Critique of Cruise, Vancouver to Tokyo
We booked this trip while on last year's "President's cruise". The process went smoothly and we were well informed of all our amenities. Booking our return flight with Choice Air, with the help of our travel agent went very well, and Choice Air kept us informed of flight changes.
Upon arrival at the ship, all the shoreside personnel were courteous and very professional. As the main check in room was full, there were chairs for us to sit and await our turn to go to the next room. Our Elite status and Aqua Class cabin permitted us to check in very quickly. The boarding process went as on our previous Celebrity cruises, smoothly until we arrived at the point where we actually entered the ship. Both my wife's and my sea card showed that we were already on board. It took several of the ship's security personnel, to bypass that glitch and allow us to board.
Our experience in cruising, had us arrive at the correct time and the cabins were made available just as we arrived. Our Aqua Class cabin was well prepared for our arrival, however my key card would not open our cabin door. The saving factor was that my wife's did and I had the card reprogramed at the passenger service desk. Our cabin was clean, our robes and slippers were in place, as was our chilled Champagne. We were welcomed by Nazareth, our cabin attendant, who was cheerful and attentive to our needs. He informed us of some changes since our last sailing, such as no more bedtime chocolates, and that all battery chargers must be unplugged when we were not in our cabin. As we had done many times, we brought freshly cut flowers to our room and looked for the vase in which to put them, but Nazareth told us the the vases and flowers were no longer being provided. He did however obtain a vase for our flowers. I know that there is a great deal of competition between cruise lines, but a few pennies for the very nice tradition of a chocolate on ones pillow each night, is not a good way for Celebrity to cut costs. On the first full day aboard, we did receive a vase with a nice rose, accompanied by a card from the Captain's Club. Nazareth was a great cabin steward. He always had a great smile, and when he saw us coming, would open our cabin door for us.
The over all appearance of the ship was crisp, clean and very well appointed. The Solstice Class upgrades were tastefully done and the addition of Aqua Class and Blu were very well appreciated. Of note is that if you really want to make this ship more like your Solstice Class ships, the over the head of the bed storage units should be added. We do however travel with much less than most others and the in cabin storage was quite sufficient. The cloths line in the shower is great and should be added to the Solstice Class ships. I think that is great that on each staircase the piece of sculpture has the same theme. As we almost always use the stairs, it helps orient us to whether we are forward, midships or aft. The ship has a fantastic amenity, the self guided art tour. However, when I asked at guest relations for a copy if the tour, I was told that it no longer exists, and that the artwork has been moved, but the signs with the stop numbers are still there. For an art lover, which many are aboard, the self guide tour would be a great experience, at the very small cost of printing the descriptions of the work at each numbered stop.
The mandatory safety briefing went as expected and we were glad when Captain Konstantinos informed us about the delay in embarkation. We very strongly believe that when changes are made, the passengers be promptly kept informed. Openness is essential for good relationships. In addition, at his daily updates, the captain informed us of changes in course and speed, and the reason for such. This is much better than the speculation and rumors that often spread when we are not kept so informed.
The usual first night's entertainment, a taste of what's coming, was well done and Steve the Cruise director is vivacious and an excellent choice for the position. All of the entertainers were quite good and the addition of some matinee shows helped fill the many at sea days. As always the production shows were as good as any on Broadway.
We attended the Art of Tai Chi sessions each morning and Steven and Laurelai were exceptional. They are very knowledgable, informative and with just the right amount of great humor. We had never done tai chi before and learned quite a bit.
The two Beyond the Podium speakers had very nice subject matter, but had a very dry delivery, often reading directly from their notes with little eye contact with the audience. We have had much more dynamic speakers on previous cruises.
Although we only attended one of the iLearn classes, it was great and we are sure that many passengers enjoyed and benefited from the sessions.
We need to use the internet often and for long periods. It is much slower than the shoreside equivalent, which we knew from past experience, so we learned to use it in off peak times and it was acceptable. We will soon become Elite Plus and will be able to take advantage of the additional free internet minutes. Since our last cruise, you have listened to our previous comments and made available the free links tab. We have commented in the past that it would be to your advantage to allow access to celibrity.com without using internet minutes, and you have done that. One new suggestion is that I should be able to purchase additional internet minutes when my time is running low, and before I run entirely out and the system logs me off in the middle of doing something. Another change which we found not to our liking, is that you can only be logged on with one device. I often have the need to be on two devices at the same time. Currently logging to a second device disconnect the first one. We should be allowed to be on more than one device, just charge for the minutes used on each one.
One of the more outstanding features of this cruise was the very high visibility of Captain Konstantinos, who seemed to be constantly walking the ship. I am certain that every things flows from the top down, and in walking about, not only does he speak with the passengers but he also sees first hand how things onboard are being done. On the last night, as we left the show, the captain greeted everyone and thanked us for choosing Celebrity.
The fitness room was excellent with new equipment. The one problem was that because of the time changes, everyone was up early, the devices were quickly occupied and I had to wait for a treadmill. This wasn't a problem and it was nice to see so many doing morning exercise. The men's changing room was a different story. For the first few days there were no locker keys, which wasn't a problem as I never bring valuables, and I just took an empty locker and left it unlocked. The problems arose when they started giving out keys, and someone with an assigned key, found that assigned locker was full with cloths, so he took out the contents and put it on the bench. I suggest that there be no keys, and everyone be informed to not leave valuables in the lockers. The key also becomes a problem when you use the sauna. On other Celebrity ships the key is on a stretchable bracelet, here it's on a cloth necklace with a relatively large cloth pouch, which soak up the water.
