We embarked at 4 pm on 2 November at Honolulu with departure scheduled for 11 pm. Luckily we did not try to embark earlier as other passengers told us that there was a total blockage at around 1 pm. Things went downhill from there. A suitcase was still missing at 10 pm when Emergency Drill was announced. The muster station shown on the cabin door was entirely different to that shown on our cabin card. We were told to assemble in in the large Theatre, nowhere near the lifeboats as is usual. We sat in the big theatre for over half an hour while, supposedly there was a PA announcement telling us what the emergency procedure was. However, the PA did not work, so we had half an hour of nothing. If there had been a real emergency noone would have known what to do. Also, in a real emergency, most people would aim to be near their lifeboat, not sitting in a theatre from where it would be difficult to exit in a hurry. I believe this non-drill was illegal, as in effect, it was not carried out. Imagine getting on a plane and not having the emergency drill before take-off.
When we returned to the cabin at 11 pm, a message on the telephone told us to go down to Level 1 to search for our suitcase. When we arrived, there was no sign of it. We were then told to ask at Guest Relations where of course there was a long queue. Eventually we told the staff that the suitcase was missing. They looked in the office behind the counter, and brought it out. No explanation as to why it had not been delivered, no explanation as to why we were told to scour the ship for it, no apology;
Our cabin was good, and cabin attendants excellent. The balcony/verandah was poor with much of the external metal work on the sliding door corroded and peeling, and paint splatter over the floor and glass of the balcony.
Activities on the ship were few and poor. There were no movies shown (except two old ones when in port) and if you wanted a movie on the cabin TV you had to pay $13. In fact many things were Pay Extra, like fresh juice at breakfast. Otherwise the juice was concentrated, overly sweet, mush. I asked an attendant if I could get tomato juice. He said it was available but you had to ask for it. There were no signs advising that it was hidden in the fridge under the food counter, and could be asked for.
The Ocean Buffet/Cafe food was quite good, but tended to be the same every day. The interior walls were mirrored and gave the impression that there was an opening there. Some people walked into the mirrors thinking they were going through to another room, and were hurt. . Eventually they put stickers over the mirrors to help draw your attention to this fact.
Food in the main dining room was fair, and the service good. We both had to send back steak and chops twice due to their toughness or badly cooked state. Our main annoyance was that in the dining room, and most of the other parts of the ship, there was constant muzac being piped through speakers in the rooms going thump-thump. In the dining room it was not easy to engage in conversation due to this. I asked for it to be turned off, or softened, but that was too hard.
Good marks to most of the guest lecturers, and to the Showbiz entertainment in the theatre in the evening. We got tired of the overly enthusiastic Cruise Director at every opportunity asking "Are you having fun?” "Have you had a fantastic day?” in a hyped up manner at every opportunity. And some of his assistant activity staff obviously felt they had to act in the same over-the-top manner.
Most of what went on (main dining room, buffet, bars, pools, guest relations etc) was at the aft end of the ship, so if you were in a forward cabin, as we were, you had a long trek each time you left the cabin (135 paces to the elevators that took you to the Ocean Cafe). There were 10 elevators, 7 of which were in the aft part of the ship.
At the stop in Tahiti, if you wanted to walk around Papeete and return to the ship, you had a half hour wait standing in the hot sun in a long queue returning to the ship. There was only one security channel allowing people to come through singly and slowly.
In order to secure Open Dining at any time (or Celebrity Select as they call it) you had to pre-pay gratuities. If you did not do that, you had to opt for fixed time dining at 6.00 pm or 8.30 pm on a fixed table with the same people each time. Those who did not pre-pay gratuities were allowed to amend their daily gratuity charge ($12 pp pd) at the end of the trip, and cancel them entirely if they wished. However, those who pre-paid were not allowed to ask for an adjustment irrespective of it being justified.. As I advised Guest Relations, nowhere in the Celebrity Terms and Conditions does it state this and I will pursue this further. It is interesting to note that the gratuities are not spread around all the crew. They only go to the various waiters and cabin attendants. So the invisible staff (laundry, galley, etc) don't receive any share, whereas I believe other cruise lines spread it to all these staff. A waiter receives $3.71 per guest, per day, whereas the hard-working cabin attendant gets considerably less at $2.34.
We wrote a letter to the Captain about the poor emergency drill, the suitcase not being delivered, the poor embarkation procedure in Tahiti etc. Days later we were invited to have a meeting with the Guest Relations Manager (Touch Ung) and the Staff Captain (Pierre Caruana). We found their attitude to our comments dismissive and uninterested. There was certainly no concern, and no apology for any inconvenience. I commented that it was strange to be asked to sit in the theatre during an emergency. Their reply was that in a real emergency we might have to sit there for 12 hours or more until they sorted out the problem.
In discussion with other passengers, many shared our view and commented that they had better experiences on other lines, particularly Princess and Holland America.
Our disembarkation in Sydney on November 20 was another shambles. We were held back on the ship for over an hour after our pre-advised time. As it happened, we ran into the Guest Relations Manager as we eventually left the ship, and told him that we did not think it had been handled well. His reply was simply: "OK".
Summary: in every cabin there is a guest information book. It states that Celebrity was established "promising a vacation that would surpass all others in terms of service, value, sophistication and exceptional quality". In other words, they aim to be better than anyone else. That’s a joke, right?
Our experience suggests they fall well short of those aims in all areas except for the junior staff ie cabin attendants, waiters and bar staff.. The more senior staff/officers, with their disdainful air, seem unconcerned and uninterested in comments or complaints .
The interior was good. Well sound proofed, Comfortable bed, small sofa, lots of mirrored walls, adequate cupboards, TV but pay-per-view for movies at $13 each, none of which were recent release. Small fridge full of liquor and soft drink for purchase, including water. Bathroom was OK. Shower with curtain, no bath. Good towels. The balcony was showing signs of age, and needing attention (corroding metal parts, paint splatter) No smoking permitted on balcony unlike some other ships.
Papeete can show you what it might have been like in its earlier days, but is now looking the worse for wear. Footpaths are almost impossible to navigate due to cracked and broken paving, potholes etc. Buildings are run down and seedy. Prices are high, and very few "quality" shops. Happy to give it a miss.