My wife and I have been taking cruises in March and October over the past 6 years and as I stated above all with Princess. We have always been very satisfied with the Princess product and saw no reason to change ships. The itinerary, with the exception of one cruise in Tahiti, is off little importance to us. It's really all about getting away for 10 days and just enjoying each others company. We both enjoy cooking but that too is not an issue. I'll eat and try just about anything and usually enjoy it. So why after all these sailings did we switch to Celebrity? Why would we give up the perks of platinum, especially the wonderful free internet minutes? The reason is that a close friend of mine is a senior executive at Celebrity and she has been trying for years to get me on this ship. So for our March cruise we decided to make the change and try another line, a line based on what we're read on Cruise Critic boards, are very similar to one another. She also enticed us with a VIP package which she refused to tell me about until I arrived on board. Needless to say, our overall experience is a little skewed because of this fantastic perk. So here's my review of our first time on Celebrity and what we liked and did not like as compared to Princess:
- Getting on the ship is not an issue as we live 20 miles from Port Everglades. We left our house at 11:30am, actually late for us, arrived at Park N Go at 12:15pm and entered the new terminal. Big plus vs the old terminal we've used for Princess in the past. There was no one around as arriving at this hour helps you miss the frantic hour of 11am - noon that we've encountered in the past. Note to self...arrive at 1pm from now on. When we checked in we were told that we have VIP status and had we arrived prior to 1pm we would have been escorted to a private area. Since it was after 1pm we were told that our cabin was ready and we could go right to our room. From the time we arrived at the terminal until we open the door to our cabin was about 15 minutes. As we walked onto the ship we were greeted by the staff and although they were holding glasses of champagne no one approached us with one. They seemed to be enjoying each others company but this was not a big deal, more of just an observation on my part.
- Cabin - we had cabin 6274 which I was told before I left home was a partially obstructed cabin. As had been mentioned many times on the message board, if you look straight out you can see the ocean but you can't look straight down to see the ocean. I actually missed not looking straight down and would avoid booking this cabin in the future. The room itself was nice. The bathroom was wonderful especially the glass enclosed shower, a far better way to shower then the Princess plastic wrap-around shower curtain. The room, however, did lack storage space and the closet was not convenient as it was about 6" from the bed. There was a couch in the room that for us at least served no purpose. I would have rather had the extra space. A refrigerator was provided but it was packed with their own products, all of which were extra charges. We brought on bottles of coke, pineapple juice and 2 bottles of champagne so we had to remove all of their products and place them under the desk. They stayed there for the entire trip. The room did seem smaller then the balcony on Princess but that was probably due to the couch.
- Ship - To me, this was the biggest difference between the two companies. Princess is more old world style with lots of woods and muted lighting throughout the ship. Celebrity was much more contemporary especially in the Atrium and public areas. To me it had the feeling of being in a very fancy office building. Don't get me wrong, the ship is absolutely stunning, but we missed the old world style feel of Princess.
- Pool area - plenty of padded lounges on all the decks so even on sea days we were able to get 2 together. If you're looking for a lounge chair past 9am, and this is no different from most all lines, you see a lot of towels and no people. We did not miss Movies under the Stars during the day time but did miss it at night. One of our favorite things to do is to watch the late movie on Princess with a cookie and a glass of milk.
- Food - we enjoyed all of the specialty restaurants especially Murano's. We purchased one meal on line, very convenient way to make a reservation before you board (Princess, are you reading this). One the first night we went to Silk (20% off) and really enjoyed this meal. Our travel agent gave us a specialty restaurant as a birthday gift to me and we choose Tuscon. Great location on the ship and the food was wonderful. Half way through the cruise we received a call from the manager of Murano asking us if we'd like to have another visit to his restaurant. Of course we said yes and enjoyed what was probably the best meal I've had in a long time. He suggested Steak Diane, something that was not on the menu, and this was made table side. My wife missed the Crown Grill on Princess but Celebrity does a nice job with their specialty restaurants. They are priced from $25 - $40, a bit higher then Princess. One thing I had read on a previous board was the buffet and its at sea spectacular. I missed it. It was never mentioned during the week and I only found out about it when I reread the newsletter when we were waiting to leave the ship. If there were signs about this on the ship I missed them. We liked the grill on deck 14 with its hot dogs and hamburgers and loved that there were soft drink machines here and all over the buffet area. Speaking of the buffet, much better then Princess as far as food selection and the way it's set up.
- Entertainment - The Equinox theater is beautiful but the timing of the shows was a problem for us and based on conversations I had with other a problem for many. With the exception of 2 nights there was a 7p and 9p show. Since our select time dining was at 8:30p and we enjoy staying by the pool until 6p (very quite at that time) we only got to see the production shows. In fact for one of them, Remix (very good) we had to change our routine and get there at 7p. Entertainment around the ship was good and the activity on deck 3 from 7p - 8:30p was great. Lots of people dancing and the bars are packed. At 8:30p guests start to make their way to the 8:30p dining and it gets real quite really fast.
Bars - we're not big drinkers, usually have one drink before dinner plus a glass of champagne while we're getting ready. But as mentioned, the bars are packed and lots of drinking goes on around the ship. Assume many people are purchasing the all inclusive drink package and are getting their money's worth?
- Excursions and ports of call - we don't cruise for the ports of call as we've seen there Islands many times and after awhile they all begin to look the same. We booked on our own an river tubing excursion in Dominica and loved it but other then that we usually head for the beaches. The weather was overcast in St Martin, St. Kitts and Barbados but overall the weather was nice. A note about beaches and liquor. We tend to look for beaches off the beaten track and because of this we will bring run on board. In fact, and I know I'll get a lot of heat for this, we bring on a blender, Coco Lopez, and pineapple juice to make Pina Colodas. Celebrity seems to bringing liquor on to their ships much more serious then Princess. We purchased some rum runners, packed one in our checked in luggage and 2 in our carry on and no problem. Security did take a careful look at our cokss and the pineapple juice containers to ensure the seal was not broken but otherwise not an issue. I'm surprised we got the blender through.
- fitness center - if you want to do spinning then go up to deck 12 and sign up right away. There are approx. 15 cycles and the glass fills up pretty fast. Nice location at the front of the ship but the cycle location is in a very small room and it does heat up quickly. Lots of new equipment and it was busy most of the day. Working off last nights cheesecake?
- The staff and crew - this is where we felt that Celebrity had a large margin over Princess. The officers and crew were all over the place and they seemed to be really enjoying each other. The captain had a great sense of humor and we actually looked forward to his 12 noon announcements.
- VIP status - Just a note about this because I realize that this made our cruise even more special. We were treated like royalty - our select dinner table was located where you could see the dining room below, we received calls from many officers asking if we were enjoying ourselves, the offer for a complementary dinner at Murano's, free internet minutes, and being allowed to sit in the Tuscon Grill on the day of departure...all this was very nice and greatly appreciated.
- Will we go back to Celebrity? Yes, in fact we took advantage of the pre booking offer that will get us a $200 cabin credit and reduced deposit. Will we go back to Princess? Yes, probably in October, 2012.
Overall a great cruise and like all cruises you hate to see them end. Many people state that they go back and forth from Princess to Celebrity and now i see why. Both are great.