Ports of call: Ft. Lauderdale, Key West, Cozumel, Belize City, Roatan, Grand Cayman, Ft. Lauderdale
I've been on 3 cruises on the similar size and similar built ships. I'm 30 something and like to travel.
Check In - Very fast (rated A+) Arrived at Ft. Lauderdale after 2 PM. Picked up our luggage at the airport. There were representatives at the luggage claim area to pick up passengers with transfer. I asked about the transfer price. The lady was nice and told me the transfer was $10/person. For 3 of us, we could take a taxi to the pier for $10. The Pier was only a few miles away, very nearby. Took the taxi to the pier, were dropped off at the luggage loading area. There were bags all over the place. The porters at the pier must be in a union and not hesitant to ask for tips. I tipped him and walked to the check-in hall entrance. There weren't many people at the check in hall. No line. Checked in was very fast and done in a minute. We received the shipcard then walked onto the ship where they took our pictures for the ship card. The ship card was plain white, not colorful as the Norwegian. They passed around champagne and there was a line of Celebrity uniform staffs waiting at the gangway to take passengers to their rooms. Our room was on the 7th floor mid ship. The room was very small, 170 sq ft, with a 30 sq ft balcony. We had a 204 sq ft. room with 38 sq ft. balcony on the Radiance of the Seas on our previous cruise. The sofa was twin size and open up to a narrow twin size bed. There was only one table/drawer in the room and the closet was not as big as the Radiance. The bathroom was bigger than other ships though. To my surprise, the sofa bed was very comfortable. Our luggage was delivered to our room by 5 PM, very fast service.
Ship - Very nice (rated A) The ship was nice, but I think the Radiance of the Seas was a bit nicer. It's similar to 2 other ships I have been on, very richly decorated. The best feature about this ship was it had an indoor heated saltwater pool and whirlpools. We used it everyday. Celebrity had some nice touch, such as the pool side chairs were covered with pads. They put beach towels in every room so we didn't need to pick them up from the pool when we went onshore. The bathroom was very comfortable. The soap and lotion were very good quality French toiletries. There was a big jar of cotton balls and Q-tips, very convenient. There were bathrobes and a shopping bag in each room. There was also a water bottle flask in the room so we didn't have to buy bottle water. At each port, they passed out wet hand towels at the gate when we got back on the ship, a nice way to cool off after exploring the island in a hot day.
The ship was always clean. The outdoor pool was drained and refilled everyday. There was no room service tray in the hallway.
The passengers on this cruise were younger. There were a lot of age 30s-40s people, not many seniors. People were mostly middle class couples and adult families and some gay couples. There were only a few children aboard.
Shopping on board was the same as Royal Caribbean. They put out different merchandise everyday after the ship left port. There wasn't real bargain except alcohol and cigarettes. They did have custom made shirt 3 for $210. Art auction took place everyday. There were many people played at the Casino. There was no cooking demo, or napkin/towel folding demo. No towel animal in my room. There was computer class, acupuncture lecture and session offered.
Food - Good (rated B) Food was good, but not excellent. Breakfast buffet at the Waterfall Grill had limited selection to the usual American choice of bacon, sausage, eggs, fruits, and cereals. No hash brown at all. The executive chef was French so the Croissant and bread were excellent. Ate a lot of them.
Lunch buffet at the Waterfall Grill was good, a theme everyday. It wasn't exotic like the Norwegian that served Indian food. There was Italian, Mexican, and American BBQ. The lunch buffet had much better food than the lunch meals offered at the open sitting Main Dining room, the Metropolitan.
The Waterfall Grill buffet restaurant was big and there were always seats available. Waiters were around to help your trays if needed. They cleaned the tables right after people finished their plates. There weren't any table with dirty dishes sitting for long. Great service.
There were sweets and finger sandwiches for Afternoon Tea at the same Waterfall Grill buffet restaurant everyday. The spread looked pretty but not too tasty. There was also a sushi spread at the back of the Waterfall Grill every evening. Again, the food looked nice but not too tasty. Ice cream, pizza, hamburger, hot-dogs were severed near the pool in the afternoon and evening. The French fries were very good because they were freshly cooked. We had the late 8:30 dinner. First night at main dining room was confusion since no one knew where their tables were. The Metropolitan dining room was on 2 levels with 2 entrances on each floor. So there were a total of 4 entrances. You had to use the right entrance to go to your table.
