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Sail Date: May 2009
We just got off a long anticipated cruise to the Baltic on Celebrity Cruise Line's Constellation and the one word that keeps slipping through my lips is "underwhelmed". For my 71st cruise and my partner's first to the ... Read More
We just got off a long anticipated cruise to the Baltic on Celebrity Cruise Line's Constellation and the one word that keeps slipping through my lips is "underwhelmed". For my 71st cruise and my partner's first to the Baltic we did a lot of research and settled on this ship for a number of reasons: the itinerary was fantastic, hitting the major ports of the Baltic with ample time in most cities, as well as overnights in St. Petersburg (essential) and Copenhagen (nice). We also got a very good price at a time when Celebrity was practically giving cabins away. While earlier CC Member Reviews had caused us to keep our distance from this ship, we had seen enough good ones recently to tempt us into throwing caution to the wind and booking. While we are certainly glad we went on this trip, our enjoyment came almost exclusively from the wonderful group of passengers on board (many of whom we met here at Cruise Critic) and the superbly interesting cities we got to see and explore. A fellow passenger said something on our last night that we had thought for the past week... "It was an OK enough cruise for the low price we paid, but if I had shelled out the original cruise price I would have been very, very angry today." That more or less sums up what Celebrity has become. My review of this ship and cruise is based on what Celebrity claims to be and on what they actually deliver. There were many points during the cruise when we thought... "Hmmm, these are obvious cost cutting measures due to the financial times," but as there were so many examples of poor management and lackluster, sometimes aggressive and rude staff throughout the week that in the end we came to the conclusion that Celebrity is nowhere near the level of a 5 star cruise line that they claim to be or once might have been. While I tend to write longer reviews when I am a bit pissed off then when happy, to help you out if you are thinking about booking this ship I will tell you basically: • Don't pick this ship if you are picky about consistent good service or follow-through on requests • Food on Celebrity is nothing special anymore, but it is decent enough sustenance for your intense port excursions and a good alternative to very expensive dining in Baltic and Scandinavian countries • Prices for very average wines were very high and one beer will cost you $5; martinis $10 with an 18% service charge! • Don't waste your money on suites or Concierge Class, book a balcony though! • Don't expect elegance • Entertainment at night was abysmal and daytime entertainment is mostly revenue based so be prepared to entertain yourself • The ports and time in port are VERY good, but the ship lies about independent tour and transportation possibilities. Really.. they out and out LIED both verbally and in print! • This is NOT a 5, or even a 4, star vessel/line Now for the details... We had a super experience getting to the ship thanks to some good research. Harwich as a cruise port is somewhat problematic to reach if you are flying into Heathrow and unless you are coming to London a few days earlier it makes sense to shell out the very high cost of $200 roundtrip to take the Celebrity shuttle - otherwise you'll have a bit of an ordeal getting your luggage and self to the ship. Heathrow to Harwich requires getting to Liverpool Street Station in London either by the Tube or taxi (not fun on a Saturday at the best of times, but with luggage a nightmare) and then transferring to "The Cruise Train" which stops directly at the entrance to the cruise terminal. As work is being done on the lines on various weekends that the ship sails from Harwich, you must leave the cruise train, schlep your luggage to a bus, go a short distance, and then get back on the train. Too much drama to start a cruise and absolutely not for older folks, out of shape folks, or princesses like me. Instead, we were able to take the ferry from Hoek van Holland which was a very nice and pleasant car ride from our home in Germany, spent the day in Delft, and then board the ferry for a nice overnight journey to Harwich. The ferry docked directly behind the Constellation and we were able to wheel our luggage down one ramp and deposit it 50 meters away at the cruise ship doorstep. PERFECT and we shall do it again!!! As easy as all that was, we experienced the first of what came to symbolize the lack of training and knowledge that the Celebrity Constellation came to represent over our 2 weeks on board. At check in we stopped to drop our bags off and the baggage handlers had a totally different room number than our documents: not a major drama, but also confusing because we had chosen our cabin and upgraded to a Concierge Class balcony two weeks before as this was my partner's 40th birthday and we wanted a special room. The man had no idea why we had a new cabin number nor did anyone at the Concierge Class check in. After making us wait about 10 minutes and causing us considerable consternation we were told simply to go to the reception on board and they would clear it all up for us. Check in itself was smooth, orderly, and quick aside from the cabin switch, but we were seriously worried as we boarded the ship that an error had been made and we had lost our lovely CC balcony. Imagine our relief and surprise when we found out we had been upgraded to a Sky Suite! Fantastic news and a wonderful thing to have happened... but why all the drama we wondered? Why wasn't the check in staff sufficiently informed of this simple and routine change? Instead of being able to proudly and happily say to us upon embarkation..."We are pleased to tell you that you have been upgraded to a Sky Suite," the disorganization and confusion at check in had only produced anxiety. OK... first day and VERY EASY to forgive and forget...WE HAD A SUITE!!!!!!!!! On the other hand... note to self... things that should be simple and basic are not that way at Celebrity! Our room was nicely appointed and we were very happy as we found the large bathroom with a bathtub, large teak decked balcony with comfortable chairs, and semi-walk in closet. What a nice surprise to also find that we had a butler and two stateroom attendants who promptly introduced themselves. We explained that we are pretty low maintenance cruisers and very tidy, and that we require only two things during our cruise: ice at 9am 3pm and turn down, and daily refills of all toiletries...other than that, we're good. Even today, the last of the 14 day cruise, we still have to consistently ask and remind the cabin stewards for toiletries and ice. Is that 5 star service? Ask daily and you will get it? It may seem like a minor inconvenience or annoyance... but why, in a Sky Suite (or any room) should you have to repeatedly ask for the most basic things? Very poor! Which brings us to the suite itself; our initial reaction was very excited and happy to have been upgraded, but by the last day we found ourselves wishing we had had our original balcony cabin. Why you might ask? Because for 2 weeks our toilet NEVER ONCE worked properly and we had to pour water into the commode every single time we used it in order for it to flush and our shower had little to no water pressure unless it was set to scalding hot. Again we asked ourselves... THIS IN A SUITE??? In itself, those problems are bad enough, however, we reported the problem to our steward, to our butler, to the Concierge, and twice to the front desk and we NEVER ONCE got an answer or a reply or a repair. Is that Celebrity's idea of treating us like stars? If the problem was not able to be repaired during our stay, fair enough, but a note, a phone call, a message, anything to let us know what the situation was would have been nice...however... that seems beyond the ability of the Constellation staff. Happily my partner tipped me 20€ at the end of the sailing for having maintained the toilet. Oh... and FYI... the toilet paper on board is cheap and AWFUL! The staff overall we found to be unfriendly. This contrasted with the views of a few of our fellow friends on board, but each morning in the breakfast buffet area we had to say good morning to the staff rather than the other way around, our thank you(s) went unanswered in most cases, and we were hard pressed to see a smile anywhere. By the end of the cruise we'd come to the conclusion that the sour attitudes were a result of a severely understaffed ship. Tables were left un-cleared for long periods of time during breakfast and lunch and when they did clear them, they gave the table only a cursory swipe with a cloth instead of truly cleaning the tables off, there was practically no one to carry trays for older or handicapped people, coffee-lemonade-and utensils were often empty and it took several requests to get them filled, and the serving staff seemed uninterested in both what and who they were serving. The buffet area itself is not very pretty and had a cold, utilitarian feel to it...but worse there is absolutely no flow at all, no rhyme or reason to the lines of where one should enter the buffet and where one should leave it. This resulted in people coming to certain points of the buffet from both directions and getting irritated when other people cut in front of them to order eggs, toast, cuts of meats, etc. The staff was no help in keeping order and on more than one occasion I heard them being rude to guests... so much so that on the second to the last day I spoke up to a particularly nasty employee who I'd heard speaking rudely to a woman who was simply trying to order an omelet. Perhaps the staff follows the lead of the management...as each morning my partner and I would sit in the back section eating breakfast and watching the two dining room managers drink coffee, smoke, and chat with each other all while tables were dirty and the lone, solitary bus boy was overwhelmed by the amount of work to be done. Yet this was not limited to the buffet. Out of the friends we made on board a few of them had fantastic waiters...which one expects from Celebrity. However, we, and several others we know, had terrible service (not the first time, either!) Our wait staff was so bad that by the end of the first week we had abandoned the dining room altogether: surly waiter, long waits between courses, bread and water often did not appear until well after the first course had been served, repeated requests for tea or refills, coffee NEVER came until desert was over, no dining recommendations, no pleasantries on arrival... nothing. In the first 7 days our waiter asked our table only once if we had enjoyed our meal, which is funny because once he laid the plates on our table he and our bus boy would disappear so when we did need sauce, horseradish, etc. it was impossible to get. It was truly bad. There are other examples of snide comments and poor presentations by staff (don't bother to go to the so called Elegant Tea -especially if you are British) but I think you all get the point. Forget entertainment on this ship and be prepared to keep yourself busy reading, playing a game or two with people you meet, or basically gazing out the window because there is next to NOTHING to do on board during the day that is not revenue based. As trivia buffs, we were happy to see that there were 3 or 4 per day, but mostly Celebrity's idea of entertainment are fee based tastings, spa activities, dismal sales of embarrassingly overpriced sub standard Russian crap ( I mean crafts ) or other similar types of activities. We did attend the enrichment lectures which started out funny enough: the speaker could NOT be seen over the lectern and she ironically began her discussion by asking everyone to say Hi to her when they saw her around the ship. That being the only laugh of the presentation, she proceeded to put every member of the audience to sleep - seriously... do you cruise directors ever actually LISTEN to these people before you hire them? There are plenty of dynamic speakers around... please find them!!!! Hell, I'll do it! You know that things will be dismal when the Cruise Director begs people to clap for him, but the evening shows were really bad and I found myself longing for Simon Cowell to come on board and rip them to shreds; we usually left after 10 minutes. Aside from that, the piano player in Michael's Bar is QUITE GOOD, but so loud you could't talk; yet nor are you invited to sing along. The bar in the Rendezvous Lounge was also good, but again, if you wanted to talk and be heard you had to go upstairs to the second floor. They also had a VERY good guitarist and quartet who play in the Cave Cafe or whatever it is called... one could spend a nice evening listening to them, but we always felt rude trying to talk if they were playing... so again... kind of difficult. This brings us to the Bar at the Edge of the Torn Fabric Tablecloth, possibly the absolute tackiest and ugliest room I have ever seen on a ship, on land or anywhere else on earth for that matter. Sitting under the torn fabric which hangs from the ceiling was mildly amusing, but the music here was so loud that it hurt my ears and we soon tired from screaming to be heard by the people we went with. No visit here lasted more than 10 minutes either. In the end, we were glad we had a roomy suite to hang out in, even if the toilet never worked. At least we could watch the same 5 shows on the television over and over without screaming at each other. Yet despite those things, we still had a wonderful cruise. Why? THE PORTS!!! This is definitely a great cruise for exploring some of the most beautiful cities in the world! DO NOT FEEL INTIMIDATED TO DO THINGS ON YOUR OWN!!! Especially in Stockholm, Helsinki, Copenhagen, and Talinn! While the ship out and out lied to people about available transportation in these ports, do some research (or ask me) and you will have a MOST FANTASTIC experience! We used Alla Tours in St Petersburg and can honestly say they were one of the most professional companies we have ever used. We found them here in CC and are very thankful to the people who wrote about them! One thing that we really do have to thank Celebrity for, however, was the lovely Cruise Critic party they threw for us, along with a private Bridge Tour! If you are here on CC... go to your sailing date on the boards and sign up for the party! You will be glad you did, not just because CC members seem to be the NICEST people on the sea, but because the cruise line really did a nice job of showing their appreciation (which is a good thing since the past passenger programs are now practically non-existent!) Would we sail Celebrity again? Not unless it was super bargain basement priced and going to fantastic ports that allow us to spend maximum time off the ship. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
We joined the ship in Dover for our 1st Celebrity cruise. Embarkation was very smooth and the complimentary drink was very much appreciated. No other cruise line we have used offered this. We gave taken 7 previous cruises with various ... Read More
We joined the ship in Dover for our 1st Celebrity cruise. Embarkation was very smooth and the complimentary drink was very much appreciated. No other cruise line we have used offered this. We gave taken 7 previous cruises with various other cruise lines. We booked an inside cabin and were very satisfied with this. Bathrooms were well equipped with complimentary shampoo and lotion dispensers and a nice touch was a glass jar of cotton buds and cotton wool. Another nice touch was the complimentary bath robes and umbrellas in the stateroom. Our luggage arrived very promptly. The level of service on board at all times and venues was excellent. We found it equated to that on board QE2 Main meals were excellent in both dining room and buffet and choice was more than sufficient. We requested a table for 8 and the company was excellent. We found the ship's tours expensive, preferring to do our own thing, equally as effective and at half the price. St.Petersburg was an exception as it was not possible to go ashore unescorted. Evening entertainment was very good with the exception of nights when the ship was overnight in port when it was almost nonexistent. Films shown in the cinema were poor and daytime activities when at sea were also minimal. Deck loungers were difficult to come by on sea days, however this has been our experience on all cruises and passengers generally ignore warnings about reserving sunbeds. The communal lounge areas were extremely specious and comfortable at all times. The itinerary and ports visited were first class. Disembarkation was swift and trouble free. Overall our experience of the cruise was excellent and we would certainly cruise with Celebrity again. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
I know there have been a number of postings from others on this cruise, but I wanted to share my thoughts. We had a lot of CCers on this cruise so the number and varying appraisals are not surprising and it's good to get others take ... Read More
I know there have been a number of postings from others on this cruise, but I wanted to share my thoughts. We had a lot of CCers on this cruise so the number and varying appraisals are not surprising and it's good to get others take on things. I for one have enjoyed reading them. First of all I have to say this was probably my most enjoyable cruise yet. I know. I probably say that after every cruise, but the experience of crossing the Atlantic, a real journey in my eyes, made it very special. The large group from our roll call also added to the fun and walking around the ship became an exercise in waving and saying "hi". Embarkation was a breeze and Dover has a really nice cruise ship terminal. This was a surprise to me as my recollections of cross channel ferry rides painted a different picture. The weather was wonderful when we left as it had been for many staying pre-cruise in the UK. I have never seen the Channel so calm. The setting sun reflecting off the water could have been the South Pacific, except there are no White Cliffs there. We had a fun day in France. Le Havre is a pretty uninteresting port, but nearby Honfleur is a gem even if the World and his wife were there that Sunday. A trip to the US beaches of Normandy was both interesting and humbling. Thanks Bob, for arranging this great tour. Falmouth. What a tendering mess. It seemed that Celebrity's idea of letting passengers with X excursions go first would have worked had there been enough tenders. I had arranged a tour and managed to get on the first one out, but then after the next arrived at the dock it was another twenty five minutes before the next arrived. It is the longest tender ride I have done too. Eventually our group were together by 11.05am (we arrived at 8.30am) and we had a very enjoyable if somewhat curtailed excursion. I heard that one of the coaches on a tour hit another vehicle whilst maneuvering and also knocked someone down. Some didn't get off the ship until 1pm. Not much time to see anything of a truly lovely English county. The weather was kind to us again. It rained on the tender going over, but then cleared. Lizard Point looked beautiful. Dublin was a tour to Malahide Castle (cute and very beautiful) and the Guinness factory with a lovely lunch at the Brazen Head. Thanks Mary for putting this tour together for us. The weather was once again kind. Cork was a trip out to Blarney Castle, once again very picturesque and a walk to the top to kiss the Blarney Stone. I passed on that. I was told that the stories of people peeing on it is a myth from the land of the bogs and the little people, but it kind of put me off the idea as did the height up there. Kinsale was wonderful to visit and we had a very nice lunch at the White House served by the most miserable barmaid. She was so bad it was funny! Three days at sea next and because of all the pre-cruise trips to London and lack of sea days at the beginning it was a nice time to unwind from a busy schedule. I thought the weather overall was very good, but it got rough for a bit once we were three or four hundred miles off the coast of Ireland. I really enjoyed the ride, but I know others were quite sick. I witnessed my cabin steward bang his head on the wall outside my cabin during one particularly large lurch, but he was OK. We were able to use the balcony quite a bit, wrapped up like Ma and Pa Kettle with our blankets. I lucked out on 9197 being released just before the cruise, one of those corner FVs and it was great. The aft facing aspect protected you from wind and spray and the wide angle of view both aft and port side was nice. Being on this side of the ship also meant we got to see the sun in the morning, which was good for balcony breakfasts. There was one day when it was too cold for breakfast out there, but that was it. We had a really nice stop in St Johns, Newfoundland and did a puffin and whale watching tour. A few puffins, lots of seagulls, but no whales. We were a week late, but the stunning coastline made up for this. Others have reported that we were 13 hours late leaving St Johns because of high winds making the exiting of the narrow harbour entrance dangerous and on the sea day that followed it was announced we would call at Halifax instead of St John, NB. Celebrity are to be commended for coming up with this solution at such short notice and finding us a spot to dock when we arrived. After our sea day, Halifax loomed and was a very nice ride into the harbour. We had a planned trip in St John arranged by Joan who had also sorted out the puffin and whale watching tour so on the hoof we found a few of us in a stretched limo on our way to the Titanic cemetery and Peggy's Cove. We had a great time and a nice lunch. Good job on that transport, Joanie Our final sea day and it was arrival in a muggy and hazy NYC. It had been warming up all day at sea from being in the cooler waters of Nova Scotia and the different feeling in the air was very noticeable. Time to get off The shuttle service that took us to our private coach was a mess and there had been a delay in starting disembarkation, but Michaels Club was as good a place as any to wait our turn to walk the gangplank. Some final thoughts. I felt the food was great. I never had a meal I didn't like and the burgers, pizzas and sandwiches were very tasty. Service as I have always experienced was Xcellent. Our waiter, Olman was always spot on with his recommendations and very professional and assistant Mariano was great too. Very polite and friendly. Steward and assistant Tondy and Novie were great too, as was Leslie who brought the breakfast. We did breakfast in the dining room a couple of times. I felt this was all a bit disorganized and took the gloss of having it served to you. The first time I felt the service was lacking at our table and I didn't get what I asked for (although what I actually received was quite sufficient in hindsight ). The second time we did a kind of tour of the restaurant to get to our table. Not sure what that was all about. Perhaps at the end of the day I am better off just having it served in cabin or out on the balcony so that I can please myself and there is no misunderstanding with regard to the strawberry smoothie. A bowl of strawberries just doesn't cut it! I love those smoothies........ Lunch was a much better affair. I did that once and honestly had a meal that could have stood up very well against an evening meal. Delicious! And I had the Mohr im Hemd which has to be good, doesn't it? Our Assistant Maitre d' heard us all talking about the Mohr im Hemd at the lunch table and arranged for it to be served to us at dinner another night, which I thought was a nice touch John Maxtone-Graham, I have heard a lot about and was delighted to hear that he would be on board. He didn't disappoint. I only missed the final lecture of five (being somewhat under the weather from late night Martinis), but his other lectures were informative, funny in many parts and beautifully paced. The ship was clean and my cabin was in great shape. It was great to see JoAn make the ship in Dublin. I have wanted to meet her for some time and it genuinely lifted peoples spirits when we saw her make it with passport finally found. So all in all it was a great cruise and I am looking forward to repeating a TA on Constellation from Barcelona next year There were a couple of med evacs on this trip. One in Falmouth whilst tendered (I think our tour may have seen the helicopter take off from Culdrose) and one at sea about 250 miles off the coast of Newfoundland. I hope that all concerned in these are making a healthy recovery. Frances, one of our fellow CCers also had to leave the ship early because of a family crisis. Frances, I wish you well. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
Having enjoyed Celebrity Summit in Alaska a couple of years ago, we were looking forward to our first trip to the Baltic on Connie - especially so as we only had a short, 2-hour drive to Dover this time, rather than a flight to Vancouver! ... Read More
Having enjoyed Celebrity Summit in Alaska a couple of years ago, we were looking forward to our first trip to the Baltic on Connie - especially so as we only had a short, 2-hour drive to Dover this time, rather than a flight to Vancouver! She, and her crew, met all our expectations and more. As far as the ship experience is concerned, it was the best overall of our 14 cruises taken on 8 different lines to date. Leaving the car at a local, long-term parking facility at 2pm, we were whisked through embarkation and onboard half an hour later. Midships stateroom in the bowels as chosen - we only use it overnight, and low-down, central ones move less than any others in inclement weather (a fact learned during several work trips across the Irish Sea!). Same stateroom configuration as Summit, so no surprises there - functional, clean and comfortable, with an attentive steward. Immediately checked with the Maitre d' that we had been allocated our requested table for two on late sitting - not that we're antisocial, it's just that evenings on board are a particular highlight of our cruises and we still enjoy each other's company after 36 years. We always find time to meet up with newly-made friends at leisure during the day or trips ashore. Table allocated near the restaurant entrance - no problem, even with the constant comings-and-goings of the waiting staff. We did overhear the couple occupying the same table on early sitting requesting to move, but Daniel our Polish waiter was SOOOO good, he was worth staying put for. He really made our important evening dining experience the best yet. That's not to say the rest of the ship's crew fell far short. It seemed clear to us that Connie was a happy ship - plenty of genuine smiles and greetings from everyone to everyone, and between themselves. We tend to do our own thing in most ports, but St. Petersburg was always going to be the exception because of the visa requirements. We made some internet enquiries, and were fortunate to be able to tag along with another group for 2-days with the local Red October tourist company. The American organizer, Natalie, and her other half Herb, were to become 2 of those new-found friends I mentioned earlier. Our guide Elana was absolutely top drawer even if, for us at least, visiting so many palaces and museums, full on, in such a short space of time made the prospect of a restful return to England all the more attractive! Here I can recall of one of the few occasions when Celebrity fell a tad short of its normal high standards. Most centers of port interest were a distance from the dock. Whilst shuttle buses were provided, a "nominal" (Celebrity's phrase not ours) $12 per person per day was charged for its use. We were given scant information about the ACTUAL distance to walk, and not at all about the bus stop that was just around the corner in Helsinki that made the same trip regularly for 2.20 Euros (albeit for a single trip). In truth, we probably walked a little too much on a cruise that included 9 cities either side of a single sea day, but it certainly kept the pounds off! (We still didn't use a lift (elevator) throughout the cruise though, despite having to go from deck 2 to deck 10 for breakfast and tea!). Activities were plentiful, especially on sea days. However, the weather prevented all but the (fool?)hardy from the shuffleboard court, and the indoor options tended to concentrate on trivia quizzes and bingo - fine for some, but we'd taken some good books to read. Also, I'm afraid that there were some rather loud, self-important and opinionated know-alls at the quizzes where I happened to be reading in the same room (though, strangely, I never saw them actually win). We never did make the gym - comprehensive though it looked. The evening entertainment, though of "standard" fare of shows and individual performances, was, to us, top quality - even the comedian was actually funny! The adagio dancers were probably the best speciality act we've seen to date. Due to the amount of walking on some days, we did miss a couple of evenings in the theatre, but this was no reflection on the performing acts. Oops, nearly missed commenting on the food! Generally of good quality and presentation, with a varied selection to suit all tastes. Perhaps I was just lucky, but every steak I had was perfect, irrespective of cut. The fish too, was very good and varied. Though I stuck to my simple dessert of a banana with rum and raisin ice cream (except for the traditional baked Alaska night) my sweet-toothed Wife was happy with her selections - especially the cherries jubilee. Breakfast and buffet lunch were also more than adequate, with sufficiently good selection to make choice a problem without over-indulging! A particularly good and simple idea for recognizing the charging of gratuities to your stateroom account was leaving in your cabin various pre-printed acknowledgement slips stating the fact that you had paid. These slips could then be put into the envelopes also provided and handed to the employees concerned on departure, rather than leaving with a mere goodbye and handshake. Oh, and disembarkation? Almost as easy as embarkation 2 weeks earlier. It would have been even quicker had Dover Council not decided to use the day of a cruise ship visit (and a Saturday at that) to dig up part of the town center and cause traffic congestion! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
