This was our fifth consecutive Holiday cruise. We enjoy traveling as a family during the holidays, and booked two balcony cabins on deck 8, one for my wife and I, and one for our 19 and 21 year old sons enjoying a break from college. We have had many very positive experiences with Celebrity, both as a couple and a family and previously found Celebrity a step above similarly priced lines. We've enjoyed not being inundated with announcements all day, found the quality of the food quite good, and the service generally excellent. And while we loved our vacation because it gave us time to spend together, Celebrity disappointed in several areas. And while we'll probably cruise with Celebrity again, I hope they address some of the truly disappointing aspects of our trip.
Our embarkation process was extremely easy, from taxi to ship in less than 15 minutes. This is consistent with our past Celebrity experience and so much more civilized than other embarkation processes we've experienced. We did stop for a quick lunch at the Oceanview cafe, and found the quality, selection, and layout to be generally very well done. The service of the waiters, however, was very weak, with plates stacked on empty tables for too long. Additionally, all the ice machines were down at one point, and some of the drink machines never worked for the entire cruise. We found the coffee much improved. After lunch we walked around the ship, and were in our staterooms when called by 1:45 or so. Our luggage arrived shortly thereafter and we found the space available well-designed. We enjoyed our room and found it well designed. The beds were comfortable and the deck furniture was nice. This was the first time we did not sail in Concierge class and while we missed the better towels, we agreed that our staterooms were fine and would not consider Concierge class unless it was a nominal upcharge of $50 or less.
While the design of the room was outstanding, the service was the worst we ever experienced on a ship. For example, on several occasions, we were left with no soap or shampoo and had to request it. One day we had no toilet paper, but had 3 extra boxes of tissues! What we really didn't like was the number of different people in the room and the time it took them to do the service. On every other cruise, the attendants were friendly, hard working, and efficient. On this cruise, the quality was terrible, with them taking two hours to service the room in the morning and evening. They would do the towels, then return and do the ice bucket, then return and leave information packets... We never received our disembarkation information, nor our daily calendar consistently. While we appreciate the fact that the cabin stewards have a difficult job, Celebrity needs to provide the training so they can manage their jobs effectively and at least meet guest expectations. And the worst offense? leaving dirty cleaning microfiber cloths in our son's room. Given previous noro issues on this ship...this is the kind of thing that can certainly spread viruses and should be a basic expectation of hygiene.
The entertainment was both outstanding at times and horrible at times. The English juggler was terrific, one of the best acts we've ever seen on a ship. And the production shows were professionally done. But the so called impressionist singer, Sean O'Shea was the worst act we've ever seen. And we don't understand why the sole comedienne only performed a single show and only at midnight? But, all shows were detracted by the horrible cruise director and his inane banter. This was also the worst cruise director we've encountered. He lacked engagement and failed to create a positive vibe on the ship. And Stuart, please stop singing!
We did enjoy some of the activities. But we also enjoyed our time together playing a cruise-long card tournament that ended up leaving our sons $10 richer. The highlights of the activities included trivia and the glass show. We met a lovely couple from Palm Beach and thoroughly enjoyed meeting them for various trivia contests. We won 3 of the contests together, but seemed to have as much fun on the one's we lost as the one's we won! The glass show was a nice surprise. We found the commentary, especially by the young lady to be simply fascinating.
The layout of the ship was terrific. We never really felt crowded and could always find a quiet spot to lay in the sun, or play cards. Well, perhaps not too quiet. While most of the children on this holiday cruise were very well behaved and pleasant, there were far too many who ran amok, with no supervision, and no manners. Parents, you know who you are, and you should be ashamed of yourselves. There were also a number of people who didn't seem to have "please" or "thank you" in their vocabularies. These folks work hard for us, and a smile or word of appreciation is always in order.
We also believe Celebrity needs to either enforce "rules" or not have them. For example, many people smoked on balconies and in non-smoking areas. Children screamed in the Atrium pool all day, yet it was supposedly an adult-only area. And dress codes? Either have them and enforce them, or don't have them.
We enjoyed open seating in the main dining room and found the service to be outstanding! The food was generally excellent, with only a few misses, but always nicely presented. We had three different waiter/assistant teams and all were excellent. However, the team of Rajesh and Roxana with whom we dined on the last 4 nights were simply outstanding, and reminded us that the old Celebrity service that brought us back to Celebrity still exists. Thanks to you both for such outstanding service. Note that we made reservations for dinner in advance of the cruise, and the reservations were honored immediately every time. We didn't sample the specialty restaurants.
The ports were fine and we had a nice time in all of them. Due to heavy winds (35mph+) and high seas, we were about 3 hours late to San Juan, arriving just at sunset. An announcement was made, and an apology made, both by the captain in his announcement, and with a card in our staterooms. We found that a sincere gesture. We also found the captain to be very engaging and charismatic, with a great sense of humor...just what Stuart the cruise director needs! We spent a nice day at the beach and shopping in St. Thomas, a bit of the same in St. Maarten, and took a brief walk in St. Kitts, not our favorite island from previous visits.
Disembarkation was easy as well. Overall, we had a great family vacation and enjoyed being together in such beautiful weather in a wonderful location. Celebrity enhanced that experience in many ways, and detracted in others, as mentioned above. So, will we return to Celebrity? Before this trip, I would have answered affirmatively. Now, I'm not that sure.