This was our first X cruise. We've sailed RCL, DCL, HAL, and Princess. Let me just say that the verdict is and we are converted to loyal X cruisers. DH and I are in our mid-40s. We have an 8 year old daughter and a 7 year old son.
Getting to the Port
We had a morning flight out of Pearson Airport. I’m not sure I ever want to fly Air Canada again. The check-in process took FOREVER and was so disorganized. Even with nexus cards and priority screening, we barely made our flight. The cab ride from MIA to the port was a fixed rate $24.00 for four of us.
The “process” at the port was really silly. Rather the first in line being the next to be served they seem to queue people so that they have a second mini line forming behind each agent. As luck would have it, we ended up behind someone who had EVERY problem in the word. We were there for about 20 minutes while we saw lines on either side of us get quickly processed and people who were well behind us in the first line were processed and boarding the ship ahead of us. We went back to the front of the main line and said we wanted to wait for a new agent. We got processed and that family ahead of us was still getting all their issues sorted out. They really need to fix this and just send the front of the line over to the first available agent. All in all it moved pretty quickly. We arrived at MIA at 11:09 and we were seated at the Oceanview Cafe by 1pm. Our embarkation lunch was excellent, best of any sailing, even MDR lunch for HAL.
I made reservations online prior to sailing. We arrived for 7pm on the first night. Our wait team was Art and Alexyus. My husband was worried that with select dining, we would not get the best service since gratuities were prepaid. At the end of the first night. We had both agreed that service was even better than the gold standard service we had received on HAL. We lucked out and received this awesome service team every night of our cruise. I made my reservations on line before going. I tried to book 7PM every night, but some nights had to take 6:45 and other nights had to take 7:30. I tried switching on board but they would not/could not give me 7PM every night. We were able to secure our same waiter every night. The service was so awesome that we wanted to have him every night, and he suggested that I tell the hostess that because of my son’s allergies, we wanted to stay with him. We had not trouble being accommodated.
My son has peanut allergies. I had emailed X prior to our sailing to advise them of this. After we had our embarkation lunch at Oceanview, I went up to the dessert section, and asked the attendant which items contained nuts. He said, “Madam, we cannot control cross-contamination, let me call a manager for you”. I nearly fainted – the word cross-contamination was used! Within minutes a manager had found me and brought me a plate of nut-free desserts direct from the kitchen. He asked our room number and said that every day at lunch a dessert plate would be waiting for us, I just had to ask. At dinner in the Opus dining room, our server Art, greeted us to assure us that he would take care of our son and he did not disappoint. Every night, he brought my son a special bread basket certain to be nut-free. Art was always familiar with the next night’s menu so we could pre-order all of my son’s meals for the next night. On other ships, the buffet has been a huge cause for concern with servers not having any sense of awareness of the severity of food allergies. On Carnival Dream, I asked an attendant which desserts contained nuts and was told “no nuts” while I could clearly see nuts in many of the desserts. On X, any mention of food allergies to a buffet attendant would result in "hold on madam, let me call a manager" who made sure to take care of us. One particular manager who was the Maitre D for Murano would seek me out in the morning to say he had a plate of chocolate croissant reserved for my son. How awesome is that??? I would recommend X to anyone who is nut allergic.
MDR and Buffet (Breakfast)
We preferred the buffet breakfast to the MDR and this is coming from someone who HATES buffet. The only exception was the scrambled eggs. I’m not an egg eater myself so I never tried them, but my who is a scrambled egg aficionado did not like the eggs at all. I’m not sure what the issue was but the eggs were almost too creamy or something. We tried a MDR breakfast to see if the eggs were better, but they were the same. My daughter’s favourite breakfast is a soft-boiled egg. We asked for one at the first breakfast but they were not familiar with this. They asked how long to cook it for. I suggested 3 minutes. I cook for 3 minutes in boiling water, but they cooked for 3 minutes in simmering water. The egg was still raw. My daughter stuck to a sunny side up egg after that.
The buffet lunch was also very good although on day 6 we opted for the MDR. It was good but not noticeably better than the buffet. On day 7 I had my top chef class so hubby took the kids to the buffet. We had lunch one day at the mast grill. I insisted on this after reading so many reviews here about the awesome hamburgers. Hubby and my son liked them – very good for a cruiseship burger. I thought they were just okay, on par with a Costco roadhouse burger.
