by Manish Gupta
December 14, 2006
We just returned from this cruise and were left with several strong impressions about the overall experience. We have been on several cruises, but 1st cruise with our 1 year old daughter. This was a 7 day cruise originating from Ft. Lauderdale to the Caribbean, that went to the following ports: Dominican Republic (Casa de Campo), Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and Nassau.
Overall, we found Celebrity Cruises to offer excellent, friendly service throughout the ship. This included the different dining rooms (main dining, Premium restaurant (The Olympic), casual dining, ocean cafe - where they escort you with your buffet plate if you need help carrying your food, Sushi bar, Pizza, and pool grill). The state room attendants and room service were also first class, being very responsive and considerate to us and our baby who celebrated her first birthday on the ship. We found the Sommeliers to be the brightest folks to liven up the dining experience. The presentation of the food was also very good. Several premium spirits, wines are even tastings are offered, which make for a more unique experience.
The best Ports were Puerto Rico and St. Thomas. In PR, we took a shore excursion to the Bacardi Rum Distillery and City tour…this was fantastic, the only complaint was that we didn't have enough time to do everything! Our little one even enjoyed herself here and at the huge fort near the port we had docked. St. Thomas, was hot, but beautiful. The tram to the top, was a quick way to get a dynamic view of the terrain and coastline. This port is definitely a shopping Mecca, that doubles the amount of alcohol that can be imported back to the US.
Our biggest frustration and disappointment, however, was in the overall diversity of the ships food choices and people - both the other cruisemates and staff. I grew up in the US and am of Indian origin, having lived in the US all of my life, aside from basic ignorance or curiosity, I honestly never felt a hint of discrimination toward me or my family because of our heritage or diverse tastes. I did not find this to be direct on the cruise, but several experiences over the course of the week, let us to this comment. For starters, if you are a "meat & potatoes" type, this is a great cruise for you, as there are virtually no choices - except for Sushi - of Asian, Mexican or Middle eastern food, e.g. Indian (no curries, tandoori chicken, naan, dosas, etc), Chinese (not even a single egg roll, peking duck, dim sum, etc), Thai (no Pad Thai, Panang curries, Satay, Lebanese (no falafel, gyros, hummus) , Spanish/Mexican (no paella, or even Tex-mex fajitas, burritos, etc.)….with food being such a big part of the experience, we found that lack of spice to leave a very bland taste in our mouth.
As we had been on cruises before, we never had a problem with this, and actually look forward to this part of the cruise. We did ask several of the staff from these parts of the world, why this was the case. We were told that Celebrity doesn't keep the spices on board, that mostly Americans travel on this ship and they don’t eat this type of food….well, that didn't seem very American to us, as the US thrives on diverse cuisine, as does the UK where many passengers were also from. This striking difference coupled with what we perceived as significantly fewer Asian staff - which we learned Celebrity had stopped recruiting compared to other cruise lines.
We also felt slighted a few times when we were seated in the main dining room for lunch and the Olympic Restaurant. These were open/unassigned seating, however, when asked to be seated on a different table, and there were plenty available, which were not afterward used, we felt that the maitre'd did not want to seat us on the better the tables. This didn't happen every time, but enough to feel like he wanted to put us to the side, or "out of site" from the other guests. Now, I think we are good looking couple in our mid-30s and got many compliments on our daughter's behavior and our appearance, but we did not feel like we received due importance or interest initially…we did however, get excellent service after being seated at the table. We also didn't see nearly as many Asian families, as expected, despite this being a 2000+ passenger ship.
For the kids under 3, there isn't much help here. We did get baby sitting one night, but it seemed to be hard to get and booked for other couples we had met. The kids pool was broken, although there were nearly 40 young children sailing, and there were NO high chair available except for the last lunch of the cruise.
So, all in all, a great experience, regarding the service quality and food quality of the continental and Italian variety, but much to be desired in the diversity of the food selections and the people - both cruisemates and employees - along for the experience.