I am not a nitpicker so I will not go on about unvarnished railings or worn carpets etc. as I saw no evidence of either and I can't possibly see how these sorts of things can affect a cruise. The ship is magnificent,in excellent condition and all evidence is that it is well maintained.
EMBARKATION: We arrived at the port of Barcelona at 2.00pm after an eleven euro taxi fare from the Hotel Inglaterra and there was a crowd, but so what? It was interesting to see our fellow cruisers and we were on the ship within 30 mins. Get there at 4 if you want to miss the crowds.
CABIN: On Vista deck our cabin was large enough with a good size balcony. Peter, our steward was there to meet us and make us feel comfortable. He also delivered our breakfast every morning and afternoon tea on some sea days. Daily bowls of fresh fruit were a welcome touch and our cabin was kept spotless. Nothing was too much trouble and he and his staff were well rewarded and I am not used to and dislike the whole business of tipping (We had arranged for the automatic tipping to be removed from our account and it was cancelled by Guest Relations without a murmur)
FOOD: We dined in the MDR (only "just O.K." food and I agree with the criticisms), Destinations (the ship's best kept secret with excellent service, good food and the best views) and the Normandie. Now the Normandie is an outstanding dining room and really worth getting dressed up for on formal nights. Katerina and her staff have got their act together and provide excellent service with a flair. The food is superb especially the goat's cheese soufflE, the cappuccino soup (yes) the Maine lobster, the chateaubriand and the sensational Grand Marnier soufflE to name a few. The Normandie has it's own chefs and that certainly makes a big difference. For an extra $30 it is an absolute bargain and every cruiser should dine there at least once to make the most of the cruise experience. We had 3 wonderful and memorable meals in the Normandie. Thankyou Celebrity and Katerina!
EXCURSIONS: The ship's excursions are way too expensive so we did our research and except for the Amalfi Coast, where we hired Guiseppe of Sorrento Top Cars (350euros) and had an excellent lunch at the Garden Restaurant in Ravello, we visited each destination on our own. We encountered no problems with trains etc. and visited all the places on our agenda. They included Museums (the new one in Athens is a must) lunches ( Da Fortunato at the Pantheon in Rome is one of my favourites) and shopping (Valmar on via Porta Rosa in Florence is amazing for cushions and fabrics). The fact that we had visited many of these cities over the years prior to the cruise meant that we could be selective and could use our short time to advantage. Disembarkation for the excursions was no problem and I found myself walking off the ship at Livorno at 7.01am after 7.00am docking. Well done Celebrity! On all occasions it was a nice touch to a arrive back at the ship to find a stall with wet towels and cold drinks.
ENTERTAINMENT: The Broadway type shows were first class presented with enthusiasm and energy. The individual acts were entertaining, but I would have been prepared to pay extra for a realy big name.
We were fortunate in that we had perfect weather everyday and the Med. was like a millpond. Countless times I stood at our balcony to make sure the ship was actually moving. Incidentally balconies are certainly worth it and how can I not forget the sun rising over Vesuvius from the comfort of ours. Overall a great experience from a very professional cruising company. As first timers we are now hooked!!!