So the restaurant manager and staff directed people to the right entrance instead of taking you to the table from any entrance. People were going up & down the stairs to find the right entrance. That was a bit un-Celebrity like service. Once we found the table and settle down, the service was very good, but not exceptional. The 3 of us had our own table for 6. It was very comfortable. Dinners were good, geared toward American and fusion food. One night we had wonton soup and steak. Not too traditional of any kind. I think Norwegian had better dinners. People took Carnival cruises said Carnival's food and service were very bad. Celebrity was much better. I think Royal Caribbean and Celebrity are owned by the same company so their service was very similar and very good.
There was a midnight fruit buffet served at the poolside. There were lots of eye pleasing fruit carvings. Then there was a Grand midnight buffet with elaborate ice sculptures and large display of food at the main dining room. It was very nice to look at but I didn't think they were tasty. We didn't have any because we had late dinner. The Grand Buffet was more for show than for taste. Still there were a lot of people ate at the Grand Buffet.
Ports - Great (rated A+) The weather was great on the trip. No big waves and the sea was calm. It was a bit rough around Florida, then it calm down when we sailed into the Caribbean. It was the end of the winter dry season at the Caribbean. So it wasn't and temp was in the 70s in the morning and warm up to 80s or 90s during the day. We had 2 hot days but that was it. Because the sea was calm, snorkeling was excellent at every port, especially in Cozumel, Mexico and Roatan, Honduras.
Key West, Florida It was a laid-back small island 2 miles wide. We docked at the Hilton Marina and right in town. We did our own walking tour, and walked from one end of the island to the other in 3 hours. It was a Saturday so the streets were quiet. Victorian houses and flowers lined the streets. We walked to the southern most point of continental U.S. and passed by the Truman's Little White House and the Hemingway house. There were rickshaws, train tours and bus tours to see the island if you didn't want to walk.
Cozumel, Mexico We docked at the International Pier, which was 2 miles south of downtown. There were shops and jewelry stores on the pier for those who want to buy souvenirs but didn't want to go into town. We didn't go into town. We took a taxi ($10) to the Chankaanab park that was only a few minutes south of the pier. The park admission was $12/person. There were dolphin swim and scuba offered at the park. We could see the dolphin swim even we didn't pay to participate the program. There was a nice shallow beach and lagoon. A roped off coral reefs by the shore that you can snorkel right off shore. The water was warm and clear with lots of coral reefs and big fish. Snorkeling was excellent at the Chankaanab park. There were many chairs and straw hut along water. There were facilities with lockers, fresh water shower, and restaurant. You could rent life vest, snorkeling and diving gears. It was really a great place to spend few hours while in Cozumel.
Belize City, Belize This was a tender port. There was no pier in Belize. We docked 3 miles from shore and the tender took 20 minutes to get on shore. If you didn't join a ship tour, you had to wait for over 2 hours after docking to go on a tender. So it's a good idea to book a ship tour for this port. We took a ship tour Lamanai Mayan Ruins and New River Safari for $87/person. We scheduled to arrive at 7 AM at Belize. We had to meet at a lounge at 7 AM for our tour. We got up very early to have breakfast to be ready for the 7 AM meeting time. We were all waiting at the lounge at 7 AM. The ship ended up arriving 1/2 hour late and we couldn't get on shore until 8 AM. Belize was a very poor country. Our tour started with 1 1/2 hour bus ride to the interior, then a 1 1/2 hour boat ride on the New River to see the rainforest and wildlife before we arrived at the middle of the juggle Lamanai to see the Mayan ruins. We cruised the New River in the middle of the day so there wasn't much wildlife to see. The guide tried really hard to point out a bird, or a small fresh water alligator for us to see. Nevertheless, it was great river cruise.