The ten dollar sale from the shops was held in an area that was much too small. There was a lot of people pushing and reaching over one another to get to the items. There was also limited control of the collection of payments, increasing the likelihood of theft. On other ships the sale is held in part of one of the dining rooms, which allows more room and the exit door with a cashier just before it controls the payment collection.
Blu, usually is a great experience. Our main reason for choosing Aqua Class, is the ability to enjoy Blu. The service and food usually is as good as any speciality restaurant, however on this voyage both were not up to our expectation. I reported to Vladimir, the maitre d' several service short comings, but they were not corrected. It should be automatic that when the bread is put on the table, so should the butter. If the waiter takes the lobster tail out if the shell fir you, the shell should be put into a separate plate, not your bread plate and left on your table. Artur the person who showed us to our table, after the first night remembered our name and welcomed us by name. That was an excellent addition to our meal.
Q-sine, something everyone should experience at least once. We very much enjoyed the atmosphere, service and food. We ate there as a couple and again as part of a large group, and both were delightful.
Olympic Restaurant, a great dinner ruined. We made a reservation for the five senses dinner, having had many such dinners with paired wines in the past, and none had a limit on the amount if wine. With the second course of porcini and morel risotto, paired with an excellent Barbera d'Asti, I politely asked for more of the wine and was told by the sommelier that there was only one glass of wine per course. The maitre d' came over and told us that each serving of wine was supposed to be only two ounces per course, as it was more of a tasting. It was only after my insistence, and my wife's suggestion that we leave, was I given some more of the wine. The decor, service and food were excellent, but the hassle over the wine ruined the whole experience. Afterward we carefully reviewed the menu with the description of the dinner, and it only states, "food and wine pairing". There is no mention as to how much of each wine. At every other similar dinner, either on a ship or a shoreside restaurant, there was no limit to the amount of wine. If we had known in advance that the meal came with only the equivalent of two glasses of wine, we would not have had that meal.
Elite Wine tasting, was nicely presented by the knowledgeable cellar master, however there needed to be something to clear your palate between wines. A platter with some cheese or even some crackers or bread sticks, would have greatly enhanced the experience.
On several mornings we took advantage of the Elite Breakfast, which was exceptional and we could eat more quickly than in Blu or the dinning room. The food selection was good and the freshly squeezed juices and smoothies was an exceptional addition, as was the cappuccino.
Elite Member Cocktail Hour, is a great incentive to repeat cruising with Celebrity. Since there has been a large increase in the number of Elite members, and there are now too many for any venue on the ship, we very much appreciated the coupons supplied. I suggest that the coupons be the standard on all voyages, as it limits everyone to three drinks, which we think are enough, and it gives us the opportunity to try different bars, or have a pre-dinner drink with people we have met who are not yet Elite members.
Dining, we choose Aqua Class because of our ability to eat in Blu with it's lighter, more healthful menu, and the grater ratio of staff to patrons. However, both the food and service has deteriorated from our previous voyages. We understand that in traditional dining, when you have the same waitstaff for each dinner, they learn your preferences, and accommodate to them, but having to ask several times at each meal for lemon, is not what we have become accustomed. Some of the food combinations were incongruous, such as orange sauce with lobster. We chose on a few evenings, to eat in the main dining room, and found the food generally good, but it has also deteriorated from our past experiences. One evening we chose to eat in the main dining room because of the Moroccan Style lamb shank cooked tandoori style on the menu. It had no relationship to our expectation, instead of being aromatic, with a rich blend of flavorful spices, it was exceeding salty, like it was soaked in heavy brine and not rinsed. The salt went all throughout the meat. In retrospect, we should have sent it back, but we had had a magnificent, large lunch ashore and were not that hungry. At that same meal, I had the Greek Salad, which came with popcorn in it. My wife's did not, so I wonder if it was a mistake or a trick played on me. I commented to our waiter, who said it was supposed to be that way. One of the table captains did discuss the salty lamb and offered another dinner, but we were tired and not hungry.
The hamburger bar was excellent, however the beverage station nearby was out of order for the entire trip, and on the few occasions that we ate there, we needed to go into the Oceanview Cafe to get a beverage. We ate at the Oceanview Cafe infrequently, and found the food mediocre. The pizza, however was quite good. Over all we found that the food was poorer than on previous voyages. It is interesting that at one of the cooking demonstrations put on by executive chef, Andy Bouchard, the necessary ingredients, and cooking utensils were not correct. He in fact commented several times to his assistant, about the short comings. Was this a reflection of the entire kitchen and staff not paying attention to the small details? We expect that on a ship that boasts luxury cruising, the small details are what makes the difference.
Entertainment, was acceptable and the production shows were spectacular. We understand that the larger ships have a greater entertainment budget, and we accept that, but on a fifteen day voyage, we would have expected three or four full cast production shows.
Disembarkation went very smoothly and Japanese customs went more quickly than we expected. The ship's staff were very helpful, and the announcements were clear and easy to understand and follow. The Elite lounge is a very nice place to wait for our time to leave.
Over all we had a good (not great) cruise. It would have been a lot better if the fine details were paid better attention.