This was our eighth cruise and our first on Celebrity and we have to say we were impressed. We left Seattle on July 29th and returned seven days later on August 5th. During that period we were very lucky with the weather and only got a bit of rain in Juneau with the remainder being sunny or partially overcast. Even in Ketchikan, where it rains constantly, the skies were sunny and blue. We were told it was the first time this year that the ship had docked in Ketchikan where it had not rained.
We arrived early (1045) and had a quick and relatively painless embarkation process. However I heard from one of the staff that from 12-2 the lines are long and the embarkation process can be painful. After a short wait we started boarding around 1130. The rooms weren't ready but we ate lunch and by 100 pm we were in our room.
Even though we read much about the age of the ship and comments about wear and tear, it was much ado about nothing. The ship was in excellent shape and, even though there were a few wear and tear spots if one looked, overall they were minor. We thought the decor was excellent and exuded a "classic" atmosphere with lots of woodwork and tasteful art. Colors were subdued but not dark and, other than the casino, didn't exude an overly flashy neon style common on Carnival. The layout of the bars, dining rooms and cabins were all good and met our standards and expectations. The one thing we were somewhat disappointed in was the layout of the grand atrium, which wasn't so grand. Rather than an expansive and open common area that invited community, the grand atrium was just another area on one of the lower decks. It didn't inspire one to visit or congregate.
Rooms were comfortable and clean and pretty much standard for a ship of this class. Unless paying for a suite don't expect anything fancy. I will say that if you're ever going to pay extra for a balcony do it on an Alaska cruise. You're constantly surrounded by beautiful vistas and wildlife and having a balcony makes viewing the sites that much easier and more enjoyable. We especially enjoyed sitting on the balcony looking for and watching the whales as they are quite common and we spotted several (bring your binoculars). Of course the weather needs to cooperate to sit on a balcony for extended periods of time, but we were blessed with very good weather on our cruise. Our one mistake was booking a room on the ninth deck. Because of the overhang of the tenth deck, some of our views up Tracy fjord were obstructed. If I had to do it all over again I would get a balcony on one of the lower decks to gain an unobstructed view when trying to gaze up at 300 ft cliffs.
Overall the staff was friendly and competent with a very welcoming attitude. It seems staff would go out of their way to say "good morning" or "hello". We even had one staff member pass us in the hall quietly and when he realized he had passed us in silence backed up and went out of his way to greet us with a "good morning". On occasion we would run into a less than friendly bartender but that was the exception rather than the rule. Our wait staff and stewards were friendly and efficient and we have no complaints.
Our overall dining experience was excellent and some of the best that we've experienced. It is our opinion that the food far exceed that of Carnival and Norwegian and was marginally better than that offered on Royal Caribbean. Quality, selection, presentation and taste of the food was all excellent and exceeded our expectations. We would especially commend the food offered at the buffet which was far better than any other buffets we've experienced cruising. The selection was enormous and the quality rivaled that of the main dining room. Normally we dine at the buffet by exception, preferring the better quality of the main dining room, but on this trip we found ourselves avoiding the main dining room expect for the evening meal just because the selection and speed of the buffet food was so much better. In fact we were rather disappointed in the main dining room for breakfast and lunch because it just seemed they were offering a smaller and slower selection of the food at the buffet. Our one complaint with dining was that the drink service was very slow. A bar steward would come by when we were being seated and several minutes later return with our drinks. And that would be the last we would see of him for the rest of the evening. Heaven forbid if you wanted another drink. It got to the point that we would just order two drinks at the start and they would suffice for the rest of the evening meal.
We're not big show people and are just as happy in our rooms enjoying the view as we are in a theater watching a broadway production. On this cruise we watched the comedian, who was hilarious, the magician, who was good, and the naturalist Britt Nixon, were I fell asleep. I have no idea why people are so enthralled by Britt Nixon's lectures. I'm sure he's a very nice guy and he is very knowledgable, but I thought his speaking style was over the top and I was just generally under impressed.
Passenger demographics consisted mostly of middle aged (40 - 65 year old) couples with a large smattering of families. However, for whatever reason, we felt like this was the least crowded cruise we've ever been on. We'd walk through common areas and not see a soul for several minutes. This was also evident on formal nights when we saw only a few people dressed up and mingling in the bars and common areas. We've always experienced formal nights as occasions when everyone got dressed up, had their pictures taken and mingled with the other passengers in order to see and be seen in bustling common areas. On this cruise we saw what appeared to be only a few dozen couples dressed up in the nearly empty bars and passageways. We were actually disappointed in this aspect considering we felt the older demographic of the passengers would actually enjoy this aspect of the cruise.
The quickest and most efficient disembarkation process we've ever experienced. After breakfast we left our cabin at 8:30, walked down to the theater where we were called at 9:00, quickly off the ship, found our luggage right away and on the way to the airport by 9:15. One minor critique would be to allow passengers to wait for disembarkation in any common area rather than being corralled in the theater. I would also advise hiring a taxi instead of going with the airport transfer/bus. Tickets for the bus cost $26 per person ($52 for a couple). Taxi for the two of us to the airport only cost $40.
Our only serious critique lies with the lack of enforcement of adult only areas. As an example, even though there were signs clearly displayed at the whirlpools that said children under the age of 18 weren't allowed, this rule was totally ignored. The whirlpools were over run with children and we found we couldn't enjoy the heated pools because of them. The same occurred during the evening entertainment when an announcement was made that children weren't allowed in the first few rows of the theater. But every time we were in there, children and teenagers crowded the front. I actually didn't mind them there, but why the announcement?