This was out first time cruising with Celebrity. We have taken 2 previous Alaska cruises (one with Royal Caribbean, one with Norwegian) and 2 previous Caribbean cruises (both with Royal Caribbean). While we enjoyed theother cruises, ... Read More
This was out first time cruising with Celebrity. We have taken 2 previous Alaska cruises (one with Royal Caribbean, one with Norwegian) and 2 previous Caribbean cruises (both with Royal Caribbean). While we enjoyed theother cruises, everyone in our reunion group of 14 except the two teens thought Celebriy was far superior to the previous cruises the had been on. We especially thought they did well with Main Dining room food and the Theatre Broadway-style production shows. There did not appear to be enough opportunities to meet other teens for the boys. There is a full court basketball court and the swimming pool area, as well as a game room for cards, etc., plus the Waterfall buffet in which there were other young people.
Our concierge class cabins with balconies were great - they seemed larger than previous staterooms we have had, and for the first time ever, we had so many storage spaces that we didn't even use them all. We were on Deck 8, which I picked for quiet because it is sandwiched between two other floors that just have staterooms. Thus, there was no noise from the nightclubs, shopping areas, etc. Some reviews I have read mentioned undesirable smells on this ship. Our group had 6 staterooms on Deck 8, and there were no problems - everything was in good condition and smelled fine. However, we did have a last minute addition on Deck 3, and I noticed walking through the halls on Deck 3 that there was kind of a stale smell down there. Our room steward was fantastic, and I liked the use of the higher performing extra hair dryer that Concierge class comes with. The complimentary binoculars were not very good, so bring your own if you are interested in that. Our bed was comfortable.
Dining in the Main Dining Room was wonderful. The food was excellent and the offerings varied more than what we had experienced on previous cruises with others. The Waterfall buffet was, after all, a buffet, but still better than we had with Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. The breakfast buffet had an omelet station, a French toast and waffle station, and a "Chef's choice of the day," section that varied each day, but was often Asian. There is an ice cream station and a pizza station, as well as the hamburger grill by the swimming pool.
We made reservations in the specialty restaurant, the Normandie, to celebrate my parents' 60th anniversary. I had read good reviews about the Normandie prior to the cruise, but I found it a disappointment. We had 3 picky eaters with us, and there were no "mainstream" offerings in the appetizer, entree, etc. categories - just things like pate de fois gras, rack of lamb, seafood, roast duck, etc. I like to try new things, and I enjoyed my food, but to pay $35 per person and have a menu that several people did not see anything they were interested in was unfortunate. The service, however, was impeccable. If you have an adventurous palate, you would probably like it. I do think they should offer at least one "common" food in each category for the picky eaters. I also didn't think I enjoyed it as much because the food was so good in the main dining room that I didn't really feel I got my money's worth.
The fitness offerings were okay, but not ideal. The jogging track was by the pool, and the marked track was often obstructed by lounge chairs, making it hard to use. The gym was small but the equipment worked well. The pool table and golf simulator were hard to find (I never did find the golf simulator, but then I wasn't interested in trying it). The pool table is in a small windowless room. Once you found it, it was fine to play in.
We went to the theatre every night, and enjoyed every show. The Broadway style production shows with singers and dancers (and a Cirque du Soleil-type act) were outstanding. The comedian was good. The xylophone guy was very enthusiastic and good at what he did, but in the end, it's still a xylophone, even though it's some sort of new invention synthesizer or something. But, I liked the music choices he made. There was a singer (Elvy Ray or something like that) who had a great voice and delivery, and the show would have been fantastic if she'd left it at that. However, she did this high-energy prancing around in clothes that detracted from her appearance, and sung in Spanglish. This all detracted from her show, though we still enjoyed it. I would have rather she sang all in Spanish or all in English. But, that's just me. All in all, we really enjoyed the shows in the theatre.
We liked the thallasotherapy heated saltwater pool. It really eased my parents' aches and pains. If you stand under the water pipes that pour water from on high and aim the flow at your lower back, you can get a nice massage from the heated water pouring down.
In San Juan, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Condado. It is a clean, no frills place with comfortable beds and a free breakfast. They let you check in early if a room is available. If a room is not ready yet, you can hang out in the lobby or in the breakfast room, which have chairs and tables. Checkout is noon. On a previous trip, we had stayed at a nearby hotel called Le Consulat which was a poor choice that we will never make again.
We used the "Special Needs at Sea" group from the Internet to rent a wheelchair for the cruise (arranged on our own prior to the cruise). The wheelchair was delivered to and picked up from the stateroom, and you can take it ashore while cruising, etc. This was a big help to us.
The only problem we had with Embarkation was that it took Celebrity awhile to find wheelchairs for my parents, and the pier was too long a walk for them to make without wheelchairs. We had arranged for the wheelchairs when we made the cruise reservation, so we were a little disappointed in that. But, it was a minor glitch. On disembarkation, having the wheelchairs was a big help. The W/C pushers from Celebrity hailed a porter, who grabbed all the bags, then took us through a separate, MUCH shorter line created especially for handicapped people to go through Customs and Immigration. Then he got us a cab, and off we went.
Overall, it was a great vacation - the best cruise of the five. We will look to Celebrity first when considering a future cruise. Read Less