Given that this was the maiden voyage for fare paying passengers, it started badly when the check in at Southampton ground to a halt, due to "system failure" for quite some time resulting in a significant queue of un-checked passengers - made worse by the complete lack of information being broadcast to those waiting.
Finally through check-in and onboard, complete with a glass of complimentary "fizz", first impressions were positive. This is a substantial ship, airy with lots of open space and multiple choices for both casual or more refined dining, as well as a seemingly inexhaustible list of places to enjoy a drink or two - I lost count after 10.
The cabin was comfortable and well appointed; plenty of storage/hanging space and an extremely comfortable bed, with the ablutions department well up to scratch. Tea, but surprisingly for an American Line, no coffee making facilities - not everybody wants to wake up to a single choice of beverage. The cabin steward couldn't provide coffee sachets - "we don't have any, Sir", but a trip to the Ocean View Cafe provided a source of Instant Coffee sachets - not what I would have expected to either find out for myself, or self provide!
We were disappointed by the send off from the pier at Southampton, as there wasn't one! We've had more dramatic departures on a cross channel ferry! Though to be fare the standard of ship handling during this 3 day jaunt was at a very high level indeed - arrival at Le Havre went unnoticed, so gently did the "Master" tie up, as was the situation when arriving at Southampton.
It was very apparent that this was a "shake-down" voyage, as most of the crew and systems weren't working as seamlessly as one would expect. Starting with the life boat drill, our "station" was in the Moonlight Sonata dining room, where we were seated, not being required to carry or wear our lifejackets!!, by the crew, only to be moved after a delay, as we were all facing the wrong way to see the video screen, and I'm talking about some 100+ passengers here!
Many of the features on the impressive in-suite interactive TV system weren't operational "This feature is not operational" seemed to be the most consistent response from the device; and indeed when trying to order room service at lunchtime on the Tuesday, we were informed that this was not available! A phone system glitch apparently, but not helped by attempts to contact Guest Relations, by phone, who then connected me to the same message, not once but twice!!
Even in the dining and bar areas most senior Celebrity staff were clearly visible, with mobile phones held to their ears, resolving some problem or other, so all was not running as smoothly as they wanted either.
Also for no clear reason the main dining area, the Moonlight Sonata, wasn't open for lunch on 2 of the days, leaving you only with the choice of self service, or pay a supplement to be "properly" waited on - not what we look for on a cruise of this supposed standard. If I wanted to eat in what is effectively a motorway service station (albeit a pretty impressive one) I would have opted for one of the down market lines.
Having said that the meals were of a very high standard, and offering a wide choice, and when served, served well.
All in all a cruise that could have been so much better, reminding me of one of my reports from my school days "Has the potential, but hasn't applied himself enough!"