We are two seniors and this was our 11th cruise and the itinerary was the best yet. We booked our tickets through RCL Choice Air and our trip was uneventful except that the planes (coach) were extremely crowded.
We arrived in London on My 12th and overnighted at the Airport Hilton Hotel in Terminal 4. This was not a great choice for the hotel. The room although spacious, was uncomfortably warm and there was no way to ventilate it because the windows overlooked the hotel lobby. In addition, we had to call the night manager because the comforter had a stain on it. The manager did have the bedding changed but was unable to correct the problem with the air conditioning. He did not apologize for the inconvenience.
We checked out of our hotel at 7:00 AM and waited in the lobby for our drive to Harwich. We had booked transportation in advance from the Hilton to Harwich with International Friends. They told us to be in the lobby between 7 and 7:45 but did not arrive until after 10:00 AM. We waited with another couple. We attempted to call their number but the office was closed until 9:00 AM. We called their emergency number but it bounced over to the office number and again we were told to call back after 9:00 AM. Finally at 9:00 we got in touch with the bus driver who informed us that he was on the other side of the airport waiting for a passenger who was not yet ready. He arrived for our pickup around and hour later. The hotel staff was very concerned because we were not picked up as scheduled and assisted us in making the calls and getting information.
I will mention that we also used International Friends (because we booked this in advance) for our transportation from Harwich to London after the cruise. That trip was uneventful. We were picked up and dropped off as scheduled and had a lovely stop at the London Tower Bridge on the way to our hotel.
Embarkation for the ship was fast and uneventful. Of course we were welcomed and greeted and offered juice and mimosas before we boarded.
We had a concierge class cabin and it was lovely. It was very long and narrow but there were lots of places for storage. We met our cabin steward, Leticia and she was great. She really helped to make our trip a pleasant one. She kept the room spotless and always had a pleasant and welcoming greeting for us. She seemed to know when we left the room and we never had to wait long for our room to be cleaned. On the "S" class ships CC staterooms are a little larger than the standard cabins. We enjoyed this.
The ship is one of Celebritys older sips and it was refurbished two years ago. Even the carpeting was replaced. However, the ship definitely shows signs of wear. There was rust on the dining room windows and rust on the tenders. But it is a very beautiful ship. There is a large casino on board. The shopping area has mostly high-end (expensive) items or cheap junk.
The staff on the ship was very pleasant except for the waiters in the main dining room. We had continuous problems with the magnetic code on our key card. We had to go downstairs to replace it, sometimes two and three times a day. Finally at the end of the trip, someone from the engineering staff came up and corrected the problem. There was a problem with a lock on the door.
We ate all of our breakfasts in the Aqua Spa cafe. There were no crowds here and the food was delicious. We did go down to see the buffet one day but it smelled unappetizing and it was very crowded.
The dining room food was very good except for the desserts. It is just a personal thing but I do not like the way X does desserts. It seems as though everything is mousse. The desserts were better in Cafe Al Bacio, so we stopped there often. The menu in the main dining room showed lots of variety. The food was attractively plated. The onion soup and the Caesar salad were delicious as were most of the salads and entrees. The shrimp and lobster tail were very good. My husband and I like to eat at a table for two because I am very hard of hearing and it is difficult to converse with others. We had to get to the dining room by 5:15 to be assured of a table for two. You could go later but you would have to take your chances as these filled up fast. The service in the dining room was very spotty. Servers were very rushed and did not always have time to fill those special requests. My husband and I prefer assigned dining so we can build up a relationship with the server.
We ate only two lunches on board; one was the show buffet and one was a private party for the Captain's Club members. The food was delicious on both.
We decided to use some of our on board credits for the five night specialty dining package. On this 11 night cruise we ended up eating three times in the SS United States and twice in Qsine. We have been on the S class ships on Celebrity and the food at Qsine was as good as if not better than on those ships. Not so the SS United States. The appetizers did not have the same quality as those at Murano on the Eclipse and the Silhouette. But the lobster tail was awesome at the SS United States. It is prepared tableside and was great. However, the Dover Sole was only fair. The service in the SS United States was wonderful. Because there are only two specialty restaurants, I think I would get the three day specialty meal package if I did this cruise again. The food is good, but the menus dont change from day to day. The Qsine Dining Room was small but very pretty.
The brunch buffet in the main dining room was held on the last day of the cruise. There is no announcement and no publicity for this event. If you go on X you should ask when this buffet is being held. Dont miss it; its really great!
Since this cruise was very port intensive, we did not do many of the shows. However there were three shows that deserved special mention. These were at 5:00 on one of the days we were in Ireland and both days we were in Scotland. These were local, native entertainment (such as Scottish songs and dance) and were very entertaining.
On Day 2 of the cruise we took the ships shore excursion and did a half day trip to Honfleur. I was very glad we booked this in advance because the tour was sold out when we boarded the ship. The tour was well done. This is a beautiful little city and even though it was pouring, there was a lot to see and do in this town. We used the afternoon to have lunch and walk in Le Havre. I was told later that there is a tram tour. I am sorry we missed this because there was little to do in Le Havre.
