We flew in a few days early in order to enjoy all that San Diego has to offer. Unfortunately, it was quite cool (by Florida standards) and rained most of the time. Regardless, we took the trolley tour and toured the aircraft carrier, the Midway. We stayed at the Holiday Inn on the Bay, but if you want the Holiday Inn across the street from the terminal, you want the Holiday Inn on the Bay. This hotel was full a year in advance of our cruise because of an international physician conference, so you might want to make reservations early if you want to stay there. There is a trolley stop in front of the ship terminal which is very convenient for seeing the sights of San Diego.
Departure day it was still raining. We had to wait for the ship to come up from the Baja coast where the previous passengers were disembarked earlier in the morning. We arrived at the terminal about 11 a.m. On checking in we were given a boarding number, so there were More
advantages to getting there early. However, the terminal is quite stark with metal chairs, so not the most comfortable place to wait. The ship arrived around 1 p.m. and we were allowed to board shortly thereafter.
The ship is beautiful. Our cabin (7166) was a standard balcony cabin, but was on the curve to the bump so the balcony was a bit bigger and accommodated two chairs, a small table and a padded lounger (which we had to request but was promptly brought). The bathroom is also standard with a nice sized shower. The shampoo and lotion that is provided is in a dispenser. There were also cotton balls, Q-tips, and two shower caps. The hair dryer is in the bathroom, not very strong and the hose broke on it twice during our 15 day cruise. They finally brought me a handheld blow-dryer to use. There are extra blankets and pillows in the closet (or try under your bed).While we received our luggage fairly timely, several others stated it was very late before they got theirs. Luggage fits nicely under the bed. The ice bucket they fill morning and evening, but we always found the ice all melted in the afternoon so asked to have our ice filled just before the cabin steward went off duty. That request resulted in us being given a small Igloo cooler, which was kept full throughout the cruise. We emptied the refrigerator of all the drinks on the shelf (put them in the drawer above the refrigerator and the steward removed them the first day) and filled the refrigerator with soda that we brought onboard with us in our luggage (we bought in San Diego). There is a safe, and closet space was limited for this long of a cruise. We sent several items out to be pressed and got them back two days later. The cost was $24 which was well worth it as my husband's formal shirts are impossible to keep from wrinkling. The room had a small loveseat and vanity which had poor lighting. There were 3 or 4 plugs next to the vanity, but none in the bathroom except the standard electric razor plug.
The lifeboat drill was held at 5 p.m. Since the ship did not leave until 9, there was a lot of speculation on whether the drill would be late at night or even the next day. Even though the meeting places are inside, they do make you go outside to your lifeboat station.
The weather did not improve until we got to our first port in Hawaii. It was very windy, overcast and cool with very rough seas. Many people were seasick the first day and one elderly woman fell on the marble staircase, breaking several ribs and her shoulder. In Hawaii the weather was warm and sunny, but the seas remained high allowing us to see some great surfing.
We rented a car in every port except Maui (we were there only until 3 p.m.). I think this was the way to go as it was much less expensive then shore excursions. The only down side was having to shuttle to the airport (in most cases). Since this seemed to be a popular thing to do there was a lot of pushing and shoving to get on the shuttle rather than wait for the next one. We also experienced this once going back to the ship. In Maui we did a whale watching tour (whale season starts in December), and just walked around town. Every port has a free shuttle to Hilo Hattie's and some had shuttles to other places such as Wal-Mart and in Maui to Whalers Village. You tender in Hilo and Maui - the rest of the islands we docked. When the ship moved from Hilo to Kona we passed the lava flow to the sea, which was awesome. It was 10 at night. If possible, I would recommend a room on the right side of the ship if you are facing forward. Not only was this the side of the lava flow, but it is also the side the sun is on coming back from Hawaii (which was sunny coming home). Many thought the ship would circle around so that the lava flow could be seen by both sides, but this did not happen. Also, in Hilo (I think) there were room flower arrangements for sale for $10 at the pier. There was also a good selection of fresh flower lei's for around $8. I got both and our room smelled wonderful for the rest of the trip.
Formal nights were the first sea day, the sea day in Hawaii and the second to the last sea day coming home. The Cruise Critic party was the first sea day at 11 a.m., and because they had so many signed up on this cruise; they also had a party the last day at sea.
I did not use the spa, but the indoor pool on this ship is wonderful and is free. It is heated saltwater with jets and bubbles to sooth aching muscles. A little hint, on the right side of the ship before you go into the spa there is a woman's dressing room that has showers, bathrooms, a sauna, hairdryer, towels and lotion. Because it was cold outside, I would use the pool then go into the sauna to get hot and somewhat dry before I went out on deck. In this area they also serve spa food (lower calories) from morning until 8 p.m. A lot of it is good, so I usually ate lunch there to cut the food intake somewhat!
Speaking of food, here goes. The buffet is open for breakfast and lunch at 7:30 a.m. on sea days and 6:30 a.m. on port days. You can also eat dinner there, but have to make reservations. We ate there twice, which was just OK (the menu varies but got a really tough steak there), for a suggested tip of $2 per person. This area appeared to be the training area for future waiters and assistant waiters, so service was somewhat confusing. There is also a sushi bar open every evening at the aft of the ship, just before you go outside. The dining room was just OK. We are in our 50's and were seated with two older couples. One man had a stroke and could not speak and the other couple was shacking up - he being 86 and she 79. She talked about sex a lot - which was like your parents talking about sex - YUCK! We were going to change tables but never got around to it. Our waiter was very slow and dinners that started at 6 always ended after 8. Late dinner starts at 8:30, so we ended dinner with a lot of clanking from setting up the surrounding tables for the next group. We had one anniversary at our table (19 months for the live-together couple?) which was interesting as they sang to them with the traditional cake and then took the cake away, never to be seen again. They did not even get a piece of it! Food went from excellent to fair, but that is always subjective anyway. They always had 4 appetizers, 3 soups (one cold), 2 salads, a fish, pasta, and beef entrEe as well as two others (chicken, pork, veal). All the veal dishes were great. Several desserts, sherbet, ice cream. We went to the specialty restaurant (United States) and it was wonderful. However, the price has gone up to $30 a person, so nothing you would do too often unless you have a lot of spare money.
Entertainment was the usual. The cruise director was new to the ship and I did not care for him, but again this is subjective. I thought he worked too hard to get applause. Sometimes shows were 8:45 for first seating and other times 9 p.m. For second seating it went between 10:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. There were 2-3 deck parties while in the islands.
Celebrity is my favorite cruise line and I was not disappointed. I would do this cruise again in a heartbeat. Less