We have been on a dozen other cruises and this was our second sailing on Celebrity. We are in our mid-30s and traveled with my single brother who is in his 20s and our 5-year old son.
Embarkation -- the ship had been hit by the norovirus the week before so our boarding was delayed until 2 pm. We got to the port around 1, had a boxed lunch, hung around and were called to board around 2:30 (we were in Concierge Class so got an early group number). Cabins were not ready until 5 pm and the buffet area was packed so we found a spot in Baccio Cafe and hung out there. Ship sailed at 6 and unfortunately it was already dark by that time so we did not see the lovely view of NYC but overall I thought embarkation was done fairly well considering the complete sanitizing of the ship.
Cabin -- Concierge Class on Deck 10, lovely cabin, great balcony. Very modern and bright. Steward set up a mattress on the couch where my son slept and made up his bed every night. Cabin had enough space for the 3 of us and bathroom was probably the best I have seen on any ship except Regent. Bed is very comfy and TV had "on demand" features. Our steward was amazing -- super friendly to my son, we never had to call him for anything, he always knew when we were in or out. These guys work so hard and he always did it with a smile. All other attendants on our floor were always great too -- they would always smile and greet us and engage my son, never seen friendlier staff on a ship!
Ship -- very modern and cool, reminds me of a boutique hotel. I realize it is not everyone's style but it is ours so we loved everything about the decor. Lots of quirky little spaces to relax. Even with 6 at-sea days we never had an issue finding a spot around the ship. Hideaway on Deck 7 is an awesome area with cool chairs and little cubbies in the walls where you can sleep, read a book or relax. You can hear the music from the lobby but still have privacy. Library on Deck 10 was light and bright and was fully used on most days. Lots of lounges, bars, cafes, even with 12 days we were not able to try them all and we never once felt crowded.
Passengers -- unfortunately for us 90% of the guests were 70+ years old. It just felt weird seeing so many old people on such a modern ship which seems to be designed for younger crowds, not sure the older passengers appreciated its beauty (no offense but I heard some comments). This resulted in the elevators being always full and people taking them to go one floor up or down. Everybody dressed up for dinner, even on non-formal nights and bridge and bingo were the most popular games. My brother felt a bit lonely as he was one of maybe 5 single young people on the ship so he made friends with some of the staff. On prior cruises we usually meet at least a few other couples with kids to hang out with but not here...it was OK, we just used the time to relax.
Dining Room -- food on CEL is always great and I was looking forward to the many unique things served for dinner. Unfortunately, the early dining that we requested was completely full and they were unable to move us to anything but the "select" dining. I have to say that was the one thing I did not enjoy on this cruise. Having a kid usually means we can't spend 2 hours having a romantic dinner and on prior cruises, the waiters were always very accommodating and brought things faster or had stuff ready for us when we walked in. They also got to know my son and spend some time "entertaining" him every night. With the select dining you can choose your time but you get different waiters every night and because of the fact that people sit down at different times the waiters are super busy, running around like crazy. Dinner easily takes 2 hours and you have to wait for everything (bread, water, sauce, etc). After doing this for a couple of nights we resorted to eating in other places. Because of the age group on this sailing we met a lot of others who had requested early dining but not gotten it. It would have been nice to dedicate additional space to early dining considering the number of people asking for it instead of dedicate the entire second floor of the dining room to select dining. The few times that we ate there the food was great.
Alternative dining -- we had not tried Qsine before so we booked it for this cruise and what an awesome experience it was! Each person orders through an Ipad and then they bring a little bit of everything. It was waaay too much food but almost everything we had was great and we would definitely do this again but order less ? The Bistro was also a great alternative to the slow dining room. Crepes were made fresh and yummy and so were the salads. My son loved the nutella crepe. At $5 per person it was a steal. We did not try Murano or Tuscan Grille but heard good things about both.
Oceanside Cafe/Buffet -- we had breakfast there most days and the selection was great and always fresh, line for eggs was small and we always found tables. Lunch was also fine though we mostly ate off the ship in the ports. Tea time offered great little sandwiches and pastries. Sushi was available every night but was not very good, tasted like grocery-store sushi. Dinner were good but I would have loved some variety, they had the same exact thing every night and while most items were tasty but the end I was so tired of them. In my opinion Princess does much better evening buffets but at least this one was not crowded at all and actually there were only a few other diners there each night since most elderly people chose the dining room. Lemonade, iced tea and some juices are always available for free so save yourself the cost of a soft drink card unless you can drink $15 worth of water each day.
