TransAtlantic: April 20-May 5, 2014
Let me preface this review by saying the Ship is beautiful, well maintained, well organized and with easy to find venues. We met some very nice passengers and made some lasting friendships. That said, this has to be the worst cruise we have ever taken. Service and systems were the problem.
It had been reported through the cruise critic grapevine that the activities staff had been severely cut just in time for the TA. Very true, too true. Only two activity staff members remained: activity manager Pete and Martin As a result the onboard activities were severely curtailed. We enjoy trivia. Instead of the 4 to 6 trivia and progressive trivia, half that amount were offered. Progressive Trivia was only offered every other day. The cutbacks were felt. Activities were quite limited. Martin, the Belgian, was the only surviving staff member whose accent was horrible and whose jokers were even worse; he was the Male counterpart of the air-head blonde female (He indicated he speaks four languages; the running joke among the passengers was “Is one of them English?”). Many questions were poorly worded and even worse, many answers were plain wrong or ambiguous. When these were pointed out, they made excuses and continued as if nothing was wrong. Pete, the activities manager, was not much better, being closed minded, ridiculous, and his ‘mind reading” show became a laughingstock of the passengers. During the last “Battle of the Sexes” passenger participated game show, Martin made an obscene sexual gesture to a woman passenger; Pete was within sight and failed to correct him.
I teach university classes on the internet and must have access to the internet. My wife and I just came off the Allure 4-20-14 were we bought an unlimited internet package for a very reasonable price and never had a problem with speed or access. We set up the package in our stateroom with ease. On the Silhouette, everyone who wanted to connect had to go to the iLounge where one of the two overworked Apple employees helped you with your set up. I did so on Sunday early. On Monday morning I could not connect for 3 hours and when I approached the Apple folks they said the internet had been up all the time. It turned out they had set up the log-on for Safari while I (and others) only used Firefox. Others passengers had problems either getting on or staying on the internet. If the process can be streamlined on the Allure, why can’t Celebrity get there act together, The Captain eventually sent a note to all apologizing for the problems but no credits ever showed up (I would take a credit over an apology any day).
They shut the spa and pool area down at 8pm. That’s right 8pm. What do they think we do go to bed at 8:01 pm? Or do they just want us to spend spend spend at the casino, bar, shopping instead of using the ‘free’ ‘accessible’ amenities. We were in Aqua class to be able to use the Persian gardens we were told they closed at 8 pm (And one of the major reasons for Aqua class is the Persian Gardens . . . 8 of the 9 tiled stone heater chaise lounges were cold (not heated) and hence not working; two staff came through while we were there. When we commented about the non-working, both just shrugged their shoulders “it’s not my job; why should I put extra effort into it” mode)(two nights in succession we reported the problem to staff at the desk, the next night the problem still existed). This is because Canyon Ranch is now running the operation and doing a damn lousy job of it (Celebrity brought them in because of their reputation which once was but now is not). We like to eat dinner at 6pm, catch the 8pm or 830pm show and then use the Persian garden and jazuzzi before calling it an evening about 10:30pm. So now the entire purpose of Aqua Class is gone. Get a life Celebrity, the world does not shut down at 8pm. Don’t give us that Crap about “liability” since we are all big people and all your signs indicate no lifeguards and do so at your own risk. The hours were set more for the convenience of the company and staff rather than the passengers. Is your slogan luxury or luxury as long as it is before 8pm? And Oh, no heated pool, seriously. The pool staff started disassembling the pool furniture at 630pm 5/1/14; we saw them force a young couple out of the pool area.
Cruise Critic Meet n Mingle was the worst organized event EVER, No ship officers. No one in charge. Mass bedlam. Everyone talking at one time and no one listening. It gave my wife a headache. No one could hear the announcements and the staff in charge put the microphone down after just a few minutes and ever returned. Just horrible. One of our members wished to put on a series of seminars on stargazing. No information was provided by Celebrity nor did any staff pursue it. Only by word of mouth did we discover where his seminars were to be held; it appears Celebrity does not want competition for anything that might keep dollars in your pocket and not in theirs.
Food. Oceanview Cafe was awful. Minimal staffing. Tables were not cleared promptly. Tables were only wiped when a passenger asked and then staff used a paper cloth that was sitting on on a stand with dirty dishes. Blu. ..another major reason for Aqua class disappointment . . food has dropped in quality. . . most of the time I had to order alternatives and at no time did I leave satisfied. The French Onion Soup…. one example . .. has only half the cheese that it did last Fall; I also noticed the portions were considerably smaller . . . filet…salmon… everything (my beef tips had four dime sized beef tips; I practically had to hunt to find them). Food quality has degraded; We did not try the specialty restaurants because the cost ($45pp) is prohibitive. Service was snail pace slow; we ate at Bistro Five and had to wait an unacceptable time between courses; since there were only one other group of three present, no excuse existed. Blu has “airline chicken” on its menu (doesn’t anyone aboard know the connotations of airline chicken to Americans?) Also one day the celebrity today had as its Chef’s recommendation “pork and beans” another appetizing meal for most Americans. Being Aqua we ate at Blu; we ate early those that came later had to wait 30-45 minutes to be seated and up to an hour to be served. It appears Celebrity increased the number of Aqua suites without increasing the capacity of BLU or its staffing. Aqua class entitles you to canapés each afternoon; the first afternoon a few stale tortilla chips and a few halved cherry tomatoes and 1 tsp of humas. Afterwards we said Nope. When Celebrity brings back true canapés, we might think about it. That is if we ever consider Aqua Class again.