Transatlantic Cruise Dover, England to Bayonne, New Jersey Celebrity Constellation September 15-27, 2007 Our Flight We are great proponents of flying to England during the day and arriving at our destination at least a day or two ... Read More
Transatlantic Cruise Dover, England to Bayonne, New Jersey Celebrity Constellation September 15-27, 2007 Our Flight We are great proponents of flying to England during the day and arriving at our destination at least a day or two before our sailing date. American Airlines and British Airways both offer morning flights between Boston and Heathrow that meet our needs. Our experience this year reaffirmed our belief that this is the best way to cope with the rigors of transatlantic travel and jet lag and to reduce or eliminate any chance that we will miss the ship. Our American Airlines flight was on a Boeing 777, that is, to my mind, one of the most comfortable planes in their fleet. The seating is 2 -5-2 and Rita and I were able to reserve our preferred window and aisle seats with no middle seat. The flight, which departed on time at 9:00am on September 13th, was not full, so some passengers were able to stretch out across several seats. Meal service was far better than we expected with breakfast served shortly after take off and a sandwich and dessert as well as a snack served later on. TVs in every seatback provided us with a choice of films or TV programs to fill the estimated six and one half hours of flying time. One channel permitted us to track the progress of our flight as we wended our way across the Atlantic towards our destination. Our flight actually landed an hour early and there was a fifteen minute wait until a gate could be found to accommodate us. Unfortunately, the time saved went for naught, since the line at immigration was interminable and it took us two full hours to get to the inspectors who cleared us as quickly as possible. When we proceeded to the luggage area, our bags had already been removed from the carousel that was now carrying luggage from another, later flight. Once we found our bags and exited the baggage claim area, we were met by our driver and were led outside to where the bus for all four couples was waiting. The bus was roomy and comfortable and it was a pleasant two hour ride to Dover with a brief restroom and refreshment stop enroute. We arrived at the Best Western Churchill shortly after midnight and were quickly checked in. After a drink or two in the lobby bar we retired to our rooms for a well-deserved rest. When we awoke the following morning we were pretty well rested and ready to explore Dover. Dover We were pleasantly surprised by Dover, which is a much prettier port and town than we had been led to believe. Our room looked out on the harbor and there were three ships in port on Friday- the Norwegian Dream, the Astoria, and the Maxim Gorky. The town itself reminded me of Newport, Rhode Island, with lots of shops and restaurants. The white cliffs are remarkable and Dover Castle and the wartime tunnels made a great destination. Views from the top of the castle were terrific and the weather was wonderful here as it would be for the rest of our trip. When the driver delivered us to the hotel, he stopped at what we took to be the front of the hotel, which faces the water, so when we made arrangements to have a taxi pick us up to take us to Dover Castle, we waited outside for over an hour to no avail. A local gentleman passing by and seeing our situation went inside and then came out to inform us that the other side of the hotel (what we considered the back entrance) was in fact the front of the hotel and the area where taxis made their pick up. Even though they heard us making arrangements for a taxi to pick us up, none of the hotel staff volunteered the information as to where we should expect the taxi to be, but helpfulness was not a strong point of the hotel staff. Once we were aware of the proper spot to get a taxi, we managed to get s woman cabbie with a van that held the eight of us, to drive us to Dover Castle. She left her card with us so that we could call her when we were finished with our tour. The grounds of the Castle were well maintained and we enjoyed watching hundreds of school children engaged in recreations of knightly battles. It was a long climb to the top of the Castle but those of us who made it were rewarded with great views of the surrounding areas. Before leaving we took a tour of the underground tunnels that were used in World War II. That evening we met about thirty of our fellow cruisers for dinner at Cullin's Yard, a very good restaurant just a short walk from our hotel. It was our first chance to put faces to some of the names we had become familiar with over the months of posting on the Cruise Critic roll call. We would meet many more folks the following day at the sailaway. English breakfasts are expensive and the one at our hotel at 10 pounds per person was certainly priced well beyond its worth. Many of the items in a full English breakfast are not destined to be popular with American tourists - stewed tomatoes, fried bread, mushrooms, black pudding, beans in tomato sauce, along with eggs and British bacon - are not, to my mind at least, a culinary delight. Suffice it to say that on our second morning, we ventured out of the hotel and located a coffee shop where we were able to get bagels, fresh-baked muffins, and tea and coffee for a more reasonable tariff. Air conditioning was not available in our hotel room so it was necessary to open the window to get some cool air. Only upon check out did we see a notice that mentioned that fans were available upon request. The company that chauffeured us from Heathrow to the hotel, also picked us up at the hotel before noon and deliver us to the cruise terminal. Check in at the pier was quick and efficient and we were quickly onboard. By one o'clock we had eaten lunch at the Seaside Cafe and deposited our carry-ons in our Sky Suite The Cruise Celebrity exceeded my expectations and, in general, I was favorably impressed by my recent experience on my transatlantic cruise onboard Celebrity's Constellation, Checking in and boarding around noon was quick and efficient and our first stop was at the Seaside Cafe for lunch. Determining what was available at the various stations along the buffet line was a bit confusing but the food that I selected was quite good. We sat out in the open area of the aft section of the Cafe. It is a much smaller area than the similar area on Radiance class ships, due perhaps to the "chopped off" aspect of the aft of the Constellation. When we dined in the buffet the following morning we were most fortunate to sit in a section served by Nicolus who was most attentive to our needs and immediately recognized us when we returned later for lunch and for the rest of the meals that we did not take in the dining room or the specialty restaurant. Rita drinks tea and not coffee and he was constantly bringing her fresh cups. One day when I found a free table, he suddenly appeared and picked up my tray and took me to a table where Rita and our traveling companions were already seated. (I hadn't seen them). The waffle station was close by his section and for the first few days, before everyone discovered these delightful breakfast treats, the lines were negligible. Not so later in the cruise when the crowds lined up for the waffles and/or pancakes created delays of fifteen minutes or more. While I liked the waffle, omelet, and pasta stations, the buffet line arrangement was not, IMHO, as satisfactory as the food station arrangement on Royal Caribbean ships. The location of some items was just not intuitive and coming upon the bread station after one has passed the location where butter is available meant for frequent backtracking. Also if you only wanted to get a bowl of hot cereal, you had to step around people in line for the other items on the buffet line, and risk their wrath for what they viewed as cutting in front of them. Dinner in the dining room in the evenings was similar in some ways to what the dining experience on RCI used to be, with trays of bread being placed on the table, and pads of butter rather than foil wrapped packet. Menu selections were the typical appetizer, soup, salad , entrEe and desserts selections. Main courses were usually a choice of pasta, fish, meat (pork, veal or lamb) and beef (steak or prime rib). The prime rib I had on the first night was as good a piece of beef as I can remember, but prime rib on a subsequent menu was far less satisfactory. In general, the food was good, some excellent, others acceptable but not noteworthy, Service in the dining room was attentive but we may have had a new, inexperienced waiter, since he seemed less comfortable engaging in any dialogue with us. On our one experience with open seating in the dining room (the night we were in Le Havre), we were served by a very personable and excellent waiter, who also worked in the morning buffets and never failed to greet us when he saw us following our one meal at his table. If I were to compare the evening dining experience on Celebrity with that on Royal Caribbean, I would give Celebrity slightly higher marks. On one evening during the cruise, we elected to dine in Ocean Liners, the extra fee restaurant, on the ship. The fee is $30 pp if you choose their regular menu, $65 if you, and all at your table, choose what they refer to as the Menu Exceptional. French service is the order of the day, with your selections prepared tableside and served in a manner that I find a bit pretentious. (The food is placed in front of you in a covered dish by a waiter for each diner, and at an unspoken signal by the lead waiter, the waiters uncover the plates simultaneously. As a matter of personal taste I find the menu selection in Chops on Royal Caribbean to be more to my liking and a bit more extensive than the menu in Oceanliners. The service in Oceanliners is more formal but that to my mind, at least does not justify the additional cost. Entertainment It was pretty much typical of what we have experienced on all of the cruise lines we have sailed with - some quite good and some less appealing. Most of the evening entertainment was provided in the popular Rendezvous Lounge which offered music for pre and post dinner dancing, in Michael's Club, where the very popular singer-pianist, Perry Grant entertained overflow crowds nightly, and the Celebrity theater that offered a variety of headliners and production shows. The production shows were excellent and when sea conditions required that they postpone one of the production shows, the cabaret show that they substituted featuring two of the lead singers from the cast of singers and dancers, were fabulous. The very unusual Bar at the Edge of the Earth served as the disco and late night entertainment venue. It is my understanding that the Bar at the Edge of the Earth owes its dEcor to Celebrity's onetime collaboration with Cirque du Soleil, but the moonscape atmosphere (it looks sort of like an area decorated with toilet paper on Halloween) seems very out of place on a ship where the dEcor and style is far more subdued and refined. Furthermore in the front of the room which also serves as a forward observation lounge, there are benches turned to face the dance floor rather than the ocean and there are a series of four, what at first glance, appeared to be canopy beds, which set off groupings of four upholstered chairs around a table. It was this lounge that served as the gathering place for the Cruise Critic Connections party on our first day at sea, and as the site of the Officers cocktail party for Captain's Club members later in the cruise. There were some curtained off areas which lead me to believe that at some point they plan to redecorate this lounge and restore it to its earlier appearance when it was called Reflections and was more in keeping with the overall dEcor of the ship. Several interesting lectures were offered during the sea days including presentations by Richard Underwood who provided fascinating insights into the NASA space program and showed some spectacular pictures taken from Space, and cruise historian John Maxtone Graham, who along with his wife Mary, offered a series of lectures on transatlantic crossings and who provided a terrific account of the sinking of the Titanic and the stories of some of the survivors. The theater was filled to capacity for all of his presentations. Thalassotherapy Pool The Thalassotherapy pool on Constellation is located in a covered area between the outside pools and the spa and is similar in appearance to the Solariums on RCI. There are two Jacuzzis next to the pool and a number of lounge chairs and tables and chairs. Serving stations offer a small selection of healthy foods and desserts. The pool is heated to the degree that I could not differentiate between the water in the pool and that in the hot tubs. Those looking for a pool similar to the one in the RCI solariums might be disappointed with the Thallasotherapy pool but those who enjoy the soothing warm water might find it both relaxing and restorative. On sea days during our transatlantic crossing this area was always filled with guests. Staterooms We were in a Sky suite, which turned out to be handicapped accessible. The room was very roomy and conveniently located on deck 8 near the library and around the corner from a bank of glass elevators. As roomy as the suite was the storage space was unusually minimal, especially for a 12 night cruise. The bathroom was exceptionally large due to the fact that it was a handicapped accessible room with a roll in roll out shower. The arrangement for bathroom towels was a bit odd, with racks of bath towels next to the sink and racks for hand towels all the way across the room, next to the toilet. I took to placing a hand towel on top of the bath towels so that I could turn from the sink and grab it instead of crossing the bathroom floor with dripping wet hands. However, there was another, more serious, problem with our bathroom - a strong and unpleasant odor that reeked of mold. We mentioned it to the room steward and he promised to take care of it. When it was just as bad the following day we complained again. When we returned to the ship after our tour, we found the room steward, a couple of plumbers and the chief housekeeper in the stateroom apparently working on resolving the problem. Despite their efforts and assurances that the problem had been attended to, it persisted. Since we were in ports and off the ship for much of the first four days of the cruise, we were not aware that the problem had not gone away until we returned late each day. Continued complaints, including a visit by my wife to Guest relations, managed to get us an early morning visit from a plumber who, despite the promise from Guest Relations that the plumber would await a call from us when we got up in the morning, showed up unannounced just about the time we were getting out of bed. We sent him on his way and told him to return in half an hour. When he did return, he opened the drains and left them that way for the rest of the day. The odor did not diminish, although Guest Relations did call us late in the day to advise us that the problem had been taken care of. At this point I should have demanded to be moved to another room but we continued to believe that their efforts would be successful. However on the third to last day of the cruise, our room steward informed us that it had been determined that there were pieces of grout missing from the tile in the bathroom floor and that water must have seeped through the resulting cracks and collected on the subflooring underneath the tile creating the odor. (sound like mold to anyone?). When my wife asked what they would do about it, he advise her that they could not do anything since if they sealed the tile, the bathroom would be unusable for 48 hours. This conversation took place on Monday evening - nine days into our 12 night cruise. Early the next morning I presented myself to Guest Relations and outlined the problem and its history and insisted that they provide us with another room for the remainder of the cruise. After a bit of hemming and hawing, they did find us a concierge class stateroom on deck 7 and allowed us to keep our clothes and belongings in the Sky suite so that we would not have to pack and unpack and move all our things to the new room only to have to repack them two days later. It is the solution that they should have offered us days earlier when it was evident that their efforts to eliminate the problem were totally ineffective. I have written Celebrity to register my complaints about this matter and will be interested in their response. I should say that the Sky Suite came with the services of a butler, Roderick, who was extremely attentive and whose aid was invaluable when I found that the tuxedo trousers which were part of the package I had ordered on line, turned out to be about seven inches too long, and the vest which was ordered was absent from the package. Within minutes, Roderick returned with the missing vest and advised me that the pants would be altered and available to me before the first formal evening. Our Captain's Club elite status gained us coupon books which offered, among other things, the opportunity to have a bag full of laundry processed for $15. Had we known about this amenity in advance we might have packed a bit more lightly but it was welcome none the less. Aside from the serious problem with our bathroom, our overall experience with Celebrity in general and this cruise in particular was very positive and I believe that we are very likely to sail with them again. There were a few other glitches along the way but those can happen with any ship or any line. We were delayed from sailing from a couple of ports and a simple announcement to the passengers might have helped reduce the rumors that quickly circulate in such situations. In Falmouth there were several situations that delayed them in getting all of the passengers back on the tenders. Only later that evening at the Captain's Welcome Aboard ceremony did he allude to the delay and some of the reasons for it. When our 5pm sailing from St. John's, Newfoundland was already an hour overdue, a public announcement was made revealing that it was not because we were waiting for an overdue tour bus, as many had surmised, but was due to the high winds which made a departure through the narrow channel out of the harbor, inadvisable. Later that evening the Cruise Director informed us that the high winds plus the tidal conditions would prevent us from sailing that evening as promised earlier and would not allow us to sail until 6 am the following morning. Later that following day, we learned that the delayed sailing meant that we could not make Saint John, New Brunswick on schedule an that they had made alternative arrangements to dock in Halifax, Nova Scotia instead. This was somewhat ironic since Halifax was originally on the transatlantic itinerary and was replaced by Saint John, later on. Weather in all our ports of call was extraordinary and far better than we could have hoped for. We will be doing another transatlantic next September and visiting a number of the same ports. Knowing that we would be back and able to catch some of the sites that we couldn't see on this visit made it a much more relaxing trip. To borrow from guest lecturer, John Maxtone Graham, it is the only way to cross. Ports of Call The initial part of the transatlantic cruise was extremely port intensive. One factor that helped us cope with so many ports of call and so many things to see was the knowledge that if we missed anything, we would be able to see them on next year's voyage. We tendered into Falmouth and walked through the town, stopping for some tea and scones with clotted cream, before heading back to the ship. In LeHavre, we had pre-booked a private tour of the beaches of Normandy. Our guide and a driver picked us up at the pier and took us to places that the bus tours could not have reached, including a bluff where the German batteries overlooked the length of Omaha beach. We had lunch at a roadside cafe. The American Cemetery and the various memorials we viewed during out tour were sobering reminders of the price that was paid to safeguard our freedom. Dublin traffic was a real problem but we eventually got to the pickup spot for the Hop on Hop off bus. We took the bus for its full cycle and on the second go-round we got off at Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. There was a long line of people waiting for admission, so we were moved through pretty quickly and didn't get much time to examine the pages of the book that were displayed. Our next, and final stop was the Guinness Storehouse where we saw how Guinness is brewed. The tour works its way from ground level to the seventh floor, where you get to sample the product in a room with spectacular views of Dublin. We were in Cork when we were on our last transatlantic and visited Blarney Castle, Kinsale etc, so this time we took things easy and walked around the port area of Cobh and sampled the local brew, Murphy's which is similar to Guinness, and is reportedly sold only in a 17 mile radius of Cork. After three days at sea, during which we experienced an extraordinary medical evacuation of an ill passenger by a Canadian Coast Guard helicopter, we arrived in the beautiful city of St. John's, Newfoundland where we discovered that the Canadian dollar was now at par with the American dollar. At the pier we arranged a three hour tour for $30 per person and visited Signal Hill where Marconi received the first telegraph signal, and Cape Spear, the easternmost point in North America. The tour was very informative and we saw a good bit of the city and surroundings. I look forward to returning there on next year's cruise. We have been to Halifax more times than I can count but I never tire of visiting this beautiful, cosmopolitan city with its attractive harbor and great shops and restaurants. We even visited the casino and had moderate success. Lunch at a local restaurant along the HarborWalk was a nice change of pace. It was warm and sunny and a perfect last port of call for our cruise. Port Liberty After a final day at sea, we arrived in Bayonne and after one final treat of waffles in the Seaside Cafe, we repaired to Michael's Club to await our notice to disembark. There had been a power failure during the night and things were running a bit behind but we eventually were advised that we could disembark. Once off the ship, we boarded a shuttle bus and were driven to the cruise terminal to retrieve our luggage and clear US Customs and Immigration. The process was swift and efficient and a porter took us and our luggage to a bus which would take us to Newark airport. We had a Continental flight to Boston but when the driver deposited us at the Continental terminal in Terminal C, we quickly discovered that Continental's flights to Boston leave from Terminal A. Fortunately, we caught our bus driver before he had left and he reloaded our luggage and set off the find his way to Terminal A, something that I fear was a bit beyond his capability as he drove around in circles for several minutes before finally finding the way to the correct terminal. Suffice it to say, his and our mood was not the best and when he finally found Terminal A, he deposited us at the far end of the terminal about as far away from the Continental check-in area as possible. Fortunately a friendly skycap took charge of our luggage and led us to the check-in point. We arrived at the gate around noon and our flight was due to begin boarding at 1:55. There was time for a quick bite before preparing to board, but one final glitch occurred before we could get underway. Just about the time we were due to begin boarding the agent at the gate announced that while the equipment was at the gate, the crew was still in Chicago and would not arrive in Newark until 3pm. Ten minutes later, however, the agent announced that they had found another crew to fly the plane and boarding would begin at 2:30pm. We eventually boarded and took off at 3pm and were on the ground in Boston at approximately the same time as we were originally scheduled to arrive. After the usually interminable wait for luggage at Logan Airport, we were out of the terminal and on a bus that would take us to Braintree where our son-in-law would pick us up and drive us home. It was nearly 6 pm when we finally came through the door of our condo and our 14 day adventure drew to a close. All in all, the positives far outweighed the negatives on this trip. Despite the problems with our stateroom, we have mostly positive opinions about Celebrity Cruise Lines and would not hesitate to sail with them again. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2007
Travel to Dover was a bit of a problem due to motorway accidents, we travelled the day before and stayed overnight otherwise we may have missed the ship as traffic was so bad at the weekend. Embarkation was really good, after we parked the ... Read More
Travel to Dover was a bit of a problem due to motorway accidents, we travelled the day before and stayed overnight otherwise we may have missed the ship as traffic was so bad at the weekend. Embarkation was really good, after we parked the car and got back to the terminal, it only took minutes to board. we were shown to our cabin, deck 8 concierge class where we found chilled champagne and fruit waiting. First impressions of the ship were a little disappointing, certainly the ship did not have the wow factor. Sailaway came and went and we settled in for 14 nights.To be brief the weather was brilliant and despite initial disappointments with the ships appearance this turned out to be an excellent cruise. The staff were really polite and friendly, service was very good, food quality was way above the food we have had on recent cruises (e.g. Sapphire Princess, Arcadia, Brilliance of the Seas etc.) It was by no means gourmet but certainly there was a good choice,it was well prepared, hot and tasty. If you were not happy, needed more or less vegetables, meat, dessert etc. it was never any problem. The drinks were served speedily and wine poured as appropriate. The general feel of the ship was of a higher quality than other cruises. Snacks afternoon teas late night bites etc. were served by smart staff wearing white gloves. The self serve area also had an up market feel, cotton napkins were used and there were plenty of staff around to help with bringing food, coffee, finding a table inside or out. Classical music was played everywhere by either soloists or classical trios/quartets so, if thats to your taste, this cruise will be for you. Personally I found the "entertainment" to be on the poor side. This really let the cruise down. Apparently most of the members of the cruise review went AWOL so the shows suffered as a result. The shows in the main theatre, that I saw, comprised of, a classical violinist (good)a couple of soloist singers (one average at best, the other poor) an Irish comedian, a pianist, a pick pocket and a juggler non of whom would win a talent show in the UK. These shows were on at odd times, we were on second sitting,some nights the shows started at 10.45pm after dinner and some times at 7.0pm before dinner. We found these earlyshows to be inconvenient. Room service was really good, and always arrived at the promised time. Ships facilities were excellent. The shops were generally a bit tacky,the duty free shop for alcohol, however, was really good value (Smirnoff or Bacardi less than £4 a liter) Completely out of place amongst these shops was a special area where you could purchase Faberge eggs and other Faberge items but most people needed medical assistance when the prices were revealed. There were also the usual Art auctions. Destinations have been described adequately in other reviews, we found Germany, Sweden,Finland and Denmark to be excellent ports of call we really needed more time at these. St Petersburg was an experience, we went to the Ballet which was brilliant and to the Hermitage which was breathtaking. But generally St Petersburg is run down with crumbling buildings and unhappy looking people. The buzz you get in most european cities is just not there. Similarly, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were generally poor ports of call for a cruise ship. There are much better destinations that could be visited in the Baltic and Northern Europe like, Norway and Holland Disembarking was efficient, we were told we would leave ship at 9.15am and were on land with our luggage awaiting our car at 9.25am certainly the fastest I have experienced. To sum there were a few bad points and many many excellent points, I would certainly recommend Celebrity and will definitely use them again. Next is the QM2 if that's as good I will be happy. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2007
