To say that after over thirty cruises and reviews that anything still surprises me, this Ship, the Bahamas Celebration, and it's extraordinary Crew, did just that.
Lets see, myself and my Partner Jerome are in our early 50's, cruise several times a year, always report back on Cruise Critic what we have learned and loved, and mercilessly what we have experienced as challenges and opportunities hopefully corrected, and even, on the supposed Best of the Best ships, had the most horrendous experiences ever, that were never corrected.
Our Life Motto is "To Have As Much Fun As Possible and Take As Many People With Us As We Can"!
Both Jerome and I are in the Customer Service and Guest Relations business. Jerome is an International Purser for United-Continental Airlines and is in charge of Safety, Security and Service, 50,000 feet up in the air, on the big boys, the 777 and 747 aircraft, going the distance, around the world. First Class service "up there", when the passenger is paying upwards of $12,000.00 for a one way ticket, well, simply put, has to be absolutely perfect. Which is why he is an excellent judge of service.
Myself, I run a multi-million dollar Marriott Convention Center and as the Director, I not only teach customer service and guest relations, I demand of my Associates the best in Service and as a matter of fact, I wrote a book on it titled "The Twenty-Five Steps of Service and How to Wow Guests in the Fine Dining Industry". I am an "old school" Guest Performance Specialist with thirty-five years in making people happy, so when I am on a cruise (the last bastion of Old School Customer Service left), I want to be taken care of. Period.
And so should you. You work just as hard for your money and that is why we write these reviews. To help you understand what you are supposed to be expecting vs. what you get vs. price vs. unrealistic expectations and just pure nonsense demands (believe me, some of the outrageous complaints I have heard, I will detail here and those who do this type of complaining, should be tossed overboard). I don't care if I spend $99.00 or $9,000.00 the experience should be the same. I chose to spend my money here, so give me a darn good time.
We take cruises because we like to be treated the way we treat our own Guests. Sadly, with many of the major Cruise Lines today, their standards have fallen to bottom-of-the-barrel experiences, all while on Gleaming Brand New Bright White Over Packed Floating Toilets. As merciless as that sounds, that is the state of the "Budget" industry today. I am talking the Big Three....Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and NCL. The pack-em-in mentality, Profits over People, I am truly over it.
That is why, when I tell you that my welcome aboard the Bahamas Celebration was awesome, I mean it. I will tell you why. This is an older ship, built in 1981 as a European Ferry, transporting cars and people to and fro. The Celebration Cruise Line/Imperial Majesty Cruises purchased the vessel, enlarged it, and brought back, even if its an ever so brief of a Budget two day experience, a taste of Old School Cruise Service on a Vintage Vessel that is all encompassing.
Most people are not aware of the dynamic customer service they are receiving, as it's a "first time test the waters" cruise for many, and as such, when they decide to book on say, Carnival, they have something to compare it to. Consequently, if this were my first cruise and having received the service that I received on Bahamas Celebration, then went to Carnival....based on my last three cruises with Carnival, I would be disappointed that Carnival did not live up to my expectations. I went gaga over the dÃ©cor, the magnificent Crew, the ship itself and the cleanliness of the ship.
This ship is so sanitized and clean it's beyond anything I have ever seen in the last twenty years. The ship's stainless steel is gleaming, its venues bright, gorgeous in a vintage way, very tastefully presented, artfully accented, and most of all, every single one of the staff members are happy. Did you read that last line...HAPPY! AND IT SHOWS. Well, Happy Cruise line, means Happy Bosses and Managers, means Happy Staff, means Happy Passengers, means Happy Shareholders, means Happy Profits. Every nook and cranny was spotless, and the ship smelled clean. Please trust me, I tried, very hard, to find an overlooked dirty, dusty or greasy spot. The white glove treatment really was outstanding, and far exceeded my expectations. The Crew takes Pride in their ship, and it shows.
I want to tell you of a little test I performed, it really is not fair, but I just did not believe that in this day and age, the Crew would really care that much. I put a balled up cocktail napkin on a staircase, and kept looking over the railing two decks up to see the traffic and if it would be picked up by a crew member. It did not last 10 minutes on the staircase. By magic, a young lady in uniform was traveling on the opposite staircase and saw it, backtracked and picked it up. For someone to bend over nowadays and pick up trash is unique in the American culture. I know this for a fact. This is one of my 25 Steps of Service and most people would consider it being beneath them, or someone else has that job and would simply step over it. It's everyone's responsibility and on this ship EVERYONE, EVERY CREW MEMBER takes pride and recognition in their goal, to please the customer. Yep, I was overwhelmed.
Okay so we live about 35 minutes from the Port of Palm Beach, and, for the last year and a half, I have read the cruise critic boards, and read the reviews of how awful the Bahamas Celebration was supposed to be.
