Our expectations were exceeded on many fronts on this cruise! It was our second on Celebrity (and we have also cruised on Regent, RCCL, Princess, Norwegian, Carnival, Renaissance and Disney). Here's the short and sweet:
We arrived at the pier at about 3PM - perfect time for a smooth, effortless, quick check-in (even without special class privileges. For those who complain of crowds and disorganization, try arriving well after the noon-1pm rush. The entire process took about 10 min and was professional, courteous, friendly and painless. Even the baggage handlers were efficient, smiling and delicate with our luggage. Our room was ready for us immediately and our pre-ordered champagne was waiting with personal note and glasses. The buffet lunch was uncrowded and we still had lots of time to explore the ship before sail away.
We had My Time dining and even though we did not reserve times most nights, we were accommodated either immediately or within 10-15 minutes at the busiest hours. Service was exemplary for the most part and the main dining room cuisine was delicious and varied. Beef was always cooked as requested. We had 4 meals in specialty restaurants and were quite pleased. In SS United States, Marcos was a fabulous waiter who spoke 5 languages and had outstanding knowledge of food preparations, along with a treasure trove of stories and a captivating personality. In QSine the Maitre D was brilliant, and although the table service was spotty, the unique and delicious dishes made up for it.
This is a gorgeous ship. Understated elegance prevails throughout. Colors, materials, artwork and traffic flow are all fabulous. We never experienced crowding, the air was always fresh and every venue was spotless. There even seemed to be ample space for lounging by the pool on sea days and crew members were always pleasant and attentive. Public announcements were never intrusive and kept to a minimum. No obnoxious PA's advertising special sales.
We booked a corner aft Family Veranda and were thrilled with the very spacious separate living and sleeping areas, layout, closet space, cleanliness and enormous balcony. During the trip there was some sporadic soot on the balcony, which was cleaned several times during our 2 weeks, and generally did not bother us. The 180 degree view, loungers, dining table and wake view more than made up for it. We especially enjoyed the up-close-and-personal view of the locks from our own balcony as we passed through the Panama Canal. The bed was huge and very comfortable, with 2 choices of pillow thickness and high thread count sheets. No noise problems whatsoever, as this cabin has it's own foyer and separate entry door after you pass through the first entry door. Great value for the balcony category!
Entertainment & Enrichment:
We were very pleasantly surprised by the performances of the singers, dancers, magicians and acrobats. The 3 major production shows were some of the best we have ever seen and the show band was amazingly versatile and accomplished. Every enrichment lecture was interesting - from the Panama Canal expert to the Apple technology expert, to the free cooking presentations, to Bob Arno, the pickpocket expert who taught us a lot about tourist scams and how to stay safe.
This was a diverse group of well-traveled, interesting, enthusiastic, friendly and polite cruisers from US, UK, Canada, Germany, Australia and more. Average age was 60s-70s with a smattering of 30s, 40s and 50s. They were well-mannered and well-dressed and we looked forward to dining with new table mates on many occasions. We only saw 3 children on the entire ship.
Excellent! We loved that even the officers were accessible, seemed to be enjoying themselves, and participated in sea day activities such as singing, ping-pong tournaments and "Dancing with the Stripes" competition.
We will definitely sail Celebrity again and highly recommend it for a Panama Canal cruise.