Number of Cruises: 7
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: January 19th, 2003
Itinerary: Panama Canal
We have cruised with Celebrity, RCL, & Hal. We see ourselves as “Polite Canadians” from the West Coast and semi experienced travelers. We like to dine at main seating because late is just too late. Shows come second to interesting conversations and interaction with those on board. We do go if there is nothing else happening. We seldom do ship tours anymore and hardly ever make it to the late night buffet. We like sea days and usually look for an itinary that leans that way. Since we fly all day to get to a warm port from up here we generally like to make the dreaded time in the air worthwhile and “save up” for the longer cruises. I am 6’6”
So here we go. We flew out of Vancouver BC on Continental after a nights stay at the Fairmont hotel right at the airport. I recommend the hotel as it makes take off day just so much easier. It is more than a little pricey but hey. we are worth it. Continental does not have great room for larger folks. Smaller ones suffered also. On and off and staff were great. Switched planes in Houston. No problems to Miami. We rented a vehicle there and drove to Fort Lauderdale and enjoyed three nights at an older hotel on the beach. Weather was cool. Cooler than Vancouver as a matter of fact.
Recommend the water Taxi in Fort Lauderdale. $5.00 all day. Get off and on and see the sights/eat/whatever. Met with internet friends “SUER, DENIZE,& DSW. & had a great day. Sunday departure day had a chance to meet with some Ch@os return cruisers for a moment or two and then headed for our Ship.
No problem with turning in our rental in Fort Lauderdale and there is a shuttle to the port which is just minutes from the car returns. Dropped at the loading area and dockside guys took our luggage and we wandered into a fairly full building, found seats and had to wait for about 20 mins. Staff spoke with everyone about what was needed paper wise and when the doors were open entry to check in area for ticket confirmation etc went pretty well. We saved two couples by telling them that they had dropped their passports. It seemed to me that there was a delay in the normal door opening time for some reason or other but we were there early anyway. General flow was good. Two lines for xray . Much better for Captains club members (best $35.00 I ever spent) Lots of ticket booths open after going through the xray machines so rather than take captains club area we used the shortest line available. baboom onto the ship.
Welcomed by staff and a little cleaner guy helped us find our room. He made a wrong turn and I helped him.. No problem mon. Odd numbers port even Starboard. Room 7100 on the Vista deck. Room same size as Zenith and Horizon but with balcony. Storage a little less than the other ships but ok for us. We travel for two weeks with just a bag each (big ones) Shower area also a little smaller but not an issue. King bed, safe, hair dryer and a workable desk area with chair and a good size sofa chair. Balcony has two chairs and small patio table. We loved it. First time with a balcony for us. I think we are wrecked now for the future. Our cabin staff were as expected. Great.
The ship is huge and I thought this was going to be a problem for me but as the first few days went by I found that big was OK. It doesn’t feel big. Actually there are not that many more people relative to size than the Zenith. Its amazing to step out into a hall that goes stem to stern (almost) and be the only guy. Buffet lines were great. getting off and on/tendering etc no problem. It may be bigger but it was built to take all those 1900 people. The only noticeable population problem was at the theater and this I found out to be caused by a much greater number of diners at the first seating plus I think those that ate at their own time in the Specialty restaurant and alternative may have picked our shows also. You had to be there early to get a good seat and some shows were full.
We ate all our meals (Dinner) in the main dining
room but for one. We did go once to the SS United States restaurant. An
experience to be sure but the food was better in the main dining room. Breakfast
and lunch in the buffet were up to usual Celebrity standards minus a few highend
seafood items. Breakfast and lunch in the main dinning room was open seating all
the time. We like this as we got to meet a lot more people and could eat anytime
the restaurant was open. Service was quick and always helpful. Our regular
waiter and his assist were excellent. Asst. maitre D was noticeable and spent
time with us and other diners in the restaurant. A table mate had a birthday and
that went well. We had great table mates and were at a table for 6. There were
tables for 2, 6, 8 and 10 that I saw . The tables for 10 are too big I think.
You would not be able to converse with half the people. We were on the second
level and fairly close to the outside. Noise was a problem for several people in
the middle of the downstairs that I spoke with. It was not for us. It is not a
quiet place however. As I mentioned the food was great. No one was unhappy with
the food. One table mate made a wrong choice and that was looked after quickly.
A second appy appeared now and then for me without any problem and extra
chocolate deserts for the ladies we dined with came with “no problem “ We had
the continental breakfast to our room on port days and ate on the balcony.
mmmmmmm. did I mention that we were hooked on the balcony.
Ports: Aruba. Windy as usual. Taxi to hotel beach $10.00 including tip each way. “Baby” our driver came back to get us at time we requested. Met the comedian and the juggler from our ship on the beach. Nice guys.
Panama: We just fit and scraped more than once. This was our second time through and we will do it again. It is just so cool as my wife would say. That scraping is really something. It sounds like someone gets their finger stuck between the ship and lock side and screams like your sister. Friction makes smoke from metal on wood and you get that burning smell. I touched the side of the canal. Like ..less than a foot away. It really was cool. Weather of course was hot but not unbearable. We were late getting to the Pacific and all tours were canceled. We were able to tender to a area to the north of Panama city and there was a small mall and lots of restaurants.
Puntarenas - turns into Puerto Caldera because of wind. Officially reported as too windy and we had to tender. I never did satisfy myself that we were to dock somewhere else or it was one of those things that gets printed in brochures. Puntarenas was “Just over there” if you know what I mean. Anyway we had been here before and knew where the small market was and got some stuff there. Good prices for crafts. We then walked to beach area. It’s very nice but too hot. No shade and no facilities. Beach to the inland side of the dock looked like it had trees and maybe a vender or two but too far to walk for us in the heat. Taxi’s were available.
