First, as I mentioned at the beginning, we booked this trip solely for the reason that it was a Top Chef cruise. Keith is not a fan of cruises, but he agreed to this one because he's a chef and he liked the idea of the Top Chef activities since we're both fans of the show. Also, we'd been on the Eclipse previously and did enjoy the quality of the food and the experience in general. Initially just the two of us planned to go as our "grown up away from the kids" vacation, but when I booked, there was a special that made it really a no brainer to bring the kids - so it became a family vacation.
I had some doubts as to if the kids would have enough to occupy themselves with three sea days on Celebrity. We had recently been on the Norwegian Breakaway and that ship really shines when it comes to activity! Also, it being during the school year, when we boarded we found out there were only 13 teens on board, including our kids. In the end, they did end up going to the teen club and it gave them something to do at night. They enjoyed the smaller size and while the scheduled activities weren't always done, they liked the kids they met and enjoyed the staff there quite a bit. Because it was the Top Chef sailing, our sea days were often occupied with those activities or we went to the pool together as a family. Both kids really loved the dining options on board - everything from the buffet to the specialty restaurants, and while they admittedly felt out of place at times, being amongst the youngest passengers on board - they definitely enjoyed this cruise.
In contrast - we just sailed on the Allure and returned mid-February. And I'll be writing that review as soon as I get myself a bit organized! But as a quick comparison on the teen club anyway - there were over 400 teens on board. Also a week where school was in session. And my kids really were very unimpressed with the teen club on board. They went the first night and went back once or twice and left right away both times. They said the scheduled activities never happened because "most" kids didn't want to do them. A small group did, including them, but since some kids didn't want to, they weren't done. So - no scavenger hunts or Amazing Race or games - just kids hanging out in the club talking. They didn't want to spend their vacation doing that with these kids. So - we spent the vacation mostly together and that was fine too. However, it was really unexpected. They figured with so many kids, the teen club would have a lot going on and they'd meet some kids and become friends for the week. Didn't happen.
Ok - moving on! Our cabin - while we loved the space in the Family Cabin - it had severe noise issues. Not just the docking noise, but the slamming and banging I mentioned early in the review. I definitely think there should be a disclaimer when booking this category, similar to how some cabins are notated as obstructed view - this one should says - may experience severe noise. It was really so bad at times that it was difficult to be in the cabin. And at night, sleep was just pretty much impossible when it was crashing. If I had small children, and seeing it's called a family cabin, someone in that cabin could very well have young children - I would have been very unhappy....But we survived.
We thoroughly enjoyed all of the Top Chef events. While the "pay" events were pricey, we knew that going in, and we chose to participate in them. We thought they were worth what we paid and we have been on a similar cruise in the past that had a Food Network Chef on board and the events were priced very similarly. I loved the variety of the demos, which were free and the quick fire was fun to watch as well. And it was great that with the cooking class and the dinner, the chefs were so accommodating and friendly with everyone in the group.
Also, it seems that as a result of this Top Chef cruise, Alex has really taken a liking to cooking! Having a chef for a dad, he's always had the cooking thing around him, but I think actually cooking in a professional kitchen, and it may sound odd - but with a chef other than his dad - as well as seeing the cooking demos - it really sparked an interest for him. He's been cooking a meal once a week since we've been home. A lot of fish dishes, with side dishes even! A great side effect from the trip!
We chose to carry our own luggage off the ship on Saturday morning, so we had a leisurely breakfast at the buffet and walked off around 9:30 I believe. We were spending one last night in Miami. I won't post all of our pictures and details of that day - unless someone asks....but lets say that I went to college at the University of Miami, so part of our day included a visit to my old school!
The new Rathskeller - I guess it's new and improved - there's an outside patio now anyway!
Yes boys - another picture!!! And where did that fountain come from?
And this? I think I remember the buildings, but the tables? The fountains? The circular things? Pretty sure they're new too!
And then of course we hit the bookstore and stocked up on our Cane's wear! Part one of our day in Miami was great.