How it was a "Time-Share Sell-abrasion" (a play on Celebration) fiasco, how people were ripped off (That was not the ship or the Celebration Cruise line per se, as it was a "marketing" company that sold people's souls down the river and customers naturally took their frustrations out on the ship and it's crew).
Then I read about how old she was. On what a "tug" she was, and how disappointed the passengers were. How the food was terrible and how lacking the service was and how bad the entertainment on the ship was. Boy did I figure out that these people were not only wrong, but shockingly wrong at that!
So, for the last year and a half I have had my Casino Host from the old Palm Beach Princess Lines try to book me on The Bahamas Celebration....(Boy do I miss the PBP and I sadly saw her listing to one side in Freeport from our stateroom window while on this cruise...very sad, and Oh, the Casino Memories!)
...."Are you crazy?" I used to tell my Casino Host?. "Why would I want to sail on a third rate, third class, steerage, tug of rust and barnacles, and probably come home with some foreign bugs on my person??????????".....Thus I always politely, though firmly, declined the invitation to sail...."Not for me", I said.
The Bahamas Celebration was, in my mind, a rusty old tub that smelled of Oil of Old Lady, and greasy old engineers in overalls that had not been cleaned in days and the food was all worse than the old Chinese Buffet that closed up shop down the road....(I like Golden Corral, so I never would have thought that any cruise ship buffet would exceed Golden Corral....boy was I wrong about that!)
As a side note, The Bahamas Celebration has one of the BEST ON-DECK buffets I have ever seen......two Prime Roast Steamship Rounds....OMG Two! I said TWO STEAM SHIP PRIME ROUNDS OF BEEF HAND CARVED TO YOUR SPECIFICATIONS ON DECK IN A POOL SIDE SAILAWAY BUFFET!
Even Royal Caribbean AND The Cunard Queens only puts out ONE at a time.....for a seven day, six thousand person cruise on the Oh-Ass-'s of the Sea...(BIG WOW!)
The sail away lunch buffet on the pool deck is not to be missed......absolutely amazing.....PLENTY OF GOOD FOOD.....AND THIS DISPLAY was on sail away! TWO STEAMSHIP ROUNDS.....TWO!
So we settle in on deck and I want a drink. My first DOD (for those of you that don't know the lingo...a DOD is the Drink of the Day...usually Tropical in Nature and on special pricing for the day as well.)
I opted for "The Bloody Mary".....it was, after all 11 thirty...AM...11 thirty and we were on board the ship eating??????......What happened next truly blew my mind. The weather was amazingly beautiful and the buffet opened, I ordered an Absolut Bloody Mary and heard our Bartender say "Welcome Aboard, It Will Be My Pleasure"!....I looked at Jerome and asked "What did he just say?"...Jerome said, "JW He Told You It Would Be His Pleasure"........?????????????WHAAAAAAAT??????? What was that about? How dare the Bartender be nice to me when I am expecting a rude, nasty, overworked, diesel smelling, steerage counter server. Who the heck did he think he was.....He was amazingly nice! What I got was a Hand Constructed, Hand Made, Hand Spiced and Hand Created and Shaken, Personal, Bloody Mary made with Absolut Peppar, just for me..... Oh my Gosh....it was tasty....I fell in love with the Bartender and thus began our Exceeding My Expectations of Service Cruise, with the Bahamas Celebration.
To digress a bit, we arrived at the Cruise Terminal and saw the same Valet parking Attendants that I used for the Palm Beach Princess when it sailed from this dock, two years prior. The Parking Guys remembered us and as the valet parking costs $15.00 per day, I threw in an extra ten spot and they were kind enough to have my car parked right up front the day we returned to the Port of Palm Beach with the keys in the ignition. That ten dollar tip went along way, as I did not have to wait in a long line for my car..... ....especially after the extraordinary long line at Homeland Security and US Customs (More on that later)..
After we arrived at the Terminal and gave our car up to the Valet, we entered the building, went unceremoniously thru Security, then up the escalator, into the vast Terminal with it seemed, never ending mazes of roped off lines upon roped off lines, though empty....it was just lines, with no people in them. I chuckled at the site...as it reminded me of a Disney attraction and the long, lines, but no people. We were directed to an "Official Identification and Paper's Checkpoint" with a large sign stating "Suites Available", and the attendant letting us know that we would be able to "Upgrade" to a Suite if we liked. Once she checked our paperwork, making sure we had all of the necessary documents, we were then directed to the VIP line for check-in....see, she could not upgrade us to a Suite as we were already in one! Ha!
