As you can see, with 15 cruises under belt, we are pretty well qualified to tell you what is good and bad about a cruise. First, we took Celebrity Cruise Air, because with the recent air increases, Celebrity had some held fares that were basically identical. We flew into Miami, and if you have the choice, fly into Ft Lauderdale, because Miami airport is subpar. You have to haul your baggage a long ways. We also used the Celebrity transfer to the ship, which was a waste of time and money. In the past when we used it. They gathered our luggage at the carrousel, and took it to the buses for us, had fresh cold water for us, and made you feel quite special. This time, we had to haul our luggage from one end of the airport to the other, no water, no special treatment, just herded you on a bus, and threw your luggage on a truck. Disapointing to say the least for 68.00 round trip per couple. For $50 round trip, take a cab....we did that on the way back, and much better service. We had vip boarding which got you to the front of the line for check in, and that went fairly rapidly. Then we were in a regular line backed up quite a bit, and it took us about 30 min to get on ship. If you are going to provide vip boarding, make sure it is vip. By the way, Carnival requires 10 sailings to make vip....Royal and Celebrity which are co-owned require 5 sailing to make VIP.....so dont waste your money or your time on Carnival. To give you an example, if Celebrity was considered Outback Steakhouse, then Carnival is McDonalds. If you are going on a first cruise.....and have a choice for near the same money, there is no choice- take Celebrity.
Now to The ship....We got on the ship about 1:30pm, and were met at the gangway on 5 with champagne and mimosas...a nice touch. Our cabins were not ready until almost 2:30PM, so we went to eat in the Cafe...for the buffet. When we entered the buffet area, we saw a very nice bar in the entrance that you could sit and wait for friends or secure a coctail before or with your meal. The dining area is surrounded by glass on both sides, and very open. When we got to the buffet, that was where the difference appeared from other cruises we have been on. This particular buffet was laid out into probably 10 or more different stations, with stations being accessible to all sides with service personnel in the middle. It was without question the best food, service, and presentation we have had on any buffet. Mexican, grill, oriental, pasta, pizza, carving stations tons of variety, great salad choices and deserts that were top shelf. In the morning, Omelet/fried egg, poached, eggs benedict at your simple request. The problem was ...what to choose, since everything was so good, and so appetizing. After a wonderful lunch, our cabin was ready on deck 12 in the far rear of the ship. Our cabin was exceptional. They have done something with the plumbing, and the bathrooms are probably 1 and 1/2 times the size of a normal bathroom on ship. you have a large shower with sliding doors, and there is room for a person to take a nice shower. They also have a bar in there for ladies to shave their legs, which my wife really liked. The room is a little tight on storage, but not too bad. There is a 32 in interactive tv HD with get this on demand "FREE" movies, as well as some pay per view. Other cruiselines give you a 19 inch almost black and white big plastic box. They all need to come into the 20th century like Celebrity has. When you come in at night and or tired, you can turn your tv on, order breakfast or coffee on it, examine your bill, watch the latest news, or provide a number of functions. The room also had very nice lounge chairs on the patio. We were concierge class with champagne and flowers in the room on arrival, fresh fruit and horderves every day, binoculars, special linens, towels, and robes, and I really think it was a worth while option for you for an additional 100 pp. But that is up to you. One more note. The ship has a ledge on the roof that comes out some 20 ft, that provides shade for the balconies so you can enjoy your balcony all day without burning. We really enjoyed that touch. Finally, the ship is spotless, and our cabin stewards were the fastest, and most competent at sea we have found. The service was exceptional.
The ship....Pools and common areas are spectacular. Library is beautiful, and card room is nice. All of the bars had their own little touch, and all of them provided the most comfortable seating of any ship. Service was attentive but not pushy, and there was no one wanting you to attend an art auction or buy a photo or take your picture. We saw the children and teen areas, and they were very nice and very well managed. We did not use the spa, but many people did. There were a lot of people that chose to eat in the specialty restaurants for around $40pp, but after the buffet being so top shelf, we figured the dining room would be fantastic. The dining room is where the Celebrity management missed the boat. First, let me say the service in the dining room is as good and make you feel special as you will get on any cruise ship. We had a waiter named Andres from Honduras, an Asst named Bactal from India. These gentleman made you feel like family, and did everything in thier power to make each evening meal special. There was a wine Sommelier named Adrian that was assigned to our table. We sat at a table for 4, and our wives drink one glass of wine per night, and usually drink whatever the house wine is. Adrian treated us like we were buying the most expensive wines in the restaurant. He provided information about different wines, invited us to a tasting which we attended, and was very knowledgeable about wines. He rounded out a service team, that might have provided the best service we have seen on a cruise ship.
This is where the accolades stop as far as the food service is converened. We were told someone at Celebrity had revised the menu and they had been under a brand new menu for 3 weeks. *I noticed on Cruise Critic the week before we sailed that was an immedate turnaround and criticism for the dinner meals on ship. First....dont expect escargot....there is none. We heard different stories about shortages etc...but bottom line, celebrity is saving money. Beef selections were no better than choice. I have always found at dinner, the problem is trying to choose between 3-4 of your favorite dishes as to which to eat. On this ship, I was trying to find one dish that tempted me. The appetizers were fair, and soups and salads were fair. The entrees were forgetable....want shrimp, crab, mussels, etc....they had a seafood stew!!!!....no pasta...just a stew on one night. very little pasta dishes. Beef was tough. My wife had fish, and said it was ok. No more prime rib, no chilled soups, No large grilled shrimp. Finally, on the last formal night, they offered a menu with Rib eye, Lobster, & Rack of Lamb. The lobster were larger than normal, but tough, They offered a sirloin every night, and the texture was different,or the steak was very tough. There was a baked potato available every night if you wanted. After hitting a grand slam in the buffet, the dinner menu was forgettable. Some one told me they were trying to drive people to the alternative restaurants, which I heard were fantastic, at $40 a head. By the way, we also ate breakfast a few times in the dining room, and it was very good, but who can mess up breakfast.
The dinners were the only disapointing statement about the cruise and the ship. I will say that we were told since we were vip class on Royal Caribbean, and were told by celebrity we would be treated as vip there also. We were not. No invites to captains parties, no special treatment...was a little disappointing.
The ports are fine. San Juan has the bacardi distillery and casinos etc.... St Thomas has great shopping, and of course Meagan's beach...we enjoyed the island tour and shopping. The snorkeling is special also. St Martin has some beautiful beaches, and good drinking spots. Prices are better in St thomas for shoppers. Negotiate in St Martin....not so much in St THomas.
In closing, there are a lot of people who caught the food snafu, so I am sure someone is having to face up for the changes that took an A+ 5 star rating down to maybe a 4 and 1/2. If the food miscues are fixed, you will be experiencing the best on the ocean for the price...if not....there is plenty of competition. enough said!!!!