I'm going to try to be as concise as I can while still giving you an overall impression of our cruise experience. I think the easiest way to do this is by listing pros and cons of specific aspects of the cruise. So, here goes:
Embarkation/Debarkation: Pros -- Arrived at terminal at 12:03, boarded the ship at 12:15, room was ready at 1:15. Unbelievably smooth. Debarkation was scheduled for 9:10, actually debarked at 8:45, we were in our car by 9:15. Even more unbelievably smooth. Cons -- Absolutely none.
Room:Family Ocean View Veranda (8108) Pros -- HUGE (3rd largest on ship) 2 bedrooms, sitting area (sofa, 2 chairs), desk, small dining table. 105 sf balcony. Great under bed storage. Adequate closet and drawer storage. Beds are very comfortable. Well laid out bathroom, especially loved clear glass door on shower. Amenities in bathroom were as expected. "Night light" in bathroom doesn't go out. Awesome views through windows in sitting area, main bedroom and off balcony. Cons -- Needed extra towels. Lounge chairs on balcony would have been nice. No TV in bedroom. Lots of under utilized space. Had room for a larger dining table and additional drawer/cabinet storage. Noisy during docking/undocking. Need a larger ice bucket.
Public Areas: Pros -- Beautifully elegant. Guest flow was excellent. Martini bar was THE hot spot. Grand Epernay dining room was striking. The speciality restaurants were all grouped together but still separate, it was a nice touch. Lots of seating in the clubs and lounge areas. The Solstice Theater was well laid out with nary a bad seat and with excellent acoustics. The Lawn Club is a must see. We saw the area where the mowers were kept. I never would have believed I'd see lawn equipment in the middle of the ocean! The pool area was a little crowded but with plenty of standard and unique seating arrangements. Separate open air pools for adults and children. The Solarium pool was gorgeous; serene and soothing. Oceanview Cafe has a unique multi station layout which greatly reduced lines. The Sky Observation lounge has the best views ever. Casino is okay. The shops are split; designer shops on 5, logo shops on 4. Cons -- Not enough trash cans. Elevators fore and aft made for a lot of walking. In the future Celebrity should consider 3 sets of stairs/ elevators.
Food/Drink: Pros -- Grand Epernay dining room food was varied and, on a scale of 1-10 rated an 8. We were in the back corner of the room and felt a little left out of the overall experience. We dined in the Tuscan Grill one night and weren't impressed with the quality. However, the service was superb and the chocolate fondue dessert was the best I've ever had. The crepes in Bistro On 5 were exceptional. Don't miss it. If you like martinis make sure you hit the Martini Bar. Buy a 6 martini flite (it's worth it). Great presentation. Oceanview Cafe buffets were just what you'd expect. Some unique touches but only rates a 5 or 6. Cons -- Bars do not open early enough. Charge for sodas in the dining room. Ice Cream available on only one side of Oceanview Cafe caused long lines. No trays in Oceanview.
Service: Pros -- Everyone without exception greeted you with a smile and a hello. Bar and lounge service was courteous, prompt and efficient. Our room steward, Nazreth, was super. We asked for extra ice and some plastic glasses for a cruise critic cabin crawl. We returned to our room to find 15 wine glasses and a huge bucket of ice. My wife brought a stuffed animal which had very sentimental meaning. On the 4th night we couldn't find it. We spoke to Jorge, the manager of housekeeping. In less than 1 hour he and Nazreth went to the laundry and searched through the unwashed bed linens and found it. Enjoyed "no life jacket" indoor fire drill. Cons -- Our Head Waiter was difficult to understand. We had to ask, every meal, for sodas/iced tea. When ordering room service it seemed we were inconveniencing the person who took our request. When using the internet (on board package) there was no way to check your minutes. No food or drink allowed in the teen lounge area, although there was equipment to dispense sodas, popcorn, etc.
Entertainment: Pros -- We only attended the "Cirque" style show which was excellent. We did hear feedback from other guests that the other shows were just as good, if not better, than anything they had seen before.We did a behind the scenes tour of the theater which was super. The acts in the lounges were very good. The Cruise Director, Paul Baya, was everywhere, did everything and even belted out some great tunes. The unique layout of the ship allowed for varied musical venues with no overlapping sounds. DO NOT MISS THE GLASS SHOW. The most entertaining and interesting show I have ever seen. Cons -- No availability of show replays on the TV in your room.
Youth Program: Our 16 year old Granddaughter enjoyed all of the different activities that were available. Her only complaint was the no food or beverage policy.
Shore Excursions: We did the Lord Sheffield Pirate Cruise in St. Maarten. Great food, great crew, great company, great excursion. St. Thomas and San Juan had lots to offer, but for us, been there, done that, have the t-shirt.
Overall Impressions: We have cruised RCCL, Princess, Carnival and Celebrity. This cruise was the most elegant in terms of presentation, ship decor and atmosphere that we have taken. For me personally it was a little to "stodgy" but it was still a very good cruise. I would recommend this for a seasoned cruiser who wants to relax more than party. As a side note, the cruise critic "gang" on this ship made the cruise unforgettable.