Dinner at OPUS
Our wait team of Art and Alexyus – were SUPERB. My son called Alexyus "the Chocolate milk ninja" because every time he turned around there was a new glass of chocolate milk waiting for him. Note to families: the chocolate milk is white milk with Chocolate syrup decoratively squirted on the glass - not premade. I thought the food was on par with HAL and the service was just as good. My daughter enjoyed the everyday sirloin steak probably 5 out of 7 nights, the other nights having the prime rib and the beef tenderloin : ) She’s a meat-eater and had no complaints! My son ordered the chicken nuggets of the kids menu and they were horrible and dry. After that he alternated between the cheese burger or the steak. Hubby and I enjoyed the food – the only disaster(?) being the Top Chef night. More on that later : )
On my cruises, I'm all about the shows, but on this cruise I opted for the casino. The description of the shows in the daily did not thrill me, however, we made it to Momentum. It was okay. Not the best show I've seen at sea but not the worst either. I definitely give Royal the edge on entertainment – but I don’t pick my cruises for the entertainment. Living near Toronto, we have access to awesome broadway shows, so our standards are high. It was better to skip the show than to take time out of our evening and sit through something we wouldn’t’ love.
We had access to $10 tables every night. On day 6 they had $5 tables but I could never stay at one because the world's worst gambler at sea would sit down. Note to self: if the day comes that I sit down at a table and everyone else gets up, it's time to stop gambling. Overall the dealers were awesome. We enjoyed playing with Mercedesz from Hungary and Iva from Croatia. Even Renzo was great. Carlos was a bit of a grump at first but he warmed up over the week. I enjoy a happy and personable dealer .... Don't quite mind losing my money so much if the dealer is friendly! Tips were always acknowledged and appreciated. Overall Lady Luck was good to me. Had some awesome gambling mates. Shout-out to my new Cuban Cousins from Miami – you ladies were awesome and I enjoyed gambling with you!
Sin City Comedy show
As far as cruise ship comedy shows go, this host was just okay, but as we know, comedy is very subjective. The headliner, Kathleen, was freakin hilarious. Neither my hubby nor I were a fan of the burlesque dancer. The show started with the dancer, then the host, then the dancer again followed by the headliner. For comedy shows, I give the edge to Carnival.
The Fun Factory was a HUGE hit – my kids loved it! I think my guys at 7 and 8 were the oldest there, but they did not seem to mind. They really enjoyed the Fun Factory. On sea days they would visit after breakfast, lunch and dinner. On port days, it was mostly just at night. However, in St. Thomas, they asked if they could stay on the ship so we let them. If any of you were debarking with us and saw a little boy in tears, that was my son. He wanted to go back to the Fun Factory just one more time : )
Cruise Critic Meet
We received our invitations to the Meet & Mingle party. It was on the second sea day (I think). I really don’t get this, because they scheduled it at the EXACT same time as the first Top Chef event which also coincided with the galley tour (or so I thought). My son wanted to go to the kid’s club, so DH took him there. My daughter wanted to go to the Top Chef event so she came with me. Hubby and I were both signed up for the slot pull. When hubby took my son off to the kid’s club, I somehow ended up with both room keys. We went off to the Top Chef event. DH came to the meet&greet, but we were gone by then. So he went on to the TOP Chef event, but it was over by then, so he went to the galley tour to look for us (he wanted his room card so he could get a drink!), but I took my daughter to the kid’s club and then came back to the slot pull. Comedy of errors, but we ended up meeting up at the slot pull. Unfortunately, we all walked away empty handed
If you are a Top Chef Fan – you MUST do a Top Chef sailing. What an awesome experience. On embarkation day, I almost walked right into Tiffany Derry at the Oceanview. I recognized her almost immediately, and quite honestly, I was a bit star struck. She was her absolutely charming-self. I rushed back to the table and told my daughter who could not believe that I spoke to Tiffany. She says, “I wonder if we will see Shirley Chung”, and just as she says that, guess who walks right by our table? My daughter started shaking and tears were streaming down her face (she LOVES Shirley!)
As I mentioned above, the first Top Chef event coincided with the Cruise Critic meet. Because we attended the meet&greet first, by the time we got to Opus for the Top Chef event, all the seats were taken. But this ended up not really being a “top chef event”, it was just to introduce the top chefs. They each said a few words, and that was it. My daughter and I were disappointed and we walked out. While we did want to do the galley tour, I had committed to the slot pull so thought I may as well return to the cruise critic meet. Leaving was the best thing we could have done!!!! We walked out of Opus and straight into Tiffany Derry, Casey Thompson and Shirley Chung. OMG, I cannot tell you how awesome these ladies were. They took the time to give my daughter autographs (and wrote very sweet messages). They took the time to talk to her about being a chef and took pictures as well. She even got hugs from all of the Chefs. She was in 7th Heaven!!!
