About us: Couple in their 30's/40's with a 10-month old baby boy. Elite level with >10 Celebrity cruises under our ever-expanding belts. We sailed as part of the Pied Piper group. Also cruised on Cunard in Queen's Grill and on NCL.
Embarkation: Very easy for us. We drove to the port from our home in Brooklyn. Pulled right up to unload our bags, parked the car, and were on line in about 15 minutes. No waiting for us thanks to our Elite status, but there was a long snaking line for most passengers.
We entered the ship on the 1st deck and were handed the customary glasses of champagne. However, there were no white-gloved escorts to take us to our cabin as in the past, and the wait for an elevator was pretty long. It's much more impressive when you enter directly into the grand foyer, but I suppose it all depends on the port.
Accommodations: Celebrity Suite 7138 is a large suite with floor to ceiling windows but no balcony. We've booked it before and think it offers the best value of all suites. It is a true suite, with a living room, dining table, and a separate bedroom. There is a dressing room, an enormous amount of storage space, and a decent sized bathroom with 2 sinks and a large, whirlpool tub/shower combination. The bathroom is the only one that I've ever seen that gets natural light, thanks to a window that looks out to the living room space.
It is located mid-ship, offering a smooth ride and easy access to most public areas on the ship.
The living room had newish furniture with a more modern style than the last CS we sailed in, and everything was in very good condition. The window curtains are the only bad feature. They are a pain to open and close, and often get stuck halfway open. Even in their fully open position, they block the top portion of the window. They should be replaced with electric blinds that go all the way to the top.
There is a large, flat screen TV in the living room with a DVD player, and another large flat screen in the bedroom. The TV in the living room was a newer model, with an outstanding picture. In the bedroom, it was an older model, but the speakers are built into the ceiling.
Not having a balcony is a drawback, but considering the CS usually costs only a little more than a Sky Suite but is almost twice as big makes it a better value in my opinion.
The main drawback to the suite is climate control. When the sun is facing the suite, it gets very warm, even with the curtains completely shut. I think this problem could be resolved with better curtains and a more powerful A/C.
Butler service: Our butler served us breakfast every morning and tea in the afternoon. He solved a couple of problems for us, including replacing a lost key card and helping us get in a sold-out excursion. We were very happy with his service.
Stateroom attendant: Did a great job, hardly ever saw him, but room was always spotless.
Dining: We had late seating dinner and had lunch every day at the buffet. Food and service in the main dining room was very good, maybe a little less fancy than it used to be but still no major complaints. Salads have gotten really small for some reason, and a few dishes were hit or miss. There was one dessert that I couldn't eat--some kind of pear concoction on the last night that looked like mac and cheese and tasted like raw eggs. The waiter was ready with a dish of ice cream; he must know that people don't like this dessert! The lobster was also kind of lame, but I've never like the version they serve on Celebrity. I much prefer Maine lobster, like many people.
Normandie: We had dinner one night in the specialty restaurant. It was a great experience, but we weren't blown away by any one dish. They don't seem to prepare food table-side like they use to, not sure why. One word of caution: Ask about the price of caviar before ordering. We failed to do so and ended up with a $150 surprise at the end of the dinner!
Buffet: Not bad if you stick to the salad bar and Asian food. The American food was not very appealing to me. They don't carry your trays to your table like they used to. Not a big deal for young people, but I think that the older passengers probably appreciated the help.
Public spaces: All spotless and good as new (although the decor is showing its age). The pool deck shows some typical wear and tear, but they are constantly painting and power washing to keep it in the best shape possible.
Sea days: We were very lucky to have perfectly calm seas and beautiful sunny weather on the first 2 days at sea en route to Bermuda. Chair hogging is a major problem, but it always is and I try not to get too worked up about it. The way back we hit some bad weather and 9 foot waves. We were happy to spend the day in our suite playing with the baby, but I'm sure some sun worshipers were disapointed.
The crowd on board: Very diverse, much more so than past cruises. I would say about 1/3 were seniors, 1/3 boomers, and 1/3 in their 20's/30's. A few families with kids, but school is still in session so their numbers were limited. Overall a very friendly bunch of people. I saw very few cases of rude passengers.
One highlight: First ever bridge tour! It was very cool. The captain of this ship is charming and accessible. Great experience. Also, we were invited to the heliport for sail away from Bermuda. That was fun, too.
Most disgusting thing I saw a passenger do: While I was in the men's locker room, an elderly gentleman with a can entered. He looked around, walked up to one of the showers, opened the shower door, and proceeded to unzip his pants a pee! I guess he mistook it for a urinal or just couldn't hold it in until he found a proper toilet. I warned the 2 guys in the sauna not to use the middle shower stall, and notified the nice lady at the Spa desk (when no one else was around the desk). Yuck.
Bars: We love the martini bar, and thought the drinks were great as always. However, they seemed to be understaffed, and waits for service were longer than usual. At $10 a pop, the giant martinis are a good value, but you can only get the big ones in the martini bar.
Entertainment: Not a priority for us, but we did enjoy the xylophone player. We always skip the singers and dancers and only make a point of sampling the outside talent. We weren't very impressed with the magician. On board, there is a smattering of musicians and the requisite party band. Nothing spectacular, but nothing awful either.
Elite benefits: We loved the free laundry and internet service, but didn't take advantage of the cocktail hour (too early for us) or the breakfast (since we prefer to eat breakfast in our suite).
Disembarkation: A breeze! The best ever for us. We went to Normandie at 8:00 AM as instructed, and were off the ship and in our car with our bags in the trunk by 8:45.
Biggest complaint: 7 days is not enough! Next cruise will have to be at least 10. I will definitely cruise on Celebrity again, since we feel it is a cut above the other premium cruises and a much better value than Cunard queen's grill.