Prior to the embarking the cruise we arrived in Abu Dhabi a few days in advance to beat jet lag (long flight from Canada). We stayed at the Southern Sun Abu Dhabi, and loved it. Great hotel for a reasonable price in a good location. We ... Read More
Prior to the embarking the cruise we arrived in Abu Dhabi a few days in advance to beat jet lag (long flight from Canada). We stayed at the Southern Sun Abu Dhabi, and loved it. Great hotel for a reasonable price in a good location. We were also quite surprised at how much we loved Abu Dhabi in general, and in particular how green it is (I guess that's what happens when you use 250 MILLION gallons of water a day just to keep the city green). No sign of the desert unless you look for it.
Embarkation was the best we've ever experienced at any port world-wide. Great terminal building and super smooth process. We guess from the time we got out of the taxi, it was only 15 minutes until we were on the ship. Fast, friendly and efficient process.
For context, my wife and I are 47 and 46 years old, and unfortunately due to a progressively debilitating disease my wife now requires a small mobility scooter (yay Travel Scoot!), and therefore we were in an accessible deluxe veranda cabin (category 2A). She also maintains a strict diet to try and moderate the disease and that requires no gluten, dairy or egg. So a lot of my remarks and comments will have an accessibility component and will may also mention food as it relates to these dietary restrictions.
As with all Celebrity cruises we've been on (see my signature), the staterooms were not ready until roughly 1:30 PM, so we relaxed on deck in the sun. On that note, the weather on this cruise was nothing short of spectacular. Sunny, calm and NO clouds every single day with temperatures around 27*C (80*F for Americans), although there was fog/haze a couple times. Prior to going to our room we went for lunch in the buffet, which was a big disappointment compared to the Solstice class ships were are used to with Celebrity. It is the more traditional style buffet, with food on two sides of the ship arranged in a long single line, along with an area at the back of the ship. It is not too intuitively laid out, and makes it difficult to see what is available without taking a complete tour all the way around both sides. For those with mobility issues, this is problematic. It also lends itself to feeling more crowded than the Solstice class buffet design. Combine this with a more crowded feeling tables area and less tables outside on the back deck, and the buffet area was not our favourite [albeit still better than the Carnival cruise we were on]. The food however, was very satisfactory, and they were more than happy to cook something especially for my wife if she couldn't have things on the actual buffet.
Our stateroom, being accessible, was huge. We figure it is similarly sized to a suite or much higher category room. However, not having automatic door openers was extremely disappointing and lead to less independence for my wife. The stateroom itself, while showing some wear was nice, although the mattresses could use replacement. The balcony was also huge with a nice ramp to access it.
As for public rooms, we liked some and disliked others. The main lounge on deck 4 was fantastic and we had drinks in it almost every night before dinner (and listened to the Joe and Liv Duo, who were fantastic). Similarly Cellar Masters was excellent, and actually better than on Solstice class ships, however we only had drinks there once as the string duo would lull you to sleep. We also loved the martini bar, but it was so small it was difficult to get a table to enjoy a drink. Cafe al Bacio was consistently busy and very well done. Sushi on Five was beautiful....but empty! Accessibility inside the ship was generally OK, but the doors were a huge issue. Instead of automated doors, like on the Solstice class ships, they were typically the older style push/pull doors....and heavy! This was also true for accessing the exterior decks, and that was difficult. For older people they had a really hard time opening some of the doors even when the ship was stationary. Similarly, the public restrooms did not have automated door openers and were very poorly designed inside (but very clean). Very unfortunate design for accessibility purposes, some of which should have been rectified in dry dock but were not.
I'll devote a separate paragraph to the pool areas. While decent they were wholly inaccessible. This meant my wife couldn't enjoy lounging in the water or walking in it. There were stairs to get up to the pool level in the solarium, then stairs to go down into the water. Similarly the main outdoor pool had many needless stairs. This is simply a function of older design, however. New ship designs are eliminating such needless design features. Both pools were a bit smaller but very well used, but personally I didn't enjoy the solarium pool area at all (too small). The Aqua Spa cafe in the solarium is in an odd location and makes it more of an after-thought and hard to remember when thinking of food options. The hot tubs were nice and very well used, with cooler than normal water which meant you could stay in them for a long time and enjoy the sun.
The itinerary was excellent:
Abu Dhabi, UAE - 2 days
Muscat, Oman - 2 days
Dubai, UAE - 3 day
All ports were very, very good, but Dubai is literally another world. Makes most similar things in the US seem small, older and inconsequential. You have to see it to understand what I mean.
One surprising fact about the fellow passengers wasn't the vast array of nationalities on board, but the complete lack of Americans. Typically cruises anywhere in the world are populated by a tremendous number of Americans. Not this one! Had to really look to find any. I guess Donald Trump's rhetoric and lies about being unsafe in the Middle East must be resonating with most back home (and yes, that was a political comment). I should also clarify that not once on the entire trip did we feel the least bit unsafe. Quite the contrary, and the people in each of the countries were fantastically nice and helpful. You quickly learn in travel that a smile is a universal language.
On to the food. We didn't try the specialty restaurants on this ship, as we've done Tuscan Grille, Murano, Qsine and Silk Harvest many times each on other cruises (and the cover charge is getting outrageous at $45 US and $50 US). Ocean Liners looked very nice though, and its menu was similar to Murano. Tuscan Grille had the new menu and a nice top level location. The San Marco main dining room was quite good. As is typical there were hits and misses, but in general it was very good. The service was fantastic, as usual. We actually liked the look and feel of the MDR better than on the Solstice class ships, as it was less crowded and felt quite upscale. Room service was OK, but they have limited the free menu so much in recent years it's becoming an afterthought. We did however order continental breakfasts from room service many days just to avoid the buffet disaster, and with the perfect weather it was great to eat on the balcony.
Debarkation was as easy and effortless as embarkation. However, with a late flight to Singapore, we decided to take the offer to stay on board until 3 PM and use all the facilities. What a great idea by Celebrity!!! We still had to be out of our staterooms by 7:00 AM (yes, you read that right), as the ship docked at 5:00 AM but we simply went for breakfast and then went and laid by the pool. At 9:30 AM we were escorted off the ship, then given a visitor badge and whisked back onboard. Off to the pool again. Great way to spend a day compared to booking a day room at a hotel and having to deal with luggage and taxis multiple times.
Overall, to conclude, we liked the cruise itself and loved the itinerary BUT would probably not sail on a Millenium class ship again (at least until they get some of the accessibility challenges resolved). Read Less