Overall Rating: Excellent
|Destination:||Caribbean - Western|
|Departed From:||Ft. Lauderdale, Florida|
|# of Nights:||7 Nights|
|Overall Value:||Very Good|
We booked this cruise as soon as bookings opened so our expectations grew as we watched this ship come to life. By the time we took our cruise, the reviews were coming in quite mixed: some were full of praise, others complained mightily about most things; but we kept an open mind. And as it actually happened, this ship simply blew my mind sky high - we loved it! One thing I'm sure every past cruiser would say....it is definitely NOT your "same old same old", starting with check-in in their beautiful new terminal in Port Everglades. Unless you did not do your paperwork beforehand, you do not wait in any lines. You are greeted, paper (or mobile) documents are checked, and you head straight up the gangway! We went from curb to stateroom in about 15 minutes. The rooms were not officially open until 1:00, but you could drop off your carryons and pick up your room key cards, which were in your nameplate waiting for you. As it happened our steward greeted us and said our room was ready so we were able to get comfortable right away. We booked an infinity balcony stateroom - a new concept that suited us perfectly! Some say it is no more than a French balcony but I beg to differ. There is a clear delineation between the stateroom proper, and the balcony area, which can be isolated by lovely French doors. Or....keep the French doors open, and it does make the stateroom feel quite spacious. The balcony itself can be open or closed....the top glass portion slides down with the touch of a button and it "behaves" just like a regular balcony, although much more private; no one else on your ship can see you, and you hear much less noise. Plus you are protected from the wind or even direct sun if so desired. At night a room darkening shade is lowered - again at the touch of a button. The shade can be stopped at any point along the way, which we made use of to block the direct sun at times. So no matter the weather, you can sit in front of a full wall of window and enjoy the view with the "top down....or up". The colors in our stateroom were grays and whites - very subdued, but with artistic touches throughout....a built-in shelf held a beautiful piece of coral that could be illuminated. The wall art was different but very pleasing. The bathroom was very well laid-out with ample shelf space and a glass enclosed shower with a great showerhead. The only drawback to the stateroom was that the closet was along the wall next to one side of the bed - kind of awkward - you almost had to sit on the bed to deal with the drawers and safe contained within.
We went up to the Oceanview Cafe (the buffet) for lunch and found it to be very busy, but orderly and spacious. We did not have to circle 5 times to find a seat, and the room is broken up so that noise is kept to a minimum and types of seating arrangements are varied. The selection of food was amazing - just about anything you could want - arranged in food stations so rarely was there a line. We enjoyed a nice selection of hot and cold foods and did not feel harried or rushed. We ate all of our breakfasts, some lunches and two dinners up here. On the way back toward our elevator bank, we saw the Magic Carpet - it was up on Deck 14 - that orange "thingy" that hangs along the starboard side of the ship. It was set up as a lounge at the moment so we stopped in to have a drink. It was very cool to sit there, out over the water, in an open-air setting, enjoying our first drink onboard our cruise.
The safety drill came next....we were gathered in the theater and treated to a very clever media presentation about emergency procedures and onboard safety. It reminded me of a "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego" episode! What a neat way to present the "same old" information we must listen to on every cruise.
Time for dinner: So a good time to tell you about all the dining choices and the ones that we experienced on this cruise, beginning with the MDRs (Main Dining Rooms, of which there are four.) We made nightly reservations prior to boarding which made for seamless experiences every night. You could reserve into any one of the 4 MDRs each evening. They all presented the same "main menu" but then each location had a specialty menu of their own. And of course the standard classics were available every night in every location. Then there are the extra-fare restaurants, of which we sampled two of the four that are available to all guests. (There are also options for Aqua Class and Suite Class passengers.) The food: fabulous in every single location, including the Oceanview Cafe for breakfast lunch and dinner! No matter what we put in our mouths, it was wonderful: Here are the ones we experienced for dinner:
Tuscan MDR: Italian specialites with lovely black/white decor; service was very good.
Rooftop Garden Grille - Extra-fare: The setting was open air in the middle of the Rooftop Garden on Deck 15 - absolutely beautiful. The menu was grilled meats and fish: racks of ribs, beef brisket, chicken, hamburgers, grilled fish, plus sides and salads. Wonderful dinner setting!
Cosmopolitan MDR: American specialties with an upscale decor; we had a very funny waiter here.
Normandie MDR: French specialties; great service and a nice atmosphere
La Petite Chef - Extra-fare: This is really a dinner experience. There is a set 4-course menu that will be "presented" by the Petite Chefs, but you can substitute from one other menu for actual dining. Confused? So was I! But all of a sudden, the dinner plate lit up, and here came these four animated little chefs, marching around the table preparing the set menu right on your plate - it was great! So unique and very fun - a "not-to-be-missed" experience! Plus - this is where I had the absolute best filet mignon!
Twice we had dinner up in the Oceanview Cafe and we were quite satisfied with that as well! They lower the lighting a bit, the noise is quite subdued, and they offer wonderful choices, including made-to-order pastas, Asian and Teppenyaki, Grilled meats, Mexican dishes....anything you could want!
And again, everything we put in our mouths was delicious!
