Founded in 1988, the Chandris family had a clear-cut vision for Celebrity Cruise Lines. Outstanding food quality with creative preparation under the supervision of Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux was the focus, with glitz and splashy entertainment a distant second. Under Royal Caribbean since 1997, the line has morphed into just another mid-priced cruise line, like its parent. For first-time cruisers, you might find the package attractive. As someone who loved the Chandris product, it is probably time for me to move on to the small luxury ships (Seabourn, etc.). I found our recent trip disappointing in many ways.
In terms of dining, we only ate in the dining room at dinner. Breakfast choices, with freshly prepared omelets, were fine. Lunch featured excellent salads, but the Thai curries and Mexican options got tiresome after a few days. Some change-up would have been preferable. It was dinner that really lagged behind the Celebrity of yore. While main course preparations were generally good, the quality of ingredients and luxury product offerings were decidedly reduced from prior cruises (a trend since the 1997 merger). Our waiter was not terribly knowledgeable about the menu, and did virtually nothing to accommodate my vegetarian daughter. (If you're a vegetarian who does not eat fish, you are severely limited in your options.) And the young people Celebrity calls "Sommeliers" leave a lot to be learned. They should start by considering the possibility that some of their customers are actually wine-knowledgeable. The solution to an off-putting bottle of red wine (it was not corked, but it was not right, with a musty nose and dry palate) was to put it on ice for a while. With 4 wine drinkers, we left half the bottle as it was unappealing.
A couple of examples of the apparent disconnect between Celebrity and its customers: the Martini Bar blasted loud techno-pop (I'd use a more descriptive word, but would likely violate posting policies re: language). The average demographic was 60-something, and most everyone was there to talk with friends at the end of a day. While the first show featuring the cast of dancers and singers was quite enjoyable, with West End/Broadway songs and a live band, the second show was embarrassingly bad. Once again, loud techno-pop music backed up twerking on stage. As my 21 year old expressed, it was sad that grandparents were subjected to this show with their grandchildren in tow; the 10 minute version of Boodylicious was a personal low point. The cruise director was a boor, and the "mentalist" show was insulting to the intelligence.
My family noted that the cabin attendants displayed the characteristic service style that we had enjoyed on past cruises. But they were unique in that they were about the only "service" personnel not trying to cross-sell us. I felt like a mark in a ship full of telemarketers. Buy this package or that one. Specialty restaurants that once cost a nominal upcharge were now $45 or 50. No tableside food preparation on the Reflection, except for one of the specialty restaurants. For what is our tip money to assistant maître d's paying? While our excursions were generally good, the one In Ephesus ran a bit late. Then we were dropped off for a "ten minute" carpet demonstration. After a half hour, I bailed out in order to make it to the ship on time for the dining room. My aft cabin would have perfectly been served by the front gangplank, which had a full security complement, but it was roped off. I complained to an officer, as I had to go a long distance to the mid-ship gangplank, only to return to the front of the ship to change. She failed to even feign interest in what I had to say. I assumed that was because she was an uptight security officer. I was stunned to learn that she was the lead Customer Service Officer! If you sign up for the 123 Go! promotion, pay attention. Of our 3 cabins, only one had the $300 room credit. 3 successive trips to "Customer Relations" were needed to square it away. Then, it turns out, the credit went to a specific guest; if the other guest had charges, those were not subject to the credits. To fix that problem required going to Customer Relations again, and having them ledger specific amounts from one guest's account to the other's. That's silly waste of a customer's time.