Acapulco: We had also been here and walked to a market
area with table mate and messed around looking for film. Went downtown to mall
and bought some silver in he afternoon. Encouraged our table mates to see divers
and they did. They enjoyed their tours as we did ours previously.
Normal cruise ends here::: It’s Wednesday...... In afternoon Captain tells us. “Motor is trouble and we will be missing Cabo San Lucas and will arrive in San Diego a day late.” We get forms to tell airlines there will be changes and Celebrity will do all that. At dinner an announcement is made that cruise will end here as “Problems greater than expected” We will be put up in hotel and flown to San Diego as it can be arranged. We must pack and do the normal last night stuff. Right!!!!!!!!!!!! As you can imagine this is not a happy time and we are in port. Line ups for info.. line ups for money. line ups to see why there are line ups. All cruise staff available plus other crew members dancers, entertainers.orchestra tried their best to be helpful. in some cases they were not good enough of course but there was little that they could actually do. Tempers were frayed. After packing I closed down the disco with two other pax & a camera guy from the cruise line plus the disco guy. He left first and the rest of us fixed everything with the help of a few more scotches. I could find no one else to talk with anywhere on the ship so I also turned in quit late (early)
Thursday: Off ship in good order to busses and then to the Acapulco Princess. I think most of us went there or next door to a relative hotel. Our room was fine. We were each given a credit for $50.00 and a 10 minute phone call to anywhere. Room of course was on Celebrity. We we met at the hotel by about 60 Celebrity Miami staff that had been flown in overnight and for us they were very helpful. This hotel is in the Fairmont chain so we ended our cruise in one of their hotels also. Imagine 1900 people getting from ship to hotel and imagine a hotel being able to take most of us. You can’t right?? There were problems with luggage and rooms not being quite up to snuff, ants, musty etc. But we made out ok. The hotel property ocean beach pools restaurants were great. It was however Mexico and hot and humid and we didn’t want to be there and this was the main problem. We learned via a note under our door that were to leave at 10 AM Friday and had to get bus to airport at 7 AM. A question to Miami staffer regarding breakfast as restaurants didn’t open until later brought the answer (after he went and checked with hotel) that they would open one at 4 AM. Some people had to leave at 5AM on bus for airport.
FRIDAY: Up at six got breakfast bagel and on bus to airport at 7. Perfect. Air on bus ..good. Oops. This is Mexico. The airport at Acapulco is a little behind what we have become used to. Security consisted of lines of people waiting for their bags to each be hand searched. Then we got a boarding pass and then we went up stairs and to departure gate. The people that left at 5 AM from the hotel for the 8 AM flt were just loading when we got up to departure around 9:50. The 8:30 Flt left just moments before us and we got off around 10:30. Not bad for us really. We were on Champion Air a charter out of Texas I think. Flight went ok. But they were not prepared for us meal wise as they had no time to arrange anything when they left the US. We had pretzels and gold fish. There were drinks available however. I did become the “Ugly Canadian” for once and stuffed my carry on into a spot that some pax thought was his. I just had had it with people that had too many large pieces of carry on. I was rewarded with row 21 on a 727 however. A pure fluke. The exit row with lots of legroom. Someone was watching over me. Captains club member.??? yah right!!! The flight to San Diego and bus to The Hyatt Regency Islander was fine. Except we landed just behind that bunch that got off late from Mexico and we overwhelmed the International arrival area for Immigration and baggage. That took a while and because we were Canadians had the long line & by the time we got cleared there was no room on the baggage floor for more people and some of us were told to just have a seat on the stairs and wait. I peeked down to the floor and then went to have a look. There were people and bags all over the place. I went to go back up and bumped into both our bags right at my feet. I gave the high sign to the boss and away we went again. Captains Club????
Hyatt: $60.00 per person per day Friday Sat Sun. Room on Celebrity Room great, property great, pool great, restaurants great.
SAT/Sunday- We were tourists. Flew home via America
West via Phoenix. Flts on time and arrived Vancouver and then home around 1 AM
Monday morning. We had booked a late flt home originally as we planned on
visiting in San Diego when we got off the ship. Celebrity gave everyone the
option of going home early and they would pay up to $100.00 bucks each to change
your tickets. We were unable to take advantage of this as Airline flts for days
sooner were full.
Thoughts on the Cruise: Great couldn’t have been better. A happy well run ship.
Thoughts on the “Rescue Mission” Pretty good for us. Could it have been better? Sure. But mostly our problems were caused by things out of the cruise lines control. As was the motor thing in the first place. We heard some horror stories from people as they turned up at the hotel. eg. It took until late Saturday to get all the people away from Acapulco and then when they arrive in USA had to land in LA because good old San Diego is small and they had closed their international facilities. They ended up somewhere with no sleep. Bags got lost at San Diego etc etc. I’m sure the stories will be endless. Us however....not too bad considering. I felt really badly for the older folks. It was a 14 day cruise and as we all know they tend to have an older crowd. They suffered. I personally dealt with two older gentleman that hit the deck one at the Princess and one at the Acapulco airport. It was really tuff on them. Our group did not have cruise air. I think those folks with cruise air had a different experience.
Last thought: I loved the ship. We will get a refund of 25% and a 25% deduction off our next Celebrity cruise. We will cruise Celebrity again. It may not be on a “M” class ship unless I know it has just had it’s pods fixed. Any questions on items I may have missed or you wish clarified please feel free to email me.