My wife, 12-year-old son and I sailed on the August 18 Constellation sailing through the Baltics, stopping at Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Riga, Stockholm, Warnemunde, Copenhagen, and Helsingborg. Overall, the trip was excellent. ... Read More
My wife, 12-year-old son and I sailed on the August 18 Constellation sailing through the Baltics, stopping at Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Riga, Stockholm, Warnemunde, Copenhagen, and Helsingborg. Overall, the trip was excellent. Embarkation was very efficient; we had stayed with relatives in London and hired a driver to take us to Dover, and we were on the ship within 15 minutes of arriving. Our previous cruises where on the Golden Princess and the Radiance of the Seas. The Constellation is not as large as the Golden, and it does not have flashy public spaces like Golden or the Radiance. While tasteful, the decor was very, very muted. Nonetheless, everything was clean and orderly. Similarly, our concierge-class room in the Constellation was noticeably smaller than the rooms we had on the other two ships (and was more expensive). In particular, when our son's sofa bed was deployed, there was only about 8 inches clearance between it and the desk to get to the balcony. And, the balcony could not hold more than two people at a time. Storage space was adequate, though, and the cabin stewards were outstanding. Available activities on the four sea days were good. My wife gives Aqua Spa high marks, as she took a set of treatments there. I took the Pilates package at the gym (cheap at $40 for 4 1-hour workouts) and also used some of the aerobic equipment. My only complaint was that the main room desperately needed a fan; otherwise, the gym operation was fine. The Constellation featured a retired colonel who gave lectures on the history and sites at each stop, and I thought he did a good job (there was also another on-board lecturer on shopping, but we skipped her presentations). While we didn't take this trip to see shows, the two we took in (a comedian and a big musical) were adequate. My son rates the kid program as the best of any ship he's been on. He liked the facilities and the counselors immensely, and it was difficult to get him away from his shipboard pals. In addition, he got a bridge tour (his dad wasn't allowed; I guess adults are too much of a disturbance). Here's our advice for the stops. Tallinn is a great little town; walk it yourself, and don't bother to use the ship shuttle. At St. Petersburg, we went in with 7 other passengers (found via Cruise Critic) with Alla Tours. You need a knowledgeable and tough tour guide and driver in St. Petersburg, particularly if you go in August and have to deal with huge crowds. I highly recommend Alla, as we could customize the tour and keep the numbers manageable (ask for Elena as a guide). One thing though; if you have younger kids, you might want to only subject them to one day of St. Petersburg. Our son got pretty frazzled with the crowds and the endless cathedrals and museums, and I think if I did it again I wouldn't have taken him with us both days. Helsinki is also easily walkable on your own, but you should probably take the ship shuttle there. I noticed another reviewer commented that "there's nothing to see in Helsinki," but I can't help but wonder where he went - there's LOTS to see. I would also walk Riga on your own - it is a surprisingly nice city, with a huge park built around a central canal. You will need to take the ship shuttle, though. We also did Stockholm on our own, and exploited Rick Steves' book on Scandinavia. We really wanted more time in the city (the ship was only there from 9:00 to 5:00), but we managed to see most of Gamla Stan, the Royal Armory, and the Vasa Museum. If you have kids, DO NOT MISS THE VASA MUSEUM. We took our only tour through the ship at Warnemunde, going to Lubeck and Wismar. Unfortunately, the tour had only one guide for 42 people, and while the guide was very good, I just didn't think the ratio was appropriate. Most of the passengers went to Berlin, but I thought with my son that 6 hours on a train coupled with 7 hours of touring would be a bit much. However, the cities of Lubeck, Wismar, and Rostock are well worth seeing, and you can easily take the train to any of them (the train station is only about 40 yards from the dock). Also, if you go on the Berlin expedition, you won't have time to see Warnemunde, which is a great little town in and of itself. If you are an active type, take a bike tour of Copenhagen, as most of the population rides bikes there. I heartily recommend an outfit called City Safari; an enormously engaging man named Jan Martin led about 10 of us around Copenhagen, and I discovered that you can ride ANYWHERE in the town. If you have kids, they will really enjoy this tour. Finally, walk Helsingborg on your own. Again, it is a smaller city, but it is quite charming. We went ashore having done no research whatsoever and found it to be a very attractive city (and very appreciative of cruise ships, judging by the size of the band that greeted us at the tender dock). Summing up our advice on the stops, I'd say spend your money on a good guide and a small group in St. Petersburg, hire a good bike guide for Copenhagen, and walk the rest yourself. Do the research on Stockholm if you have a short stay there, because you will have to make choices on what to see. One last thing; if you want to avoid crowds, go in September. Back to the ship. The food was probably the best of the cruises we have been on, and the service was excellent. We sat with two very enjoyable couples throughout the cruise, and we all agreed that the waffles served at the breakfast buffet were better than any waffles we had had in our lives (this appears to be some sort of Celebrity trade secret). Another thing we discovered was that the light fare served at the Aqua Spa cafe was usually very innovative, and we tended to each lunch there to avoid three big meals a day. Disembarkation was very efficient; we showed up at the allotted time, were off the ship in five minutes, and had our luggage ten minutes later. I would like to thank various Cruise Critic posters for the following advice: bringing an alarm clock and power strip; bringing two-way radios for communicating with kids; recommending Alla Tours and City Safari; leaving the ship at the later disembarkation time so you can tour all the expensive suites when they're vacated (another high point for my son); posting the rooms on the Constellation that have more space or better balconies; bring tokens for your cabin stewards, dining room servers and tour guides (we brought gold US dollar coins; everyone really liked them); recommending Rick Steves' book on Scandinavia; recommending getting up early to see the ship transit the hundreds of islands on the way into Stockholm; and getting cash from the casino. Finally, I'd like to point out two things Celebrity did for us. First, they announced that kids could tour the bridge on a day that we'd scheduled a tour. I went to the Guest Relations desk, and they promptly scheduled ANOTHER kid's tour the following day so my son could see the bridge. Second, our room had a nice hardcover book in it describing the Constellation. When we departed, my wife went to Guest Relations and asked how we could buy a copy, and they simply gave us the room copy. I think this is indicative of the service Celebrity provides, and we'll probably go with them again. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2007
This was our 4th cruise, but our first Celebrity experience. Because we were celebrating our 40th anniversary, we opted for the Concierge Class. The trip was in one word: "perfect." Realizing the crew cannot make the weather ... Read More
This was our 4th cruise, but our first Celebrity experience. Because we were celebrating our 40th anniversary, we opted for the Concierge Class. The trip was in one word: "perfect." Realizing the crew cannot make the weather perfect, we were lucky indeed, as our entire 14 days had great weather. Prior to our leaving Dover on August 4th, the weather had not been so good. Apparently, it had also not been good at nearly all the ports where we stopped prior to our arrival. Our room cabin attendant, Clarence, attended to our every needs. Wine was waiting in our room. Fresh flowers every day. Fresh fruit, etc. Our meals in the main dining room were excellent. We did Ocean Liners Rest. one evening. We had a wonderful experience with Katherina. The meal was excellent, but lengthy in time, because they want you to experience something "special." It was. As for the main dining room, well if you ever go on a Celebrity Constellation cruise, try and get Lloyd for your waiter. Wow, he is fantastic, as was his assistant, Marlon. All of our excursions, but one went as planned. Please listen to what they tell you about being careful in St. Petersburg. Although we had a very positive experience there, other people did have bad experiences with pick pocket individuals. Also, you certainly NEVER want to lose your passport there. We attended art auctions. We saw many shows. This cruise ship does not just have dancers, etc. night after night. Since the cruise is 14 days, they have different types of entertainment, and almost all of it was first rate. So what could I criticize? Well no watch batteries were aboard the ship when my watch stopped. Also, I did not know they sold sundries in the liquor shop. I needed nail files, polish remover, etc. Luckily, Clarence, the room attendant made sure my needs were met from his private stash. I would also say that the Celebrity website could be improved. There was mention of Cirque du Soleil which apparently was once offered as entertainment. Oh well, it didn't matter, but why not keep the website up to date? What was the highlight of the trip? Leaving Rostock and seeing thousands of people on the docks with an unbelievable send off as we sailed away. It was like something out of a movie. If anyone has questions, feel free to contact me. I highly recommend this cruise line. Judi Max Read Less
Sail Date: August 2007
Flew into Heathrow on Virgin Airways.Got our bags & went through customs in 1 hr. Pre & post cruise accommodations through Celebrity with the Grosvenor House - about 2 blocks from a tube stop and buses. Great hotel featured a full ... Read More
Flew into Heathrow on Virgin Airways.Got our bags & went through customs in 1 hr. Pre & post cruise accommodations through Celebrity with the Grosvenor House - about 2 blocks from a tube stop and buses. Great hotel featured a full breakfast as part of the price. Bus picked us up at 9:30 & we arrived in Dover about 12:00 with quick check in. Good start. Our room was SS 9123 which is located mid-ship and is a handicap accessible room. This was an upgrade from our booked CC room. Liked the room's size but didn't like the open shower as we always had to put towels on the floor to prevent the shower water running over. If you are a light sleeper this is not the room for you. It is located below the ping pong table and the casual dining dish storage locker. However we did work things out with guest services to compensate for the noise. This cruise is port intensive & we made full use of our time in port. We were too tired to see the evening shows after our late dining. Had breakfast delivered to our room each morning - much more relaxing than going up to the buffet and trying to find a table & get our beverages. Usually got the end of lunch service. They had regional fare of German & Scandinavian food. One day they had an Italian antipasti bar that had all my favorites. Dinners lacked creativity & at least 3 times the standard shrimp cocktail was listed as the evening specialty appetizer. We mostly had warm weather with just a couple of days of light rain in port. Even with excellent walking shoes discovered that cobblestone streets can still wear out your legs and feet. Made good use of the hot tubs and T-pool on each return to the ship. Only booked 2 ship's excursions - the evening at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen for $22 which included the shuttle and admission. Not handled well by Celebrity. Apparently booked too many people so there was a 30-40 minute wait for more buses to arrive. Tivoli Gardens is charming, a throwback in time when you went to an amusement park to have a relaxing dinner and listen to music played in their 4 bandstands. The rides and games are mild compared to today's high cost amusement parks. Also did a 90 minute walking tour (www.copenhagenwalks.com) done by a man dressed in Hans Christian Anderson attire. Not meant for slow walkers, he keeps the tour moving & entertaining. Highly recommended! Did ship's tour of the twin cities of Helsingborg/Helsingor as this was a tender port and we wanted to make sure we got off the ship in a timely manner. Good tour but not as informative & fun as the Copenhagen tour. Did the ship's tour by train to Berlin - warm day and no a/c on train. Bus had a/c and a great tour guide who described Berlin past (watching the video) and present looking out the window. Enjoyed our free time of walking around before return to bus. Most of the towns we visited did not have a/c in shops or restaurants and it was had to find more than 1 internet cafe. As the dollar is so badly devalued right now expect to pay at least 50% more for anything you buy. The ship's shuttles to downtown now cost $12 round trip - all major cruise lines now charge this fee. Did our own walking tours of Riga, Tallinn & Klaipeda. Make sure you have a good map and good description of what you are looking for to make it easy to find. Riga has the largest outside market in Europe which is where the locals shop for anything from brooms to clothes and all types of food. It's a few blocks away from the tourist spots and fun to visit to learn more about the culture. In St. Petersburg we did a 2 day tour with Red October and highly recommend them. We got quick access to all museums and great descriptions of them and the history. The 2 shops that we stopped at for souvenirs had great prices. Offered us free liqueurs and candy. Should have bought the balalaika there as it was 50% less than on the ship and not available in any other ports. Also did the ship's Folklore show and really enjoyed the dance, music and beautiful costumes. Loved all the ports and had a great time in London as well. Even though we were somewhat frugal we still spent a lot more money than expected due to the exchange rate and high taxation on goods and services. Learned that if you see something you like in a shop that is a little different or a good price, it was best to buy it then and there. Learned a few foreign words before each of the ports and it seemed to please the locals that we had an interest in their language. Bought chocolate in each of the ports and somehow it seemed to disappear before we boarded our return plane. Could see doing this cruise again as there was still more to see. Euros are accepted in all cities but primary choice is always the local currency especially if you are using buses where it is required. Dollars were not always accepted...We mostly had warm weather with just a couple of days of light rain in port. Even with excellent walking shoes discovered that cobblestone streets can still wear out your legs and feet. Made good use of the hot tubs and T-pool on each return to the ship. Booked the ship's "Evening at Tivoli Gardens" in Copenhagen for $22 which included the shuttle and admission. Not handled well by Celebrity. Booked too many people so there was a 30-40 minute wait for more buses to arrive. Tivoli Gardens is charming, a throwback in time when you went to an amusement park to have a relaxing dinner and listen to music played in their 4 bandstands. The rides and games are mild compared to today's high cost amusement parks. Also did a 90 minute walking tour done by a man dressed in Hans Christian Anderson attire(www.copenhagenwalks.com. He keeps the tour moving & entertaining. Highly recommended! Did ship's tour of Helsingborg/Helsingor as this was a tender port and we wanted to make sure we got off the ship in a timely manner. Not as informative & fun as the Copenhagen tour. Did the ship's tour by train to Berlin - warm day and no a/c on train. Bus had a/c and a great tour guide who described Berlin past (watching the video) and present looking out the window. Enjoyed our free time of walking around before return to bus. Most of the towns we visited did not have a/c in shops or restaurants and it was had to find more than 1 internet cafe. As the dollar is so badly devalued right now expect to pay at least 50% more for anything you buy. The ship's shuttles to downtown now cost $12 round trip - all major cruise lines now charge this fee. Did our own walking tours of Riga, Tallinn & Klaipeda. Make sure you have a good map and good description of what you are looking for to make it easy to find. Riga has the largest outside market in Europe which is where the locals shop for anything from brooms to clothes and all types of food. It's a few blocks away from the tourist spots and fun to visit to learn more about the culture. In St. Petersburg we did a 2 day tour with Red October and highly recommend them. We got quick access to all museums and great descriptions of them and the history. The 2 shops that we stopped at for souvenirs had great prices. Offered us free liqueurs and candy. Should have bought the balalaika there as it was 50% less than on the ship and not available in any other ports. Also did the ship's Folklore show and really enjoyed the dance, music and beautiful costumes. Loved all the ports and had a great time in London as well. Even though we were somewhat frugal we still spent a lot more money than expected due to the exchange rate and high taxation on goods and services. Learned that if you see something you like in a shop that is a little different or a good price, it was best to buy it then and there. Learned a few foreign words before each of the ports and it seemed to please the locals that we had an interest in their language. Bought chocolate in each of the ports and somehow it seemed to disappear before we boarded our return plane. Could see doing this cruise again as there was still more to see. Most of the towns we visited did not have a/c in shops or restaurants. Hard to find more than 1 internet café in towns. Dollar is so badly devalued right now expect to pay at least 50% more for anything you buy. The ship's shuttles to downtown now cost $12 round trip - all major cruise lines now charge this fee...Did our own walking tours of Riga, Tallinn & Klaipeda. Make sure you have a good map and good description of what you are looking for to make it easy to find. Riga has the largest outside market in Europe which is where the locals shop for anything from brooms to clothes and all types of food. It's a few blocks away from the tourist spots & fun to visit to learn more about the culture. In St. Petersburg we did a 2 day tour with Red October and highly recommend them. We got quick access to all museums w/great descriptions & history. The 2 shops that we stopped at for souvenirs had great prices. Offered us free liqueurs and candy. Should have bought the balalaika there as it was 50% less than on the ship and not available in any other ports. Also did the ship's Folklore show and really enjoyed the dance, music and beautiful costumes...Loved all the ports and had a great time in London as well. Even though we were somewhat frugal we still spent a lot more money than expected due to the exchange rate and high taxation on goods and services. Could do this cruise again as there was still more to see. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
Just returned from a 14 night cruise from Dover to St. Petersburg; and back; very satisfied. This was my fourth cruise; third cruise on Celebrity; and minus a few minor points; something I would recommend to one and all. EMBARKATION: One ... Read More
Just returned from a 14 night cruise from Dover to St. Petersburg; and back; very satisfied. This was my fourth cruise; third cruise on Celebrity; and minus a few minor points; something I would recommend to one and all. EMBARKATION: One word; smooth. We booked the cruise and the pre-package; including transfers through Celebrity. The hotel stay was at the City Inn at Westminister. Great location; easy walking to the Underground. Would suggest purchasing the London Pass; for access to a day or two pass to most places of interest and Underground pass for unlimited travel in the City. The transfer to/from airport went without any problem; and the day of the cruise was relaxing and stress-free. We arrived at the dock; walked to the checkin; which mind you no line for the concierge class; and very small wait for regular check-in; at 1 P.M. PUBLIC ROOMS: Another one word;pleasant. I say pleasant; because as a traveler; you realize that a contained ship that is in constant movement; with a new group of customers coming and going; every 1-2 weeks;it can be difficult at best to keep the ship maintained. However, this ship was clean, and well maintained. Always greeted at the entrances to the dining areas with cloth or liquid hand sanitizers. No complaints; from the decor to the the crew; who by the way; was always smiling and greeting you as you traveled the ship's corridors. CABIN: Acceptable. I say acceptable; not to deter from the excellent service given to us by our room stewart; and his assistant; but after two weeks on the ship; if you spent anytime in the room; you wonder why something could not be done to update the furnishings; and make it less like a cheap motel; one stayed in during college spring break days. Seriously; a few more pictures on the wall; maybe a t.v that had a remote control that worked; and of course something other than a color plan in mind of an old rerun of the Golden Girls. Sorry; it just seemed; since the curtain was about an inch or two; too short; that with very little darkness; the dated colors was the first and last thing you looked at every day. Remember; Jim and I were there during the longest days for daylight of the year; so no matter what time of the day; the room was light to walk around. One suggestion; maybe some blackout curtains; like the ones used in Vegas. Being someone that can wake up without an alarm clock; once the sun is up; there were many mornings; when Jim; could have thrown me off the balcony; since it was only 4 A.M. and I was up; requesting coffee. Besides the decor; one word on the cleanliness of the room; excellent. Never a problem with bunnies under the bed; dirty towels; nor an endless supply of coffee. In fact; Gregorio; even remember my Brother n sister in law; who had stayed in the same room for a cruise 8 months prior on a southern caribbean cruise. That may have been the reason for the endless coffee; they are big coffee drinkers; lol. canapes; Celebrity; please either devise a way to keep them fresh; or offer something else to your guests; they were stale. DINING: I am someone that anxiously looks forward to the moment you meet your table guests; and enjoy the conversation with new people; even though you may encounter some duds. This was not the case on this cruise. Chris, Elaine, Shelley and Tim; GREAT People; thank you again for making our cruise special. Food; Excellent; no complaints; and when there was any; Sam and Antonio was there to fix it. Remember; as noted by others on Cruise Critic; food does repeat itself; but what do you expect trying to cook for 2000 people over two weeks. For the price; on Celebrity; the food is great. MINOR POINTS: Please; someone at Corporate; stop the forced picture taking at the tables. Or at least if you must; please ask if anyone wants their picture taken; so they can swallow the food before the flash goes off. Just a thought; its only polite not to interrupt the Grazing process of your guests. Tallinn; for those going on excursions; avoid the trip to Rakvere; unless you enjoy 5 hours round trip to a pre-Disney site. Seriously; what was Celebrity thinking; fake blood; in a pitch dark cellar; and then to have the Excursion include a chance to be a vodka connoisseur. HMMM, we found out the hard way; you had the chance to taste the vodka; they later tried to sell to you; if you were one of five they selected. Not my idea of the tour; so I complained. In two days; I received a less-than acceptable letter; saying I should have read the description of the tour better. Sorry; that wasn't acceptable; nor was the fact that office should have avoided arguing with a guest that was just trying to afford some helpful suggestions. After meeting with the Customer relationships; the problem was fixed. Thank you; but word to the wise; if there is a problem; seek help on board. Any questions; email me; and thank you again Celebrity Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
