I'm retired US Navy, father of two, both on this cruise with me. My Mother, Mother in Law, and my SIL/BIL and their two kids also accompanied my wife and I on this cruise. We've sailed Royal 8 times, 6 on Grandeur, one each on Radiance and Mariner. My Mother, SIL/BIL had sailed Carnival before, the rest are first time cruisers.
Flights down were great, Southwest from Pittsburgh and Birmingham, AL; and Spirit Airlines from Myrtle Beach, SC did a beautiful job of getting all of us to Fort Lauderdale airport. My brother in law rented a mini-van from Thrifty, and I rented a SUV from Budget. Again, very efficiently handled and good cars. My TomTom One had no problems guiding me around Miami, the directions were spot on, and the Points of Interest database was very helpful to find grocery stores, shopping, restaurants and fuel.
The hotel was a disaster. I made a mistake and booked rooms at the Rodeway Inn Miami Airport. Should have gone ahead and found another place to stay when they tried to cancel my reservation on Wednesday the 6th of Feb when I was supposed to arrive with 8 people on 9 Feb. I made the reservations in August 2008. They overbooked, tried to blame it on Choice Privileges, and expected to just cancel me with no attempt at resolution. Choice Privileges persuaded them to honor my ressie, but, I should have just found another place to stay. The room they put me in for Saturday the 9th wasn't even safe, much less comfortable. There was no phone, the phone jack had been ripped out of the wall (I have pictures). No chair for the desk, no clothes hanging bar, no cold water in the sink (I eventually turned it on myself), no remote for the TV. The deadbolt just spun around and around, no locky. The bathroom floor and toilet was spattered with paint, the bathtub water ran continuously, the border around the room had been painted over, not removed, just painted over. The AC units in both rooms that I stayed in either did not have covers, or the covers would not stay on. They promised me a 20 minute pickup from the airport, after one hour 20 minutes and 3 phone calls, they finally sent a shuttle. The shuttle driver said they had a wealth builder convention for Chinese in town, and they had as many as 10 people sleeping in some of their rooms. I know for a fact that at least 3 other Choice Privileges members refused their reservations when they saw how dirty and unkempt their rooms were and went to another hotel. This place is a wreck, they should be ashamed to ask people to stay there, much less charge for the rooms. I am filing a complaint with the Florida Hotel Regulators, and have already filed a formal complaint with Choice Privileges. They did shuttle 11 of us to the Port of Miami.
The cruise had fabulous bright spots and some terrible low spots. I admit that I was lazy and instead of forcing my Mother and Mother in Law to figure out how to do the online checkin, I just did the online checkin under my credit card for 7 of the 11 of us, from 4 different states, thinking they could just reset our sea pass accounts to individual credit cards at the pier. I had changed credit cards at the pier before when boarding a Royal cruise, using a different card than I used for the online checkin, so I didn't think it'd be a problem. Ummm, not so much. Even though they took my Mom's and my daughter's credit card information at the pier, their purchases were automatically transferred to my account for the duration of the cruise. All of the onboard credits were transferred to my account, gift credits, booking onboard and TA OBC. Now, they did manage to reset my Mother in Law's account, her gift OBC still wound up on my account, but no one elses. Go figure. Guest Services were terrible on the ship. I've never been confronted on a cruise with people who were less capable/willing to resolve a problem. My Mother requested them to stop the automatic gratuities, so they canceled hers, and my Mother in Laws. By the time we figured it out, it was too late to fix, and we had to pay her tips in cash, they just couldn't figure out how to add them back to the sea pass account. The Guest Service's staff refused to allow more than one Comment Card per stateroom. My Mother, and Mother in Law's opinions were vastly different, but had to share one comment card, I'm serious, they told me they would not give me another card. My experience on Royal, they have a stack of comment cards laying on the Purser's Desk, just pick them up. Food was wonderful, loved the ship, Captain's Club hostesses were amazing, first time being invited to dine at the Captain's Table with the Chief Engineer (couldn't have been better for me), toured the Engineering Control Room at the Chief Engineer's invitation, toured the bridge for the first time. The gym was really nice, nearly new equipment and a small flat screen tv on every cardio machine. We visited Key West and Grand Cayman, you can find plenty of reviews about them, and the weather was perfect for both stops.
Disembark was easy, we were off the ship about 08:30. Miami Beach 411 was awesome shuttling us from Port of Miami to Fort Lauderdale Airport, picked us up right on time. The flights home were touch and go, 7 of us made it home with no problems on Southwest, 1 was delayed in Fort Lauderdale by 3-1/2 hours on Southwest, 3 were delayed in La Guardia for 3 hours on Spirit.
It was a first cruise for my adult children, and they loved it, even with the problems, they are now as hooked on cruising as I am. My Mother pretty much hated it. She's a Carnival cruiser, and with the problems at the Purser's Desk, (her perceived) lack of entertainment, and wait staff spread too thin. She will never sail Celebrity again, and is happily headed back to Carnival. My kids and I may try another Celebrity cruise from Charleston if the price is fantastic, otherwise, I'm going back to Royal, and won't be looking back.