Next up was Tiffany Derry’s cooking demonstration, which I believe was on the Monday. She is so personable. Her demonstration was great and she fielded lots of questions from the audience. 2nd Demo was Hosea’s. The third top chef event was the Quick fire challenge, and I thought Celebrity handled it will by giving out raffle tickets to those who wanted to be on the stage. I seemed to always be one or two numbers off the winning ticket. It seemed so rushed at the end and on the Friday (last sea day) – Casey Thompson and Shirley Chung both had their demo’s. I also had my private cooking classes. I had to leave Casey’s demo early to go to the cooking class, and then we missed the start of Shirley’s demo because of the cooking class.
There were photo ops after every Top Chef event. We “met” the chefs on the first day (running into them outside the Opus dining room). When we stood in line for Pictures with Tiffany the next day, she greeted my daughter by name, how cool was that? When we did our photo with all 4 chefs, Shirley greeted my daughter by name. One day, while at the kid’s club, they took the kids to the Oceanview for ice cream, but travelled through the adult pool to get there. Tiffany was lounging in that area, and called out to my daughter and waved at her. My daughter felt like a million bucks. By midweek, we felt like we were BFF’s with Tiffany.
There were two Top Chef dinners in the main dining room. The first night was the “standard” Top Chef night that I believe they have on EVERY cruise. All the Top Chef’s circulated through the dining room, and as lucky would have it, Tiffany was in our area, so we got another photo.
The second Top Chef dinner, featured courses from each chef; each chef put forward a recipe for an appetizer, main and dessert. I wasn’t’ a huge fan of Shirley’s congee dish with the shirred egg. It was okay, but nothing earth shattering. I loved everything that Tiffany made. Hosea’s shrimp dish was great, and I loved this stout cake. Tiffany’s sweet potato crème brulee was divine. One of the appetizers that was recommended by our server was Casey’s mushroom dish. The description in the menu did not sound that great, but since it was recommend I ordered it too. I took a huge bite of it and OMG it was the MOST disgusting thing I had ever tasted. We were in a crowded dining room and I had nowhere to spit it out. I sat there with it in my mouth for forever until I could sip enough water to wash it down. I later learned at the Quick Fire challenge that many of the recipes were taken from the top chef cook-book and not exactly as described on the menu. Casey Thompson was asked about the livers in her mushroom (lightbulb – I HATE liver!). Apparently, when she first conceived the recipe it had livers in it, but when she made it on the show it did not have livers in – but the liver version is what was printed in the top chef cookbook and that is what was made by X even though they did not add “liver” to the description on the menu.
The cooking class with Tiffany was wonderful! WE had a great group and I think everyone had fun. As per my other experiences, Tiffany was wonderful and charming. I had heard that some of the other chefs had been quite disappointing in the amount of fan interaction. On an earlier sailing, Nina Compton for example taught her class and then left immediately. Tiffany taught her class, and then sat and dined with us and had lunch with us. Our lesson went over by about half an hour as we all chatted and drank wine and took more photos. The package also included lunch from Murano and we had the option of sea basset or tenderloin.
Wireless at Sea
Only bad service I found on reflection was the guy that runs the ilounge. I'm sure he's quite helpful if you get your email through AOL, but he is completely useless when it comes to helping someone who uses POP or IMAP mail being pulled to their phone. Fine, if you can’t help someone, but I found him to be quite rude and condescending. I get my email pulled to my phone through my own Microsoft exchange mail server. As long as I have connectivity through wifi, email should come through. I used about 20 minutes of my package waiting for emails to through, but nothing. His solution was that I needed to login through my AOL account. I had alerted my staff to email me through my personal email account because I get far less personal emails, and it would be easier to sort through. My personal domain is managed through godaddy. I also could not get my godaddy email to pull through to my phone. I tried logging on through godaddy webmail. I kept getting kicked out from godaddy due to "inactivity". I sat in the ilounge for over 20 minutes and could not open a single email that I could "see" on the godaddy site. The ilounge guy insisted that the speed issue was with godaddy and not Celebrity. At least if he had owned the fact that wifi at sea is slow, I could have lived with, but his insistence the speed issue was the fault of godaddy was maddening. I complained about him to guest services because I really was insulted by the way he spoke to me. She asked who he was and the way she acknowledged my complaint told me that I wasn’t the first person to complain about how he spoke to me. I normally buy a data package from my cell provider, but having just changed cell providers, my new provider classified the islands differently, forcing me to buy 2 separate data packages, totalling about $50.00 and with only 3 ports all mid-week, I didn’t’ see the point of the data packages and thought I would try the ship’s wifi package. Next time, I will stick with the data package from my cell provider.
