The cruise started at Southampton so, for us, it was a relatively easy drive down on the A3 to our pre-booked car park on the dock near the ship. A Celebrity van was waiting just by our actual car parking space to take the luggage, and it was then a short stroll over to the terminal and a very quick check-in - we were on the ship by 1:30 just as the announcement telling us the cabins were open.
This is the second time we have been on this ship this year. Our balcony stateroom was on deck 8, by the rear stair/lift core, and it gave us our preferred layout of the couch nearest the window. We like this class of ship, it has a more contemporary feel to its interior design and the public areas are very spacious. We particularly like the Sky Lounge in the early evening.
We always do Select Dining, and make sure we book in advance - although, in fairness the queues were well controlled. It would be good, however, if Celebrity could make booking select dining times on its website a bit easier - we normally have to ring up head office! We prefer a table for two, ideally by the balcony edge overlooking the main dining area below, and managed to secure it every evening through the hostesses at the front desk. The waiters were cheerful and efficient as were the sommeliers - the food in the dining room was fine, better on some days than others, but no problem in finding something acceptable - except the soups which were very dull this time. A real surprise (and well done Celebrity) was the supply of jackets that the Maitre D kept by the desk - no one was allowed in the dining room on formal nights without a jacket - about time the dress code was enforced - but it wasn't a problem on this cruise - the DJ & Tux count was the highest we have ever seen!
We were lucky to have the free alcohol drinks package and it worked very well. At no point were we made to feel like second class citizens but, if you were paying for it, you do have to drink quite a bit to justify the cost. But it was great not to have to keep signing all the time.
We are not buffet fans but if you have to have one, the Solstice Class ships have the best - it's well signposted and very roomy, and there is a great place to eat in the open air on the deck at the rear. We didn't do any specialty restaurants as we find them over the top in terms of cost, service and portion size.
The passengers were mainly Brits, as you would expect for this itinerary, and some were quite elderly. Entertainment overall was OK, the shows were fine and a couple of the guest entertainers, particularly the guitarist in the theatre, were good. We like quizzes but felt that the entertainment staff were perhaps not so keen on them. There was music in the main atrium but the problem there is the space at the bottom of the grand staircase is not really big enough for dancing.
The cruise director's morning television show was an improvement over the one we had recently on the Equinox and the cruise director herself certainly got about the ship. The Captain's Club host, on the other hand, was disappointing, he seemed to be reluctant to take responsibility for any queries, but the actual events were good - the sail-in to Geiranger on the helicopter platform being the highlight.
This was a port intensive cruise. The weather was poor in the first stop in Bergen and we were concerned as to what it would be like in the fjords. Luckily it improved overnight and the sun shone both in Flam and Geiranger - thank goodness. We took the Flam railway tour through the ship but you don't have to, the station is next to the ship and there is plenty of room on the trains which run more frequently when a ship is in port. The best part of the trip was the stop at the falls where two troll maidens danced to some Norwegian music - weird but fun. At Geiranger there is a hop on hop off bus on the quay - there is not a lot to see, and it's the same in Alesund - a small bus that takes you around the town. Our last stop was Stavanger where the weather was wet again - we had an hour or so's walk round the town which was pleasant enough and the quaint old town is right by the ship. Prices are high in Norway as everyone says but there were plenty of stalls for curios - and many of them would take Euros or Dollars, and even sterling, though not at very good exchange rates.
Our final sea day was disappointing - the programme was poor, no proper trivia and slightly odd timings for the specialist speakers who, for once on Celebrity, were excellent, speaking on relevant subjects (like Vikings, atlantic crossings etc) - but did they really need to be given the 9am slot?
Disembarkation was good, we went for the take your own luggage at 6:30 and we were on the motorway by 7.
Overall, an interesting trip - as long as the weather is good. Several of the stops are small places and there would be nothing to do if the weather was bad. Celebrity's overall standards of service remain high and the ship has definite class.