I apologize if this review goes a little long.
This review will describe the good, the great, and the amazing things that happened onboard our week-long cruise to the Eastern Caribbean from 11/26 - 12/3 2011.
We booked this cruise over a year and a half ago as a post-thanksgiving break. We were part of the Pied Piper group aboard this sailing. Since the prices were relatively close, we decided to book a Concierge Class cabin, but more on that later!
Pre-Cruise: We arrived on Black Friday and stayed at the LaQuinta Airport-East. This hotel was quite nice. The rooms were very quiet, despite being right at the end of one of the runways. The staff were all very friendly and amazing! They offer shuttle service from the airport and to the port the next morning, but we chose to not use the port service, as I am an early riser, and like to get moving. Just don't pay attention to the many fliers shoved under your door for local eateries. We ate dinner at the Bennigan's next door. I was pleasantly surprised to find the food delicious and the portions generous and not overpriced. The reviews are not to always be believed!
Embarkation: As stated, we chose to forgo the shuttle to the airport offered by the hotel, and opted to use a taxi for this. With tip and not being a flat-rate trip it was around $32 for the two of us. It was definitely a great way to start the day! What a quick ride to the port in comfort! We arrived at approximately 10:15. We were one of the first in line to enter the port to get seapass cards and to be checked in. This was a painless process and then were seated in an area for a short wait since the previous cruise was not yet cleared. We waited in this area approximately 20 minutes and were then led onto the ship by groups. We were onboard with mimosas in hand by 11.
Stateroom: C3 - 1073 - After a delightful first lunch in a not crowded Oceanview Cafe, we were off to explore the ship until our cabins were ready at 1pm. We were just off the forward elevators on the port side of the ship. Very convenient and quiet, considering location to elevators. Bathroom is rather large, with a great layout. Our room stewards were always available and kept our large ice bucket filled all week. Enough storage for the two of us with room to spare for a week-long cruise. Did notice that on port days that when the window washers on deck 12 and 14 did spray downward onto balcony, also in the AM when the bridge washes its windows on sea days, you get a rainstorm on your balcony but it is brief.
Ship: Immaculate! Always being cleaned. Never found it difficult to find a table in the Oceanview Cafe or chairs at the pool. All the public areas are well thought out. Spent a lot of evenings enjoying the Martinis in the Martini Bar, and Karaoke in the Sky Lounge. The lawn and Sunset bar were wonderful in the afternoons to just sit, relax, and enjoy lawn games. Traffic flow was never found to be a problem except at the beginning of dinner, and when the theater left out, but that is to be expected.
Dining: Room Service was used most morning and was always delivered during our requested time slot. We usually had toast and croissants with cereal or oatmeal and coffee. This was a way to get us going for the day ahead. Lunch menus varied in the Oceanview Cafe with always something for everyone. The oceanview cafe is well laid out with the many stations. It can seem daunting at times, but it was always worth a look around before committing to an entree for the meal, as there may be something on one of the stations that you may like as well. The only island we noticed there were problems with was the Salad Bar as it was laid out backwards, with lettuce in the middle and dressings near where the plates were. We had second seating in the Moonlight Sonata with our group. We only ate here twice for dinner and once for lunch. As we do not participate in formal nights and at times found the menus lacking in items that sounded appealing to us. All times we ate here it was delicious and quite inventive with great service! If you wish for a great dining experience we highly recommend Tuscan Grille. This experience on the first formal night was an amazing culinary and gastronomical delight leaving us wanting more. Bistro on Five is highly underrated and worth the $5 cover - Portions are huge, and definitely a treat. We ate here one evening and noted only three passenger tables and two crew tables.
We had the Premium Alcohol Package. This was well used and we are not huge drinkers. It was well used in the mornings for coffees at Cafe al Bachio, bottled waters for shore excursions, meals, etc. We also found it nice to not have a slip to sign and be able to order any drink whenever we wanted. It was definitely worth it for us! We highly recommend a drink package as they are a great value!
Entertainment: We only attended two shows all week. We were pretty busy and spent most of our time relaxing and enjoying the ship. We saw a female singing impressionist who was great and attended the Voyage in Review show which was phenomenal! The entertainers throughout the ship were great - love the Riptides!!!
AquaSpa: I am always one for a massage or two while on vacation, mostly to relieve some backpain and stress. I decided to try something different this trip after meeting Dr. Liu the onboard acupuncturist. Wow! What a week of being pain free after three sessions during the week. This was my first time using acupuncture and was a little skeptical but am a true believer in the alternative medicine catagory. It was as relaxing as a massage with longer term benefits. I will also include the Solarium pool and cafe here as well. This was an amazing area on the ship. The pool is quiet with 2 spas and plenty of loungers around to spend an afternoon reading or quietly relaxing. The cafe also serves amazing salads and salmon dishes.
Ports: San Juan, PR; St. Thomas, USVI; St. Martin - I will say this itinerary is great for relaxing as there are three sea days. All the ports were great with our favorite being St. Martin, definitely want to visit again. Please read the Port reviews for further information. No tendering in any of the ports. This made it easy to get on and off the ship.
Disembarkation: The time I hate the most! Our final morning we were up at 4:30 and watched the ship come into Miami and dock which was awesome to see at that hour. We slept until 6:30 and were out of our cabin by 7:15. We got coffee at Cafe al Bachio and went up to a moderately crowded Oceanview Cafe and had a light breakfast before heading to our debarkation meeting point of the Eclipse theater to disembark at 8am. There were still people on there balconies as we were leaving. Longest line all week was standing at the curb after walking thru customs, and getting a cab after 20 mins.
This was our first, and definitely not our last cruise with Celebrity. It was an amazing experience! This is how cruising should be. The lack of announcements was a welcome treat. The Celebrity Today always had a lot of activities to attend. All the crew were extremely friendly with a pleasant smile and "Hello, How are you?" for you whenever you passed them onboard. As smokers, it was a pleasure to not have smoking in the casino, staterooms, or verandas. We were fine with the amount of smoking areas on this ship.