We have a long history of cruising & boating. I was introduced to cruising by my grandparents & then went over to spend my Jr Yr in Italy on the Cristoforo Columbo, a voyage marked by so much turbulence that people were crying out "remember the Andria Doria". Part of our honeymoon was spent on two different (that part was unplanned) Italian line ships to Istanbul, Cyprus, Beirut & Egypt. And we took one of the old mail ships up the coast of Norway over 20 years ago. And then we've cruised on the more conventional ships: a couple of HAL, NCL & this year a wonderful first experience on Oceania's Nautica. We have 2 long cruises planned for '08, one on Oceania.
As a break before the intensity of the Holidays we decided to try Celebrity. We had heard good things & were not up to the hassle of flying-or rather airports.
Embarking was relatively easy-some delays due to norovirus cleaning-but pleasant enough.Our cabin was a definite "wow" (FV7202). It had a long hallway into a bedroom & large sitting area (obviously intended for a family of 4-5) & because of its configuration & location there was no hallway or other noise. The cabin had an extremely large deck with chaises, chairs & tables-with oodles of room left over. The closets & storage were, consequently, lavish for 2 people.
Our stewards were just OK. On 1 occasion dirty pillowcases were left in the room. The cakes of soap were never changed-& since I had some in my luggage I didn't bother asking. Towel distribution was stingy...no extra washclothes or largetowels as we've grown accustomed to on other lines. Some of the towels were on the threadbare side. I read the brochure about saving the ocean...probably single ply bath tissue would be more effective. Speaking of threadbare, we were surprised to note that carpet seams were unraveling in several spots on the ship including the foyer in front of the elevators on Deck #7.
Most of the food in the Dining Room was quite good. The soups were certainly an exception. They were cold, unseasoned & institutional. The desserts, for the most part were uninspired & what one would find in large commercial buffet restaurants on shore. This cruise may have been a training session for some of the wait staff. The first night we were on the 5th floor seated behind the Maitre'D's podium & the service galley. A location known as "Siberia" in NYC eateries, all it lacked was immediate access to a constant flow of restroom traffic. At any rate, we were privy to a steady stream of passengers irate about the service or insisting on different tables, different waiters etc. Hardly the quiet table for 2 that we had faxed in as our request! Our waiters were pleasant enough, if rarely in attendance. I had a steak knife on my bread & butter plate, the wrong meals were served service for food &drinks was abysmally drawn out & bungling (although the staff was pleasant) rather than gracious, leisurely dining. Alex, the Maitre'D was extremely accommodating to everyone & he was lovely to us. The following evening we found ourselves moved to the 4th floor (deck)-table #488 I think & he came by numerous times throughout the trip to check up on us.Our waiter, "Putra &"Casper" were top-notch professionals on a par with the wait staff at the finest NYC restaurants. Putra noticed that we had enjoyed the escargot & took it upon himself to order it for us several times after that. And after the first meal with them we found a plate of sliced lemons, hot green tea & an iced tea waiting for us at every dinner. Both were generous with their recommendations.
The main Dining Room was closed for lunch most days in port. Ordinarily, on other ships this wouldn't be an issue. However, the 10th floor "buffet" is more akin to a large institutional cafeteria with an ocean view. Substantial "mulling about" is required to assay the lay of the land. And then there is no wait staff easily accessible from whom to order drinks. I heard one passenger's request greeted with "you'll have to wait" & another who was told " I'll get to it but it'll be awhile". And it was. Hardly the hallmarks of a high class operation.
The Sushi bar was well run & a great place for cocktail hour. The buffet breakfast is also available on the 10th floor & serves breakfast later than the main Dining Room. The waffles are, as advertised, wonderful. The gentleman who mans the custom omelet station seems to delight in each of his creations. However, there is only one person manning a station-& only 2 omelets can be made at a time. We've been on ships a third the size that have 4 burners going. And, peculiarly, there could be a crowd of folks waiting-behind staff personnel, using the same small operation rather than having their own station & this added to the congestion. We've not encountered this set-up on other lines. Bizarre.
We planned all our shore excursions & had no problem with the tenders although we did hear some grumbling. Perhaps it depended on the excursions.The people manning the customer service desk were very nice.Tripto Acadia Natl Park was headed by a woman named "Heather" who had worked for the Natl Parks Dept. She was super. I think about 2 dozen other passengers from the ship also utilized this company. It was a block from the ship & cost $25-or $20 with a discount coupon, AAA card etc.
The trip to Prince Edward Island was called off due to inclement weather. It would have been gracious for the cruise line to offer passengers a free cocktail or a free pay-for-view film in the cabin since there was no refund of port taxes. This was a missed opportunity & casts a company as ordinary rather than exceptional.
We looked forward to the "razzle-dazzle" entertainment that large lines provide...& were underwhelmed. The productions were too loud, there were equipment breakdowns & sophomoric & amateurish is the only way to describe some of the offerings. A notable exception was the singer, raconteur & entertainer Perry Grant. He was consistently super. The idea of the setting-a Pub- was perfect, designed to maintain the illusion of intimacy. His popularity, however, overwhelmed the facility with the result that folks were packed in. There was standing room only with overflow into the halls.
The card game room-nice enough although three of the recessed light were out for several days-but half the size of ships that accommodate half to a third the capacity of the Constellation. Card Room seemed something of a misnomer since there were never cards available. Even though Bridge was noted on the daily schedule it was necessary to call down every time to have cards delivered. There was no pitcher of iced tea or water as on other lines & when people complained that the room had non-bridge players during that time making it unavailable for those who had arrived to play who then either left or huddled around small bar table elsewhere the answer was amazing: one could contact Headquarters in Miami on return to inform them . This was a seemingly pat refrain often repeated in response to the most mundane issues. I guess that a staff's willingness & ability to be proactive about matters effecting passenger enjoyment flows from the top & is also the hallmark of a great rather than ordinary company.
We heard that phrase when someone complained on a "formal" night about a passenger who arrived in shorts (Bermudas) & a tee shirt & another who came in chinos & a flannel shirt (no tie). Now I know that it's a hassle to pack fancy duds when you have to fly-& if you don't want to "get with the program" then dine in one of the more casual venues. The literature and the daily bulletin ask that you comply so as not to disturb the "ambiance". It then falls on the staff at the door to gently remind erring passengers to comply-or to dine elsewhere on the ship. Similarly, there were complaints about toddlers in the Thallassotherapy pool, despite signs to the contrary-and people were saying that they were told to contact Miami when they returned. As a business woman I know that this response is alienating & counts on people not bothering to follow through . On the other hand one reason they may not follow through is because they've decided to take their business elsewhere...
We always have a good time (at the very least). The trip was Okay-some aspects, our cabin, folks we met big plusses. However, I suspect that we'll not choose to go on Celebrity again (although we've heard that some of the line's ships are better) because this seems like a "settle"-good but not great & not nearly as good as other ship experiences we've had. Of course this could change if they offer a knock-out itinerary that we can't get elsewhere...and i think we'd try a line we hadn't been on before we'd return to Celebrity. Our last trip which was on Oceania had it all over this one when it came to food, service & attitude. On the other hand they didn't have Perry Grant...