Overall Rating: Excellent
|Departed From:||Ft. Lauderdale|
|# of Nights:||14+ Nights|
This was the longest cruise my husband and I have taken (beat out our Hawaii cruise by 1 day) and it was wonderful from almost-start to finish. This was our third cruise with Celebrity and they really do ratchet most experiences up a notch. We began our trip with two relaxing days in Ft. Lauderdale. We stayed at The Atlantic Hotel on the beach - beautiful hotel! It was a bit pricier than we normally do, but at spring break time, it was worth the extra money to be in a slightly calmer environment. The room was huge; the views were gorgeous and the staff was very friendly and helpful. We enjoyed our balcony from which we could see the cruise ships leaving each afternoon.
Monday brought boarding day. We taxied to the port, were able to check in right away and then got in line to board. And that was where we stayed for the next 90 minutes....standing....in the line. A note had been circulated stating that Immigration had called for a complete inspection so disembarkation had been late; but we never did find out why boarding had begun and some people were on the ship but then it all ground to a halt. Not much we could do except stand in the line and get to know our "neighbors" but it got rather uncomfortable to stand there that long. We finally got on about 2:30, which wasn't too terrible; staterooms were not ready so up to the buffet we went, along with everyone else. Drink machines were not working properly...stations were running out of silverware...a little disorganized. We finally got the all-clear to go to our staterooms, only to find that our keys were not working. This has happened to us before, so down to Guest Services we go, discovering there that we were not the only ones whose keys were not working. In fact...it turned out that somehow the Engineering Dept. had miskeyed many of the stateroom door locks with the wrong timezone(?)! So the key cards were fine - it was the doors themselves that would not open. They took our stateroom number and told us that the engineer would get around as fast as possible to fix every door. We wandered around - we checked our door...we had a drink - we checked our door...we sailed away (late) and checked our door. Finally at about 8:00 we checked and could finally access our cabin. I was rather crabby at this point, so upon finding the bottle of champagne waiting for us (courtesy of our travel agent) we promptly opened it and drank the whole thing. I was less crabby now so we went back up to the buffet and had a very nice freshly made pasta and salad dinner, went back to unpack, and went to the show.
Not the way we wanted to begin....but quickly forgotten (with the help of the bubbly!)
We loved this itinerary because it was a nice intermingling of sea days and port days. We can get so tired with many port days in a row. We started out with two sea days followed by a day in Cartagena, Columbia and then Colon, Panama. These are places we probably would never visit on our own, so getting to see part of these countries was nice. We took ship excursions in both ports: in Cartagena we focused on history; in Panama we went for the canal experience......visiting the locks and taking a cruise on Gatun Lake. Getting a taste of the locks experience prior to experiencing it on our ship was a perfect introduction as to what to expect the following day.
And of course, the canal day was the highlight - so fascinating! We got up at 5 a.m. as suggested and went to the front of the ship to watch it enter the first set of locks. Those locks....the canal itself....and then the Miraflores Locks on the Pacific side - the whole thing was amazing. It is one of those "must-see/do" experiences of a lifetime!
Another day at sea before docking in Costa Rica - had to do the canopy tour/jungle hike/river cruise. A day at sea and then Guatamala. We took the 90 minute ride to Colonial Antigua and were thoroughly charmed by that city.
Two days at sea before hitting Puerta Vallarta. Celebrity changed the itinerary several months prior to eliminate Acapulco and stop here instead. Since we have visited Puerta Vallarta, we just took a short walk around the port and reboarded the ship for most of the day. Then Cabo San Lucas, which is one of my favorite ports. We visited Todos Santos with its artsy boutiques and the Hotel California where we were served a wonderful lunch with great Margaritas!
We ended with a day at sea before docking in San Diego. We were delayed on this end as well - another Immigration inspection before disembarkation could begin. We were off the ship about 11:30 and at our hotel by noon. I wondered if the ports we visited were the reason for the full Immigration check on both ends........ We spent two additional days in San Diego because we have never been there. We WILL go back. What a wonderful city with so much to do within walking distance. We of course had to visit the zoo - and the panda bears did not disappoint. So many wonderful restaurants with sidewalk seating here, and having the ballpark right in the middle of things, made for a nicely lively atmosphere! The Embarcadero is wonderful - such a pleasant walk along the shore. We did not get over to Coronado - next time we hope.
This ship was solsticized in December so was pretty fresh, with upgraded soft goods, flat-screen tvs, etc. Very nicely done! The new public rooms such as the Martini Bar, the Wine Cellar, Bistro on Five and the Vodka bar were gorgeous! The "showmen/bartenders" in the Martini Bar were very good - very fun to watch; there was a crowd there most of the time. On the other hand, the Wine Cellar was pretty quiet. I don't know if people were put off by the Enomatic Wine Dispensers or what, but very underused for such a spacious and beautiful venue. We made quite good use of it - striking up a nice relationship with the female attendant in there. We very much enjoyed the ship. Deck chairs were easy to come by and the music played by the pool was a nice addition to the ambiance rather than overbearing! Many people made use of the walking/jogging track on the Sun Deck - it was kind of fun to lay back and watch them go round and round.........of course I should have been going round and round with them instead of watching them....... . But I am happy to say that I only gained one pound! Which leads me to the.....
Food in the dining room was excellent - even better than on our Summit cruise two years ago. They have gotten better at "anytime dining" since then as well. We were promptly sat at our reserved time and service was wonderful. Several nights, after very long shore excursions, we just went up to the buffet for dinner. They had stations where you could get freshly made pasta, carved meats, lots of sushi...great salads and desserts. We opted for the pastas most of the time - prepared just right! One night we did eat at the SS United States specialty restaurant - it was worth every penny. The specialty is seafood but I cannot have seafood (darn those allergies) so I ordered the petite filets: 3 small filets each prepared with a different sauce/garnish/flavor. They were to die for! The combination of flavors in every dish they brought out was pure genius!
We thought the entertainment was great; the production shows were wonderful and there was a nice variety of other entertainment as well. The casino was not very busy......we did our best to support it. It is so nice to be on a ship where the casino is smoke-free!! They always had nice ensembles playing in the Cafe.......a very good string trio and a barbershop-style quartet that was top notch!
The lectures were very good basically due to the itinerary; learning about the history of the canal and the current construction definitely enhanced our canal day experience. We also listened to a great lecture on Columbian Emeralds. I had to put that newfound knowledge to good use, so I bought a lovely little emerald necklace in Columbia. After that, DH, for some reason, kept me away from the lectures on chocolate diamonds and freshwater pearls. Hmmm - I wonder why? Had a great time at the champagne tasting, though.
Our concierge cabin on Deck 8 was very convenient: two flights up to the lido deck and 3 flights down to the main venues. The bathroom was nicely sized with a shower you could actually turn around in! The bed was very comfortable and storage space was ample. Our bed was quite comfortable and we slept well. I don't know what is different on this ship, but you hardly ever felt it move. There were days that the seas were not all that calm but you still very rarely felt movement on this ship...It might be that the itinerary was very relaxed - we never really had to race to the next port at top speed - maybe that had something to do with it.
The crew members were all so nice - friendly and helpful; always smiling. Service was very good - no complaints there. In fact, except for embarkation and debarkation, we had no complaints about anything at all! We love every cruise we take, but this one truly was "a cut above"!