BACKGROUND: We are a 40-something couple who like cruising and have done about eight cruises, most of Celebrity M-Class but have also done a couple of RCCL cruises. We've discovered that we like Suites and that it changes the way we cruise; it's good to have more space and to have a bath at sea. We decided to do a Western Med itinerary this time as it's only a couple of hours away for us UK-based people.
TRAVEL TO PORT: Out Travel Agent organised flights from Leeds Bradford Airport to Barcelona on Jet2. The flight was fine (better than Easyjet and Ryanair but no frills). We arrived on time around 1pm and waited in a huge crowd at passport control (hey, it's Spain) but were out of the airport at about 2pm. We walked straight to a taxi to the port. Charge was about 36 Euro.
EMBARKATION: Very straightforward. Luggage porters met our taxi and took our luggage, we entered the terminal building and into the non-existent line for suite check-in. After check-in we were directed to a desk where we were offered a complimentary meal at either Ocean Liners or Tuscan Grill - offer was for the first night only. We selected Ocean Liners and organised a 9pm reservation. We also purchased soda cards and went to board the ship. The welcome wasn't very pro-active and whilst we were met no-one actually offered to escort us to our stateroom.
STATEROOM: We booked a Suite Guarantee and were allocated 6102, a Sky Suite next to the Celebrity Suite on the starboard side. This is marked on the website as having a smaller verandah which is semi-private. Both statements are technically true although if it is smaller it's by a very small amount; it's not like the triangular verandahs on decks 8 and 9 above it - there are two loungers out there and plenty of room. It IS semi-private in that the occupants of the Celebrity Suite next door can see onto the balcony from one of their windows. They cannot see into your stateroom but you can see into theirs so it was more of an issue for them than for us.
The suite was very pleasant; unfortunately we had a number of issues. It was dusty everywhere (we wondered if it hadn't been used the previous cruise), there was a hair in the bath (ugh), glasses were dirty and the ventilation grill behind the door was on the floor; not a great start. I went down to Guest Relations and they sent an Asst Chief Housekeeper who agreed it was unacceptable and promised it would be put right and not recur. Our Stateroom Attendant (Erwan) looked a bit scared each time I encountered him after that. We experienced two butlers during the cruise - our original butler wasn't great; the dirty glasses were apparently his responsibility, as was more dust on the table. Also we returned to the stateroom on day 2 to discover a tissue in the middle of our bed; the butler left it apparently. We were offered a replacement butler and we allocated Richard, the Head Butler who was wonderful and we had no further butler-related issues.
SHIP: The ship is in excellent condition after its refurbishment earlier this year.
DINING: Our first food was in Bistro on 5 on the first afternoon. Excellent service and good food - the Dark Chocolate Mousse dessert is to die for. Our first night dinner in Ocean Liners was excellent. The service is a little 'theatrical' but the food was good and we enjoyed the meal.
We dined in the MDR for most of the cruise. Food in the MDR was just OK, nothing particularly bad but nothing memorable either. We ate a couple of lunches in the Seaside Cafe; again it was OK; fish chips and mushy peas were good. We also ate in Tuscan Grill one night; again excellent service and food. For us we preferred Tuscan Grill t Ocean Liners.
Room service food was OK, although we had one order with cold (not even tepid, cold) fries.
ACTIVITIES: This was a port-intensive itinerary (5 ports in 7 days) so there wasn't a lot going on. There was a couple of trivias a day which we enjoyed and managed to win a couple of times.
SERVICE: Overall it was inconsistent. Where it was good (Bistro on 5, Specialty Restaurants) it was very good. When it wasn't it could be non-existent (we waited for 15 minutes in Rendez-Vous one evening and no-one came near, let alone took our drinks order). In the MDR our waiter was OK but his assistant thought nothing of barging between people mid-conversation. Bar service in the MDR was also poor; I drink a lot of soda - normally it's not a problem - let the bar waiter no to keep one supplied. That worked for about half an hour then nothing. Meanwhile the sommelier was fawning over our tablemates who were buying wine...not good enough.
We had a couple of issues in the MDR over the week; dirty water glasses on multiple occasions, incorrect drinks orders and at breakfast pieces of salmon and green pepper in corned beef hash; a good job I wasn't allergic. ENTERTAINMENT: 'Broadway-style' shows aren't our scene so I cannot comment on the production shows. Best entertainment was a Swedish Choir made up of guests - they were superb and got a standing ovation for their performance which included soloists and finished with a medley of Abba songs.
DISEMBARKATION: Very smooth. We were asked to meet in Ocean Liners at 8.20am. We went there to be told all colours and been called and we could leave at our leisure. We walked off the ship, picked up our luggage and were directed to a transfer bus to the airport. Whole thing took about 10 minutes.
We enjoyed this cruise but were concerned about Celebrity's attention to detail. We had a poor start but service did improve after I spoke with various levels of management on the ship. We enjoyed the ports and the specialty restaurants. The Sky Suite was a pleasant space to spend time. Would we cruise with Celebrity again? Probably...