San Juan, St. Thomas, St Maarten Aqua Class cabin 1576 and 1574 Ages range from mid 30's - early 40's
We got to the pier 10:45 and we were on ship by 11:15. Check-in was a breeze. One of the Aqua Class perks is priority embarkation, so after check-in we went to a little waiting area until we were able to board. Once on board and received our welcome aboard mimosa, we checked out the ship. It was everything you would expect from Celebrity, it was beautiful, modern and pristine. We enjoyed our week on board, here are some of the things we felt were hits, misses and a few random thoughts. Hope you find them helpful.
The Porch. We had lunch here a few times and it was totally worth the cover. $5 for soup, salad, a panini and dessert. The salad was ok, sandwiches were very good but do yourself a favor, pass on dessert. The icing tasted strange and it left a funky film in your mouth.
The Lawn Club Grill (LCG). I read tons of reviews on this place, many if which were negative so I was hesitant to eat here. This was the only place that had openings on the last night so we thought we would give it a try. It got 8 thumbs up (there were 4 of us). It was really cool. We really liked the laid back atmosphere, the Johnny Cash and country music that played very softly in the background and the view. You get a pizza, all you can eat salad bar, protein, sides and dessert for $40.00 pp. If you want you can make your own pizza and grill your own protein. They will teach you to toss pizza dough, let you top it off with anything from the salad bar and pop it in the oven. They will also explain / show you how to properly grill your steak. The server encouraged us to order surf and turf and told us several times he'd be happy to bring us more food if we wanted. They allow you to try as many proteins as you want to so enjoy! In our group, we had the filet, shrimp and scallop kabob, tandoori chicken kabob and lamb chops. Everything got rave reviews. They will also bring you all the sides to try (don't miss the cream corn it was delish). For dessert we tried the apple crumble, blueberry cobbler and warm chocolate chip cookie (all were topped with ice cream) and all were very tasty. Just a suggestion, bring a sweater it was a bit breezy up there. This was our best dinner of the week, hands down.
Passport Bar on deck 3. One of the only inside bars opened during the day. Branko makes a mean extra spicy Bloody Mary. :)
Entertainment in the Grand Foyer. I read many complaints about the entertainment that was in the grand foyer. We however, thought it was great. We liked the fact that you could be on 3 different floors or sitting at the Martini Bar or Cafe Al Bacio and still enjoy the music and shows.
Increased amount of "night life". Our one complaint about Celebrity has always been that there is really not much to do later in the evening. On this particular ship Celebrity did an awesome job. There was always a band or DJ playing somewhere past midnight.
Blu. (For those of you who don't know, Blu is a speciality restaurant that is specifically for Aqua Class guests.). There were children in Blu. Aqua Class was for adults only. We do not have kids and are not used to being around them so this was the main reason we started to stay in Aqua. I understand that people in suites can eat in Blu but when you have an entire group of people that are paying extra to stay in a particular room and eat in a child free restaurant, I think it's very disrespectful to change the rules for a select group of people. Perhaps they should have a specialty restaurant for their suite guests instead of changing the rules in a restaurant that wasn't specifically designed for them in the first place.
Michaels Club. Celebrity, what's the deal??? You closed the coolest bar on ship to convert it into a private lounge??? HUGE disappointment. We noticed that some of the craft beer that was available in Michaels were listed on the drink menus for other bars but it seemed like every time we ordered one they didn't have it on hand. Again, major disappointment.
Sky Lounge. We thought the bar tending in the Sky Lounge was lacking, George in particular who was also bar tending in the Sunset Bar. He was not very friendly and seemed condescending We went to other bars instead.
Word to the wise:
If you are staying in Aqua Class I would suggest staying on deck 11 instead of 12. Staying under the pool is very noisy, you can hear the deck chairs being tossed around early in the mornings. If you do stay on deck 12 do not stay under the adult solarium. There is a "Vegas style" party there one night from 11 to midnight and the music is pretty loud. We heard it down on deck 11 but we were fine with it because we don't go to bed early.
Maho Beach, St Maarten (aka Airport Beach). If you are planning on going to Maho Beach to watch the Airplanes come in, check the incoming flight schedules before you go so you don't end up waiting for hours on the beach for a plane to come in. Keep in mind the airport is a good half hour taxi ride from the ship so plan accordingly. There isn't much to do there except hit the bar or stand on the beach and beware the sun is intense so use sunscreen. I would also suggest not taking the large 12 passenger "taxi" vans. Walk to the left of the taxi pavilion to the actual taxi area and take a cab. It's slightly cheaper (we paid $21 for 3 people) and you get your own personal guided tour of the island.
We ate at the Tuscan Grille. It's $35 pp and you order whatever you want. Mixed reviews on this one. 3 out of 4 of us enjoyed our meals (the filet was good but the one in LCG was much better). However I'm told the NY Strip steak was tough and fatty so you may want to pass on it.
This and that:
They changed they way afternoon canapés are handled in Aqua / Concierge Classes. Before they just brought them for you, now there is a paper you fill out every day for your cabin attendant. You just fill in your last name, cabin number, number of people the canapés are for and what time you want them. They are much better than they were the last few years. No more mystery orange stuff on bread rounds. :). It's now a square dish with 4 sections, typically filled with things like olives, tomato and mozzarella, hummus and tortillas, fresh salsa, cheese etc. I can honestly say they were very tasty. If you prefer something specific all you have to do is make a note on the paper and they will try to accommodate your request. :)
We've also read a lot about people waiting to get into Blu. This was not the case on our cruise. It was actually 1/2 empty on most evenings. Celebrity does offer discounts for speciality dining every night except the last night (if I recall correctly). The first night was 50% off any restaurant. The 2nd night was 50% off Morano, Qsine or LCG (I think)... The next night was maybe 40% off and the rest were 30% off. Tuscan Grill was only included in the discount the first night.
Most people probably know this but I'm going to mention it anyway. If you would rather a bottle of wine instead of the champagne that's in your stateroom, just ask you cabin attendant if they can swap it for a bottle of red or white and they will happily oblige. We ended up with a decent bottle of Chardonnay.
For disembarkation, If you've never carried your own luggage off the ship, give it a try. Not only do you get to keep your luggage the last night but disembarkation is sooooo much quicker. We were off the ship by 7:00 am and checked in at the airport by a little after 8:00.
Don't use the shuttle service Celebrity offers from the ship to the airport. It's $18pp but you can get a taxi right outside the ship for a flat fee of $24 and, if you carry your own luggage off there is essentially no line for a taxi.
Ladies, if you are using the blow dryer that's in your cabin, bring a twist tie. You have to hold a button down in order to keep the dryer running, which was a pain in the butt. A twist tie will allow you to keep the leaver pushed down and keep your hands free. :)
Just one final thought, I really think they should offer additional Captains Club points when you eat in speciality dining, purchase a dining package, buy a drink or wine package etc. None of those things are cheap and I really think they should consider offering an extra point or 2 of those types of things.