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Nathalie

Age: 32

Occupation:Executive Assistant

Number of Cruises: 12

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Horizon

Sailing Date: October 21st, 2002

Itinerary: eastern/western (back-to-back)


Our background:
We've been on 10 cruises so far. Carnival 4, NCL 1 (Bermuda), Princess 1 (Transatlantic/Mediterrenean) and RCI 3. This was our very first experience with Celebrity and their five star cruising. We've learned that people's opinion of a cruise is strongly affected by their age, their likes, and their expectations. Cruises provide a variety of activities to suit different tastes. For us, visiting many islands is our main goal. We are a couple (childless) in our mid 30's / early 40’s with enough vacation to be able to enjoy many cruises. We're avid boaters & love the sea. We don't smoke, we love the outdoors & are beach people. We're not into luxury, we always book cheapest cabin because we want to be able to vacation a lot. We care a lot about ship design, wrap around promenade decks, open spaces to view the sea, sunsets, moon shimmering on the waves. We're not into service, fancy food, and casinos.

With all the discounting going on, it concerns us that cruisers may forget the most important aspect of selecting a ship: personal interests and lifestyle. If your only criterion is finding the lowest price available, you can easily wind up on a ship where you have nothing in common with the other passengers, which can adversely affect your enjoyment of the cruise.

For example, we recently sailed on Carnival Cruise Lines, Carnival Triumph. It is indeed a "Fun Ship." But what's your personal definition of fun? Triumph has Carnival's high-energy environment, lots of glitz, and a terrific array of nightlife. Although the slot machines are operational starting at 8 a.m., the library is open just an hour each day. At the other end of the spectrum is Holland America, whose passengers are largely retired. The service is genteel and reflects back to the early days of cruising. While there is some entertainment, after dinner the ships practically shut down. The point is, do your research first to determine which ships best suit your personal interests and lifestyle. Then start looking for the best price on those ships. We would rather spend a couple of hundred dollars more on a ship that gives us a fantastic vacation than become so obsessed with price that I land on a vessel that gives us only a so-so experience.

Booking/Final Payment:
We were supposed to be on the 10-21 Galaxy sailing when we were part of the 80 plus cabins that were overbooked. Celebrity offered us an amazing compensation which included an upgrade from an inside cabin to a ocean view suite complete with a butler, a $400.00 shipboard credit, free airfare from Tampa and a 14 day back-to-back cruise instead of an 11 day. Just all that in itself showed us that despite the error Celebrity's class shined through. We would never pay the extra to get one of these!

SHIP / CREW / FOOD
Our waiter and his assistant were the best we have ever had on ANY cruise line. Marius C (from Romania and Pedro (from Portugual) were wonderful - very outgoing, personable, and a perfect match for the four of us. We like to interact with the wait staff, sometimes playing jokes. They actually played back! We had a wonderful two weeks with them. They provided us with many amenities not on the menu... garlic butter and My husband and our friend had escargot almost every night. The chef made creme brulee the last night for us. The Maitre D (Gerhard Strich from Germany) and Restaurant Manager (or assistant Maitre D – Franky, from Croatia) stopped nightly at our table to be sure that all was well with all of us.

The food was unbelievable. Filet of beef, shrimp, chicken, pasta, duck…you name it they had it. We loved everything! We did eat like kings and queens! If you did not like the salad being served, Caesar salad was always served, as was shrimp cocktail. I ended up buying the mini menu’s, which was a nice reminder of what we did eat and some of the recipes. You can purchase these at the guest relation’s desk for $4.95.

The dress code in the dining room was pretty much upheld by everyone and everyone dressed to the nine’s during formal nights.

The first night buffet was Italian in the Coral Sea’s buffet but we missed it. We did make up for it the second week. We had the Tex Mex buffet and Tropical fruit buffet on board both weeks as well as the grand buffet on the last formal nights.

Two weeks is a long time on a ship and if you are upbeat and personable like we are you really get to know the staff in an amazing capacity. One of the most memorable highlights from this vacation was dining at the Captain's table with the hotel manager, Savas Marotos. Savas is third in command on this ship and does an amazing job at keeping things in line. He was extremely gracious and friendly.

The only two complaints we had the whole time being on the ship were the music in the disco and the buffet. They played way too much Motown and Latin and not enough dance music. I will say this though; they accommodated the music for the second week for the many the Spanish that were on which I though was nice.

As far as the Coral Sea’s buffet goes, it’s too narrow and too many people were stepping out of line and all over the place making it hard to move. However, it is a buffet and its going to be a stampede so you make the best of it. Apparently when they refurbished the ship in 1998 they made the buffet a little bigger. We used it for breakfast and lunch a few times. Food wasn’t bad. Rest of the time we were in the dining room or had room service. We used the room service particularly for breakfast when we were in ports and had to be off the ship early. The sticky buns in the buffet are to die for!!!

