Back from the Reflection (08 – 20 July) so if you have questions, please ask away!
We were on the 06 July 12 night British Isles cruise. We picked this for the timing and the ease of the Amsterdam port (through miles on Delta out of a new routing from Tampa). Would have preferred to go to St. Petersburg and east, but the timing didn’t work for us given a narrow window for DH.
Embarkation: easy, peasy. We flew in the day before and stayed one night at the Doubletree near Centraal. We took the Schipol train (5.5Euros) into Central and walked the one block. Since we had been to Amsterdam before I felt perfectly comfortable doing this, but would advise against if you have a lot of luggage.
Our room was TINY, even by European standards, but for one night it was certainly fine. And it was either take that room and check in early at noon when we arrived or wait around for another one. I spent the afternoon walking around Amsterdam but hubby had not slept on the flight so he crashed for a while. We went up to the Sky Bar, which is gorgeous, but left after looking at the menu with 8E coffees and 15E cocktails. It is gorgeous, though, and open to guests and non guests. Took a quick walk to the grocery store only a few meters away and bought a couple of cold beers and two bottles of of wine to bring on the cruise and we were good!
In the morning we chose to went to the port The check in was madness as everyone came at the same time but we were on the ship fairly easily. We got to our stateroom with our 2 bottles of wine that we bought and realized that we could walk out and get more wine from the vendor in the terminal. How easy! So I went out past security and bought two bottles of wine (granted, they were 6E bottles being sold at a 100% premium but at that point it’s still better than a minimum of 40- 45 on board.) Bought 2 bottles and sailed through security. The gent told me that their record was a guest coming and going 7 times for a total of 14 bottles to which I say well done, sir!
Anyhoo, we dumped our carry on bag in our room right at 1pm and headed to the zoo.. er, buffet. Lunch was efficient and, of course, a madhouse. This tale would continue in the buffet but it’s nothing that we have not encountered before. Since we did not have status or a suite there was no option for a sit down lunch.
Interestingly there was none of the “run around the ship and get stamps” that you have in the Caribbean. All was fairly quiet until muster and set sail. Hubs was still out of sorts with jet lag since he hasn’t learned how to adjust when flying east. Muster was easy and our bags were delivered just after so we unpacked, went to the 7pm welcome show (very poorly attended) and then select dinner in the Opus Dining room.
Food: got to say we both gave it a 4/5 stars. We met the Exec Chef a couple of times and he was a delight. The French classics were lovely (onion soup, snails, coq au vin, crème brulee). The fish were uniformly overcooked but we understood that they sat in a hot box and the steaks were, meh, due to the flattop situation. If you stick to the basics you’ll be fine. Interestingly for the whole cruise all of the tomatoes were underripe and hard – must have had some sourcing issues. The homebaked bread didn’t have the crust that I prefer but the breadsticks were nice (and the 82% butterfat butter is something to be warned of!)
Room Service: 5/5. On other ships and other lines we rarely use it as we get quoted a very long wait . Not here. We’d come back after a day out and order and sandwich and it would be here with steaming hot fries in 10 minutes. Glorious! Late in the evening we would call in a dessert (from the main dinner menu) and it was delivered, no problem. Loved that.
Room: we opted for an inside Handicapped stateroom in order to save money for land based adventures. (DH has mobility issues that qualify him for an HC cabin.) In addition, due to the itinerary (9 ports of call in 12 days) and the time of year (with the sun setting at 10pm or later and temps in the 50s/70s) we determined that the extra money for the balcony wasn’t worth it for us. Yes, I would have loved it but really wouldn’t have used it enough to justify. Turns out DH ended up loving the cabin and we called it our cocoon from the world. Our cabin attendant was FABULOUS. We didn’t want for anything.
Ship: she’s lovely and in very nice shape. No issues getting around and plenty of seating whenever, wherever we wanted UNLESS it was that 30 minute window in the morning for breakfast right before they announced that you could debark for the day. In that case the buffet was madness. Breakfast was always nice but the only thing that varied was one section with specialty breads/donuts. Otherwise the same offerings every day. There were two omelet stations (each working 6 pans) and an eggs benedict station.
Beverage Package: no, we did not have one. Yes, I would have liked one but we were off the ship all day in ports. Did I miss it? Yes. Yes, indeed. If only for Café al Bacio alone but the brewed Lavazza coffee was perfectly fine and got my day going and we determined it would be less expensive to buy bottles of wine as we went along for dinner. In the end it worked out fine though the next time we are in the Caribbean we will certainly opt for the package as we might only venture out to the ports for a few hours.
Entertainment: Mixed, of course. The acrobats and ribbon dancers (you know, the lithe young things that make my head spin!) were fabulous. The singers were good; the band ok. Guest entertainers were very good. The shows for us are a bonus and don’t ever make or break a cruise.
Activities – got to say that they were very limited. If for some reason you didn’t go into port (which I didn’t in Le Havre because DH walked too much the day before) there was almost nothing going on in the ship. And the movies in the theatre at night were at 10pm which was not going to happen given the itinerary and early ports of call. We did go to a fabulous guest lecturer series and participated in the Captain’s Club wine class and cocktail parties. Both were very nice however for the wine class there were maybe 50 people who attended but they had poured glasses for at least double that. We sat there, horrified, as the sommeliers came and picked up all of that wine and dumped it. So sad, but company policy. Oh, almost forgot – we went to the Cruise Critic meet up and it was really well attended. Lots of the officers came and it was a nice way to meet up.
The ports were great with Zebrugge for Bruges being our favorite. I do think it was a bit chintzy of the cruiseline to not have had free shuttles out of the industrial ports. I’m not saying shuttles all the way into town, but at least to a drop off outside the port since many were non walkable ports. We ending up spending quite a bit in taxis to get in and out of town in addition to our daily planned activities.
To note: we had several issues with arrangements that had been made in advance that didn’t quite pan out. In one we agreed to share a cab for 6 but they sent a cab that would only hold 4, so we backed out. In another a van was sent for 8 but the 8 (DUH) included the driver, so they could only hold 7. Again we backed out and had to find alternate transport. So word to the wise is to confirm the number of PASSENGERS because if a taxi says it is for 8 then one is the driver J
In all, one of my favorite cruises. We went in with the idea to have adventures, which we did. We made a point to “go with the flow” as my mother would say. The ship was our hotel and food arrangements so it was a bargain to get to 6 countries in two weeks that way without unpacking. Speaking of, we did use the laundry service mid cruise and I followed the very wise advise of others. By placing a plastic bag INSIDE the Celebrity laundry bag it reduced the friction, so it did not rip, and I rolled, very tightly and strategically our clothes in basically 4 burritos that I packed in. When our clothes were washed and returned they filled up 2 bags. Definitely worth sending out the laundry and packing in only carry-ons.
Happy to answer any questions.