This was our fourth cruise on Celebrity, first on Reflection. Neither my wife nor I had been to Scotland or Ireland so we booked this British Isles cruise, sailing out of and ending in Amsterdam.
We did a 5 day precruise stay in the Netherlands on our own. We arrived at Schiphol Airport on Aug 8th. Stayed in Delft 1 night, Bergen 2 nights, and Amsterdam 2 nights. Got a rental car at Schiphol Airport and drove straight to Delft. When we got to Amsterdam we checked into the hotel (Apollofirst Boutique, nice place) and then returned the rental car to a location near Vondelpark. On the morning of the 13th we took an Uber from the hotel to the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam.
I have to comment on our experience at the PTA with Celebrity. Sorry to say, but it was very poor. We booked a Sky Suite. We had completed the online boarding forms before we left home and had the boarding passes on our phones. We did not have much of a wait to talk to a check-in agent, but when he got our names he started to ask us questions that we already had answered in the online boarding forms. He had to call somebody to have our SeaPass cards made and we stood there for about three more minutes doing nothing until the cards arrived. Nobody asked to scan the boarding passes on our phones. And the SeaPass cards that this guy had made for us indicated that we had no perks at all. We discovered this about 20 minutes after we boarded the ship, we went to Luminae for lunch and the waiter pointed this out to us when he asked to see our SeaPass cards. It was very unsettling. We went straight from lunch to Michael's club where they immediately printed us correct SeaPass cards. But to summarize, Celebrity's boarding process in Amsterdam is a VERY poorly run operation. I'm not going to use Amsterdam as a departure port any more.
Now to the cruise itself. I'll be brief, but see below on the cabin review.
The ship and cabin (1688, Sky Suite starboard aft corner Deck 11) were clean and well maintained.
Entertainment in the Reflection Theater every night was good. We didn't do any of the other activities that the ship had going on.
We did supper mostly in the Luminae restaurant. Food there was mostly good, sometimes a little foofy or too spicy for me. Service in the Luminae was slower than what I remembered from the Luminae on other ships. And they forgot to bring the drinks that I ordered a couple of times. I got the impression they must be understaffed. On the bright side, I let the Luminae hosts know that one of the cruise nights was my wife's birthday, and they bent over backwards to put us at the table she wanted and bring out a birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday that night.
We did the ship's shore excursions in every port. The highlight was the Giant's Causeway tour out of Belfast. The lowlight was the Conwy Castle and Wales tour out of Liverpool. Conwy Castle and Conwy Town were fine in the morning, but the tour bus spent all afternoon just driving through Wales and that got pretty boring.
We were disappointed in one aspect of our cabin, see the review below. My impression of Celebrity as an organization changed for the worse due to the cabin experience and the check-in experience. They don't tell you some things you really need to know about the some of the suite cabins, and I think it's intentional.
Being a British Isles cruise, the weather for about 9 of the 12 days was overcast and drizzly. We were fortunate to have 2 or 3 days of sunny to partly cloudy skies, and an hour or two where there were little patches of blue sky sometimes on the overcast days. This kind of weather is something you have to adjust your expectations for and bring proper clothing and rain gear - especially if you carry a DSLR camera around with you like I do.
To summarize - it was a great trip, we went to great ports and saw some very impressive sights, and I'm glad we did it. But there were a couple of glitches on Celebrity's part that were not insignificant.
We booked this cabin mostly because of its balcony, which wraps around the back corner of the ship a little bit so it has probably the largest balcony of the Sky Suite cabins.
On the bright side the cabin was roomy, storage was good, and it was well maintained. The cabin butler, Jesus, was attentive and never said no to anything we asked of him.
But - and this is a big but - the ship has automatic window washing machines that run on tracks on the outside of the ship, and one of these machines parks itself beside the cabin 1688 balcony when it is not washing. This is almost all the time. The machine is about 4 feet tall and it obstructs the side view off 1688's balcony when you look to the side of the ship. We could have reached out and touched the machine had we wanted to (which we did not). We had a talk with the Reflection's suites manager about this machine next to our balcony. The suites manager admitted that there is not a way to find out about this balcony obstruction on their web site. She offered us a credit on a future Celebrity cruise for the disappointment the obstruction caused.
Now here is the real problem. The price that Celebrity charges for their Sky Suites is premium. When you pay that price you expect a balcony with an unobstructed view. Celebrity should put a disclaimer online about Cabin 1688 and the handful of other suite cabins with views that are obstructed by their window washing machines. And they should decrease the price of these cabins compared to other Celebrity Sky Suites. Of course if they did that they would have a hard time selling those cabins. Celebrity is not disclosing the obstruction information and hoping that people who get these cabins will not complain. Pretty much like a used car dealer tactic if you ask me.
We took the Hop-on-hop-off canal tour boat. After doing the tour, I have to say, canal tours are overrated. You learn a few things about the neighborhoods from the driver's commentary. But the sights are just not very impressive.
We had a tour boat that was enclosed. That way you don't worry about the weather. But the structure of the enclosure blocks your view when you look up or across to the opposite side of the boat from where you are sitting. We decided that an open tour boat would be better, but of course you would need to do it on a day when you are pretty sure there will not be rain.View All 311 Canal Tour Reviews
Great tour, covered a lot of ground in 6 hours, included Zaanse Schans, Volendam with a cheese making demo and a stroop waffle making demo, and Marken with a wooden shoe making demo. The bus leaves from the Centraal Station, and it boards about 15 minutes before scheduled departure time and leaves on the dot of the departure time. Get there at least 15 minutes early.View All 36 Windmills Driving Tour Reviews
The walk from the parking lot to the castle is nice, gardens, big lawns, a waterfall. The castle brought me closer to the history of it somehow than the few other English castles I have visited in the past. In the 1500s Leeds Castle was the residence of Catherine of Aragon, one of Herry VIII's wives.View All undefined undefined Reviews
We took the ship's tour to Edinburgh. This was a good tour. They took us to Edinburgh Castle on a walking tour with some time on your own in there. We found a cafe at the very top of the hill and had tea and scones for lunch up there. Very good scones there - not dry like those we had elsewhere. Then we drove around town and stopped for about an hour of free time, which my wife and I used to walk to the Miracle Mile and browse around. It was a Saturday and there were lots of street performers, very crowded and very "happening".
Very scenic drive from Belfast along Ireland's north coast. At the Causeway we chose to take the Red walking trail along the top of the cliff and down to the Causeway. There is a free shuttle you can take to the Causeway but we had enough free time on the tour and we wanted the scenery from the top of the cliff. And it was worth the walk. Note, the Giant's Causeway is very popular with the locals and a lot of other people apparently. It was a very busy place.View All 94 Giant's Causeway Reviews
Conwy Castle and Conwy town are pleasant. That took up the morning. We had lunch at another town called Betwys-a-coed (?) which was a nice place. After lunch we got on the bus and just drove through Wales for about 2 hours, and that part was pretty boring.View All 8 Conwy Castle Reviews
Drove by most of the main sights of Dublin. Stopped near Trinity College, which is downtown I guess, and had about 90 minutes of free time. Tried to see the Book of Kells but the line was way too long for the time we had. Went to the National Gallery instead. Came back to the bus and went to the Merchant Passage and a pub in there for lunch. Had I done some better studying beforehand, I would have booked the Trinity College and Book of Kells tour instead. Dublin is extremely crowded, traffic is a mess, and the bus spent a lot of time just waiting on traffic.View All 44 City Tour Reviews