This was our first cruise and if we hadn't planned and paid a land trip for next year already we would have booked another cruise for 2016, never mind we are planning for 2017 now, so we clearly got bitten by the cruise bug. Since we ... Read More
This was our first cruise and if we hadn't planned and paid a land trip for next year already we would have booked another cruise for 2016, never mind we are planning for 2017 now, so we clearly got bitten by the cruise bug. Since we have no other cruises to compare to, this might be an "over the top" review for seasoned cruisers, anyway this is our personal experience.
We started actually our trip over a year ago by planning flights, hotels pre- and post cruise and looking for excursions. I found cruisecritic around the same time when we booked and found out quickly that this website is of great help and registered on the roll call. We were able to book some great tours with even greater people, a shout and big hand to John, Wayne and Mike for organizing the tours and to the fellow members of our various groups.
After all the confusion on the net and the final message from Celebrity regarding canceling the overnight in Istanbul, we were relieved that we planned ahead a couple of months ago to start or "Meds adventure" a couple of days before embarkation day. Our flight with Qatar Airways departed Bangkok at 2.40 am on the 17th of September and arrived in Istanbul by around noon the same day, after some confusion which immigration counter to use, we were out the airport door and welcomed by our transfer driver that we had booked online. We were staying at the Antea Old City Hotel for the next 2 nights to come and after some refreshing out to explore this great city.
The hotel is just within 10 walking minutes of all sites in the old city, we visited the Cistern, walked around the town, listen to the call for prayer at the Blue Mosque (it sounded surprisingly relaxing to me) and looked for some local food before called it a day. The next morning we had a half day guided tour through the old city with the Hippodrome, Hagia Sofya, the Blue Mosque (outside only in the morning as it was Friday and it was opened for non Muslims after 2.30 pm, so went by our self inside in the afternoon) and the Grand Bazaar. The guide was ok, nothing special, felt a little rushed through all the historical figures. Anyway the afternoon was for us and we went through some alleys in the Grand Bazaar, visited the Topkapi Palace (great) with the Harem (little to see there though). and visited the Blue Mosque inside, a little disappointment there as expected more, it is not that blue inside lol.
The 19th was filled with excitement as we finally came to embarkation day, yeehhh :) But first things first... We had another half day tour... Bosporus Cruise, cable car ride with the same tour company as the day before but a much better guide, who took time to explain things and answering questions. We saw a small Mosque that was really blue inside, but unfortunately I forgot the name :( We were almost on a private tour, just with another couple from the USA (New York) who had finished a cruise on the Reflection the day before and the best thing was, they WON that cruise, some lucky people :)
The driver kept all our bags safe in the car during the tour and dropped us off right in front of the Cruise Terminal by around 1pm. So here we were in the midst of hundreds of people aiming for the same goal to get on this beautiful ship :). We dropped our bags in the area were all the other bags for Deck 7 were and made our way into the building for check in. With all the screening, the check in procedure (we had our xpress passes ready), Passport controls, I think it took no longer than 15 minutes to get on the ship.
So at 1.20 pm we were finally on the ship and we went straight to our cabin to check if it was ready or not, what can I say... it was, so we dropped our carry-on stuff there and made our way to the "infamous" (according to some reviews) Oceanview on Deck 14 for our first food experience on a cruise ship. There was no "mayhem" in regards of service or to find a table, the Restaurant was well visited and the service team handled our drink requests very quick and friendly. The food we chose was very tasty and after some fruits we headed back to town as we had to purchase some Turkish delight sweets requested by friends and family back home.
After we were back on the ship we did our embarkation day "duties" such as checking out the dining room, we had requested some Spa treatment online before hand, so we went there to confirm our appointments and the unpacking procedure. Jenny our room attendant knocked the door and introduced herself to us, what a very nice person she is, we asked her to clear out the Mini Bar and bring us some additional hangers for the closet. The hangers came in 5 minutes and the Mini Bar was cleared by the time we came back from dinner.
The safety drill was at 5.15 pm, our station was C2 the Ensemble Lounge on Deck 5 and was done within 30 minutes or so, with some moaning from other cruisers, well when the ship sinks, I hope you moaners remember what to do then...
Prepared for dinner at Murano, we had a 3 dinner package and the first night Celebrity booked us for Murano. Great experience overall, great food table side prepared and of course excellent service. Wandered around this great ship after dinner and called it a day.
The 20th was converted from the overnight in Istanbul to a sea day, which for us came very handy as it gave us time to enjoy the ship to the fullest. Checked out the Solarium with the hot tubs, had a drink at Slush and some lunch at the Mast Grill. All in all an uneventful day, which why it is called vacation lol.
That evening was the 1st of 3 formal nights in the Silhouette Dining Room, we had chosen select dining (is on Deck 4) as it would give us more freedom after the daily excursions to relax before going to dinner. We were assigned for a table of 2 right by the window and boy was this a great area, kind of private, we had all the following nights we dined there either tables 475, 476, or 478. Jesus the Head Waiter and Vincent are great guys, with great recommendations each night and they remembered after the 1at night what we liked and knew our names. The Sommelier in that section was also a great guy, forget your name man...sorry :( Tall from Serbia, had great conversations with him about wines, Thailand, etc. always got excellent wines from him, within or mostly beyond the Premium Package we don't know hehehe. In general the food, service in the MDR were always excellent, just one time the lamb for my wife was tough, that was the only minor glitch in an otherwise excellent experience.
