.
CONS, which are not specific to any particular cruise:
1) People sitting in the buffet area, reading a book or playing games while others are searching for tables. Perhaps the nature of a TATL lends itself more to this, as people are looking for somewhere to hang out with their friends. (Or to read quietly!) But the upshot still is that it was difficult to get a seat in the Oceanview during prime times because people had commandeered tables for games.
2) People talking to each other loudly and incessantly during the show. This is sadly happening everywhere, and cruise-ship theaters are no exception.
3) No full-around promenade deck. I knew going in that we wouldn’t have one, but I didn’t realize just how much I’d miss it. I think we are at the point where we may start choosing our cruises based on (or at least giving much heavier weight to) the ship having a promenade deck which truly does go all the way around.
All in all, we would do another TATL in a heartbeat. We loved being on the ship with all those sea days. We’ll sail with Celebrity again if they have the best deal on an itinerary we want, but they gave us no reason to seek them out, either.