First, let me tell you a little about my wife and I. We are in our mid-50s and have cruised 7 other times on Royal Caribbean, Princess, NCL, and Carnival. We have cruised on Princess and Royal Caribbean in the last year. So we have some valid experiences from which to compare Celebrity. We stayed in Aqua class cabin 1111. We had originally booked an Ocean view, but when the price started dropping dramatically we were able to secure an upgrade to Aqua class at little extra cost. And since we had already booked a transatlantic on Connie for November, we took this cruise as a preview of the ship.
We read a lot of reviews on Celebrity and on Connie before we left. I can honestly say that we didn't experience any of the negatives that some others have written. Maybe it has to do with the fact that we were in Aqua class and got to eat in our own dining room, Blu. We also don't drink so there's nothing to write about bar service other than there was no one pushing "special drinks" on us like Carnival did on our one, never to be repeated Carnival cruise.
Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived around 10:30, got through check-in in about 10 minutes and was on the ship at 11 right after the suite/elite passengers. We took a couple hours exploring the ship. We took advantage of having the thallasotherapy pool nearly to ourselves.
The ship was nearly spotless. There were a few areas that needed some work, like some small rust spots on the stairs down into the thallasotherapy pool. You really had to look hard to find anything that wasn't clean and well maintained. There are some unique pieces of art throughout the ship. My wife and I got a special kick out of the stairway art dedicated to Easter. So much so that we took the elevator and stopped at every floor just to see what was in each stairway.
Speaking of art, we visited the art area and my wife got a "mystery tour". Even though we said we weren't interested in purchasing, the attendant still made it an enjoyable experience. There are also numerous other quirky pieces of art throughout the ship. Some people might think this silly, but we thought it gave the ship some character.
Our Aqua class cabin was spotless, had fresh flowers and champagne waiting for us. We only took advantage of the afternoon canapes one afternoon. The balcony was much bigger than we expected (wider) and allowed for two loungers and two tables. Unfortunately, we didn't get to enjoy our balcony much because our neighbors were chain smokers and decided that the ban on smoking on a balcony didn't apply to them. That was really the only disappointment we had on this cruise. Shout out to Gavin, our stateroom attendant, who together with his assistant, did a great job on our cabin. We hardly knew they were there except on the last sea day when we came back earlier than normal. We call them "magic room fairies".
Dining was exceptional in Blu. My only regret was that we made some friends the first day but didn't get to dine with them because they dined in the MDR. The one time we tried to dine in the MDR (for breakfast) we were told we had our own dining room, Blu, that had the same menu. The folks we met on board had some less than complementary comments on some of their MDR experiences, but nothing like that happened in Blu. Our two primary waiters in Blu, Miller and JP, were awesome. When you get service like they provided, it makes everything so much better. I believe we could've eaten in the MDR for dinner had we made reservations. We also had lunch one day in the Bistro on 5. It was excellent. I also have to say that the steaks we had were probably the best steaks on a cruise we've ever had. Burgers and fries from the pool bar & grill were excellent as well. Buffet fare was above average to us. Although we didn't partake of the Sushi, just the amount and variety there were impressive. Pannini's and pizza were all very good to excellent with the exception that they didn't have a roast beef option at the pannini bar. My wife improvised, though, and got roast beef from the carving station and took it back to the pannini area to get made into a pannini. Having an actual ice cream bar and not just a soft serve machine was a very nice touch.
The pool areas were nice. On the sea days, chair hogs did the usual put out their towels and save chairs at 7 AM and not use the chair until 10. We only hung out at the adult pool for about a 1/2 day on the last sea day. To get a decent chair, I had to get there by 8. But there were deck chairs everywhere on two separate decks. It's just that the nicest ones were by the pool. There were plenty of unused deck chairs to be had for anyone that looked. I should also comment that the pool butler was very quick to tell the one parent who brought their 6 yr-old into the adult only pool that they had to get out. There was a constant supply of clean towels being provided.
We took advantage of the Persian Gardens twice. What a wonderful feature and something we had not experienced on any of our 7 previous cruises with other lines. The gym was also very nice and well equipped. I started out with the best intentions of exercising daily, but the truth is I find exercising on a machine boring and prefer outdoor exercise.
Entertainment was much better than I expected based on the reviews I had read here on Cruise Critic. The production cast was very good. The aerialists that were incorporated into the production show were very good and scared us a couple times with some of their stunts. One night we watched "White Magic" with a magician and contortionist. I think we had seen the magician before but the contortionist was very original. Together they put on a very good show. The other standalone acts were "Almost Elton John", who was ok, and Sin City comedy who were very funny.
I write about the ports in the port review, so I won't say anything here except to say that we had been to both ports before (Key West and Cozumel) and we really didn't come on this cruise for the ports.
One of the Celebrity folks on board had indicated that there a large number of kids on board. They must be doing something right in their kids programs because we hardly saw any in the areas we frequented.
Casino was a little cramped but it had all the necessities. One nice thing they had over RCCL was that they didn't allow smoking in the casino.
Debarkation was a breeze as well. We took the carry your own luggage off option at 7:30 and were through customs by 7:45. I can see why people complain about customs because there were only two agents. Fortunately for us, we got off the ship early and didn't have too many people ahead of us. I could see a long line forming after us, though.
Finally, I have to say that any cruise experience depends a lot on the attitude of the cruiser as much as the service, dining, entertainment, etc on the cruise itself. It always amazes me to read cruise reviews from polar points of view on the exact same cruise. If I were to rate the now 4 cruise lines we've been on, based on those experiences, I would rate Celebrity above RCCL and Carnival and even to a little above Princess on food quality. I'd rate RCCL the best on entertainment (no one else has a dazzling ice show), with Celebrity next. Constellation doesn't have the big ship features like the newer ships, but she does have a lovable character that we plan to enjoy many times in the future.