This was only the second cruise for this ship so when we boarded, we actually had a new ship smell. I was very excited after hearing so many great things about Celebrity on Cruise Critic and I expected this to surpass just about all of the previous lines that I had cruised with including Cunard and Holland America, but this was not the case.
First of all, the good points were that the ship is stunning and the most beautiful that I have seen, both in and out. Champagne at embarkation, nice touch. The two specialty restaurants that we dined in were Murano and the Tuscan Grill. They were both excellent and my favorite was the handsome Tuscan Grill with the view of the ship's wake with floor to ceiling windows. Food in both restaurants was superb (although at a steep $35 per person surcharge). Several menu items were prepared by the table such as the lobster in Murano. Overall my favorite thing about the cruise were these two dinners. The balcony stateroom was beautiful and the bathrooms and shower were very roomy. Nice design. Comfortable beds, and bathrobes were a nice touch to the rooms. Lots of storage space. Colors throughout the ship were tasteful and soothing. Ship gets 10 out of 10 for design. We did a cocktail party in the observation lounge which I wish would have been utilized more as it is an amazing space. Lobby and shopping area were very beautiful and the martini bar was a very fun place to meet and have drinks and was always crowded and happening. One nice area was The Hideaway which was one deck down from us which always had a hot coffee station. This was nice to not have to go all the way to the buffet restaurant to get coffee during the day for first thing in the morning. There was always someone in there either reading or working on their laptop.
Now the not so good points. It became clear in about a day that there were starting to be issues that weren't just a matter of a crew on a new ship, but possibly management or policies by Celebrity. For one, the crew in the hallways and in the rest of the ship didn't always smile and greet you and the joke with all of the passengers toward the end of the cruise was "service with a scowl." Our cabin attendant although very friendly to us, didn't pay attention to all of our needs. I let her know that we like extra towels in the bathroom. She did it the first time, but then would not make up the bathroom with extra towels after that and we had to ask her every day for more towels. Soap and shampoo were also not replaced. This was also evident in our friends' cabins so it must be a policy. Not something that I expected from a so-called premium line.
The outdoor pools were never drained and there was actually a condom wrapper in one of the pools that remained there for several days and became a joke among everyone. Otherwise the ship was kept spotless and there always seemed to be someone polishing glass or metal on the ship.
Food in the Sea View cafe or as we started to call it, "The Windjammer" was repetitive at each station and also each day. There was not even an effort to rotate it every other day. By the third day everyone started to become tired of it. Perhaps this is a way for Celebrity to encourage passengers to pay extra for variety in the many for-fee venues on the ship (nickel and diming to be discussed later). This is something that I would have expected on an older Royal Caribbean ship, but not on Celebrity. One good thing was the choice of ice cream (although only at certain times of the day). The for-fee gelato at Cafe Al Bacio was just mediocre and not on the par to be called gelato in my own opinion. We tried it once, and then after that we got the free ice cream in the buffet since it was also better than the gelato that they were selling to passengers at an extra charge. There never seemed to be anyone in Cafe Al Bacio on this cruise, nor Cellar Masters or Bistro on Five.
The food in the main dining room was just okay and I would compare it to the main dining rooms on Royal Caribbean. The food was presented in a nice setting, but the quality was lacking to what I had on Cunard or Holland America. Cuts of beef were fatty for example. Dining room service was pretty standard and most of the Eastern European staff didn't speak English very well. It seems to be that on this ship, if you want a premium cruise experience, then you need to pay extra for all of the for-fee venues and suite accommodations.
Now the subject that seemed to tick just about everyone off on this cruise, the nickel and diming. As I said before with the dining, the included meals were just standard and something that could be compared to an older Royal Caribbean ship. The specialty restaurants, although excellent, carry a hefty $35 surcharge. There are for-fee places such as The Porch which takes up space in the lawn area. We never saw anyone eating there and in one case we saw crew hanging out and sitting at the tables talking one afternoon which I thought very unprofessional. The glass show has been replaced by a specialty restaurant which carries the same hefty $35 cover charge as the fine dining restaurants, but is a churrascaria with a demonstration. We had some friends eat there and they said that it was good and had a great atmosphere on the lawn. The lawn itself seemed to always be roped off for a "private function" yet we never saw anything happening there. The view of the sea from the middle of the lawn is now blocked with the for-fee cabanas which are large clumsy looking wooden boxes which take up a lot of space and are very unattractive and detract from the otherwise stunning and airy setting. We never saw anyone using these cabanas. Waste and a ruin of an otherwise beautiful space in my opinion.
One area where Celebrity can pay more attention is to have better waiter service in the lawn area. We watched the sunset one night and found a table and chairs, but had to get up to go to the bar to get drinks as there was never a waiter around. It seems like they can take a lesson from their parent company and find a happy medium with the cheery Royal Caribbean waiters on deck that give you good service where you are sitting or sunning. It seems that we always had to get up and get in a long bar line either by the pool or up on the lawn. Not good cocktail service at all except for in the Martini Bar area.
Everything about the spa was a la carte. I had a massage one of the days. As soon as it was over I got hit up with the sell to buy the snake oil. Even if you get a spa treatment, you are not allowed to use any of the spa facilities. There is a Turkish bath area, but this is sold separately. Again this felt very cheap and tacky for a so-called premium line. Even at the Canyon Ranch on QM2 I was allowed to use the spa for the days that I was getting a massage.
We managed to do karaoke on the last night. One thing that I though was unprofessional is that crew members were doing some of the karaoke and taking up some of the spots, so that when my friends finally go their turn to sing, it was past 12am and this was the day before disembarkation. If the crew insists on participating in passenger activities, then the passengers should not have to wait for the crew members to sing especially on the last night of the cruise. Once again, VERY unprofessional, especially for a so-called premium line.
It just seems like the service on this ship lacked the ability to anticipate the passengers' needs even when requested at the beginning of the cruise. There was never any effort to make the passengers feel special which I have felt on other cruise lines, even the lower priced ones such as NCL. I would think twice about paying more for a Celebrity cruise in the future.