Kids Club -- this was a major point for us since we had no help with taking care of our 5-year old and it was important that we get some adult time each evening. In the past he has loved some kids clubs (Princess) and hated others (NCL and RCI). The good thing about having so many seniors was that there were only 10-15 kids on the ship so they had the reign of the club and the attention of the counselors all to themselves. The counselors were great and knew all the kids by name by day 2 and they really made my son feel welcome. They had a nice bright area on one side of Deck 14 dedicated to kids 3-9 years old and there is lots to do. They do arts and crafts, play games, watch moves, have parties, play Wii, have ice cream time and sometimes go to the shows where they get lollipops ? My son loved this club so much that on the last three sea days he wanted to go even during the day. The teen area also seemed large and nicely done with game tables, cool chairs, etc. We only saw a handful of teens on the ship so not sure how much it was used.
Pools -- unfortunately the weather did not warm up until our 3rd sea day so we only really used the pools a few times during this cruise. I do like the pool area better than many other ships because there seems to be more chairs and the way they are positioned allows you to have a view of the water no matter where you are sitting. I also love the nice lounge beds and tents and we were able to snag one on one of the days which was great. I wish they would have more of those outside of the adult pool. Which brings me to one of the few ships I did not like on this ship. With a total of 6 sea days when the weather is mostly cold they should really allow the kids to use the adult pool on those days. I understand some adults want peace and quiet and that would be fine if the cruise was out of FL and there were other pools for the kids. But there is not much to do for kids on those 6 days so I feel this will alienate lots of patterns with kids sailing in the winter months. Also, only two of the outside hot tubs allowed kids in them which I thought was ridiculous considering there are 2 adult-only hot tubs in the solarium. I think Celebrity really needs to re-think their strategy about kids if they want to attract younger families which I believe the rest of the ship is targeted to. Other than that, on the days we did use the pool, the water was warm and it was not overcrowded, again maybe because most people were seniors who did not go in the water.
Entertainment -- great job on this! There was lots to do at all times, from dance lessons, to trivia, crafts, singers, dancing, etc. We only saw a couple of the evening shows as they are not my thing but the theater was very well attended each night and the shows we saw were very nicely done. Two comedians were onboard -- one was from boston and his jokes were boring and super tame, probably to appeal to the much older crowd. The second one was funny and we attend both the main show and his late night performance. Battle of the sexes trivia each day drew a huge crowd and got fierce towards the end of the cruise and it was lots of fun to attend. Lots of people danced at various times in the main lobby area and they also had dance competitions in the little square near the theater that drew a crowd each night. Trivia games like Jeopardy and Family Feud were held each night and we attended most though it was a bit disappointing that you had to arrive 5 min before start time in order to put your name in the drawing to participate. But the staff did an overall good job and we had fun. My husband attended some of the historical lectures, mostly about pirates and ships and said they were very good. Overall, we felt like there was plenty to do for everyone and the activity staff did a great job.
Public spaces -- we loved Cafe Baccio on Deck 5 and spend many lovely afternoons having coffee there. Pastries are served at breakfast, awesome tea sandwiches are served for lunch and absolutely great pastries are served after 3 pm until midnight. We had a nightly ritual to stop there after we picked up my son from the kids club each night and share a few desserts and a pot of tea. Super cool green chairs and a lovely view during the day and staff was absolutely delightful. Martini Bar was cool as well, with real ice and snow around the edge of the bar and a whole array of martinis. Mixology bar we only went to once but it seemed quite unique, there just wasn't enough time for everything. Quasar, the dance club, was very under-utilized because of the elderly crowd. We went there a couple of nights and were the only ones so we left. I could see this be a buzzing place if the crowd was right because it is decorated like a very swanky club. Explorer Lounge was busy at night but a bit too quiet and formal for or taste. I think there is something for everyone on this ship and it seems to work well with none of the areas becoming too crowded.
