The ports of call on our British Isle cruise were nice, some spectacular. The busy schedule left little rest time for rest but that was OK. The crew was uniformly friendly and the cabin was OK. The "king size bed" was, of course, nothing of the sort but why quibble? Entertainment was first rate.
Harwich, the dock, is a sleepy village 2 1/2 hours from London. The only reason to dock there must be low fees. It is in the middle of nowhere and creates a longer sail time. There is also the little matter of transport fees. Unlike the old days, transporting to any place closer than 50 feet is big business. We paid $500 for round trip since Celebrity could not (as promised) leave early enough to ensure our plane connections. (There is also a rail involving two changes of trains and a taxi -all with luggage.)
The initial Oceanview Cafe buffet was horrid - obviously leftovers from the previous cruise. Gone are the days of service when waiters brought silverware and drinks. No, the traveler carries plates (no trays! - a new policy) then must get silverware and drinks - confusion USA. Glass panels block self-serve except at the salad bar where folks squatted, pushed their head through to reach the veggies and dropped hair on the food.
The dining room was equally unorganized. Long lines waited for tables yet the young man who greeted the diners also had to search the ship when a table became available THEN lead them back to their table. Meanwhile, a woman at the other entrance never moved. NIght after night this charade was carried out to the chuckles of guests who wondered why in the world they didn't ask one of the waiters standing around to get the guests or lead them to their table.
Excursions. Something we avoid since they are wildly overpriced and impersonal. We'd team up with other couples for rides to town or the countryside at 1/3 to 1/2 the cost. For some reason, Celebrity blocks booking excursions four days before sale (that's a new one). I was told it was because the tour group they used did not have enough buses and the tours were sold out.
Many reports of folks sent on wild goose chases by employees unfamiliar with the ship. I was sent to three floors (3, 5 and 8) before finding the Internet cafe on 9. There is also the problem of understanding English beyond "I want that." A request for runny yellows in eggs resulted in something crusted on both sides (the poor guy smiled, clueless).
The two-tiered policy of service was a disaster. Frequent travelers and "special" guests had reserved rooms that were uniformly empty. And about those "specialty restaurants". There is a reason for the hard sale prior to boarding. Nobody was paying the ridiculous "cover charge" for a "special" dinner. So discounts were offered (increasing daily), crew members pushed them to those waiting for elevators. We were with a couple designated "special" (they had no idea why) but who refused to dine or drink alone. Celebrity should reward frequent travelers with a bottle of wine, reduced costs, a free night at a "special" restaurant.
Speaking of empty, Celebrity must expect an army of relapsed AA folks. The bars and lounges were ubiquitous yet empty except during dinner when folks searched for a place to sit while they waited on a table. The casino was likewise empty as has been the case for the past few years.
Selling is still the primary goal. Wine packages (250-300% markup), coke packages, spa packages as well as numerous stores with overpriced jewelry and clothes. "Fresh" orange juice can be had for $3/glass (a lonely server never had a single customer that I saw). No rhyme or reason - ice cream and desserts are free but not coffee, water or tapas. The cooking demonstrations were advertisements for the "specialty restaurants".
Recommendation: Charge $100-$200/ticket extra and cut out all the packages, constant selling and phony pitches. Give folks water, coffee or a coke (with ice around 20 cents). Reduce or omit internet charges. Celebrity is now hawking Apple products which is fine (I'm an Apple user) but what's next - Walmart or Toyota?
New travelers were impressed as were Celebrity-only travelers (although many tired of the constant nickle and diming). But those who have traveled widely on other cruise lines were not impressed. I understand that Celebrity wants to cut costs but they're going about it all wrong. Use personnel for waiters - not manning empty bars and lounges.