The weather was gorgeous and we sat by the pool at the bar for a while, ate and I finished my Bloody Mary. The best part was we were not encumbered by our luggage, as the Bahamas Celebration does another wonderful gesture upon boarding the ship. There is a desk set up at the entrance that you may "Check" your luggage, and since you cannot go to your cabin until about 2PM, the luggage is sent directly to the room and is waiting for you when you get there.
They also have a baggage check service at curb side too.
In the lobby as well, is a sensational steel drums player who has a golden personality and terrific smile. Really gets you in the mood.
Back to the check-in process. After we checked in, received our boarding passes, we are directed to the waiting area, where you first come to the Ship's Photographer, to take your "Welcome Aboard" Souvenir Photo. Up next is the shore excursion desk, which we stopped by to once again see if the "Sailboat Excursion" was still a no-go. (Jerome and I really wanted to do the 2 Hour Sailboat Excursion with unlimited Rum Punch....but it was temporarily cancelled, as was the Catamaran Sailing)
However, speaking of Shore Excursions. If you are just sailing the two night cruise and not staying over for a few days, I highly recommend booking one of the shore excursions such as the Horseback Ride on the Beach, or the Jeep Excursion. Every Guest I talked to that did either of these excursions LOVED, LOVED, LOVED IT! They were already sold out by the time we got to the desk at 11 AM, so book early on-line at the Celebration website.
There is also the Beach Break Excursion at Our Lucaya Resort, which we have done before. It could or could not include lunch, but, personally I would just do the beach resort and eat lunch across the street at the Lucaya Marketplace on my own. Lots of choices to eat and drink, plus in the Our Lucaya complex is their New Casino.....lots of loose slots too! (and of course complimentary cocktails while gaming!)
After you check with the Shore Excursion Desk, you wait in line for the Dining Room Reservations Confirmation Desk. Do Not skip this thinking that you have confirmed reservations just because your documents or travel agent say so. This is a reconfirmation and many people are disappointed that the original time or restaurant is NOT available because they did not reconfirm.
You can also opt to purchase the Soda Package, which is only $21.00 for the sailing, offers unlimited sodas and comes with a souvenir cup. Jerome opted to purchase this as he drinks a lot of soda. They put a sticker on your Room Key/Sign and Sail Card to signify you are a member of the "Soda Club".
We confirmed our Dining Reservations for The Crystal Room for both nights. Most passengers choose the Crystal for the first night and the Rio for the second night (or visa versa). Jerome and I are seasoned cruisers and really look forward to a "full service" dinner onboard the ships we travel on.
The Crystal Room is considered a more formal (not tuxedos, but not jeans and shorts either) fine dining restaurant. There is a five course meal and believe me, its truly faaaaabulous.
The Rio, on the other hand, is a more informal restaurant, that has a buffet for the first few courses, and then offers a main course plated and served along with a Chusscarria Brazilian Style Skewers of Carved Meats tableside by the waiters. I can eat at Golden Corral anytime, so for dinner, we always stay away from the Buffets. The reviews from the passengers that did eat here were very positive. However everyone had the same feeling that the restaurant was very crowded with the tables so close together.
The other restaurant is the Specialty Cove Dining Room with an exceptional menu and an additional $25.00 per person cover charge. Lobster and Filet Mignon is of course on this menu. Initially Jerome and I made reservations for the second night, but so enjoyed the Crystal Dining Experience with our Waiter Edwin and the Head Waiter Tony, that we decided to have dinner again with them instead, the second night.
I am just so pleased to have observed this wonderful service being given throughout the dining room and am impressed that this level of kindness, warmth and genuine style, still exists.....these guys and gals are PROS!
I now have a new Casino on a ship to be Loyal to and to call My New Best Friend! The Casino on the Bahamas Celebration is huge, with gorgeous high wood paneled ceilings, the Service is impeccable and the complimentary drinks ever flowing, as long as you are playing or gambling.
I loved the Casino staff, as they were genuine and friendly, caring and kind, but not pushy or rude like the hosts on Carnival (who by the way call you up in your room on sea days and insist, no, demand, that you come and play in the Casino, and just because they do that....I stay away). If ever I am feeling pressured or treated poorly by a Casino staff, then that Casino can GTH!
I felt "At Home" in the Bahamas Celebration Casino and I truly had FUN. It is something that I enjoy doing...Having Fun. I enjoy playing the Slots and if I have fun doing so, I love the Casino. Its really not about winning or losing to me, its about having a Great Time. The Staff insured I had fun just by being the wonderfulificsensationalistic group that they are. Even Jerome, who is no where near the player I am at the slots, had a blast and thought that the Entire Casino Staff was magnificent and treated him as if he were a Prince. That is worth it's weight in gold to me. Making Jerome feel special in a Casino Environment, where he feels out of place, is something very special and the Bahamas Celebration Casino Hosts and Staff, made him feel so genuinely welcome. Thank you so much.
