by John Gawne
June 17, 2002
Using directions from the Maryland Port Authority website, we arrived at the terminal after a 4 hour drive from southeastern Virginia. After paying $55 parking, we were guided to a place to unload luggage, and then directed to a parking area. With carryon luggage we boarded an air-conditioned bus and were driven to the passenger terminal. After a few minutes in line we completed the paper work and sat, boarding number in hand, until our number was called, about one hour in all. Very smoothly handled.
We had booked an inside quad with two upper bunks for our 12 and 14 year olds. The cabin was adequate, with two closets, a large shower, dressing table, two bedside tables with drawers, two chairs, TV. The TV could be used to review accounts, order from the limited room service menu, and watch CNN, TNT, in house movies both free and pay, Discovery Channel, music channels, and even gamble. Since we had brought our own wine (two cases checked with luggage), the room steward(ess) provided both a wine ice bucket and a regular ice bucket and ice water, and two champagne glasses, refilled twice a day. Behind the dressing table mirror was a huge cabinet and the safe. The area served as a fine wine cabinet! The bathroom contained a conditioner/shampoo dispenser and a hand lotion dispenser, as well as a fine selection of toiletries, including cotton balls, q-tips, etc.
The schedule of dress was:
Day Two, at sea, quite rainy off the coast of the Carolinas. Wine tasting event in the afternoon $8 each. Each day for lunch on the Resort Deck near the Oasis Pool there is a grill that daily served variations for lunch: Paella, shish kebob, taco/burrito, Asian, ribs & chicken BBQ, etc. My favorite lunch spot. Welcome aboard party before formal dinner. LONG lines for formal portraits. As much as an hour in line. The show was Broadway Express, and quite good. People tended to stay in formal dress all evening. There are many quiet, uncrowded areas on the ship to sit and read, or just relax.
Day Three, Charleston. Rain cleared up. We visited the Marketplace for souvenirs, just 1 ½ blocks from the pier, where many people took carriage ride tours.$55 for a family of 4. There are many restaurants in the area. We boarded a trolley bus for $1 each and had the same tour, stopping in Battery Park to view and take photos of Fort Sumter. It also passed the Charleston Museum and Visitor Center. We then went to Hyman's Seafood/Aaron's Deli, on Meeting Street, a local institution, where a bottle of wine was only $11 and the seafood and deli sandwiches were great. Charming, management visited every table. That evening was our first visit to the casino, which has nickel slots as well as the others, Minimum credit is $20, for which they gave us $10 cash and 10 in nickels. The show was a comedian, and we skipped it.
Day Four, At Sea. Found that Eggs Benedict were available every day in the dining room for breakfast! A wonderful, warm relaxing day at sea. The pool chairs are all cushioned and the daily newspaper points out that unattended belongings left over 30 minutes will be removed by attendants for safekeeping. No problem finding chairs. The gym opens at 6am, is not crowded and has the usual assortment of exercise machines, weights, etc. Internet Café charges are 95 cents a minute, no minimum, and we ran up WAY too much on the Internet.
Day Five, At Sea. Warm and sunny. Watched Lord of the Rings in the theatre. 50's/60's night in the lounges..interesting since it was the second formal night. Odd.
Day Six, St. Thomas. Took taxi from pier ($7 each) to Coki Beach to snorkel. No admission fee, free restrooms/shower. Vendors have chairs, drinks, etc. Plenty of fish, particularly because people feed them. Taxi back to ship, quick shower and off to the shops at Havensight adjacent to the pier. Best liquor price was at A.H Cohen's across the street. My 14-year-old son was suffering from a sore throat and after dinner we took him to the medical center onboard, where the doctor examined him, tested for strep to rule it out, and dispensed penicillin tablets. Cost $67 for office visit, $32 for step test, and $11 for pills. Provided forms for us to file with our insurance company. Cost is very comparable to costs at home. It worked, too. Tex/Mex late night buffet and dancing around the pool.
Day Seven, Sunday, St. Maarten. We decided that taking taxis was running a lot, and decided to rent a car on the pier from Budget. Had a Toyota Corolla, air-conditioned for $43 including tax for the day. Having been to the island several times but only having visited Philipsburg and Orient Beach, we decided to drive to Grand Case on the French side, and found an empty public beach where we saw some of the biggest starfish I have ever seen. Scenery very French. Would have enjoyed eating there. Drove to Marigot, the French main city. Unfortunately it was Sunday, and most shops were closed at 1:45pm, but restaurants were open. We did drive up and then climb up to Fort St. Louis, the historic fort overlooking the city and harbor. Wonderful views and photos. Drove back to Philipsburg parked and shopped. Ended the day at EveryT'ings Cool enjoying food and beverages overlooking the beach. After sail away and casual dinner, we spent the night in lounges dancing.
