SUMMARY - Wonderful Eastern Mediterranean itinerary, nice ship, but a terrible dining room experience means we probably won't be sailing Celebrity again. Four years ago Celebrity lived up to it's "Deluxe" brand, but not ... Read More
SUMMARY - Wonderful Eastern Mediterranean itinerary, nice ship, but a terrible dining room experience means we probably won't be sailing Celebrity again. Four years ago Celebrity lived up to it's "Deluxe" brand, but not this time.
We've tried four different lines, looking for our personal sweet-spot of price/value: 1) Celebrity Century Aug 2005: Was very happy, but since was our first, was still comparing. 2) Golden Princess Aug 2006: Generally happy with, but buffet food was bad. 3) Azamara Journey Aug 2007: Was very happy, but not more than Celebrity to justify the higher cost. 4) Regent Seven Seas Navigator Jan 2009: Was extremely happy, but not in line with significantly higher price. ... and thus we had settled on Celebrity as "our" cruise line (or so we thought), when we booked on 5) Celebrity Solstice Oct 2009, Eastern Mediterrean
EMBARKATION was very smooth. Was on the ship 12 minutes after walking in the door of the building.
DEMOGRAPHIC - Since we're now empty-nesters and travelled outside of school breaks, this cruise had *very* few children, like 4. Some elderly folks, but not so many. Most were aged like us, mid-40's or so. I appreciate Celebrity's geographically diverse passengers: lots of Spanish, French, Brits, Scots, Irish, Germans, Canadians in addition to the Americans.
SHIP though the largest we've sailed on at 2800 passengers, didn't feel "too big". It was also very quiet and smooth sailing.
SHIP DECOR is pre-dominately modern rather than stately. The dining room is all white plastic and chrome. The epitome is the Quasar discotheque. Imagine The Jetsons, Austin Powers, and a 60's Mod designer have a head-on collision. To be fair, we didn't do the nightlife there, but it's appearance was more funny/ironic/silly than inviting. The decor exception is the Ensemble lounge outside the specialty restaurants. That is refined and stately. Wish we'd found that sooner. Listening to the string quartet in there with cocktails was sublime.
ELEVATORS are in only two locations: eight at mid-aft, and four at mid-forward. At first I thought this was a mistake rather than the more usual three locations. However, having eight elevators at the embarkation/debarkation point for the gangway or tenders meant that the usually crowded beginning and ending of port days was mostly a non-event in getting between the port and your stateroom. Hint: when returning from shore, go past the first four elevators where 20 people are waiting, and go to the second set of four where only two people are waiting.
STATEROOMS were a very pleasant surprise (we had both a veranda, and an inside). At first glance it appeared to be lacking storage space since there were not closets along the hall to the door. But there were lots of shelves, closets and drawers that everything had a place with space left over. And the room had a more open and airy feel. The beds were "to die for" comfortable with moderate firmness and an eggshell foam pad on top. The bathroom was bigger and more comfortable, with lots of storage. I really liked the lighted light switch and dim lights inside to make a middle-of-the-night trip there comforting without having to turn on the bright lights. The main room lights also dimmed to provide a more subdued mood at night. In my room, I only heard an occasional muffled cough from next door. But in my wife's inside room, she became more familiar with the next door couple's intimate behaviors than she cared to. The room stewards were fantastic.
ENTERTAINMENT was OK, though not something we care a lot about. The Pulse show with Cirque-de-Soleil -like acrobatic performances was good, but none of the acts were particularly impressive. The comedian was British, with his repertoire limited to British cultural humor (a lot went right over my head), or downright mean, or old jokes I've heard before (though he was an amazing operatic singer and guitarist). We saw just those two shows.
SPECIALTY RESTAURANT MURANO was fantastic, well worth the extra money. The service was amazing, and the food very good (the "turf" filet was excellent, with the "surf" lobster tail bland like frozen-shipped-across-the-globe lobster tails tend to be, the goat cheese souffle also excellent). With Celebrity Century's Sabatini's experience four years ago as one of my top two dining experiences ever, I was not disappointed with Murano. We didn't try the other restaurants based on mediocre reviews and our high standards of Asian cuisine.