The one MDR that we did not experience was the Cyprus featuring Mediterranean fare. Additional specialty restaurants include the Eden Cafe and the Fine Cut Steakhouse, which I heard was excellent. Raw on Five features a raw bar and a more casual menu of items like Shrimp Salad, Lobster Rolls, sushi and sashimi. Le Grand Bistro housed La Petite Chef in the evenings, but was a traditional boulangerie-patisserie during the day. There were other food venues...to be honest....more than I can remember offhand!
On to the entertainment which was the source of much debate....exclamations....expressions of horror - you name it! We saw three production shows and loved all of them. These were NOT your "same old same old" (I never heard Sweet Caroline once, ha!) All three were innovative, multi-faceted shows that were more like the Cirque de Soliel productions, with acrobats, dancers, singers - all extremely talented. And the theater stage enhanced each production with a changing backdrop (very similar to the stage on the Koningsdam, for those who went on our group cruise.) We also saw a Paul McCartney "tribute" band that was very good, and to which we all grooved and moved and sang along.) We also saw the special show that was presented in Eden, which was another restaurant/bar/show venue. Reflections in Eden was perhaps the strangest show I have ever seen, but very good, and the performers were so talented! We did not see the comedian or the magician but heard they were very entertaining as well. If you wanted to dance the night away you could go to The Club - a 2-tier venue that was always jumping - very popular spot! On a smaller scale, the Martini Bar offered live music throughout the evening, and had a small dance floor for a little more subdued swirling. And by the way....the casino is YUUGE!
Shopping is VERY high-end....Bulgari, Tiffany, Coach, Cartier... and one logo shop where you could find a memento, albeit at an inflated price. Also....don't forget toothpaste, shaving cream, deoderant, etc. because if they had it, they weren't displaying it. They had a nice selection of liquors and also snacks....chocolates galore, yum!
There are many things accomplished on this ship through the use of technology. The pictures taken by the ship photographers are not printed and tacked up on walls - you go up to a tablet (of which there are many) and put in your stateroom and all the pictures they take of you are displayed right there; no searching up and down the aisles and climbing over people to get to your pictures. You place an order (if desired) and 20 minutes later, you can pick it up at the desk....hassle-free. Through the Celebrity app on my phone, I could manage my stateroom - turn on/off the lights, raise/lower the temperature, raise/lower the balcony shade/glass...from anywhere on the ship. You could also make reservations right on your phone or even pre-order drinks.
The itinerary of our cruise was not of great importance to us as we booked this cruise in order to experience the ship, but we did get off in the ports of Key West, Costa Maya, Cozumel, and Grand Cayman. But even the experience of getting on and off the ship at ports is not like anything I have seen on other ships. You get off and back on through the Destination Gateway" - a space designed to make exiting and reembarking a more pleasant experience. Instead of traipsing through the crew quarters and into a metal, barren gangway you get off the elevator or stairs into a bright, lightfilled large room with a water station, a seating area, and ample security stations, enough that we did not have to wait in line at all to get off or back on. It really was nice to come back after a long, hot day in port to this pleasant entryway back onto our floating "home". In Grand Cayman we had to tender, and if the weather had cooperated, we should have been able to step onto the tender from the Magic Carpet, however, the winds did not permit and so we did transfer to the tenders in the routine fashion.
We have been to Key West many times, it is one of our favorites, so we were happy to wander the streets, visit our favorite stores, and grab lunch and a cold beer at Fogarty's. We were parked close to Duval, so easy on and off. The last time we were in Costa Maya we took an excursion to the ruins, so this time we just got a Port Pass and stayed within the property. They have done a nice job of enhancing what is offered there, and they work very hard to keep it clean and bright. We went through the Aviary, which was very well done, stopped at the bakery, chilled at the beach and had some lunch at Casa Libre, all of which made for a very pleasant day. It was so windy that one of the scheduled ships did not dock but our captain and the pilot did an expert job of getting us safely on and off the pier! In Cozumel we booked a day resort that was not offered through the ship: Nachi Cocom. They limit the number of guests to 130 so we enjoyed a beautiful beach, lounge chairs under palapas, unlimited food and drinks delivered to us and an uncrowded setting. This was our first time in Grand Cayman and we took a Captain's Club excursion to Pedro St. James and the Crystal Caves. This was a great excursion that included a rum tasting...unhurried and very interesting attractions.
All too soon it was time to disembark from our cruise and the only disappointment is that they could not accommodate us with the luggage valet service. It was nothing personal - no one on the ship was able to use it - but it always is so nice when you can breeze past the rows of luggage and out to your waiting transportation. We did do an excursion though, since our flight was not leaving until 5:30, and that went very nicely; we collected our luggage, walked right through immigration, and onto the bus to go to the Flamingo Gardens Botanical Garden. We have been there before and do enjoy the beautiful landscape and the refuge animals that they house there.
If you get an opportunity to cruise on the Celebrity Edge or her sister, the Celebrity Apex, due out in 2020, take the opportunity!! This is not your ordinary ship and it won't be your ordinary cruise. Be open to new experiences and you are guaranteed fabulous food, great entertainment and very comfortable staterooms. If the Infinity balcony does not appeal to you, there are also the traditional balconies available, as are inside, oceanview, concierge class, spa class and suite accommodations.
Don't hesitate to ask me questions - this review is long enough - but I am sure I have forgotten to talk about a few things!