by Angie Davidson
February 3, 2002
Our adventure began Feb.3, 2002--first time on a megaship and first cruise with Celebrity. And this is my first experience doing a review. It'll just be my impressions and perceptions. Bottom line: We had a good time and felt Celebrity did an excellent job.
About UsWe're 59 and 63 y/o married travel junkies from the Midwest. We LOVE exploring this great world of ours. Sometimes we do it by cruising:
NCL: Southward-Western Caribbean
Ocean Cruise Line: Ocean Princess- Nice to Venice
Royal Cruise Line: Crown Odyssey- Spain, Morocco, Canary Islands, Portugal
Royal Cruise Line: Crown Odyssey- Scandinavian Capitals and St. Petersburg
HAL: Maasdam- Alaska Inside Passage
Oberoi: Sheherayar- Nile River-Luxor to Aswan
Bergdousolu: 92 ft. Turkish gulet (14 passengers)-6 days along Turkey's Turquoise Coast
In December, the mail kept bringing cruise brochures. A warm, mindless, relaxing get-away began sounding very good. Surfing the Internet, Travelocity had a cruise-only 1C balcony cabin on the Millennium for slightly > 50% off brochure rate. We had heard good things about Celebrity and had never been to any of the ports, so we booked it. Within 8 days we had pre-cruise information and all travel documents from Celebrity confirming our cabin and dining requests. Later, we booked the one shore excursion we did on Celebrity's website and the tickets were delivered to our cabin.
We booked our own air and hotel and went to FLL a day ahead. Stayed at the Best Western Marina right across the waterway from the port. Their airport shuttle picked us up and our room was pleasant and clean. We had a good dinner there in the outdoor dining area adjacent to the pool where there was music. It's right across the street from the Pier 99 water taxi stop which we meant to do. But after the usual hassle to tie up things at work and home and get out the door, we decided to just crash and relax.
The hotel had a shuttle to the port at 12:45 PM, but we wanted to go earlier and took a cab. Arrived at the pier at 11:30 AM and were onboard in about 10 minutes. Very smooth. They took our departure flight information there so debarkation time could be assigned, saving us having to do that later in the cruise. Good idea. The card received serves multiple purposes: cabin key, onboard charge card, and security card for leaving and re-boarding the ship in ports. It's keyed to your photo via the computer system. We left our carry-ons in the cabin and walked through the ship to the Ocean Cafe for lunch. First impression: Maybe we've made a big mistake. Looks like a hotel, not a ship, and too many people. Happily, we settled into our own routine, didn't feel crowded, and came to appreciate and really enjoy the many beautiful public areas.
A 1C (#7185) port side aft on Vista Deck. We loved it! Very comfortable. Plenty of room and storage with queen-sized bed, sofa, chair, coffee table, etc. The balcony was great with the clear panels below the rail so the view was unobstructed. It was wonderful to sit out there in my bathrobe with morning coffee or lie in bed with the door and drapes open looking at and listening to the sea. We always slept with the door open. The cabin was very quiet. It had a connecting door, but the only time we ever heard our neighbors was when they were on their balconies and we had our door open. Announcements from the bridge are the only ones that go into the cabins, so the only one we heard was for the lifeboat drill. The provided bathrobes were really cozy,comfy material but not as heavy as terry cloth. They left them for use the final night and morning. Big towels for beach use are also provided-replaced as used- and picked up the final evening. Our steward, Phillipe, from India provided friendly, flawless service. The water and ice were great--first on a ship that had no "funny" taste.
Smells wonderful --with soothing New Age music playing and beautiful fresh and permanent flowers. There's a lovely sitting area with wicker furniture just above it. We always enjoy buying flowers from street vendors for cabins or hotel rooms, but since our first day and a half were at sea, we picked out an assortment of flowers for $20 and arranged them in a large glass in our cabin. They were still beautiful as we left the ship.
The Young Duo played good dance music before and after dinner in the Rendezvous Lounge. Ron and Sharon were the dance instructors--very intimidating on the dance floor. But they had dance classes most days and were very personable and made the several classes we attended fun. Cosmos had a larger dance floor, but the room seemed to be used more for bingo and games. There was a DJ late evenings but almost no live music there.
Good cappuccino and amaretto coffee--not free, but very reasonably priced. Frequently had pianist or string quartet playing there. Nice.
Gorgeous, comfortable room.
Online @ Celebrity
Nice having internet access available, but expensive-$0.95/minute.
Great place--so pretty with the teak lounge chairs, trees, and statues. The pool was WONDERFUL--so relaxing, just the right temperature, and never crowded when we were there.
Nice equipment with treadmills facing floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bow. But not much air stirring. After one time, we opted for walking the outdoor track in the fresh air, sunshine, and breeze.
