Celebrity touts themselves as a "premium" cruise line. While we had a nice experience and enjoyed our cruise, I wouldn't quite put them in the premium category. Overall, it was about the same as an RCCL cruise experience, except with a much older crowd. There were 13 kids on the entire cruise (which was great for us as we wanted relaxation and probably saw 4 kids the entire cruise). We actually laughed because if you look down the cabin hallways after 10 pm, you'll see them lined up with wheelchairs and scooters. We had a few laughs over that! But even though Celebrity seems to draw an older crowd, we found most of them to be active, enjoying life and having fun.
Being from Florida, we drove down the night before and stayed at the Springhill Suites by Marriott in Dania Beach. Comfortable hotel. It was cheaper for us to stay at this hotel and get free parking for the duration of the cruise than to park at the port for 12 days. (And a free hot breakfast and free shuttle to the ship doesn't hurt, either!) I recommend this route for anyone who is driving to your port of call. We arrived at noon and embarkation was fast and efficient. We were on the boat within 15 minutes. They greeted us with champagne or mimosas, which was a nice touch, but there was no one to assist you to your room since the rooms weren't quite ready yet. This led to a bit of confusion for guests as everyone sort of stalled in this area and walked around aimlessly with no direction. We took the elevator down to check out our room, which fortunately was ready so we dropped off our luggage and started exploring the ship. Initially we were assigned room 2119 with an ocean view. My husband likes to be close to the water for less movement of the ship. Well, this didn't work out so good as it was quite noisy with who knows what going on below us (engine noise, squeaking, etc), so we had a hard time sleeping. After a few days we asked Guest Services for another room, and they promptly gave us room 3064 and allowed us to view the room before accepting it. Our room steward brought our luggage to the new room with a smile. I have to say that Guest Services was outstanding on this ship. We've been on several cruises and had trouble in this area, but no complaints on the Connie. The new room was exactly the same in size and dimensions, but much quieter (finally got some sleep!).
The Ship: B-
The Connie is beautiful in decor - has a nice regal and elegant feeling. I do agree with other comments in that it is definitely time to upgrade the upholstery and furnishings. Even though they are kept clean, you can really see the wear and tear on them. We noticed this in both of our staterooms, especially the loveseats. Also the lounges and other areas are in need of new upholstery. But this was a minor complaint - just something we noticed. By the way, Celebrity touts all new linens with Egyptian cotton sheets, etc, etc. Well, what they don't tell you is that the beds are not new. I don't see how they possibly can be - beds were not comfortable at all. Lumpy and hard. We both had a backache the entire cruise. In fact, of all the cruises we've been on, these were the worst we experienced. The pillows were a disgrace - you can get better pillows at a Motel 6! We asked for different pillows but were told this is all they had (which we all know is not true because Concierge class folks get 4 types of pillows to choose from!) So we suffered through that part of it, but for a ship that is supposed to be premium class, we expected much, much better than this.
The Food: A to D+, depending on where you eat
Ah, food: the most important part of vacation for many people! I'll break this down in sections:
Ocean Liners Restaurant: This is Connie's specialty restaurant that you pay a $30/person fee to go to. It was well worth the money. The decor is lovely, and the food was fantastic. The goat cheese souffle was heavenly, and the filet mignon was cooked perfectly. The Chocolate Souffle and Grand Marnier Souffle we had for dessert was divine. Service was impeccable. Highly recommend you go to this restaurant at least one night, or more if you can afford it.
San Marco Dining: This is the main dining area. The first thing we did after we got on the ship and dropped our luggage off was go to the Maitre d' to request our dining preferences. We gave them three options: 1) we asked for early dining with a table for two. 2) we asked for late dining with a table for two. 3) we asked for early dining with a group of people if there were no tables for two. Now, we don't expect any special favors, but we did explain it was our 10-year anniversary and we were looking for an intimate experience for our dinners. The Maitre d' promised we would hear from them the next day to let us know what they could work out. We received a note the next day in our room notifying us that none of our requests could be met! Huh? We were some of the first persons to speak with him upon boarding the ship. Not only that, but we heard from several other people that their requests were honored for seating preferences. In addition, there were SEVERAL empty tables open during late dining our entire cruise! So we both felt that this was very poorly done by Celebrity. On the plus side, the other couple who was assigned to our table were fabulous - we thoroughly enjoyed their company, so all in all it worked out well.