The Celebration Casino opens at about 7 PM the first night of sailing, just outside the three mile limit from the Palm Beach Coastline. We made a bee line for it, went to the Casino Cage and introduced ourselves to one of the Casino Hosts. We received our Wynmore Casino Cards and some promotional items for play, then it was off to the Machines!
The Casino has hundreds of slot machines, and I found out that several of my all time "Favorite" machines are there....and were purchased from the Palm Beach Princess, so I felt immediately at home and loved every minute of it!
Late at night, say around midnight, the Casino puts out some fabulous munchies such as Beef Satay (Beef Skewers), Buffalo Wings and some other items to nibble on. Of course there are plenty of cocktail servers, and as long as you are playing the slots or tables, cocktails are complimentary like in Las Vegas. Love it!
I had so much fun the second night that I bounced from machine to machine, winning, losing, staying afloat. The Casino remained open well past its 1 AM Closing time, not for me, but for several guys playing the tables, so I had a blast with the extra time. I won and was up, then changed machines, went down a bit, but all in all, it was a FUN experience, especially because I got to play a couple of my "Old Favorites" from the Palm Beach Princess. Great, Casino, and if you are a Player, you will enjoy your time there.
If would not be fair of me not to mention a small challenge that occurred which made it uncomfortable to gamble. Several "Zones" in the casino had Air Conditioning Issues. It was just plain hot. Being the trooper, I stayed at those machines as long as I could, and I was sweating a bit. I advised the Casino Host about the problem, and she had called engineering about the issue. Very professional and sincerely apologetic, however, if I was not having as much fun as I was, I would have left the casino like several other passengers did. Just sayin'.
After the Casino closed on the second night (at 2AM), I hi-tailed it to the room, Jerome was already sound asleep, then as I got into bed he grumbled...."Well, how much did you lose?" The answer was ...."I'll never tell"!
I enjoyed my Casino experience immensely and this is one reason I want to sail on the Bahamas Celebration again.
Oh My Gosh, I have said it before and I will say it again. The ship is SO CLEAN. I purposely tried to see as many of the Public Restrooms as I could. And there are tons of them. Each one I saw was decorated beautifully, appointed nicely with new, bright and gleaming fixtures, smelled fantastic and clean, and looked brand new. I was awestruck.
There were no paper towels strewn all over the floors from previous passengers, which tells me that the Bathrooms are well maintained. There was plenty of soap and supplies in each bathroom, and, very "comfortable" toilet paper (THAT IS IMPORTANT, AS THE BIODEGRADABLE SEAFARING T.P IS LIKE SANDPAPER).
The Public Bathroom's on board the Bahamas Celebration Exceeded My Expectations, and I judge the overall cleanliness of anyplace, be it a Restaurant, Cruise Ship, Hotel, Arena, on the quality and cleanliness and odor of their Public Bathrooms.
Bathrooms tell the REAL story of how a Company truly operates. If their Public Restrooms are a mess and no one takes Pride in caring about the upkeep, then no one cares at the top at that Company about themselves, it's Associates or Customers either.
The Bahamas Celebration Public Restrooms are top notch, gorgeous and sparkling Clean and Sanitized. Good Job! No, Magnificent Job!
We ultimately went to our cabin, which was a Medium Level Suite, called a "Club Suite" on Deck 8. The Club Suites on Deck 8 are noticeably bigger than those on Deck 5, so if you plan on staying in a Club Suite, do so on Deck 8, you will not be disappointed.
The Suite is laid out nicely and is very large and accommodating. There is ample closet space, a desk and chair with a large vanity mirror, a sofa, a queen size bed, two large picture windows and a mini bar with refrigerator and also a flat screen television. We had no problem getting reception on the television for what little we watched of it.
The bathroom is compact but I love the sliding door verses a shower curtain. The adjustable shower head meant that the water was not going to hit me on my chin (as I am over 6 feet tall) and I raised the shower head to the top and had a comfortable shower, along with plenty of hot water at all times. Great water pressure too. There were a couple of standard complimentary soaps and shampoos in our cabin, but not sure if they are provided in all the cabins.
Our room steward was the Senior Steward Roberto, who, by the way, was one of the best room stewards we have ever sailed with on any cruise line. He was extra ordinary in his attentions to us and always provided us with fresh towels, ice in our bucket twice a day, and was constantly present should we need anything. I truly enjoyed Roberto's personality, and again, felt that he really wanted to be on this ship and his job was not a drudge or inconvenient.
