We started with a precruise trip on our own, to Lake Como, Italy. We stayed in Como which was wonderful. We recommend it.
PEOPLEMOVER FROM ST LUCIA RR STATION TO PORT (A DUMB IDEA)
From Como we took the trains to St Lucia Station in Venice. We prepared all we could and read all info here and on Google regarding the Peoplemover. Nothing prepared us for the onslaught of hustlers trying to carry our bags at the RR station. One exits the stationtowards the canal and turns right and travels along the canal, then across a bridge. Then one crosses traffic at a bus station and works one’s way towards the parking garage where the Peoplemover is located. We belabor the point because, with the four of us, and about 70 lbs of baggage each, the bridge with its STAIRS UP OVER THE TOP and DOWNTHE OTHER SIDE was difficult and ridiculous. The hustlers literally took the bags out of the wives’ hands trying to grab a tip. The “fee” was usually 5 euros per bag!! Our group was not a passive one and I started screaming NO at the hustlers and since I am 6’3” and in good shape, the dropped their ways after several grabs. It was just so irritating to start the cruise this way. We made it to the Peoplemover, and once we arrived at the station on the Portside, we found the walk from the Train Station to the Entry for Embarkation is about 3000 ft. OK, for us walking without luggage no problem, but after dragging the bags around trains etc, what a bummer!!! We were there at Prime Time ( 1 PM) and Celebrity had a shuttle bus that took us to the receiving point. Warning- if you get there early the bus might not have yet not started up and the experience would be brutal if it was hot. Don’t know if it was due to early season or the fact we were the only ship in Port, but next time we’ll take a taxi.
SHORE SIDE EMBARKATION (CONFUSION AND DELAYS)
Once we arrived at the building, there were really long lines with no porters. Everyone wasdragging their bags in line. No announcements, just two line those with and without tags. Never previously seen this chaos at this port. Later we found out there was some air controllers strike at the airport that might have caused the slug of passengers at the port. It took us one hour to process us onto the ship. This was in addition to the hour it took to get from the train station to the embarkation point.
ON THE SHIP
Since we arrived later than expected the cabins were opened up and we dropped out bags in the rooms and went to eat upstairs in the Oceanview Café. The place was quite. Either a lot of early birds or late comers. All bags except for one of mine, arrived by dinner time. We didn’t return to the cabin until 11 PM and got a voicemail message to come down to security to retrieve my bag. Almost a minute after hearing the voicemail a porter brings my bag to the door. I must assume they saw one of my many electronic gadgets in my bag and wanted to check it out, but gave up at shift change.
Johnson our Stateroom attendant introduced himself and took care of our requests. Ice Bucket Daily and Water Pitcher. The rest of the trip he did the usual magic cleanup and took care of us: Excellent
Our Wait Staff Team, Alfie and Edis, were excellent with lots of experience. The Sommelier, from the Ukraine, was always there and as attentive whether we bought a glass or a bottle. . Food was the usual quality for most meals with some cutbacks detected. For example, no more OssoBucco, now the meat is boneless and comes in a Wellington Crust. The desserts seemed to have suffered, but the Cherries Jubilee were actually better than before. Since our table was situated closer to the kitchen the food was hot when it hit the table. The plates were actually hot.
WE ate breakfast in MDR half of the time and the menu was the usual. We just don’t care for the chaos in the AM. WE also ate lunch in the MDR on the Sea Days. This is where there was a obvious reduction. The menu was very limited compared to our last cruise on the Reflection during Thanksgiving 2013
We used it for on early days. Ordered via the TV and found it to be the same as pervious cruises. They were always on time.
Sunset Bar at sailaway. As usual crowded and busy for the bar staff but we went to the bar for our drinks and had no problems
Elite Cocktail 5-7 in the Sky Lounge: Bar Staff kept it coming About 100 pax participated One particular server, “Luv” from the Ukraine was particularly excellent at her job.
Pool side : level is back to the usual level except when the live Band played or they had an event. I overheard an officer say that they toned it down due to complaints. Atrium: during events music was loud, but not ear splltting as some alluded, but it was on only during the usual hours and evening, so not obnoxious. If you have a cabin near the mid ship elevator bank, this could be a problem if you are sensitive to noise. We are 66/67 and we did not object to the type of music. Yes there is music in most of the ship, but toned down.
Interesting mix from around the world, lots of Europeans. Americans were maybe half the ship. Most passengers were in their 50’s to 70’s. Some infants, very few children.
Internet: NEW system on board works much better - a bit faster (not enough for streaming or skype), but access is 100% better.
Shows: The three big shows on this 13 day cruise were up to the same quality as our cruises on the Reflection and Solstice last year. Some of the fill in acts were a little weak compared to past cruises. The Liberace impersonator was not good, nor the Illusionist.
Since this cruise was port intensive we mixed up the excursions up to town visits on our own and longer expeditions
Koper – On our own. Walked around Town, a lot like Dubrovnik, more prosperous and commercial
Kotor – Lovely setting, did a ship’s tour to Perast and the Church on the Island. The Church was packed with tourists. We should have stayed in town and gone up to the Monastery up the hill.
Dubrovnik – On our own. Since we have been there before, we did the Gondola ride and walked about town. Very interesting Military Museum on the top side of the Cable Car. Not for the faint of heart. Also the Cappuccino served at the restaurant in the Upper Cable Car Station is really good, better than ship’s or Starbucks.
Split – On our own. Ruins in town are nicely preserved It was a Sunday and all the families were at Cafes along the boardwalk lining the marina.
Corfu – On our own We did the Old Fort and other in town points of interest. We were treated to festivities in town due to Ionian Unification Day with Parades and events in town. Very special.
Katrakolon – On our own. We went to Mt Olympus and visited the ruins. Different than Ephesus or Pompei, the preservation has trees which provide some shade. Not as vast, but worth the visit. The museum is a must.
Valetteta Malta _ On our own The highlight of our trip. We did St Johns Cathedral, the Blue Grotto, Mdina and the Governors Palace Gardens. Clean, well preserved
Catania Italy - Ships tour to Mt Etna and Toerlimina. Volcanic terrain was a lot like Hawaiian lava fields. The town of Toerlimina was mostly shops which did not offer much for us.
Ravenna - We elected to go to Bologna for the day. The center city was old with churches and antiquities, Interesting but we should have opted to take a train to Florence and overnite, returning to the ship after it arrived back in Venice. We love Florence.
We discounted the preboarding annoyances and issues as not under Celebrity’s control. That said, overall, in our opinion, the trepidation and worry about Celebrity falling way short were mostly unfounded. Yes back in the Michel Roux days in the MDR, the specialties, etc , we would give Celebrity an A++. Today, we give them an A. Still great. But that’s us comparing Celebrity of a decade ago to now. For newcomers like our daughter and son in law, they would give them an A++.
We voted with our wallet and booked another Cruise on Celebrity.
Our decision to alternate long and short days of excursions was a good one. This itinerary is very port intensive, and there were a lot of people going to bed early from exhaustion. Ie the Casino, shows, night activities were not full.