The food in San Marco: Some of it was really good, and some of it was mediocre at best. I don't think I would describe any of it as outstanding. On the other hand, the bread on the entire ship is amazing - I could have eaten meals of just their bread with butter. YUM! Dishes that stand out in my mind that were good in this restaurant were the fish dishes. The lobster ravioli appetizer was very good. The carpaccio appetizer was great. Pasta dishes were so-so. Desserts - go with what your waiter recommends and stay from anything that looks "gelatinous." The cheesecakes were usually quite good.
The Buffet area: Your typical buffet area. Recommended highlights were the pasta and salad bar. The pasta was actually delicious - al dente and the sauces were great! We ate this for dinner a couple of the nights. The sushi bar was pretty good and have new offerings each night. The stir fry looked good but we never tried this. Oh, and the omelette bar for breakfast - a must. They made great omelettes. I really wanted to try the waffles that everyone raves about, but we never got up early enough or were off the ship in the port the days we were up early!
Cova Cafe: Do visit the Cova Cafe. The coffees are smooth and delicious (though a bit pricey). But the ALMOND or CHOCOLATE croissants were out of this world. They'll heat them in the microwave and it's like heaven on your palette. Don't miss them!!
Martini Bar: Okay, this doesn't classify as a restaurant, but it's worth mentioning to take advantage of this area as they make fabulous martinis. The martini sampler they offer for $9.50 was wonderful and well worth the price. Cheers!
Well, that's a loaded subject line. Maybe some thought the entertainment was good. If you're over 50, that is. The production shows were typical and boring. The other entertainment was SO not our style. I'm not saying they weren't talented, but seriously, Celebrity needs to cater to more age groups than just an older crowd. The one night that there was a comedian, we were in Cozumel so were off the ship when he performed. So really we missed out (or walked out of) most of the entertainment offered. The other thing we hated, was if you have late dining, then your entertainment for that night is usually at 7:00 pm. Who wants to get dressed early for a 7 pm show and then rush off to dinner after that. Yuck. Hated this layout. The theatre was at least 1/2 empty almost every time we went in there, so I have a feeling we're not the only ones who felt this way. Perry Grant, who normally plays regularly in Michaels Club (and who seems to have an amazing following of fans), played in the main theatre one night (to fill in for another act that was cancelled). We heard so much about him so decided to go. If you like cabernet style songs and alot of gay jokes, it might be your bag, but it certainly wasn't our style. He's talented, yes. Just wasn't our thing. Maybe you'll enjoy his style - many did.
Beyond the main theatre, there was a Acapello (sp?) band who did a great job. The 3-piece quartet was beautiful to listen to. There was a guitar/Jimmy Buffet style player that we saw a couple of times on the aft deck 10 - really cool to have a drink, listen to him play, and watch the open sea.
The shops on board were a step above the other cruise lines we were on, as far as quality and selection. The jewelry such as the turquoise and amber was great, so do check this out. While you can probably find alcohol a dollar or two cheaper in port, honestly, it's not that much of a difference. It's much easier to buy it on the ship and not have to worry about carrying it all back to the ship.
Ports of call: A
GEORGETOWN, GRAND CAYMAN: been here before. We were going to do the Sting Ray tour since we've never done that, but it was so windy and overcast, all the water tours were cancelled. In fact, our ship wasn't able to dock at Georgetown. We had to anchor in another area of the island and take a taxi to Georgetown. Just did a little shopping and had lunch at Breezes, which was pretty good with a great view if you go upstairs to the top.