Day Eight, Monday, San Juan. Immigration checks from 7-8:30am for all. We debarked and walked to the nearest corner to the Parada sign where the free trolley stops. About 11 boarded one for the ride to El Morro. $3 admission. Walked back to Old San Juan in a light shower. Shopped along the way. Ended up at Hard Rock Café for lunch. Service is slow. The RCL Crown and Anchor club down the street went out of business and is for sale. On the way back to the ship stopped at the Chamber of Commerce center near pier 1 (two blocks to the left of our pier) where there is an open rum bar courtesy of Bacardi. Tonight's theme was Island Night, and the late night buffet was a tropical food, fruit, and sherbet night around the pool. The show was an outstanding performance of Cirque de Galaxy with acrobats, dancers, and the adagio duo.
Day Nine, At Sea. Second day with formal and informal afternoon tea, and wine tasting. A hot, sunny, relaxing day enroute the Bahamas. I loved to sit on the open teak deck astern behind the garden pool on Resort Deck. There were tables, chairs, umbrellas, and overlooking wake. Food and drink close by. Skipped the show, dancing after dinner.
Day Ten, Nassau. A short day. Passengers cleared ashore at 8am, and due back by 12:45pm. Taxi to Paradise Island public beach access for $4 pp and $1 toll. Sandy beach, crystal clear water, few fish. Vendors provide jet skis, parasail, beverages and chairs. After 90 minutes in the hottest sun of the week, we walked to the Atlantis resort for a self-tour. We used the restrooms, viewed the shops, casino, and public areas including the aquarium where we saw sharks, stingrays, and lot of fish, all for free. Well worth the visit. Taxi back to Strawmarket, which is still in temporary tent location, then walked back to ship. Last formal night. Show after dinner was Concert in B with singers, dancers and the adagio duo. Le Grand Buffet in the Dining Room with photos from 1145-1215am, and buffet open 1215-1:30am.
Day 11, At Sea. Another relaxing day with no real agenda. Reality
sets in: We debark tomorrow. Packing, bags out by 11pm.
Overall comments: The ship is spotless. There are hardly any announcements. They were not really hustling alcohol. Padded lounges in pool areas, ample towels, including special large ones for days ashore. They take but were not pushing photos. The movie selection in the theatre included: Moulon Rouge, Lord of the Rings, Princess Diaries, Ali, K-Pax, Jurassic Park 3, The Score, Swordfish, and Osmosis Jones. First rate. There is no buffet at dinner. The only alternative dining is room service or casual dining by reservation in the garden area by the Oasis Pool. Same menu, suggested $2 pp tip. The buffet has no breakfast variety..same every day. There is an omelet/eggs to order station, and they have eggbeaters. Some type of breakfast is available somewhere 7-11:30 every day. Lunch buffet is 11:30 - 2pm, including pasta stations, with pizza and burgers available later. Lunch buffet was mostly uninteresting. Dining rooms seatings are 6 and 8:30pm. Entrees included plenty of fish and pasta, steaks, roast beef and prime rib, filet mignon, lobster, lamb steaks and roast, chicken and duck. Mini-pizzas are available through room service. Great! The smoking convention is: smokers on the port side of public areas, starboard is smoke free. Very few exceptions were observed. There were very active programs for young children (under 10), a Youth program (Ensigns) for 10-12, and a Teen Program for 13-17..which few appeared to use. Agenda was provided to each room daily. The Youth and Teen programs participants are free to come and go as desired. Vibration. On lower decks, and aft, including the dining room have VERY noticeable vibration any time the ship is underway, not just entering/leaving port. Every time they speed up or turn. At breakfast the last day entering Baltimore, while we were sitting in the Dining Room, the vibration was so bad every glass and piece of silver rattled.
This was our 13th cruise, the first over 7 days. We loved the 11
days. I don't want constant action and enjoy sea days. I enjoy having
the option to go to shows or casinos or not. I enjoy having dancing
opportunities. I don't like to be hustled for drinks and photos.
We weren't. Even in the buffet the waiters take your tray and carry
it to find you a seat. Service is superb. We loved it. I would definitely
cruise Celebrity again.