My husband and I are totally Celebrity loyalists but hopefully this is an objective review for all. We travel extensively and consider ourselves pretty savvy and so usually do our own exploring ashore. This cruise, we took 2 ship excursions after reading reviews and seeking advise from our travel agent.
We took this cruise in place of a cancelled (by Celebrity) Hawaii itinerary we had booked and it was the longest we have taken to date as it was 16 nights. Everything about the cruise from our dinner companions to experiences ashore were some of the best we have encountered since we began cruising and I for one did not want to leave the ship.
First was our pre-cruise stay at the Westin in Seattle which we found to be perfectly located with good food and bar service. For those that are interested, there is a car-hire right across the street from the hotel. Pier and airport was an easy cab-ride away.
The ship was the Infinity one of the Millenium class and though ageing now is in wonderful condition. Of course, it's crew made the cruise with their amazing and wonderful attentive service. Everyone, from embarkation staff through to ship's officers were a pleasure to meet.
My husband and I are the type that prefer to do as little as possible when cruising as we both just aim to read, relax, eat and sleep whenever we feel like it. Thus, the numerous activities except for a couple of shows are not something we can comment on as we do not attend most of them.
That said, one of our favourite places on these ships is the bar/lounge at the front of the ship, in this case it was the Constellation bar. We thouroughly enjoyed chatting with the bar staff there most nights.
One of the changes we have noticed is the continuous and constant classical music throughout the ship including all outside decks. This was somewhat irritating as it now means there is no-where you can lie or sit on the outside decks and either read or just listent to the waves without hearing classial music. Particularly annoying was the trombones and trumpets screeching at 8am in the Ocean-View Cafe during the breakfast!
Dining in the main dining room was exceptional thanks to the staff. Both my husband and I noticed a change in the quality of food over our last few cruises. Generally it has improved but now there is more use of spices. I found most meals had a touch of some sort of hot spice, sauce or pepper included and though none were overly spicey, I am disappointed that so many of the main courses are now prepared in this way. That said there is always the left side of the menu which had items such as steak, prawn cocktail etc. that were available every night.
One new addition is the option to purchase wine packages which Royal Caribbean has being doing on it's ships for a few years. As wine drinkers, my husband and I found this good value for money. There are three levels of package from which you can choose a number of wines. Husband and I chose the middle priced package and had five bottles for throughout the cruise. You can choose the bottles as and when you need to.
I hesitate to mention this but occasions, couples at our table and a folks on other tables sent steaks back. On the one occasion on our table, the steak was sent back three times, the third was at the insistence of our wonderful waiter. The steak had been ordered well done, first time it came it was close to blue - I kid you not, 2nd time was very red and juicey still and the third was no better. Our table mates really did not want to return it but our wonderful waiter, noticed it was not acceptable and went down to the kitchen himself and returned with a fourth and perfectly well done steak. We can only assume orders were mixed up that night as we learned later that others had had to return their steaks too.
Lobster - oh dear, what a huge disappointment that turned out to be. First no longer do you have the maitre'di or waiter come around to lift the lobster out of the shell for you but it is now a half tail of lobster. Unfortunately the lobster itself was over cooked and almost stodgy tasting, perhaps it was just as well that in a 16 night cruise it was served just the once.
One last comment about the dining room (and I do not wish to inflame the old dress code debate) is about the move towards smart-casual dress. I love to dress for dinner but I appreciate others do not. Still, I felt the leggings with baggy emblem tee-shirts I saw on one woman regularly and jeans with a variety of very informal type tee-shirts and tops were perhaps not what was intended by Celebrity for the main dining room when it finalised the new code. Interestingly on this cruise, on the formal evenings I noticed more gowns and tuxedos than I have on past cruises. Perhaps this was due to the generally older clientelle of this particular cruise.
The two shows we saw were ok, though I felt that the material was more for an older generation which probably was well accepted given that I would say the majority of the clientelle this cruise were 57 years plus.
Ports were very interesting though we found Acapulco and Cartagena overly annoying with the constant harassment of taxi drivers, traders etc. These are two places where you will be followed for many blocks by folks wanting to sell you something or take you for a tour. "No thanks" and a wave of the hand just does not work in these places and for sure, don't so much as even glance or catch the eye of a trader in Cartagena because they will spot your interest and follow you for ever! We were warned of this attention in Cartagena by our travel agent and for once we took a guided walking tour in Cartagena so goodness knows what harassment we would have had without a guide!
The other excursion we took was the Eco-Mangrove tour in Costa Rica. Absolutely worth every cent. We were sceptical it would be as we always make our own way around on shore to save money and enjoy a more relaxed experience. But we were pleasantly surprised as we found the tour very well organised, not crowded and we were not rushed in any way. The guide we had gave us the names of many birds we saw, ensured we saw numerous crocodiles and was more than willing to answer our questions. Toilet facilities, coach and other amenities were very acceptable given where we were.
All in all, a fabulous cruise and we booked another two for next year while on this one.
Punta-Renas - we did a ship excursion here to see the crocodiles and wildlife which was wonderful. On return to the ship we stayed and drank at the small bar at the port entrance which was great fun as we sat with some of our cruising friends. Port shops were nothing to shout about but the secure port area is a lovely area to just sit and chat with friends with its tropical plants and birds around you.
Huatulco - Very nice beach right by the ship with plenty of bars and restaurants. The washrooms, the Publico Banos at the far end of the beach away from the port are somewhat of a joke - none of the toilets were flushing, no doors locks and no tissue paper and a drip for running water but hey, it is Mexico after all. Oh yes, it cost me $1 to use these facilities as I did not have pesos!
Much better toilet was available in the bar we used on the beach front though take your own sanitizer and paper.
Very sad to see some of the most disabled and physically deformed people begging that we have ever seen in the Caribbean.