I have cruised on Royal Caribbean four times previously, and I decided to upgrade to Celebrity for this trip due to the itinerary, which included Rome (departure port), Santorini, Istanbul, Ephesus, Mykonos, Athens and Naples.
The embarkation process was easy and smooth. I immediately loved the ship. It was the same general design as some of the Royal Caribbean ships, but Celebrity kicked it up a notch with artwork and special effects. Though the ship is large, it never felt crowded and there were always plenty of places to go without large numbers of people and lines.
I reserved regular balcony rooms and I was very happy with them. Since cruisers don't spend a lot of time in their rooms normally, I didn't think it was worth the extra money for suites. The rooms were spacious and the balconies were a nice addition.
After embarking and checking out our rooms, we went to the buffet. I found it to be excellent, several notches above the Windjammer on Royal Caribbean. The selection and quality of food was outstanding.
The same can't really be said for the dining room, however. It seems that Celebrity has really narrowed the food availability in the MDR in order to encourage people to go to the specialty restaurants. I had no complaint about any of the food, but it seemed as if similar food was on the menu night after night, and there wasn't the variety that I'm used to. The dining room service was also very different from what I am accustomed to on other cruises. Usually, we have a close personal relationship with our waiter, assistant waiter and drink waiter, and the head waiter comes around every night to say hello. On this 11-day cruise, we saw the head waiter exactly once. I had the impression that the various waiters now have more tables to take care of because we saw them pretty much only when they took our order and delivered the food. The drink waiter was very nice, but hard to come by. She also seemed to have too many tables. I always double the tip for the drink waiters and that has always had the effect in the past of giving me excellent drink service, but this time it didn't work the same way. I'd have to say that while the MDR was fine, the dining experience in general didn't quite live up to expectations.
I made a lot of use of the gym on this cruise, and have five personal training sessions during the 11 day cruise. I really liked the personal trainer that was employed by Canyon Ranch and the gym was pretty large and well equipped for a cruise ship.
The port director on this ship was also excellent. She was available to provide various forms of help regarding the ports and she was a big help. I also enjoyed the various lectures on the history of the ports and suggestions on what to do there.
I really liked the bars around the ship. I enjoyed several of the drinks in the Molecular Bar in particular.
The ports were really excellent. It's hard to say which one was my favorite. Athens was much better than I expected it to be, and the feeling of standing on top of the Acropolis high above the city and looking at ruins that are thousands of years old was more magnificent than I thought it would be. Ephesus was also amazing, from the ruins to the House of the Virgin Mary. Istanbul was also amazing, and a great way for westerners to dip their toe into the Muslim world in a comfortable way. In Santorini, we went to Oia, and that had a wonderful charm and sense of beauty and relaxation. I'd say my least favorite port was Mykonos. It lacked the charm of Santorini and since it wasn't yet warm enough to go to the beach when we were there, we missed its greatest asset. I didn't get to get off the ship in Naples; more about that in the next paragraph.
Just before we arrived in Naples, I discovered that I had kidney stones and had to use the ship's medical center. The doctor and nurses there were wonderful, and on the last night of the cruise, they stayed with me all night while I was hooked up to IVs to relieve my pain. I am very grateful for their care.
All in all, despite the way it ended, it was a magnificent trip, due to both the ports and the life aboard the ship.