by Marian L
March 8, 2003
What a great way to celebrate a birthday! The weather was perfect, a warm 86 degrees and sunny the entire cruise, except for a brief spell in Naussau and the day we came home (the skies perhaps crying along with us as the vacation was over?). The 70,000 ton ship seemed not so large as we had booked a sky suite and spent breakfast and lunch on the veranda with no lines to wait in.
Since we were in the suite, it had its amenities including butler service (more about Desmond later), high tea and canapies and newspaper delivered daily/nightly, early embarkation and disembarkation (we were the last to be allowed to be called for customs, allowing us to sleep that extra half hour or so and no lines to wait==just hand in our papers and walk through), use of the spa daily with no charge for the pool.
The suite allowed more than enough room, with a queen size bed, a sofa, a chair and table to eat inside, plenty of storage and closet space, and a whirlpool tub. The bathroom had plenty of storage space as well. Our cabin steward and his assistant were always very pleasant but we fell in love with Desmond, our butler. (Could it have been because he gave me a large birthday card? chocolate covered strawberries? and when he found out we liked proscutto/melon and fish, he gave us two dishes--one of our favorites and one of the changed daily canapies?He always gave us a large fruit dish he made up himself either at breakfast or, if we were dining in, at lunch time.) He was always prompt when called, was unintrusive, smiling the whole time and such a gentleman--truly lives up to what a butler should be. We exchanged addresses and life stories and hope we have made a new friend for life. The ship, although not new, was beautiful and spotless. Although we did not go to the shows at night(prefering to spend our time in the dining room) and during the day (except for the intellectual scavenger hunt in which I lost 5 pounds running around the ship--lucklily, it was after lunch!), we spent most of our time in the Crystal Room--it was to be named Bubbles--go inside and look at the walls to see why).
The RendezVous Lounge was much too crowded and too smoky for us and we found the Crystal Room perfect--quiet, the two bands were great (Extasea--who got you in the mood with the Caribbean and rock sounds and the Celebrity Orchestra during big band nights). I actually had my first Martini in the Crystal Room-yum--French Martini and a Chocolate Martini!!!They can be very addicting. The Hempisphere Lounge--disc, played very loud and (it seemed all) rap music. We spent one hour there on request night and left it those who would need eardrum replacements at the end of the cruise.
There were some sales at the shops and we rate these and their merchandise as comporable to those on other ships. When I tried to send an email to my job, it never arrived and that was my only acquaintenace with Images (other than the start/end point for the scavenger hunt).The casino, Fortunes, never seemed to pay off, for us or others we were watching. We walked through Islands Cafe to check out the food (the food--wait!) but had the usual daily fare. The food changes out at the pool grills--one side had fried, burgers, hot dogs daily while the grill on the other side changed daily--Italian (the only day we did not have lunch on the veranda), Tex/Mex, etc.
The food in the Grand Restaurant was another story, however. When they found out my husband loved escargots, he had them three nights. Their soups were delightful, cold and hot. Appetizers were the usual fare (the spinach popover was the only bad food I had the entire time on the ship), salads were inventive and the entrees were excellent. They usually had two types of fish nightly, beef, chicken, veal, pasta (limited by itself, usually accompanied by chicken, pork, etc) which was quite good, actually. Deserts were special--we had cherries jubilee, bananas flambe made by our asst. Maitre'd and Bananas foster on the last night. Some of the ice cream had ice crystals in it, however.
The waiting room staff were attentive and we had some interesting conversations with the international staff. Surdjan ("Surgeon") and Mohsin went that extra mile for us, accommodating our every whims (considering we were, as we requested) dining at a table for two! Andrew, our assitant matire'd also was very delightful and delivered that extra special something nightly! We had the occasion to be the guests of the Hotel Manager at the second formal night at the Captain's Table. He also sent us a beautiful floral bouquet and a delicious box of candy to our cabin as well. After clever conversation, delicious delights and wonderful wines (plus a picture of the table with our names as well), the women were presented with a red rose--really a nice touch! The floral department were outstanding--my husband had also ordered a dozen roses (a tradition on each cruise) and a birthday bouquet prior to our cruise which was in our cabin upon embarkation. He also ordered two corsages for me--a beautiful fresia for my birthday, and one for the second formal night--tiny pink roses. When they knew who we were, they kidded, "oh, you are the one who gets all of our vases!" I distributed a rose to each of the ladies who we befriended--our two wine stewards, the bartender in the Crystal Room and Rosa, a dedicated waiter in the dining room.
The highlight of the shore excursion was in the Bahamas--Dolphin Encounter (I would have liked to have swam with them but on Celebrity, this excursion is not an option--if you do this, make sure you have suspenders on your swimsuit, men!) We went snorkeling in St. John's and Great St. James Island while in St. Thomas (water was cold but enjoyable) and walked around in Puerto Rico(having arrived 4:30 pm, too late to do much of beach activities). While in St. Maarten--went to Every'ting Cool which we left after an hour, not even staying for lunch. Band too loud, they pack you side by side (Think Coney Island, New York beaches), and the locales just do not leave you alone--trying to sell their wares. Living in NYC, we just wanted to have some peace and quiet, but alas, no such luck.
However, we did go back to the ship early and enjoyed our time there much better, so it all worked out. As we booked another cruise for Christmas week this year, and one cabin away (we were in 1205 this cruise), I guess you may say we had a great time! Can't wait to see all of our "old new friends" again! I must say that Celebrity "put us up" at the Marriott Marina Hotel, going one day earlier. They had good food both at their intercostal view lunch spot and in their inside restaurant and a great location (across the street from the Ft. Lauderdale Passgenger Ship Terminal). Accommodations were good, and just a relaxing pre-day cruise. I would heartily recommend this hotel and ship for all! P.S. Met my husband on a cruise in 1978 and have been cruising since!