The wait staff, the room stewards, the bar staff and entertainment were excellent. We expected that the entertainment would be exactly the same both weeks, but John Howell, the cruise director, had scheduled changes in the last half of the second week. It was wonderful. John was absolutely amazing with boundless energy and he likes to interact with the passengers alot! He was a Broadway dancer which explains some of it. He was very creative in preparing a memorable experience. He was the best we have ever seen. Janine Gardner was the comedian and she was great. We had Xylophonist David Meyer on board and he was phenomenal. There was also the magic of Carl Andrews, which was fun.

The crowd on the ship was older. Not many 20 or 30 something’s. I’d say lots of 40 and up, but you know what that did not bother us in the least. We had fun with everyone. We tend to prefer the older crowd anyway. Only maybe about 15 kids or so and they were very well behaved.

As for all of you worried about smuggling alcohol on board. No problem, mon! Twice, we brought 6-pack of beer (bottles and cans) with us to enjoy in our cabin. (We still purchased a bottle of wine most every night for dinner, too). I placed the beer in the fridge in the cabin and the butler made sure to brought us a special ice bucket and daily added ice in it.

To all you people who wonder if there are still tote bags being given out…. They are, although I do not know if everyone is getting the same one. We received a zipper canvas one both weeks along with a cheaper version. Not sure if the lower cabins are getting the cheaper one. In any case, our Butler brought one for each week. As far as cabin service goes, it was great! We had plenty of candy on our pillow at night as well as the next day’s weather forecast and daily newsletter. Butler brought goodies around 4:00 every day and did some shoe polishing, laundry services and breakfast serving for us.

This was our itinerary:
Day 1 Baltimore (Embarkation)
Day 2 at sea
Day 3 Bermuda
Day 4 Bermuda/At sea
Day 5 At Sea
Day 6 Tortola BVI
Day 7 St. Thomas, USVI
Day 8 San Juan, PR
Day 9 St. Thomas, USVI (went to St. John)
Day 10 Catalina Island/Dominican Republic
Day 11 At sea
Day 12 Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Day 13 Grand Cayman
Day 14 At Sea
DEBARKATION - Tampa

BERMUDA
First stop Bermuda - We were not in Bermuda long enough and was there last year so we spent the half-day walking around Hamilton.

The assistant cruise director did a narration about Bermuda from the time the island came into view until we docked - pointing out various landmarks etc. It was quite informative.

TORTOLA, BVI

We did an excursion in Tortola [Virgin Gorda and the Baths]. The baths were beautiful but the tour for what we got wasn't worth it. It was not as advertised and everyone got 50% of their money refunded. That showed us true class in the Celebrity style. No one likes to complain but it was so nice to see that our comments were valued and taken to heart.

ST.THOMAS, USVI

We did St Thomas 'on our own' since we have been there many times. We hired a cab (Marley – 15$ each) to take us to Sapphire Beach. He took us to “Mountain Top” and gave us a nice tour before arriving at Sapphire Beach. We snorkeled there for a few hours before Marley returned for us to be back at the ship on time for departure. The day ended with a trip up to Paradise point for a view and a sunset.

SAN JUAN, PR
We did the ship sponsored El Yunque rainforest tour and it was breathtaking. Fabulous tour. After, we came back to the ship to eat and then out again to walk Old San Juan and then a tour of El Morro. We actually found a Walgreen’s and a Marshall’s on the Island so where do you think we went????

ST.JOHN, USVI
St Thomas again but we took the ferry to St. John from Red Hook. Beautiful island and beautiful beaches. Just breathtaking! We passed Caneel Bay and Trunk Bay and ended up on Cinnamon Bay. Very quiet and secluded and clean! Would go back to St. John to stay in a heartbeat!

CATALINA ISLAND - DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
This was a beach day complete with a fantastic picnic by Celebrity. It was a great day for everyone including a good part of the staff. Everyone got to relax. There were lounge chairs, a bar, food, mini shopping market, equipment rental, a band and just a beautiful beach. We had to tender but because we had priority being in the suite we had no problem. The Dominican’s were very pushing.

OCHO RIOS - JAMAICA
Since we were there earlier in January, we spent the day at Sandal Dunns River Falls and enjoyed the resort, the beach, their facilities and the free drinks.

GRAND CAYMAN

While in Cayman, we did the "Capt. Bryan half day stingray”. We had done this in January. There were 8 people on the Trimaran “Hannibal”. It was a fun time for everyone. The crew of the trimaran were knowledgeable. Snorkeling gear was available for those who wanted it and did not have their own gear. I highly recommend this tour. After the tour, we went for lunch at a place called Chicken Chicken and it was inexpensive and had terrific food. The Caymans are expensive so kudos to the person that told us about this place. We did not buy much in town, We had no problem tendering which was good.

Debarkation in Tampa was a breeze. Shuttle bus to the airport got us there about 10AM for 11H10 flight. Went through the xray and boarded the aircraft. Rude awakening when we got home though…It was 35 degrees out!

Overall, they definitely try to do everything to please you, and we felt like royalty. It was truly an amazing two weeks!!! Thank you to everyone who helped us with planning, thank you to the staff of the Horizon and thank you to Celebrity for an amazing ride!

Feel free to email with questions ( nlaroche@iq.ca )

Nathalie
(AKA: CruiseDiva)

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