This was our first cruise with Celebrity, but we have been on several others with Sitmar, Princess, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean. We sailed out of Dover on June 30, and disembarked in Copenhagen on July 14. We visited Oslo, Gdansk, St. ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Celebrity, but we have been on several others with Sitmar, Princess, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean. We sailed out of Dover on June 30, and disembarked in Copenhagen on July 14. We visited Oslo, Gdansk, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, Tallinn, Visby, Warnemunde, and Copenhagen. On this cruise my parents, who have cruised with Celebrity before as well as the other lines I mentioned previously, accompanied us. We booked through a travel agent and had Celebrity make all air/ground transportation reservations. Embarkation: We flew from LA to London (Heathrow) on a direct BA flight. It was good, and we received all our luggage without incident. Our first problem was that we could not locate the Celebrity representative to take us to our bus transfer to Dover. He was making a phone call about 100 feet from the meeting point. Once we found him we waited about an hour in the arrival terminal for more people to join us. We then were walked (with all our baggage, in the rain) about 1/4 mile to the bus. There was quite a bit of traffic, so we were a bit concerned about our late arrival to the port. When we arrived at the port our luggage was taken to our staterooms while we checked in. The process went smoothly, especially since there weren't any other transfers arriving. We boarded the ship, dropped off our carry-on luggage, and went to make reservations at Oceanliners, their specialty restaurant. Stateroom: We had a Concierge Class cabin on deck 8. It came with the usual amenities listed on the site: evening canapEs, priority tender passes, veranda, robes, fruit, flowers, champagne, etc. The champagne tasted like rust, so it was promptly poured out. The fruit and flowers were nice, and were replaced every other day or so. We had breakfast delivered several times, but we didn't like any of the "concierge" items; we tried them all and none were great. We asked if we could have something else instead of the nightly canapEs, such as shrimp cocktail or cheese and crackers, but our steward said it wasn't possible. Unfortunately this resulted in wasted food each night, since the canapEs were usually stale or soggy. The balcony was nice, and we enjoyed sitting out there and watching the ship come into and leave port. It was average ship balcony size, two chairs and a table fit nicely. The closet was a nice size, but there weren't enough hangers for a 14-night cruise. Our room steward, Marta, gave us more right away. All in all, the cabin was decent and suited our basic needs for the cruise. I found it a bit small, but it worked. Ship: The Constellation was a beautiful ship. I was impressed at how I always saw crewmembers cleaning or polishing some part of the ship. Nothing was dirty or in disrepair. The dEcor was nice; a bit much for me, but it's all about excess, right? I was not a huge fan of the art displayed, but I admit I'm not the one to judge. All the lounges and bars were well staffed and there was always room for our party of four to sit and have a drink. My husband enjoyed the Thalassotherapy pool in the spa area, and the gym was state-of-the-art with many machines. The spa was very nice, with windows in all treatment rooms. It was nice to be able to watch the sea during my herbal body wrap. Entertainment: Don't have much to write. We didn't really see the shows onboard, they didn't interest us. One night we saw a comedian, and he was just okay. His jokes were dated and corny, but he got some laughs. The band that played in the Rendezvous Lounge each night was good, albeit loud. We had pre-dinner cocktails in the Martini Lounge one deck above Rendezvous each night, and it was still hard to have any type of conversation while the band played (there was a large hole in the floor to view the stage below). We went to a couple ship activities, but felt they weren't geared towards our interests. Customer Service: This is where I felt Celebrity excelled. I did not meet one crewmember that wasn't polite and helpful. Our room steward was attentive and friendly, getting us whatever we needed. The staff at guest services was patient and helped us through our questions. The wait staff in the bars and lounges was fantastic. Wayan was our server every night in the Martini Bar, and he was great. Please go and see him if you can, he shakes a martini like nobody's business! There were families onboard the ship, but I felt the children/teens were generally kept out of the way. We never felt any annoyance from them being in restricted areas or obnoxious. Medical Facilities: Unfortunately I needed medical care while on board. Of course it was outside the office hours, so I had to pay the emergency fee. It was only $30 extra and well worth the money. The staff was wonderful. Dr. Hernandez was great, and extremely professional. It was my dream doctor's office visit. Dining: Where food is concerned, I wasn't impressed. I also didn't expect much. My recent experience with cruises had been as follows: when there's a specialty restaurant onboard, the food in the dining room is passable, but not great. It was the same on this ship as well. I feel like they saved all the great food for the restaurant you have to pay extra to dine with. However, our waiter, Wilmar, and assistant waiter, Kim, were GREAT. Wilmar was quite the entertainer, and kept us happy and satisfied at every meal. His suggestions on dinner choices were right on, and we really counted on him to steer us in the right direction. Our sommelier, Zulkuf (Z), was also fantastic. We had a bottle of wine every night, and he was quite helpful in leading us to wines that would pair well with our dinners. He taught us a lot about French wine, and it was an interesting education. The Aquaspa Cafe was good, and I ate there for lunch many times. Most of their dishes were vegetarian, but they also had made to order salmon, turkey, and chicken breast. The desserts were great. The Seaside Grill was your usual burger place. If you preferred a turkey or veggie burger you had to wait about 10 minutes while it was cooked. This is quite a problem if there are many people waiting, they don't understand why you're just standing there, not getting your food. The Seaside Restaurant/Cafe/Buffet was standard. I felt the selection was lacking, especially in the area of healthy food. My huge complaint about this restaurant is how rigidly it stuck to hours of operation. If it was to close at 5:00, most of the buffet was shut down around 4:30. We had trouble finding food when we went up there 30 minutes before it was supposed to close for dinner. The day we (and half the cruise) took the excursion to Berlin we returned to the ship at 9:30 p.m. Once we were through the gangway, dining staff told us dinner was ready for us at the Seaside Cafe (we were not to go into the dining room, as dinner was served at 8:30.) We got up to the Cafe at 9:45, and most of it was closed. There were hundreds of people lined up at few stations, and most others were closing fast. It was horrible, and most people didn't get a chance to eat. I think that since Celebrity chartered the train we were on, they should have held dinner open in the cafe for at least another hour. The next day, we overheard conversations of people that flat-out missed dinner because of the Berlin trip. Very disappointing. Shore Excursions: We took excursions in about half the ports. Oslo: We took the Viking Heritage tour. I recommend saving your money. There are virtually no sights in Oslo, so we were taken to Vigeland Park to see a bunch of sculptures, to a ski jump that was filled with water, the Folk Museum that had several copies of the same house, and the Viking Ship museum that was crowded beyond belief. Our guide barely spoke English, and was a bore. This was one of the worst shore excursions on the trip. Gdansk/Gdynia: We took the Old Town Gdansk/Stuthof Concentration Camp tour. It rained the entire time, but it was tolerable. Old town Gdansk was good, because of the rain it was hard to see a lot of the architecture and such, but it was still nice. Stuthof was good, but all signs were written in Polish, so we had to stay with our guide so that she could read them to us. Unfortunately she couldn't read them all, and had other tours behind, so I feel we got a rough summary of some signs and others weren't read at all. To contrast, all the signs at Dachau concentration camp - which I visited in 1993 - were in multiple languages. St. Petersburg: We took the flight to Moscow on the first day in St. Petersburg. That was a wonderful trip, and worth the money. The traveling guide, Liza, and the Moscow guide, Olga, were fabulous. We saw Red Square, the Kremlin, Armory Museum, took a metro ride, and ate a Russian dinner (fantastic.) The worst part was that there was NO time for shopping whatsoever. We were constantly on the go, and hardly had time to catch our breath. There was also a lot of travel involved. Ship to airport, airport to downtown Moscow, around Moscow, back to airport, back to ship. We spent most of the day in transit. I still would do it again. The second day we did a canal tour with the Church of Peter and Paul. The church is where the remains of the Romanov family are buried, as well as several past Czars. It was quite interesting, and the canal trip was a highlight. Stockholm: We took the excursion to old town and the Ice Bar. Old town was nice, very quaint and beautiful. The Ice Bar was great. Groups of thirty were let in for thirty minutes at a time, wearing protective ponchos and gloves. Everything is made from ice, from the couches to the glasses. Each person chose a drink from his or her list, and you have the experience of drinking from an ice glass. The bartender gave some history and information about the ice bar, which was quite interesting. Fun fact: the ponchos and gloves are not to keep the patrons warm, but rather to prevent their body heat from melting the bar! Warnemunde: We took the Cultural Treasures tour to Berlin. There is a 2-3 hour train ride from the port to Berlin. As part of the Cultural Treasures tour, guests get "better" seats on the train. These seats were fine, but I don't see how they were better than the others on the train. Celebrity charters an entire train because so many passengers take excursions to Berlin. We were able to get a private cabin on the way to Berlin, which was great. The traveling guides, especially Boris, were great. They took a lot of time to really talk to us about Berlin. The tour was very nice, and quite thorough. Our Berlin guide, Tim, was entertaining and knowledgeable. We visited a couple sections of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin Cathedral, Brandenberg Gate, had lunch in a museum restaurant, and the Pergamon Museum. Disembarkation: This was the worst part of the entire trip. As I mentioned before, we booked all travel through Celebrity. We will NEVER make that mistake again. We booked this trip in January, and paid for it soon after. At the time we were told that we had seats on the flights to and from the cruise, and would get our information and e-tickets later. We flew BA direct to Heathrow, but were not as fortunate on our return home. We were SAS to Dulles, then United to LAX. When we were given these tickets, we didn't have seat numbers for our flights home. When we asked about the seats, we were told not to worry, that they would be assigned at the airport the day of the flight. After much work on the part of the TA, United gave us seat assignments, however SAS still refused. They said that our tickets were not paid for, so they could not assign seats. Funny, since the money was paid to Celebrity several months prior. Celebrity was holding onto the money, which they claimed was standard procedure. They also gave us a two-hour layover in Dulles to go through immigration, find our luggage, go through customs, check the luggage back in, go through security, and get to our gate. That was ludicrous. Most people know there should be AT LEAST four hours given in between international flights because of security measures. We got off the ship easily enough, and arrived at the airport with about four hours to check in and get to the gate. There was only one line for passengers to check in to several major airlines, and this line went all the way to the next terminal. When we finally got to the front of this monstrous line, we were told to go stand in another line because we were traveling to the US. When at the front of this line we checked in our baggage, and was told that our seats would be assigned at the actual gate, which was the farthest from the main check-in. When we reached the gate we waited in two different lines with several other Celebrity passengers that were in the exact same situation. When we talked to an SAS representative, she told us that the flight was overbooked, and at that moment WE DIDN'T HAVE SEATS ON THE PLANE. We had to choose to either wait and see if anyone gave up his/her seat or take a flight the next day. There were about thirty of us in the same situation. It was horrific, to say the least. We chose to wait and after about 45 excruciating minutes of wondering, we were told there were seats for the four of us on the flight. It just so happened that the four seats were altogether, which was funny since there were no seats for us at all in the beginning. Most of the people did get on the flight, but there were a few that weren't so lucky, and had to stay in Copenhagen for another night. Dulles was chaotic and horrible, and reminded me of a third-world country. With our two-hour layover we made it to the gate in the middle of boarding for our flight. It was hellish, and like I said, we will NEVER let the company make our travel arrangements. We were treated like 3rd- class citizens, which is not the service of which Celebrity prides itself. It's also sad that a wonderful cruise had to end on such a sour note. In summary, wonderful cruise, great ports of call, horrible travel arrangements. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
This is our 2nd Cruise with Celebrity, the previous was on Mercury to Alaska. Having booked Concierge Class we were directed for priority embarkation which was very quick and even the non priority check in line was small, hence a quick and ... Read More
This is our 2nd Cruise with Celebrity, the previous was on Mercury to Alaska. Having booked Concierge Class we were directed for priority embarkation which was very quick and even the non priority check in line was small, hence a quick and efficient boarding process. The cabin was spacious, clean and had a good size balcony - the only downside was the overhang from the above floor which occasionally blocked the sun. One slight gripe was the electric sockets were very close to the dressing table and made it difficult to plug items in including the supplied hairdryer! The cabin steward (Servio) and assistant were very helpful and attentive and gave you the impression they really were happy to assist. Our safe battery failed and it took only 10 minutes for an engineer to call and replace it! The public rooms were good, clean and well located; it has an impressive 3 tier theatre with good visibility from nearly all areas. The air conditioning in the theatre was very good on the bottom tiers but it did seem a little hot higher up. The Celebrity Singers and Dancers were very good and so were the featured guest acts, there did however seem to be a heavy focus on vocalists and musical instrument based acts- guitarist, pianist and violinist who were also reflected in some of the day time activities/talks. There was only one comedian on who was good but very tame and an informative 'pickpocket' session from Bob Arno which was both funny and informative. The brochure highlighted the fact that 'Cirque du Soleil' would perform onboard however this did not materialize and there was no mention of this by the Cruise Director or any of the other staff on board. The rest of the ship was well presented, it had a good selection of bars, 'The Bar at the Edge of the Earth having recently been refitted whilst in dry dock, together with a martini bar and champagne bar which had a good selection. The gym was well equipped and the Aqua Spa prices were good value - the prices appear to have reduced since our last Celebrity Cruise (I may be wrong!). The food was fantastic- couldn't fault the quality, quantity or service. One night we booked a table at the 'Ocean Liners' select restaurant which cost an extra $30 pp cover charge. This is well worth the money, I didn't think the quality and service could improve from the normal 'San Marco' restaurant - how wrong I could be, it truly is the ultimate dining experience! One day we should have visited Helsingborg in Sweden, which would have been a tender service. Due to apparently bad sea conditions, the captain decided not to tender and instead proceeded to Copenhagen, not that I am an expert on sea conditions, but it appeared okay to me and many of my fellow passengers. On top of this they then charged for the shuttle bus in Copenhagen which I considered ought to have been free for the inconvenience (Shore Excursions and Guest Relations desks didn't share my view). One other slight disappointment was the location of the port in Stockholm. I am aware that large ships cannot dock in certain ports due to size/weight etc, however we were in the cargo/ferry terminal and RCL Jewel of the Seas (a similar sized ship) docked very close to the city. I am quite sure there was room for 2 ships to dock there and I assume it comes down to docking costs- something you don’t expect to be an issue for this cruise line. Overall it was a very good cruise, excellent service, food and good ports of call (not to mention the extremely good weather which was in the 70’s most days) and we will definitely return to Celebrity in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
June 1st It should have been an exciting occasion. This evening we were scheduled to join my parents in Philadelphia where all four of us would continue on to England and begin our anticipated two-week Baltic Cruise aboard Celebrity's ... Read More
June 1st It should have been an exciting occasion. This evening we were scheduled to join my parents in Philadelphia where all four of us would continue on to England and begin our anticipated two-week Baltic Cruise aboard Celebrity's Constellation. However, Lynn (my husband) and I were off to a bad start: Stuck on the runway at the Pittsburgh Airport for 3 hours because of bad weather. Now we would miss our Philadelphia connections to London and the June 2nd sailing of our ship from Dover. The final "nail in the coffin" was the pilot's announcement that he was returning to the gate where all international travelers' luggage would be off-loaded. Unceremoniously "dumped" from the plane at 9:30 that night, we resentfully collected our baggage. After waiting in a long line to rebook, we were told to come back in the morning. By the time we got home, it was almost 11:00 p.m. I was despondent, although Lynn took the turn of events better than I. (Always expecting the worse, he had fretted about the short connections in Philly for months and, on some level, actually felt vindicated). Thanks to Tylenol p.m. I drugged myself to sleep, but Lynn was awake most of the night. June 2nd and 3rd Obviously, we had missed the Dover embarkation and would now need to meet the ship by June 4th in Oslo Norway, the next port of call. Since our air-travel arrangements had been booked through the cruise-line, I foolishly believed a phone call to them would remedy the situation. No such luck: Celebrity insisted it was now the airline's responsibility and we must get US Air to issue new tickets to Oslo. Back at the airport again, we serendipitously found ourselves in the capable hands of William, a US Air ticket agent who, with unbelievable patience, spent almost two hours rebooking us. The problem: Our original reservation only authorized two legs of flight (Pittsburgh-Philly and Philly to London) and now we required three. Worse, since it was a weekend, the Celebrity group-travel agency was closed. But William persevered stating, "I will NOT give up!" and eventually got us booked through Philadelphia, then on to Frankfurt Germany and finally via Lufthansa Airline to Oslo. (Best of all, the Lufthansa tickets were business class). We called Celebrity and notified them of our new schedule, urging them to inform my parents who were already onboard the ship and undoubtedly frantic with worry. (My folks never carry a cell phone and there was no way of contacting them). Our flight to Philadelphia was scheduled to leave at 5:10 p.m. that evening and it was a long, tense wait at the airport, since thunderstorms were again predicted. Fortunately, everything went well and though exhausted, we could sleep on the overnight flight to Frankfurt. One small "glitch" occurred in Germany: Over Lynn's objections, I mistakenly led us out of the international area, thus forcing a lengthy re-entry through their security lines. (Lynn was not pleased with this turn of events, but couldn't overtly express his annoyance for fear of attracting unwelcome attention from airport personnel). Fortunately, with a several hour layover in Frankfurt, no real harm was done. Approaching Norway by plane was really delightful, with an aerial overview of the islands and fjords. Unfortunately, the local Celebrity agent supposed to meet our flight was nowhere to be seen. Eventually, an attendant at the airport visitor center located him by cell phone. It was almost an hour before the agent, Bjorn, appeared. He denied any prior notification of our arrival and spent an additional 20 minutes searching for lost luggage of another cruise passenger before we were finally on our way. Oslo is quite a distance from its airport and Bjorn was most loquacious. We would be staying at the Grand Hotel close to the harbor. It was very difficult to get reservations there, but as the Oslo port agent, he "had connections". Grand Hotel was expensive, but not to worry: The cruise-line "pays for the room." Furthermore, someone would pick us up the next morning and make sure we "got on the ship before anyone else disembarked". He even made dinner suggestions. Arriving at the hotel, Bjorn held a long conversation in Norwegian with the desk clerk and then handed us our room key with a flourish. As he left, we tipped him generously for all his help. The hotel was lovely, and our room graciously appointed. We took long overdue showers and headed off to see the sights. Even though it was early evening, the northern latitude provided plenty of sunlight. Oslo extends along a beautiful harbor lined with marinas and restaurants. The ancient castle/fortress of Akershus, perched on a cliff, overlooks the port. Sidewalks were crowded with people enjoying an evening stroll or sipping beverages at outdoor cafes. Across the water excited shrieks emanated from a gaily lit ferris-wheel. Following Bjorn's advice, we located the Lofoten Fiskerestaurant. Not many patrons were at this restaurant and after seeing the menu prices (and converting them to the dollar) we knew why. Service was impeccable and our fish delicious. But despite splitting a salad and dessert and having only one glass of wine, the bill (including tip) was almost $150.00. After dinner we walked up to the Akershus, only to find the fort closed for the evening. Choosing a different route back to the hotel, we paused to admire an attractive park with fountain and reflecting pool. Once in our room, sleep came within minutes. June 4th That morning in the hotel lobby we encountered another couple also awaiting transportation to the ship. They, too, had missed their air connections and worse, all luggage was lost. They were not happy with Celebrity. Arriving at the dock, a behemoth of a ship loomed above us. Finally, our cruise on the Constellation could begin! But wait: A big chain-linked fence prevented any access! Without the "ship identity card" issued to all passengers back in Dover, the port security guards would not let us onboard. I saw Bjorn through the fence, but he made no effort to remedy the situation. By now a third couple had joined us and everyone was getting upset. Finally, I informed the security guard that if someone from the ship didn't let us on within ten minutes there was going to be a big riot on the dock. She murmured into her walkie-talkie and the ship's front-desk manager "miraculously" appeared to escort everyone onboard. He was checking us all in when Bjorn arrived to insist that the two couples who stayed at the Grand Hotel needed to pay for their rooms. This was the last straw! The desk manager got quite an earful about Celebrity's shabby treatment. However, he quickly rose to the occasion, escorted Bjorn out of the area and assured us no payment was necessary. We dropped off our bags in the room and rushed off to locate my parents. They were having breakfast and delighted to see us! We exchanged horror stories: Nobody had informed them of our whereabouts for almost 36 hours. Worse, my father had fallen down ten escalator steps in the London airport and emerged covered with blood. (He was still terribly bruised). My parents had visited Oslo on a previous trip and with my father in pain, decided to stay on the ship for the day. However, they knew Lynn and I were anxious to see more of the city and urged us to "go have fun". Lynn was hesitant to use the local ATM machine and instead had the ship's bank exchange twenty dollars for local currency (in hindsight an insufficient amount). We bought tram tickets to get to our first attraction, Vigeland Park. The place is famous for its 212 monumental nude sculptures created by Gustav Vigeland, who died in 1943. Arriving at the park, we were amazed to see the sculptures, which depict the whole cycle of human life from birth to death, displayed along an impressive promenade and amongst lovely flower and water features. Masses of lilacs were in bloom. It was just the peaceful antidote we needed after the last two days. Next, stop: Bygdoy Peninsula, an affluent section of Oslo that also is home to a number of museums. To get there, we needed ferry tickets which we attempted to purchase dockside. Informed they were only sold on the boat, we dashed onboard just as the ferry was departing. But surprisingly, during the entire crossing, tickets were never mentioned by any of the crew. Once there, it was a long walk from the dock to the museums and we were thirsty. The purchase of a cold Pepsi wiped out the remainder of our Norwegian money. Fortunately, the Kon Tiki and Fram Museums accepted charge cards. The Kon Tiki houses the balsa wood raft Thor Heyerdahl used to prove his theory that the original Polynesians could have sailed from Peru. Also on display is his papyrus raft that sailed from Morocco to Barbados. The Fram contains the famous ship which took Nansen to the arctic in 1893 and Amundsen to the South Pole in 1910. Visitors can walk throughout the ship and numerous polar artifacts are on display. Both museums were very interesting. On the return ferry, the crew was more organized and tickets were required. Too late we learned only local currency was acceptable. This created an embarrassing predicament. Since our Norwegian money was depleted, they hesitantly agreed to accept the equivalent value in American dollars. We ate a quick lunch back on our ship before our final visit of the day: Akershus Castle (closed the previous evening). Now the Constellation was berthed right beside it and the huge ship towered over the castle grounds. The old stone walls and cannons, set amongst shaded lawns and lilac trees produced an immediate response of tranquility. From the ramparts, incredible views of the Oslo harbor stretched beneath us. Concerned about the possibility of missing the boat again, the ship's proximity allowed Lynn to really relax for the first time all day. We were back onboard in time to join my parents who were attending a lecture about Copenhagen, tomorrow's port of call. Afterwards, I approached the speaker concerning an internet tidbit I had previously gleaned. "Isn't tomorrow a National Holiday in Denmark?" I asked. "I don't know," was his response. "If so," I persisted, "will the museums be closed?" He was clueless. The ship sailed at 5:00 p.m. In our room was a letter of apology from the front desk offering a $500 onboard credit for our "inconvenience". At dinner, my parents introduced us to our fellow table-mates, Paul and Bilha (a nice middle-aged Canadian couple) and we bought wine for everyone to celebrate our arrival. The food was very good and the evening's entertainment by Brooks Aehron, a talented concert pianist, excellent. June 5 It was another beautiful day and also our 41st anniversary! Things were definitely looking up. Mom and Dad were staying onboard, but we were off to see Copenhagen. Disembarking, I encountered the director of shore excursions and asked her if this were a Danish holiday. She had no idea. Since our ship was docked several miles from the city center, a shuttle bus (for a hefty fee) provided transportation to King's Square. A local Danish woman supervised the shuttle service and I repeated my question to her. "Yes" she replied "it's our Constitution Day". (Finally, some answers!) "Are the museums still open?" I queried. "I don't know" was her response. Sigh. Our ultimate destination was the Visitor Center, quite a hike from King's Square. We arrived in time to join a two-hour walking tour of the old city. Part of the stroll covered areas that we had just passed through, but the sights were much more meaningful when enhanced by our guide's comments. Not only did he provide explanations of what we were seeing, but also insight into modern Danish society. We were impressed with Copenhagen: The city is clean and attractive. Most of the population utilizes bicycles rather than cars and they love the sun. The parks were filled with people "enjoying the rays". Since Danes also seem to have few inhibitions, sunbathing topless as well as in undergarments is condoned. When observing such sights our guide informed us, "It is permissible to look, but no suggestive comments should result." Our tour ended at Amalienborg Slot, the castle of Denmark's current Queen where we watched the Changing of the Guards ceremony. After tipping our guide, I inquired about the museums. Unfortunately, even he didn't know if they were open today, but promised to get us there by bus. (During a "potty break" earlier, Lynn had rushed off to a nearby money changer to acquire local currency for the fare). With the guide's assistance, we hopped onto the correct bus, paid our fare and were eventually deposited near the Ny Carlsberg Museum. (This was the one attraction in Copenhagen that Lynn really wanted to see after an antique dealer back in Pittsburgh had raved about the place). Alas, the museum was closed! Disheartened, and with little local currency left, we headed back on foot. It was past 1:00 now and we were getting hungry. Stopping at a local Burger King, we had just enough money to purchase a "kiddy meal" to share. Finally, the lesson was sinking in: Use of credit cards was unreliable. There were too many places that would not accept them. When the shuttle returned us to the ship, we ran into my parents who had been perusing the shops along the harbor. We gave them our tickets and insisted they at least take a quick visit into the city. Meanwhile Lynn and I went to see the famous "Little Mermaid" statue which perches on a rock in the sea. (During our earlier tour, we learned she has been the object of many acts of vandalism, including several beheadings and, recently, covered with red paint). A leisurely stroll along the shoreline and past a marina brought us to the attraction. I was surprised to find the statue life-size, as I had imagined her to be much larger. Still, as an icon of Copenhagen, we would have hated to miss this sight. It was late afternoon and after our "tiny" lunch, we were starving. Fortunately, the 4:00 extensive "tea" was still being served aboard the ship and we took full advantage of all the goodies. Of course this meant we weren't very hungry by dinner, but managed, nonetheless, to "rise to the occasion" and even enjoy the special chocolate cake provided (along with singing waiters) for our anniversary dessert. June 6 This was to be a full day at sea and, since we were changing time zones, all clocks had to be turned back one hour. We met my folks in the "usual spot" for breakfast (everyone had grown quite fond of the waiter assigned there) and planned our day. At 9:00 a.m. the four of us attended a lecture on St. Petersburg, Russia, and to my dismay, the shore-excursion manager implied that a visa was required if not taking the ship's tour. This was a very sore subject since I had been responsible for contracting with an independent Russian agency, Alla Tours, to visit St. Petersburg and none of us had visas. (I had been sending Alla intermittent, anxious emails about the visa issue for months and in each response, she assured me they were unnecessary). As soon as the lecture ended, I rushed off to the front desk where I was relieved to learn we should have "no problems" using Alla Tours in Russia. As Captain Club members, Lynn and I had been invited to a free wine tasting at 11:30 in a private dining room and the four wines offered were excellent. Slightly "woozy" afterwards, we ate lunch before joining my parents for a 2:00 p.m. lecture/performance on music history, which featured the songs of Gershwin. (With such relaxing music, I kept nodding off). At the conclusion, we remained seated for a second performance by the pianist Brooks Aehron, back by "popular demand". There was yet another Captain Club event scheduled at 5:15, a sort of "meet and greet" accompanied by champagne. (Free drinks are always an incentive for us). Tush, the front desk manager, was present and pleased to discover we now had a much more favorable impression of the cruise. Dinner featured a scrumptious fish and was followed by the evening's entertainment: A very talented man who played multiple instruments. It had been a very relaxing day. June 7 Today's port was Talinn, Estonia. My parents had signed up for a ship excursion but I had previously corresponded via email with the Talinn tourist board and Lynn and I intended to take their city bus/walking tour. I asked the ship's shore-excursion manager if there were a visitor center near the dock, but she thought not. Her advice: Take the ship's shuttle to the downtown area and from there seek information at the Viru Hotel. It turned out that she was wrong again. (Note to self: stop listening to that woman!) Once more we purchased the pricey shuttle tickets and arrived at the hotel, only to be informed that the bus tour actually began at the visitor center near the dock area! Since the hotel was the second stop for the bus, if all seats were already taken, we were out of luck. At a nearby visitor center we purchased a Talinn Day Card, which gave us free admission to museums etc. as well as including the bus/walking tour. Then we set off at a brisk pace to return to the port. Once there, at least twenty busses were parked at the loading dock and, unable to speak the language, we had no idea which one was ours. At the last minute, we made the correct choice and hopped onboard. The hotel had obviously grossly overestimated the tour's popularity for there were only seven other tourists in the bus. