The above looks as if I'm showing off. Apologies, it is not intended!
Being Diamond Plus on RCCL and Elite on Princess I hope gives us an appreciation of what makes a good cruise and where to draw attention to things that work…or don't!
We flew from London on BA, perfect timing for the ship as it arrives around 11am and it's just a 45 euro taxi ride to the port. Easy!
We selected Celebrity because we had heard they were a notch up from RCCL/Princess. We were given 'Elite' status due to RCCL Diamond Plus that meant there was little queuing at embarkation due to a special 'line' and probably were on the ship no more than 30 minutes after arriving at the port.
First impressions are always important and it is an impressive ship, more like a contemporary hotel than a ship but first impressions were positive. Rooms were not accessible until 2pm would be the only niggle.
We were booked in a Concierge stateroom and thought was narrower compared to a similar cabin on RCCL/Princess. There certainly seemed lack of wardrobe space and the couch was never used as it is in the wrong position.
Leaving Venice is a 'must see' and we left on a beautiful evening and although we have done it before it never fails to amaze. Get a cabin on the left side if you want to sit on your balcony and let the views come to you without the scrummage on deck.
We had booked 'select dining' and this did not work. Having just come off a Princess cruise where we would turn up and would be seated within seconds…we'll sit with anyone….this just didn't function. One line to register, another line to wait. Sorry Celebrity this is not what I wanted to experience for dining. The dining room, the two occasions we used it was far too dark with those with a 'torch ap' on their mobile phones being in demand to read the menu. I kid you not, it was that dark!
Perhaps 'select dining' is planned not to work as there are plenty of 'speciality dining' options but these carry significant add ons and that's where Celebrity want to push you. I have no problem with a once in a cruise paying that bit extra but I don;t think it should be the only viable option. Naturally there was the buffet which was excellent and at 8-15 was quiet. This was our first cruise, number 72 where we have eaten in the buffet at night! Interesting to see plenty of officers and staff but the trouble with the buffet is it's all over in a matter of minutes…you eat your food and go. Not what we really wanted! The main restaurant is called Grand Cuvee. It should be Grand Queuvee
We generally found the bar prices to be more expensive than Princess, perhaps by a factor of 20%. You can still get a bottle of wine on Princess for $25……Celebrity add another $10.
On sea days unfortunately there is still the saving of chairs by towels and non-existent passengers. We were on the Soltice deck, reasonably quiet but still plenty of bed hogs and no 'towel police' visited the top deck. There should be NO saving of chairs. If you go to lunch…tough. It's the only way……or get enough loungers! The loungers were however much better than RCCL/Princess. More comfortable and padded and the 'beds' were brilliant.
The ports were great, Kotor is lovely, Santorini a joy if you get off early and make it before the main body of passengers, Athens was busy. Olympia was interesting. We had booked a private tour, got to the ruins before the coaches and finished the day in the mountains in a monastery that few tourists would visit. Fascinating!
Back to the ship. The entertainment seemed a notch higher than Princess/RCCL, the house band 'Soul' were excellent although playing in the atrium area most of the time but the atrium is busy and therefore if you really want to relax and listen to the music it's not really an option.
The officers were really friendly, never seen or heard such a friendly captain. They joined in on a number of activities and that was new to see crew v passengers in a poker tournament!
The ship was incredibly clean and the staff very friendly.
We were able to use the sky lounge every evening as part of the 'Elite' status and there were some friendly passengers there. Complimentary drinks and snacks in a beautiful bar. My only gripe is the time, 5-7pm compared to RCCL's 8pm. I don;t want to spend more time there, but would have preferred a later option. But compared to Princess where there is not a complimentary nightly option this is a nice perk to have.
Disembarkation was easy. Find it amazing that there is no passport control when you get off. This happened at Southampton 2 weeks earlier and then again at Venice. Compared to when you do a Caribbean cruise and have to sometimes endure US customs twice, it seemed the complete opposite!
The BA flight back at 12 means that you can stay on the ship til 9.30 and be in plenty of time. No hanging about.
Would we book Celebrity again?
Yes we would. But we would certainly not do select dining and if there was the complimentary 123 promotion would take the drinks package but upgrade it for $10 a day on board. Is it a notch above RCCL…..probably yes.
Very narrow and badly designed. Not enough hanging/shoe space. Couch is pointless as it can't be used.