I just want to start off by stating that we had an absolutely fabulous cruise. This was our second cruise on Celebrity, the first being the Millennium to Alaska. We love the M class ships. We are 63 and 62 respectively and really just wanted a vacation free from all the obligations of life. The fact that we had an aft corner cabin, stateroom 8166, did influence this perspective enormously and that needs to be acknowledged up front. It was an incredible score that will probably not come this way again. Just great luck and perseverance, I guess. I refreshed Celebrity's website every day and that cabin showed up right after final payment was due.
The reason the cabin was so great, of course, was the 300 sq. ft. veranda. When the ship's commotion and intensity ... lots of people sunning and eating and sitting and enjoying themselves ... we retreated to our private veranda with the four lounge chairs and table and four dining chairs and just chilled. That was marvelous. Life got lived at the speed of a boat, albeit a big boat. It was the most relaxing vacation I have ever had.
When we got on the ship,which took no time, btw, we checked out our dining second seating table and discovered we didn't like it much. I bring this up because it really is important to make your needs and wants known. I told the maitre d' I was disappointed with its location. The maitre d', very nice to us, then moved us from the table for two, which we requested, right on the pathway from the kitchen to all the tables of the dining room, to a table for six with only two set ups ... us. The first evening we ate there but, unfortunately, really didn't like sitting at a table for six with just us. It felt lonely for one and we couldn't really look at each other ... like you might on a four top sitting across from one another ... and we were facing out at the dining room rather than facing in at each other. So once more I expressed this to the maitre d'. He was so nice. The next day we found a card in our room giving us a window table for two. Magnificent! Perfect table. My point is that everyone on this ship tries to please. It made all the difference for us in our dining experience.
Speaking of dining ... I do think the food in the mdr was just nice but not terribly special. I should mention that I am a vegetarian so I am talking about less variety available from the get go. But I was on the Millennium in September 2008 and I do believe I got better choices and better meals in the mdr. It was certainly not a big deal, however. The food was nice, just not creative or exciting. The appetizers and chilled soups were good and the salad dressings really nice. For dessert we almost always chose the sorbet ... except for the one lovely flan indulgence ... because we had to spread those calories over the entire day's repasts! Every day, for example, I had sushi ... veggie rolls, really ... and miso soup as a five thirty p.m. snack. Could not turn it down. We either ate outside off the aft on the buffet deck 10 or brought the tray to our room two floors below and ate on our lovely veranda. White wine was always the accompaniment. Very nice.
The pool was good. It was small but never terribly crowded. I don't really know why. And then we would move to the thallasotherapy pool to soak a bit. This was most often followed by lunch in the Aqua Spa cafe. What a great place. As has been said before, the people who prepare this food prepare the Ocean Liners specialty dining experience as well ... and nothing else. They are the best. The food is light, beautifully presented and very tasty. My favorite dessert there was the lightest wafer cookie cup filled with couscous and raisins and figs. Sweet, delicious, and actually pretty healthy. What a deal!
We also built up an affection for Perry Grant over this cruise. He is really fun to watch and he is quite talented and warms up a room with great skill. We loved listening to him in Michael's Club ... when we could find a seat ... and in the theater for his show.
I also want to mention The Conservatory on Deck 11. They have lovely things up there, including the exquisite resin bowls embedded with flowers that you see all over the ship in the public restrooms with flowers floating in them. It's a nice place to visit.
The Ocean Liners experience was magnificent, just like everyone says. We did the wine pairing (which we didn't do at the Olympic Restaurant on the Millennium) and this was brilliant. Three perfectly chosen glasses of wine ... in Waterford crystal, btw ... followed by port with our cheese course ... followed by champagne with our Grand Marnier souffles. Do not miss this experience if you can afford it at all. It is not stuffy, just lovely and elegant. The service is perfect and done with the pleasure of people who want you to really enjoy what they are offering.
While the gym was first rate, it seemed silly to be indoors to work out. We walked miles every day, at various times, around the jogging track on deck 11. It was too beautiful. I had to keep stopping to take pictures, but still we ended up walking miles. We also never took an elevator in ten days. Doing the stairs ... up and down ... up and down ... all day ... is how to keep the lovely food experience in check. (I gained one pound and ate four meals a day and the occasional snack from the Cova Cafe when I couldn't resist.)
We loved the islands. While going to the beaches is a no brainer (We went to Sapphire Beach on St. Thomas, Accra Beach in Barbados, Orient Beach in St. Maarten- all were good. Next time we'll explore others.), we took a nice tour with Mr. MacIntosh, through the ship, to the Caribelle Batik Factory and the fortress on St. Kitts. I recommend this. We got a taste of how people live, saw beautiful gardens at Romney Manor (where the batik workshop is) and the fortress was beautiful and the vistas were as well. I wish I had bought more batik pareos. They are beautiful and different. The best excursion we took was to the Pitons on St. Lucia. A four hour catamaran cruise, from 8-12noon so we still had an afternoon on St. Lucia, that we took through the ship. At one point they pulled into a cove and we could jump off the boat, or walk down the ladder, into the water to go swimming. The water was incredible and this was great. Caribbean music off the boat, playing in the water, and eventually the free and free flowing rum punch. By the time the cruise was over, we were all friends! Lots of fun. Not expensive. Speaking of money, I think St. Maarten had the best shopping and I regret not having more time to explore it. While you are inundated with shops, the prices are really pretty good, at least on jewelry and watches and cameras. I bought a 16" 14K gold chain I actually needed for $120. and I have found a lighter weight chain that looks identical here in the S.F. Bay Area, for $260.00. I think it really was a good buy.
I guess that's my story. The ship is beautiful and spotlessly clean and everyone is always around polishing and making it pretty each day. The service is extraordinary. Everyone smiles and makes eye contact and, if you start up a conversation, willing and maybe even interested in telling you a little about the places they come from, the families the look forward to seeing after each six month contract ends, and what they like about their lives. I think we made some friends, however briefly.
I think Celebrity does an amazingly good job and I will always try to take an M class ship if there is any choice at all. (I wish there were West Coast sailings scheduled.) Also, I also don't think I can go back to a seven day cruise. Ten felt too short but it also felt like the new bare minimum for settling in and relaxing and being pampered.
I am, in my own childish way, already envious of all of you about to embark on the Constellation! You are about to have a really great vacation.