I (late 30s) took my parents (70s) on their 1st cruise to celebrate mom's 70th birthday & their 40th anniversary. I am a "almost 1st timer" myself, since my last cruise was over a decade ago on Carnival. This is our 1st ... Read More
I (late 30s) took my parents (70s) on their 1st cruise to celebrate mom's 70th birthday & their 40th anniversary. I am a "almost 1st timer" myself, since my last cruise was over a decade ago on Carnival. This is our 1st Celebrity experience. I picked this particular cruise because 1) it was the best deal I could find - actually cheaper than Carnival, 2) I thought small ship size and a simple itinerary staggering sea day and port day would be good for elder 1st time cruisers.
Overall: The cruise was perfect for my vacation purpose. I don't think my parents felt overwhelmed or lost. It was not too long or too short. We didn't feel like we had to do all kind of things and rush around. It was relaxing. Services were great everywhere and the MDR food was good, much better than I expected.
The crowd: As expected, it's an older crowd. There are some younger people (late 20s to 30s is my guess), but no one was too crazy/obnoxious that I have encountered (there're one or two super intoxicated ones stumbling around). There weren't many young children either (I don't mind kids but it's also nice to not have to hear baby screaming, crying, or being ran over by strollers). Mood is causal - no one was really dressing up too formally. I do kind of like a formal night but understandably cruiselines are all moving away from it.
The ship: It is an older ship but I thought it was well maintained. There were some signs of age such as blistering wood handrails or damaged elevator buttons were. But otherwise it's still a very elegant ship.
Embarkation: 1st time sailing out of Fort Lauderdale. I drove down (1-way rental thru Avis) and took the free shuttle to pier. (TIP #1: if you are renting a 1-way, keep checking the prices because my rental went from almost $100 to $10 the week of. They needed cars badly and I guess I was their free transporter.) The port traffic was madhouse so plan ahead (unless you stay the night before nearby). There wasn't much of a line for CC guests. My only complaint is that I thought the special CC lunch was until 1:30pm. We were at the counter checking in at 12:50pm and was told it's over. Bummer.
First impression of ship: definitely not as "wow" as the big ships. Entry through Deck 3 into the "lobby" which was a cramped space. They served bubbles, which was a nice touch.
Room access: Immediate as of 1pm when we got on, which was great to drop off our carry-on bags before going to lunch at Oceanview Grille.
Room attendant: Adonis was excellent & sweet. He made a point of introducing himself in the hallway and he knew us by names already. He did everything we requested - cannot say enough good things about our room attendant.
Food/Restaurant: All things considered, it was excellent. We did not do any specialty dining, only ate at MDR & Oceanview Grille. Breakfast buffet in Oceanview Grille is the same daily, which can be boring for longer cruise. There were days we walked around longer to look for a good table for 3 but never felt too crowded in OG (FYI, temp. varied in that large space - we wanted a decent view without the heat of being baked in the sun). We only had "formal" lunch in MDR once but we ate there for dinner daily. Everything we had was great.
Food services: We had Select Dining daily for dinner. I prebooked 6:30pm/6:45pm time slot daily but we ate later on several days. Never too much of a wait (15 minutes max) for table. We had 3 sets of waitstaff, but mostly dined with Nelson & his team. Very attentive & friendly services. Of course they also work at OG for causal dining, and they would wave and say hi and greet us by name. The lady at the omelet station remembered my name by Day 3. It's amazing how good they are at customer service.
Drink services: I have the Premium Drink Package (given Classic for free, upgraded to Premium for $67), which I highly recommend for anyone who remotely drinks. I never had to worry about paying for extra. I had the chance to try different cocktails. I have unlimited access to water & nicer coffee. I never waited long for a drink. I didn't order from the same bar much, but for those who did, they would remember your drink choice. (TIP #2: Infusion is a small "bar" tucked away with the gelato spot. Great craft cocktails during limited time period, but perfect for showtime!)
