It was just so wonderful to travel from Southampton. No worries about taking liquids by air, or hand luggage or of course the volcanic ash. Celebrity provided free parking right by the ship. We had been on the 4 day to Ireland and so this was the 2nd leg of a back to back. Embarkation had been easy at Southampton. On boarding the ship access to stateroom areas is restricted by the closing of access doors, but on this wonderful ship there are many comfortable areas to wait. We had arranged to meet our cruise critic buddies at Bistro on 5 for lunch. This made a really pleasant and relaxing start to our cruise - the 'cowboy' crepe was a really good choice for me. Everything here is cooked fresh and we returned a couple of times during the cruise - the Italian dessert crepe is also super! This was a great cruise critic group. Companionship and socialising is for me the most important factor in the overall success of any cruise. We had such great companions on this trip we'd do it all again with them anytime. Special thanks to Jean who organised us in St Petersburg, to Debbie, who despite some initial traumas did a great job in Brugge, and of course Dave who gave lots of tips and advice for our whole trip - not just for his tour in Warnemunde. This trip shows the great value of cruise critic especially on a non-beach trip like this
This new ship is fabulous.The captain officers and crew are to be congratulated especially when they had made an emergency sailing to Spain to pick up stranded British tourists due to the ash cloud. In fact the officers and crew on this ship are probably the most engaging on any ship I've sailed. Lots of activities and venues throughout the ship meant that we never found it crowded. It is bizarre through why people line up for dinner in the main dining room up to 30 minutes prior to dining! Choices and quality in the main dining room were excellent - something for everyone. Our wait staff including Sommelier and Maitre'd were very attentive - all of the staff on the ship were very engaging. The captains club event and perks were very welcome. The social time for elite members each evening was really pleasant, held in the sky lounge - a great venue for it- and a nice way to catch up with friends old and new. We also attended the other social events which on this sailing were excellent and very well attended. Turning to the speciality restaurants. Murano was a wonderful experience. fine food and wine and fantastic service. Not for everyone I guess, a dinner to linger over rather than to eat and move on. Tuscan Grill is Italian-American. The best dining view on the ship, very good food and service, a little traditional. Qsine - brand new on this ship is something exceptional. From the apple I=pad menu to the style and types of food there are lots of surprises along the way. We had organized a group of 14 from our cruise critic group to go. None were disappointed. Again not for the meat and 2 veg traditional brigade, although I never came across anyone who hadn't loved it!Aqua spa cafe is a wonderful venue fr a light breakfast and lunch. It was so difficult to find a table here at lunchtime - maybe this area needs a little re-thought. Cafe Baccio was a popular area on this sailing. The coffee and Gelato served here have to be paid for but the quality is excellent, and it is a classy area to visit. The buffet - we don't use it. Brunch - we had 2 events on this sailing. The presentation and quality is fantastic, and this is a much better alternative to the old style midnight buffets. It is some of the passengers that cause a problem for me - using their hands rather than using the serving tongs provided - yuck!
Varied entertainment in the evening included the theater shows, classical quartet, piano bar, a'capella group, acoustic guitar etc. etc. The cirque du soleil type shows are stunning, and the acts in the theater magicians singers comedians jugglers were all top class acts. Nice that Celebrity don't forget the more traditional fun too, trivia, scrap-booking, cookery demos etc. Lawn sports are also an active way to spend a few hours. The hot glass show is very interesting and always drew a good audience. We did come across some older British passengers who yearn for the type of traditional cruising of 25 years ago! They wanted rolling and creaking ships and wood paneling rooms. I think the modern forward thinking design of these ships was a little too much for some, although most were converted by the end of the cruise! On this cruise we didn't take any ship excursions. It was an easy trip to do your own thing - except for st Petersburg!.
One thing I noticed was that there was no form of religious service on the ship. I would have thought an interdenominational service even on TV should be available on Sundays. English Bingo is no fun - in fact despite Bingo Joe's efforts, it is boring without the old jokes! Overall a wonderful experience. Would I go on this class of ship with Celebrity again - of course I have 3 booked already!