The ship is beautiful! There are many photos of it posted in various places on the boards, but they hardly do it justice. Artwork around the ship is tasteful, but kind of boring and uninspired. We thought the planter for the tree was a little on the tacky side with all the rhinestones glued to the base, other than that, we loved the ship!
The life boat drill took place shortly before leaving port. Everyone was assigned to a different lifeboat station where we had to meat for the drill. The meeting places were in lounges, dining rooms, and theatres. We did not have to bring life jackets to the drill and had to watch a video. (Towards the end of the cruise in Naples, we watched as some of the crew actually lowered one of the lifeboats and practiced loading people on and off the boats. This increased our confidence that the crew would actually know what to do in case of an emergency.)
Our cabin was on Deck 11 in 1645, Aquaclass. Aquaclass is worth the extra cost simply because it allows you to dine in Blu. Dining in Blu was like dining in a specialty restaurant every day! Food was fabulous and served promptly. We learned that each of the specialty restaurants, including Blu has its own galley and chef. That resulted in food temperatures being perfect when served. Blu was also open for breakfast daily on an open seating basis. We tried the buffet upstairs for breakfast a few times, but really liked the fresh squeezed juice and individual service we got for breakfast in Blu. Blu only seats around 120 people, so it was always a nice, intimate restaurant environment. Aquaclass guests also receive free bottles of water in the room daily, a carafe of iced tea, a bowl of fresh fruit, and canapes delivered to the room each afternoon. The Persian Garden was also a benefit of Aquaclass. We only discovered that about halfway into the cruise. It was a great place to relax after working out in the gym. The warm couches in the Persian Garden frequently lulled you to sleep in the lightly scented, peaceful atmosphere.
We tried all three specialty restaurants and loved them all. Silk Harvest was the most fun and the friendliest atmosphere. The waitstaff there were especially friendly and welcoming. Murano was absolute perfection and a little too upscale for our tastes, but still very enjoyable. Tuscan Grill has the best views since it is facing aft. Food there was also fantastic.
We dined in the Main Dining room just once for lunch. It was too large and food was good, but not great. Service there was very good, even compared to the specialty restaurants. We loved the buffet! Such incredible variety of offerings, especially at lunch. It was hard not to overeat.
Prior to the cruise, I read a lot about dress codes on Celebrity and was very concerned that we would feel out of place. We were usually dressed in outdoorsy, practical hiking pants with lots of pockets and shirts with collars and lots of pockets and we had sport sandals. We frequently returned from excursions just in time for our early dinner seating and rushed straight from our tour to dinner. We asked if we were dressed too casually a couple of times, and the staff said that we were fine the way we were. We did not "dress" for dinner at all, but there were also many who did.Entertainment- we had a lot of ports on this cruise and most had early disembarkation times for tours. It really didn't make sense to have the earliest shows starting at 8:30 or later on the nights before early port disembarkation. We ended up only seeing 2 shows, and fell asleep during the first one. The shows we did see were OK, but not great. The singers and dancers all did a great job, but I was not really enthusiastic about the shows. During the second show we saw, I concluded that part of the problem might have been the sound mixing. It seemed like it was too hard to hear the singers over the percussion section. We went to see the hot glass show several times, it was always fascinating. We also saw two of the celebrity chef cook-off shows- which were really comedy shows in disguise. We attended 3 Behind the Podium lectures featuring a former college professor talking about the history at some of the ports of call. The lectures were very interesting and not nearly long enough. Musical entertainment was everywhere on the ship in public areas, lounges, and hallways. All of it was very good.
The stateroom- was very well designed and very comfortable. The only noises we ever heard inside the cabin were from other toilets flushing in rooms above ours. The interactive TV was easy to use and kind of entertaining to find photos of ourselves scrolling across the screen. The lineup of TV channels was minimal. We could choose from FOX news or CNN, some foreign news networks, a sports network or two and not a whole lot of anything else. There is a good selection of free on Demand movies that pause where you left off when you turn off your TV. The bathroom was almost roomy and allowed two people to stand in there. Plenty of storage space for personal belongings. The bathroom also has a mirror that does not steam up no matter how many showers are taken. There is a hairdryer in the bathroom, and a magnifying light up mirror in the desk drawer. Balcony seating was very comfortable. There was also a small pair of binoculars for use in the cabin. There are no self service ironing or laundry facilities on the ship. There is plenty of storage in the room and our four suitcases easily fit under the bed. We were a little short on drawer space for our clothing, but managed by using the shelves on top of the closet and above the bed. The bed is actually two twin sized beds pushed together that were almost as big as a kind sized bed. The blanket was a little thick and heavy and we received a lighter blanket from our cabin steward.
