This was our third Celebrity cruise. I chose Celebrity because I like the demographic of the fellow guests, the comfort, design etc of the ships, and the friendliness and efforts of the staff.
We like to use Southampton as a departure port because I have grown to hate air travel and all the hassles it involves. I use my disabled rail travel to travel down to Southampton and I have to say that the rail services for disabled people are great. There was help to board the train, there when we changed trains and at the destination. The service at Euston is particularly good and a great help if there is little advance warning about which platform your train is leaving from! Full marks.
We stayed at the Ennios Boutique hotel in Southampton and its position and level of comfort were fabulous (They had the softest duvet I have ever touched !) We dined there on the night before the cruise and it was excellent !
Embarkation the next day was slightly delayed because of a safety inspection for the ship. There was a build up in the lounge but it was well managed and I again used Celebrity's assisted boarding help. (I have osteoarthritis and usually walk with crutches.) The assisted boarding means using a wheelchair but my husband really appreciates it and the staff are very considerate, helpful and efficient. We were onboard before 12 and were able to relax in the deck 5 lounge. The staterooms were ready by about 1. 15/30pm and there were regular announcements made to inform passengers.
We were on deck 9 in a verandah cabin, 9235. I had chosen this cabin as it is very close to the elevators and is the last cabin on the "hump" just before the sloping larger balcony rooms. We have stayed in a similar room before and knew what to expect. We were not disappointed. The room was perfect for us.There wasn't any noise or disturbance at all. Had views to the front of the ship and the rear. Lovely. As other people have said there is plenty of storage (we fitted a collapsible wheelchair under the bed as well as 2 large cases.) My carry on case fitted into the wardrobe and there was plenty of drawer and compartment space. I love the Celebrity bathrooms as many others have outlined. The showers are great and the dimmed nightlight is great for those of us who have to get up in the night ! The bed is just enormous and really very comfortable - better than the vast majority of hotels I have stayed in.
I must mention the excellent work by our steward Jose and his assistant. They were wonderful. They were unobtrusive, ever courteous and efficient and effective. The room was cleaned as if by magic and they obviously had their job down to a fine art. In addition they were considerate towards my needs and if they saw me approaching the room they rushed to open the door for me to save me the struggle of finding my pass. I cannot praise them enough. I did have to have my room pass card replaced 5 or 6 times as it seemed to fail to work nigh constantly - a bit of an irritation and I was locked out one day but luckily after a few minutes a member of the housekeeping staff stopped and helped me.
Now for a few negatives. I had discovered that Perry Grant - the evening small venue entertainer was taking a break. I can understand this as he has to be allowed some time off..... but his show is a must for a couple of evenings and he is also a "presence" at times around the ship - courteous and fun to speak to. He was missed and he wasn't replaced! Coupled with that, Sue Denning - the usual cruise Director- was also on leave. This was disappointing. Her replacement fell far short of her standards. I would suggest that if she ever retires that Celebrity use her to train people for the role. Her replacement Sinan I didn't warm to. Someone needs to coach him on good use of a microphone and not to laugh at his own jokes. People I spoke with referred to him as Mr Bean but there is no real similarity at all as Mr Bean is talented and funny. The entertainment for me is where Celebrity fell down on this cruise. The shows were the same as when we sailed last year. We only went to two at the start and although the young Chinese magician/performer is very good the other shows didn't attract us. The trivia events have lessened in number and this was also disappointing. Some Celebrity events eg shopping/auctions etc are well promoted but activities for guests that don't "pay" aren't helped. I have suggested that they could at least organise a meet up for card players early in the cruise as an "ice breaker/ organisational event " to formalise a meeting up of interested people so that groups/players could be organised. This happens for teens/kids who are surely fewer in numbers and would help guests sort the activity out for the rest of the cruise for themselves. I met by chance other people who were keen to get a bridge game but who like me were a bit adrift.
Although I was prepared for Klaipeda and Gdansk to be different, I have to say they were disappointing. My problem with the tour to Gdansk, Celebrity shore excursions did deal with and they were fair in making some amends for us and our disappointment with a tour guide. Whilst I would be quite keen to visit all the other itineraries on the tour I wouldn't rush to repeat those 2. The Celebrity tours we did for Copenhagen and Stockholm were very good with great guides. Tallin we did independently just taking the shuttle into the town and walking around. I did hear many people complain about the dock position for Copenhagen and the fact that they had to pay a shuttle bus fee to access the city. Copenhagen though is a lovely venue and we enjoyed all those ports on the trip.
