We left Montreal the day before the cruise which was leaving Fort Lauderdale on May 2nd, 2011.
After having checked the different option, we realized that this extra week at sea was like a bonus. In other words, it would not cost us more with airfare to spend this week being spoiled with wonderful food and shows than having organized one week in Europe with airfare! And what a wonderful way to unwind and cross the pond without having to suffer the jet lag.
Embarkation went very well (smooth). Before we knew it, we were on the ship, waiting for our room to be ready. What a nice surpise. The room was elegant, well equiped and with this king size bed, we knew we would spend very pleasant time in our quarters. Our room (3110) was right under the Celebrity Central and for those who are worried about the noise, be advised that it was very quiet, maybe except for one night where we heard some voices (very lightly) but it was amazingly quiet all the time.
As Celebrity always does, we had our glass of champagne right waiting for us as soon as we set foot on the ship. What a nice touch.
For those who are still wondering what kind of clothing to take on a transatlantic, you can go from shorts to long trousers depending of the days. I always favor linen as it is so versatile: not too hot, comfortable and most of it, you always look ok (dinner or on excursion). A light raincoat is always very handy as place like Ponta Delgada can reserve certain rainy days.
The food at Silk Harvest was absolutely amazing. We had to order all we wanted to sample right from the beginning so we had to cancell the sushi in the end as although we had asked for very small portion, we ended up being so full it would have gone to waste. The service was so nice, and the waiters always smiling.
We were a bit disappointed not to be able to have a reservation at Murano, but as we ate so well in the main dining room, we just did not move fast enough. We were told by the maitre D that on the 3rd day after we left, it was already fully booked. So if you have any intention of going, do make your reservation early after embarkation.
Going back to the main dining room food, it was absolutely wonderful. My husband does a lot of cooking at home and he is a foodie. He knows his stuff. And he will tell anyone who wants to hear it that Celebrity is top notch. As for the service, once again, you only had to express your desire and the your waiters would be going through all the motions to get you what you wanted. really, a great experience all the way. I can still remember the seafood risotto they serve with the lobster tail one evening. It was to die for.
The creme brulee is as good as I had read on cruise critic, but the souffle (chocolate one night and Grand Marnier another night) was exquisite.
The shows were of great quality. We have especially appreciated the violonist Nicola Loud, as well as the lady from London West End who was in the cast of Les Miserables as well as Evita. The pianist (Brooke) was also very very good, sharing not only his music, but his passion for it. Rare are the entertainers who can deliver such a history, captivating his audience this well. Thank you Celebrity for bringing such high quality entertainment. Furthermore, we had the great pleasure of seeing them again during matinee performance, organized by our cruise director Drew Pavlov.
The 2 days we had brunch were, of course, very appreciated. So much choice, it is almost unbeleivable. Once again a great Celebrity signature.
We did not attend the two High tea as we felt it would be ridiculous to pay $25 for a champagne tea at 2.30 as there was so much place to eat during the day. It is however an experience if you want to do it. Very civilized, of course!
Ponta Delgada reminded us of Madeira and Tenerife. The Portugese influence shows in the architecture and we enjoyed every minute of it. We took the little train for 2 tours, one that took us in the city gardens (beautiful) and the other one was more historic. For 5 Euros each 45 minutes tour, you could not go wrong. (I think you can find the info on www.lagarda.com). You can take it on the street along the sea, not too far from where you see the landmark with the 3 arches.
A military port, Toulon has more and more an impression of being somewhere in Tunisia, with its market and cafes like Le Carthagene who reminded me of the visit in Tunis a few years ago.
If you walk up towards the train station, you will discover the Place de la Liberte (Freedom Place) which is a nice square with little terrace to have a coffee or a meal. Personnally, I would recommend you organize to go to Aix en Provence or somewhere else. Toulon does not have enough to offer. We were told by the people there that we would not have enough time to go by train to Aix en Provence, but we found out there is a TGV (fast train) that would work with the time we are into port. Some Greman people had already bought their ticket on internet. That is if you do not want to buy the excursion from the ship.
Our last reflexion: We came to the conclusion that after having experienced many cruise lines, we can safely say that our 2 favorite ones are Celebrity and Princess. If we could combine the 2 together, it would be the ultimate experience: Princess with its lively well thought of Piazza and its free 4 o'clock high tea and Celebrity with its top notch service and food... It would be heaven on the high seas.
Thanks and see you at sea one day maybe.