St. Thomas -- we had been there many times before so we went to Emerald Bay beach wanting to try a place we have not visited before. Beach was OK and there was a restaurant and facilities there but it was nothing out of this world.
St. Kitts -- our first time there and boy, do we want to return for more! I had booked a private rainforest tour through Poinciana Tours and David was amazing! We were his only clients that day and although the ship has booked him to take care of a large group on the ship tour, he assigned one of his helpers, Tristan, to work with the 4 of us only and he did an awesome job. We saw so much more than the poor folks on the ship tour. He took us a to a place where we all were able to swing on a liana (my son's favorite part), showed us a ton of interesting trees, took pictures of us, and gave us an unforgettable experience. After that I had arranged for him to take us to a beach and he took us to the best beach on this whole cruise -- South Fryers Bay. Lovely, silky smooth sand, super calm water and best fish tacos. We did not want to leave.
Antigua -- unfortunately a disappointment for us. I had read the CC boards before we left and a lot of people recommended Valley Church beach so we decided to make this a beach day. Unfortunately I cannot say that I recommend this beach. Most of the beach is covered in shells and very rough sand (good for shell collectors but not good for bare feet) and the water, while it appears calm, creates very large strong waves right at the point where you go in because of the very steep incline. It was dangerous for my son who likes to play in the shallow water so we did not stay there long. We found a driver who told us he would take us to a much better beach which turned out to be on the same bay, but 5 min away, Jolly Rogers Beach. It was in essence the same beach but with somewhat less shells. We were not impressed and only stayed for a bit and went back to the ship.
St. Lucia -- I had pre-booked tickets to the aerial tram so we hired a car for the day which would have been cheaper than taking taxis back and forth. I was surprised that the drivers did not want to negotiate the price like we have done in most other places. It appears that there is somewhat of a "mafia" in St. Lucia and only only company is allowed to offer rides from the port. They keep their prices fixed because there is no competition. You are also told to pay in advance for the whole day so there is really no incentive for the druiver. The tram ride was nice though we did not see anything interesting but the trees. No animals, no birds, no flowers, it was a ride through a forest pretty much. If you are afraid or heights do not go -- going up was fine for me but coming down you ride on top o9f the forest looking down so I had a few moments of panic. My 5 year old thought this was boring and wanted to go on the zip line which we kept seeing below us from the gondola. After that we went to the beach which again was just OK, lots of shells.
St. Martin -- we had been there before many times and wanted to do something different. I had pre-reserved 2 ATVs from Mt Ate and when we got there they had them ready and in great shape. His partner gave us a map and directions where to go and they gave my son a little kite to fly on the beach. We decided to go a beach first so my son can run around a bit and then finish the rest of the tour. Well, Mt Ate recommended La Galion beach and what an awesome beach that was. It is part of a nature reserve so you can see fish coming pretty much to the edge of the water. There is also a small wooden platform in the middle of the water that you can swim to. Nice beach bar, super calm water. We loved the beach so much that we decided to skip the island tour and just layed on the beach all day. It is about 30 min from the ship so we took a small detour on the way back and saw some of the French side of the island.
Disembarkation -- unfortunately this left us with a bad taste in the mouth after such an amazing cruise. We planned to go to work on that day and had requested to disembark at 8:30. On all other ship we have been you usually disembark within 10-15 min of the time you are assigned. We got to the dining room which was our meeting point at 8:30 and were told that they just called group 2 (we were group 12). No Celebrity staff were visible anywhere. At 9:30 (1 hour later) they had only gotten to group 8 and I was getting very upset. Finally, we decided to just disembark without waiting for our group number and realized that the help-up came from the fact that they had little buses taking people the 100 feet or so from the exit point to the hall where the luggage was. I could have walked this in 3 minutes. They would only load one bus at a time and with a lot of elderly people with mobility issues that process took 5-10 min per bus. We were glad we did not wait any longer as we may have had to wait for another hour for the remaining groups. They really need to handle this port better -- disembarkation was a disaster.
Overall we loved the ship, the food, everything. They need to do something to fix the disembarkation process and also to attract younger people and families. But all in all I would do this again in a heartbeat