Wow, what a wonderful cruise. We spent the wad on this cruise ($3K/each plus hotel and airfare) but it was completely worth it. We got the deal that allowed us free drink package, gratuities included, and $500 of onboard credit. We used ... Read More
Wow, what a wonderful cruise. We spent the wad on this cruise ($3K/each plus hotel and airfare) but it was completely worth it. We got the deal that allowed us free drink package, gratuities included, and $500 of onboard credit. We used the $500 to pay for dinner at Murano one night, upgrades to the drink packages, and two massages (GREAT massages!!). We were also in AquaClass and we just love AquaClass -- our 2nd time doing it and can't imagine not doing AC on our next Celebrity cruise.
We flew Delta from Atlanta through JFK. I am a Diamond member with Delta so I had some upgrade certificates. I paid the lowest coach airfare and upgraded to their intl First Class (Delta ONE). I used points to pay for my partners First Class airfare. We love Delta's ONE Class. Modern pods with lay flat beds and Westin Heavenly bedding, high defn 14" monitors in each pod with tons of movies and TV shows. Also, Atlanta celebrity chef Linton Hopkins designs all of their menus to western Europe and the food is terrific. We had filet mignon with asparagus and lobster mac 'n cheese. Delta has a Master Sommelier, Andrea Robinson, who picks out all of their One Class wines and she does an excellent job. Great Spanish red wine pairing on this flight! The service -- as always -- on Delta One was superb. We arrived relaxed and replenished. BTW - we used Delta's Sky Club in JFK and that was stellar. They have an outside patio area where you can chill and have complimentary food/drinks while you wait for your flight. They even have waiters who will deliver drinks to you from the inside bar for a nominal tip. We sat across from Michael J Fox, who said he was on his way to Las Vegas, so that was cool!
We arrived a day early as my partner had never been to Barcelona. We wanted to do some sight seeing before the cruise took off. We stayed just 2 kilometers from the ship, in Barceloneta. We got a small hotel room in a 3 star hotel called Hotel Oasis. The room and hotel were sufficient but nothing great. The location, however, was fantastic! Right near the piers and all the restaurants. And just 60 meters from the Barceloneta subway stop. We did the HOHO bus and got excellent pix. We bought tix to the Sagrada Familia right when we arrived (online) because it sells out quickly. We barely got them, for 5:30 p.m. We ate at some little restaurant in the Gothic Quarter. Don't remember the name. It was decent tapas.
We took a taxi to the terminal (just 2 kilometers but 13 euros! They charge a 7 euro fee for drop off there!) but got there with no issue. The line was LONG!! We got there at approximately 12:40 p.m. and so did everyone else it appeared! The line moved fast though and once we got around the corner it split. There was one line for Elite members, Concierge/Aqua Class guests, and Suite passengers. Another line for everyone else. We got into the Aqua Class line and we were through security in less than 1 minute! We were at the agent's desk in less than 5 minutes! It was awesome! We were on board in just 35 minutes total!
We've stayed in AquaClass on Reflection before. Rooms very similar. These felt a little larger but probably an illusion. The deck chairs were really worn (as opposed to the much newer ones on Reflection). The room, itself, was in good condition, however. We enjoyed it. The room was MUCH less noisy than the one we had in Reflection. Our travel agent recommended this part of the ship for noise and we're glad we took her advice. Our AC room on Reflection was near the back, near the Aqua Spa and it was really loud.
The part most of you care about. Well, we ate each night in Blu (the AC restaurant) except the first night in which we dined in Murano. Murano was fantastic as always but they've gone up on their price (now $50/person). Had we not gotten 30% off we wouldn't have paid full price. Not worth that much. Also the waiter was sort of stuffy but nothing bad about this meal.
Anyway, back to Blu. Blu had some issues a couple of nights with the kitchen. It was really slow. The wine sommeliers and waiters, however, did their best to provide great service when the kitchen got really behind. One sommelier slipped us some wine that was a couple of dollars over the premium drink package in an apology for the long wait. That was great customer service we thought.
The food at Blu, I must say, was just not as good as it was on Reflection. We talked about it as the cruise dragged on. The presentation was stellar but some things were not cooked at right temperature or were really bland. Other things (like the beef ribs) were crazily overcooked and dry. I would give it a 3.5 to 4.0 in terms of food quality/taste. However, some nights Blu really shined. There was one dish, a ribeye with black truffle, that was sensational! Another night they had a filet mignon, served with a celery root puree. Holy crap! That puree was the best thing I've ever eaten on a cruise ship. That would have won any Top Chef competition. Man, that stuff was so good that I ordered an extra side of just that puree. Wow. Also, there was a sea bream fish that was pan fried (can't remember the name of it) that was quite good.
However when they missed they missed badly. The beef ribs (last night) were so dry I had to send them back. I ordered the NY strip off their every day menu instead. BTW - if you eat in Blu and don't try the every day NY strip steak at least once you're doing yourself a disservice. It's terrific! Great flavor! However, we did notice that the NY strip was a bit tougher on this cruise than the ones served on Reflection. And on another night they served a fish they called a "Chilean Sea Bass". We in the states know this fish as Pategonian toothfish. Well, I ordered it with trepidation. Surely this couldn't be Pategonian toothfish! And...well...it sadly wasn't. It tasted like a river fish, which I don't care for at all. And the broth surrounding it was very very bland. I sent it back.
