Overall, the cruise was a great experience, more because the ports of call were great. Cruise began in Barcelona, stopped in Villefranche, La Spezia (instead of Livorno, more on that later), Civitavecchia, Naples, Santorini, Athens, Dubrovnik, ending in Venice. Celebrity does embarkation and disembarkation extremely well. Perhaps that is th only edge I would give Celebrity over the other cruise lines. The ship itself was ok, not awe inspiring or memorable like some of the newer ships. Food was average - some good meals, others not so good. Wine was way over priced. We purchased a wine package, which in retrospect was a mistake as the choice was limited. Celebrity has a no outside liquor policy, which is very unfair and punitive and denies the passengers the opportunity of enjoying some of the great European wines available at the ports of call. This is consistent with what I perceive to be Celebrity's "nickel and diming" passengers. I got the feeling that the goal was to maximize revenue per passenger rather than giving the passengers the best possible cruise experience. I understand that cruise lines need that additional revenue to make a profit, but it can be done very discretely and creatively without ticking off the passengers. We traveled with another couple and had asked for a late seating, table for 4. Our first night, we were at a table for 6. It took a couple of complaints and discussions before we finally got our table for 4 in a reasonably quiet area of the restaurant a few days later. Our first night, the wine steward was completely flustered. He charged me for 2 bottles of wine, even though I bought the package. I asked him to store my wife's bottle for tomorrow's dinner and he proceeded to put his fingers inside the bottle before storing it. Thank goodness we got another wine steward when our tables were switched. They charge almost $5.00 for a cappuccino. Since the regular coffee was just about the worst tasting coffee ever, we had very little alternative on board.
Entertainment was so-so. It certainly was not better than Princess or Holland-America. There were some good performers and others were average. Shows were short. Many nights, there were less than 50 people in attendance. I felt bad for the performers. The last night, there was no show because "how can you compete with Venice?". Give me a break!
Activities staff seemed somewhat disengaged. Some scheduled activities were no-showed by the staff, or they arrived late and were completely disinterested. On the last day, there were no prizes for the trivia contest. "We ran out of stuff!"
We decided we were not going to be part of the overpriced excursions that Celebrity offered and did just as well using local public transit. Case in point: our traveling companions paid $200 each for a day long tour of Nice, Eze and Monte Carlo. My wife and I went to the same towns using public buses and trains, covering the same terrain for less than 5 Euro each.
Next stop Livorno...but we were told for "safety" reasons, the ship must now dock in La Spezia. "And for the convenience of our passengers, we have added 4 extra buses for those who want to join one of our Florence excursions". Aha! Livorno was too convenient for the do it yourselfers, as they could take a short train ride to Florence or Pisa. La Spezia made it much more difficult to access these cities due to the distance and the need to switch trains. Our traveling companions were on one of the Florence excursions and ended up spending in excess of 5 hours on a bus. The advantage of La Spezia is that it is one train stop from the Cinque Terre. Walking through this area was spectacular so I actually thankful that Celebrity changed the port stop.
In Civitavecchia, we took the advise of previous travelers and bought the BIRG train ticket to Rome. It included all buses and subways in Rome as well, so we were able to visit the Vatican, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Forum and Colosseum for the 9 Euro cost of the train ticket.
Naples - we took the ferry over to Sorrento. It was ok, but in retrospect we should have gone to Capri instead. Next time!
Santorini - absolutely spectacular. We took the bus to Oia, which is an even more beautiful town. Our friends rented an ATV and had a great time exploring the island villages and beaches.
Athens - again we took the train from Piraeus. The Acropolis was way overcrowded so we admired it from a distance and explored the Plaka.
Dubrovnik - another great walking city. Make sure to walk the wall, but do it early before it gets too hot. Celebrity charged $12 per person to go from the port to the old town. We paid the cab driver 10 Euro for the four of us to do the same. $96 round trip for 4 people using Celebrity's shuttle vs 20 Euro for a cab. That's one heck of a mark-up!!!
Venice - what a wonderful city for just walking around and exploring. We docked so far from public transit that we had no choice but to use the Celebrity shuttle, which was $20 per person, but good both ways and unlimited numbers of trips. Again, no entertainment available other than a movie poolside.
Disembarkation-that was very smooth. Again the four of us could have taken the Celebrity airport shuttle for a total cost of $132 but we chose to take a cab for 50 Euro.
So, in conclusion, the itinerary and stops were terrific. Celebrity amenities and services average and certainly not above their alleged down market competitors. In speaking to many other passengers, their feelings were the same. And Celebrity, please change your coffee supplier.
cabin 2082 - outside mid-ship. It was fine, quite functional.