by Cliff Meyers
October 13, 2008
I was the group leader of 117 people who sailed on the Celebrity Galaxy to Greece, Italy and Turkey on October 13, 2008. This was our 28th group cruise and the fourth on Celebrity. The three other cruises were all before Celebrity was purchased by Royal Caribbean.
Embarkation was smooth enough. We arrived at the cruise terminal around 4:00 p.m. after the crowd had boarded. We completed the public health questionnaire (which no one bothered to collect), checked in and boarded the ship.
I went directly to my cabin to drop off my carryon bag. The first thing I noticed was that the hallway lights weren't turned on. Only the sconces on the walls lit the hallways which made it dim. I guess they saved money by not turning on the lights. This was the first example of how they cheapened a nice cruise.
I went to the buffet for a late lunch, which was the usual fare. All cafeteria-type mass market food. Nothing to write home about. Certainly not up to the standards we enjoyed on our 3 previous cruises with Celebrity. There was plenty of room to sit though. Celebrity may have been cheap about many things but the drink prices weren't cheap, that's for sure.
Upon reading the daily activity sheet I noticed that there were going to be three "formal" nights rather than the two that Celebrity's booklet that came with the tickets said. I asked the people at the Reception Desk about it and was told that they've known for a long time that the booklet was wrong. I asked why no one had corrected it and was given a blank look.
I was also dismayed that the dining times were changed from what was advertised. 6:30 p.m. for main seating and a too late 8:45 for late seating. We were told that the times were changed to give people on main seating time to relax before dinner. This was the whole reason for selecting late seating I thought. I completed a comment card which was called oddly enough "Attention to Detail" -- something that was lacking on the ship.
As a group leader, I submitted a listing of which guests should dine at each table. This had been approved by the group coordinator in Miami months before our sailing date. Then a new person took over the job and I was told that there was one problem. The problem was solved to my liking and I thought that the group dining room seating had been finalized. The first dinner in the main dining room proved that I was wrong. Rather than going by my group dining room seating request, the woman just sat people where she wanted them to be, disregarding my request. This was the first time in 28 cruises that our dining room seating request had been disregarded entirely. I complained and completed another "Attention to Detail" comment card but decided not to move everyone to different tables which would have caused more problems.
Now, about the food. The food on our three other cruises with Celebrity had been outstanding so we were really looking forward to some delicious gourmet cuisine. I had read reviews where guests said that the portions were small but I didn't expect what was presented to me. I could have counted the pieces of lettuce in the Caesar salad on one hand. Some of the 3 shrimp in my cocktail weren't peeled. On lobster night they gave us one piece of lobster that tasted of chemicals. The escargot was like rubber. Desserts were not very good so I had ice cream almost every night. We went to the alternative restaurant and the food wasn't any better. The steaks and veal had to be cut with a hack saw. Generally, the food was poor quality and the dishes unimaginative. I couldn't have been more disappointed and everyone in my group agreed. This was not the food of a premium cruise line.
Parts of the ship had been refurbished in April but it was plain to see that not all of the publicized upgrades were made since the ship had been sold. There was a good amount of rust. But my main complaints are mostly in the details. One of my group had a Concierge Class stateroom and her towels didn't match. I had frayed towels. There was mold in my shower. One channel on the TV was a welcome channel with information about the ship which would have been helpful if it had been turned on when I boarded. The aft pool had a waterfall feature which made the floor of the pool slippery. Rather than putting down non-skid flooring it was just turned off. About the much reviewed windows in the Stratosphere observation lounge. Some had obviously been changed -- others were still cloudy but you could look outside if you wanted to. The thing that I noticed was that none of the window shades were at the same level which looked odd.
To sum up, just calling themselves a premium cruise line does not make it so. Celebrity is now just like Royal Caribbean -- offering the same food and service and cutting costs as much as possible. Even their free shopping bags are cheap -- they're made of paper! We were so disappointed that I've canceled our upcoming cruise with Celebrity and my group will sail with a real premium cruise line to Canada and New England next fall.
To add insult to injury, when I called the offices in Miami to discuss the problems we experienced I was told that no one would discuss them with me and that they would only talk with our travel agent. They wouldn't talk with a past guest??? I've never heard of anything like that before from any company.