Overall Rating - 4 out of 5. My scale - 1=stranded at sea, 3=average cruise experience, and 5=Perfection.
Great Itinerary (5) - France (LeHavre), England (St Peter Port, Liverpool), Ireland (Cork, Dublin) Northern Ireland (Belfast) and Scotland (Glasgow, Inverness). This cruise is front ended loaded with activity (7 ports in 7 days) followed by 1 port in 3 days). Plenty of time in ports (10 hours on average).
Great Food (5) - The food quality was great. Dinner menu in dining room was varied and all items were high quality. Best item was Beef Wellington served on the same night as lobster (instant Surf and Turf). Lobsters were large. I had mostly red meat dishes, some lamb and chicken, no fish. The dining buffet gets high marks because of multiple stations where items were cooked to order (Pasta, Stir Fry, Steak, Sandwich Bar, Burger bar) and the fresh Pizza counter open past midnight and the Sushi station. For breakfast again egg/omelet and waffle stations. If you selected the pre-made items you got cafeteria quality - what else would you expect. Did not try the specialty restaurants - other food was great - why pay extra.
Cabin (5) - Veranda Port Side. Mid-Back Ship. Low noise. Easy Access to two sets of elevators. Longest walk was to the Theatre at the front of the ship. Mechanical systems worked - although the toilet needed a special touch. Layout was functional. Room really did not feel any different than our past veranda / ocean view cabins on this / other cruise lines. Spouse felt that the room appeared more roomy - maybe because you only got a small desk area versus any vanity space.
Air Travel - Celebrity Choice Air - Their rate was just a little lower than the rate on the British Airways internet site. Choice Air internet site was easy to use - you can also reach folks on the phone (note if you are not a member of celebrity rewards program talking to the people costs a little extra). British Airways was the best air line since it offered direct Philly London flights. Plus Service is just better on European airlines.
Pre-Cruise Stay - We stayed at one of the Celebrity selected Hotels (Hilton Metropole). Because of a pre-buy special offered by the hotel we booked on our own. Without this special the Celebrity and Hotel rates were comparable. We arrived 2 days before cruise started. Took time to tour London and get over Jet Lag. 2 Days were not enough to tour London, however, it got us over Jet Lag.
Transfers - This is Important - We needed three.
- Airport to Hotel - Heathrow to Downtown London - $15 to $90. Stop Train to Paddington Station is cheapest ($15)takes about 45 minutes - Pick it up at select terminals (our choice). Paddington Express - Direct Airport to Paddington - 15 minutes - $25 - pick it up at select terminals. Cabs - Most Expensive.
- London to Pier - We chose Celebrity Bus from Victoria Bus Station ($101). No problems. Victoria Bus Station is one busy place. Cab is probably prohibitive. Independents offer Bus Service. Trains also run directly to the pier - one transfer. Celebrity was competitive and it is now their responsibility to get you to terminal. Bus left at Noon and we were at pier by 2:30 PM.
- Pier to Airport - Celebrity will not guarantee plane departures before 1 PM. We chose Transfer + Windsor Castle. Cost $122 - Pure Transfer $101. Chances of seeing anything but the outside of Windsor - Zero. Left Ship at 7:30 (first group off) and made it to Windsor at 10:45 - Note Windsor is right by Heathrow so I can see why they do not guarantee flights before 1 PM. We had 1 1/2 hours at Windsor. Line to get into Castle was at least 1/2 hour long. So for the extra $21 you get a shopping and lunch opportunity. Worked out since our flight was 5 Pm and we got to airport at 1 PM.
Check in - no problem - we got to the ship at 2:30 - most folks were on-board already. We had no wait. Filled out paperwork on line - check in was quick.
Service - This is what kept the rating from being a 5 and was real close to reducing it to a average (3). Cabin attendant was efficient even though we rarely saw him. When called he was at the door before you had a chance to finish verbalizing your request. There were a few other pockets of excellence. OVERALL THE SERVICE WAS LACKLUSTER - NO QUALITY. This was especially visible at the dining venues. At the buffet - trays and dirty plates stayed on the tables for way to long (up to a 1/2 hour). In the morning this caused problems with not enough seating. Also of the five coffee/juice locations there were never more than 3 working and it seems like nobody cared. Reports from folks with the early / late seating was that service was slow. We did My time Dining and this was a disaster. In-sufficient help. So the waiters had way too many tables at a time and in general each table was used 3 times a night. So everybody was just running around. You never got the same waiter twice - so you could not establish a relationship. The working relationship between head and assistant waiter was also non-existent. Maitre De was made aware of the problem during the transatlantic crossing from Ft Lauderdale and were unable or unwilling to solve it during our cruise. Some Waiters tried hard - but the system was stacked against them. We heard from several folks that Royal Caribbean (sister company) had this issue solved and My-time was the best experience. The other item was you never saw the officers around the ship - so they were not in touch and were not leading the crew.
Entertainment - the three Broadway shows were superb. Of the individual performers - two were real good and two were average. We really did not follow the lounge performers - although each had a following. With 8 ports we did not spend much time on ship during the day except for the two sea days. This minimized the opportunity to participate in other on-board activities. In general there were way fewer activities than on a Caribbean cruise.
Excursions - The ports were the reason to take this cruise. Celebrity offered a good variety of activities. Pricing was comparable to local services for the two of us. If you had a group you could probably beat celebrity pricing.