We were also somewhat underwhelmed this time, though a "bad" day on a cruise ship still beats a good day at work, right?
Part of the issue is that, except for one show last time, everything was pretty near perfect on the Eclipse last spring and so there was a very high bar set for comparison.... from the ship's personnel, to the meals, to the entertainment, etc. We enjoyed most of the shows this cruise, except that we walked out on "Cosmopolitan" when they got into the rap/hip-hop stuff and we were kind of suffering a bit before that because it seemed that the lack of monitors for the performers and having the band on the side little loge box had the singers off on their timing and their pitch. We also didn't care for the "She's a little bit country and he's a little bit Rock & Roll" night, but we enjoyed all the rest, including the comedians. We agree that the rest of the music around the ship was not nearly as good or versatile as on the Eclipse.
Unfortunately, Blu was not at all up to the quality we experienced last time. The Maitre' D was always running around and asking how things were, but to do so he'd interrupt you right in the middle of a conversation, which I found to be a bit rude. And, it seems that no one on that ship can cook an egg without it having a lot of uncooked, runny white... regardless of whether it was in Blu or the Oceanview, and regardless of whether you asked for poached or over medium. Blu's menus felt rather "average," and the food was sometimes average or below. Bob had a bunch of melted plastic on his bacon one morning to go along with his uncooked eggs, and we had to send several dishes back during the cruise including tuna steak that was ordered rare to medium rare and came out well done. It was very inconsistent... surprisingly, some meals were great and others just meh.
Tuscan Grille was wonderful, as was The Porch (though I had to convince them that "cocktail sauce" should not taste like straight-up ketchup, but they went and got some horseradish fixed it). The seafood tower was delicious, as was the lobster bisque. QSine was good for one go-round. Had fun, but wouldn't do it again. The "effects" were very short and the menu very limited, and the lobster tail was very small. The aged filet was perfect, though. We still think the upcharges for the specialty restaurants are too high, and since they all seemed to be fairly empty, Celebrity may want to rethink their pricing. We did Sushi on 5 the last two days for lunch and loved it (the premium drink package made for a nice sake tasting). If you can get beyond the fact that you're paying for lunch when you've basically already paid for lunch elsewhere with your cruise fare, their prices are very comparable to sushi restaurants elsewhere, the food was delicious and the service was great. The service in ALL the specialty restaurants was spot on. But may I just say that I LOATHE paper straws??? Yuck!!!
Our room steward was OK. She took care of everything we asked her for directly, but if we brought drinks or food to our cabin, she did not remove the dirty plates or glasses unless we put them out into the hall, which we found surprising. Also we have no idea what that stuff was that she was putting in the carafe in our room, but it looked awful... especially when it started doing a spontaneous fermentation and forming a pellicle.
Bob had a great time at several liquor tastings, and the mixology class was great (over two hours!). I was a bit disappointed in the activities offered onboard as, except for the paper airplane competition, they seemed unimaginative and not very creative or interesting. No flash mob, no choir, nothing that I'd consider exciting or unique (except for the silent disco, of course). I was not impressed by the Cruise Director nor the Activities Director, but we were very spoiled by having Eddy as the Cruise Director and Giuseppe as the Activities Director last cruise. Not sure how Eddy would be with a different AD, but he and Giuseppe together were sooo entertaining!!! Delighted to see that Giuseppe is now a CD. We find it disappointing that something like 80% of the "activities" were sales-related. Personally, I do not go on cruises to shop (except for stocking our bar when we get to St. Maarten). I did enjoy meeting you folks at the roll call gathering in Cellar Masters and had fun hanging out with a bunch of you throughout the week. Having it in Cellar Masters made it a little difficult to mingle due to the layout ( I think Quasar or the Sky Lounge might be a little better for that type of gathering), but it's always nice when they set those events up and have all the primary officers and staff attend.
The Martini Bar is always fun and delicious. It, and the World Class Bar were our favorites. Last time we enjoyed the outdoor bars quite a bit, but there was too much smoking at this them time and the bartenders just seemed to be doing their jobs and not enjoying themselves like we'd seen on previous cruises. They seemed to lack the "fun factor" that makes you want to hang out there.
We enjoy Café Al Bacio more and more every time we cruise Celebrity. The coffee drinks are amazingly good and the staff is marvelous... they're like a bunch of Energizer bunnies (maybe it's the caffeine, ha-ha!) and are always cheery even though they seem to work ridiculously long hours. We love stopping in there in the morning for our (delicious) morning caffeine fix and then back at night after the show for a decaffeinated "nightcap" and dessert.
Having not been to St Thomas or St Croix before, I was somewhat neutral on the port change with the exception of having to cancel a great excursion we had planned for St Croix. Now having visited St Thomas, I can understand why you were all so disappointed.... definitely our least favorite port on this cruise and our least favorite excursion. Enjoyed all the other islands though. The Cosol Tour on St Lucia was great (again!) and we loved, loved, loved the Silver Moon snorkeling trip on Barbados! Grenada was soooo lush and tropical, and I'd go to St Kitts again in a heartbeat. Bob had to go it alone on Dominica because I was a bit under the weather that morning. He found the hike to the Emerald Pool to be a bit much in the humidity and heat, but lived to tell about it. :-)
Although we were originally kind of disappointed to go from a 14-day itinerary to only 12 days, we think it worked out very nicely with having the weekend to recover before going back to work. Also, arriving in on Friday instead of Sunday and having only one other ship in the port made for a much more relaxing return. Clearing the port and getting our luggage went very smoothly. All the alcohol we bought on St Maarten made it safely. We were actually able to snag an Avis shuttle somewhat quickly to get us to the rental car location and traffic was very light from the drive out of town, unlike the horrendous Sunday morning gridlock when a half dozen ships have thousands and thousands of passengers coming and going. Our ride home was very smooth and uneventful (and actually kind of fun since they gave us a Dodge Challenger.... vrooooom!!!).
Now counting the days until our next vacation....