Background: This was one of our over 30 cruises we have been on. 2nd cruise with Celebrity. We have taken two previous cruises from London. The first was a British Isles and Baltic combination cruise. The second one was a Baltic/Russia cruise. Cruising is a passion of ours. We did not bring our kids on this one. There were just about 240 kids on this cruise.
We left from Atlanta, GA and flew on the Delta 777 to London Heathrow. London Heathrow was a $85 pound taxi ride to our hotel, Marriott West India Quay. We liked staying at The Grovesnor Marriott previously, but the cost was really high. We absolutely loved everything about the West India Marriott. The location had everything you would want. Easy access to restaurants, pubs, shopping, rail access etc. The service at the hotel was superb. I definitely recommend it. We stayed here two nights prior to the cruise. By the way, if you are flying from the states, give yourself at least one day in London prior to leaving on the cruise. Your sleep will be off for about 24-48 hours due to time difference when you arrive.
During our time in London, we visited the sights and took the railway to the West End to see Lion King. There are so many things to do and see in London!
On the day of the cruise, we were picked up by EC Minibus. They were perfect. They arrived slightly early and got us to the ship as expected. Since we do not like the big bus transfers, this was a great option for us. The Harwich (pronounced haritch) port is about two hours away from London. Not much to do in town, so staying in London is what most people do. The town is very pretty, but there are not many major hotels. The cost was about 160 pounds for the four of us. The cost that the taxis were charging was a little more.
This ship was built in 2001. The ship does show some wear, but it is not out of line for a ship that is just over 10 years old. The updates they made, including adding the Aqua Class deck, looks very nice. We stayed in the concierge floor while I have some family stay on the new aqua decks. The room size was no different. The perks and points will differ for aqua, but we did not see the advantage of it over concierge. It may be argued that concierge may be a waste of money. We did use our concierge person a few times. They were able to call one of our transportation hires for free. Overall this ship was fine, but here is the breakdown.
General Public Areas:
The ship has lots of little areas where you can hang with others or sit and have a more private conversations with others. These areas tailor to the interests of folks... wine, cocktails, music, reading, internet etc.
The pool areas do show some wear. They are designed with the sleek simple modern look that is what Celebrity is known for. The Solarium is almost too simple. The hot tubs are nice, but the main pool is a special thermal pool. If you are in the hot tube, and you want a cool splash, you have to take a shower or go to the main pools. This would be great for Alaska. The towel access is wonderful. The areas could be better maintained by the staff. The less expensive lines do a much better, consistent job with table cleaning etc. We actually saw where managers had to go pick up old plates and cups since they were sitting there so long. They need to manage the pools a little better in regards to non-adults swimming in the solarium. It was not bad though. The main pools were nice. One was a deep pool while the others were shallow with additional hot tubs outside.
The Lido/Windjammer deck was not bad. They cater to a European audience on this trip of course. The pizza, pasta, and egg stations were nice. You may see a little back up in these areas at times, but over all the lines moved pretty good. The ice cream is limited to the dining rooms only. There is an ice cream booth, which is nice, but the typical ice cream soft serve is very limited. Some lines here. The candy toppings are a nice plus. They need to do a better job with picking up cups and plates.
The formal dining room is very nice. The food selection was pretty decent. The one lobster night brought forth some of the biggest lobster tails I have seen for a main dining room. In regards to steak, they are suffering here. They make a very wide range of selections that are geared more to the European crowd. I am pretty picky, so I really can not judge the different options.
Day one of the dining room was the worst first day we have had on over 30 cruises. We know that the first day is always rough, but this was really poor. Now.. A shout out to the assistant Matre'd. He not only made it better the second day, he made the whole dining room experience great. Our drink waiter was the best we have had. Our waiter and assistant waiter really did a great job when they took over on the second day.
QSine - a very fun concept where several courses that you can choose from are brought to you in a unique presentation. The iPad ordering is coming a long, but not there yet. The food quality suffers, but the originality is there.
U.S.S. United States - this is a beautiful restaurant that wins over in look and appeal. The food is created to match the cross continent travel of the past. The artifacts and video on the outside of the restaurant tell a nice story about its origins.
Bistro on 5 - has a nice mixture of selections available at different times. It is a little off from the others places, so it actually is a pretty quiet place to eat.
