The ship itself was clean and seemed well-maintained. However, on three separate nights, rough seas caused sufficient rolling that it seemed one could easily fall out of bed. I was quite surprised at this motion since I thought contemporary stabilization had rendered cruise ships relatively immune to rough seas.
• Breakfast Wait Staff: Slow and delivered lukewarm food; thereafter, we chose the buffet option.
• Dining Wait Staff: Generally excellent in terms of service and accommodation to requests.
o However, seating arrangements were unsatisfactory. Initially, we were seated at a table of nine – my mother and I, a family of five and another couple. The other couple changed tables the second night, thereby leaving my mother and me with the family of five. This would not have been a problem except the family of five only attended sit-down dining on formal nights. The remaining eleven nights, my mother and I dined alone at the table. We did not realize what was happening until night six, by which time it was too late to change. I feel that the head waiter should have taken affirmative action to alleviate the problem.
• Stateroom Attendants: Generally excellent service, except for the last evening.
o The Last Evening: The stateroom attendants removed our personal beverages from the refrigerator and took all wire hangers, which necessitated draping some of my clothing over a clothes rack. This was compounded the following morning when we went to breakfast. Upon our return, the beds were reconfigured for the incoming passengers as a double. Yet, we were still in the room for another two hours, sitting on beds which had been remade for others.
• Ship’s Officers:
o My mother has had two hip replacements, and has difficulty walking and negotiating stairs. Upon debarkation at a port of call, she asked a ship’s officer if there was transportation from the pier to the shopping area. He replied in the negative, whereupon my mother walked the distance – only to discover that there was a light rail available. It was obvious that he had told her anything to get rid of her rather than provide real assistance.
o The medical emergency: On New Year’s Eve, we attempted to use the elevator on the fifth floor. However, ship’s officers would not allow us into the hallway, stating that there was a medical emergency (later, we were told unofficially that a woman had suffered a fatal coronary). We were told to either use the stairs (not a possibility) or wait in the dining room. After fifteen minutes, we were told to walk the breadth of the ship to use the other doors. Upon arriving there, we were told to wait. Then, we were to return to our original starting point. Upon approaching the elevator, we were told we could not use it due to the “emergency”; by this time, the patient had been removed. I told the ship’s officer that my mother could not use the stairs and his response was rude and not at all helpful. We returned to the dining room, waited again, and walked the breadth of the ship again to finally be able to use the elevator. All of this emphasized to me that handicapped passengers would face real difficulties in an emergency situation given the ship’s staffing.
Generally ranging from inept to inane. A singer attempting to mimic the Rat Pack did not sound anything like Frank, Dean or Sammy; a torch singer had a good voice, but was too shrill in projecting. The dance reviews were okay, but the most impressive act was the ventriloquist comic.
I found the shipboard activities marred by a lack of variety. Unless one likes to gamble and imbibe, the host of activities were simply tiring.
I had heard that the food on a cruise was the culinary experience of a lifetime. Here, the food was good, and ranged from a B to a B+, but nowhere did I feel that it rose to an A level. Some observations –
• The rye bread and baguettes were very good; however, many of the pastries were too “bready”;
• Most desserts were “no sugar added”; while I can appreciate the health consciousness, the desserts often seemed to suffer from this aspect;
• The Baked Alaska had room temperature meringue and ice cream rather than cold ice cream and warm meringue.
• Shellfish was distinguished by its scarcity. While the standard shrimp cocktail consisted of four medium-sized shrimp (with a lackluster cocktail sauce), shrimp served in other iterations gave new meaning to the diminutive meaning of shrimp; such shrimp seemed more the size of sea monkeys.
• Escargot lacked the proper consistency and flavor.
• Shellfish soups were unsatisfactory. Lobster bisque was thin, watery and had no appreciable taste of lobster; New England clam chowder only got the color correct. There were no clam pieces and no taste of clam in this watery concoction.
• Breakfast buffets
o Scrambled eggs and potatoes were often lukewarm, if not cold
o Poached eggs were pre-cooked; not that this is a problem, except they were reheated by being thrown into a pot of boiling water and often served without being heated to an acceptable temperature
o Eggs benedict suffered from lukewarm poached eggs coupled with room temperature Hollandaise sauce
o While the waffles were good, the pancakes had the taste and consistency of lukewarm cardboard.
• Dinner vegetable portions were small (e.g., five green beans and two slices of carrot were the most common accompaniment to meat dishes) and mashed potatoes were limited to a tablespoon plus in size. While one could readily ask for additional servings, it often took too long or just became inadvisable to do so.
• Ice machines often ran empty and were not refilled sufficiently.
The Itinerary: The highlight of the cruise is the Panama Canal; everything else is an afterthought. The Canal is impressive and well worth seeing. On the other hand, the stops in Mexico (Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallerta) were pure tourist stops; Guatemala offered some interesting sights (e.g., Mayan ruins), but the sheer poverty of the nation made slums in Iraq seem luxurious; Costa Rica was less jungle canopy than I expected, and Cartagena was adequate.
I discussed the cruise with at least twelve different passengers. All told me that this particular cruise was not up to Celebrity standards or that other cruise lines had been much more entertaining (among those specifically mentioned were Norwegian and Holland-American). As a first-time cruiser, I have no prior experience to back up my judgment; however, my mother had cruised extensively in the 1950s through the 1970s, and she said that it did not measure up in any way to her prior travels.
Thus, if I do choose to ever take another cruise, it will most definitely not be on a Celebrity ship.