The restaurant manager (a lovely lady whose name I can't remember!) came over to see the problem. She said it was Barramundi (which is an "Asian sea bass" not "Chilean Sea Bass"). They need to change the title on the menu. I've had Barramundi in India. They can either come from coastal waters or lakes. This one definitely came from a lake. No thanks. Also, a couple of nights we got "hot appetizers" that were as cold as the expedite counter they had been sitting on for the previous 15 minutes before they were served. We didn't complain...we just didn't eat them. We never encountered this on Reflection. So, I'd have to give the kitchen a 3.5 out of 5 here.
Now, the staff at Blu were superb! Waiters Rey and Shailej were fantastic! We had Shailej as our waiter on Reflection last year and he remembered us! We loved Oana (the hostess who always remembered our room # and our favorite areas to sit), the restaurant manager (again, can't remember her name!), back waiter Antonine, and the best wine sommelier we've ever had on board -- Red! Killer staff at Blu made up for the sometimes flat food.
BTW - breakfast at Blu (we ate there 3 times) was terrific. The tableside Muesli service was fantastic and tasty. The eggs any style was a welcome menu addition. We also loved their coffee. Way better than the coffee in the Oceanview Cafe. If I were them I wouldn't put nutmeg on the french toast, however. Some people hate nutmeg (me!) but love french toast. I switched to a pancake on morning #3.
Oceanview cafe is where we usually had lunch. Or we'd grab a burger/fries at the Mast Grill. Mast Grill had pretty good burgers and dogs but they were always running out of things and had no one to quickly get them replacements. As a result, people waited a lot for missing items to appear. Hope they can solve that one. Oceanview had buffet food. It's buffet food. Same as about any ship. Some things were good and some things were cold and chewy and bland. Go figure. Its a buffet. Meh. The pasta we had late night sometimes. We thought it was more bland than the pasta on Reflection but we thought that of Oceanview Cafe and Blu food in general. Murano was same quality as on Reflection but the service was way better on Reflection in Murano. The waiters did ballet service on Reflection and our server was warm and friendly on Reflection.
BAR SERVICE: We had the premium drink package. We went almost every night before dinner to the World Class Bar (formerly the Molecular bar...no more liquid nitrogen drinks!!). Yelena was our bartender. She was terrific. She has a great personality and speaks her mind. Love that. Ivan helped her out some but he wasn't nearly as friendly...just a different personality. Also Andreea at the bar in front of Murano was terrific. We hung out there some and loved her service.
Overall, the bar service was very easy to come by. This was in stark contrast to the horrid bar service on Reflection. Everyone had the drink package on that Caribbean cruise and it was harder than Hades to get service! Both Reflection and Equinox lacked drink servers who actually came to you while laying out. I guess that's a thing of the past. But the servers at the bars were all friendly, helpful, and had great warm personalities on Equinox. It was so easy to get a drink fast almost at every bar.
We didn't care much for the standard Celebrity singers/dancers (the singers, particularly the women, were good....just that their routines/shows were so unimaginative.) We've seen much better on Holland America and Princess. Celebrity never does a great job with this aspect, so I guess its their Achilles Heel. The entertainment brought on board, however, was pretty darned good. The British guy who did comedy and played piano was FANTASTIC! The other British comedian wasn't nearly as good. The Russian lady with the violin was out of sight too but every time she came out she took off another piece of clothing! By the last number she was down to almost ZERO. We were sure there would be no encore, as this may violate nudity laws! haha! The Eastern European circus performers were also great (think: Cirque du Soleil -Lite).
COMMON AREAS: Very very clean and comfortable. Another reviewer said that this ship had an easy layout about it and I agree 100% We found the layout the easiest to negotiate than any other ship we have sailed on (10 previous cruises). Cafe Bacio was placed so well and therefore got a ton of business! Ditto for the Martini Bar, the theater, and the restaurants. It was so easy to get from one place to another. I don't think this ship is as pretty as the Reflection but its much easier to navigate.
DISEMBARKATION: Very smooth except for taxi stand. We stood in the rain for 35 minutes waiting on a taxi. It was miserable. Nothing to fault Celebrity for though!
SPA: Massage rooms were fantastic and so were our massages! We both commented that it was one of the best massages we've ever had. The masseuses are trained by Celebrity on each massage. We had the same massage and compared notes afterwards. They were identical and fantastic! The massage oils they use are first rate and the training is superb for their masseuses. Will do again if we have credit! We also went to the saunas 3 times during the cruise. We like Reflection's spa better. It had a cold sauna and 2 rooms with hot stone chairs in the Persian Gardens. But, this spa wasn't bad.
EXCURSIONS: We've done many cruises and we know better than to buy excursions through the cruise ship. We always get external vendors. Much cheaper and the same, if not better, excursion. We found a company online that monitored cruise ship port dates and set us up with a package. We got full day tours of Ephesus, Athens (it rained all day!!), Rome, and Sorrento for just $78 each. Totally worth it! We went with a company called Cruising Excursions and it was totally professional and on the up and up. Would choose them again.
Overall feelings about the cruise: tremendous staff!!! Good -- albeit not great -- food. Great ports! VERY clean ship! Friendliest staff we've had on any cruise. We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise and can't personally see how anyone can give this cruise lower than a 4. I think it would even be hard to give it a 4! We loved it! Read Less