We drove from north Florida and got to Miami the day before we sailed and stayed at the Crown Plaza on Hallandale Beach, which was a gorgeous, full service hotel. The next day we drove to the off-site parking we had selected. Parking at the port is $20 per day, and off-site with a shuttle was $7.50 per day. We chose Premier Parking. Premier moved its lot from the time we had booked the building until we arrived. We arrived at the old address (Now EZ Park) who directed us to the new address, which was not clearly signed. We called the number provided and got directions back to the OLD site. Anyway, we finally got to our parking destination...not sure if we would go that way again.
This ship is 10+ years old, and it is MAGNIFICIENT. I looked for wear and just couldn't find any. We were in a concierge class room, had concierge priority boarding and were on board by 11 AM. I've taken other cruises out of Miami from Carnival and Norwegian. Embarkation was always messy and prolonged. Its the embarkation and driving distance that had turned me off to cruising out of Miami. THIS TIME...things were perfect at the Celebrity/RCCL Terminal. There were no lines at any of the other booking windows, either.
Our luggage got to our room quickly, we were greeted by the steward Juliana who took our special requests, and a lovely bowl of fresh fruit waited, and was replenished during the week. Muster drill was held in the Rendezvous Lounge and was completed quickly. We were out of the harbor by 5 PM.
THE GRILL: innovative, no "trough" feeling or long lines. The egg station was amazing - different kinds of egg benedict (I loved the German one) and a chef poaching the perfect, golf-ball shaped egg while you waited. Perfect hollandaise. Traffic flowed well around the food stations, and I was continually surprised at the ideas - Indian and Asian breakfast stations, past stations, salad stations, carving stations. Well done, Celebrity.
Main Dining Room: We picked Celebrity Select Dining, and booked our reservation at the same time for each night, and we never waited. Celebrity isknown for its gourmet food, and we were not disappointed - creative choices, classics done perfectly.
We did not dine at the Olympian Restaurant (service fee)
COVA CAFE became our favorite spot on deck 5. One side was a small bites walk-up cafe. Inside a case and changed four times a day, they offered small pastries, small sandwiches, and great savory tapas for the evening. The coffee side of the cafe had specialty coffees, coffee cocktails, wine, and a full liquor bar. Hi to Patricia from the Philipines, who really made our trip for us. The area had entertainment in the afternoon and evening, close to the game room, and comfortable chair just to relax and read.
RENDEZVOUS BAR, MICHAEL's and the MARTINI Bar. Are on Deck 4 and 5 near the entrances to the main dining room (Metropolitan) Live music is on deck 4, and deck five is open so you can see and hear the music. All the bands were great.
PREPAID LIQUOR PACKAGES. I purchased the complete Premium Package, so I could have all beverages up to $12 per glass or cocktail. I kept track to make sure it was worth the cost of $60 per day. I'm not a drunk nor a lush, but it was a good value, especially since I enjoyed cappucinos and different wines with the appetizers and entrees at dinner. My husband picked the non-alcoholic package and really thought it was a good value also.
We also pre-paid our tips. One of the best things about this cruise was not worrying about the size of the final bill. Prepaying tips and liquor left us with a very small bill ($79) instead of the usual surprise.
Activities: very much to my liking. The crowd's median age was about 55. There were interesting art lectures and a daily first run movie in addition to the bingo, etc. AND we were not hammered with overhead announcements. The captain made his report at noon, and that was about all.
I don't like to cruise out of Miami or Ft Lauderdale because of the distance. I'm close to Jacksonville, Tampa, Port Canaveral and New Orleans. BUT I told my husband to get used to driving to Ft. Lauderdale and Miami because I am going to demand a Celebrity Cruise every single year. It was that superior to other cruises.
Why was it superior? SERVICE. Service like I've never had before, and all cruise lines generally give good service or they wouldn't be in business. It was the overwhelming personal touch given each and every time. The remembering of your name when you returned to a venue. I wish I was on board right now.
Millie is being sent to rehab shortly to be SOLSTICIZED, and will head to Asia. My next cruise (not yet scheduled) will be on the the Silhouette or Eclipse fall of 2012.