Background information: We have cruised five times, three of which have been with Celebrity. Celebrity have always been our preferred cruise line and we had a great time although cut backs are beginning to show. We come from Cambridge in the UK.
Hotel information: We stayed the night before at the Holiday Inn at Gatwick, a reasonable hotel which includes parking and a shuttle bus in their rate. Had a good nights sleep. At the end os the cruise we had one night in Barcelona at the Silken Diagonal. The Silken was a good hotel, only four stops on the underground from La Rambla and with a stop for the hop on hop off tour bus opposite - so very convenient. I heard that they do good breakfasts, we did not have this as I had eaten so much on the cruise - we went to the shopping centre which is opposite and got a very light breakfast at a reasonable price at their food court.
Ship information: As with all Celebrity ships it was beautiful and well maintained and felt luxurious.
Activities: I thought that this area was significantly better than previous Celebrity Cruises the Cruise Director and Activities Staff displayed lots of energy and enthusiasm
Service: Overall the service was great and an improvement in the dining room from our previous Celebrity Cruise. However, cutbacks were noticeable, I had to request ice in the cabin everyday and really missed the little sandwiches in Café Baccio.
Drink Package: We had the Classic Package. I know that other passengers as well as ourselves experienced some confusion with this. What would be served varied from bar to bar as staff seem confused. My husband suggested to the Bars Manager that staff were provided with a list to save both staff and passengers any difficulties. The Bar Manager said that such a list did not exist so my husband showed him the list that he had printed from the Celebrity website the day before we sailed!! I would strongly suggest that other passengers print a copy of the list and take it with them. We are not massive drinkers, but for example they said that no Irish Whiskey was available on classic in the bars. In the dining room we were told that we could not have a particular wine. Another couple were told that they could not have Baileys in one bar, but served it in another.
Port & shore excursions: Being European and having visited many port previously we did not do many excursions. We did a day trip to Florence, which included a 2.5 hour tour followed by 3.5 hours on our own. This was excellent and I would highly recommend it. If possible take your own earphones for the commentary as those provided are not of the best quality naturally.
In Marseille the ship staff told ourselves and a number of other passengers that we should get the shuttle boat into the town as it was difficult to access. This cost $23 and was terrible. The boat was overcrowded, you couldn't hear the commentary and still had a 15 minute walk to the centre from where it docked. We used public transport to return. Four other line were in port that day - they put on shuttle buses and I cannot understand why Celebrity did not do so.
Cabin: Our room was always cleaned and well maintained. We had no issues are regularly saw Raul our steward. He provided ice every day at my request, as this is no longer standard.
Dining: Food in MDR was very good. Service in the MDR was excellent throughout with friendly staff who remembered our likes and dislikes. We didn't feel any need to visit the speciality restaurants. We had select dining and had no problem getting seated when required - but there were only two of us.
Entertainment: Staff were enthusiastic and it was generally very good but not outstanding.
Disembarkation: This went smoothly. However, we had booked a private transfer via our tour provider which was very late.
Summary: Overall it was a great cruise and had we not cruised previously with Celebrity I wouldn't have missed things like the ice in cabins and sandwiches no longer being available in El Baccio. In the past we had had no issues whatsoever on a Celebrirty Cruise and this time I was disappointed in the way that they dealt with these. As a previous reviewer stated, there were communication issues between the land office and the ship, with information on the on board spend to be included in our booking. Guest Relations said that Celebrity did not have the information and that this was the fault of our tour operator and we needed to resolve it when returned, Celebrity UK had told me two weeks prior to sailing that they had the details of the OBS and drink package when I telephoned to check. However, Celebrity made us contact our tour operator to get them to confirm to Celebrity UK, who then sent the details to Miami, who sent it to the ship, two days before we disembarked! I felt that Celebrity could have been far more helpful!
Venice: Had visited several times previously, so took a public water bus from the pier to St Marks Square. Visited the Doges Palace which is magnificent - bought tickets online to avoid the queues.
Dubrovnik: Again we had visited previously, so took the public bus from the dock to the Pile Gate. This cost very little, bus station is next to the port and you buy tickets at a small kiosk. We walked the walls (take plenty of water) and the views are spectacular, it costs about £12 which is expensive but worth it if you can walk for about 2 hours - it is steep in parts and has steps. There is also a cable car which we have done previously and is great with a museum at the top. Go early as it can be busy.
Istanbul: Trams run very close to the port and are very cheap, you need Turkish Lira to purchase tokens. It take about 10 mins to get to Sultanhamet which is where the Blue Mosque etc are. The Grand Bazaar is a couple of stops further. We had been previously and visited Tokapi Palace and the harem which was great - wish I had bought tickets online in advance.
Salerno: Walked 25 mins to get small ferry to Amalfi cost 16 euros.
Rome: Was there for a week last year, so went into Citavecchia. Shuttle to outside of port followed by a 20 minute walk, sea front has nice cafes and was good to relax. Another 5 minutes takes you to the train station which has express trains to Rome.
Florence: Took shore excursion, described above - very good
Marseille: Took shore shuttle, described above, dreadful. It takes 15 minutes to walk to the local bus stop and you take the bus to Joliette. You can then change to a second bus for the town centre or walk which takes about 15 mins. An alternative is to take a taxi - about 40 euros per taxi. The blue train is great and worth 8 euros when you get there.
Barcelona: Make sure you buy tickets in advance for the Sagrada Familla if you intend to visit. The hop on hop off tour buses are great and run from very close to the port.