To sum up the food and Restaurants now...
Murano we wished we had the time to go there again during the cruise, but the MDR was so good, we couldn't make it.
Silk Harvest was a nice experience in service and the food as well.
We visited the Tuscan Grill on our last night and it was wonderful as well. We met a waiter who knew some people we worked both together in the past (I am in the hospitality business), small world.
Bistro on 5 we never visited, we wanted, but did not have the time really... Each time we walked past it was well visited and NEVER empty as I read in previous reviews.
Ocean View we went there once for lunch on embarkation day and all the other days for breakfast. Some hick ups regarding ordering OJ on some mornings, probably language barrier as neither me nor the waiters are native English speakers, but "fresh Orange Juice please" shouldn't be much of a problem.
Mast Grill good for hot dog and burgers during the day.
The dress code during the formal nights we feel was followed by most of the other cruisers, we did not stare around, but a brief look we felt it was well followed.
The 21st was our first excursion day, Ephesus, organized by John and Pam and a small group. Very well guided by I believe a Professor, lunch in a local place, of course with a rug presentation, but in a nice way and not pushy.
The 22nd was Mykonos, beautiful island were we took a half day Celebrity excursion to Delos, well organized, very windy, chilly and with some rain. Interesting excavation site. After our return from Delos we wandered around the harbour and had some local food in a very nice restaurant.
The 23rd we arrived in Athens and we had joined a group online with PK travel. A lot of information from our guide, lunch on the way to Cape Seunion and well back in time in the port. Very fun day
The 24th we had another sea day to relax and enjoy the offerings on the ship, that evening was the 2nd formal night.
The 25th and 26th we had 2 days in Dubrovnik, both days we had tours with Celebrity, well organized and informative. 1day we had a Rivera Cruise with cable car ride and wandering the old town. that evening we ate in a little local restaurant just outside the city walls. The 26nd we had a tour around the coastline with wine and olive oil testings. Very nice and tasty with local snacks.
The 27th was the last sea day as we were on our way to Rome, the last day to really relax and enjoy the ship.
The 28th we arrived in Rome and joined a tour organized by Mike, saw all the highlights such as inside the Colosseum, Sistine Chapel, Vatican museum, Pantheon. 1 day or only a 8-9 hours stint does the city no justice, I am sure we will back in the future.
The 29th we arrived in La Spezia and we opted on our roll call to join Wayne's tour to Pisa/Florence with a visit to the Accademia to see the famous David, which you are actually allowed now to take pictures off. Great driver and a guide for the old town with the Domo and the Accademia.
The 30th we arrived in Villfranche and joined a tour organized by Mike to see the small towns around the Cote a zure, like nice and Monaco, this was as well the 3rd and final formal night.
October 1st we had a tour organized by Celebrity to see Marseilles, Cassis and other small towns. Marseilles was a lot of drive by but hte smaller towns we had free time to wander around.
Sadly October 2nd was our last morning and debarkation time for us :(.
The night before we settled our bills so check out was a breeze, We had chosen 8.10 am, so we were not that much in a rush to leave. In the terminal we found quickly our bags on the belt and we were in a taxi within half an hour after leaving the ship. This day we used to explore the city of Barcelona with its highlights such as the Las Ramblas, The Famila Cathedrale, etc.... took a hop on/off bus tour around the city until the early evening.
The next day we made our way by taxi to the airport and boarded our 3.45 pm flight to Doha and from there back to Bangkok just to arrive back in reality last Sunday.
Oops... the review got longer than I had planned..
Anyway, it was our first cruise and all our expectations were exceeded in terms of cabin size, service teams, food and the fellow cruisers we met great and the not so good (some snobs and moaners on near by tables).
Shows were all to our liking, the 2nd half of the cruise Celebrity had guest stars from UK got Talent, etc. who try to sell their CD's, which did not reduce our fun.
Tons of things to do even late in the evening, we not joined many activities, since this was a port intensive cruise, but the ones we joined were fun, even the art auctions, raffles, etc.(rats...did not win anything..lol)
We joined the hot glass shows more than once as we like the craftsmanship of the guys.
Eddy the Cruise Director was a great guy, he left for his well deserved vacation after this cruise, not sure when or where he will rejoin Celebrity.
Officers in were all friendly and very visible on the ship day time and evenings. Some Managers in too tight shirts and ties in the Ocean View were not friendly at all only when some guys who were higher up the food chain appeared, then they became chatty all of the sudden, funny :) I gave them the nick name "Secret Service" as only the shades were missing, they had already the in-ear walky talkies.
To sum it up,finally lol.... Great Cruise will sure do it again, nothing to fault that would spoil the experience.
We met nice people that convinced us that cruising is for us Read Less