My husband and I booked this cruise to celebrate our 20th anniversary. We are 46/52, no children and have cruised twice before on RCI (Sovereign 9/02 and Rhapsody 8/03). We booked through an internet agency about 2 months prior to sailing.
We arrived in San Juan the night before and stayed in a hotel in the Condado area. We walked around and went into the Marriott hotel for a drink and played in the casino for about 20 minutes. We then ate dinner at a local restaurant prior to heading back to our hotel. I felt comfortable even though it was about 1:00 a.m. but then a middle aged man walked up and walked with us to the hotel, stating it was not safe to be walking alone.
Next day, took a taxi to the ship and boarded about 12:30. Boarding was quick and efficient and we were taken to our cabin by a white-gloved butler while shipping champagne -- nice touch!! Cabin was nice, plenty of storage, clean and comfortable. We stowed our carry ons and went to the buffet for a bite to eat. Came back and met our steward (D'Cunha) who was pleasant and helpful throughout our trip. We then got off the ship and took a taxi into Old San Juan where we toured the fort and bought some sodas/water/wine to take on board. Got back about 5 p.m., unpacked and got settled prior to meeting our Cruise Critic buddies in the Martini bar where we hung out until going to dinner at 8:00.
First port was Casa de Campo and we took the free shuttle to the Altos de Chevon area where we walked around and looked at the buildings, shops and restaurants and had a couple of drinks before heading back. We enjoyed this but I can see how it would not be that exciting for everyone.
Next day at sea was a revelation -- we went out to the pool area after breakfast and I can best describe the scene as "Saturday at Wal-Mart" -- numerous screaming kids running around eating hot dogs and huge crowds in the hot tubs/pool. There was no place to sit and after about 15 minutes we returned to our cabin. Never went to the pool again. Seems Puerto Rican school was already out and the ship had a very large number of families on board. We also learned that some new passengers boarded in the Dominican Republic to fill the cabins. I know everyone has their own standards of behavior but I was stunned by the amount of rude/pushy behavior and being spoken to repeatedly in loud Spanish that did not sound friendly.
Next port was Dominica -- a beautiful island to look at as the ship is pulling in. I took a tour with 13 other Cruise Critic members and it was great. The attractions were quite crowded but I enjoyed the exercise. The waterfall area was like the ship -- loud/pushy people who apparently did not learn the concept of "taking turns" when they were children. My husband went on a scuba dive which he really enjoyed. On return to ship, was smashed in elevator by an older woman with a stroller full of packages which she was using to block the elevator to let only her "posse" on board -- I was right by the door and had no choice but to push in behind her while she was loudly cursing at me in Spanish. Went to the outdoor food area to get a snack and there were about 40 people in line for the hamburger/hot dog area so went back to the cabin and ordered room service, which we did several times for afternoon snacks.
Next day (Barbados) was the highlight of our trip. Had read about the local bus service so we found the terminal and took a 45 minute ride to Mullens Beach. Driving (quite speedily) through this gorgeous place while listening to Reggae Christmas music was great!! The beach was beautiful -- white sand/turquoise water/very few people -- and we stayed about 2 1/2 hours prior to catching the bus back to town. Met 3 people from England (from the Queen Mary) on the bus who were fun to talk to. The total for the round trip ride for 2 was $3.00 -- I still smile when I think of this day.
In Antigua and St. Thomas, we basically walked around and shopped. I did have some luck in the King's Casino in Antigua and promptly invested my money in some jewelry. We took a taxi to Magen's Bay in St. Thomas which was very nice but fairly crowded.
We enjoyed the comedian and illusionist on the ship and saw the production type show one night which was fairly good. Spent about an hour at the "Bar at the Edge" which was interesting -- you kind of mingle with the characters. However, there were a lot of children and picture taking which surprised me. Celebrity also hosted a Honeymoon and Anniversary Party there during the day which was really nice. We also enjoyed the pianist/singer and the jazz band in Michael's Club and Pablo on the back deck during sailaways.
We also found that the Thalassotherapy pool was practically deserted by 6:00 p.m. and had some nice soaks/tubs prior to getting ready for dinner (we had late seating). No complaints about the food, service seemed rushed and perfunctory compared to our other 2 cruises and the Muzak in our area of the dining room was very loud. We did ask our waiter if it could be turned down but apparently it couldn't. We had a table for 10 and enjoyed our tablemates. We did meet 2 different couples who told us they were the only English speaking people at their assigned tables for 8 to 10.
When we returned to San Juan we were not assigned to disembark until 10:30 since our flight did not leave until 5:00 p.m. We slept in and then went for a leisurely breakfast and bought a couple of pictures from the gallery. We got back to the cabin about 9:00 and were gathering up the last of our things and packing the carry-ons. Our steward knocked on the door about 9:20 and was horrified to find us in the cabin, explaining that we were supposed to be out by 8:30. I did look at the paper with the disembarkation time and this was not mentioned. Anyway, we left as quickly as we could and went to sit in the show room until our color was called. We then got a porter who helped us with our bags and had us in a cab within 5 minutes!!
We went to the airport and checked our bags, then cabbed to the Hotel Intercontinental for a few hours to hang out (drink and gamble) before our flight. This is a beautiful hotel in a beautiful area.
All in all, we enjoyed our trip and the ship but did not find it in any way superior to the previous ones -- I had perceived Celebrity as a "premium" cruise line which in my opinion it is not.