Despite all the jet lag, we feel extremely blessed to have been on this cruise! We flew into LHR and had self-booked a National Express bus to Southampton (you can change itinerary for 10 English pounds-a hefty price), nice service, and a good time to take a nap. Next, we walked to our B&B (Argyle House: small rooms, hallway bathroom that no-one seemed to share, fantastic English breakfast) and then took a stroll to a local pub for some draught beer and meat pie with peas and chips. We had thought about buying champagne in UK to bring aboard since we almost never check luggage (really!), but with the UK prices we decided against it. Cabs around town in Southampton will cost you around 10-15 pounds.
The embarkation was remarkable. We booked concierge for the first time (usually we stay in veranda), and we were placed ahead of every line that had formed. We must have been checked in within 10 minutes. We waited to board since it was still so early and once that process was started it all went quickly. We arrived to a bottle of Celebrity label vineyards sparkling wine, and it was good enough we asked for another bottle - at $28, very reasonable.
Unfortunately, after a full English breakfast we weren't hungry at all and by the time we did want to eat, everyone made a run for it. The Ocean View Cafe can get very busy and the drink stations /crazy/ -on such a modern ship an awful design.
Spoiled on HAL food, we were seriously disappointed with stateroom breakfast (cold, dry omelettes; miniature dry croissants), the Indian Food station and the lack of appetizers; however, their spaghetti Bolognese is fantastic and we kept coming back to it. Ice cream, mixed olives, and some breads were very good, otherwise, average food. The dining room was good, not great, except for their beef Wellington (pick that instead of lobster) which was superb.
We highly recommend a trip to Qsine. Their Mediterranean sampler, ice cream bullet and ceviche are fantastic. Don't eat their bread or things like popcorn shrimp, instead leave room to taste all the interesting dishes from various cuisines. Don't recommend the pool bar for cocktails (very weak).
Speaking of specialty restaurants: Cafe Al Bacio is worth at least 1 trip. It's ridiculous to charge $4.50 for an Americano, but it is of excellent quality and the atmosphere and seats are comfortable.
Same with the Bistro - great crepes for $5, which are very filling, and not for every day, but it was a lovely experience.
The AquaSpa Cafe has also some good snacks (except the lavender-perfumed bananas.. why do that? They taste good as is...).
The library, pools and hot tubs are wonderful, and we use them regularly.
We don't use the iLounge (many complaints connections are too slow) or spa.
As far as the music, there were several very nice live performances, from a jazz band to an acapella group, and then a Philipino "do-it-all" band by the pool.
Our room stewart was amazingly fast, thorough, and completely overworked. We ended up discouraging the turn-down service so he could get a break.
The overall room, bed, bathroom were great, except the closet was small for 2 weeks/2 people. Every one of the very few issues we had were addressed right away by customer service.
Aside from LeHavre, which we basically slept through d/t jet lag, the ports were awesome. Cherbourg is a beautiful little town with nice people - bring some Euros as many placed don't take credit cards. Sao Miguel island was the highlight of the trip, what a beautiful island. We talked to a taxi driver who gave us what 3 tours couldn't, for 75 Euro each, a real deal. We went to Sete Cidades, their tea plantation, Furnas Lake/Valley and Ribeira. Spectacular!
We heard the Oct/Nov weather can swing either way and all my turtlenecks were unused.. instead we got a tan by the poolside with around 70s-80s on the entire section after the Azores. Since it's off season, the price is right as well.
Concierge may or may not be worth the extra money depending on how much you book and if you're willing to wait for certain things, definitely not for the extended in-room breakfast!
Would do it again in a heartbeat.