The bars all around the ship seem to carry various themes. The wine areas on deck four seem to be a great spot. All sorts of wines available.
The rooms are well maintained. Our cabin steward, Frederick, was excellent. The cabin service seemed to be great all over the ship. No towel animals in the rooms. The shower area was bigger than most RCL rooms. Plenty of storage. The rooms are still smaller than Carnivals. There are two US plugs and two European plugs at the vanity area. The wall mirror opposite the bed is a little too much. The room was comfortable. The light could not be completely blocked out, but not bad. The 8th floor 8080 provides cover two follows up. This allows you to stand out on the balcony when it rains. My family was in room 1100, aqua class. The room was not in a great location. You can not get access to this floor through the central elevators. No cover on the balcony. The rooms get pretty hot.
Yes, no smoke!!!! I actually did not play any on this trip. It was a smaller casino on four, but it seemed to have many of the games that are popular. It was pretty busy, but there was availability.
We left Harwich to the sound of a live band that played us away. This is always a nice tough for this port.
La Harve - most people either took the bus to Paris or to Normandy. We did Paris last time. The people that went this time were not able to go to the Louvre. I believe it is closed on Tuesday. We went to Normandy. There is not an experience that can compare to the memorial. The price they paid puts everyone in a memorial mood. We toured Omaha Beach and the point between Omaha and Utah beach. We ended up at the Freedom museum. It was amazing! It really makes you appreciate all that we, the French, and our allies have fought for over the past hundred years.
St. Peter Port - we had low expectations for this port. Wow! Beautiful port with plenty to see. The excursion list was limited, but the city has some cool places to see. The shopping is nice along with the food. You can take all sorts of short trips to the neighboring islands if you want. Try to get the powerboat excursion before they sell out. This is the only tender spot of the whole trip. The tender service was better than average.
Cohb (pronounced cove) - was one of our favorite ports. A beautiful city. We took the excursion to Blarney Castle, and it was very pretty. Kissing the Blarney Stone is not meant for the weak. You have to lay back and lean back to reach it. There is a person there to help you. There are steep steps to go up to it and come down from it. It was a great experience, but not meant for people with limited mobility. If you do not go up to the stone, it is ok. There are plenty things to see and do while at the castle. The woolen mill shops are pretty cool. The community really rallies around the ship in port. A band came out to play with us. The people were so friendly. I could see living here. Great historical facts during out tour. Great way to get in touch with some of my family's heritage.
Dublin, Ireland - we have been to this port before. It is a city. There is no connection with the community. Unless you get outside the city, there is nothing very special with this port. The Guinness factory is cool for some.
Liverpool - this place rocked. The community had a fireworks the first night we were at port. We took an Busy Bus for 39 pounds to go to Alton Towers on the first day. That park was amazing! 14 loop record breaking coaster. Great park with a 1400's castle in the middle of it. Day two, we went to see "the open". What a treat! The city of Liverpool has everything. It is a beautiful city filled with many things to do. It is head over heals over Dublin in my book. Many people went to the bars and tourist attractions that focus on the Beatles' rise.
Greenock - This port sits away from the community, but you can get to the town pretty easily. I definitely recommend the excursion to Sterling Castle. The history that revolves this area is wonderful. You can hear about the real William Wallace and Robert Bruce. The views from the castle were amazing. You can see where these famous battles occurred.
Holyhead, Wales - the port was disconnected from the community. This stop was beautiful, but there are not many things to do at the pier. I recommend an excursion for this stop or simply stay on the ship. They do provide a shuttle bus for the pier, but there is not much to see. We went to a nearby beach town. It was pretty. This stop was so-so.
We ended the cruise with a nice day at sea. The day at sea is always a blessing at the end of every cruise. Our tips were automatically added. They deserved it.
Simple and with ease. The EC Minibus was a few minutes and ready to take us back to London.
We stayed at the Marriott Renaissance Hotel at St. Pancras. Wow is an understatement. We chose this place due to the absolute lock on to the trains. We paid for the upgrade to the suite. Definitely worth it. We had access to the chamber room for free drinks, snacks, and breakfast.
The following day, we took the complementary concierge service to the Eurostar train. They took our bags through security and loaded them on the train with us, wow! We left the next morning to France bound for the Disneyland Paris station. We had an added on Disneyland Paris vacation. Worth it!