We docked at Lamanai. Lunch was laid out near the dock. We had lunch then went into the jungle to see the ruins. It was a hot humid day. The walk to the ruins was short but it felt like a very long strenuous hike. We heard the howler monkey throughout the jungle and people were scare. Then we realized it was only monkey and they were very small up on the tree top. On the way back, our guide drove the boat very fast down the winding river. It was fun. If you're prone to seasickness, take a seasick pill in the morning before the tour. One benefit about taking a ship tour was having a sense of security. Our tour had 30+ people. We went deep into the jungle and there was no one around if we needed help. While cruising the New River, there was a small boat following us through out the trip acted as a lifeboat. When we were walking in the jungle, beside the guide, there was another person carrying a first aid kit for our group. We definitely felt safe and were taken good care of. Since it was not in the rainy season yet, there was no mosquitos in the jungle. The Lamanai and New River Safari tour was great because it was an all day tour that took us to see the city, the country, the jungle, the rainforest, the New River Lagoon, and the Mayan ruins. It was well planned out and worth the money. You could find a slightly better price tour if you go with the local tour instead of the ship tour. But you had to wait for the tender and pay cash to the tour guide. With the ship tour, it was charged to the ship card.
Roatan, Honduras There was only 1 ship berth at this port. We docked from 7:30 AM - 9 AM. Then our ship had to move out and anchor away from shore, then we took the tender after 9 AM. It was a very poor island but locals were friendly. There were many taxi and tour agents outside the gate at the pier. There was a big sign with tour prices outside the gate. They were cheaper than the ship tours. They offered $25/person for an island tour and beach. I bargained it down to $20/person and I asked for a guide. Had to tip extra for the guide. When the tour bargaining was done, we got on a minivan, roomy, not squeeze in a small taxi. The deal was a 1 ½ hour island tour then go to the West Bay beach for 2 hours. There were 3 of us and a guide. The driver took us around town in the minivan. It was a rainy morning so we didn't want to get out of the car while touring the island. We went to the West Bay beach where the ship tour also went. The guide/bodyguard stay with us on the beach, the taxi driver took off and picked us up 2 hours later. We didn't really need a bodyguard but it was so affordable to have one.
I went snorkeling. It was very nice with lots of coral reefs. The reefs were very shallow and I was afraid to stumble on them. Some people just didn't care and stood on the reefs. The beach was still pristine and somewhat unknown. I could see it in 10 years, it would be ruin by all the tourist traffic. The sun came out when it was time to leave. Wished we had better weather.
Grand Cayman This is another tender port. Expect to wait 1 - 2 hours for the tender. The Cayman islands are the wealthiest islands in the Caribbean. The Cayman dollar is worth more than the U.S. dollar. We went on our own. There were people offering Sting Ray city tours and island tours at the pier. We took a 1 1/2 hour tour with the local minivan taxi for $15/person. There were 8 people in the minivan taxi tour. Went to see the nice Seven Mile beach, the Governor's House, Hell, and Turtle Farm. We paid $4.50/person for the admission to the Turtle Farm. Turtle is a delicacy in Cayman Island and they eat turtle meat during holidays. The Turtle Farm raise green sea turtles, release some of them back to nature and sell most of them for meat and jewelry.
Disembarkation (rated A) Ft. Lauderdale, Florida When we arrived back to Ft. Lauderdale, disembarkation was smooth. We were told to leave our room by 9:45 AM. We had breakfast and left the room at 9:30 and waited at a lounge. We were off the ship at 10. Immigration was a breeze. No computer to swipe the passport. The officials just looked at the passport and waived people through. Our luggage was waiting for us at the pier. When we walked out, the Hertz shuttle was there to pick up people. I booked a full size car with Hertz for the day for $32. It was cheaper to book the car for a day then for a few hours. So if you only need the car for a few hours, still book the car for one day. They don't charge extra when you return the car early. Our flight was in the afternoon. We picked up the rental car and drove to Flamingo Gardens and Wildlife Sanctuary in Davie. It was a short 15 minutes ride from Hertz/Ft. Lauderdale airport. It was a great place to see exotic plants and some Florida birds and animals. A great place to spent a few hours before our afternoon flight.