Re: Us (Background)
This was a first cruise for my sister and me; we're both in our 20s. The cruise was a graduation present from us to us. :)
Boarding in Sydney was not hectic. We dropped our bags in the tent and let the workers take them away. We waited in line at Sydney Overseas Passengers Terminal. The security process, getting the SeaPass and boarding were easy. It was nice getting a drink when we boarded. We then explored the ship and headed to the buffet.
The ship's staff was always cleaning and attentive and friendly. It seemed the staff were always cleaning the windows and the common areas. It was nice that there were automatic hand sanitizer machines in various places around the ship. It was also great that the waiters were at the MDR doors and squirting the sanitizer in our hands before we entered. People with hand sanitizers were also there right when we got back on the ship.
The food (buffet and MDR) were nice and yummy, especially the desserts. The menus had an excellent selection of meat and vegetarian dishes. We didn't try the AquaSpa Cafe since we were quite often full from the buffet and MDR.
The entertainment was good. Ian and Ben (Cruise Director and Activity Manger) were great. We had dance and singing productions (Dance Around the World, Liverpool Knights, A Touch of Broadway), a comedian (Martin Ralph), vocalists (Annie Frances, Darren Williams), instrumentalists (Michael Young, Glenn Amer, Martin Lass) and acrobats (Duo Velikovi). Sure we didn't know who the artists were, but it was nice to see and listen to the shows.
The music around the ship was great. It was nice to have a variety from acapella (These Guys) to classical (Tango for Three, Leal Quartet), band (Kenosis party band, Howard Weiss and the Celebrity Orchestra), instrumentalist/singer (Richard Rubin, Jana Seale), DJ Roxtar. We especially enjoyed the acapella group and the Celebrity Orchestra. The classical musicians were nice and soothing as well.
The activities on the ship during sea days (and port days) were abundant. We had a naturalist and author in the Beyond the Podium series. There were also food-related activities (How to Cook a Perfect Steak, "Heartbeat of the Operation: Behind the Scenes Galley Tour," How to make sushi), "Oceans Ahead" activities, Aussie Expo, Dessert Expo , dance classes, karaoke etc.
The tendering system was interesting. We had to tender at Akaroa and Bay of Islands. Since the weather was not as pleasant in Akaroa (and to a lesser degree, in Bay of Islands as well), the tendering process was slow and tedious. Our tender pilot for getting back from Akaroa to the ship was driving extremely fast, to the point where water would come in the lifeboat; it felt like a Disneyland hydraulics ride.
Re: Additional Services
The "newspaper" service and the Celebrity Today were nice. A lot of the television channels were unavailable because of "technical difficulties," but we did get the news channels. It was also great to get a couple of football games.
It was a nice experience of having the room cleaned for us in our Inside Cabin. We also enjoyed having our beds turned down and finding chocolate there. The towel animals were also a cute touch. Our room attendant was friendly and made sure our room was always clean. He also told us where the safe was the first day (it was behind the mirror at the desk; we never would've guessed).
Disembarkation was easy. We waited until our number was called, then we left. Our luggage was waiting in the area (terminal warehouse/big room?). We then hauled our luggage and bade our cruise a fond farewell.
Despite it raining (in varying degrees) almost every single day of the cruise, we've definitely been bitten by the cruising bug. We learned that there's so much more besides eating and sleeping on a cruise.