It was our first time with Celebrity, so here are my impressions. Staff could not have been nicer. Our room steward was a doll who remembered everything we liked and even left us a bag of chocolates on the last night. Wait staff in MDR were efficient, entertaining, and hardworking. People remembered our names, greeted us on and off the ship, and made the trip pretty special.
The ship, as many have posted, needs some upgrading in places (mostly the verandas), but staff were always painting, replacing carpets, and cleaning. I enjoyed the lack of neon lights and far-out colour schemes, and Michael's lounge was definitely classy.
The MDR lunch menu was varied and pretty good, but the dinner menu was a bit pretentious. Most dishes (even apps) had five-line descriptions with "foams, nages, fricassees, emulsions, infusions, rillettes, fondants and mousselines". Geez. I speak French, my brother's a big-city chef, and I've eaten my way around Europe -- and it still seemed overly showy for pretty simple dishes. Most nights' entrees were predictable: seafood, a lamb dish, a steak dish, a poultry dish, and horrible-sounding vegetarian selections. On the whole, most apps and entrees were good. A few were duds which, in spite of their fancy ingredients, really had no discernible seasoning. (Chilled tangerine soup was lumpy orange juice in a bowl. Avoid that one. Caprese salad is half a cold tomato with a lump of cold mozzarella. The Italians would be horrified.) Several dishes did not contain the ingredients as billed -- how does that happen? Desserts were often very good, but what is it with cruise ships and cake? They turn everything into a mousse and it's next to impossible to find a real, solid gateau. Celebrity is mousse-obsessed, imho. Desserts with apple were popular and well-executed, the homemade ice cream was a treat, the creme brulee just right. We had the late seating at a table for eight, and our dinner companions were really lovely. I think that's one of the great things about a cruise -- meeting new people.
Buffets are like you'd expect on most ships. Anything made to order is going to be better, so stick to stirfrys, pastas and omelettes. The Indian corner was not bad, but it would be much better with something other than generic curry. How about a korma? Biryani? Vindaloo? Naan? Paneer? I was a bit confused by the serving arrangements: sometimes you served yourself (or attempted to, under the glass barrier) and sometimes they served you. My only big complaint is that the dining room coffee was three grades better than the buffet and room service coffee. How is that possible?? I wish Celebrity had those auto machines that grind and brew each cup to order.
Our cabin was spotless, and the malfunctioning safe, tv remote, and balcony doors were taken care of quickly. Word to the wise: don't order a special occasions amenity package. The birthday decorations were up when we arrived, the flowers arrived the next day, the champagne arrived on day four, and the cake never did show up. We had to hit up Guest Relations probably five times over the first three days to get the birthday package items, mix for our bottle of alcohol, an umbrella and a tote bag. To their credit, they were very apologetic.
Missing Bar Harbor due to the nor'easter was unavoidable, but disappointing. The seas were pretty active from Portland up to Quebec and back down to the Gulf of Maine and we got some great video footage of the 16 foot swells. Quite a few passengers seemed to be hit by seasickness, but we were lucky and thought it was all part of the experience of the North Atlantic in October.
Movies shown in the cinema were varied and good, night-time shows were also very good -- especially the Summit entertainment staff production numbers. There was also a pianist, two comedians (one great, one not), and a musical impersonator. The Summit orchestra was pretty darned good. One night, the audience wouldn't leave until they did another number -- and they rocked the place. The dance lessons (and every dance floor on the ship) were dominated by a large group of Asian passengers, so we stayed out of their way.
I found that I expected more from the hyped Celebrity Life Enrichment activities. The lectures were so-so, and everything else had a fee attached. Did I mention that the movies were good? Popcorn would really spice up the cinema, hint hint.
Fellow passengers on Celebrity were a real treat. Formal nights were formal, people were classy, the ship was not crammed front to back with loud, half-drunk smokers, we were not over-run by spoiled and out-of-control children. By the end of the cruise, we'd become known as 'the young couple', but that was okay by me. I loved meeting so many retired folk and hearing about their cruising experiences. So what if we had to marshal confused gentlemen in their pajama bottoms to the correct deck and ignore an awful lot of 'passed wind' episodes. (Not kidding here) It was still loads of fun.
The ports were fantastic, ship-arranged excursions are over-priced but the ones we chose in Boston and Halifax ended up being worth it. Quebec is easily explored on your own. The one thing that will likely keep me from sailing Celebrity again was the tendering disaster in Newport, RI. We got our tender ticket at 10 am. We didn't get to Newport until just about 1 pm. That meant we had less than three hours and our plans were shot to you-know-what. Celebrity does this port regularly, so why such horrible planning and organization? It was our first port, and combined with the birthday fiasco and missing amenities, it made for a rough start to the cruise.
Following advice on these boards helped us immensely with airport arrival, hotel, ground transportation, etc. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn on Staten Island (taxi from EWR was quick and efficient), they shuttled us to the cruise port the next day, and we got a van shuttle from the ship back to the airport for 14$ per person. The BEST advice we found was not to show up at the pier before 1 pm for embarkation. Our shuttle driver told us that when he took earlier groups to the port at 11:00 and 12:00, the vehicle and passenger lineups were hideous. We arrived at 1:15 and only had to wait ten minutes in the check-in line.