We had some nice breakfasts, lunches, and afternoon tea there. It always FELT crowded to me because there were always a lot of people there. But, actually, I never waited in line to get a tray. And we always ate on the aft deck where there are lovely teak tables (with umbrellas) and chairs. Magically, there was always a place for us with no waiting.
We had late seating, table 502--in the very back right by the aft window overlooking the captain's table--which was a good location. It didn't seem as closed in as some of the tables we walked past going in. Our waiter was Yunus form Turkey--very conscientious, hard working, and experienced and graciously helped us resurrect our really limited Turkish vocabulary. Assistant waiter was Peter--a cute young cheeky Aussie (our first experience with waitstaff whose native language is English) who had excellent suggestions on menu choices. They, along with the two other very nice couples we shared the table with, made dinners very enjoyable. The first thing I ate there was probably my favorite--wonderful mushrooms in pastry appetizer. We didn't do the Olympic--heard mixed reviews from those who did. Some thought it was outstanding; others thought it took too long and preferred the restaurant food. We meant to try the alternative dining in the Ocean Grill but never got around to it. In hindsight, the night leaving St. Thomas would have been a good time--my least favorite restaurant night.
Had lunch there once--very tasty food.
Absolutely perfect! Had coffee and juice every morning, breakfast twice, pizza once, iced tea numerous times. (I'm originally from the South and I know iced tea, and it was GREAT--first for that on a ship.) The night after San Juan we couldn't face putting our shoes back on, so we ordered from the restaurant menu and everything arrived exactly as ordered at the perfect temperatures. My husband had a complete dinner and I had 2 appetizers, 2 soups, a salad, and that yummy rum raisin ice cream. All delicious!
The shows are sometimes before and sometimes after dinner, which was different. We went to all except one (the night after San Juan). Except for the last night, we really enjoyed them. Thien Fu (Vietnamese comedian/juggler) was a hoot. The production numbers were very good--sets, lighting, music, dancing all well done. I especially loved the Broadway one. I can never get enough of Les Mis.
Non-existent. There were only talks on TV on organized shore excursions and shopping talks about stores with connections with Celebrity.
On two levels with a good, large selection of books.
The outdoor pool area always looked like a mob scene. There were, however, plenty of lounge chairs on the deck above and comfortable padded chairs in quiet areas along Deck 4.
There was a broad range of ages (strollers to wheelchairs) and nationalities ( mostly US, but a lot of Canadians and Brits and a number of people speaking Spanish and German). All seemed to be having a good time, well behaved and considerate.
We walked from the ship to San Cristobal Fort then along the old city walls and water over to El Morro, exploring each one and enjoying the spectacular views from the ramparts. Then we walked through the Old Town, admiring the painted doors and houses with wrought iron balconies and flower boxes, had cappuccino from a kiosk in the central Plaza and visited with some locals. Good afternoon.
After a lazy start, we took the tender to the island and strolled quite a way along the water's edge then found a couple of isolated lounge chairs under some palm trees and relaxed and read for several hours.
Immigration appearance only necessary for non-US citizens now. We did our only shore excursion here--St. Johns National Park Sightseeing. There was a pleasant ferry ride from the pier to St. Johns with narration on the sights we passed. Then a safari bus ride through the island with stops at beautiful beaches and overlooks and the driver pausing to point out interesting plants and trees with wonderful smells and textures. After returning to the St. Thomas pier, we took a shared taxi into town. Ugh! Breathing exhaust fumes in gridlock traffic is not my idea of a tropical island experience. But, we had the driver take us up to Hotel 1829 after dropping the others in the shopping area. Had a drink on the veranda, enjoying the view, explored the upper level Arts and Crafts shop then walked down into town. My crankiness was cured and we enjoyed a nice lunch in an outdoor cafe on a pedestrian-only street and walked along the water back to the ship.
>From the ship, we walked along the shore-front road to Ft. Charlotte and then on the Ardastra Gardens and Zoo and saw the flamingo show. Took a cab back into town and had wonderful conch chowder and fritters on an upper level veranda of a restaurant on one of the shopping streets.
We don't travel to shop. My meager purchases were souvenir spoons for my collection, Del Rey color-change T shirts for the kids, pirate stuff for a grandson, some neat paper doll sets from El Morro with traditional Puerto Rican and Caribbean outfits for a granddaughter, and the "Under the Captain's Table" book onboard. Our dining companions were knowledgeable shoppers and felt they found better bargains on jewelry, etc. in the shops on the ship than in the towns.
Ports with 4-6 huge cruise ships there at once are not great places to be. We really want to do a crossing and will go with QE2 for traditional style and because the big new ships just look too top heavy to me for that. However, for a resort type vacation experience where you can also enjoy being on the sea, we would definitely sail with Celebrity again. They provided a very high quality experience with flawless service. We're thinking another Celebrity cruise would make a great family vacation with the kids and grandkids.