On Day 3 we tendered to St. Peter Port, Chanel Islands. This is a beautiful port. I recommend getting your tender tickets early because there is a long wait to do this. We got to the lounge to get our tender tickets at 10 AM and did not get to Guernsey until noon. Since we had to be back in line by 2:00 to tender back to the ship, this did not give us a lot of time. This is a very walkable, lovely port.
On Thursday (day 4) we arrived in Cobh. We elected to take the train to Cork and spend the morning there. We simply walked off the ship and to the train station which was a short walk from the pier. After a short train ride we were in Cork. This was a very charming city. We did lots of walking and browsing in the stores. In the afternoon we took the train back to Cobh and walked around that lovely town. My husband and I are photographers and this town was very pretty. We spent about a half an hour at the museum at the dock in Cobh.
On Day 5 we found ourselves in Dublin, Ireland. X charged $15.00 pp for a bus ride into the City Center. From there we purchased tickets to the Hop-on, hop-off bus. Since we were also going to Belfast, we elected to purchase a combo ticket. It saved us some money.
We boarded the Hop-on, on hop-off and toured the gaol. This was a fascinating slice of Irish history and was very informative on prison reform. It took about two hours. The tour guide was excellent and the tour was well done. After touring gaol, we hopped back on the tour bus and finished the circuit around Dublin. We walked around the down-town city center area (shopping, of course). We went to Trinity College but did not have time to do the Book of Kells. We went to St. Stevens Green, a beautiful park in this area. Dublin is a beautiful city and we want to go back there.
The next day, Saturday, we arrived in Liverpool, England. We stayed mostly around the dock area. There is a beautiful shopping mall within walking distance of the dock. Also, there is the Albert pier, with shops and restaurants. In that area there are two museums; the Beatles Museum and the Maritime Museum. We did both Museums. Both were fascinating. The Maritime museum is actually several museums in one. The International Slavery Museum was very informative. This facility will soon be moving to its own building. There was a section on the Titanic. Also, because Liverpool was the place where most immigrants boarded their ships for the United States, there are many exhibits detailing this. There was a section on the Titanic and a fascinating section on Maritime crime and smuggling. After a brief lunch at one of the restaurants at the Albert Dock, we did the Beatles Museum. If you are a diehard Beatles fan, this is for you. There was in interesting souvenir shop in the museum and a Starbuck's Cafe (with free internet).
On Sunday we arrived in Belfast. After taking a bus to the City Center, we boarded the hop-on, hop-off for the Titanic Museum. I recommend buying your tickets on-line for both this and the Beatles Museum. You can save a considerable amount of time doing this. The museum was very informative. There were many exhibits, even mock-ups of first, second and third class cabins. This museum followed the progress of the Titanic through its inception and well after the tragic sinking. After the Titanic Museum we re-boarded the hop-on, hop-off for the rest of the circuit. We saw some of the murals and heard something about the troubles. By the way, the guides on these busses were very knowledgeable and the talks were interesting. When we completed the tour we walked around the downtown area. If you get lost in a city where there is a hop-on, hop-off, you can just approach one of their guides for directions. They are all over both cities in their red shirts and are easy to spot.
One Monday we arrived in Greencock. Since we had been to Edinburg before (and really love the city), we elected to return there. We purchased in Edinburg on your own ticket from the cruise line and spent the day in the city. Although there is a hop-on, hop off, most of the sights were within walking distance of the Royal Mile From our bus we took a cab to the top of the Royal Mile (the castle) and walked down, exploring the side streets and sights as we did so. We wanted to tour Holroyd House, the Queens summer palace but it was closed for an official function. We explored the Parliament building across the street from the Palace. After lunch we walked back to our tour bus.
After a relaxing sea day, we arrived at Inverness, Scotland. We purchased a shore excursion to tour the Battlegrounds and Loch Ness. My husband and I did not enjoy this tour, and I personally would not recommend it. Loch Ness is a tourist trap. It would be good if you have children because there is a very small museum there. The highlight of this tour was a stop in Inverness for a few hours. You can purchase just a ticket for Inverness on your own. Inverness is a beautiful little city.
After a final sea day and we docked in Harwich. This was a great Port Intensive Cruise and we really enjoyed every minute of it (except the trip to Loch Ness). We are photographers and the scenery was beautiful. Our cruise left May 13th and unfortunately the weather was terrible. The temperature was in the high 40s to low 50s for most of the days and it rained at least half the time. I recommend if you do this cruise that you go about two weeks later for warmer weather. It rains all the time in this area but at least it wont be cold. Our disembarkation was uneventful. As mentioned before we took a coach from International Friends from Harwich to our hotel in London.
We used points for our additional 7 day stay in London at the London Hilton Park Lane. This is a beautiful hotel and the service was lovely. After this we used additional points for a 3 day stay in Bath at the Bath Hilton Hotel, also a great hotel. For these two trips (London to Bath and Bath to Heathrow) we bought tickets for the National Express Bus. The London bus departed from the Victoria Coach Station in London. We had a short cab ride two and from the coach stations in both cities. The trip was very convenient and much less expensive than a cab. This was one of the best vacations ever. This area is often neglected because people like to do Mediterranean cruises. It should be on everyone's bucket list.