Of the over twenty cruises we have taken since 2000 (including 8 on Celebrity and 2 on Azamara), this was probably our least favorite. We experienced a marked decline in the quality of food and service since sailing on the Constellation in 2002.
Upon boarding, we usually head for the library to find reading material - the selection of books available was very limited and the volumes were old and in shabby condition.
One of our favorite memories of the Constellation was the time spent over a pre-dinner drink in the popular Martini Bar outside the Marco Polo restaurant. Alas when the Constellation was remodeled, the bar was moved to a very narrow, public corridor with little atmosphere. The apple martini too had changed: the waiter brought a cloudy concoction to our table, without a shaker and with sugar on the glass rim. When asked about the change we were told that Celebrity was now adhering to the Royal Caribbean model. Fortunately we found better martinis served in other bars on the ship.
Gone too were the marvellous pastries that Celebrity used to be know for. Most of the desserts (other than those in the specialty restaurants) now appear interchangeable and mousse-like in texture. The first (and last) ice cream we had in the Seaside buffet area was vanilla ice cream that had crystallized. In order to get a good tasting ice cream we had to pay over $3 at the Gelateria. One highlight that stood out in a positive way was the excellent breakfast poached egg station where they served poached eggs plain or as variations on the classic Eggs Benedict. The breakfast bacon too was nicely crisp.
For dinner we chose to eat five times in the speciality restaurants. The price had increased significantly over other cruises, but the food there was much superior. The main dining room food was mediocre with many lapses in service, notably one occasion where one of the six people at our table was served the entrÃ©e only after everyone else had finished dessert. Even with the choice of fine dining there were several minor snafus, including at our last meal in the Ocean Liners where the half bottle of wine we previously had corked at the Tuscan Grille could not be located.
Perhaps our favorite memory of this cruise will be the experience provided by the consummate entertainer, Perry Grant in the piano bar, Michael's Club. The club was packed every night for both performances and people waited in line outside to gain entry. Sadly we found out that this too will be coming to an end as Royal Caribbean is phasing out piano bars after 2013.
Celebrity still holds an attraction for us because of the loyalty program where Elite members are offered a number of options including two hours each evening with free cocktails/hors d'oeuvres served in the Reflections lounge, a continental breakfast with various coffees every morning in the Ocean Liners, and priority embarkation and disembarkation services. But recently other cruise lines have offered us a better overall experience.