We booked a B2B in Aqua Class (the 3 night LeHavre sailing followed by the 4 night ‘inaugural’ Cork sailing). We worked hard at getting the exact cabin we wanted (1606, with the largest balcony on the ‘hump’) and were truly looking forward to our first Celebrity experience. Embarkation in Southampton could not have been easier. We were on the ship at 11:20 and asked our cabin attendant if we could drop our handluggage off in the cabin, which turned out to be no problem. We wandered around the ship first (taking photographs before the crowds descended) and marveled at the most beautiful ship we have ever seen. Every lounge and public area is gorgeous and all the ‘nooks and crannies’ are beautifully designed. It’s modern design with attention to detail.
Our first meal was in Bistro on 5. Great food and wonderful service were on offer and it did raise our already high expectations to new heights for the remainder of the cruise(s). The cabin was spacious with ample storage (don’t forget the underbed storage for your cases and the cabinets over the bed which we used for our folded shirts). The iced tea may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is changed daily with a new flavour (in Aqua Class), and there are also tea-making facilities in every cabin. Unfortunately the weather was never good enough to use our enormous balcony. Not once in 7 days!
We were assigned to Blu, and from everything I had read on CC we were in for a real treat. It is possible our expectations were too high, but although the service was spectacular and all the staff were stupendous (and knowledgeable), the food did not live up to our expectations. We were on two short cruises and the chef in Blu felt it necessary to REPEAT the first three night’s menus for the second cruise. On one occasion one of us ordered duck breast and the other rib-eye steak. The steak smelled off and was full of gristle and too much fat, while the duck breast was a large grey lump of meat on the plate (not medium rare as requested and not sliced as one would find in a ‘real’ restaurant). Desserts were unimaginative, however, the coffee was excellent. We decided to ‘desert’ Blu on two occasions to try the MDR and found the service there to be on a par with Blu but with better choices, better presentation and above all, better food! The staff in Blu are very proud of their restaurant and work extremely hard to please you … however they are let down by a mediocre chef! The 2nd cruise was the actual ‘inaugural’ and again our expectations were dashed. Nothing at all was made of this event (other than two glass coasters on the bed the last night, without so much as a note or letter attached!). We had expected a large party (or two), announcements involving all the guests who had booked this cruise just for the ‘event’, and a sense of ‘occasion’. Nothing at all. A missed opportunity as far as we were concerned.
As we’ve said, the ship is absolutely gorgeous, however, due to the inclement weather we experienced for most of the 7 days, the outdoor areas could not really be used (except on the first day). This meant we had to find a comfortable spot to sit and read indoors. This proved to be more difficult than we had imagined as there is loud popular music playing in ALL the public spaces. There is no space which can be classed as a ‘quiet zone’. On occasion the music was so loud it forced everyone to flee the room in question. This was also carried through to the volume level of the shows. The last show of the 3-day (and the shows were simply repeated for the 3-day and the 4-day, although this was a ‘natural’ B2B and there were more than 190 passengers who stayed onboard) was so loud many people sat with their fingers in their ears during the entire production.
As B2B passengers we were left completely in the dark as to the procedures in Southampton, with conflicting information given by ship’s personnel and in writing. A detailed letter with a list of procedures would not have come amiss and would have prevented the ‘grumbling and mumbling’ which we overheard.
From what you have read so far, I’m sure you are thinking we did not enjoy ourselves. On the contrary, we had a wonderful time. The service was impeccable, the staff a joy, the ship a wonder and the relaxed atmosphere everything a cruise should be. Would we sail on Celebrity again? Probably, but not in Aqua Class (we have had the first TA on the Eclipse on Oct. 31 booked for some time). As this ship is the 3rd in a series we probably had expectations which did not match the reality (although all the ‘kinks’ should really have been worked out by now) . Watch this space for our TA review in November.