SAILING: 14 Day Southern Caribbean - Feb 8 - Feb 22 - 2014 - Ft Lauderdale
INTRO: This was our 8th cruise, 2nd on Celebrity, the other 6 on Royal Caribbean. We were a group of 6 couples who have all cruised before except for 1 couple. All couples had the Classic Beverage package and ranged in age from 45-75.
PRE-CRUISE: Stayed at the Harbour Beach Inn for 1 night - quaint small motor hotel on Seabreeze Ave - clean, acceptable, out door pool, great stay especially for the low price $90/ nite, definitely recommend this hotel for a short pre-cruise stay- close to port, walking distance to many restaurants and beach, however no complimentary shuttle to/from airport or port.
DEMOGRAPHICS: Clearly out of our realm, not a surprise, yet enjoyable. I have never met so many guests (as the cruise line likes to refer to us) as hospitable, respectful and honourable as on this cruise. Kudos to all these elderly cruisers.
SHIP: Adequate size - well proportioned - easy to navigate - good layout - clean and well maintained. There was a lot of ship movement (pitching and rolling) as well as much vibration felt throughout the entire ship. I was unsure why, I’ve never experienced this much on any of the prior cruises.
DECOR: Plain & simple - colour scheme and furnishings were of a quiet nature - most seating in all areas was fair to sub-par in comfort. There was no grandiose present anywhere perhaps leading to a calming effect. Not sure why for a fairly new ship in Celebrity’s latest group of ships. Don’t get me wrong, Michael’s Club and the Ensemble Lounge did present themselves with some beauty and posh looking surroundings, but the theme or purpose of these rooms did not agree with us. Perry Grant - now come on! I think Celebrity can do better even though he has a following.
CREW: Mixed bag - most were curteous and friendly, while others seemed not happy, perhaps because we noticed that all areas seemed to be understaffed, causing an affect on their disposition, certainly not taking away notice of their hard work and efforts to ensure we as guests enjoy our cruise. we felt that Celebrity should give some serious thought on increasing the help needed to avoid any short comings.
STATEROOM: Adequate size - good size balcony with 2 chairs and a table - able to shut and close the sliding door and have easy access to room without affecting the air conditioning nor fearing being locked out on the balcony. Storage is a little on the short side especially on a 14 day cruise, need more hangers in closet and more drawer space. Although the storage above the bed is a great use of space, however it is a little difficult to access. Shower is small but adequate, bathroom accessories (shampoo, conditioner, soap, cotton balls and cotton swabs) is a nice compliment. Bathroom storage is very sufficient. Twice a day bed make-up and refreshing of towels was much appreciated. Stateroom attendents did a masterful job of maintaining our room to high standards and was always clean, disinfected, neat and tidy. Any requests were attended to with no question (ice, water, glasses etc) just have to ask.
ENTERTAINMENT: Clearly the weakest area. From the CD - Sue Denning to all the onboard shows, live bands and performers left something to be desired. Celebrity definitely needs to improve on the mediocre entertainment in all venues, perhaps this was geared towards the demographics. I must say that one show was of value, The Unexpected Boys 4 singers from New York who put on a really good repertoire of Frankie Valle. The Eclipse Theatre was packed solid for this performance. Celebrity is trying hard to improve this area of concern but will take some time to correct. It seems that there was a lot of repetitiveness using the same entertainers.
FOOD/DINING: The most difficult area to comment as food tastes and preferences are so subjective. Food in Moonlight Sonata Dining Room was a hit and miss. Selections and taste ranged from fair (OK) to good. The menu did offer all areas of food categories. So really you can’t complain. I personnally would like to see an improvement in quality, taste and choices, but we all know the Cruise Lines are trying to cut costs in all areas including food. Oceanview Cafe (buffet) was adequate and offered an array of different foods, but was repetitive. The structure of different food bays(counter) made it very efficient and quick. food taste and quality was acceptable. Did not use the pay for fee restaurants. Always a table and seat available in the buffet.
BARS: There were a sufficient amount of them, but drinks and service varied greatly between them. We found that at least once, everyday that our drink of choice was not available for various reasons, this was clearly unacceptable as our requests were common drinks. Service was on the slow side, possibly because of the drink package? It did appear that the bar staff purposely slowed things down for the people who had the beverage package. There were quite a few who received the 123 Promo. I guess you can’t win - you get a deal on one end (Promo) and suffer on the other (service) but we did manage to have a good time.
SHOPPING/STORES: Not much of them and not much in them. This is fine as you can do your shopping in port. They do price match. Standards were all there - liquor/ tobacco, souvenirs, t-shirts/hats, men’s/ladies clothing, jewelry, perfumes/handbags.
LAWN CLUB: Nice green grass on top deck to play bocce and other games. Looks good but not used much. Signs and rail to indicate “Keep Off Grass”.
POOLS: Plenty of chairs/loungers available and you should be able to find one, however the chair hogs were present as they always are, leaving you perhaps not the preferred location. Pools were 2 in total ( 1 deep 6’ and 1 shallow 4’) and of course the solarium (closed roof) with nice loungers (upgrade from the standard pool ones). Solarium is a nice quiet place to relax, perhaps read your favourite book or as many,many were on their i-pads or tablets.
i-LEARN: What a great idea to offer for free, 1/2 hr sessions every day on how to learn more of the use of your i-pad/i-phone its apps and system. Good info and presentation. The host was very knowledgeable and entertaining. A big hit on this cruise. This is an area that should continue and hope Celebrity will continue offering these learning sessions on all their cruises especially those with an i-Lounge (Apple products).
GENERAL: There were many areas and activities that we did not participate, therefore we have no comment. We were however surprised on the interior decor of this ship. We were less than impressed. We were excited prior to getting on the ship thinking we will at least see some lovely and beautiful decor but to our surprise it did not materialize. The Eclipse being Celebrity’s newest class of ships sort of gave us this impression. Celebrity does do a great job at trying to please all guests and I think they are in the midst of finding their sweet spot, however there may be some time to past before they reach their goal. An example of trying to reach out but certainly not working was techno music at loud levels blaring through the PA systems throughout the bars and public areas. Many a time we had to ask to lower the volume. Most of the evening; 10PM and on, activities and entertainment (shows) etc were attended by only a handful of people. At the beginning of these shows (entertainment) you had a crowd and 15 -20 min later they quickly dispersed. Maybe demographics or maybe need better and higher quality performances.
SUMMARY: I must stress that no cruise is perfect and the areas I have expressed as falling short is not to implicate an unsuccessful cruise. We had a really good relaxing time. The opinions expressed should be just that, a message to all who cared to read my review that there will always be room to improve and you can still enjoy yourself being pampered and cared for while you spend the time of your life on a vacation that surpasses all other types. We enjoy cruising and will continue to enjoy cruising, we will be booking 2 cruises on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas that follow each other in 2016.