This was our 3rd cruise with celebrity and our longest. Most of the passengers were geriatric, which was o.k. with us as things remained sedate throughout the two week cruise, no loud parties and no unsupervised kids screaming through the halls. I'm writing this because of the marked decline in service standards as opposed to our last cruise with Celebrity in the eastern Mediterranean on the Millenium (?). The Soltice is a magnificent ship, masterfully designed, and a pleasure in all respects. However, the crew this time was a big disappointment. Their English seems to be limited to "Have a good day, Sir!" or "How are you?", which they annoyingly spout at every single encounter, sometimes three of them in a row, when a smile and a nod would be enough. The service on the ship was poor on most days. Some examples:
1. breakfast in dining room, deck 3: ask waiter for cottage cheese, get a blank stare, repeat it and show it to him on the menu. He walks away and never comes back. After 25 minutes, I call the headwaiter to say I haven't been served any breakfast at all, when people coming after me have. He comes back with a tablespoon of cottage cheese in a bowl...
2. Out waitress at dinner, deck 3. We explain that we're vegetarians and only order fish or veggie dishes. Day after day she gives her spiel about the special of the day and what she "recommends". Always pushing the pork, beef, lamb or chicken. After two weeks, no change. We gave up and would patiently wait for her to finish her recommendations before giving our order. She always looked disappointed that we didn't order the Beef Wellington.
3. The somelier was very quick to bring us our wine but then forgot us for 20-30 minutes at a time. So we'd have most of the wine with dessert. Not good. We could never find him and wondered how many customers he needed to service.
4.Customer service: long lines most hours of the day. However, in contrast to the waiters, somelier, and cleaning staff, they speak and understand English.
5. Security people: We're allowed two bottles of wine to bring on board for personal use in our cabin, which we did. The suitcase with the wine was held until the evening and we didn't know why. We asked our cabin attendant and customer service, no one had an inkling why our suitcase should be delayed. I finally went down to deck two, saw my suitcase sitting in the hallway with a red sticker on it, and got an explanation from the security head, who cleared the suitcase and let me take it to our cabin. Not good service! Left hand doesn't know what right is up to.
6. There were many more crew from third world countries, many fewer Europeans. Many this explains the language and performance degradation in service.
7. We gave the full tip package to our staff and servers, despite the relatively poor service we received.
Some others changes since our last cruise with Celebrity:
1. Although food it o.k., the portions at supper are about 60% of what they were in the past. Cost-cutting.
2. Water was inadvertantly spilled on my wife's dessert, the waitress covered the spot with a napkin, took the uneaten dessert away, and bid us good evening. Never offered to bring a fresh dessert. She seems bored' absolutely uninterested in customer satisfaction, and was just waiting to finish her shift and get off her feet. My wife was embarrassed by the spillage, and didn't want to ask for another dessert. This was poor service, at its worst.
3. They play god-awful female vocalist music too loudly in the Ocean View cafeteria, even at 6 a.m. I think it's done on purpose to make people eat and run. I was unable to sit longer that is took to eat my meal. Really awful wailing by some ethnic singer whining about how rotten her life is... Boccherini or Bach would be more suitable at any hour, albeit at much lower volume. It's supposed to be background music, owners of Celebrity, who can listen to the same forlorn caterwauling.
I think that the cruise company has decided to squeeze as much cash our of the customers while giving the minimal service they can't without generating too many complaints. I'm a fussbudget, but objective. I think that to get first rate service, you need to choose a much more expensive cruise line (not that Celebrity is cheap) if you want to be catered to.
Celebrity has gotten good ratings in the past. I believe that they will now drop, as it turns its cruises into a cheap commodity for the undiscerning masses while maximizing profitability by hiring unqualified staff.