We have previously cruised in AQ on Equinox in the Caribbean(see previous review)so I will just concentrate on differences!
Embarkation: Certainly travelling from Southampton (rather than flying) makes life a whole lot simpler - staff collect the luggage from your boot and then it's straight on to the car park. We had a 30 second wait to register and collect our sea pass and then perhaps 10 minutes in the lounge before our group was ushered on board. The staterooms were ready not long after 1pm and by then we'd checked out various elements of the ship for the subtle changes we expected.
Sailing from Southampton also changed the nationalities dynamic. Of the 2956 on-board the US were 816, the Canadians 425(including a party of doctors attending a conference on sea days) and about 1300 UK passport holders - the rest were from around the globe (inc. 32 Brazilians in one party)
Stateroom: Remarkably our room steward, Meninho, was the same steward who had looked after us so well on Equinox (he was one of the Start-up/Opening team that transfers from ship to ship) - it made life easier as he could remember all our peculiarities - and did another fantastic job on this cruise. The cabin was much the same as before but for the UK based sailings Celebrity have added a kettle and two glass cups so you can 'brew your own'. As a downside the Aqua class smoothies have disappeared from the room service breakfast menu. The shelf in the wardrobe above the clothes has disappeared - gives more space below the hanging clothes but I only have so many shoes. That meant we had to use the shelf above the bed - which in turn gives the steward less space to store bedding/cushions after the bed has been turned down. Being a northern Europe cruise and being under the overhang we did not often get the sun on the balcony until late in the evening.
Emergency Lifeboat Drill: One problem we did have was with this. Our muster station was in the photo gallery area, we were there quite early and the crew really packed us in in tight lines. We then had to watch the briefing on the TV screens - most of which were at or below head height so that you couldn't always see the screen for heads. Certainly the people stood behind the screen didn't have a chance. It was also warm and with the crush at least one person had to be escorted out from feeling faint. Last cruise we mustered in the Theatre and that was much easier/comfortable/visible.
World Cup: Celebrity showed ALL the matches on-board (clashing ones had delayed transmission and then all went to on-demand TV)- both in the staterooms and around the ship (USA v England made it to the main Theatre and the atmosphere was really quite good - and friendly! The only downside was they didn't have the score/time showing on screen (cf: BBC or ITV) so that if you came in part way through you had no idea where the match was. An on screen caption came up every 15 minutes so you had to wait it out or catch some commentary.
Blu: It had turned a shade of green! The carpet and upholstery had a green tinge. The roses in the entrance were in green cups (not blue)and the chandelier had been altered to a toning colour. Some of the glassware/plates had also migrated although after the first night I never saw the green water tumblers again.
Sunbed bagging - The Solarium was in demand on those days when the weather was overcast or cool (it is Europe!)and it took a while before the 30 minute elapsed vacancy time was actually actioned. When it did happen and the culprits returned the poor office got a backlash which was undeserved as he was only implementing policy and other uses wishes. As an example on one day 4 beds were reserved by 8am and one of the occupants arrived to claim them at 10:30am - unfortunately just before the written 30 minute time expired. Yes, there were other beds available by then (the sun was now out) but there had been unfulfilled demand earlier. Perhaps an active policy early in the cruise would avoid having to implement a reactive policy later (demanded by other customers.
Calm Seas - I have never known the sea be so calm (especially the North Sea) and a lot of days had a swell of 1ft or less. It was however weird being at the eye of a High pressure area and suffering a sea fret (cold/grey/damp)knowing that Holland to our west and the UK to our east were both sweltering under sunshine.
Map: There is a map next to Customer Relations that shows our route - it changes during the journey as you can't get it all on the same chart. The GPS ship's location on the TV (channel 23) was static for the whole journey and much too small a scale to allow you to relate geographically to towns, islands etc as you pass them. The new Apple system also, unlike the previous one, will not allow you to run the journey-to-date path which I missed.
20 years celebration: One night we were all given 20 year pins and invited to an 11:30pm celebration of Celebrity's existence with the Captain giving the toast. This happened in the main atrium and it was amazing to see every stairwell, landing and viewpoint occupied. People were even going up and down in the lifts looking out of the glass end to see the action. The entertainment crew even managed to then do a number using the staircase having mingled in their Venetian masque costumes earlier.
Postcard: Celebrity have removed the 'free' postcard of the ship from the stateroom pack and replaced it with a generic cruise scenes one. The only way to get the card now is buy it for 50c in the shop - and even then it didn't have an 'inaugural season' legend on it.
Boutiques: These are subtly different to those on the Equinox with different brands stocked. Presumably these have been aligned more to the expected clientèle.
A thoroughly enjoyable cruise that was what we made of it - we also managed to leave things in each port to do so that we could come back again (although it would be nice in future to try some new smaller ports too. It was interesting to us that after St Petersburg half the people we talked to said it was fabulous and they could have stayed for ages and the rest were of the 'been there/done that/not coming back' variety. It might mean a problem getting repeat customers for the lines then given that most devote extra time to the port on any journey.