CARTEGENA, COLUMBIA: If you don't want to have a tour guide with you all day, do not, I repeat, do not stop at the first stop where it looks like there are taxis (cross the street and follow the additional signs for taxis). The initial taxi area ropes you into thinking they are dropping you off wherever you want to go. What they don't tell you is that they stay with you all day. We were with another couple that we decided to share a taxi with (thinking we would just be dropped off in Old Town and picked up later). Well, not so. Our tour guide spoke broken English, and stayed with us all day. Not what we were hoping for. However,there are so many street beggars wanting money or trying to sell you their "goods" or want to collect money from you for taking a picture of them (fruit lady, men dressed up like black iron fisherman statues), it was probably just as well that we had a guide. We didn't feel unsafe at all, and I know there is alot of talk about how safe or unsafe Cartagena is. Just don't wear jewelry (we did notice some people watching our pockets and seeing if we had jewelry on - looking for an opportunity to pickpocket.)
Old Town was very neat to see. The Inquisition Museum was eerie but worth going to. Unfortunately, unless you have an English speaking guide or know Spanish, all the museum descriptions are in Spanish.
We also went to La Popa Monastery, which gives an incredible view of the city. Wasn't much to see, but worth seeing just for the history of it. It was here that I got to hold a sloth (for a $5 fee!!!). But it was worth it!
COLON, PANAMA: Loved, loved, loved this one. Since there is really not much to do at port (a few shops but really nothing exciting at all - this isn't the place to shop), we booked the "Grand Tour of Panama" through the ship. Well worth the money and was the highlight of our trip. We took a bus to the Melia Hotel where we boarded a boat on the Gatun Lake (gorgeous). The boat ride takes you to the Embera Indian Village where you meet the Indians, see how they live, learn all about their culture, and have opportunity to buy their handwoven baskets. If you think this is "hokey" when reading your excursion options (I did!)THINK AGAIN. This was truly amazing and absolutely not to be missed. Bring cash - you WILL want to purchase some of their crafts, which aren't expensive. From there we boarded the boat and did an Eco-Tour on the Gatun Lake, where we saw sloths, monkeys, birds, butterflies, etc. Gorgeous, lush rain forest! Loved it. From there we went back to the hotel, had a quick lunch, and then boarded the bus and went to the Gatun Locks to see the ships coming through from the observation tower. Again, very cool. Then they take you back to the ship. The tour guides spoke English and made our trip very, very enjoyable. Highly recommend this tour.
PUERTO LIMON, COSTA RICA: We did a private tour with Charlie Soto (Okey-Dokey Tours). It was great - we highly recommend him. We stopped at a fruitstand and tried the bananas, water apples, and cacao beans. Then went horseback riding through the rainforest, where we saw howler monkeys, sloths, frogs, spiders, huge ants, termites, etc. Gorgeous - we loved it. Then back to the stable where were geared up to zip line through the Costa Rican rain forest. Amazing!! Don't fear doing this - it's very safe and so free and exhilarating!! You feel like a bird!! Then we had lunch at the beach and then did the Tortuguera Canal boat tour, where we saw more wildlife. Then to a local grocery store to get coffee (.85/bag for 1820 Coffee vs. $8/bag at the tourist stops!). Then back to the ship. Beautiful country, but very poor there. Book a tour to really see the country - it's lovely.
We tried the new "Express Disembarkation" that they are testing out. Basically, if you're healthy and can carry all your luggage off the ship without assistance, you can be off the ship around 8-8:30 am. (You should seen us stuffing our bags to consolidate everything!). But it worked out beautiful and we were off and went right through customs with no problems at all.
As stated initially, we came on this cruise to relax, and that is what we did (minus our port calls!!). We decided that if it was just the two of us cruising together, we would do Celebrity again, but if we were going with friends, we would definitely do Royal Caribbean instead. The ship was definitely geared towards an older crowd, but it was still a fun crown nonetheless and we did enjoy our vacation. While not a premium cruiseline, it's still a nicer cruise line next to the others we have sailed (RCCL is a close second, and definitely a more youthful vibe). We hope to sail the new Solstice one day in the future.