We arrived in Amsterdam 2 days prior to the cruise to do some sightseeing. Stayed for free at the Hilton. Took the Connexion Shuttle for 15 euros each to the hotel from the airport. Schiphol airport I found to to be very chaotic and disorganized with people following no path or pattern and everyone going every which way. Signage was not good. We were not greeted at the gate (Delta) with the wheelchair assistance we had requested and finally were taken on one of those carts up to immigration but then had to get our own baggage and walk quite a far distance to the exit. We enjoyed Amsterdam and the hilton very much.
Arrived at the pier around 12:30 and were on the ship by 12:50. When we checked in to the priority area because we were in a Concierge cabin we were taken right away and then given a number to board the ship and asked to wait in a separate area where Celebrity had put out refreshments. We waited maybe 5 minutes before our number was called and onto the ship we went. We weren't hungry because we had a late breakfast at the Hilton so we ventured to go to the stateroom and joyfully found it ready for us. Our luggage was delivered within an hour. We were in C2 concierge cabin 8115 which is midship just a few in from the mid-ship elevator on the port side and was a perfect location. Postings on Cruise Critic had warned of partially obstructed views and a door opposite where the crew would go in and out. The partial obstruction turned out to be the window washing machine which was located all the way to the right of the balcony-- it did not obstruct views or picture taking unless you were trying to take a picture to your far right and then if you just wait a minute, the ship will move and you can your photo. The door saying "crew only" was never opened and the crew never went in/out. The cabin is perfect-do not worry about it. The cabin steward and his assistant kept the cabin immaculate and well stocked with fruit. He honored our request for cheese and crackers instead of the canapes and he remembered to bring us 2 copies of the daily activity sheet. The only mishap we had with him was he did not deliver an invitation to view the bridge in a timely manner and we had to go to Guest Relations and ask to get us a separate viewing which they did. We were pleased with their service.
We ate in the buffet for most breakfasts and a few lunches. It was the older cafeteria style buffet with long lines. I found it so crowded and chaotic that I didn't learn until the 10th day of the cruise that at the far back there was a waffle and blintzes station!!!! The food was acceptable and typical buffet food. The service was good-there were circulation servers to clear the tables quickly. Only once did anyone offer to carry my tray. I have some mobility issues and perhaps that is why I felt overwhelmed but We ate several times in the dining room for bkfst and lunch to avoid the crowds. We ate all our dinners in the MDR- early seating-table for 6. Our tablemates were 2 couples from Cruise Critic. Our waiter Loreto and asst waiter Oscar were excellent. They made excellent suggestions, remembered our preferences and were accomodating to special requests. The food was good and portion size was just right BUT in my opinion the food was toooooooooooooo fancy with sauces and frills- sort of french in style. We enjoy gourmet food and have eaten in top restaurants but this food was just too fancy for our tastes. Our tablemates agreed as did many passengers we spoke with. We boycotted the specialty restaurants so I can't comment on them.
Formal nights (3) were a success. Most people dressed up in their finery. I'd guestimate only 10% of the men wore tuxes and 10% only wore shirts. 80% were dressed in suits or dark sports jackets with ties. The ladies predominantly wore glitzy, sparkly tops with fancy slacks or long skirts. Only a small % wore long gowns. The passengers were mainly european so I'm not sure if that influenced the dress style. On the other nights, almost everyone was dressed appropriately . I did see a few people turned away from the MDR on formal nights- they were wearing tee shirts and chino type slacks.
The crew were all so friendly and mingled with the passengers. The captain even conducted a lottery in the casino and "unveiled" a special item in the gift shop.I've never seen a captain hawking things before. The captain hosted a special celebration as we crossed the arctic circle. What was so amazing was the passengers earnestly questionning the crew and officers about "where was the sign stating we had crossed the arctic circle". I guess the educational system in all countries needs much improving.
The only announcement was the noon Captain's update. Otherwise there were only a few announcements. Everything was repeated in 6 languages because of all the europeans on board!!! There was no hard-selling of anything including drinks, spa packages etc. Bingo was actually cancelled because there were so few participants and the casino was almost empty. This was the quietest most laid back cruise we've ever been on!! Drink packages could be purchased daily after the first week of the cruise.
Entertainment was mainly the Celebrity entertainers. They put on some good shows. Some of the shows were highlighting the entertainers from the other venues on the ship like Lemon Squeezy and the famous Perry Grant who returned to his home on Connie from a hiatus and they were good. There was a "pickpocket" who was so-so and a singer. All in all, the entertainment was ok but nothing to rave about.
Poolside-- notes were left on all the loungers saying that personal belongings would be removed if unattended for 30 minutes. Miracle of miracles-there were no chair hogs.
Spa-- I indulged in a relaxing leg and foot massage. Absoultely no pressure to buy their products. What a change from my last cruise.
Activities- many of the activities described as "seminars" are really just thinly disguised attempts to get you to buy something. This time the seminars were really seminars and there were no hard sells or pitches.
Casino- empty-hardly anyone in it; bingo cancelled for lack of participation.
Guest services-- remembered my name-- very helpful-- actually instantly resolved 2 problems we had.
Internet packages-- purchased the smallest package of 90 minutes for $29.95 to use for email access. For 2 days there was no access because of our location above the arctic circle. At first, passengers griped because they used minutes only to have no access but then after realizing the problem, the staff promptly refunded the minutes if requested. This was the first cruise in this locale so the staff was unaccustomed to not having access.
The itinerary was fantastic and a great mix of ports and sea days. The cruise was very laid back and restful yet very enjoyable and fulfilling.Seeing the midnight sun and 24 hour sunlight for 4 days in a row was awesome. Crossing the arctic circle was a dream come true and being in the northernmost populated town of more than 2000 in the world was magical. Everything on this cruise just seemed to be understated and quiet yet was not boring.
Once again we learned the wisdom of buying the ship's tours even if they were more expensive as the ship had to delay departure from Alesund when 9 busloads of passengers were late coming back to the ship from an all day tour and thankfully the ship waited for us. It would not have waited if we were late from a private tour or just port sightseeing.
Debarkation was well organized. We decided to purchase transfers to the airport and were given luggage tags for the first group to debark. Written instructions told us the time and place on the ship to gather and there were no announcements. Everyone was expected to have read their information. We left the ship at 6:30 AM and the busses arrived at Schiphol airport at 7 AM- we gathered our luggage from a central drop-off point and then made our way into the terminal. We were able to obtain wheelchair assistance thru the airport.
All in all- I give this a 4.5