Have to wonder why I haven’t cruised with Celebrity in so many years. Our first cruise was with them 10 years ago, and since have been on RCCL twice, NCL twice and Carnival. I thought it was just the halo effect of enjoying our first cruise so much, but I really thought there was a difference.
We are from Southern California, so had been at every one of these ports before. I love the ports of call, and am definitely not a Sea Day person. This was a compromise with the DW as she didn’t want to be too far from home, nor go through the rigors of traveling by air to get to the cruise, and then traveling back. So we went with every expectation that this was going to be relaxing, rather than exciting.
Embarkation was a breeze. The ship was docked in the shadow of the Vincent Thomas Bridge and was easy to find in the Los Angeles harbor. We had our DD drop us off since we only live about 25 miles away. There was a strike amongst the porters, but substitutes were available at 11:30. We arrived just about at that time and were checked in an onboard ship by 12:05. The line for the non-Elite passengers was shorter than the one for Elite and we walked right up.
The ship itself is not fabulous – which is what we expected. We knew going in that it was a smaller ship and would not have all the amenities of some of the bigger ones, but were struck by just how “small” it was. The shopping area consisted of only three shops. The upside was that there wasn’t the constant barrage of announcements offering the special of the day, etc. The main atrium is only two stories high, compare that to the Jewel of the Seas that we went on a few years ago where the atrium was at least 6 stories high.
Food was GOOD in the MDR. There were two formal nights- after Santa Barbara and after Catalina. I have sort of rated the cruise lines like restaurants at home, Carnival is like going to Denny’s- Royal Caribbean like an upscale coffee shop- NCL had specialty restaurants that were like the good local steakhouses, but you paid extra for that privilege. The nice thing was that NCL at least had that available. Century put on a good meal every night in the MDR with better quality steaks than you could get on the other lines. We did get that one person that you always remember from your table this time- put a glass of wine into her and she would be yelling at the waiter (Roy and Sunny) that they didn’t take her appetizer order, or that the caprese salad that she ordered didn’t have enough lettuce. (Hello!) Not the waiter’s fault- pay attention to what you are ordering. The crew works hard and doesn’t get paid enough to put up with this treatment. Our waiter physically avoided coming anywhere near our table whenever he could avoid it with being obvious. The other two couples at our table were really nice.
I do have to say I was disappointed with the buffet. Most items were the same from day to day with only a change at the carving station (I loved the day I could get a turkey drumstick) and minor changes, but the breakfast offerings were the same every day. Even the things you hear are supposed to be so good on a cruise ship- the specialty pasta bar, the ice cream, pizza were at best mediocre. The fellow working the omelet bar saved my breakfast on more than one occasion.
The Cruise Director, John Grantham, was outstanding. Very jovial and knew how to work a crowd. I marvel at the people who do this job- it seems that they are “on” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He was even there on the dock to thank us at the end of the cruise. He always had time for his guests.
The entertainment was disappointing. We have never been fans of the magicians or comedians but really enjoy the musical shows. Only two of the singers and a couple of the dancers were very talented. We went to all three musical shows, but have to say that out of all the cruises we have been on these productions were the weakest. The first was a medley of Broadway tunes, the second was Rock and Roll and the final one was Dancing Around the World. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best I would rate them around a 2 or 3. We don't hang out in the bars, so I can't rate those entertainers.
Santa Barbara- easy tender in for us, but tough for others. The announcements from the shipboard staff were right on target about going early and beating the rush. We had some friends that had to wait for almost two hours for their tender numbers to be called- but that was their own fault. The first 90 minutes of tenders were wide open. Santa Barbara was a nice port- we went up to see the mission then had lunch in a spot in downtown. I have been there several times for business, and another DD went to grad school there so there was no mystery for us.
There was some rocking and rolling on the high seas as we went up the coast. This was the longest trek and the Captain was going full speed. There were a number of people that we talked to that had some challenges with seasickness.
San Francisco was a great port for a cruise. We actually arrived about 90 minutes earlier than had been planned so we got extra time in the City. Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge was a bucket list item for me and the captain opened up the bow of the ship to people to go out on. The pictures I took turned out great and the people up there all mixed and matched. We went to the Disney Family Museum in the Presidio area. If you are a Disney fan it is not to be missed. We had to go on Monday as it is closed on Tuesdays. Fun to see the actual Oscars that Walt gathered over his career. The museum did a good job of presenting a fair and balanced history of his life. The 2nd day we went on a HOHO bus around the City and then got off at the base of the Golden Gate and walked across. It is not a bad walk- .8 miles, and the weather cooperated. Once again great photo opportunities that you can’t get anywhere else. We had to wait for a bus to pick us up on the other side and then had a short trip down to Sausalito for lunch. The bus only came once an hour (according to the first driver) so when we were sitting and eating our lunch and saw a bus go by we hurried down to the pickup area to catch it. Turns out another bus would have been coming in another 20 minutes. We went back across the bridge on the bus, changed busses and finished off our SF tour in Ghirardelli Square by having a hot fudge sundae. Don’t judge us- we did walk across the bridge!
Monterey was the next stop and was once again a tender operation. No waiting again and well handled. The walk down the beach is about ¾ of a mile and it takes you to the Cannery Row area. We just walked around down there and didn’t do much before heading back to the ship after a couple of hours. Not a major tourist area, but enough to keep us busy.
Catalina posed a problem with the tenders as the announcements were to wait 90 minutes, have a nice lunch and then go right into town. The recommendations had been right on so we tried it- but the rush was still on. We had to wait another 60 minutes to get a tender. I wasn’t feeling up to par (probably OD’d on too much food) and there really isn’t much to see in Avalon unless you want to take one of the cheesy tours on the glass bottom boat, or go snorkeling/scuba diving. We only stayed on land for 90 minutes and headed back to the ship.
We don’t even bother to get off the boat in Ensenada. There are only a couple of potential outings and neither the Bufadora nor the winery tour appealed to us. We just stayed on board, worked on the tans and had an easy day.
The passengers seemed to be a very experienced crowd. We love to share cruising tips and when you are sitting with people who have been on 30, 40 and even 90 cruises you can’t offer much. Ages were over 60 for the other three couples at our MDR table, and while you saw some kids on the cruise the average age seemed to be over 50. This was even during the kids’ spring break time.
Overall, we had a great time and will be returning to Celebrity. Hopefully the message gets through to improve in the buffet and entertainment areas, but all other areas met or exceeded our expectations.