I had meant to buy the digital photo package before leaving. If memory serves it was $220. The package only came available within a week of our sail date, but it closed if you were within 1 day of your sail date and by Friday morning I had missed out. There was a ship promotion that I was able to get onboard which was $250 for digital plus paper; so you got all the prints plus all digital images. We made sure to get our photos done at every port, in the MDR, and each night. And the photographers were falling over themselves taking pictures of my kids, so I definitely got my money’s worth. Note to anyone who buys a package, you should be checking the pictures on your stateroom tv to makes sure that all your pictures show up. Otherwise, you take the print to them and they will add it to your package. I should have been doing this all along. On the last day, I went by to collect my prints, and amidst the crowds I was told to take my prints back to the stateroom and check the TV. But when I got to the stateroom, the pictures were no longer available. So I had to rush back to the photo area and use a kiosk to match up a few hundred pictures to my disk. I ended up finding a few that were missing, one of which was my Top Chef picture, so they took the print number and added it to my package. Then by the magic of photo recognition, all the TOP chef pictures appeared on my account – and by all, I mean every picture that Tiffany, Casey, Shirley and Hosea had posed for including every person who had their pictures taken with the chefs. I pushed it back on the photo team to get those deleted. I still ended up with a few of Shirley Chung’s personal photos of her and her hubby on my disk. Hmmmmm ….anyone know the number for the Enquirer
Overall, I thought the photo package was great value and I was very pleased with my pictures
We had booked the classic alcohol drink package as a perk with our cruise. Overall we were quite happy with the classic package. DH had a nice select of domestic beers to drink. I found the wine selection kind of lacking. For example, there is no cabernet available on the classic package. I contemplated upgrading but then found a shiraz that wasn’t awesome but it was drinkable. I found the mixed drinks at the pool – hit or miss – based on who made them. I enjoyed a delicious banana daiquiri on the first day but could not seem to get a second one that ever matched the first. Bottled water as a plenty and was always being brought to us even without asking. Most often, we would end up with “large bottles” which were not technically part of our package. I was drinking the double-espresso like it was coffee (wasn’t a huge fan of the coffee). Unfortunately, it was the very last day before we discovered the Igloo. Those will definitely be a favourite at Bacio from now on. And the fresh squeezed orange juice was divine, although it seemed to vary quality/consistency throughout the week.
Onboard Booking Bonus
We loved our cruise so much, we booked another one. We are booked on Silhouette November 15, 2015. We received $250 OBC for our existing cruise, plus $300 OBC for our next cruise, free grats for PAX 1 and 2, Free classic alcohol for PAX 1 and 2, Free Classic for PAX 3 and 4 plus free internet packages for PAX 3 and 4. Our CVP seemed to have a lot of difficulty with our reservation. She for some reason had trouble booking our kids so the booking confirmation as delivered to our cabin a day later. I called on Black Friday to see if there were any special deals. I was told about the Cyber Monday deal, but then the CVP said, I have good news, I can apply a the 123 promo for you, listing off all the perks I already thought I had, and she said there was absolutely no promo associated with our account. I was not impressed. Oh, and the first CVP booked hubby and I on select dining and booked our kids on late seating! Oh well, it’s all sorted out now, but I don’t have a whole lot of faith in the onboard CVPs; they of all people should be good at this.
Went smoothly! Smoother than any other we've walked off. We self-disembarked. We went to the Oceanview for a quick breakfast then back to the cabin to grab our bags. I think we were off the ship by 7:30. the wait for customs was processed exactly the same way that boarding was with agents queuing up lines behind each agent. Our luck, we ended up behind talkers. We had to wait about 10 minutes to see our agent, but we patiently waited as this was not the place to be huffing and puffing. We got a cab quickly and were at the airport in no time. We flew home with air Canada, and it was a ghost town. There are no self-help kiosks there, so you have to see a ticket agent for your boarding pass. We went to the security area, and there were no line ups. I commend to the agent that I expected the airport to be a zoo with all the cruiseline pax. He said other areas like AA are busier. We cleared security in minutes and all was good except we had about 4 hours to wait for our flight to leave