My wife and I retired at age 49. We have been cruising ever since then and take usually 2 or 3 24+ day getaways a year. We have cruised all lines. In the past 10 years, we have done about 30 cruises. We generally book our own air, using miles when possible, and stay at Starwood Hotels, as we are Platinum in their rewards program.
I am legally blind and also travel with a service dog. She is not a seeing-eye dog, but she is still my driver. Guchi is a Chihuahua that has received extensive training to assist me. She normally sits in a front pack and from the way she points her head, I can tell where to go. She also alerts me to the presence of other people and animals in my general vicinity. On this trip, I was also accompanied by a second dog that was in training. This complicated our travels, as I had to carry each dog separately in carry bags, one on each hip.
We flew Air France/ Delta to Rome via Paris and stayed overnight at the Rome Sheraton. We took the train to Civitavecchia and a taxi to the port. Embarkation went surprisingly smoothly as this was only the fourth or fifth sailing of the ship. The embarkation office was prepared for our arrival with the dogs and we gave her all of the paperwork for their entry into the various counties. Unlike most ships, she promised to fax copies of the paperwork to each port and tell us, in advance, if there was going to be any problem with the dogs entering any port. This was above and beyond normal and much appreciated!!!
We had booked a balcony guarantee and were given a very nice cabin on deck 9. It was the second from the front of the ship, which most people would not like, but it was great for us, as it was quiet and the service dog in-training was not bothered by noise in the hallway.
The ship is large and carries over 3000 passengers. It was brand new and beautiful. We were a little disappointed that there was not a thalassotherary pool and that the Promenade deck was limited to a port and starboard section and that you could not walk around the ship, as this is how I exercise the dogs.
We had requested a large table at the late seating. When we arrived at dinner the first night, we found out that we had a table for 2 in a very dark corner. After dinner, we spoke to the Maitre de and were told that we would be moved to a large table in the center of the dining room the next night. We were moved to a table for 10 the next night, but there were only 6 people at dinner. The following night, there were only 4. Quite frankly, we did not enjoy the food on any of the nights. It was not the company, but the lack of quality compared to Celebrity cruises in the past. Examples of this were Chicken Wellington instead of Beef Wellington and Sirloin Oscar instead of Veal Oscar. Also, the Chef recommendation one night was Spaghetti and Meatballs. There are 5 specially restaurants on this ship, as well as an any-time dining option, so we decided to try this approach. This approach however ruins the traditional way of enjoying the same waiters and tablemates each night. We have made several friends over the years this way. Now it is just come and see who is at the table tonight! We bought a 5 dinner package in the specialty restaurants for $129 each including gratuities and made reservations to eat every other night in one of the specialty restaurants.
In Cuisine, we were given an iPad and invited to order our own food (DIY #1). We declined and asked the waiter to do it for us. The food was good, but we ended up with tastes of everything that the ship has to offer and so there was no continuity to the meal. In the Lawn Club, we were invited to make our own appetizer, salad at the salad bar and grill our own steak just like we do at home but at 40 dollars a person (DIY#2). Again, we declined and had the chef do it, except for the salad bar, which my wife did. Again, the food was good and the service was great. We, also, ate in Muranos and twice in the Tuscan Grill. BOTH WERE OUTSTANDING and they did it all for you at a price!
Celebrity no longer offers lunch in the dining room on days in port, so we were left with the Spa Grill or the buffet (DIY#3). As I am almost blind, I cannot do these. My wife thus becomes the waiter. We were told that there would be help on the buffet, but the only staff that we could find were serving alcoholic drinks or clearing tables and not available to help carry trays, etc.
There were a few days at sea and we did enjoy being served lunch on those days. The food was okay and very plain no decoration on the plates, a lot of mashed potatoes, i.e. not the Old Celebrity. On the last day at sea, there was a brunch instead of breakfast and lunch service. You guessed it another buffet (DIY#4).
All in all, the food is just not up to the quality it once was when Michel Roux was their Executive Chef.
Because we were traveling with a service dog and a service dog in-training, we did not do any of the ships activities. There was a full program of them every day if you were so inclined. We also did not have children with us.
For shore excursions it certainly would have been nice to have a Jerusalem on your own since Ashdod is very far from Jerusalem and it is very easy to navigate the old town and the new town by yourselves in a much better fashion and at your own speed. Also the timing of the ship to be in Israel on a Friday is just plain stupid since everything except the dead sea shuts down at around 2 o clock. That way you almost had to take a ship tour to the Dead Sea or waste the day.
We found the staff very helpful and they did everything that they could to make our cruise pleasant. They reserved seats for us in the shows; they cleaned the cabin when I was walking the dogs.. THERE WAS JUST NOT ENOUGH OF THEM especially in the dining venues other than the specialty restaurants. I also found it disturbing that our cabin steward had to stop cleaning in order to get our room service as we ate in our cabin several nights. From toilet washing to bringing food just doesnt do it. As an aside, we were told that there were 2 crew members whose sole job was to take care of the lawn. I was also asked not to allow my dogs on the lawn. I did not, but assured the crew that I would pick up after them, if I did (DIY#5 HA!!) By the way my dogs go on pads in the bathroom and never on grass or dirt!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We thought that the production shows were GREAT!! The talent in them was terrific. THE BEST COMEDIAN ON THE SHIP IS THE CAPTAIN. They should give him another night!!! The acapella group was also very good. The rest of the entertainment was just okay.
We were training to Tuscany after the cruise, so we waited until the very end to disembark. They lost one of our suitcases and we almost missed our train. Someone ought to tell the unemployed in Italy that there are plenty of jobs out there. Just go to a train station and people would gladly pay them to carry their bags up and down the stairs, as there are no elevators or escalators at many of the stations.
We liked the ship but concluded that big ships are not for us. There were too many people and not enough crew. It was a long way from the front to the back of the ship, and perhaps a design flaw, there are only 2 elevator banks. We were headed on to the Constellation and were hopeful that the food would be better and there would be less DIY. Overall except that the ship was new- no big deal and mediocre food except in Murano ($40 a person) and the Tuscan Grill ($30 a person) without wine.