Our room was spotlessly clean and smelled fresh. The dÃ©cor could have used a bit sprucing up, but you know, I was not bothered by the age of the furniture. I thought that it led to the overall "Vintage" feel of the ship. It was comfortable and the bed, though yes, a tad on the hard side, was very comfortable with the linens on the bed. I loved the fluffy pure, bright white linens. The pillows, we had four of them, were large and comfortable as well. I was very, very pleased with the Cabin and after seeing the Grand Suites down the hall, I was also glad I chose this room as it was virtually the same size and quality. As a matter of fact, when I sail the Bahamas Celebration again, I want the very same room again. Ah Ha! I am not telling you which room I had....it might not be available as you might take it!
All of the Grand Suites are similar in nature and are located either at the front of the ship, or the very back of Deck 8. Those suites on Deck 8 have enclosed Balconies with sliding glass windows for fresh air and overlook the Suntan Area on Deck 6. If I were really pressed to take one of these, well I guess I could, but I still liked our Club Suite just the same. I enjoyed the balcony view, but the cruise was so short, that I did not mind having one. Just a nice perk. Suites all have mini-bars and refrigerators, as well as sofas and large bathrooms.
The cabin that you definitely want for this short cruise is any Category 4 Cabin. That's right, if you booked a Cat 9 to Cat 6, upgrade to a Cat 4. Oh my gawd, Cat 6, 7, 8 and 9 are the Adventure Cabins! The Cat 4 is the best I saw and you will be very comfortable in them. They have a full size bottom bed, and one or two upper berths. But the size of the stateroom is manageable and not as teenie tiny as the Cat's 6 to 9.
As I said, the minimum category Cat's 6 to 9 are like "Train" compartments, and would be a true survival adventure. In order to move around, there is a sofa that turns into a bed by flipping it, and it has to be flipped to "sofa" mode before you can maneuver. Now, the other passenger sleeps on a bunk that comes out of the ceiling and that's unique as you have to kind of slide on your side on the ladder to crawl in as there is not enough head room. Don't sit up quickly as you will hit your head, and there is a maximum weight limit of 200 pounds on the top bunk. Many times as we walked down the corridor, we inevitably saw one cabin mate standing outside while the other was getting ready....they are not built for two at the same time! Funny, very! Welcome to the "Vintage" era of cruising.
The fun part of Cat's 6 to 9 is the adventure! And you have to look at it this way, because it will give you something to talk about forever. The bathroom is almost like an "all in one". You can do the three "S"'s at the same time, and as Steve Zimmerman the hysterical comedian on board our sailing puts it...."to use the shower, just soap up the walls in the tiny shower and rotate to get clean"! Yes Virginia, ...its that small, though I am sure you will be completely fine for two nights. Hey just think of the value.....You are going to have so much on board entertainment, the Spa, 13 meals over two days, a great Casino and deck parties and lots of sunshine!
Another fun spot that is open late every night, is the Tratoria. This is the Late Night Pizza parlor and features hand made personal pizzas, made fresh to order, a bevy of salads, lined up and ready to go, cookies and pasties and fresh soup. You will not go hungry on this cruise! The seating looks out over the ocean in floor to ceiling windows and is a wonderful stop for an afternoon snack, on your way back on board from Freeport.
Jerome and I did just that, had a pizza and salad, and then next to the Tratoria is the Cafe where a Barista is on hand to make you a wonderful espresso or Cappuccino. Now there is a hook to ordering a Cappuccino, I will tell you that in a second. Also in the Cafe, in a huge wrap-around display case, there are amazing desserts, tasty temptations and outrageous concoctions, that by just looking at them, immediately add calories to you! Here is the hook....if you buy a dessert, you get a Cappuccino, or if you prefer buy a Cappuccino, you get a dessert. It's only FOUR BUCKS (half the cost of star bucks) and you get dessert!
You must take both. Well, I guess you don't really have to, BUT WHY WOULDN'T YOU???? Now, just one dessert is enough to share, but go ahead, indulge.
We opted for the Chocolate Triangle Cake and the Strawberry Cheesecake. The Chocolate Triangle was rich and creamy and had an incredible mesh of homemade flavors, I am still dreaming about it! The Strawberry Cheesecake was topped with a mountain of fresh strawberries in a wonderful sauce, and the cheesecake was decadently delectable and stuck to the fork as it slid out of my mouth, like it's supposed to. Mmmmm, sooo good!
We went to the Tratoria several times since the moment we boarded the Bahamas Celebration. As a matter of fact, it was, I think it was about 3PM in the Tratoria, when one of the Head Waiters, Tony, came up to me and told me that we would be accommodated in the Crystal Dining Room that evening.....hmmmm, could it be because I had on my "Cruise Critic" Tee Shirt? In any case, How nice was that? We had requested at the Dining Room Terminal Check-In for a table for two.
