Snarky Staff, Mediocre Entertainment, & Undercooked Food,
March 06, 2014
This was our fourth cruise in ten years, although our first with Celebrity. What a letdown. We had planned this trip on Celebrity Millennium to Southeast Asia as our 25th wedding anniversary celebration. As omen of things to come, Celebrity gave us a complimentary bottle of wine for our anniversary...but forgot to leave a cork-screw in the room...and this was in a "Concierge Class" cabin. When I called to inquire about a corkscrew, the room attendant said, "I'm eating lunch right now, I'll come when I've finished."
I have Celiac Disease which means I must adhere to a Gluten-free diet. Before making the reservation, I sent a list of things I can and cannot eat to the agent and special-diets email and was assured that Celebrity could handle all of my dietary requirements. I inquired again one month before sailing and asked if gluten free food and supplies would be loaded on the ship and was told yes, they would look after me. Not True!
There was only one type of gluten free bread on the entire ship for 14 days--Food for Life Rice bread in white and brown rice. NO muffins, edible waffles/pancakes (to be fair, the cook tried, but without GF flour mixes stocked on board the results were inedible), crackers, cookies, hot cereal, noodles (except for one brand of Pad Thai) but no pasta sauce, and of course at the daily high tea, no gluten free tea cakes or cupcakes in sight.
On previous cruises (Norwegian), I was offered REAL gluten free food including bagels, waffles, cakes, breads, several types of pasta and sauces and customer service that was friendly, professional and frankly a joy to experience. Why this is beyond Celebrity Cruise lines is a mystery.
However, what is not a mystery is that the staff made it clear that my medical requirements were my problem and of no concern to them. As one assistant maitre'd named Alex said, "I serve you only so I don't get in trouble."
More disturbing was the snarkiness and lack of education evidenced by the staff. Several times we saw servers use tongs or their hands to handle regular wheat bread and then utilized these same utensils to give me gluten free bread w/o knowledge of the dangers of cross contamination -- or worse yet, use these utensils for fruit plates, cheese plates etc...
One night, our waiter, "Salih" brought me lamb wrapped in phyllo dough for dinner (I had pre-ordered fish since dough is NOT gluten free generally), and when I suggested this was not my dinner, he said, "Oh yes, I specifically checked with our chef and it is absolutely safe for you to eat it." He was visibly annoyed when I told him it could not possibly be my dinner since I pre-ordered fish the night before. He finally brought out my fish while everyone else was eating dessert. Had I taken his word I would have spent the entire cruise in the medical cabin.
Both a gentleman from Canada and my husband sent back their dinners one night. The meat was cold and undercooked and the roasted potatoes were uncooked and still hard. A woman from Russia and I both sent back the "duck soup" which was greasy, flavorless, and basically inedible.
I was very disappointed in the quality of the food. Several fellow cruisers said they chose Celebrity over other cruise lines because they found the food superior. This was NOT the case on this cruise. Little variety, few choices, and undercooked food were presented night after night.
An assistant maitre'd Alex kept insisting I go eat on the 10th floor buffet rather than the main dining room, because as he said, "I only serve you so you don't complain about me, why not eat upstairs?" He also told me, "You give your order to the chef and it is his job to make it for you....I only bring the food." Another assistant maitre'd, named Anatoly who was taking requests for dinning preferences when we first boarded the ship brushed aside my request to share a list of foods I can and cannot eat with him and his colleagues. His response was, "So what do you want me to do about it?"
Interestingly, I had to explain to a junior staff member why I needed to speak with Anatoly before I was allowed to verify that gluten free meals were available on the ship and that they had received my previous emails. The job of this junior staff member was "crowd control" (verbatim from the Manager of Food and Beverages) for Anatoly....seriously? Four of us were in line...another person with food intolerance and 2 octogenarians seeking to change their dinner times....crowd control? Not exactly a Springsteen concert mash-up if you get my drift.
The entertainment was a real disappointment. Third tier and frankly I've seen more talent at high school musicals. One pianist, we dubbed "Shanghai Liberace" had the nerve to narrate a music video of himself playing one of his own compositions entitled "Shanghai Nights". Really? Does Celebrity really think a promotional pitch from a pianist is really entertainment? I counted eight people walking out of this so called performance on the main floor....
Oh, and did I mention that our passports were confiscated on day two of this 14 day cruise and only returned on Feb. 14th the night before arriving in Hong Kong. The crew insisted we would be safe going ashore in Thailand and both Vietnams with only our cabin room keys. Seriously? My understanding is that no-one is allowed to confiscate my US passport and that should I go ashore (on ship-run excursions) in a foreign country without it I would be a person without a country or resources to get home.
So, I won't bore you with more details of how badly we were treated on this cruise. Discussions with the cruise director and manager of food and beverage were fruitless. They listened, but no discernible changes were made. The bottom-line is that our experience with Celebrity demonstrates that they treat passengers without respect, extreme snarkiness and an obvious dislike of being in a customer service industry. The "X" as the "mark of modern luxury?" Perhaps Celebrity should update their tagline to match the reality of their service. My assessment is that one should carefully evaluate all of your options before booking a cruise!