Staff appear to be walking zombies . . . either because they are overworked or because they just didn’t care. Any smiles were obviously forced. It appeared most of the time they were just going through the motions. Following orders and following what they had been trained to do were more important than to provide service to assengers: the rules had to be followed at all costs. Understanding English was a definite problem; we asked our cabin attendant several times for two copies of the Compass, he still only brought one. I have seen the gratuity level gradually increase over the last few years. We paid $12.50 pp per day not including the 15% they add to almost everything else you buy on the ship; it appears we the passengers are increasingly more responsible for crew salaries than ever. Our calls to various people indicated 1) they spoke very poor English if at all and understood it even less and 2) they were not knowledgeable and could not answer even the simplest questions. Training and English proficiency are badly needed.
Staff cuts were noticeable on port days. Shore excursions used the theatre as waiting area to call the excursions. Instead of having aisles marked for particular excursions and people asked to move to the end, passengers sat anywhere and everywhere. When the theatre was nearly fully, people were crawling over others to find an available seat. When an excursion was called, people had to again crawl over many to get out. Poor execution. Two gangways were down, one forward and one midship. As all of us tired guests approached, hoping to use the forward one, we were very rudely pushed away and told to use midships. . . . not a soul in sight on the forward one. On board the night before an excursion, Shore excursions did provide a short (too short and not sufficiently detail IMHO) synopsis of each port; however, their personnel knowledge beyond what Celebrity excursion offers needs improvement. (The staff member who gave the report on Gibraltar could not answer the simple question,”What is the importance of Gibraltar?) One indicated the HOHO in Caligari charged 10 Euros; no HOHO existed; only travels that took you around the town and began and ended at the port entrance.
Nickel and dining was everywhere. Celebrity Today newsletter looked like the Sunday edition of the newspaper, full of advertisements. On your door, under your door more advertisements. People at the shops passing out invites. The omnipresent art auction blasting away. Why should we pay $45 pp for a specialty restaurant? Well overpriced especially when reasonable free meals prevalent? Or is the intent to lower quality of the complimentary restaurants to the point that you must pay extra to get the high quality you used to get for free? (extreme discounting was going on as we were approached several times for prices less than half the list price—why not have a lower list price and not discount?) There were even efforts by Celebrity staff to stifle cruise critic members attempting to organize their previously planned excursions because they conflicted with the Celebrity shore excursions. Talk about nickel and diming, Celebrity charged guests $10 each to shuttle them to Madeira. With what we paid, you would think a 15 minute shuttle ride would be complimentary.
When we were on the Allure the cruise before, because we were Diamond we received one free photo. Elite on Celebrity is the equivalent of Diamond. Yet our reward was to receive a discount if you bought a PHOTO PACKAGE. If you only bought or wanted to buy a single photo, it was $24. We bought some photos just as good on one of our excursion and it came with a DVD/CD and it cost 10 Euros. Needless to say we did not buy any photos on board the Celebrity.
The entertainment was marginal especially for a Modern Luxury prestige cruise line such as Celebrity. The pianist was excellent and the juggler was outstanding. Singers and Dancers were good but passion lacking. We walked out after 5 minutes of the Female comedian, she was not funny; the british magician quasi comedian was an embarresment.
Captain’s Club also has taken a hit. On previous cruises during the elite cocktail hour, a considerable buffet was set up and luxurious hors d’oeuvres were brought to you by the staff. On this cruise, no buffet. What were give out were cheap imitations: olives, celery, cherry tomato, small piece of cheese: in other words cheap. Nothing substantial. What is the value of a loyal longterm customer? The answer obviously is very little to nothing. Captain Club’s breakfast event was held in the Tuscan Grill. Since this is a TA, record numbers of Elite, etc members were on board; a number that historically high and should have been known well in advance. Breakfasts were hectic with no room to sit, insufficient food and plates and silverware. And mighty upset passengers. One would have thought the large number of elites would have been planned for instead of expecting the usual smaller numbers. Just another example of poor thinking, implementation and results of cutting from Celebrity.
My comment on the organization of the Silhouette is predominantly positive. However, the jogging track on deck 14 is poorly placed. Deck chairs surround it so any guests not jogging or walking run straight into those who do; it is impossible for through traffic on deck 14. The Sky conference rooms were built so the only door in to them are at the front of the room; thus anyone entering late or leaving early has no choice but to parade in front of the speaker, thus interrupting the speakers momentum. The art “auctions” (always hilarious because no auction exists, it is take the price or leave it) filled up the SKY room numerous times making several sea days activities in that room totally useless. The choice of venues were very poor; Celebrity Central was dangerously overcrowded with standing room only.
My comment is not to have so many public entertainment activities at 11 and 1130 pm. Kudos do go for the Podium lecture series which were excellent with 3 of 4 speakers outstanding. My only suggestion was that a cruise critic member presented a series of lectures on the Cosmos and he had to beg space to do so; his efforts would have been made another great “From the Podium” speaker and should have been listed as such. The casino had the tightest slots I have ever seen; I measured them one day and while legal casinos typically pay off at the 90-92% rate; the onboard casino measured just under 50% (an observation many others also made).
In summary, cost cutting has cut personnel which in term has caused service quality to be degraded considerably making the cruise much less satisfied than ever before. We had two other Celebrity cruises booked for the fall which we have now decided to cancel. We are scheduled for a B2B2B for the winter which we must now debate whether or not to pursue. Cost cutting has certainly affected service quality and the guest satisfaction. .. at least for this Elite Plus couple.
Paul and Rachel Herbig