We used to take our chances years ago and sit with other tablemates, to meet people (that was prior to Cruise Critic), and many people, we found, are not so fond of us being a "Couple". I know, even in today's world....but, that's why we do the table for 2 thing.
Dinner the first night in the Crystal Dining room was, as I mentioned before, classic and fabulous. We ordered a bottle of La CrÃ¨me wine from the moderate wine list the first night at dinner (which we did not finish and the marvelous Wine Steward kindly corked it and saved it for us so we could enjoy it on the next night, so professional and so very "old school"!)
We met Edwin, our professional server, and had a sensational dining experience because of him. I ordered the Prime Rib Medium Rare, and it was as beautiful and a perfect medium rare as any I have ever had, and it tasted amazing. The prime rib was accompanied by fresh vegetables (not canned, fresh) and homemade mashed potatoes, definitely home made, and not from a box....I do know the difference. I also ordered another entrÃ©e, (which you can do, most people do not know that they can, so if you want another entrÃ©e, go ahead, order two!) which was the Spaghetti Bolognese. The pasta was al dente and the Bolognese was a full, rich, thick meat sauce that was so satisfying and delicious.
Of course the bread was amazing as well, and I made the Assistant to Edwin keep running to get me more bread. There is something about fresh baked bread on the high seas....yummy!
After dinner, we were offered dessert on a silver platter. Really? I thought this was a Budget Cruise Line. I did not think we would be getting the full Cruise Ship Experience, with homemade desserts presented on a silver platter! I was expecting Jell-O and Sheet Cake and what we saw was simply outrageous and amazing homemade creations. The coffee is outstanding as well, and we had so much fun the first night that we cancelled our reservations for the Cove Dining Room and stayed with Edwin and Tony for the second night in the Crystal Dining Room at the very same table!
We also got a chance to meet Mr. Wilson Longin, the Restaurant Manager. He is a handsome, towering professional who, when he came to our table to welcome us, I was so impressed by his stature, that I knew immediately why the Bahamas Celebration Restaurants are run so well. It starts with him, at the top, and his professional standards are quite evident in the presentation and performance of his staff. The staff is not pressured or over worked like we have experienced on other "Big Three" lines, they are true Ocean Professionals, have all been in this business a long time, and have found a home, kind of like the way things used to be on ships, but not so much anymore. Mr. Longin's staff left lasting impressions with us, and that is the most important reason to want to return. We enjoyed our conversation with Mr. Longin, and look forward to talking with him again on future sailings with the Bahamas Celebration.
I want to also mention about my salad I ordered that first evening. An old fine dining tradition was to deliver the ice cold salad, then the professional server would spoon the dressing over the salad, then completing the presentation with fresh cracked pepper.
I used to do this years ago, and I used to teach this method in my banquet facilities, however, times being what they are, and fast casual rules the day it seems, fine dining, or what we remember of it, has been thrown out the window.
I mean fine dining today is getting lucky that you have a linen napkin in a roll up instead of a paper napkin, your wine glass doesn't have lipstick on it from the previous guest, and your server has taken a bath and is free of facial jewelry, and whose finger nails are clean. That's certainly fine dining today!
How refreshing that on the Bahamas Celebration, the service that one would receive in the Dining Room on one of the "Cunard Queens" or perhaps on "Celebrity", is the service you receive here. Not once on any of the Carnival cruises I have ever taken in my life did I receive this star treatment. All I can say is "Wow" me I wanted and "WOW" me they did!
Whew, I am stuffed and it's only the first night and I need to get to the Casino and have some fun. Before I do, I want to pay tribute to Tony, the Head Waiter in the Crystal Dining Room. He took care of so well and we thank him for his kindness and considerations. Tony will be leaving the Bahamas Celebration in late January 2012, and going on his vacation, but will be returning in March 2012. Look him up and tell him "JW", Jerome and Cruise Critic say hello!
And right after dinner we went to Pub 437 next door and who do we run into? Well it's our gorgeous Greek Captain Georgios Pallas. Charming, funny, rock solid physique, and totally Mr. Personality. He had just returned from his vacation and this was his first sailing being back, and the crew was welcoming him everywhere we saw him go. That is worth it's weight in gold, as the crew respected and admires the Captain publicly. I have been on many cruise lines that the crew does not even acknowledge the Captain, much less talk to him. This is why there is a difference on the Bahamas Celebration, it is a family and it shows!
I also saw the Captain in Overalls the morning of disembarkation. I went to the gift shop to pick up my duty-free liquor purchases and there he was, in Overalls! I remarked to him that he looked just as good in the overalls as he did in his uniform, to which he replied that he liked the overalls much better.