We used SPB tours for St Petersburg and they were truly excellent and I would have no hesitation in recommending them. Their guide, Diana, was just lovely and highly professional and knowledgeable. We had a great 2 days with our fellow 6 passengers with the customised trip we had organised. The transport was roomy, air conditioned and had WiFI!!!! This was an unexpected bonus and it helped me catch up with email etc on the hour's drive to Peterhof. I loved the subway ride we did too - it felt like we saw some of the real Russia. Celebrity were very good in allowing us to leave the ship promptly and the new system the Russian Immigration authorities are now using seemed to work well. No longer are visitors being asked to fill in forms on the ship as it is done at the dock - one just needs the private tour ticket and passports. All was efficient and simple. I heard quite a few moans from people at their having to give their US passports into Celebrity for the docking at Gdansk - so Russia was easier really!
Dining on the ship was as expected great. On this trip we tried select dining for the first time. This did suit us better and we were never left waiting and led to a table quickly and as I always said we didn't mind either being on or own or filling a table - it worked well. We met some lovely people and dinner evenings were interesting and very enjoyable. The dining room staff were excellent. The young lady at select reception was very personable and good at her job. She was professional and skilled at her role. We dined in Asep's area a few times and he was attentive and efficient. The sommelier was adept and attentive also and looked after dinner guests well. The food was always beautifully presented and interesting menus to browse and to select from. I have to compliment the steak Celebrity serves, as my prime rib and every steak we had was well cooked and wonderfully tender. The ambiance in the Moonlight dining room is lovely and the evening meal was a highlight. The Oceanview buffet was fine too. My husband likes the flexibility and would live on the meatballs and pasta dishes if I allowed! Here I have to find fault with fellow cruise reviewers as I can state that the staff there constantly work to clean and remove dishes, prepare fresh tables and help passengers! I often breakfasted alone as my OH doesn't "do" breakfast" and I had the time to observe the staff. I was really appreciative of the many times also that the staff offered to help me collect utensils, select dishes etc. The people who complained about the lack of help must have been on a different planet. There was a British chap sitting close to me one day who complained long and fairly loud (to himself or to anyone else listening) about the "service" I really wished to point out to him that this was a buffet service ie as in serve yourself, but I chose not to engage with him at all. He was rude to any poor staff coming near him. He commandeered one of the bar staff to go and get him a cup of tea (not their job really) and then he huffed and puffed because the tea hadn't been prepared to his liking! I am pleased to say I never came across this man again. I am full of praise for the staff and made the point of speaking to the young woman in charge of the floor staff on my last morning at breakfast and giving some praise and feedback for the way she had her team working in there.
We on this cruise did use the specialty restaurant the Tuscan Grill. We were offered a 2 for 1 deal and took advantage of it. The food, setting and service were excellent. My OH took the filet mignon steak and I chose the rib eye; both were very well cooked and the whole evening there was thoroughly enjoyable. We also had 2 lovely lunch times in Bistro on 5. I can highly recommend what seems to me to be an underused venue. We loved it. Staff and service both excellent and very enjoyable food! Lovely. I agree with another poster re cafe Al Bacio as there simply isn't enough seating and there is nothing done about the people who park there to read. This is irritating as there 1001 places on the ship where one can sit and read. As there are polite notices in Oceanview reminding guests to move on at busy periods etc - they should do the same here. I really enjoyed the coffee served there but Celebrity need to look at how better efficiency could be achieved here. The Aqua Spa cafe was lovely as usual and is a prefect venue for a nicely peaceful lunch.
I like The Eclipse over the Constellation because of the indoor pool where one can actually swim. The pool is great and was never over busy when I wished/needed to swim. The poolside staff keep the area relaxing, clean and inviting. This is typical of all over the ship. The ordinary staff seem to work non-stop - cleaning, arranging, clearing up - at all these levels the staff are to be congratulated. I didn't feel the officers were as visible on this cruise compared to the last Western Med cruise. It could be we just didn't coincide with them. The ship never seemed overcrowded - it was a full cruise - not a cabin to be had - but one didn't have the impression of being too busy. As always there are guests who need tutoring on manners - particularly people who change direction or back into you in the buffet without looking first but that is not Celebrity's fault or problem. Most of my fellow passengers were considerate considering my disability.
I have completed Celebrity's guest questionnaire, some of my comments being replicated here. Yes we enjoyed our cruise and yes Celebrity suits us. I like the fact that during school term time there are so few children on these ships. We had one rough sea time into an afternoon and through the night. The captain had warned us and it as a disturbed night's sleep as there was some banging and much creaking but I was heartened by the fact that as a usual chronic sea sickness sufferer I didn't suffer at all !