My wife and I booked this cruise in September 2013 following our return from cruising on the Independence of the Seas in August with our 2 children (12 + 14 yrs). We would normally take a cruise in October but reasoned it was too close to the end of our previous cruise so opted for some winter sunshine. We booked directly through the agency but then weren't able to make any further amendments online even though we were led to believe we could, not a huge problem but annoying.
We noticed straight away that the average age of traveller, noted as 55, was more like 65 on our cruise. This may be a feature of traveling in January. However, our fellow travellers were on the whole a great bunch and definitely made the cruise enjoyable.
The ship is much smaller than we have sailed on before, which is one reason we booked it and we were aware it didn't have as much of the 'Wow' factor of the bigger ships. Sadly it didn't have any of the 'Wow' factor of most of the modern ferries either. Its a tired ship and despite recent refurb, its ready for decommissioning. It vibrated all the time, the the point of uncomfortableness when sitting in the balcony seats in the show lounge or the horizons bar. The engine noise was mildly obtrusive but the vibration was sometimes astonishing!
The public areas were basic but functional. The decks were quite spacious bearing in mind the size of the ship but the wooden areas were certainly showing their age and rusty structures were just painted over. The age old problem of reserving sunbeds with towels abounded but people started (quite rightly) just moving the 'abandoned ' towels out of the way and claiming they had been moved by staff. This should be the case more often and reserving of sunbeds wholly outlawed.
The bars were pretty good on the whole, Hemingways and the horizon the most contemporary. We spent most of our nights in Liberties as it had the most action with quizzes and game-shows along with the people who were overall more lively than the rest of the ship. The resident band 'Top Men were absolutely fantastic being almost always note perfect and having a huge array of songs and tunes. Definitely one of Thomsons trump cards. The entertainments staff were also very good with the exception of the cruise director who became mildly irritating with his incessant gurning. Funny maybe once but not for the whole of the cruise. Strange vocal delivery too, speaking either so quickly all the words melded into one or so slowly it seemed he'd finished. The staff talent show was very good. The foods was presentable and generally well turn-out but with a very limited choice. This is perhaps one of the short comings of a smaller ship. The dining room staff were not a patch on the Royal Caribbean waiters being generally slow and not clearing tables very well. They were of course polite and amiable at the table side. The lido buffet was very poor and needs to be modernised without delay. I've been in better works canteens! The tables, chairs and fixtures were all in poor condition with the chiller cabinet looking like something from a 1960's operating theatre. The servery was difficult to negotiate which wasn't helped by the buffet becoming a serving area to alleviate the risk of winter vomiting bug, which was understandable noting how many fellow travellers didn't use the sanitisers or wash hands after visiting the loo. One extremely annoying feature is the lack of accessible water or dilute juice. We have always been able to access free fresh water, lemon, ice tea and the like on all the other cruises we have been on. Sadly on the Celebration, water became a commodity and all other cold drinks were charged for.
The ports were all as expected. We had two excursions booked one to fire mountain in Lanzerote which was very good involving an informative coach journey and a camel ride.
We hired a car in Fuertoventura for 40€ and an electric Twizzy car on Madeira for 26€.. We also used the cable car and did the sled run on Madeira.
We didn't make it to Agadir which was on our itinary due to, according to the captain, unsafe weather conditions. An acceptable decision until we found out the Braemar, which is smaller the an the Celebration, made the entry to port without issue.
We did enjoy ourselves and met some nice people during our week but we won't be visiting Thomson again unless they radically improve on what it seems like an aging formula.