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day and the tour, excellent. Our guide was quite fluent in English and divulged copious "tidbits" about the country's history. After centuries of foreign domination, Estonia gained independence in 1918, only to be forcibly incorporated into the USSR in 1940. It was not until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 that Estonia finally regained its freedom. Throughout all these occupations, Estonians fiercely maintained their culture. If our guide's attitude was any indication of popular sentiment, the remaining Russians (who currently constitute twenty-five percent of Estonia's population) are an unwelcome subgroup of society. The one hour bus tour provided an opportunity to view the city surrounds, including coastal attractions and Kadriorg Park before disgorging us at the Song Festival Grounds. Our guide proudly pointed out their large modern outdoor amphitheater which hosts international folk festivals and showcases Estonia's heritage. Apparently these are hugely popular events for the locals. The bus brought us back within the city walls to the medieval section of town, where our 1 ½ hour walking tour would begin. Talinn was at one time a rich trading center along the Baltic, until conquered by its powerful neighbors. The ongoing wars and occupations left Estonia financially depleted and, with no money to "modernize", Talinn reportedly is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. It certainly was ranked among the top of those we've seen, and we thoroughly enjoyed the city. (Our only complaint: A few public toilets would have been nice). Once the tour was completed, we visited the Estonian History Museum with artifacts and exhibits dating from the 1800's back to pre-recorded time. Fascinating! Next we climbed to the top of St. Olaf's Church Spire. At 124 meters, this was once the tallest spire in the world. A little winded when we finally reached the top, the reward was a magnificent view of all of Old Town. We could even see our ship in port. It was a pleasant walk back to the ship, but our mood was shattered by a note in our room from Guest Relations insisting that "Prior to disembarking, all individuals taking independent tours tomorrow in St. Petersburg must first convene on the 11th floor at the ship's bow". (The exit gangplank was located on the opposite end of the ship and on 1st floor). I "smelled a rat". A woman had previously sent a letter to my favorite travel magazine describing Celebrity's efforts to discourage independent touring in Russia by segregating such groups to ensure their delayed disembarkation. (In a written response to the magazine, the president's office of Celebrity had categorically denied the use of such ploys). Fortunately, I had brought a copy of that discussion with me and off we went to the Guest Relations Desk. I respectfully asked that because of my parent's age, we be allowed to leave the ship without a prior sequestering on the 11th floor. My request was denied. To bolster my case, I presented the agent with the aforementioned magazine copy. She wavered, but ultimately remained steadfast. In desperation, I mentioned we knew her boss. At this, she finally relented and told us to come to her desk and she would personally escort us off the ship. But "don't tell the others!" We joined my parents for pre-dinner drinks in one of the lounges and recounted our day before heading off to dine. The entertainment that night was a very funny comedian. June 8 We docked in St. Petersburg by 7:30 a.m. and despite all my worries, linking up with Alla Tours was effortless! The Guest Relations agent personally escorted the four of us off the ship, where we breezed through the Russian immigration office and emerged to find Alla Tour personnel holding up identifying signs. Our guide, Natasha, was very experienced and spoke fluent English with only a minimal accent. Val, our driver, was waiting nearby to assist us into an air-conditioned Mercedes minivan. My father had been concerned about the amount of walking on the tour, but since the group consisted of only my parents, Lynn, and myself there was the opportunity to customize the tour to meet our needs. For today's agenda (Catherine's Palace and Peterhof) we would be heading south of the city and most of what we would be seeing had been reconstructed after suffering extensive damage during the World War II siege by the Nazis. In September of 1941 the Germans began a 900 day assault on Leningrad (now the city of St. Petersburg). The citizens refused to surrender, despite almost unbearable hardships. By the time the siege ended, the population of the city had declined from three million to one million with a death toll of almost 800,000 people. The drive to Catherine's Palace gave insight into the daily lives of the Russian people. We passed massive apartment buildings, where often several generations shared a few rooms. Such apartments have no designated bedrooms as each room must be multifunctional. What I assumed were small homes in country villages were actually dachas, a type of "weekend retreat." Despite the fact that many dachas are without heat, water or central plumbing they are a cherished possession and allow Russians to indulge their "love of the soil" with tiny garden plots. We stopped at a small park to view a particularly poignant memorial to Russian Holocaust victims: an abstract sculpture in granite that suggested an individual kneeling in abject despair. The gates were still closed when we arrived at the palace of Catherine the Great. However, we had early admission passes and were amongst the first tourists allowed into the compound. Built between 1719 and 1723, the palace was huge with a stunning aqua colored façade decorated with statues, gold and white ornaments and topped with gold onion domes. The public rooms had been restored and despite the lack of furniture were most impressive. I particularly liked the Great Hall with its painted ceilings and large windows encased by lavish gildings and the Green Drawing Room composed entirely of Wedgewood china. Of course, the Amber Room, filled with panels of amber is probably the most famous one in the palace. Touring the castle involved a lot of walking so while my folks rested on an outdoor bench, Natasha took Lynn and myself through the gardens. We learned none of Catherine's private living quarters had been restored since the Communists wished to "dehumanize" the rulers and emphasize their lavish lifestyles at the expense of the "common man". We stopped for lunch (an extra $20 per person) in the town of Peterhof to experience a typical Russian meal. A larger group touring with Alla joined us at the restaurant. Then it was off to Peterhof, the summer residence of Peter the Great. Giving Russia access to a port was one of Peter's greatest triumphs and he commissioned his massive palace to be built on the shore of the Baltic Sea. The fountains and gardens of the palace grounds are spectacular but also encompass vast distances. Natasha suggested hiring a rickshaw to transport my parents and Dad eventually acquiesced to her plan. Meanwhile Natasha, Lynn and I strolled amongst the palace grounds, enjoying all the attractions. Many of the fountains, while striking in appearance, also were created to perform "tricks" on palace visitors. (Peter the Great apparently derived great pleasure from the unexpected dousing of his guests and, of course, no one dared object). Nowadays, the fountains provide entertainment for children who, clad in bathing suits, relish the soaking. Back in St. Petersburg, our next stop was a visit to the Russian subways. Dad elected to stay in the car with Val, but the rest of us followed Natasha down a long escalator to the station. We were amazed to see the pillars, fixtures and even the walls adorned with marcasite and crystal. We hopped onto the subway to visit two more stations and each one was ornate and unique. (Unfortunately, photographs were forbidden as they also function as bomb shelters). On the train, it was heartening to see how quickly men leaped up to vacate their seat for my mother. Exiting at the third station, we ascended the longest escalator I have ever encountered to find the minivan with Val and Dad waiting for us at the entrance. Before returning to the ship, Natasha suggested we stop at a store near the Bolshevik Ballet Theater with "nice bathrooms and authentic amber". She was right, and although I typically eschew souvenir shops, this one had some quality merchandise at very reasonable prices. Mother purchased earrings and a lovely amber sling for her necklace while I got some amber "goodies" for our daughters and grandchildren. We were back onboard by 5:00 p.m. and Mother and Dad went to their room for a pre-dinner rest. Lynn and I headed to the bar and over a glass of wine agreed that we had been very pleased so far with Alla Tours. I could hardly wait for our second day in St. Petersburg. June 9 Just Mom, Lynn and I met Natasha this morning since my father had decided not to join us. First on the agenda was a tour of the city's most famous attractions. We passed Yusupov Palace where the monk Rasputin was assassinated and paused by the historic cruiser Avrora, which fired the shot signaling the beginning of the Bolshevik Revolution. (This cruiser supposedly is a cherished relic of the Soviet era, but according to Natasha, it is locally known for sending up "a big blank that created a big mess"). Three particularly noteworthy places we visited were: (1) St. Isaac's Cathedral, the city's largest with its huge golden dome and lavish interiors consisting of 14 different minerals and semi-precious stones. Commissioned by Tsar Alexander I in 1818 to celebrate his victory over Napoleon, it took 40 years to build. (2) Peter and Paul Fortress, at the founding site of St. Petersburg which now houses the burial vaults of all Russian Czars. (3) Church on the Blood, built where the assassination of Czar Alexander II took place. This church personifies 19th century Russian architecture with its incredibly ornate façade and colorful onion domes. The interior is as extravagant as the exterior, with glittering stretches of mosaic from floor to ceiling and stone carvings with gold leaf adorning the walls. The floors are made of pink Italian marble and the altar constructed entirely of semiprecious gems with four jasper columns. (I personally liked it the best, since it is the most unique cathedral I have seen). Since I needed a potty break, we stopped at another shop. Natasha advised us to "look like we might buy something" before availing ourselves of the store's bathroom. Unfortunately, while pretending to browse, I came upon an absolutely gorgeous green amber pendant. Lynn, always generous, insisted I buy it for myself. Our afternoon was to be spent at the Hermitage Museum. Once the private art collection of the czars, this world-famous museum is virtually wallpapered with celebrated paintings. Housed in the Winter Palace of Catherine the Great, the museum itself is an outstanding example of Russian baroque magnificence. An extremely popular attraction, it was packed with tour-groups and visitors. As I had requested a quick lunch, Natasha suggested the sandwich bar located within the Hermitage. Only a few tables were available but fortunately one soon became vacated. The sandwiches, although pre-packaged, weren't bad. The museum is huge, and Mother good-naturedly agreed to use a wheelchair for transportation. Wheelchairs were available for free, but to take one you are required to leave a passport at the admission desk. Natasha wanted it to be Lynn's since, upon completion of the tour, she planned to leave Mother and me at a bench near the exit, while she and Lynn returned the chair and retrieved his passport. Lynn gallantly agreed to the plan. (I knew this was a real testament to his affection for my mother since he is always so paranoid about losing his passport, especially in Russia). Another problem with the wheelchair: There are very few elevators in the museum, and one of those was only large enough for two people. Fortunately, Natasha was quite familiar with these obstacles and knew exactly how to overcome them. Lynn and I wished to see the Impressionists paintings, our personal favorites, and Natasha took us straight to them. (Since most Hermitage tours focus on its collection of "Old Masters", this section of the museum was much less crowded). Room after room filled with such famous artwork took my breath away. Even those works by Gauguin, our least favorite artist of the period, contained a painting we loved. (A humorous side note: Lynn kept a "death-grip" on the wheelchair whenever Mother hopped out to view the artwork more closely). Natasha persuaded us to detour and see the famous collection of Rembrandts, which were exceptional. En route we passed an enormous ornate gold clock given to Catherine the Great by one of her lovers featuring life-size animals. (Now that was impressive). Our last stop was a visit to a gallery of works that had been "appropriated" by the Nazis before ultimately falling into Soviet hands. (Supposedly, all traces of the original owners had disappeared in the Holocaust). These paintings were magnificent! Back on the dock by 4:30, Alla joined us while we bade a fond farewell to Natasha and Val. Once onboard, we caught up with my father for "cocktail hour." He had spent the day relaxing and reading, without regrets for staying on the ship. At dinner, there was no sign of our Canadian tablemates. (They had been missing the previous evening also, but we assumed they were attending an evening performance in St. Petersburg). When questioned, our waiter claimed Bilha was sick. For us, it had been an action packed day. Mother went off to bed right after dinner while Lynn fell asleep during the evening entertainment. June 10 The ship docked in Helsinki, where my parents were hoping to introduce us to some friends in Finland who had been their hosts years ago at a Scandinavian Elderhostel event. Unfortunately, they didn't know where or when these folks would arrive. But Lynn and I, anxious to explore the city, were reluctant to wait around. We wrestled briefly with our conscience, before leaving my parents on the ship and grabbing a shuttle into town. The shuttle stopped close to the local visitor center where we planned to catch a city bus-tour. Alas, the Center's printer was temporarily out of order, which necessitated a half-hour wait before we could purchase tickets. Everyone stood there with resignation, except one American woman who broke into line and began throwing a big fit about the delay. It was embarrassing. (Eventually the printer problem was resolved, but I felt like faking a British accent when purchasing our tickets). Another twenty minutes elapsed before the bus left, since the driver delayed our departure to accommodate tourists from a second bus that had broken down. With a population of 500,000, Helsinki is a modern city surrounded by water on three sides. Our bus made two stops. The first was at the Rock Church, carved out of solid rock. Its dome is covered by 15 miles of copper wire and services are held there regularly. The church is quite famous, but Lynn and I were not that impressed. We did enjoy the second stop at a shady park where we walked to the Sibelius Monument. A series of 600 hollow steel pipes welded together in a wave-like pattern, it commemorates the composer, Jean Sibelius, of Finlandia fame. Completed in 1967, ten years after the composer's death, this large striking sculpture was created to capture the essence of his music, considered an important part of Finnish national identity. The tour was comprehensive, but our guide's heavy accent made it difficult to always understand him. When it ended, we walked to the waterfront outdoor market and purchased fried herring for lunch. . It was a beautiful day, perfect for our next activity: A ferry ride to Suomenlinna, a series of six small islands which are popular picnic areas. Suomenlinna originally served as a sea fortress for the port of Helsinki and sections of the original fort, built in 1748, still remain. The ferry was packed with local families. In stark contrast to all the cities recently visited, these picturesque islands connected by small footbridges were a pastoral delight. We loved the place with its ruined fort, rocky slabs overlooking the sea and huge old lilac bushes in bloom, permeating the air with aroma. I could have happily spent the rest of the day there, but Lynn (always worried about schedules) eventually coerced me back to the ferry landing. Returning to Helsinki, we detoured to visit two churches, the Uspenski Cathedral which is the largest Orthodox church outside of Russia, and the Lutheren Cathedral on Senate Square. (We would have been more impressed had we not just seen such splendid examples in St. Petersburg). Using the last of our local currency to purchase an ice cream cone, we walked back to the shuttle. Onboard the ship by 4:30, we phoned my parents and learned their local friends did show up. Dad had taken everyone out to lunch and we just missed their visitors' departure by thirty minutes. However, a bottle of wine and some edibles awaited us in their stateroom. Although our room had a large window, my folks had one with an outside balcony. Enjoying the afternoon sea breeze and sipping wine, we discussed our day. Apparently the two women had brought along their nephew and his son and not only did the outing include lunch but also a second establishment where they went for desserts. That night at dinner, the Canadian couple was still absent. I called their room afterwards, but had to leave a message on the answering machine. Lynn and Mother took a quick nap before the evening's entertainment, which featured a gifted violinist. (I should have done the same, since I ended up sleeping through most of it). June 11 It was yet another sunny day and we woke early to enjoy the sail through the fjords of Stockholm. It was an absolutely lovely stretch of the coast, as islands with rocky beaches, and forests of beech and firs slipped passed right outside our window. Occasionally small homes and docks could be glimpsed along the shoreline. However, at breakfast there was no sign of my parents, who always arrived before us. I used the dining room phone to call them and learned Mother had been sick all night. After eating, we stopped by their cabin. Dad opened the door only a crack, assured us she was "better now" and insisted we "stay away" in case it was contagious. Despite some trepidation about leaving my parents, we disembarked. Because of the ship's massive size, we were docked in an industrial port and had to use the shuttle to get to downtown. At the visitor center, disappointed to learn that walking tours didn't start until mid-June, we signed up for their bus and boat tour of the city. Information about passing attractions were conveyed via head phones and the bus portion of the tour, scheduled to last only an hour, dragged on for almost two because of traffic jams. (Stockholm must have been inundated with cruise ships, since tour busses were everywhere). This delay caused us to miss the boat excursion along Stockholm's harbor, but at least our money was refunded for that portion of the tour. Not too pleased with what we had experienced so far, we walked to the waterfront where we hoped to catch a ferry to the Vasa Museum. However, what ferry? Boats were everywhere. Fortunately, a local man who spoke English explained that a ferry was unnecessary. We could just continue our stroll along the harbor to access the museum, visible on a distant shore. The museum contains the Vasa, a flagship which sank on her maiden voyage in 1628. In the 1960's she was raised from the seabed and restored. The ship is in a remarkable stage of preservation, because of the cold water and absence of sea worms in the Baltic. (To distinguish the few pieces of planking that had been replaced, a different color wood was used). The museum consisted of four levels of walkways which encircled the ship from top to bottom, and allowed visitors a great view from every angle. Artifacts recovered from within the ship were also on display. One wooden chest was so watertight that the plumed hat it contained survived intact. After watching a movie about the vessel recovery operation, we decided to buy lunch in the museum's cafeteria. Only local currency was accepted and the tourist in front of us in line had an insufficient amount. Having been in that situation before, we donated the money he needed. Eating at an outdoor table overlooking the water, we agreed: This was a great museum! Back at the shuttle stop, there seemed to be some confusion. The sign on the bus window said "Celebrity" but the driver, who spoke little English, was under the impression this was a Royal Caribbean shuttle. Since that ship was berthed in an entirely different dock, I insisted he check with the shuttle director before departure. He finally got out of the bus and walked up the street to confer with the director. Returning with a sheepish grin, he clapped me on the back and said, "Celebrity. Yes!" Unfortunately, there was no air conditioning and with such heavy traffic it took us 45 minutes to return to the ship. As soon as we got back to our room, we called my parents. Mother was feeling better but now Dad was sick! If they felt like eating anything, they would call room service. Lynn and I thought we would be alone at our dinner table, but the Canadian couple was present, looking a bit "worse for wear". A disastrous turn of events had befallen them! The night before arriving in St. Petersburg, Bilha had experienced severe abdominal pain, ultimately diagnosed as pancreatitis. She was off-loaded by ambulance in St. Petersburg and taken to a local hospital. Since they had been planning to tour with the ship excursion, neither of them had a visa. Her husband, Paul, was subjected to aggressive interrogations by local authorities when he tried to return to the ship to bring her some "necessities". Apparently, the hospital felt she was too ill to be discharged, but the thought of remaining in Russia while the ship left without them was sufficient incentive to galvanize Paul and Bilha into action. She checked out "against medical advice" and they were able to commandeer an ambulance to return her to the ship just before it sailed. Hmmm....maybe our table was jinxed. At the theater that night, we were surprised to see Mother and Dad arrive for the show and quickly joined them. It seemed they were feeling better. The featured singer that evening announced she was dedicating the next song to the couple "who had been married the longest". Of course that would be my parents, but they were reluctant to "promote" themselves. However, I lost control when it appeared the nearest contenders had only been married 53 years. I yelled down from our balcony seats, "Sixty-five years!" At this, Dad added his voice to mine and caught the singer's attention. She came all the way upstairs, chatted with them a few minutes and then stood beside them while she sang. (Our fifteen minutes of fame)! The woman even had a free autographed CD waiting for my folks after the show. June 12 On this full day at sea, there was no sign of my parents at breakfast. We phoned them and discovered both were now sick! In fact, Mother was planning to go see the ship doctor, and she never seeks medical help. Still, they remained adamant: We were to avoid any exposure. There was a lecture on Berlin scheduled at 10:00 but we left half way through it to check on their status. Only Dad was in the room: Mother remained in the infirmary. Hearing this, Lynn and I marched down and found the waiting-room filled with ill passengers. The nurse allowed us back into the "sick bay" where Mother was in bed and receiving IV fluids. Having been cleared by the doctor for the Norwalk virus, Mother avoided a confinement in isolation and was allowed to return to her room. We escorted her back and brought them both some crackers to eat. (Restaurant staff were, belatedly, handing all incoming diners a sani-wipe). Discussing the situation while having lunch, Lynn and I concluded that my parents must have contracted food poisoning on their Helsinki outing. We were feeling fine and, except for Helsinki, had eaten the same food onboard. The four of us had been invited to attend a bridge-tour at 1:50 (another atonement by Tush, the front desk manager). We stopped by my parents' room, but they were still in recovery. Approximately a dozen other passengers joined us at the bridge. Their expensive clothing, heavy jewelry and (in some cases) pompous attitude implied wealth. Unfortunately, the first mate giving the tour had a pronounced accent and was difficult to understand. Also, bright sunlight on the computer screens obscured much of the navigational aides he was trying to demonstrate. One interesting tidbit we learned: Unlike airplanes restricted to flight patterns, passing ships rely on radio communications with each other to determine their relative positions in the sea. Back in our room, we read and napped. After checking by phone on my folks (who weren't planning to eat), Lynn and I had a leisurely glass of wine in the cocktail lounge before joining the Canadian couple for dinner. Bilha had more color and looked less wan. The evening entertainment was a professional pickpocket who demonstrated his proficiency by snatching wallets, watches etc. from unsuspecting audience members. On stage, he then produced his purloined "bounty" for the owners to come up and claim. One "victim" was our tablemate, Paul, whose watch had been taken. (Paul later told us he never felt a thing). I knew my parents would have really enjoyed this performance. June 13 We arrived for breakfast to find Mom and Dad already seated. Finally they had some appetite. This morning, the ship would be docking in the former East German port of Warnemunde. I had previously downloaded train schedules and planned for us all to take the historical "Molli" a steam-engine train which travels between the coastal towns of Bad Doberan and Kuhlungsborn. Understandably, however, my parents were not up for venturing very far from the ship. Thus, Lynn and I were on our own. The ship berthed less than a block from the train station, and after our Eurorail travels last summer, negotiating the rail system was easy. We caught a train to the city of Rostock and then transferred to another that brought us to Bad Doberan. From there, the "Molli" station was a mere 100 yards away, and we had just enough time to purchase tickets before the little steam engine arrived. The ride was quite scenic, and as our train chugged through the quaint seaside resorts it attracted