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Pams Path to Travel
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APRIL 12, 2008




Again, much like last year, leaving from SF is very easy and it is so nice to not have to deal with airports.  We had
our own private ride to the pier.  One thing to try to avoid- on Saturdays there is a Farmer's Market at the Ferry
Building along the Embarcadero.  If you can avoid that part of the Embarcadero, you will avoid most of the traffic
and get to the pier much quicker.

We arrived at the pier just after noon and because we had completed on-line check-in we sailed through the
process of signing and obtaining our boarding pass/key card.  We were on the ship by 1230pm!  Welcome
champagne once on board the ship which is a very nice "Celebrity" touch.  We got to our cabin and it had just
finished being cleaned.  I was travelling with a group of 40 people who were expected to arrive around 1pm, and I
wanted to make sure they had their "welcome aboard" signs on their cabin doors- so off to work I was right away!  
Once my husband and I finished doing this task, we then explored the ship and got an idea of where everything
was located on our way to lunch.  We had the buffet lunch outside on the aft deck area of Deck 11 and it was a
beautiful 80 degree day in San Francisco that day (very unseasonable for this time of year).  Our muster drill was
at 415pm and we sailed at 5pm.  Sail Away party and then dinner at 6pm.  I will say that all of our luggage arrived
prior to the muster drill so we were able to completely unpack between lunch and the muster drill.

Since this ship is 10 years old, it is lacking in dining venues, like most ships her age.  What most ships of this era
are doing is converting some of their existing dining areas to serve as something else later in the evening when
choices are most welcome. This ship has the main dining room with two traditional seating times.  There is also the
buffet restaurant on Deck 11 and also the outside grill.  In addition, also on Deck 11, there is an aft dining area
that serves pancakes, waffles for breakfast and then the rest of the afternoon/evening turns into a pizza and pasta
bar.  The main pool grill does the traditional hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken sandwiches and such.  Inside
the main buffet restaurant is an ice cream bar, sandwich bar and the daily buffet offerings.  In the evening 1/2 of
this area turns into a sushi bar on one end and a sit down casual alternative dining area with a separate menu
from the main dining room.    Overall, the food was good ~ not as exceptional as I expected it to be for Celebrity
Cruise Line.  Our dinners in the main dining room were the best meals we received.  Breakfast was a "no brainer"
with cereal, yogurt and things that really come out just fine every time you have them.  Many times we missed
lunch as our breakfast hour was late by the time we got up.

There are a variety of lounges on this ship.  We tend to find out "spot" and stay there most of the time.  The
Rendez Vous lounge was the ballroom dancing spot and we would find ourselves there from time to time- but
normally found ourselves in the Navigator Club on Deck 12- which is the "disco"- the band and DJ were both very
good, probably the best DJ we've had on a ship and we found we could be there for 2-3 hours each night for
non-stop dancing. It was our favorite place to be in the evening hours.  

The ship also has a martini bar, a café for the specialty coffees and the afternoon pastries.  The grand foyer bar
area is a quiet place to relax and read.  I will say that I never felt like any of the venues were crowded and also can
say that we never waited in line for anything.  This was all very well managed.

We attended each and every production show.  The Celebrity singers and dancers always did a very good job and
the shows were very good.  One show was a tribute to all "winners" in award shows, another was a tribute to all
cultures around the world.  There were two shows with different comedians and another show with both comedians.
Nothing to complain about overall with entertainment.  Bar staff in the showroom was very attentive and also you
could show up literally at curtain time and still get a good seat!

There is also a movie theatre on board and there was a different movie shown daily.  Being a colder destination,
the daytime movies did draw a crowd and all movies were well know and popular theatre shows.  

Of course, Celebrity had their share of audience participation entertainment - karaoke, the "newlywed-not
so-newlywed" game show and such.  The day sat sea were filled with various games, dance lessons and other fun
things to keep busy.   

The ship also has a casino and this is the first time that I have not gambled on a cruise!  However, we walked
through the casino repeatedly and I was pleased to find that it was very well ventilated.  Casinos tend to be the
smokiest places on a cruise ship, but this casino never smelled of cigarette smoke.  It was quite refreshing- in fact,
I'm not sure why I didn't gamble~ maybe I was afraid I would spend too much time there in what felt like a smoke
free environment.

This health club was decent size, there was never a shortage of fitness equipment.  But that might also be
because the average age on this particular cruise (due to destination) was 50+.  There was a good variety of
cardio equipment and free weights along with various weight bearing machines.  I took the yoga and spinning
classes.  They had two instructors - one who I thought was overall decent, he made good corrections on
participants and spoke knowledgeably during his instruction.  The other instructor was horrible and taught some
things that were completely contraindicated and unsafe for participants.  I was so horrified by her instruction that I
was compelled to write a letter to the fitness manager on the ship.  

The spa was a very good size and they offered a decent amount of spa treatments.  We did not partake in any of
the spa treatments on this cruise, but I did get feedback from others in my group who did have treatments and they
were all very pleased with the services.  My mother who was on the same cruise one week later had a hair
appointment and she was also very pleased with the services.

For us, this was not a cruise about ports of call.  However, we did do a few interesting things.  Our first port of call
Astoria, Oregon.  A new port of call for cruises, but also an interesting one.  Most of the offered excursions
were not of interest; however, my husband and I have really developed a taste for good wine, so we opted for the
Willamette Valley wine tour.  This was a full day adventure.  Our excursion took us to two wineries and we enjoyed
4-5 wines at each winery.  One thing that I noticed was that the Oregon winery tasting rooms were located in
places that you could actually see the vineyards.  

