My wife and I started cruising with Celebrity 5 years ago because it was advertised as a premium cruise line with high standards of comfort, cuisine, service and minimum noisy razzmatazz. We also found it to be so. Then. In the meantime we have tried a couple of other cruise lines and have recently returned to Celebrity. We have just completed our 9th cruise, this time on the Constellation transatlantic and our disappointment is huge. Celebrity seems to be headed towards the run of the mill class of cruising but with worse than average food and service. The cachet of premium is justified in the details and it is in these that Celebrity is falling short by design or lack of attention.
We ate mostly in the main San Marco restaurant. The food quality was often poor. Examples are: A seafood risotto that was actually a seafood soup with rice at the bottom of the plate (no redress via from the waiter, he was nowhere to be found for 10 minutes or so); tournedos of beef served in thin slices with a coating of sauce on top (waiter's comment: That is how the kitchen serves it up); veal chops that were not only inedible but uncuttable with a normal knife; leg of lamb that was cut in slices along the grain that had about fifty percent fat; desserts that were sweet but tasteless, tasteless salads. With a few exceptions the food lacked the flavor associated with fresh preparation. The dinner menu selection has also changed for the worse. There was a lack of variety. Chicken, pork and pasta as main dishes appeared almost daily and several dishes repeated on the main menu within a week. The standard NY strip steak and shrimp cocktail as alternatives for those who did not fancy the daily menu have disappeared, the choice of desserts has been restricted. We also note the disappearance of the grand midnight buffet. We understood that this had been replaced by brunches because passengers mostly did not consume the food at the buffet having dined earlier. All very well but what has happened to the fine dishes such as beef Wellington, fish pates and other offerings that appeared at the grand buffet? We received a promotional Celebrity today sheet towards the end of the cruise extolling the new approach to dining on Celebrity. "Relaxed dining" was said to be the aspiration. What has been relaxed are the standards of food and service. Cuisine has transformed into mediocre catering with pretensions.
We had the impression that the ratio of crew to passengers has declined because the level of service seems to have deteriorated. Our waiter was difficult to find at the beginning of the cruise, food appeared late; there was no immediate redress for unsatisfactory dishes served. Passengers as a result will be inclined to reduce the payment they make to the staff, which might be unfair on them as they and we are subject to Celebrity policies causing reduced service. This could have the effect of good contract staff avoiding working on Celebrity and the spiral of decline in service will accelerate. Our cabin ("stateroom" is an example of hyperbole only exceeded by the dining menu descriptions) was adequate for our needs and efficiently serviced by the cabin staff. The public rooms were mostly OK considering the age of the ship. Only the The Bar at the Edge of The Earth has unfortunately disposed of the long sofas at the front facing forward. These have been replaced by tables and chairs facing into the room (presumably to sell more drinks) thus depriving those who just want to enjoy the sight of the sea, doze or read a book in peace. Pointless drapes hanging from the ceiling get in the way of the view and add nothing. The library however is a disgrace. The shelves are about 80% empty with hardly any reference books. Since a while there has been no Celebrity crew supervising the library and what one sees now is the sorry result. Better to close it down and announce that it is no longer available. Also noted is that a ping-pong table was said to have replaced the golf simulator! Spa pool and facilities were good.
Entertainment was mainly up to our expectations which is to say average with a few good performances by the Celebrity dancers and the Perry Grant cabaret. The enrichment series by both the erudite Emile Baladi and Bill Miller were onboard highlights for us.
We took only one ship shore excursion at Casablanca, which was good due to an enthusiastic and intelligent tour guide. For the rest of the stops we did our own thing, which was easy as they were safe and well served by public transport or reliable taxis. However $12 return bus ride into town at Malaga 1 mile from the ship was an absolute rip-off. Celebrity gouged passengers as there were no taxis and the walk was unpleasant due to harbor works and the heat.
Embarkation was well managed from the modern well-appointed and efficient Barcelona cruise terminal. Disembarkation was a chaos bordering on 3rd world conditions for those heading for Manhattan. The UN arrived back in NYC on that day and as a result the city was snarled up and no taxis for NYC were available at Port Liberty, Bayonne. Could Celebrity have known this despite their front desk onboard saying that there would be plenty taxis at Bayonne? You bet, because Celebrity commandeered the only available buses to get their crew to their destinations and we passengers had to wait for 1 to 1 and half hours for the return of the Manhattan bound buses.
I would not recommend Celebrity cruises to anyone I know. Our assessment: 1 to 2 stars max.