a lot of attention from other tourists. Passengers could hop on and off at any stop along the way, but we elected to stay onboard for the entire two-hour excursion. This way, there would be enough time to see Rostock afterwards. Rostock remains "off the beaten path" for most visitors to Germany, but we found it to be a lovely place. Portions of the medieval city wall remain and there are watchtowers, city gates, old churches, parks and gardens to enjoy. Best of all, tourists were conspicuously absent. In fact, this was the first European city we had visited so far where few people spoke English. However, the locals were quite friendly and much can be accomplished through gestures. We had a tasty lunch at a small cafe and made a few medicinal purchases. Strolling through the streets and admiring the sights, I belatedly realized that walking on cobblestones had exacerbated my back pain. Unfortunately, the train station was now several miles away. The local trolley (which we knew originated at the train station) offered a perfect solution but the ticket vending machine was confusing. A kind man sensed our dilemma and assisted us just as a trolley arrived. Back at the port city of Warnemunde, crowds of people milled about the waterfront. Despite all the tourists, the city managed to maintain a certain charm. A pedestrian-only street, lined with shops and cafes, followed the quay before ultimately terminating at the three-mile beach. We took a quick photo of an adorable baby playing in the sand, returned to the ship, and called my parents. They joined us for cocktails and dinner, which was open-seating that night. Everyone was tired after eating and opted for an early bedtime, with Lynn asleep by 8:30. June 14 Today the ship was supposed to arrive in Helsingborg, Sweden, the only tendered port of call on this voyage. However, an early announcement by the captain indicated we would instead be diverting to Copenhagen, since he considered the waters too rough for safe tendering. On this revised schedule, passengers could not disembark until almost noon, while the last shuttle would return to the ship at 3:00 p.m. This allowed only a three hour window in Copenhagen, but Lynn and I were delighted. It should be just enough time to see the Ny Carlsburg Museum, previously closed because of the Danish holiday. We discussed our plan with my parents at breakfast. An hour later, Mom phoned our room and said she wanted to accompany us to the museum. Without thinking, I blurted out, "But it's too long a walk for you". After I hung up the phone, we realized that it should be possible to find a cab, and called her back. However, by now she had changed her mind about going. (I suspected this was because Mom didn't want to inconvenience us, but couldn't dissuade her). Using stealth and persistence, Lynn and I managed to catch one of the first shuttles to Kings' Square. From there it was a 25 minute brisk walk to the museum where we had just enough local currency for the admission. The imposing building had been renovated to enclose a huge atrium while broad hallways and marble staircases led up to the museum's impressionist exhibits. Of course, the Carlsburg couldn't compete with the sheer volume of artwork at the Hermitage but neither did it have the hordes of visitors. The quality of artwork was impressive: There was an absolutely gorgeous painting by Van Gogh and we really enjoyed the extensive collection of sculptures by Rodin. Thanks to Denmark's long history of conquests (and pillaging), the museum's antiquity section was absolutely amazing and filled with Phoenician and Egyptian artifacts. (Now I felt really bad about leaving Mother behind. She loves antiquities). Hating to leave, we subsequently had to almost jog back to the square where a long line of passengers awaited the shuttle. Once onboard, we visited with my parents before going to dinner. It was the first time in days where all six of us were present at the table. (Our waiters were also pleased to see everyone, especially as this was the night when tips were distributed). June 15 This final day of our cruise was spent at sea. Unfortunately, I neglected to record it in my journal and the details now are somewhat sketchy. For the first time since the cruise started, skies were overcast. We had been incredibly lucky with the weather. In fact, the previous evening the entertainment director announced, "The Baltic area gets an average of only 67 days of sun a year and you have experienced 14 of them". Since the ocean was a little rough, I wasn't feeling very well myself. (At least, I hoped that was the reason I was feeling nauseous). Consequently, I ate very little all day. The pick-pocket expert was back for the afternoon entertainment and based on our enthusiastic reviews, my folks accompanied us to hear his presentation. However, this time the expert focused on techniques to avoid becoming a victim. His presentation was interesting, but not nearly as entertaining as his previous one had been. Early that evening, Dad became sick again. The infirmary was closed, but I made such a fuss they agreed to see him anyway. Probably because he rallied enough to flirt with the nurse, the doctor didn't share my concern about his state of health and he was sent back to his room. All the shipboard shops were holding their final big sales and we bought some T-shirts for both son-in-laws. Our library books were returned, and bags were packed. The cruise was almost over. June 16 and 17 This morning's docking at the Port of Dover was scheduled to occur around 7:30. We met my folks for an early breakfast, relieved to see that both were feeling fine. Although the dining area was packed, our favorite breakfast waiter diverted other passengers away from an empty table until we were seated. Lynn and my return flights were booked through United Air which meant we would be departing from Heathrow Airport. Since my parents were flying out of Gatwick, we would be taking a different bus from the cruise terminal. We said our goodbyes. Except for the initial problems, Lynn and I had thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. However, it was sad to think my parents would (justifiably) consider this one of their worst trips. From the bus we could see the famous White Cliffs of Dover and our early arrival at the airport enabled us to secure emergency exit seats, invaluable on such a long flight. We flew out of London at 4:15 in the afternoon and landed in Dulles Airport at Washington D.C. around 7:00 p.m. After clearing customs we placed our bags onto the conveyor belt for our last leg of the journey back to Pittsburgh. That flight was scheduled to depart at 10:30 in the evening but, to our horror, we learned it had been cancelled due to insufficient crew. Now we needed to spend the night in Washington and rebook for tomorrow. There was a horrendous line at United's Customer Service counter and we were at the end of it. However, I just couldn't believe this was the only customer service center. Leaving Lynn waiting, I finally found a gate attendant who told me there was another one in the next terminal, only a 10 minute walk away. I ran back to inform Lynn (who hadn't advanced even one step forward) and we zipped over to the alternative Service Center. With no line at all, we were quickly rebooked and given vouchers for two meals and overnight accommodations at a nearby hotel. Our revised flight left at 2:00 p.m. the next day, allowing us plenty of time to have a leisurely breakfast at the hotel and an airport lunch. We arrived back in Pittsburgh before dinner only to discover our entire luggage was lost. Oh well, at this point we didn't care. We were home! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
Because of bad weather, we missed airline connections and ultimately, the ship's departure. Since we had purchased our air travel through Celebrity, I naively assumed they would rebook us. Wrong! We had to get ourselves to Oslo, the ... Read More
Because of bad weather, we missed airline connections and ultimately, the ship's departure. Since we had purchased our air travel through Celebrity, I naively assumed they would rebook us. Wrong! We had to get ourselves to Oslo, the next port of call. Their Norwegian agent who was supposed to meet us never showed up and had to ultimately be tracked down by the airport Visitor Center. When we got to the ship, without a boarding pass security would not allow us onboard. Piteous pleading produced no results, and it was only after threatening a dockside "riot" that someone from the ship finally came to help us out. In all fairness, once we were finally onboard, the staff "bent over backwards" to insure a pleasant voyage. Our room was spacious and the food, tasty. We never book the ship's excursions. They are pricey, unflexible, and have too many people. Independent touring is easy. The following is our itinerary 1. Oslo: Take the local tram (station right by dock) and visit Vigeland Park. A ferry brings you to Bygdoy Peninsula. From there walk to Kon Tiki and Fram Museums. See Akershus Fortress, next to where the ship is berthed. 2. Copenhagen: We enjoyed the two hour walking tour from the Visitor Center. Close by is the NYCarlsberg Glyptotek museum. It is fabulous! (The Resistance Museum, which we didn't have time to visit, other passengers said was excellent). Skip Tivoli gardens. We didn't go there, but our tablemates did and said it was expensive and crowded. A walk along the harbor brings you to the Little Mermaid statue. 3. Tallinn: They have an excellent English speaking walking/bus tour that leaves from the Visitor Center near the dock. Buy a TalinnCard and the tour is included (as well as free admission to museums etc). Afterwards, spend time in the Old City. Visit the Estonian History Museum and climb the stairs of Oleviste Church Tower for a great view. 4. St. Petersburg: We used Alla Tours for both days. She did a wonderful job and allowed us to customize our tour to fit our needs. With Alla, you do not need a visa, but must present your "invitation" from the tour group which she will email you. I suggest at least a 6 wk. lead time before departure to get all papers in order. 5.Helsinki: We took a bus tour sponsored by the local Visitor Center which also allows passengers to get off and visit the Rock Church and Sibelius Monument. Even more, we enjoyed taking the ferry to Suomenlinna, a series of 6 small islands. This was once the sea fortress guarding Helsinki and is a very popular picnic area. (Ferry was loaded with local families). We loved it! Lilacs were blooming everywhere, the old fortress ruins were fun and rocky ledges overlooking the sea made for a perfect picnic spot. Purchase food for a picnic at the Helsinki waterfront outdoor market. You will want to spend several hours on the islands. 6. Stockholm: The only disappointment we encountered using local sources. Their walking tour did not start until mid-June and the bus tour got so bogged down in traffic we missed our scheduled harbor boat ride. (Although they cheerfully refunded our $ for that portion of the tour). Don't miss the Vasa Museum, which contains a flagship that was raised from the seabed in the 1960's after sinking on her maiden voyage in 1628.They have a nice cafe where you can eat lunch. A scenic (rather long) walk along the harbor gets you to the museum, or you can take a ferry instead. This is a "not to miss" attraction" 7. Warnemunde: Skip the trip to Berlin. Instead buy train tickets (the station is right at the dock) and go to Rostock. This city still maintains much medieval charm. We also took the train from Rostock up to Bad Doberan and caught the "mollie" an antique steam engine train that goes through the coastal resorts. You can hop on and off and it is a very scenic ride. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
Our cruise on the Constellation to the Baltic was our second and last with Celebrity, the first being on the Summit to the Panama Canal in 2006.We rated everything on that cruise above average. Check in at Dover was done quickly and ... Read More
Our cruise on the Constellation to the Baltic was our second and last with Celebrity, the first being on the Summit to the Panama Canal in 2006.We rated everything on that cruise above average. Check in at Dover was done quickly and our luggage arrived promptly. The lifeboat drill was done very professionally and the ship sailed on time. The cabin and public areas were very clean. The ship had been in dry-dock for 19 days before the cruise for refurbishing including carpeting, paint, and cleaning. The ship seemed to have a strong odor of chemicals for several days after sailing; this was a major problem for many of the passengers with asthma and other respiratory problems. Our cabin staff did an excellent job and were very attentive. Many Europeans smoked and did not comply with non smoking regulations. This was a problem at times. We found the dining room staff excellent, however, the remaining categories were not comparable to our first cruise with Celebrity or on several other cruises.The dining room was very comfortable and our service staff was outstanding and very attentive and worked hard to make our dining experience memorable. The menu was extensive, however some of the food was poorly prepared and a few items were of poor quality. Some of the entrEes had cooled before serving. The food and service at the buffet was far below that on the Summit or other cruise lines. On most occasions eggs, waffles, and toast were burned and other items were poorly prepared and cold. Many items were over cooked and of poor quality. A few of the serving staff were curt when questioned. The food at the Aqua Spa was excellent and the menu is designed to be light and healthy. We found ourselves eating at this location quite often. The entertainment was average except for the concert pianist and the dancers who performed in the shows. The sound system level was comparable to a rock concert at times and inappropriate for a stage show. We found the ports to be interesting, especially St. Petersburg and Tallin Estonia. Would strongly recommend that a private tour be arranged in St. Petersburg before your trip to save time and long lines. Four of us booked two days through Red October an American owned private tour company and were very pleased. We did not save money compared to multiple tours with Celebrity, However, our experience was superior to tours at other ports booked through the ship. In summary, we found the ship to be clean and the dinning and cabin staff to be outstanding. The ports of call were very interesting and enjoyable. Entertainment and ship staff was average and food preparation and quality average to poor. Compared to our other experiences, especially our Panama Canal cruise on the Summit, we would rate the Constellation below average. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
We had high hopes for this journey on the Celebrity Constellation. A fine looking ship awaited us in the Dover harbor and we had a smooth embarking process and were on board quickly. This made up somewhat for the 2 hour delay awaiting ... Read More
We had high hopes for this journey on the Celebrity Constellation. A fine looking ship awaited us in the Dover harbor and we had a smooth embarking process and were on board quickly. This made up somewhat for the 2 hour delay awaiting Constellation transportation from Gatwick to the ship. Our previous one and only cruise was on Holland America lines and their ship the Statendam to Alaska which a great first beginning to cruising. We had a nice welcome aboard the Constellation and our cabin was wonderful, great size and balcony and very large bathroom. We explored the Connie and awaited to meet our four new tablemates at dinner. Well,they were great and wonderful Brits that we came to really like and enjoy and friendships were made. The big problem was the food;it was tasteless,overcooked, hard as a rock(vegetables) and the fruit was over the hill. We all tried to make the best of it but when we ordered steaks one night, four of them rare and all came back overcooked that was it! We complained to the staff but no avail. Anyway,that was a downer. We enjoyed the Gym and the earlier opening hours of 6am pleased us as did the nice gym towels and great view. We found the shows less then stellar, but did enjoy the comedy night and several of the music shows. The Constellation show people were great dancers but poor singers and when will the ship get the point that older guests hate loud amphed up music? It drove everyone nuts. The ports of call were great. St.Petersburg the charm with a wonderful ballet and tours of the Pushkin estate and its quiet and subdued gardens, and immense wealth. The tours in Estonia, and Lithiuania were likewise enjoyable and eye opening, both the beauty of Tallin, and the warmness of the people. The Solidary museum in Poland a must see, but the rest of Gadinsk leaves a lot to be desired. We returned happy and loved the overall ambience of the ship. We found the crew that attended to our room needs outstanding and helpful. We found the food staff unable to satisfy us with respect to our problems with the food and laid the blame on the kitchen. No solution was found for this. Most disappoint to us that this is a five star line and the food brought our trip down to a 3 star level. In comparison to our first cruise the Constellation did not provide value for the dollar spent and did not live up to its billing. The HAL trip to Alaska had outstanding food and service and this line was no comparison to that trip. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2006
Since I haven't seen anyone else post a review yet, here is my take; Background: We've been on 6 cruises, this was our second on Celebrity. Our first cruise was on the Summit in 2004 and that left a great impression on us. ... Read More
Since I haven't seen anyone else post a review yet, here is my take; Background: We've been on 6 cruises, this was our second on Celebrity. Our first cruise was on the Summit in 2004 and that left a great impression on us. Room: We had room 6104, a Celebrity Suite and my initial impression was disappointment. The couch was stained and ripped. The sitting chair was lumpy, apparently from too many people sitting on the edge of the chair. The bathroom had mold growing around the tiles in the shower and the shower head would not stay up (this was later fixed). The tv in the bedroom always shut off after about 30 to 40 minutes and to restart it, we had to unplug it, then plug it back in. Entertainment: Excellent. All the entertainers were great to excellent. This is one aspect where I think Celebrity has greatly improved in the last couple of years since our last trip Food: Great food in the dinning room, although the menu started to repeat itself. The Cod one night was the worst I have ever had. The buffet left a lot to be desired. The selections were not that varied and the quality was not that good. I ended up eating a sandwich wrap on most days, because I couldn't find much I liked. Service: Great. The Butler was a little cold at first, but he warmed up to us near the end. The waitstaff and cleaning staff were all very good. The ship looks a bit tired and could use a refurbishment, which I believe it will have early next year. Other then that, the staff did a good job of keeping things clean. Other Passengers: We met some great people, others had a bit of a NY attitude, and I saw several passengers either berating or scolding some of the staff, which I didn't think they deserved. Weather: For the most part was good, although we did hit some bumps in the crossing, especially on the second sea day when the winds were very strong. Overall it was a good cruise. Our butler was telling me how things have changed on Celebrity and how they were not allowed to say no before. Now they say yes, but there will be a charge for this or that. He also said that ever since RCCL bought Celebrity thing have been changing daily and they keep making more cutbacks. One thing that Celebrity should clarify is the Private Portrait Sitting that suite guests are supposed to get. What does this mean? I thought it meant we got a complimentary photo, but no one knew what we were talking about. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2006
embarkation at Dover was the best we have ever experienced; 30 minutes to reach cabin. Our luggage arrived quickly. Cabin and public areas still in excellent condition (we had sailed on Constellation in 2003). the ship was full with ... Read More
embarkation at Dover was the best we have ever experienced; 30 minutes to reach cabin. Our luggage arrived quickly. Cabin and public areas still in excellent condition (we had sailed on Constellation in 2003). the ship was full with almost no children Arrived in amsterdam 90 minutes late which delayed to start of our tour and caused it to be 30 minutes shorter than advertised. Tour guide not very good; seemed to feel that we should not require service on a Sunday Next day we took tour to Brugge; the town is very attractive but the guide was inaudible. we complained but nothing was done. Our morning in Honfleur was very pleasant; an attractive town and nice weather. At Greenock the weather was poor, low cloud and rain. The trip to Stirling Castle was fine but the countryside was invisible. this time the guide was excellent and compensated for the bad weather. Traffic in Dublin was horrific and our trips were cut short because we stood still in traffic. We had to pay for a shuttle bus into town; on previous Celebrity cruises the shuttle buses had been free. At Cobh we took the train to Cork and walked in the rain. During the Atlantic crossing we had some rough weather but the captain put on speed so that we could avoid a hurricane that was coming north across the Atlantic. We had much rougher weather during the south American cruise in january on the Millennium. We felt that the restaurant food quality was not as good as we had previously enjoyed but the service was excellent. The Ocean Liners restaurant was excellent in every way. The entertainment was similar to our previous celebrity experiences. Some of the special shows we had seen before on the Millennium. Both pianist Pearl Kaufman and singer Linsay Hamilton were excellent, as were the talks by John Maxwell-graham. The only negative about the 30 minute show by Cirque du soleil was that it was too short. The disembarkation experience at port Liberty left a terrible lasting impression on us. We were told to attend immigration at 7.10am; we with 100's of others stood in line for ages outside the theater waiting for something to happen. We were due to get off the ship at 9.20am but 2000 people were kept waiting until 9.55 am before anybody could get off the ship. If there were announcements we could not hear them. Finally, after getting our luggage, we got to the the Newark terminal at 10.50 am. Many people missed their flights. AVOID any Celebrity cruise that ends at Port Liberty. Overall a good cruise but spoilt at the end Read Less
Sail Date: August 2006
This was the second cruise for DP and myself, having sailed on RCI's Jewel of the Seas a few months earlier. I think comparing the two ships is relevant, given their common corporate ownership, similar size, and similar layout and ... Read More
This was the second cruise for DP and myself, having sailed on RCI's Jewel of the Seas a few months earlier. I think comparing the two ships is relevant, given their common corporate ownership, similar size, and similar layout and design. The executive summary, for those with short attention spans: this was a wonderful cruise. The ports were fantastic, the weather was generally very good, and we met many really great people on board. The ship itself, about 4 years old, was in very good condition and very enjoyable to sail. Now the details. Embarkation was relatively smooth, with the usual champagne offering in the Grand Foyer upon arrival. No one was around to offer an escort to our room, but for us that hardly mattered; we had reviewed the ship's deck plans and knew where we were headed. Besides, we had only one carry-on bag between the two of us so we were hardly in need of such assistance. It would be nice to know whether those who may have desired escort/orientation services were able to get them readily, but I cannot confirm that one way or the other. I did, however, see a small group of elderly women getting a tour of the ship on the first day. The Grand Foyer rises three levels up, from the third to the fifth decks. The floor is a sprawl of blond and gold marble in a star pattern flanked by warm but light-colored woods. Beyond lies the guest relations area, the concierge, the bank window, the future cruise sales office, and the shore excursion windows. Off to the port side is a bank of glass elevators that were always busy and often full. At key times one might wait as long as 10 minutes (!) to get one. We often walked the stairs instead, or used the forward and aft elevators, which were rarely as busy. Sometimes the middle elevators were so full that weight restrictions caused operational problems. Sometimes, however, it appeared that the weight of the elevators passengers was the real problem. The centerpiece of the foyer is an alabaster staircase ascending from the third to the fourth deck in full view of the observation areas on all three levels. The large blond and rust stones of the staircase are lit from within to fantastic effect, and several bands of gold and rust-colored fabric flank it from above like royal columns. Whereas Jewel's Centrum rises several floors higher, creating an awesome, dizzying display of engineering achievement with a very sophisticated and modern appearance, the relatively smaller and more compact Grand Foyer on Connie feels warmer, more traditional, and more elegant, especially upon first arrival. The third deck, also called the Plaza Deck, is also where Ocean Liners, the specialty restaurant, resides. (More on this later.) There are also some conference rooms and a cinema. The cinema is poorly laid-out. The chairs are quite plush and comfortable, but far too many of them have rather extreme viewing angles of the large screen. This "movie theater experience" is executed much more intelligently on Jewel, where the cinema looks exactly like a small replica of a "stadium-style" theater, in which every seat has a great view. The movie selection was reasonable on our cruise, though we didn't take any in. Walking up the beautiful stone staircase to the fourth (Promenade) deck, one finds oneself standing on a short, thick translucent glass bridge connecting the port and starboard observation areas. This and the staircase itself are presumably the promenade to which the deck's name refers, and sure enough on formal nights this is where people could be seen lined up for photos or just strutting around. On the starboard side is the Internet Cafe, one of two ship areas devoted to computer access. The color scheme here is the same as throughout almost the entire ship, featuring lots of blond tones, light woods, and bright color accents. Internet time is absurdly expensive at 75 cents a minute, so we just avoided it entirely (and were surprised at how easily we managed without the online world for two weeks!), but really, it's hard to understand why Celebrity charges so much. Jewel charges 50 cents, and even that seems a tad excessive. Moreover, the pre-paid "packages" Celebrity offers are sort of a joke. For example, you can pre-pay 100 minutes for $70, thereby saving a whopping 5 cents per minute. Woo hoo! Forward of the foyer on deck 4 is the Fortunes Casino. As we don't gamble I've got little more to say about it, except to note that it appeared they have the usual assortment of entertaining and idiotic ways to lose your shirt. Forward of the casino is the photo gallery and sales center (which looks like it might on any similar ship) and a more private space called Michael's Club, a piano bar and lounge that eschews Constellation's otherwise bright and light color scheme for a darker, old-world feel. It resembles the library or study of a crusty British country club, with lots of mahogany, traditional club chairs, and softer lighting (though the carper does retain the brighter colors of the rest of the ship). It's a beautiful space but very much underutilized. For one thing, its closed doors and turned-off lights during the day often gave the impression of the place being locked up, which was almost never the case. It also has the appearance of being a cigar bar, which also isn't so, but which kept a lot of timid people from venturing inside. The biggest problem, though, is that it's only staffed in the evenings, so there's not much reason to be in it during the day, unless you want a very secluded and dark place to yourself. And the evening entertainment in Michaels Club was always the same, so if you didn't care for that persons particular stylings (as we didn't) you pretty much never went back (as we didn't). It seemed a shame, as Michael's Club could really be used for so many more things. Another lounge occupies the fourth deck just aft of the foyer and forward of the main dining room. Called the Rendezvous Lounge, this space features a central dance floor and small band stage surrounded by rust-colored lounge chairs with bright stripe backings. The most interesting thing about the lounge is