Some general ship comments- The public restrooms were gorgeous! There were even small, cloth towels for drying your hands! I loved the sinks! We were occasionally frustrated by the lack of trashcans in public areas of the ships. On a few occasions we wanted to dispose of some napkins or paper, and had to carry them around until we got to a restroom and went inside to dump our trash. For newspaper junkies- there is a daily 8 page newspaper available near the Guest Relations Desk on Deck three by noon each day. This was only our second cruise ever, first time on Celebrity. During this cruise we noticed that there were few overhead announcements. Almost all announcements were made by the captain and almost never more than once a day. We found this to be very refreshing. Our first cruise was another line two years ago and the overhead announcements were an endless annoyance! Not having so many announcements made this cruise much more pleasant and more of a hotel like atmosphere.
Exercise facilities were very high quality. All the machines are very good and easy to learn to use. We only used the facilities on sea days and found that they were really crowded throughout the morning, and half empty in the afternoons. The running track on deck 14 is a good non-slip surface, but has lots of walkers and strollers who don't pay attention to joggers.
We loved coming back from port excursions. Crew members were outside the ship handing out glasses of cold water and rolled up cold towels to wipe your hands and face with. It was a nice welcoming gesture. Re-embarkation generally went quickly and the security scans also were fairly fast.
Service in all areas of the ship was outstanding! Most of the crew are experienced and transferred from other Celebrity ships. Everyone was friendly and always willing to do whatever it takes to make your cruise more pleasant. Our cabin steward would see us coming down the hall returning to our room and would frequently run ahead of us and unlock our door for us. On several occasions in the various dining rooms, we had trouble deciding on menu choices for dinner because we wanted to try more than one item. The waiters had overheard us and brought both items!
Disembarkation was very fast. We even left earlier than our posted debarkation time because we realized we had erred in our times on our stated post cruise travel plans. No one had any problems with us leaving 40 minutes sooner than our scheduled 7:45 departure time.
We loved the ship, the crew, the ports! We were beginning to discuss what to do for our next vacation and could not come up with anything. How do you top this? We definitely want to cruise with Celebrity again.
We traveled in a tour group of 6 people on both days in this port. We took a trip to the pyramids and the Museum of Antiquities in Cairo. Lunch was a hurried affair at a local KFC at around 2:00pm. I would recommend taking some food off the ship and packing it for snacks in case you don't get time for a lunch stop. The museum had fabulous treasures, but was also shockingly run down and needed lots of maintenance.
Our second day in Alexandria was was booked with Soha Solomon on a very nice private tour through the city. Lots of things were closed for Ramadan, like the Library of Alexandria. Our tour guide took us to quite a few sites around the city and it was a pleasant and relaxing day.
The Acropolis was a way too crowded because of all the tour groups up there. The Agora was practically empty and had a very nice museum with some really interesting artifacts of daily life.
We booked a private tour with 6 people through Avi Tours and drove from Ashdod to Qumran, Masada and the Dead Sea. Qumran is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947. Masada is awesome and well worth the trip. The scenery on the entire trip is spectacular. After Masada, we went for a float in the Dead Sea. That was quite an experience. If you go, there are rules for floating, especially not to splash, get the water in your eyes (it really stings!)or get water on your face (it really burns!). The resort we stopped at also had an indoor pool and hot tub with the seawater which were very pleasant. I would not recommend the Dead Sea for children simply because of how the water stings and burns in your eyes and face. I tried as hard as I could not to get them on my face and did so a very painful three times!
There were no opportunities for any real shopping on this tour or port.
The next day was a stop at Haifa. Again, we did a small group of 6 with Avi tours and went to Jerusalem. We skipped the Bethlehem stop because we heard it really was not worth all the trouble to go and see. We first stopped at the Israeli Museum and saw a wonderful scale model of ancient Jerusalem. we also saw an impressive display of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We then did a Mt. Olive overlook and then went into the city. It was a very interesting tour. Our guide took us through the stations of the cross, but really rushed us through the Muslim quarter- which seemed to be where all the interesting shopping was. We had a nice lunch in the old city of Shawarma. We got back to the ship in plenty of time. If your like shopping, there is none within walking distance of the port, best to do it all on one of the tours.
We loved the drive through the Turkish countryside and villages. We weren't too happy about the forced stop at the rug factory- if you get a private tour, just say no to that part of the stop unless you're really interested in buying handmade rugs.
We arrived back at the port with plenty of time to spare for shopping. There are plenty of shops right next to the port, and as it turned out, was the best port on this trip for lots of shopping. None of the other ports had shopping so close to the ship. The signs for Genuine Fake Watches were quite amusing- they were everywhere!