Several Crew members told me that he loves his Overalls as he is a very Hands-On Captain and will get down and dirty with the crew, and he knows his ship from top to bottom. Which is why the crew love him so much as he is not egotistical, he is "One Of Them". Great management style that so many CEO's can learn from in today's tough market.
Everyone on the staff seems to want to be there, and genuinely wants to make us, the passenger, truly feel at home. I can't begin to tell you that we witnessed this over and over again. The staff all around is Happy.
Though tipping is a personal matter, and there is a $12.00 per person gratuity added to your bill, (that is for the room steward and wait staff), I did tip additional to our Room Steward separately. The Wine Steward, Casino Staff and Bar Staff I added gratuity over the included 15 percent for them when I signed the bill. I also gave gratuities out to various staff members who diligently went above and beyond for me, including the young lady who picked up the tissue from the staircase. I encourage everyone to please remember to tip additional, its not required but very much appreciated. A few dollars goes along way.
In the same manner, those that do not think that they have to tip, or do not appreciate the hard work and effort that is given to every passenger aboard the Bahamas Celebration and for that matter ANY Cruise ship, then I say to them: "To not acknowledge the marvelous service by tipping is downright criminal and those that do not, should be subjected to, well no, to succumb to such agony that I could not bear to describe it here".
So we have covered the ship, rooms, food the first night, and now we are onto Freeport. Yes, a bustling port of oil tankers and storage tanks galore. The port of Freeport is not a pretty site. There is a lovely area for shopping, right at the pier, and you can pick up some native items, handmade jewelry, souvenirs, and tee shirts here. The prices are all relatively the same as you will find at the Our Lucaya Marketplace in town.
Once you get to Freeport, if you are staying on in Freeport, and part of the stay and play package at the Our Lucaya Beach Resort, your transfers are taken care of by the Cruise Line. It is very well organized and orderly. You will be at your hotel in no time and I talked to many folks that were on a stay/play and everyone loved it. Loved the hotel, loved the beach and loved the complex.
Our Lucaya Beach Resort is has been completely renovated and used to be several hotels. There used to be the Westin, The Radisson, and The Holiday Inn. All of these properties have now been combined into one, gorgeous resort, along with a brand new Casino. You will be pleased at your accommodations whether you are staying for the day or for several days.
When you disembark the ship in Freeport, and you are just staying for the day without and organized Ship Excursion, then there are taxi's that hold 10 people and charge $5.00 per person to go to the Our Lucaya Marketplace and Hotel Resort Complex. If you have purchased the Our Lucaya Beach Break "Day" package from the Cruise line, there is transportation provided. At the time of this writing, the charge for the Beach Break for the day was $30.00 per person without lunch and $51.00 per person with buffet lunch at the property. The reviews are mixed about this particular excursion however, so investigate the reviews and decide for yourself. The reviews were all written prior to the completion New Our Lucaya Complex, and the only reason that Jerome and I did not do Lucaya was solely because we have beaches here in Florida, where we live, so we opt for other fun things to do.
Jerome and I took the $5.00 each cab ride to the Marketplace, and enjoyed shopping the charming markets (its about a two to three hour shopping experience) and then settled in for a couple of cocktails on the waterfront, had lunch in a great restaurant there, and then went to Our Lucaya's Casino across the street from the Marketplace, had more cocktails (free while gaming), and won a little money too! They play in American Dollars and the US Dollar is accepted and given as change in all the shops.
There is a well marked area to pick the cab back up to take you to the ship, as you pay $10.00 when you get to Our Lucaya, and then they give you a return ticket voucher. We bought tee shirts, some interesting handmade jewelry, but watch out for the big conch shells, they are illegal to take out of the country. So if you buy them, they can be confiscated at Bahamian Customs on your return to the port. You may, however, purchase items that are hand carved out of, or made from, conch shells, such as creative jewelry, serving pieces and utensils.
The liquor and food you purchase at the Marketplace and Resort Complex all have a 15 percent gratuity attached to your bill, just as an FYI. We, being in the service industry ourselves, always tip 20 percent, so we added gratuity when we saw fit to do so.
The ride to and from the ship is about 20 minutes, past hundreds of Fuel Storage Tanks, and more being built and under construction every day. I asked our driver "Why so many tanks and is the fuel for the Bahamas?" He replied, "No, its not for us, but YOU, the U.S." Neat, offshore fuel holding tanks for the US of A.
You will also drive passed some well known "Pharmaceutical" manufacturing companies. From the horrible smell coming from the factories, as you pass by, that can't be healthy, and one can only assume that they have much more lax environmental laws here, than in our country, which is probably why they are located here in the first place. Things that make you go hmmmm.