Activities/Entertainment: I have heard more than once on the ship where people complained they were bored (both elderly ladies). I was curious as to what would be considered not boring. In my opinion, cruise is for relaxation. I booked a room with balcony so I wouldn't mind hanging out in my room to chill/read/do nothing.
Every day there were live music in all the lounges. The guitar solo with vocal, the string duo, and piano with vocal duo were all great - piano solo act was... a little off vocally. Every night we went to the show - they were all minor productions but were entertaining (magic, impersonation, comedian, female vocalist Savannah Smith, and an original musical production). We did silent disco once (offered twice), karaoke twice, bingo once and observed the newly wed game. We sat through an art auction just to check it out. We attended the complimentary galley kitchen tour which was fun. We stopped by the Officer Soiree and took picture with the Captain. There were also pool deck activities during the day but we didn't attend. There're DJ parties we skipped out on as well. So all the standard cruise activities were there but in a smaller scale. I do have to say this is not a late night party type cruise. Most days we retired back to the room by 11:30pm. There's little to do after midnight. Even casino was pretty dead by then, which is odd. Cruise Director Luigi did his job in my opinion. I guess some people just don't get his sense of humor.
Casino: Small and did not stay open late. The busiest time is from 8pm to 10pm, probably because of the foot traffic to/from the show. Basic games were all there.
Gym/Spa: took a quick look but didn't use it. Gym area was nice and big at the front of the ship. Not a bad spot to run on a treadmill if I must. Spa looked small and the prices were high for services. There were fitness classes on schedule but most required extra charges.
Pool: I only used the main ones on Deck 10 on port days (4 hot tubs, 1 bigger/deeper salt water pool, 1 smaller/shallower "pool" for standing around), I didn't feel like fighting the crowd during sea days. I was able to really enjoy it the morning of Cozumel day. I was in the deep pool swimming laps by myself. Key West day we got back on ship earlier and I was able to get a lounger and chilled/napped and hopped into hot tub. They played music but I didn't find them to be too loud - who wants a silent pool anyhow?
Port #1 - Cozumel: I booked a private taxi before the trip online on my own. I recommend Tours Plaza as it's a good price for 3 of us ($142 for 11:30am to 4pm). The best part is we had our own car, we could do whatever we wanted at the pace we wanted. I enjoyed the tour around the island, I think it's worth doing at least once. We tasted chocolate & tequila. We ate lunch at Punta Moreno. We stopped and took pictures on the Wild Side.
Port #2 - Key West: I opted out of Conch Train Tour/Trolley Tour, but it's cheaper to book those onboard/through cruiseline if you want to do them. Instead we took the free Duval Loop shuttle provided by the city transit (TIP #3 - use the free shuttle, they have real time schedule on their website via your cellphone). It was a hot day in Key West, we did the standard Mile 0, Southern Most Point, Sloppy Joe's, Conch Fritters in a loop slowly. We go off boat at 11am and got back at around 3pm.
Immigration interview: We had to pay a visit with the immigration officers when we arrived in Key West. The process started before 8am, and I was surprised the intercom blasted inside the stateroom that early. We were in Group 24, meaning I really could have slept for another 45 minutes to an hour if they kept the announcement in public areas only (which was supposed to be the case per the newsletter). The process was quick even though it looked horrible with the long line wrapped around half the length of the boat.
Disembarkation: Because the cruise already stopped in Key West the day before & we did the immigration interview already, it was an easy peasy process when we got back to Fort Lauderdale. We woke up at 6ish, got breakfast, and the moment they said we could leave the ship, we grabbed our bags and left. No line. We breezed right through to the taxi line. Taxi was $14 (no traffic). We got to airport and were at the gate in less than an hour of disembarkation. I don't know if we were just lucky or if I was that efficient.
Last words: The cruise was a success. For what I paid and what I got in return, it was a great value. My parents enjoyed themselves, and that's what I care most. I think there are people who just never happy about anything - seriously it's a cruise vacation, why would anyone complain about eggs/being bored/what the cruise director was wearing etc?
Give this older/smaller ship a try - it is a good starter cruise especially for a 5-nighter. Read Less