that the ceiling is cut away in a circle that matches the circular area where the stage and dance floor are below, so that people on the fifth deck above (in another lounge) can look down upon the musicians, dancers, and guests, while people can look up too. This also allows the music to permeate both levels of lounges, a clever arrangement, though the music at times was too loud for conversation if you sat near the center on either level. Fortunately, there are slightly more secluded (and quieter) areas of chairs and tables around the corners and off to the sides. Aft lies the main dining room, called the San Marco Restaurant, which occupies two floors with a joining staircase, balcony views on the upper level, and large floor to ceiling windows at the stern of the ship. This layout is almost identical to Jewel's and provides surprisingly intimate dining in many areas, except perhaps at the very center of the lower level, where in the middle of a busy meal you might feel more like the survivors of a Poseidon adventure. We had a table for six on the lower level nearer the front of the room and by a window, and we found that to be a very quiet and comfortable arrangement. On one of the open seating nights (when we were docked overnight in St. Petersburg) we and two of our dining companions tried a balcony table on the fifth level overlooking the main floor below. That was also a nice spot, offering a great view of the action as well as the musicians (seated next to the upper staircase landing), but our own table seemed a bit more intimate. The restaurant continues the ship's overall color schemes, with rust chairs and carpeting, blond/gold accents, and spectacular flush-mounted ceiling lighting composed of the same beautiful stones (or perhaps an imitation) as the staircase in the Grand Foyer. Admittedly we couldn't really admire the ceiling or the grand rear windows from our regular table, but on the other hand being next to a window we did get to enjoy the automatic drawing of the window shade near sunset each evening. (This phenomenon can also be experienced while sitting in the Rendezvous Lounge and Ocean Liners.) A nice touch. Moving up to the Entertainment (fifth) Deck, one finds a collection of shops called the Emporium midship. Thats about all Ill say of the shops, other than the obligatory sarcastic comment that at times you would have thought they were giving away bars of gold. Mostly it was overpriced junk and stuff you could buy in the ports for less. But we have to have shops on ships, dont we? And hey, DP and I bought a pair of discounted Celebrity tee-shirts, so we did our part. Also on the fifth deck are the lower entrance to the theater (more on the theater later), the upper level of the main restaurant, another lounge, and a coffee bar and seating area called the Cova Cafe, which overlooks both lower levels of the Grand Foyer. The space surrounding the coffee bar is again done in a scheme of blonds and golds with bright color accents. It was nice to sit at one of the many little tables and sip a cappuccino or nibble on an afternoon pastry (brought round on a cart by a lovely young Hungarian woman) while watching the goings-on all around. We also enjoyed playing backgammon there, borrowing the board and pieces from the glass-enclosed card room adjacent to the coffee bar, which is cleverly named Cards. It has a dozen or so tables set up for game-playing. With many windows looking out on the ocean or port scenes, as well as a transparent view of the coffee bar area, the card room feels bright and airy, but because its doors remains shut, it can feel stuffy when full of people, which is why we generally preferred to sit just outside it for our backgammon sessions. Aft of this area is the fifth deck lounge, which as previously mentioned has a central cut-out balcony view of the Rendezvous Lounge below. The upper lounge actually has two names. On the port side it is called the Champagne Bar (yes, the blond color scheme once again prevails) while starboard it's the Martini Bar. Don't believe the hype, at least not completely; it's not really two bars but rather one continuous area with identical furnishings that can be crossed from side to side in the middle near the balcony. However, to be fair, one side (the Martini Bar) is non-smoking so people do tend to gravitate to one side or the other. Plus each side has its own bartender and wait staff, and the Martini Bar does try to specialize in various martini concoctions (though of course you can order anything you like). So it did sort of feel like two separate lounges. (The Martini Bar also has a collection of Van Gogh flavored vodkas, which I happen to like, and which may or may not be available elsewhere in the ship.) We had excellent service in the Martini Bar and highly recommend it for a pre- or post-dinner drink. But be warned. Along with the Rendezvous Lounge below, these sitting areas, being adjacent to the restaurant, go from ghost-town empty to jam-packed full in a matter of minutes just before and after each dinner seating. Oh, and the lightly-seasoned curly breadsticks are a winner too. The sixth through ninth decks (Penthouse, Vista, Panorama, and Sky Decks) contain only staterooms except for one area on each level directly midship. On the sixth deck this area is the second computer room, and unlike the fourth deck computers that are arranged in the round, these are arranged in classroom-style for classes and other teaching assistance (as well as Internet and general computer access when there are no classes). The sixth-deck computers are also set up to let you burn CDs of your digital photos. You can download your digital photos via card readers in either computer area and they are stored for free on the ship's servers. You get 1.5 GB per person as of this writing. The catch is this: the storage is free, but the CD burning is not. It's $15 per CD, which seemed outrageous to me. I can understand that there should be some fee associated with this activity, especially since so many people needed the assistance of the computer staff to download and burn their files. But $5, maybe even $7 or $8, sounds more appropriate to me. For someone like me, who didn't need anyone's assistance, and who moreover helped a couple of other pax sitting on either side of me when the staff was too busy near the end of the cruise, well, they should have paid me. Still, I took so many pictures on this cruise that I had to reluctantly fork over $30 for two CDs so that I could reuse my memory cards. I guess it was better than having no such storage service at all, which would have forced me to delete lots of pictures during the cruise. (I'll wean and edit them anyway, but it's nice to be able to do so at home at my leisure.) So Im not complaining about this too loudly. More like muttering. On the seventh level the public midship area is called Acupuncture at Sea. We peeked in there once and it looked nice and relaxing, sort of an outpost of the spa, but we didn't use it at all. A licensed acupuncturist was available most of the time. It is worth noting that the computer area on the sixth deck and the Acupuncture at Sea suite on the seventh deck were once a common area called Notes, with the two levels joined by a staircase. Evidently this was an area for music downloading and listening. I'm not sure why Celebrity reconfigured these spaces. Maybe Notes was underutilized, or maybe it didn't generate enough revenue, or maybe the demand for computers and acupuncture services was just much higher. In any event I can't help but point out that the new configuration yields two areas that potentially produce lots of revenue. On the eighth and ninth decks the midship space is occupied by the library, called Words (undoubtedly intended as a companion name for the original Notes). This area is still two levels joined by a staircase. Unlike the library on Jewel, which is so tiny as to be more aptly described as a nook, and which uses an honor system, this library feels more robust, since it is an actual enclosed space on two levels, with far more books, a librarian, and a check-out system. Very nicely done. Now, you may ask if I bothered to read anything as erudite as an actual book on this cruise. I did not. But if I wanted to, I certainly would have had a nice selection to choose from. Now, a momentary respite from public spaces to mention our cabin. It was a standard balcony cabin on the seventh deck, on the starboard side and forward of midship. Since we had the same class of cabin on Jewel the comparison was inevitable. Constellation wins hands down. Despite having virtually the same interior square footage, the layout of our Constellation cabin was superior, with more useful storage spaces and a more open feel. The bathroom also had a far better layout than Jewel's, with a bigger shower stall, more comfortable toilet location, and gobs of bathroom storage (Jewel's bathrooms have precious little). However, Jewel's color scheme was more appealing, as the cabins on Connie once again feature lots of blonds, light woods and bright color accents (in this case, a light blue that was particularly unattractive in my opinion). Still, overall the cabin was quite comfortable and well designed, and the balcony, though small, was pleasant. Stateroom attendant service was competent and friendly. (I should mention, since there was a recent review of a different Celebrity ship in which the unfriendliness, or at least nonchalance, of the staff was noted, that on this ship all the staff were constantly smiling, greeting the pax, and in general seemed very eager to please.) The tenth level (Resort Deck) is where most of the public goings-on can be found. Here you'll find the gym, spa, indoor pool, lower level of the outdoor pool, buffet, and grill. At the bow is the gym. It's a good-sized space with plenty of treadmills and other exercise equipment, though with only four working elliptical machines (two more were out of order) there was sometimes a wait for these. A half-dozen or so stationary bikes were also often fully occupied during the early and mid-morning hours. Around lunchtime the gym tended to empty (time to pack on the calories we had just burned off, and then some), but on sea days there was another spike of activity in mid- to late afternoon. Gym towels are plentiful, but I was surprised by the lack of hand wipes, and only occasionally could one find the bottle of disinfectant spray to spray down the equipment with. Also lacking is any kind of drinking water. You have to go outside the gym just to get to a fountain. Really there should be a water cooler with cups. In these little details, Jewel's gym is exemplary, while Connie's is just adequate. The spa features several attractive-looking people standing around waiting to sell you stuff, as well as a thermal suite called the Persian Gardens. We didn't use it or any of the spa services. The indoor pool area, called the Aqua Spa due to the presence of the Thalassotherapy pool, is a lovely and generally quiet space, with dozens of Adirondack-style chairs, plentiful towels, and soothing music. The high, arched glass ceiling lets the sun in and lets you view the sky above (people on the upper deck of the outdoor pool can also look down upon you). There is a small cafe that serves healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner options buffet-style. We ate our breakfast there often, away from the maddening crowds who would pile up their plates with eggs, sausages, and pancakes. (You can't get any of those things in the Aqua Spa Cafe, but you can get cereals, yogurt, fresh fruit, muffins, bagels, salmon, and of course morning beverages.) Hanging plants, wood columns, and interesting sculptures add to the greenhouse ambiance. Through no fault of the ship, the Thalassotherapy pool was out of service our entire cruise, apparently due to a Legionella concern from the prior sailing which had to be addressed. (Can someone explain to me just what the heck thalassotherapy is anyway? Is it even a real word? My DP enjoyed making fun of it by calling it the Jurassotherapy pool.) Aft of the indoor pool is the two-level outdoor pool, with the usual accoutrements, and beyond that is the Seaside Cafe, also known as the buffet. With occasional exceptions, you can't have your dinner buffet-style on Connie, though they do reserve a section of the tables for what they call Casual Dining. This is for those who don't want to dress up or otherwise make an appearance in the main dining room, like maybe if theyve got a sudden nasty zit on the nose. But it's still table service. Breakfast and lunch at the buffet are madness, with none of the elegant ergonomics of Jewel's efficient self-serve "floating" buffet stations. Instead you queue up at one of four starting points, and then try to make your way through several bottlenecks, not the least of which is getting a tray and cutlery in the first place. The coffee/water stations stand apart but are also poorly designed and present another bottleneck. Servers on our cruise were polite but ignored requests for small portions, and the crowd often bandied about in the usual rabid zombie me-first state of mind, with plenty of cutting in line and bobbing and weaving and generally making it difficult for others to maneuver about. Thank God some of us at least maintained our smiles and courtesies. To be fair, there are a few nice features on the buffet, such as a made-to-order pasta station, a nice salad bar (much better than Jewel's), fresh cheese and bread offerings, and two ice cream stations. Pizza and sandwiches are also readily available, and in the early evening fresh sushi is prepared by real sushi chefs, though ours were occasionally seen arguing with each other, perhaps disagreeing on the correct technique for slicing eel. At the very aft of the buffet is an outdoor grill that serves hamburgers and so forth. There are certainly plenty of options overall, but with its poor layout and crowded conditions, the buffet is one of the least successful elements of the ship. Up on the Sunrise Deck (number eleven if youre still counting) you'll find a lovely though tiny conservatory displaying and selling fresh flower and plant arrangements, a jogging/walking track around the upper level of the outdoor pool, several kiddie/teen areas, an outdoor bar, and an indoor observatory/lounge at the bow called the Bar at the Edge of the Earth. Previously known as Reflections, this space was originally conceived with an ultra-modern design featuring lots of metal, modern lighting, and violet hues. Evidently somewhere around the time Cirque got involved with Celebrity they redecorated the lounge to look more like the morning after Mardi Gras, with oddly-shaped fabrics dangling everywhere for a more mysterious look. It works to a certain extent, though it grows tiresome by the end of a two-week cruise. The twelfth and top deck, called the Sports Deck, is really two mini-decks. The forward portion has additional lounge seating and a topless sunbathing area, though we never saw anyone topless up there (then again, this wasn't a warm and fuzzy Caribbean cruise), while the aft section has a combination paddleball/basketball court. It isn't really much of a deck, unlike Jewel's top deck, which is fully connected and features a more extensive variety of sport activities, but it does serve its purpose. The crew appeared to play basketball up there more often than the pax. The food on board was generally very good. The main dining room offers five courses, including appetizer, soup, salad, main course, and dessert. The variety of choices was generally excellent, with virtually every menu offering pasta, fish, pork, beef, and poultry options, plus two vegetarian entrees if you were lucky enough to glimpse one of the vegetarian menus. Overall I'd give the dining room food 3 to 3.5 stars, with appetizers and soups generally faring best. Desserts looked tempting but were often a bit disappointing. To counter that problem several varieties of ice cream and sorbet are offered each night. The peanut butter ice cream was marvelous. The quality of the buffet food was generally a notch lower than in the dining room, though the variety of offerings made up for that. One could certainly make a wonderful salad for lunch with a nice serving of fresh cheese and bread on the side. Entrees were of mixed quality but side veggies were generally very good. The low point in the ship's cuisine was the coffee. It was pretty terrible, bitter and artificial-tasting. For anyone who thinks otherwise, the coffee is definitely made from a syrup base; it is not freshly brewed. We found it nearly undrinkable at first, but being coffee addicts we slugged it down anyway. We found that two little creamers per small cup of coffee made it almost palatable, and as the cruise went along we sort of got used to it. But really, it was pretty awful. To be fair, two of our traveling companions found it "not all that bad" though I'm pretty sure they were in the minority and being a tad generous in their assessment. The coffee in the specialty coffee bar was, of course, far superior, but it also cost extra and wasn't available in the very early morning hours. My recollection is that the coffee on Jewel, also a syrup-based product, was not nearly as lousy as the stuff on Connie. Finally in the food category there is Ocean Liners, the specialty restaurant. One can't argue with the impeccable if slightly stuffy service, nor with the outstanding ambiance, featuring a darker decor and live harpist, plus more of those automatic window shade thingies, but for a $30 surcharge I was expecting the food to be just a bit better than it was, and this sentiment was echoed by several of our traveling companions. To be sure, it is haute cuisine, certainly of a higher quality than in the main dining room, but it still wasn't quite all that and a bag of chips. Moreover the main entree options are rather limited, and you can't order extra courses like you can in Jewel's specialty restaurants, one of which, Portofino's, is still my favorite specialty restaurant to date. I would suggest giving Ocean Liners a try only on longer cruises, just for variety's sake. Few people we talked to found it especially memorable. The theater is your typical multi-level facility with plentiful seating and good views all around. One annoying aspect is that bar waiters try hard to sell cocktails just before each show, when people are milling about and getting settled into their seats, and in this chaos sometimes a drink was spilled on someone's blazer or evening gown. At least the real entertainment was quite good, far superior to what we saw on Jewel, where the ship's in-house production company was rather amateurish and disappointing. On Connie the in-house troop was far better, still not world-class but about what I would call off-Broadway quality. Several guest performers were excellent, including a violin virtuoso and a West End entertainer. Best of all was the Taste of Cirque. Though short in duration it was highly professional and polished. The overall condition of the ship on our cruise was very good. Yes there were the occasional carpet stains and missing bits of wood here and there, but nothing beyond the normal wear and tear one might expect from a four-year-old ship. Public bathrooms were consistently spotless and smelled fresh, whereas on Jewel a few of them had started to reek near the end of the cruise. Sitting areas were comfortable, pools and outdoor decks were always kept clean, carpets were vacuumed daily, and glass surfaces and railings were cleaned and polished regularly. Service, as previously mentioned, was always professional, courteous, and friendly. Others have sometimes complained about the guest relations staff on Celebrity ships. We found them to be superb. We also had a problem with the bathroom in our original cabin that rendered it rather unpleasant to use, and our concerns were promptly and courteously handled by the housekeeping staff. Ultimately we were moved to a cabin down the hall, and given a complimentary bottle of champagne and night at Ocean Liners for our trouble. Disembarkation in ports and post-cruise went smoothly, and necessary evils such as the muster drill and crew fire drill were kept as unobtrusive as possible. Bottom line: other than the few minor issues mentioned herein, it was hard to find fault with this cruise. The ship was comfortable and felt far more intimate than its 90,000 tons would suggest, the food was at worst adequate and often very good, the service was almost always outstanding, and the itinerary was splendid. We also met many wonderful people who added greatly to our overall enjoyment. Comparing the Constellation to the Jewel of the Seas yields two very fine vessels with slightly different plusses and minuses. Overall we preferred Jewel's layout (especially the buffet), as well as its more sophisticated decor and pleasing artwork (most of the art on Connie is either bland or atrocious or both, with a few notable exceptions such as the enormous snake-like colored glass sculpture hanging from the ceiling on deck 11). But we liked Connie's cabin layout much better (especially in the bathroom), as well as the intimacy of her public areas and the healthy dining choices and relative peace and quiet in the Aqua Spa Cafe. Certainly we would cruise Celebrity again in a heartbeat (in fact we are booked on two other X cruises) and in particular, we can recommend the Constellation very highly. She has plenty to offer young and old alike, and anyone who cant manage to have a good time on board is not worth hanging out with anyway. Happy cruising! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2006
This is a review of my Baltic/Russia Cruise on the Celebrity Constellation. Date of Cruise: July 1, 2006 (14 nights) Ports of Call: Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Klaipeda, Gdansk, Copenhagen, Warnemunde, and Oslo. ... Read More
This is a review of my Baltic/Russia Cruise on the Celebrity Constellation. Date of Cruise: July 1, 2006 (14 nights) Ports of Call: Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Klaipeda, Gdansk, Copenhagen, Warnemunde, and Oslo. (itinerary includes 3 sea days) Prior Cruising Experience: Celebrity x3 RCI x2 Princess x1 Carnival x2 My DH and I traveled with 13 yo and 10yo daughters. We ordered a fair amount of local currencies ahead of time. ATM's were available in every port and we never saw any lines at any ATM. Transfer to Dover: We hired a private transfer company to pick us up at the airport. This was very personalized service and a very comfortable way to travel. Soft drinks, blankets & snacks were provided in the vehicle. This company also picked us up at the end of the cruise and transferred us back to the Gatwick Airport. This is a one woman company, so we had the same person coming and going. Very highly recommend. Precruise: We flew into England one day early and spent the night at The Penny Farthing in Dover. A lovely B & B. Great breakfast in the am, which was not included in the price of the stay. Great location. Highly recommend. The countryside drive from London to Dover is absolutely stunning. There is a post office located within a two minute walk of the Penny Farthing. The post office also will convert currencies. We went to the museum in downtown Dover, where they have a boat on display that was recovered while digging in the streets of Dover. Thousands of years old. Just awesome. We did not have time to visit the castle in Dover. We saw it many times, as it is high on the Cliffs. I strongly recommend arriving one day early, to soften the jet lag, prior to beginning your cruise vacation. We slept very little on the plane crossing the pond and were able to stay up when we arrived in Dover. Then, we got a good night's sleep prior to embarking the ship. We left our B & B at 10:30 am and took a taxi over to the ship. The B & B owners arranged for the taxi the day prior. Disembarkation: We arrived at the Constellation before 11 am and waited only a few minutes before they began processing the passengers. We were among the first 50 passengers onboard the ship. Very easy. Our Cabin: We had two connecting balcony cabins on Deck 6. The cabins were perfect. Plenty of storage space. Beds were comfortable. Our cabin attendant (Viviana) was excellent and gave us great service all during the cruise. There were lifeboats located outside the deck right below us. So, when we looked out of our balcony, there were lifeboats just below us. Not a real big issue.... But, we certainly noticed it every time we looked out off of the balcony. Next time, I will research that issue better. This was the first time we had experienced a lifeboat in any part of our balcony views. The Ship: The Constellation is in great shape. My only complaint, which will probably never be resolved...is that the lounges were smokey. We had to walk through a lounge on the way to dinner every night and it was pretty thick with smoke. The artwork throughout the ship was pleasant for the eyes. Cruise Critic Roll Call Group: Our Roll Call for this cruise was active for about 14 months prior to sailing. We had arranged to meet onboard the ship on Embarkation Day....Deck 10...at the outside bar at the very back of the ship. Name tags were brought by one of the members...and we really did need them ! Many attended and it was great to see everyone in person ! Soon after we settled into our cabin, I went down to check on our table assignment. I wanted to make sure that we were not at a small table. We had been assigned a table for ten. There are specific hours for doing this, and the hours are listed in the daily bulletin that you will receive when you embark. Go early, so that if you need any type of change, you will be early on the list for changes. At this time is when you can make reservations for the Specialty Restaurant, as well. Luggage: ...arrived by 1 pm. Unpacked and prepared lots of bags of items to be pressed. We basically packed for one week...and had everything cleaned one time. Except formals. DH rented a tuxedo. This is easy and we have done this on every cruise we have taken. Yes, it is more economical to buy a tux, but we choose to pay for the convenience of renting. Always a quality product. Be sure to try on the tuxedo ASAP to ensure a proper fit. Your cabin attendant will take care of any alteration issues that arise. This was surely a port intensive cruise, with only 3 sea days. We really missed the time on the ship. The days went by very fast.... Make the most of your time. Forget naps. Sleep well @ night ! Celebrity Singers & Dancers: Excellent ! I can say no more. Very talented. The best I have ever seen on a cruise. Coming up.... STOCKHOLM ! In Stockholm, we had a private tour planned. This was a group of 6. My family and another couple from our Roll Call. (Hi Louise & Michael ) We had a great tour. The woman tour guide spoke excellent English and really gave a behind the scene tour of Stockholm. The tour included going down into the underground subway...to see how they incorporated pieces and parts of old buildings (torn down in Stockholm) into the design of the subway. Very interesting. A great tour. Payment for this tour was made ahead of time. When this tour was over, we were dropped off at the SS Stockholm. This is an old sightseeing ship with a dining room. It is a three hour tour. Lunch was optional and served in the dining room. What beautiful sights ! Reservation in advance and payment at the time of the tour. With these two tours in Stockholm, we only had a limited time to do any souvenir shopping. I buy postcards at every port and mail them to three sets of parents. Postcards (throughout the cruise) are about 1 USD...and usually cost about 1 USD to mail each of them back to the USA. The weather in Stockholm was VERY hot. Shorts, t-shirts & tank tops. Celebrity offered a shuttle ($5.00 per person each way) to the Stockholm center. We ended up taking a taxi and it cost us more than the shuttle would have cost us. (not recommended) Tip: It is recommended that you not drink the water in any of the ports. (except bottled water). We had four bottled waters with us when we embarked on the Constellation. We refilled them onboard the ship and carried them in my DH's backpack in every port. We needed the water all the time. The ship will sell bottled water for you to take with you into port. Very expensive. Coming next: Helsinki, Finland ! Helsinki.... This is the only port in which we took a tour with the Ship. I was determined to visit the Savijarvi Manor (working horse breeding farm) and through much research I realized that going with the ship was the only logical way to go. They offered me a time slot when I could come, but it was not good timing based on our ship's departure. They had the ship's tours slotted for the best time of the day. The ship's tour is expensive. Over $500. USD for the four of us. A little drive through Helsinki...and then on to Porvoo. Porvoo is a nice little town with a few great little shops...but we were only there for less than an hour. I do not like to be rushed, especially when I am shopping. This was a bus of about 55 people. We proceeded to drive to horse breeding farm. There are about 4 generations of the family living on the farm, in their individual houses. They showed us some of the horses...and served us a nice lunch inside the main house. We drank cold beer, with no