This was a picture of us at the Elk Cove Winery. (this was a historic picture
as this is when a nice gentleman on the tour took our picture for us and
then dropped the camera- pictures for the rest of the week were all a little
defective).  Nonetheless, we had a wonderful day in Astoria at the
wineries.  On the way back we stopped at a lookout point to see the water
views and through "town"- which wasn't much.  From feedback from others,
sounded like not a very interesting town- so if you are into wine- the wine
tour might be the best way to go!!

Our second port of call was
Seattle, Washington.  I have never really
been to Seattle before and of the excursions offered, we thought the tour
of the Boeing Airplane Factory Tour would be the most fascinating. It was
a very interesting tour- but can't show you much as no cameras are
allowed on the tour.  It was amazing to be in these buildings though that
were in the process  of building 10 different airplanes.  The 787's that will
be coming into service this year are pretty impressive birds!!

The next port of call was Vancouver, British Columbia.  Now we have been to this wonderful city before and
really did not see the need to do any of the touring.  Since my husband and I really do love the cruising part of the
cruise- we just hung out on the ship for the day and had our own dance lesson in the disco.  It was very fun and
relaxing for us.  We did have plans to meet friends for dinner in town, so we had a 5pm reservation, had a
wonderful dinner at "The Keg Steakhouse" and then returned to the ship around 730pm for an 8pm sailing.

Our final port of call was
Victoria, British Columbia and again because we had visited this port of call last year
on our 10 day Alaska Cruise, we did not feel the need to go ashore.  The key excursion here is the Butchart
Gardens for those who are new to the port.  We slept in and enjoyed the beautiful day on the ship. This was our
best weather day overall and it was nice to be outside in reasonably decent weather.

Overall Summary:

Was this my favorite cruise?  No, I think that overall the cruise was good, service was good- not over the top or
extraordinary, but really nothing to complain about.  Our service in the dining room was excellent, our cabin
steward was fine- never felt like we knew him or he took the time to get to know us, but the job was done
acceptably.  We always had enough towels and he never missed stocking the mini-fridge with water bottles.  This
was our favorite cruise with regards to dancing- we felt we danced more on this cruise than any other.  Music was
very good and we literally danced 2-3 hours each night.  Of course, we did get enough rest each day that allowed
us to dance so much!!  Since I have been posting official reviews of my vacations, I would put this cruise just a
small notch above the Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas, still keeping the Dawn Princess at the bottom of the list.

Did I have a good time?  Yes, we did have a very good time.  For us, dancing is very important and we did get a
lot of dance time in on this cruise.  Overall, it was a very nice cruise vacation.  Not many "wow" factors during the
week, but we didn't take the cruise for the "wow" experiences.

Would I do it again?  If I just wanted to get away and take a cruise and this was offered again, yes I would take it.  
It was a very nice cruise getaway.  I don't have a burning desire to return to any of the ports of call, but as I've said
before some people are cruise people and some people are port people- I can cruise to nowhere and I'm happy!  I
just love the ease of cruising.

Food?  Overall the food was very good, not exceptional- but nothing to complain about.  Now my mother who
sailed on the week following ours said that many of the people in her group were not very happy with the quality of
food.  They felt that certain cuts of meat were tough to cut and chew.  I personally did not find that to be the case.  
Everything was very good ~ but again, nothing that I would feel as though I needed a second helping because it
was sooooo good!

Service?  I felt the service was very good.  From embarkation to disembarkation, the staff was very helpful and
organized.  Cabin service was very efficient and our dining room staff was very attentive and fun.  You could tell
that our waiter truly cared that we were happy with our meals and he was very good with names.  I will also note
that I felt the disembarkation process was extremely well thought out and efficient.  Everyone was given a time to
vacate their cabin and a place where they should go to wait to be called to customs.  Very organized.  It was the
smoothest disembarkation process that I've ever seen on a ship.

Entertainment/Activities?  The big shows were all very good, the comedians were hilarious.  We didn't really get
to many of the other audience participation shows because we were busy with our dancing schedule!  The bands
in the lounges and disco were very talented and entertaining.  I would have liked a bit more variety in the songs
that the band played.  Seemed like every night was the same play list, but the DJ helped to offset that by playing
all requests and we had a very good variety of songs throughout the cruise from the DJ.  It was nice to get to the
shows or music venues at start time and have no trouble with finding a good seat ~ that was refreshing.

Closing comments:
I do think that Celebrity is a top notch cruise line. It didn't show on this cruise, but I can only think that because it
was a more casual environment that things were toned down a bit.  Normally, things are elegant in an understated
manner.  It was a more casual cruise due to location and ports of call, so I didn't feel that people really adhered to
the expected dress code, but I for one, was OK with that.  We really are most comfortable in jeans and cowboy
boots ~ and other than formal nights, we were not out of place with that attire.  They say no jeans in the main
dining room, but we were never turned away and I saw others wearing jeans also.  However, everyone was
respectably dressed- the jeans weren't torn or sloppy.  

I will take another Celebrity cruise in the future and feel comfortable with continuing to recommend Celebrity to my
clients.  They do not disappoint.  Overall it was a very good cruise experience, much better than Princess last year.