This was a bit of a magical mystery tour as we were due to join the Celebration on 17th February 2011 - when things were still very unsettled in Egypt. About a week before we were due to sail we spotted that our itinerary had changed (pretty much out of all recognition) Although it was very disappointing to learn that we were missing the ports for Cairo and Alexandria as well as Messina we were just relieved that the cruise would go ahead (we had arranged join this cruise to surprise our dad who was travelling alone and who's only wish was to sail the Suez Canal again) This trip should have been Sharm el Sheik to Barcelona via the Suez Canal but our final port of call was changed to Naples a few days before we left.
This was our first cruise on the Celebration but it felt very familiar to us as we've been on the Spirit several times in the past and the two ships seem pretty much identical with a few exceptions.
Embarkation was much smoother and faster than our previous experience at Sharm el Sheikh (Spirit - Red Sea Magic in 2007)
This trip we opted for an inside cabin for the first time. The cabin was adequate, clean and tidy, although it did feel rather too small when we both needed to be moving around at the same time! There were 2 wardrobes with adequate coat hangers, 2 sets of drawers (3 drawers each) and one bedside table with 2 drawers as well as a dressing table area with a hair dryer. The hair dryer wasn't very powerful but did the job! There was a mini bar which had cans of soft drinks, water and crisps (it was not refrigerated) Towels for the pool were provided. The TV was stuck in a cupboard over one of the beds and wasn't the flat screen variety. There were 2 plug sockets on the dressing table (PLEASE NOTE - it was difficult to plug in our mobile phone charger because of the position of the plug - it might be worth considering bringing along a small 2 gang extension lead to make using the plugs easier) The control for the air conditioning/heating was very simple to use.
The bathroom was a little jaded and in need of refurbishment. The shower curtain was discoloured. The grout was blackened in places and the sealant had been replaced in a poor DIY manner, making the shower area look rather grim. The towels looked rather threadbare and tired. There was a good amount of storage space behind a mirrored cabinet, there were 2 glasses, tissues, shower caps and shampoo included. On 4 of the 8 nights we had barely warm water to wash and shower in. The rest of the nights there was ample hot water.
The public areas (inside and out) were clean and tidy at all times.
The bar service waiters were rather slow in all areas (compared to our previous experience on the Spirit) and no "personalities" stood out from the crowd. They were particularly poor on port days when they seemed to think that they didn't have to bother looking after the people left onboard.
The shops stocked a good range of items from clothes, novelty items, Celebrity branded items, jewellery, duty free goods as well as basic items such as toiletries.
Occasionally the toilets outside Liberties had one cubicle out of order. The ladies toilets by the casino often had one or more cubicles out of order and after the first few days the hand dryer was removed. Paper towels were NOT provided. This hardly encourages you to wash your hands!
Sanitising gel dispensers were situated all around the ship and staff were on hand outside the restaurants to ensure you used them.
Lido Restaurant - serve yourself - relaxed atmosphere - open 24/7. The food here was of a good standard, offering everything from full English breakfast to cereals and fresh fruit, salads, cooked meats, pastas, sandwiches, burgers and chips etc. Something to suit everyone. Although it did get a bit repetitive after a few days there was always something to eat. We ate all our daytime meals in here
The Meridian Restaurant is the main (waiter service) restaurant. Our waiters were Ronald and Reggie - both excellent at their job and paid great attention to detail. The food was excellent and the atmosphere warm and friendly. We ate most of our evening meals in here.
Mistrals Restaurant - a small intimate restaurant tucked away at the back of the Meridian Restaurant. There is an extra charge of £20 per person for a 7 course meal. We ate here once during our trip. It felt as though were were a million miles away from the bustle of the main restaurant. The service was excellent, as was the food. We enjoyed some banter with the waiters and felt it was every bit as relaxed as the main restaurant. We were a party of 5 and were probably a little too noisy for our fellow diners.
The photographer was very good and took care and time to check pictures after he took them. I feel that £15 per photograph is rather high - I'm sure they'd sell more if the price was reduced.
They gym was adequate - although I'd like to see the emergency phone number clearly displayed clearly by the telephone, and also a water dispenser with cups instead of a water fountain.
The entertainment in the show lounge was good. The guest comedian from the UK was very funny, the entertainment team ranged from good to excellent.
Disembarkation was a farce and will probably be the cause of more complaints than the late change of itinerary! Naples airport in off season was not geared up to receive over 1250 people within the space of a few hours. We were herded off the ship and into the coaches from 6am onwards. The short journey to the airport should have taken around 30 minutes but took around 2 hours as we waited in various car parks to stagger our arrival at the airport. The check in staff at the airport did a sterling job though, as did the coach drivers who did their best to keep us informed.
Would I book a cruise with Thomson again?
Yes, but not in the near future and next time I'll be looking for a last minute deal. That way I'll have a better chance of knowing that my chosen ports of call will be available. (Only one of the substituted ports of call was of interest to us this trip.) I'll also be looking for a bargain - booking later would have saved us 2/3rds of the price! We wont get stung like that again!
Port of Call - Piraeus - for Athens - this port is not listed on the drop down list - presumably because it was a last minute substitute and not a regular port of call. We weren't interested in any of the organised trips and took a walk around the town. It's very busy and noisy - think of any city you've ever been to and this is it. If you're not going on a trip - stay on board and enjoy the ships facilities. I would rate this port of call at no more than 2