The cruise began with a horrible embarkation experience. I have cruised over 30 times, and this was the worse one ever. The only one that was almost as bad was for the Azamara Journey (Celebrity’s sister company). To begin with, there was no one outside the terminal to direct us to the proper entrance or to give us guidance as to what to do with our luggage. The information sent to us by Celebrity had the wrong entrance number. By asking around, and getting some help from people unassociated with the cruise, we finally found our way onto the correct line, which was full of cranky passengers who were being herded like geriatric sheep. Eventually we were given a number and told to wait in a large room filled with people. Again, absolutely no one from the cruise was present to answer questions or provide any guidance, except for an occasional, unintelligible announcement over a loudspeaker. It took us over two and a half hours to finally be called to stand on yet another line to be processed. And that's with advanced check-in. What a terrible, disorganized process!
To say the least, our moods were pretty awful once we finally got on board. Luckily, the rest of the trip was very nice, with a few exceptions.
The food was very good. Dining in the main restaurant was a very positive experience. The food was very good and we had absolutely wonderful servers. Both specialty restaurants were worth the extra cost. You should make use of the pre-trip packages for the specialty dining and for wine (if you drink). The formal SS United States had both wonderful food and wonderful service. Qusine was lots of fun - very creative. The buffet was adequate, but a very difficult experience during busy periods. They would benefit from more supervision to keep tables flowing, but, overall, they did a good job. I do wish they had anytime dining, since we don't like set dining times with set tables.
The stateroom (veranda) was fine, but nothing special. The biggest problem was that the toilet didn't work properly and we had a difficult time getting it fixed. Also, the heating/cooling system was inadequate. The room was too hot towards Buenos Aires, and during the Antarctica portion (fabulous in many ways) the room was extremely cold and uncomfortable. When we returned north, the room warm and stuffy. We kept asking for help, but they never got it right. The cabin steward was excellent – very friendly and tried to be helpful.
One of the other weak points was contacting guest relations by phone. I had a difficult time understanding them, and vice versa. They were better in-person.
The entertainment on board was very good. The cruise director was terrific, and the entertainment was very good. The theater layout was good - Not many bad seats. There was a lot of variety in the activities and lots of stuff to do on sea days. However some lessons of the activities were over-crowded.
Fitness – a very good fitness center. The two instructors were awesome. This was one of the best on board fitness experiences I’ve had, including on the higher-end ships.
There was a great deal of “nickel and diming.” For example, there is no self-laundry facility. If you don’t want to pay to have it done, you need to wash clothes in the sink, which we did. Their laundry service is ridiculously expensive, considering they provide no real alternatives,
The excursions were, overall, very disappointing. The first was overpriced and boring. The second was OK, but the guide was nasty and rude. The third was good.
Even with the issues cited above, I have to give a high rating to the ship. The overall experience was very positive, in terms of the food and the itinerary. What really shines is the staff: almost without exception, they are friendly, warm and helpful.