We were on a charter of the ship for Atlantis Events August 1-10, 2011.
We were so looking forward to this cruise and had VERY high expectations for the "fancy new ship" of the Celebrity fleet.
While the ship is lovely. Had all that "new ship smell". Great art collection and all that stuff you expect from a Celebrity ship, overall my expectations were not exceeded.....in fact overall I would say, disappointed. For the price point we paid for this cruise and Celebrity's reputation, I would expect better, much better. (mind you we still had a great vacation)
This was only the second "real" cruise for the ship (and a charter to boot), we were expecting there may be some glitches. Even with that taken into consideration there were many things that detracted from the experience.
First and foremost, was the almost total lack of engagement from the management/officers. They didn't really seem to be interested in actively checking in with guests, (plate not eaten,no one asked, "why?".... "how is your cruise going?" not asked. Crew struggling to get something going, not assisting. Buffet completely out of plates, just sit there and watch. Captain's cocktail hosted party, no. 2nd voyage comps or "we know there are glitches so we are giving you extra" of any kind, no. All in all, just nothing "extra" in the way of customer service. Very passive. If you engaged them with an issue or concern, they either seemed to make excuses, blame someone else, tell you you were wrong, refer you to someone else or not know the answer.
Second, be prepared, the idea of "all inclusive" on ships in general is going the way of the airlines. This ship accelerates this concept. The food in the inclusive dining facilities seems to be being held back to get you to pay extra for the "good food". There are many many many "opportunities" they "offer" you for something that costs extra. On this ship rather than buying an cruise that covers most of your vacation, you are really buying a hotel room with a "relatively basic" food package included. That said, those extras on this ship do not come cheaply. (I am not a cheap person, but did get fatigued from all the hands in my pocket all of the time)
The theatre entertainment was a train wreck (really they need a new costume designer (he/she seems to hate the human form), lighting designer (that can aim lights and make it pretty rather than distracting), creative team that can put some type of cohesive team together for a show). I know the shows were new, but even the "old from RCL" "Broadway show" sad sad sad, and not ready for the cruise. I am certain there will be people that disagree with me, I would hope they will get better with time, In my opinion they were just unprofessional. The dancers/singers sure worked hard, but the final outcome was to the point of unintentionally comical.
The service in the up-charge restaurants was uneven at best. We actually got in a "fight" with the Maitre d' at the Tuscan Grill over our seating, in the dining room, in front of other guests (he did NOT want to seat our party of 11 together, WAS not interested in finding a solution, yelling at us when we tried to suggest a solution ourselves) After 10 min of this we were finally able to move tables together and sit together, but the meal (last night on the cruise) never really got a good vibe going after that. He NEVER came back to apologize, made no attempt to do any guest recovery at all. While we were there we saw 2 other tables have arguments with him as well. For this they collected close to $1000 between up-charge and wine/cocktails for the table.
Several others from our group had similar stories from the week of Maitre D's rudeness, lack of service, being impolite, uppity, inflexibility.
The meals I personally had in up-charge restaurants was no better than the dining room (and most of the food appeared to be prepared in the same kitchen).
The buffet was dismal, nearly the same food EVERY day. Weird service times (Ice Cream only available 730 am to 930 pm... WHAT??) Lousy service, boring food, bad pizza, dull.
The Martini bar was exciting, crowded, fun with GREAT service.
The wine bar uses mostly machines to dispense wine, and had a very stuffy atmosphere.
Michael's (the beer bar) was deserted, dull, boring. It appeared like they were trying to make it like the wine bar, rather than my expected "pub" atmosphere.
While we were on an adults only charter, I would think kids would be bored. They have a kids space and teen club, however, there is no "fun" places on the ship (water-slides, kids pool, etc).
The lawn club is cool (I guess) but not really sure of the point of having grass on a ship. The up-charge cabanas point towards the lawn and completely obscure the view of the sea.
Internet as usual on a ship is balky, expensive and hard to use.
Overall the look of the ship is held back by the lighting. It is obvious that they spent a lot of money on it, but they need to have a lighting designer come have a look at it. Everything is "grey", nothing stands out, there are many "too dark" and "too light" areas. Even the LED colored lighting in dining rooms and on the exterior were always just set to dull purple. The lighting in the cabins is terrible, there are no reading lights by the beds. All fluorescent, to bright or too dim.
To and From the Port, staying in Rome:
We stayed before and after the cruise at the Ludovisi Palace, great location, "OK" rooms, Great front desk staff. They arranged car service to and from the port (170 euros for a private van for 7 of us) and to and from the Airport (55 euros for 2 in a limo). Much cheaper than the ship. We were delivered right to luggage drop off and picked up with a driver standing there with out name on a card as we walked out with our bags.
I booked all of the Italy stops with private tours (9-13 of us) through Roman Candle tours. GREAT guides, just our group, cost comparable to the ship excursions, but customizable and much more enjoyable.
I also booked the Necropolis Tour under St. Peters. It was Awesome. The only way to book it is to write the excavations office at the Vatican in ADVANCE. They only let like 200 people in a day. you enter via the exclusive and private Holy See gate (walk up, walk in). When the tour is complete it ends in the crypts under the basilica, you can walk right into St. Peters with no line.
Hope this is helpful.
See you on the high seas...