We have just returned from our first Celebrity cruise, 12 nights which sailed from Southampton to Le Havre (for Paris), Le Verdon (for Bordeaux), Bilboa, Vigo, and Porto.
As my wife is expecting, we asked at check-in if we could be rushed through which they said no problem and we were moved to the front and we were on the ship within 10 minutes. Big thumbs up.
Initial impressions of the ship that although it was a mid-sized ship, the same as our last 2 cruises on the P&O Oceana, it seemed larger with more public areas. The main thing that was missing was the atrium, which was disappointing as this is usually the most impressive part of the ship. After doing a quick tour as the ship I didn't like it, I thought there was too many cafe's, bars that all looked the same and didn't think I would find my bearings. Mid way through the cruise I got used to it, and found it it to be an impressive ship with a good layout.
There was a wide variety of nationalities on the ship, a lot from over the other side of the Atlantic and I thought with us being a young couple, we thought we would be fairly lonely on this cruise. However after a day or 2 we started to meet some very nice people, some whom we are staying in though with.
We booked an outside cabin mid ship and low, which we were very happy with, especially for the price we paid. It had a large port hole, a small settee, plenty of storage, double shower and plenty of room. Due to the position of the cabin, there was very little movement throughout the cruise and the captain used the stabilisers when he thought it would get rough. Our stateroom attendant was friendly and chatty (even though we called him by his last name all cruise, whoops !) and helped us with anything we needed.
In the buffet Sea Side restaurant at the top of the ship there was a good variety of food, from shepherds pie to sushi, and curry's to pizza. The layout wasn't great, you needed to keep going back and forth especially at the drinks station which could have been laid out a lot better and easier. However it was good enough and plenty of seats made sure you were never short of somewhere to sit.
We were on an early sitting (6:00) on a table for 2 in the San Marco restaurant which we attended on the second night. The waiters were friendly and helpful but not very personable. As we did a tour to Paris on the third day we asked Oliver the Assistant Maitre D if we could change to the late sitting (8:30). He sorted it and we were moved to a different area of the restaurant. We found it more enjoyable there and the waiters more chatty and entertaining so we asked to be moved permanently which Oliver arranged. After a night or 2 we joined a couple we had befriended in the casino and sat on their table for the rest of the holiday. The food generally wasn't anything special and the service lacked on a few occasions but overall the dining experience was good.
On a couple of occasions we had lunch in the Crepe Bistro which for $5 each was definitely worth it. The crepes and paninis were excellent and there was a good atmosphere and good service.
One night, Oliver sorted out a reduced price for the Tuscan grill for the 4 of us. It should have been $30 each, but we got it for $24 each plus a complimentary glass of wine. The wine was charged to our bill which we weren't happy about but they removed it when queried. The food and service in the Tuscan Grill was excellent, there were 6 courses: Appetiser, Soup, Pasta Course, Fish Course, Meat Course and Dessert. We couldn't manage the dessert so we arranged to return the following night for it, which wasn't a problem :) In fact we joined another couple we had befriended the following night and they brought us practically every dessert on the menu, they really couldn't do enough for you and I highly recommend this restaurant as a treat.
The Casino was large with a lot of tables and slots. The slots needed updating and the tables were $6 minimum to play, so I only played 1 night. I mainly played texas hold em on the electronic table which was $60 per game (house took $10 each). This was the social hub of the ship for me and we met a lot of great people here.
The Thalassotherapy pool was great and I went here nearly every day. As there was hardly any sun on this cruise it was great to have this option and would have been a little bored without this. The changing area was very clean and with good facilities including a sauna with a large port hole. The gym had a good variety and number of up to date machines with a separate area for free weights and aerobics. The spa was expensive, but this is par for the course on cruise ships.
The Cafe on board with the big yellow chairs was nice to sit in through the day and the herbal teas were great.
We didn't attend many shows but the theatre was impressive and what we did see was good.
The excursions were many and varied, but all were over priced. This didn't seem to put people off as they are well marketed. We only took 1 trip to Paris which worked out about Â£80 each and included a sightseeing tour, a couple of hours free time and a cruise down the River Seine. As Paris is about 2.5 hours away from port we thought this was not too bad, but it was a long day.
The drinks prices on board were expensive and it was a good job we both weren't drinking as our cruise bill would've been very high ! A 15% tip was added on for each drink which soon adds up. In the cafe you could pay nearly Â£3.50 for a drink you could get for free in the self service restaurant.
Photos were expensive but they didn't seem to hassle you as much on this cruise and quickly scarpered when I said we hadn't spoken for 3 days (works every time :)
The tips charges were $11.50/day (Â£7.15) compared to P&O Â£3.50/day. We asked for these to be adjusted off as we prefer to pay in cash. For example, we didn't eat in the main restaurant 5 nights so we didn't want to tip the waiters there as we were tipping other waiters elsewhere.
The payout for things like Bingo was very low and needs to be addressed.
Le Havre - OK for Paris, but 1 day was enough here.
Le Verdon - Rubbish
Bilbao - Nice port, plenty to do
Vigo - Again nice port
Porto - Handy for the beach and not too far from town.
Disembarking at the end of the cruise was quick and easy.
Overall the cruise was very good (bar the weather) and Celebrity certainly know what they are doing. P&O seem behing the times compared to them and need to up their game. However, we will not be cruising with them in the near future as they wanted to charge Â£500 + tips for a 6 month old baby when we asked for a quote for next year. We thought this rediculous and will probably get a last minute deal with P&O as they don't charge up to 2 years.