We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale at 2:30. Our arrival was later than most people, but we were able to get a direct flight from RDU and avoid the necessity of spending the previous night in Ft. Lauderdale. In baggage claim, we got our bags and wheeled toward the main doors where we were met by very nice people who separated the cruisers into groups according to which ship we would be boarding. One gentleman led us out (this is when wheels on suitcases are a must!) and down the sidewalk to a large bus. Only about 8 of us boarded the Trailways type bus and we were headed to the boarding building. In all, this took maybe 30 minutes. The embarkation/disembarkation building is huge, with lots of agents to handle crowds quickly. Somewhere along the way they took our large suitcases and issued us our golden tickets (debit/credit type cards for ID and charges). We carried our roll-ons with us up a gangplank and onto the ship. We were met by a formally dressed waiter with a choice of Mimosa or juice and waited for the elevator to our cabin.
Upon entering our cabin, we were happily surprised at its size and beautiful decor. The bed was very comfortable and the large flat screen tv, vanity/desk, large leather sofa were welcoming and contemporary. At that moment, we met our favorite thing about our ship, our Stateroom Attendant, Ninfa. He is the nicest, most gentle man with a beautiful smile who, we would learn, could anticipate our every need. He was never intrusive but always available.
We hurried up to Oceanview Cafe to catch the buffet before it closed. At first it was a little overwhelming because there were so many people and so much food. Some of the buffet repeats itself so it can be a little confusing, but provides plenty of access for everyone. After eating, we did a little exploring. We went out to the Pool Bar, where a welcome band was playing and had some drinks. Victor Hooker is a great bar waiter, funny, and a great salesman.
The 2 pools outside were beautiful. We never used them because they were always crowded and in the full sun. We really preferred the Solarium (16+) was great. Quiet, no kids, diffused sunlight. We enjoyed this only 2 days out of the week. Since we live at the beach, we don't feel the need to sunbathe. Later in the day, it would get busy and we would have to go reserve a seat if you wanted one by the pool. The hot tub in the Solarium is a little strange. There is nowhere to put your feet down, so you have to sit Indian-style.
Our only disappointment all week was the Water Package option we signed up for ahead of our cruise. We had bought the Water Package for $14/day per person. Let's just say it needs to be tweaked a little bit. We quickly learned that you have to present your card (understandable) and then wait for the server to print a ticket that you then sign each time you order one, whether at a bar or from a server, even though the ticket says $0. In our opinion, this interrupted the all-inclusive feeling. We asked at Guest Relations and they said that this is primarily for the servers and waiters, because there is an incentive program for the staff to sell the most drinks.
The Water Package states that you can receive an unlimited amount of water. Technically, this is true, although we found it to be misleading. They would only allow 1 water per ticket and it's annoying when you are visiting a port and would like to carry more with you. Although the price for the small bottles ranged from $2.88 to $4.88 (we were erroneously charged, then credited a few times) we doubt that we ever used $14.00 per day each and would recommend you not sign up for this option. We understand that someone could take advantage by ordering 5 or 10 bottles on his package and distributing them, but in truth, he could just visit several bars and do the same. Not sure what the answer is to this issue.
One thing which is nice is they provide a table before the gangway so you may purchase water for excursions. Wondering if they allowed non-Water Package people to purchase more than one bottle. One irony was that they would allow us only one bottle but it could be a large bottle, but not two small ones?
The food was amazing. We ate in the MDR/Epernay 3 evenings, Murano (French) once, and the Tuscan Grille (Italian) twice. The first night Mom recognized Don Diamont (Young & the Restless/Bold & the Beautiful) and his family waiting to enter the dining room. Needless to say she was thrilled and tried not to be intrusive but he insisted he make a pic with her. Turned out he was a guest speaker for the week and was very friendly along with his beautiful wife, Cindy and three of their boys. Mom said that's obviously why they call it a "Celebrity" cruise.
We loved the Tuscan Grille. They have great filets as does the Murano. We ordered the Surf & Turf at the Murano and it was fabulous. The Murano & Tuscan do charge extra ($30 to $50, per) but the food and the service were, what we thought to be, a notch above the regular restaurants. Overall, the food on the ship was amazing everywhere. We never once had a bad experience. The prices for drinks were pretty average for a resort. A 15% gratuity is already added to all the drinks unless you have a drink package. A strawberry daiquiri and a glass of white wine were each $7.87. A Mimosa runs about $6.
It was a little rough the first 2 days, more than I would have expected. I asked around and some that had cruised before said they agreed that it felt a little choppy. There were more of kids on the cruise ship than we expected because of Spring Break and Easter. I met a couple of people my age, but mostly hung with my mom. We loved the gelato (especially the chocolate) and the Sky Lounge (deck 14).
After the Snorkel Park, we enjoyed the boardwalk and Front Street in Phillipsburg. I highly recommend trying the Guavaberry Colada, which is their signature drink. It's very good!! We found a small restaurant to have lunch on the beach which was fun (ribs, beans & rice), as we people watched along the boardwalk, and then took the water taxi ($4 per person, payable when you get there) back to the ship's dock. We were told it would have been a 15 min walk back (we were carrying our own snorkel stuff although they provide for you at TH) and that the land taxi might get in traffic and be as much as $60. All in all, it's a great place. While we were there, there were 4 other ships there including the Oasis of the Seas. Although the Snorkel Park wasn't my favorite at least it didn't seem crowded and Phillipsburg was really crowded when we got to the boardwalk.
Nicole's opened up about 10am and they charge $5 a chair, which isn't bad at all. We didn't do any snorkeling but there were plenty people who did. I highly suggest bringing bug spray. I got bitten by "no see-ums." And I think it would be best to find a place under shade. The beach wraps around but it is not as big as Cane Garden Bay. I enjoyed the exclusivity of it and that there weren't a lot of people there.
You must try the Pina Colada. One of the best Pina Coladas I've had. We got 4 bags of chips, a Pina Colada, and a white wine for $13. Since we had to be back on the ship by12:45, we asked that Gene come back and pick us up at 12. He got there about 11:45. Traffic was a little busy on the way back, so he took us on a short cut and we arrived at 12:25pm.
This ranked as one of my top 2 places on the cruise. It was very relaxing and exactly what I pictured in the Caribbean.