We did a back to back boarding on Aug 10th, 2014 These were our 29th & 30th cruises (24 on Princess) and the first on Celebrity. For those reading this review I will try to make a comparison. I'm sure others have different opinions but theses were our feelings.
Pros: 1) Beautiful ship -.loved the balcony flooring and the bathroom
2) Friendliest crew of any of our cruises - they all seemed happy and to get along well
.3) Officers very visible. Loved the questions/answers with the Captain.
4) Tuscan Grill best Specialty Restaurant we've experienced.
5) The Buffet layout is easy to navigate and having a pasta station (despite the server using bare hands when the noodles were hanging over the dish edge) and ice cream station were nice.
6) Entertainment was hit and miss. Guest singers were very good but the illusionist was not as enjoyable. The welcome production show was the only one I enjoyed and neither of us cared for events that had the production crew doing "weird poses" or walking around in a "zombie" state. DH enjoyed the Silhouette aerial show but I much prefer singing and dancing.
7) The Silhouette Theater is very nice but beware of posts that block your view.
Cons: 1) Food (dining room) -no special breakfast items each day...always the same menu. One day the scramble eggs were so watery that there was more water on my plate than egg. The veal cordon blue was so tough it could not be cut with a steak knife. Getting another selection was no problem. We found the breads and pastries to be dry and no where as good a selection as we have had on Princess. Frequently we had the always available Shrimp Cocktail for a starter because of the poor selection of others. Desserts were very poor especially the cobbler with a big lump of dry crumbs on the top and the Tiramisu which was a watery glob. The ministroni soup was a watered down tomato with no vegetables. Buffet- crowded and noisy with many dirty tables that sat uncleared for quite a while.
2) Turn around service when doing a back to back. Room steward was to move our clothes and just heaped them on a flat trolley despite me asking for a rolling rack. There were clothes all over the floor and one pair of slacks were totally black from being run over by the trolley wheels.
3) Room steward - here again the first cruise they were very poor- we had to asked for towels and wash clothes on several occasions because they had been removed and not replaced. It was a problem getting an ice bucket and ice. We felt had the gratuity charged to our account not been for all the ship's servers and only the room steward we would have removed it several days.
4) Only the choice of one evening entertainment show - we had become accustomed to having the choice of two different shows on Princess.
5) No dance floor- the tile floors in the atrium/foyer/lounge can not be called dance floors and we never heard live dance bands
. 6) Rooms- Veranda 8268 and 8229 , we prefer the couch to be next to the sliding door rather than the bed AC/heating - in room 8268 you could not sit on the couch because the air blew directly down on you. We had to have the room steward and plumber come on several occasions because the toilet in 8229 would not flush - of course they thought I didn't know how to operate the flushing mechanism. The 3rd day the plumber did say someone on deck 10 had thrown something down the toilet and plugged all the system on the decks below that morning...once this problem was fixed the toilet worked the rest of the cruise. The couch is a nice touch vs. none in the Princess balcony cabins but it was so hard I had to bring in a deck chair if I was going to sit for any time.
7) No self service laundry
8) All the music and activities geared for a much younger than senior crowd.
We had two very good cruises but preferred the ports of Santorini, Athens (our 2nd time to visit), Kotor Montenegro and Katakolon Greece on the first cruise over Dubrovnik Croatia, Ephesus Turkey (our 3rd time to visit), Mykonos Greece and Corfu Greece on the second cruise.
The average age was probably in the 40-50 age group with many families with infants and small children sailing. Having been in the over 55 age group for multiple years the screaming and crying during dinner and the shows made for a real negative experience for us. There were so many non-English speaking sailing that some announcements were made in several languages and we noted some people had difficulty communicating their dining orders. It was nice to have an international mix but we never felt "at home" rather that we were always in a foreign country.
We only take Ship's excursions and we were surprised that two of the 4 on the second cruise arrived back one hour late. I did ask about this and was told it was not the norm. We enjoyed them all, despite the very hot weather, except for Corfu. We had the Achilleon Palace-Perama- Old Town booked and the guide was so boring we opted to return to the ship before the Corfu walking tour (there were others that left her at that point) The bus never stopped for the photo stop in Perama to see Mouse Island- which didn't really look worthy of a stop despite the guide saying it was the number one attraction of Corfu (that helped us decide not to take her walking tour of the old city).
For those that prefer to get off the ship and do their own thing make your plans before arriving, with this itinerary, based on our table mates experiences. One couple never saw much of Santorini after waiting 1 1/2 hours for the cable car, trying to unsuccessfully get a taxi for an hour, and not being able to get on the bus because they were all full. Another found they had over paid for the taxi to Ephesus based on what others paid and only had one hour to see the sight. If you are planning on getting a scooter on Mykonos several couples found they'd all been rented so book ahead and on Corfu a motorcycle license was required so check out the requirements and make arrangements before arriving at the port.
Princess Captain's Circle perks are so much better than Celebrity's and giving up our Princess Elite perks makes sailing with another cruise line a hard choice but if the price, as it was for these back to back cruises, was so much better we would not hesitate to book another cruise on Celebrity but would probably plan to dine in the Tuscan Grill or the Lawn each night.
For me having to pay for shore excursions before boarding vs. booking and having the charges put on the shipboard account is a real negative. I am aware that a refund can be made if you change your mind but canceling a pre-made reservation for Muranos, because of a docking time changes, resulted in an error by Miami. We were detained on boarding and required to pay $90 before they would let us board even though they had no idea why we were being charged nor did we. Apparently Miami had refunded an extra $90 to our credit card. At the pier and on the ship we were told it was for a shore excursion but after 3 days making several inquiries at guest relations they finally got word from Miami what the charge was for. Not having the choice of booking Celebrity air and paying with final payment is another major drawback. Both of these will result in my not checking for a cruise with Celebrity as my first choice.
Rooms- Veranda 8268 and 8229 , we prefer the couch to be next to the sliding door rather than the bed AC/heating - in room 8268 you could not sit on the couch because the air blew directly down on you. We had to have the room steward and plumber come on several occasions because the toilet in 8229 would not flush - of course they thought I didn't know how to operate the flushing mechanism. The 3rd day the plumber did say someone on deck 10 had thrown something down the toilet and plugged all the system on the decks below that morning...once this problem was fixed the toilet worked the rest of the cruise. The couch is a nice touch vs. none in the Princess balcony cabins but it was so hard I had to bring in a deck chair if I was going to sit for any time. I loved the balcony flooring and the bathroom