We just got back from our 7th cruise—all have been on Royal Caribbean(5) and Celebrity (2). We love taking cruises as it is the best way for all of us to relax 110%. We counted down from 120 days as we were so excited. Thirteen of us from our family went. Overall, we had a good time— how can you not have a good time on a cruise ship? But, overall we were disappointed. Why? Mostly due to the low quality of service—something was just missing. We have become used to staff that bend over backwards to help and always have a smile or at least are polite. They may at times appear tired (they have tough jobs with no breaks!), but they are always positive and professional. Unfortunately, not on this cruise. We have never been snapped at so many times on a cruise by staff—at the pool, at the bar, ordering room service, delivering room service. As I have done on previous cruises, I tried to strike up multiple conversations with staff (i.e. what a pretty day) and several of them barely made eye contact, grumbled, and walked away. I have never seen anything like it. It was clear they were unhappy. We witnessed on more than one occasion pool butlers being chewed out in public by "bosses" watching over them. They looked beat down. It was tough to watch. The overall morale was very low. I could go on and on but I am guessing you get the picture. The final (rude) straw was during disembarkation we realized my husband had packed away his "sea pass" as well as our kids. I had mine. I walked up to the activity director who always came across as positive—initially she was positive when I walked up to her. However, when I told her what had happened, she turned sour and said "apologize to all the people behind you and get in line and deal with it" (at this point there was no one behind us). It really didn't take more than a few minutes to fix it and disembark—plus, there were 2 separate lines so others just exited through the other line. My husband and I stood there for a bit after getting off the ship asking "Did we hear what we think we just heard?"
The other major disappointment was how un-kid friendly the ship was...they should just state "This cruise ship is not for kids". It was ridiculous. The kids program was poor (they even lost a 3 year old for a while). They have 3 pools on the ship but the inside one is adult only. That is fine but they also made one of the outside pools "Adult only". This leaves one 3 foot wading pool that is about 15 x 15 ft for >700 kids! What are kids supposed to do during the day? They don't shop, gamble, drink, sunbathe, play bingo...they swim! Why not make the "adult pool" outside a pool for kids above 10 during the summer months when more kids are on the ship? If adults want to be alone in the pool, they can go inside to the very nice pool area where kids are not allowed. The staff were often rude to the kids who were extremely well behaved. The one exception was our restaurant waiter who was great with the kids and served them first, etc. He was fantastic and it was a welcome change. As far as overall day to day service, our dining room waiter and room attendants were all excellent. We did miss the animals made out of towels and extra touches we got used to on Royal Caribbean, but our room was kept neat and the attendants were very polite. The food overall was just OK—we liked the Oceanview Cafe better than the restaurant (although the menu rarely changed), in general (that's a first). I love sorbets on ships with all the tropical fruit flavors—however, their sorbet was not good. It was clearly watered down. I did buy the gelato for $3 and it was delicious-tasted like the normal sorbet I remember, so they do know how to make sorbet. Clearly, they want you to pay for the good stuff.
As for the stops—we enjoyed 2/4—Cozumel and Roatan were both wonderful. I will state up front we love the beaches and snorkeling (and do some shopping for local items). Costa Maya was a joke unless you wanted to see the ruins which were supposedly very nice. I don't think the ship should stop there-the place is still a mess from Hurricane Dean. Grand Cayman has unfortunately not recovered as far as the reefs from the major hurricane which hit is some years back. The ship was beautiful. We enjoyed the Cirque de Soleil like show a ton. Also, there was some very good entertainers at night. However, overall there was far less activity. No midnight buffets which appear to have been eliminated. No fruit or ice carvings as we have always had before. The little special touches were just plain missing. There were times the ship was almost completely shut down as far as entertainment during the late afternoon. No pool activities (they were too crowded even if you wanted them). They hid the "steel band" on another deck and had a terrible band play by the pool (but not playing reggae or any other music you associate with Caribbean music). What is a cruise in the Caribbean without a (full) steel band by the pool playing in the afternoons?? Their version of a "steel band" was one guy with a drum! There was a guitarist that was quite good and played in various locations on the ship.
The best part of the entire ship were the glass blowing shows--they were a real treat. Dane, Chris, and Matt were superb both as glass blowers and narrators. Overall, we like the entertainment on Royal Caribbean much more—more relaxed and humorous and less stuffy. The staff are much nicer.
Celebrity clearly caters to older cruisers, and doesn't hide once you get on the ship (which is too late!) that they are not a "kid-friendly ship". I'm not sure if we will ever sail on Celebrity again—if we do, it will be after our kids are over 18.