BISTRO ON 5 was OK. The crepes-only menu was satisfactory for a night we couldn't get to the dining room, but not worth visiting it a second time. It was always nearly empty.
OCEANVIEW BUFFET was OK. A nice selection of dishes prepared acceptably. The food selection on the islands was duplicated a lot, but not consistently. Scrambled eggs were several places, but pork sausages only one place, cutting through the made-to-order omelette line. The traffic flow was a bit chaotic, dodging other people in multiple trips since no trays. I don't understand that decision; do they think we won't notice it's a buffet? The sushi was disappointing since we're used to excellent sushi. The juice dispensers did seem to be empty frequently. The ice cream was good and welcome. What happened to the service in the buffet? I recall waiters waiting to take your drink orders and help you find a table. The tables were cleared quickly enough, just no "service" to speak of.
MAIN DINING ROOM FOOD was extremely disappointing. Four years ago I was impressed at *every* meal we had in the Celebrity Century MDR. I particularly enjoyed ordering the "Chef's Recommendation" lineup from night to night as it was uniformly excellent, and a fun experience in trying new dishes. That tradition is gone. Quality ranged from Good (Veal Cordon Bleu, Chilean sea bass, a couple of other fish dishes) to Average (pasta and meatballs) to Bad (Sirloin Oscar that was indescribably tough). In several instances it seemed they had a translation problem from the chef to the menu writer: Seafood fettucine alfredo that came in a marinara sauce, Asian salad with pine nuts that came with peanuts, "fully loaded" baked potato that came with 1/2" diameter cheese/butter mix ball, steak with sauteed mushrooms where the latter were nowhere to be found... And even I know that you don't cut a sirloin 2" thick like a tenderloin or it ends up tough, that an Asian salad is more than 1/4 head of large cabbage leaves, one pepper strip and eight peanuts, that an alfredo is a cream sauce and that lobster should be served with melted butter. The food was delivered lukewarm, but never so bad we had to send it back. The desserts were average. Since food quality is the most important cruise differentiator to me, we probably won't be sailing Celebrity again.
MAIN DINING ROOM SERVICE was terrible. First off, I'm pretty sure that we asked to be seated with other people, as we enjoy meeting other people. On Celebrity Century four years ago I was extremely impressed at how well they selected our table mates: three families of native English speakers with teenagers. But this time we ended up with a table for two. Ronald from Philly...pines (his joke) was an excellent waiter, even though we had him only the first night. Then we switched to a table for ten. The new waiter (don't know his name as he never introduced himself in 8 nights at his table) was over his head in service expectations at a a fine dining venue. 5 minutes after sitting down he was on you for your order with no explanation of the night's dishes or recommendations. After the terrible Sirloin Oscar, he said it was that way every cruise . I sure would have liked to know that before ordering it. Steak knives had to be requested with every steak dish every night (except for the last night). Even though I ordered wine every night, the sommelier had to be summoned every night (except for the last night), and the bar steward had to be summoned for drinks every night (except the last night). Coincidence? or might it be the cruise evaluation turned in that night? One night it took 50 minutes from first requesting the sommelier, having the waiter forget, multiple attempts at flagging down the sommelier, ordering the wine, having the sommelier forget, until we finally got two glasses of house "by the glass" wine... Really!
SHORE EXCURSIONS were nearly all excellent. We signed up for a Celebrity shore excursion in every port we could. There were no Mykonos tours listed, though some people had one that day?? Antonio on the MY20 Peloritani Mountain Hiking in Messina, Rashid on the KD16 Turkish Towns and Villages in Kusadasi and Constantina on the RH01 Historic Rhodes Walking Tour were particularly outstanding guides. The guide in Naples for the Pompeii Exploration was good, though her accent was thick and hard to understand. Other people said this about other guides in Naples also. Read Less