by Jackie Vickers
January 18, 2011
Embarkation: A breeze. Arrived at the terminal at 10.45, went through express check-in, on board sipping champagne at 11.20. Headed for the buffet and enjoyed a great lunch by the window. We were docked at right angles to the Oasis of the Seas-what a behemoth! The cabins were ready at 1 p.m. and the luggage arrived by 3.15. Checked out our dining room location (a table for 8 on the main floor, centre), did the muster drill and got unpacked.
Our cabin: An outside on deck 2 mid ship just down the hall from the cabin we had in 2008, but looking much better after the refurbish-rather subdued décor but quite classy. New flat screen T.V. Very comfortable bed. The only wear and tear I noticed was a little rust on the bottom of the window. We met our room attendant who was very helpful and efficient-we asked to have the beds put together the next morning as one king because of the room configuration but it was done when we came back after dinner.
Main Dining Room: We had early seating and great table mates-4 more Canadians and a couple from Ohio. Thoroughly enjoyed them all. Our waiter was very good and the assistant was outstanding. He was ill one night and we all noticed the difference in the flow of the meal without him. Our maitre'd was a woman from Brazil who was at our table, and everyone's, every single night-somewhat unusual in my experience. Maybe a little over-zealous. DH complained to her about the bitter coffee one night and she immediately tore into the assistant waiter which was not warranted (in my opinion). The overall food was excellent-well prepared, well presented and served. My husband did make one bad choice-pork belly. Not sure why this is even on the menu-90% fat, and on one occasion my soup must have been made with salt water.
The Buffet: On previous cruises we've very seldom used the buffet-too busy and too repetitive. This time, however, we had lunch there 4 or 5 times. It never seemed to be overly crowded; we always found a window seat. And there was a huge selection to choose from-the usual hot entrees, made to order salads, Asian food, British food, pizza, made to order pasta, and custom made paninis. And yes! They still have trays and waiters to carry the tray if needed.
The Aqua Spa Café: This was our other choice for lunch. Not a huge selection but very unusual, very healthy cuisine-you had to ask for butter! You could order grilled chicken, salmon or pork chop. There was a choice of 3 or 4 salads, plus marinated fruits and a couple of low cal desserts. The café is located inside the solarium which can be a little steamy but once again we were always able to find a table by an open window.
Specialty Restaurants: This was our 13th cruise and the first time we ever ate in a surcharge restaurant-and very glad we did! We chose Ocean Liners and the meal and service were beyond expectation. I had steak and lobster, my husband opted for just lobster. After an appetizers of scallops and a goat cheese soufflé, I could (should) have had dessert and called it a night. I managed half the fillet and half the lobster but my husband was happy to help out. He also managed crepes for dessert which were prepared table side. A very memorable evening. This restaurant was very well attended but not so the Tuscan Grill which is a new addition. Not sure why but never saw anyone there. We had full intentions of trying the Bistro on Five but ran out of time and appetite. There were also two "Brunches at Sea" which were served in the Dining Room and were really over the top-there was literally everything-even caviar. But no crab or lobster.
The Entertainment: Celebrity has been our cruise line of choice for quite a few years but we've always thought the entertainment was lacking. Not so on this cruise. The resident singers and dancers were exceptional and they introduced a new show called Neverland. It was very ambitious for a cruise production with lots of special effects and fantastic costumes. We also got a very entertaining pianist, a very talented female singer from Vancouver and a magician (actually slight of hand artist). And our favorite Perry Grant did a great show in the theatre one night but I still think he is better suited to Michaels Club, which was SRO every night he performed there. There was also one of the best acapella (?) groups I've ever heard and a female string quartet who performed in different venues.
Public Areas: The new ice martini bar is a nice touch with juggling bartenders. There are also new wine dispensing machines on Deck 5 adjacent to the new Bistro on 5. The rendezvous lounge looks great with all new furniture ( maybe recovered). But the biggest improvement is Reflections, formerly the Bar at the Edge of the Earth-what a difference! This now has to be one of the most beautiful lounges afloat-we were there every day for sail away and sometimes during the day just to relax and enjoy the expansive view. The pool area was probably the most crowded public area, especially on sea days. The Thallasotherapy pool was never very crowded which was a pleasant surprise and the spa was well maintained. There was also no pressure to buy spa products. I really enjoyed the Persian Gardens! The casino was always bright and busy and thankfully smoke free. The internet café was well staffed-one IT spent over 20 minutes trying to figure out why my cell phone wouldn't work-not part of his job description I'm sure.
On Board Activities: The usual trivia, scrap booking, pool games, dance classes etc. during the day. Many more choices at night. One of the main reasons why everyone (that I spoke to) enjoyed this cruise was the Cruise Director Sue Denning. In a word, she was amazing. Not sure if she ever slept. On port days, she was there when we disembarked, was at karaoke, in the disco, did a trivia, a scarf demo, and she sang in the farewell show. I've never seen such a visible CD. She is a former music hall entertainer and actress from Britain and a genuine people person.
The Crew and Officers: They were all very friendly and accessible, always smiling and acknowledging you, from the cleaners all the way up to the Captain, who was very personable. He did a question and answer session along with the Chief Engineer, the CD and one other officer where he displayed his great sense of humor. He had started at the bottom as a painter and worked his way to the top so he related well to all those working behind the scenes. He also did a walk through the dining room one evening, chatting to as many as he could, including a young boy at the next table, even posing for a picture.
The Itinerary: There were 8 ports of call, none new for us but we revisited some of our favorites. We did one cruise shore excursion to the beach in Barbados, other than that we did our own thing. We did 2 "stay-on-the-ship-port-days" along with 5 days at sea which was perfect for us. I noticed that the photographers were far less pushy when you disembarked-one "no thank you" was enough. Along with the cold cloths and drinks on your return, they now set up a small seating area with wicker furniture on a rug under a gazebo!
Disembarkation: We are Elite members of the Captains Club so we took advantage of the departure lounge in the cinema where a continental breakfast was set up. Once again, not at all crowded although there were 400 Elites on this cruise. We were off the ship at 8.30, got the cruise shuttle to the airport and were checked in at 9.30. And we were worried that we might not make our 12.30 flight?
I can't imagine anyone not enjoying this cruise. Very restricted smoking areas, no in-room announcements, no reams of paper from the Art Gallery or Spa. And a dress code that was adhered to by 95% of the passengers. I think our days of trying other cruise lines are over-we'll stick with Celebrity.