Reception and processing relatively smooth. We had and inside cabin which was clean and reasonably well maintained. Our steward was friendly and accommodating. We were on the 9th deck and the cabin was noisy in the mornings from the pool machinery starting up.
We headed to a bar for sail-away only to be hounded by staff selling drinks packages. We are all moderate drinkers and it was disappointing to be constantly asked by staff why we did not have a package. For us it was just not cost effective.
Why no sail-away parties? This should always be a highlight - a celebration of the departure & getting underway but they were just weren't any, not what we were expecting. She just slipped her lines and left. So boring.
Suitcases were delivered promptly and we headed down for dinner. The staff in the San Marco restaurant seemed to be just trying too hard. I don't need my bread & dips to be introduced with a fanfare every night. As for the food, the quality was reasonable but the quantities supplied were so small. No wonder they made such a fuss about the bread. Take one example - my wife ordered scallops for a starter. What arrived, beautifully presented, was one, single, solitary scallop, sliced into four pieces. I didn't know it was possible to cut a scallop that small. The supposed signature dish of baked Alaska was simply an somewhat passé arctic roll with three flavours of ice cream topped with a dollop of meringue. Come on - I could do better than that.
The ocean-view cafe reached another level of deficiency. The food here completely lacked any imagination or variety. The same choices were rolled out day after day. On a ship, one would expect to see a good variety of fish and seafood. Of the latter there was none and the fish served tended to be dry and unappetising. My wife, a fish and seafood lover, lost weight on this cruise due to the paucity of choice.
On a brighter note, the Tuscan Grille was much closer to what we were expecting but why should we have to pay a premium for what should be common quality throughout the ship. The staff there were excellent.
For daytime activities, not being a sun lover, I tended to stay inside, mostly reading in the reflections lounge. There was generally a wide variety of background music played but I was appalled to hear one modern song featuring the f-word when there was a likelihood of young children being present. The same happened when I was taking photos next to the cinema in the afternoon. It's just not on.
I attended a couple of the lectures, one by the captain on navigation and the other on Islam. Both were good. The captain was very witty and entertaining.
The two dance bands were very good and the 'bandaoke' events were great to watch. The orchestra were excellent - clearly very talented musicians. What let the ship down was a glaring gap in the evening scheduling between 8.30 & 9.45 where nothing much was occurring except a show.
The main reason we chose this cruise was for the itinerary and we enjoyed visiting all of the ports. We prefer doing our own thing so didn't participate in any of the Celebrity excursions observing that, in common with all cruise companies, there was a significant mark up in their prices. I feel that one of Celebrity's main weaknesses is in communication. When we booked our cruise it had an additional port of New Mangalore included making 4 ports in India. We then received a communique informing us that this port had been dropped from the itinerary, the only reason given was to 'enhance your cruise experience.' This was not expanded upon leaving us unsatisfied. We now understand that this particular port was generating a lot of negative feedback from previous guests so Celebrity's decision is understandable. Why then could they not have told us the truth. I don't like feeling like a mushroom!
The quality and availability of the port guides was also very poor. On other ships these have been of a much higher standard and delivered to your cabin rather than having to go to the purser's desk and request them.
On other ships in my experience, internet access has been available on a timed basis where a quantity of time is purchased allowing guests to log on and off preserving the remaining time for the next visit. Not so for Celebrity where the options were to pay by the hour, day or full cruise but the rates were way too expensive. I'm afraid I was not prepared to pay $315 for the cruise access 'deal' and that, together with the poor port guides left us sometimes poorly equipped for visiting some of the ports. We just didn't feel that we were being supported enough.
I also feel that the gratuity rate of 18% is somewhat high, compared to the 15% on Cunard, Princess and other Carnival lines. We prefer to tip ourselves and usually have the automatic daily gratuity removed from the outset. I could hardly contain my anger when, at the end of the cruise, I found a set of envelopes with suggested tipping amounts left on our bed. I feel quite strongly that we should not be subsidising the crew's wages but are happy to reward good service. Cruise companies as a whole should pay their staff what they believe they are worth and this should be reflected in the price of the cruise.
One of the best things we did find was that the kids club activities for our 9 year old granddaughter were excellent. She thoroughly enjoyed herself and was well looked after.
So in summary, whilst the itinerary was good, we left the ship feeling disappointed that the cruise was not all it could have been. We paid a lot of money for 5 people and feel that the money could have been better spent elsewhere. It was our first time with Celebrity and sadly, it will also be our last.
Cabin was clean and adequate. Bed comfortable.
Toilet roll abysmal - yes I know that they cannot have people blocking up the somewhat fragile vacuum system with your average Andrex 2-ply but this stuff was so poor that it was practically useless.