So, my 5-day Christmas cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Key West and Cozumel was a nice alternative to spending the holiday covered in ice. The weather in FL and Mexico was really nice; not too steamy (while here in New England we were having another lovely power-outage-inducing ice storm).
This was my first trip with Celebrity. The ship was the Constellation, an older ship that has been updated. First, I have to say that I was disappointed in that Celebrity touts itself as a "luxury" cruise line. It was nice, yes, but considering the cost/quality ratio, it did not live up to my expectations of a "luxury" cruise.
I had a concierge-level cabin, which means that I had fresh flowers and a bottle of bubbly waiting in my room, a nice robe to wear, decent bath amenities, and a bit more space in which to flop. The cabin was 9193, which was not too far from an elevator/stairway, and just one level below the buffet. It was the last cabin before the aft-facing cabins and was very private and quiet. Right up my alley.
That being said, here are my pros and cons.
The ship staff - From my steward, Jaime (sp?), to the main and buffet dining staff, to the gentleman who ran the iLounge, they were professional and friendly and made me feel cared for. Well done.
The martini bar - The bartenders were, bar none (pun intended), the best flair bartenders I've encountered on any cruise. They were amazing at their craft and a joy to spend time with. The ice-topped bar was pretty neat, too.
The captain's daily announcements - Probably the youngest ship's master in commercial cruising, he was humorous and charming, and I understand that he isn't so lofty that he doesn't spend time with the crew. I like that in a person of higher responsibility.
Main dining room food - Pretty damned good. The food was prepared perfectly and the Maitre d' (sommelier?) was very engaged and responsive.
Specialty restaurant food - Having grown up eating venison, I was floored by the venison I had at Ocean Liners. Perfection! The crepes in Bistro on 5 were exceptional (and it was open 24/7, so yay!). And the food in the Tuscan Grille, especially the beef Carpaccio, was skillfully prepared.
Embarkation/debarkation - I don't know whether to credit Port Everglades or the ship or a combination of both, but this was the easiest, breeziest on/off process I've ever experienced.
Entertainment - One word... abysmal. It was terribly outdated and as for quality, I'd prefer to have gone to a high school play (at least I would have had the emotional investment to have been able to forgive the lameness). When other cruise lines are providing shows like Blue Man Group and Cirque, you had better up your game and get away from the dated, cheesy, low-quality fare that was offered on this cruise. I certainly hope that other Celebrity ships provide better.
Activities - Uh... what activities? When more than half of your daily newsletter is advertising for the shops, spa, and art gallery, your activity offerings are sorely, sorely lacking. I saw the largest crowds ever attending the trivia games. Why? Because there was nothing else for them to do! Oh, they could have attended the scrapbooking class... uh... really? I heard several families complain that there were not enough activities for their kids to participate in, and this was over a school vacation period, so it's not like they weren't expected. Granted, Santa showed up on Christmas and all of that was nicely handled, but (I hope Celebrity reads these posts) the cruise-going demographic is changing. More families are sailing and more solos are sailing, too. Long gone are the days when only retirees and the well-off are opting to spend their vacation dollars at sea. Celebrity had better get with the program or they will be going the way of the dodo.
Invisible officers - I never saw any officers except on TV. Personally, I like to see that they are out there making sure everything is shipshape.
Specialty restaurants - Although the food, for the most part, was noteworthy, the staff really needs some dance lessons. They seemed to be walking all over each other. I never knew who to defer to, and I felt that the entire experience in both Ocean Liners and the Tuscan Grille was like watching an episode of Keystone cops. They truly need a lesson in calming down and presenting a more seamless, professional, cohesive front.
I will go on another Celebrity cruise. I can't make a judgment based on one 5-day experience on an older ship. I am hopeful that when I next choose to live on a Celebrity ship for any amount of time they will have upped their game a bit.