Prior to the cruise I'd asked the RCCL UK Customer Services if we could take a wine box on board rather than the specified two heavy and fragile bottles, but this was not permitted. It became something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, as despite wrapping the bottles in clothing (in an otherwise 'shoes and electronic bits' case)one of them was smashed to millions of pieces during embarkation. This caused a 7-hour hold up to reunion with the case, a 1-hour salvage and shoe-washing exercise, and a $19 laundry bill. I won't be packing bottles again.
From there on the cruise went as smoothly as we have come to expect from our one previous Celebrity experience on the Solstice, with generally excellent and attentive service.
The daily 'Celebrity Today' programmes, with weather forecast etc are excellent.
The 'Britain Today' (or other countries, as appropriate) newspaper highlight printings are also a nice touch.
Food quality in the Trellis restaurant was excellent by my standards, especially (again as usual with this US line) the steaks. Select dining didn't work very well, as there was usually a delay before being allocated a table, even for pre-booked time slots. Meals often took rather too long due to the time it seemed to take getting food from the galley to deck 5 which probably contributed to arranged times not being readily available.
Hot food both here and in the Oceanview cafe was mostly not as hot as UK customers perhaps like... not sure if this is a health-and-safety precaution, a US preference, or just inadequate facilities? Perversely, in Oceanview the bowls for cold fresh fruit etc are nearly always boiling hot from the dishwashers!
Food quality in Oceanview was mixed... some excellent and some rather bland, but full marks for fresh fruit and most of the cakes, pastries and desserts.
The layout of the Oceanview is not as good as on the Solstice, as it is spread out over almost half the length of the ship, so it can take ages to gather a mixed assortment of breakfast items for example.
The Bistro on Five provided outstanding service and food quality in a relaxed and uncrowded venue. Seek this out to avoid the cattle market in Oceanview, as it's well worth the $5 cover charge.
All bar service was spot-on, and drink prices not too steep (about the same as a good hotel).
Cellar Masters, despite having comfortable and pleasant seating, was virtually empty most of the time.... I don't think there are enough wine connoisseurs on your average cruise to make the most of this venue?
Likewise, Michaels Club seemed to be somewhat under-subscribed, perhaps due to folks thinking it's 'members only'? (Why call it a club?)
Entertainment was better than I expected. The 'Stars of Infinity' in particular were very professional and versatile. The Fiore Strings trio who seem to be residential on Millennium Class ships also did a fine job in various venues.
I'm not usually big on comedy, but Steve Womack's adult entertainment sessions were very amusing without being offensive.
I won't say very much about the beautiful Fjords and their ports, or excursions, as they are well-reviewed elsewhere:-
Surprisingly pretty around the old town, and clean /smart elsewhere with very little sign really of this being the hub of the oil exploration industry in Norway.
Rather unremarkable, but it was a damp day.
We enjoyed the rail journey; albeit at Norwegian and Cruise line prices (we used the Celebrity excursion rather than risk the queues, and in fairness the guide was very good, which added value).
Truly the jewel-in-the-crown for views along the fjord, which the captain fully exploited on the sail-out (even arranging for the sun to be at a perfect position to illuminate the seven sisters).
We pre-booked a 2-hour drive up (and down) Mount Dalsnibba with Fjord Service; which was easy and great value at 27 each. These tours fill up very quickly on the day, so advance booking is highly recommended.
Not a lot to do in the small town so we booked Celebrity's $109 (70) Cruise on lake Loen. On a cold damp and windy day (Norway gets a lot of those) this would probably be a mediocre outing, but on this particular day, 23rd August, it was magical.
As our coach reached the lake in the early morning a mist was just starting to rise, giving some movie-quality images in the valley. The emerald green lake was also like a mirror, which added to the beauty as we cruised. The guide on the boat is a local farm owner who lives on the lake and provides an interesting commentary, especially about the two 'tsunami' disasters that befell the lake communities in the early 1900's when part of the adjacent mountainside collapsed.
The excursion continued to a nearby arm of the Jostedal glacier, which was also well worth seeing on this exceptionally warm and sunny day.
Heck of a queue for the funicular railway, but a good view from the top.
Otherwise, its a city... I don't like 'em much.
Booking the car park in advance involves them sending out tickets by mail, and at no discount to doing it on the day, so all in all a bit old-fashioned.
Signage at the port is pretty clear and once on the car park everything was efficient, with a short bus transfer to the ship.
Embarkation in a cruise terminal and airport-style covered walkway gantries is spot-on.
It was just as simple on the return phase, although a few people had their luggage sent to the wrong place (probably a Celebrity error)
I don't think Harwich rates as a tourist destination!
The port is very close to the part of the city housing museums, so very convenient for d.i.y. excursions.
We bought day passes that allow use of all public transport and entry to the museums, which compared with cruise line excursions was great value at 23 each.