From the Midwest we flew to San Diego, arriving at 9:30. Celebrity took our luggage to load onto the Century - docked in San Diego - but made us wait until 11 to be bused to the pier. Fortunately we had a bit to eat at the airport, unaware how long it would be before we had a decent meal again.
At 11 we were taken to the pier and checked in. The Century was there, but we couldn't board it in San Diego. We were "fed" rolls and small sandwiches (one type), which didn't help my gluten-free wife. Meanwhile the Century set sail for Ensenada, to which we were to be bused. We weren't loaded on our bus until 2:30, and the driver said it would be a 2-3 hour drive, but he guaranteed it would only be 2. Actually it was a painfully long, slow drive of five hours! At the border we were given Mexican immigration forms to fill out in Spanish (which we and most others couldn't speak or read, much less write). There and later we saw Mexican teenagers with machine guns hanging around, presumably as protection.
In Ensenada, at the ship, we were told to leave our bags (the ones with our valuables, our other luggage having been taken onto the ship at San Diego) to speed things up - just walk through security and our bags would be brought in for us. No, no! Again teenagers with guns hanging around, and everyone revolted - we were NOT going to abandon our bags, we would take them through security with us. This was eventually allowed, but the staff warned us it would delay things.
We arrived at our room at 7:30, unaware that we were actually among the earliest to arrive. A ship official pleasantly told us our cabin was ninth room starboard, but I had previously checked out the deck plans and knew it was port, not starboard.
Our restaurant seating was at 8:30 so we barely had time to unload some things from our luggage (waiting outside our cabin door). The restaurant told us we did not have an assigned table that night, it was "open seating." Surprisingly few people were eating at 8:30. I know why. Most were still in buses! When we finally retired to our cabins for good about 11 p.m., there were still many pieces of luggage in the corridors, indicating many passengers had not yet come aboard. Talking to other cruisers during the week I found out that most arrive much later than us, some well after 11.
The ship staff never made any reference to this fiasco or apologized or anything. Not in the newsletter, not in any public announcement. Whenever it was brought up to a staff member they feigned ignorance of any problems. However, a few nights later, in the restaurant, we were visited by the executive chef and another bigwig, the hotel director, I believe. We talked to them about the first day without success. The chef kept trying to steer the conversation back to food, and the director blamed any delays on the Mexican officials (maybe partly true) and on Carnival Cruises. Why Carnival? Well, supposedly they had asked Mexico for more protection and escorts to the port! Wow, what a bunch of jerks, I thought! They won't take ANY responsibility for this awful day.
Well, the cabin and restaurant staff were good, but overall much seemed very disorganized. The daily newsletter listing times and places for activities was often wrong (staff didn't show up, activities were moved to different rooms and times). We had trouble finding our safe. After looking everywhere we read the "manual" for the room, which said it was in one of the closets. No, it wasn't, as far as we could tell. When we asked our cabin staff they showed us: it was behind the mirror over the desk - a large mirror which appeared fixed in place, but could be pulled out on one side by placing fingers under its bottom edge.
The entertainment was usually good (the dancers and singers, the classical trio from Ukraine, the pianist, Richard Rubin, eccentric but enjoyable) but sometimes pretty bad (Kimiki, as I remember, an aging British couple of rockers; the Boston comedian). We attended some trivia contests which many ships have, but these were often bizarre. One on "song titles" had nothing to do with song titles or lyrics. A true-false quiz taught us the amazing fact that per capita the Chinese have more Rolls-Royces than the English, which was ludicrous. The library was probably the poorest I've ever encountered on a cruise ship, at least non-fiction, which is what I was looking for.
Ashore on three Hawaiian islands, everything was fine and enjoyable.
Disembarkation in Honolulu was also hectic and disorganized. We were lucky we didn't need help walking, that's all I'll say.
We've been on Azamara, Holland America, Orient Lines, Oceania, Windstar, Vantage (river cruise), Carnival, two other river cruise lines, and everyone one was a fine experience - Celebrity ranks dead last in my opinion. Never did we fail to board ship later than early afternoon, always in time for lunch.
So we are crossing Celebrity off our list. Once is enough, for sure. Maybe the competent Celebrity staffers are assigned to Azamara.