This was our 2nd cruise as a 4 person family, the first being on Millenium 5 years prior. Travel from New Englang to Miami was relatively uneventful. We flew into Ft Lauderdale and took a cab down to the Marriot Marquis in Miami to stay there the night before. I highly recommend the Marquis as a hotel and it is a short distance to the port. I would rather have flown into Miami, but the flights were much cheaper to Lauderdale for some reason. Getting on the ship was quick and the process very well organized.
Pro's - Beautiful newer ship, very nicely decorated and very clean. Lawn club is very unique and beautiful and also enjoyed the outside patio and bar on the stern, deck 14.
Con's - although slightly bigger than the Millennium (our previous cruise), it has 800 more people. This really became obvious around the pool area and while trying to find seating. On "at sea" days it was very difficult to find lounge chairs and the pool area often a mob scene. It didn't stop me from using the pools, which need to be bigger, but I certainly wondered about the cleanliness of the water with that many people always in it. I remember Millennium being much more enjoyable in this department. First day at sea was very windy and we were late getting on deck - not a seat to be had on 12 or 14 so we had to find chairs on the howling upper decks - not very pleasant. You can bet we were up and in our chairs by 9:00 on the rest of the at sea days. Lawn club is nice but underutilized and takes up a lot of space, which could be reconfigured in the future to provide more lounge chair seating in my opinion.
Pro's - Tuscan and Quisine were excellent dinners and worth the $120-$140 plus tip. Main dining room food was just okay in my opinion, and it seemed like Millennium was better in this area 5 years ago (the economy maybe??). Brunch day in the dining room was fantastic, everyone liked it. Best coffee is on deck 5 at the cafe around mid-ship. Getting water, soda and drinks was easy with the classic package at most of the bars, ect..
Con's - I was not impressed with the deck 14 food court. Felt like my work cafeteria food. Very heavy food and very salty. I did not eat there that often but my kids did. I usually got a yogurt parfait in the deck 12 spa area along with some fresh fruit instead, and had several burgers at the deck 14 grill.
The Service - what can I say other than impeccable across the board. I have not been on any other cruise lines but I cannot imagine it being better. Kudos to the crew for always being so nice and helpful. It cannot be easy dealing with us spoiled cruise passengers week after week, but they make it look easy.
We were a bit fortunate in that we had both a family stateroom and the balcony cabin right next to it for our kids. Rooms were not adjoining but we opened the connection to our balcony so they essentially were. Our stateroom was huge and had a living room and a bedroom. Two giant windows faced out the front of the ship plus the balcony on the side. Bed was very comfortable as well. Front cabin is a bit louder though as you hear the sea slamming the bow more on rough sea days, which takes a little getting used to. Also feel the tiny left/right shift movements of the bow as it cuts through the sea that you do not feel as you move aft. We had the exact opposite room on Millennium 5 years prior (stern corner family stateroom), and have decided we prefer the stern cabins overall and will book them on future cruises. That is not meant to put down these bow rooms as they were very nice, just our preference. One other bad turned into good item to note. Upon leaving the Miami port, water started pouring through our ceiling in our bedroom. Could have been a nightmare, but crew was highly responsive and had the clogged AC issue fixed very quickly. Brought a blower in to dry out carpet for about three hours and all was well. Crew was very apologetic and gave us a night at a specialty restaurant which was nice, but again it was the crew response, attitude and support that really mattered more to me. Thank you Ambert!!
San Juan - I was little bummed to be getting in at 3:00 pm, but we took a cab to the beaches by the Ritz Carlton, had a great couple of hours there, returned to the ship and freshened up, and then had a nice dinner at the restaurant right across the street from the dock (kids were hungry and did not want to look around for food). Nice afternoon and evening overall.
St Maarten - right as we were docking a storm blew in, so our boat excursion got cancelled due to rain, winds and rough seas. We took a cab to Orient Beach on the French side and rented chairs on the beach. A little crowded but still had a really great day swimming, eating, and drinking the 8 Corona bucket of beers for only $10 - yes I said $10! Be forewarned you will see a few topless women and a few old guys wearing string thong/sacks walking the beach at Orient, and they ain't exactly models or in shape guys if you get my drift, but they were few and far between. Some priceless draw dropping looks from my kids though that will make for good laughs in the years to come. They claim they are scarred for life!
St. Kitts - by far my favorite island that I've been to in then Caribbean, whether on a cruise or other travel. I love the volcanic mountains (dormant), rolling valleys, mountainous roads and the nice people that live there. We did an the zip line excursion first thing in the morning, and we're back by 11:30 and had the rest of the day to do what we wanted. Zip lining was fantastic. Four lines plus a trainer line. Three lines crossed a valley between two mountain ridges, so you are pretty high in the middle. It goes by fast though, and even though I do not like heights, once I pushed off the platform it was a lot of fun. The last line is shorter and brings you back to the starting point where you get your gear. Very professional, safe and fun guides. Believe me, the ride up the mountain in the open back of the pickup truck is more scary and dangerous than the actual zip lining. But the rainforest like scenery is worth the trip alone. Makes me want to go back and climb the volcano. For the afternoon, we shared a cab out to Cockleshell beach near Nevis. Wild mountain ridge ride with unbelievable views and scenery along the way. Beach was very nice with a couple of bars/grills to take care you while you are there. Can't wait to go back someday and fully explore this island.
I think there should be one more stop on this cruise, as three stops on a seven day cruise is not enough. I thought there was plenty of time for a stop in Nassua on the way back to Miami like we did on Millennium, so Celebrity should consider that in my opinion.
Favorite moments - getting a table on the stern, deck 14, and enjoying a drink while leaving the 3 ports in the early evening. Family dinners. St. Kitts.
Hope this is helpful for those of you planning your next cruise!