There are many excursions that the Bahamas Celebration offers, and as I mentioned before, the Horseback Ride or the Jeep Adventures are the most popular and sell out early. When we return, we hope that the two hour sailboat excursion or the Catamaran (Cattle-Moron) "Booze Cruise" will be available once again....those are both amazing fun!
The day in Freeport was relaxing and enjoyable. The citizens are so nice, friendly and genuine. Their economy needs us, so spend some money there! Most important, have a great time and get off the ship, you will not regret you did!
The morning we sailed into Freeport, Jerome and I went up on deck around 7 AM. The ship does not arrive until around 7:30 AM. It was a cool and clear morning, and there was a Continental Breakfast out, (Fruit, Danish and lots of Hot Fresh Coffee). Jerome and I we enjoying a cup of coffee together and we noticed an officer in White Dress Uniform, pouring coffee refills to the passengers.
We both looked at each other and were amazed at what Service we were witnessing. I had to ask the gentleman's name, and as it turns out, it was Sasha, another one of the Head Waiters.
Sasha told us that he had just arrived from Celebrity Cruise Lines, and that he was enjoying his new home. In fact, many of the seasoned crew were from Cunard, Celebrity, Holland American, Regency and the like, all upper crust cruise lines, well known for their customer service.
That explained everything! One ship, One Cruise Line, One Philosophy! When you are small, you are a family and can pay attention to details the "big three boys" forget about, and then hopefully you don't become one of them, you know "Profits before People".
So Celebration has gone and hired the "old guard" service-oriented crew from various Luxury Cruise Lines, and they seem to be very happy. Sasha did say it was tough getting used to new people every other day instead of every week or two, but he was very happy with his position, the Company and the Ship.
That night, we once again, ate dinner in the Crystal Dining Room, had Edgar as our wonderful, attentive server and finished off our bottle of La CrÃ¨me wine, that was purchased the previous evening.
I ordered the Shrimp in a Creole sauce that was wonderfully spicy, and of course another salad, the exact same presentation as the night before....I do so love being catered to....and the highlight of the evening, Beef Wellington. Which was as good as I have ever eaten on any other Cruise Line. In addition, I ordered the Curry Chicken Specialty, which was surprisingly incredible. Just the right amount of spice and curry with big chunky vegetables and a dual of chicken breast. Yep, this was extremely satisfying!
The following morning, as we were docking in Palm Beach, we were awake, gathering our belongings, showered at a relaxed pace, and never had the feeling of being rushed off the ship. The Bahamas Celebration begins disembarkation at around 7:30 AM, and as a matter of fact, every passenger is encouraged to enjoy the last morning by eating a wonderful buffet breakfast in the Rio Dining Room before disembarking. We did just that.
At about 8:45 we arrived at the Rio's entrance, with our luggage in tow, and were seated immediately. The Buffet is your standard Breakfast fare, including Fresh Fruits, Eggs, Sausage, incredible Potatoes, Breakfast Breads and Pastries and of course, dual Omelet Stations.
I forgot to mention that on the morning we arrived in Freeport, we also ate at the Rio Breakfast Buffet, and on that morning only, they add smoked salmon with accoutrements to the buffet. But, one side note, on all of the Breakfast Buffets, whether on deck or in the Rio Dining Room, there is a noticeable absence of BACON. No Bacon whatsoever. Ergo, No Bacon Police either.
Okay, having disembarked over thirty times in Ports all over the US and Europe, I have to say that the process in the Port of Palm Beach is definitely not the easiest, kindest, or fastest. It is the most strenuous, arduous and above all, a lengthy process. In Port Canaveral, passengers sailed right thru customs. In Miami, the Capital of Cruising, you breeze right by with scientific precision. In Fort Lauderdale, it could be long, but swift. Tampa is amazingly fast.
In the Port of Palm Beach, with just one cruise ship, just one, it took over an hour just to get off the boat. I was extraordinarily surprised at the long lines. Two to be exact. You are ushered into one of two lines. Those with United States Passports, and those with Birth Certificates and "Other". The line moves faster with a Passport.
We both always carry our Passports, and when we finally got to see an agent, we were cleared and entered, once again, the Good ol' U S of A. The process of waiting was long and drawn out, but hey, I am one of the biggest fans for protecting the USA and for National and Homeland Security measures. But the time it took, with so few Agents processing, was unique. After such a short trip, it was the only down side to the experience, but we all have to endure this to ensure our freedom and safety.
Nonetheless, once off the ship, we found our car and off we went about our daily lives, secretly refreshed from a fabulous "mini" escape.
We will definitely sail The Bahamas Celebration again, and again, and again. The Bahamas Celebration is a Gem of a ship and truly a FUN Journey, enjoy it!
Check out our review with pictures on the Celebration Cruise Lines Board.