alcohol. This is what they used to serve to their farm hands....way back when. Of course, they had no alcohol, because they needed the hands to be able to go back to work efficiently after their lunch break. We toured through the main house...and toured the horse barns. A very nice place to visit. Highly recommend As I highly recommend the horse farm, I would recommend finding some way to tour it without having to take the ship's excursion. Perhaps booking a large group tour, with your own bus, so that it is the only place you are going to. This of course would have to be done way in advance, so that the Farm will book it. Porvoo was nice, but it would have been fine to have missed it. The tour stopped in downtown Helsinki for 30 minutes of shopping....before returning to the ship. I purchased a lovely handmade purse in one of the shops...and of course, my postcards. The ship's tour was just way too expensive. Coming up next: St Petersburg, Russia ! St Petersburg..... We booked a two day private tour....for just my family of four. Very Highly Recommend! We had a van driver and a guide. We personalized this tour, so that my children (and DH) would not be looking at paintings in a museum all day, for two days. We included the option of having lunch with a Russian Family. Wow...what an experience ! It was surely the highlight of St Petersburg and perhaps the whole cruise experience. We went to their apartment and were given of a tour of all the rooms. We had great conversation while we were served lunch. A visit with their little black Russian kitty was especially memorable for my children. Folks...don't miss this opportunity ! We learned so much about life in Russia, for the common family....before and after Soviet control. We also visited Peterhof and The Bath House. Lovely. Great photo opportunities at Peterhof. Fountains galore. No photos at the Bath house. We also built in shopping time on this two day tour, which was important to us. We purchase several Russian nesting dolls. Lovely ! There are all different qualities and price ranges. My girls and I are currently really enjoying the dolls. Hint: The dolls are sold in Russia...and in every port thereafter. (I did not see them in Oslo, though) The quality seems to get lower and the prices higher...the further you get from Russia. The ship also sells the dolls. Expect to spend about three hundred dollars...or more for a large doll of good quality. Our guide took us to several shops that sell these dolls. The street venders will sell a bag of five dolls...not very good quality...small dolls...for $10.00. These are great for bringing inexpensive souvenirs home. My girls did this for their friends. If you are remotely interested in the dolls, buy them in Russia. There is also a shop where the ship is docked in Russia. They have good quality dolls there. Another thing we did on this two day tour was to have lunch at a Russian Restaurant. Another nice experience. The Russian Beet soup was excellent !!!! The palaces are amazing. There are 600 palaces in St Petersburg. The G8 Summit was getting ready to occur in St Petersburg just a few days after we were there, so the security was building up as we were touring. Apparently, as per our tour guide.... the city had removed its homeless people from the streets in preparation for the Summit. We learned a lot about Russia in these two days. We saw a lot..... Our guide was excellent. She took us under her wings for the two days and really took care of us. Euros and Rubles were accepted in Russia. We got some Rubles at an ATM. Rubles cannot be obtained anywhere other than Russia. Supposedly, you cannot take them out of the country, either. Compare prices for a ship tour of 50 and a private tour. You will be amazed. Our little group went ahead of any large tour group that we encountered. This is appropriate and expected by all tour groups of any size. About getting off of the ship with a private tour: Not a problem. The ship asked us to inform them of our plans. We did so...and they told us where to meet on the morning of the first day. We met...and were off of the ship by 7:15...or thereabouts. Don't let the ship's warnings intimidate you. RE: about booking a private tour. The weather in St Petersburg was again....very warm ! About Amber Jewelry: This is known as "Baltic Gold" ! Absolutely beautiful. We saw this in just about every port.... The ship will also sell amber jewelry. In fact, the Constellation is the only Celebrity ship (I am told) that has its own Amber store onboard. The other ship will only bring the amber out to sell on certain days. The silver/gold that you will find on the amber jewelry will determine the cost of the jewelry. Some silver, for example....is not of good quality. This will bring the price down and attract your attention. The ship will sell good quality amber jewelry. They get the amber from the Baltic...and send it to the USA for placement in good quality silver. It is then shipped to the cruise ship. Their prices are higher...but the quality is good. Yup. I learned a lot about amber on this cruise. Came home with a few nice pieces. Lots of ports will sell it....in outside markets. Keep your eye on the quality. We purchased some good quality silver, amber jewelry in a nice jewelry store in Lithuania.... also, onboard the ship. The ship will hold a contest onboard the ship... they will have three pieces of amber in a jewelry display case. One is a fake. You write down which piece you believe to be the fake. On the last day of the cruise...they will pull all of the correct answers out and hold a drawing. If you win, (you must be present to win) you get a lovely piece of amber jewelry. I was there (didn't win)...and there were only about 15 other people there. A good opportunity. The necklace that was won was more than likely a value of $125.. They kept drawing until one of the winners was present. Next Up: Tallinn, Estonia ! We booked a 4.5 private tour in Tallinn, for just my family of four. A lovely old part of the city. Great photo opportunity. This port could probably be easily done on your own. We really enjoyed our tour though... Our tour guide was a young man...# 1 in his high school class and #1 in his college graduating class. Very smart. College in Estonia is free, if you have good grades. If grades are not too good, you pay....only if they have room for you in the college. Souvenirs at this port...linen, linen, linen ! I purchased a bunch of "bread towels" (hand towel size) for about 4 USD each. Souvenirs...easy to pack and inexpensive...and usable. And of course...we saw the Russian dolls & amber. I also purchased two framed & signed watercolor paintings in Tallinn. About 30USD each. Very lovely. Proud to have them. We toured the old section of Tallinn..... stopping to shop at a leisurely pace. We then moved on to the new town of Tallinn, which is very modern. We visited the home of the Estonian President. It is actually the "Pink House". We were able to drive right up to the front door. There is however, an armed guard at the front door. Back to the Old Town for a lunch at a little cafe..... before returning to the ship. Great history in Tallinn. The little country has been in the hands of many different countries throughout the years.... and now is a member of the United Nations and is standing strong. Economically & socially appears to be doing well. Really enjoyed this port. Need good walking shoes.... cobblestone streets in Old Tallinn. Uneven & winding. Next up: Klaipeda, Lithuania ! Klaipeda...... We booked a private tour for 15 at this port. I did not get this tour finalized until just before leaving for the cruise, so I did not have all of the slots in this tour filled. The slots were filled quickly by folks we met in the first few days of the cruise. The price was half the cost of what the ship was charging for a shorter tour with a busload of 50. We walked for about the first hour of the tour...in downtown Tallinn. There is a balcony there where Hitler spoke. Just in front of the balcony, there is a statue of a girl. Since the girl's back was facing Hitler when he spoke, the Germans tore the statue down and destroyed it. With photographs, the town's people were able to reconstruct the statue, which now stands proudly, with her back to the balcony, once again. We then went on a drive to see the Amber Museum. The grounds to the museum.... about a quarter of a mile walk...were lovely and we enjoyed it greatly. Ponds, ducks, swans, little white bridges, etc... The Museum itself is in a Palace like building. In the museum, you see all kinds of amber. It was no biggie for me. Very hot inside the museum. Repeating, we really enjoyed the walk to the museum and took a lot of great pictures. We shopped at another site on our way back to the town. Lots of junk and inexpensive amber. However, the Baltic sea was located at the end of this shopping area. Some on our tour went all the way down and took pictures of the Sea. They highly recommended it. Ice Cream: very good. Try the local ice cream in every port in this itinerary ! We did....and enjoyed all of it ! Back in town again, we had about 30 minutes to shop in the town square. (where the girl statue & balcony are located). We purchased a couple of wood spoons from a man .... he made them. One spoon is for straining. Instead of just holes in the spoon, he has made a smiley face. Very cute. We purchased some bottles of soda (large)...in a store and brought it back onto the ship with us. They cost about 1.50 USD. If I were to do this tour over.... I would allow for an entire hour to enjoy the park like, pond setting at the Amber museum. Just to sit and relax and enjoy. The ducks were so cute, as they stuck their heads into the water and wiggled their feet above the water. Up Next: Gdansk, Poland ! Gdansk.... We booked a private tour for four at this port. 7 hours....for 75 euros per person. We had a driver and a guide. We drove to Oliva....and then on to Gdansk and then to Sopot. A great tour. Lots of amber again at this port. Gdansk is awesome. Great little shops, historical buildings...and great little cafes. We enjoyed homemade pierogies ! You must try these ! St Mary's Basilica is here. The largest brick church in the world. On to Sopot. Sopot has a beautiful pier. The Grand Hotel is here. This is a place that Hitler was fond of....and he gave orders to not have it damaged in the bombings. From the pier it is lovely. Construction from the road view hinders the view from the road. Our guide was almost a college graduate...and is concerned about finding a job upon Graduation. This seems to be a common theme in the countries we visited. Accessible education, but no jobs thereafter. Cruise Critic Party.... In addition to gathering during sailaway, we met two additional times. We met at Michael's Lounge...on the first sea day. Most of our Roll Call attended. This was the party scheduled by Celebrity. We met one more time....on the last sea day. This was held at the Aft Bar on deck 10 again. We scheduled this one ourselves, too. Next Up: Warnemunde, Germany ! Warnemunde: We booked a private tour for 11.5 hours in this port. We headed to Berlin, with another family of 3 from our Roll Call (Hi Anne Maria !) One Word: Wow ! A great tour ..... with a great tour guide....to a great city with lots of history. We learned so much. We saw sections of the Berlin Wall, the Berlin Wall Museum, The Jewish Memorial (erected in 2005) (don't miss this Memorial for anything)..... Hitler's bunker, the Olympic stadium, lunch at a local German restaurant (no tourists) and More ! Just an awesome day ! Our tour guide grew up in East Germany...under the Soviet control. He was full of information....and also worked at Guest Relations for Princess Cruise lines for a season. Our tour started at the ship, in an air conditioned van. We had a history lesson in the van on the way to Germany. Much appreciated. ....and ended back at the ship about 12 hours later. A lovely drive on the Autobahn. The price per person = 100 euros. Compare that to the ship's tours. Very highly recommend this tour. Germany is beautiful !!!! Don't miss the sailaway from Germany...on the top decks. The townspeople, by the hundreds, will be there to see the ship off. A very nice memory for me. There were also two small sightseeing boats that sailed along the Constellation as we sailed away. The small boats would beep their horns. The Constellation would return the horn sounds. Very, very cute. The ship had a German buffet later in the evening onboard. I didn't think it was very good. They did have some nice homemade pretzels. Good to enjoy back in your cabin. Take a few ! Next Up: Copenhagen, Denmark ! ...Copenhagen ! We did a 1.5 hour private walking tour in Copenhagen. This was with two other families....a total of 9 people. This tour is given by a man dressed as and acting as Hans Christian Anderson. This is bike country. If you want to purchase a car in Copenhagen...you will pay a sales tax of 180 %. Bikes are everywhere. Cars are discouraged. We even saw a multi level parking garage for bikes. So cute. 25% sales tax included in purchases. Bikers have their own lanes on the streets and even their own traffic lights. It is very organized and we found the bikers to be very polite in their driving. Try the local ice cream ! Yum. Check our the "Sweater Market"....it is a store. Actually ship recommended. Great wool sweaters and other wool items. Free internet here. One computer. Just time for a quick email, as others will surely be waiting. Lots of local shopping with products that we see in the USA. Street entertainers. Singing & unicycle man throwing flames, etc.... Jazz festival in town. Pay for a potty break. About 30 US cents. Clean. Very clean. Under the ground, like a subway. Ship's shuttle to the town center....$5.00 per person, each way. Purchase these shuttle tickets onboard the ship, or..... at the shuttle bus. A large strip center of shops right at the ship. Amber...again ! Also, lots of wool items at these shops. Next Up: Oslo, Norway ! Oslo ! The last port on this itinerary. We purposed ahead of time to slow down the pace....and we were glad we did. Reserved ahead of time to do a 2 hour sight seeing boat trip. The boat picked up at a location a few minutes walk from the ship. Across from City Hall. A beautiful tour. Great pictures. Small summer cottages, lighthouses, & sailboats. City Hall closed early...so, if you are planning on viewing it, you may keep an eye on the hours of operation. We did not get to see it. Shopped for about 2 hours. Purchased some wool blankets (soft throw blankets) that were made in Norway. Lovely. Headed back to the ship in time to dress for the late dinner seating. In Conclusion.... This is a port intensive itinerary. Plan accordingly. Take advantage of the Sea Days. They are fleeting. Celebrity does an awesome job. Service in the dining room was very good. Food was very good. Only one time did we have a food item that was no good. Some type of bread pudding. It was actually hard...like it had been microwaved a hour earlier. We laughed a lot about it. Our waiter confirmed that the early seating had issue with it as well. We ate most breakfasts and lunches in the dining room. Breakfast tends to be boring, because there is no variety from day to day. We never experienced any crowding on the ship at any time. Two Formal nights would have been sufficient for this itinerary. We used the laundry bags in our cabin to wrap up our breakable items that we were hand carrying home. You will want to bring an extra suitcase, because you will need it. We brought an extra soft suitcase. Russia has big mosquitos. Evening shows....sometimes are before dinner, sometimes after dinner. Pay attention to the daily bulletin. Sometimes we missed them, when the shows were before dinner. Private tours.... over ship tours ! You can do it ! I highly recommend this cruise line and the Constellation. Highly ! This concludes my review. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2006
Review of Celebrity Constellation On July 29 we completed a two-week cruise on the Constellation, from Dover to France, Ireland, Scotland, the Norwegian fjords, and Copenhagen. While there were many high points, as discussed below, we ... Read More
Review of Celebrity Constellation On July 29 we completed a two-week cruise on the Constellation, from Dover to France, Ireland, Scotland, the Norwegian fjords, and Copenhagen. While there were many high points, as discussed below, we were disappointed in "the best cruise ship in the world", as boasted by the otherwise excellent cruise director, Derek. Embarkation - Celebrity did not offer us transfers to the dock, and when we discovered the possibility 10 days before sailing (on their website), we were told we were too late to schedule. Our travel agent also failed to offer us this, and could not intervene with Celebrity. This was a blessing in disguise, since we had arranged our own one-night stay in London, and the train trip from Victoria Station to Dover was scenic, smooth, less than half the price of the Celebrity shuttle, and nearly an hour shorter. A brief taxi ride to the terminal led us to a fairly smooth check-in, although no one directed us to the priority line for "concierge class" customers. However, the check-in was swift at 1:30 in the afternoon and we were on board before 2. Although we were promised Priority delivery of our luggage, only one of four bags arrived promptly, two more arrived just before the 5 PM sailing, and the final one after we sought it out at Guest Relations (a tag I had offered to replace on the dock, but was told not to, had been lost by the porters) later that evening. The lifeboat drill was the worst we've ever attended. We congregated in the Casino, a nice place to be when the ship goes down if the tables are open. However, when they took us on deck, no checks were made of attendance, nobody checked the accuracy of life vest use, and we had to stand there for a long time listening to instructions in three languages. I would suggest separate drills for passengers with different native languages. I'm sure that they would have appreciated that as well. Stateroom - clean, pleasant, comfortable, adequate storage, decent bathroom. The balcony which was advertised as 41 sq. ft. was actually significantly smaller, apparently one of a few which taper from four feet deep to just over two feet, making it a struggle to get around the small table to the second chair. This was room 8102. Andrew, our cabin steward, was pleasant, efficient, and rapidly available. The room was kept clean throughout the voyage. Concierge class - nice, but definitely not worth the extra $$$. The "menu of pillows" was really two different pillows on both sides of the bed; no choice, certainly no menu. But comfortable, and it's nice on warm evenings to have three other sides of the pillow to provide a cooler surface for resting on. The daily hors d'oeuvres arrived all but two days, and were largely tasteless, served on toasted squares of bread that was clearly stale before toasting. The hors d'oeuvres on NCL were far superior, more attractive, tastier, and fresher. We had no occasion to use the concierge's services except once, and that time we got voice mail; I'm not clear when we might have used it, since making one's own shore excursion and specialty restaurant reservations, which we did, is a snap. The one possible thing our extra nearly $1000/couple may have bought us was the table for two in the dining room which we had requested. (We've had two dismal cruise experiences at larger tables.)  However, when tables for two were available, $20 to the maitre d' has always worked in the past. Itinerary - This is what attracted us to this cruise, and it was one of the best in our 22 cruises. The trip into Geiranger and the fjords, lakes, and mountains around was worth the cost of the entire cruise. One of the two or three best places we've ever visited (Moorea in the Pacific and St. Petersburg being the other contenders.) We were able, with shore excursions, to get to Paris (much better than we anticipated), Edinburgh (steeped in history and landmarks), and Hamlet's castle at Helsineur (Elsinore). The pleasant surprise was Belfast in Northern Ireland, a city that has gone rapidly from longstanding turmoil to progressive development, and the gateway to amazing countryside. Celebrity only offers this itinerary once, unfortunately. Shore Excursions - costly, but worth it. We did two ports on our own. Dublin is easy walking and we managed to see most of the important sites and have fish and chips and Guinness at a local pub in four hours; we used the ship's shuttle back and forth to town. Bergen, one of our favorite stops, is also compact in terms of features. Don't miss the fish market, Bryggen (the old port, now a shopping district), and the funicular to the top of the local mountain. Just a delightful day; also the most reasonable shopping in Norway if you get off the main street. We bought two pieces of amber jewelry for half the cost onboard and a third of the price in the States, and delicious smoked salmon and caviar at the fish market for a third of US prices. In Le Havre we opted for the Paris tour with Seine luncheon cruise. While we didn't get into any sites, we saw most of the important ones from the outside, and lunch while viewing Notre Dame and other sites was magnificent. Some in our group did find enough time to climb the Eiffel tower to the second level (720 steps). From Cork, Ireland, we chose the excursion to Killarney and its scenic lakes; informative, beautiful, worthwhile. Decent shopping at Blarney Woolens. (We bought Irish jewelry and a drum.) In Greenock we took the tour to Edinburgh, as noted above. Other than a luncheon snafu (they expected us an hour later than we arrived), it was informative and enjoyable. From Belfast we went to the glens, which were appropriately misty and enchanting. We took a long excursion from Geiranger that went to a high viewing point, from which the most famous pictures of the fjords have been taken, and then to Briksdalen Glacier, where a one hour plus climb of nearly two miles took us to the foot of the ice floe and its glacier lake. My wife was able to wade for nearly 10 seconds! In Olden we took a pleasant two-hour lake cruise, but the equally pleasant part was exploring the small town. In Copenhagen we shuttled to Tivoli Gardens the first night, worth seeing once in your life but not again. The next day we traveled to the castles of North Zealand, saw the homes and beaches on the Danish Riviera, and came back with scores of photos. Prices are a little high, but the guides were universally knowledgeable, informative, and pleasant, although the woman in Belfast spent a lot of time dissing her ex-husband and her son-in-law and anything that wasn't native Irish (such as the Scots, and the evergreens from Norway). Dining - our biggest disappointment, with exception. We had been informed that menu selections from Michel Roux were available daily; these were not on the menu nor were they offered by our otherwise excellent waiter Olman. There were limited selections every night, with Roux-recommended choices, which almost always differed from Olman's suggestions. Meat was overcooked, over tenderized, and not very tasty. Appetizers were good but not exceptional; ditto the desserts. Their presentations of Bananas Foster, cherries jubilee, and baked Alaska were poor imitations of the true versions. The significant exception was the extra charge Ocean Liners restaurant, where we had the two best meals we ever recall in our 21 previous cruises. Service, setting, and food were all exceptional. Wine selection throughout the cruise was satisfactory while not extensive, and a little more expensive than similar wines in stateside restaurants. Public rooms - I participated in a medical course on the ship, and the facilities for this were very good, although one of the two meeting rooms had poorly functioning audiovisual equipment making many slides unreadable. The seats were comfortable and all had fold-up platforms for taking notes. We had an occasional drink in the bars and lounges, which were attractive, with average service. The casino, where we spend a lot of time on cruises, was small but usually adequate; there was often a wait for a seat at the blackjack table after the first dinner seating finished. The casino staff were friendlier than average, with the exception of two dealers whom we tried to avoid. The theater was attractive, had excellent view lines, and was comfortable. The shows were average at best; we walked out on the one production show we saw due to poor singing by the female star and uninspired choreography, although the male singer and operatic second female were excellent. We heard better reviews of the two production shows we opted to skip. The nightly shows didn't attract us, except for one magician who was below average. The major exception was the Cirque du Soleil show, which was magnificent, albeit short and with a small cast. However, the advertised presence of Cirque characters throughout the cruise, especially in the Bar at the End of the Earth, was never visible to us the entire cruise; perhaps it was bad timing on our part. The dining room was attractive but, as noted above, the food was not. Get a table by the windows if possible. Shopping offered less variety and higher prices than on other recent cruises. The library was extremely well-stocked, with a nearly full-time librarian. The Internet room was good but seldom needed, since there were hot-spots scattered around the ship where wireless access was available. The price of $.50/minute adds up if you're checking your e-mail, however. Art work aboard the ship was among the least attractive we've seen, admitting that art appreciation is very subjective. Elevator service was poor. Cars would often pass by when the button was pushed for the direction they were headed, and a three to five minute wait was not unusual. Elevators on RCI are provide much better service. Crew - This was the least friendly and least customer-oriented crew we've encountered. There were a few officers whose role clearly included welcoming passengers to the restaurants and a few other areas. Anyone else we encountered ignored our Hello's without response. One maintenance man whistled loudly to a colleague 50 feet away within three feet of my ears, and those cleaning the deck under our balcony were loud and disturbed our rest. The crew seemed to lack any commitment to customer service. Loyalty club - I've forgotten the name since we didn't join and probably won't. I was surprised, when Northwest Airlines honored our Continental miles, that Celebrity gives no credit for our three cruises on RCI, with same ownership. The representative I talked with was not a good recruiter for Celebrity's club, never suggesting that we join when she turned down our Crown and Anchor credits. Overall - We probably won't sail Celebrity again. Its sister line, Royal Caribbean, offered more for less money, and the food, by and large, was better. There were more activities, such as the climbing wall, which we took advantage of. Unless the itinerary is exceptional, and not offered by RCI, Holland America, or Princess, we're done. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2006
THE BEAUTIFUL BALTICS OUR CRUISE AND TOURS OF THE BALTIC COUNTRIES On Friday, June 30, 2006, Ellis and I took a flight out of Florida's Orlando Airport to the Gatwick Airport in London, from where we rode by bus to Dover, England, ... Read More
THE BEAUTIFUL BALTICS OUR CRUISE AND TOURS OF THE BALTIC COUNTRIES On Friday, June 30, 2006, Ellis and I took a flight out of Florida's Orlando Airport to the Gatwick Airport in London, from where we rode by bus to Dover, England, and boarded the big and beautiful Celebrity Constellation ocean liner for one of our most memorable journeys - our two-week cruise of nine of the most beautiful and interesting countries and major cities of the world. Our first shore excursion, on Tuesday, July 4th, took place in Stockholm, Sweden. This capital and largest city in Sweden is a major commercial, manufacturing, financial, transportation and cultural center. It is located on the eastern coast of Sweden, where Lake Malaren joins the Baltic Sea, and is situated on approximately twenty islands. With its many waterways and parklands, this beautiful city is often called the "Venice of the North". Adding to the beauty of the city are its colorful structures which punctuate the skyline. While in Stockholm, we rode by a bus which took us to various city districts, each with its own special character and which gave us an excellent introduction to Stockholm as seen from both land and water, including Fjallgatan, with its magnificent view of the city, as well as the enchanting medieval Old Town, Gamla Stan, with the Royal Palace overlooking Stockholm's inner harbor, but also numerous other magnificent old houses and palaces. During our tour, we also saw the 13th Century Church, best known as a place for royal burials and which dominates the island of Riddarholmen; the Old Wrangel Palace, once known as the King's House, today houses the Court of Appeal, and from the key we had a wonderful view of the impressive City Hall, the site of the annual Nobel Prize Banquet. We then continued past the Royal Opera House and through the modern shopping and business areas at Hamngatan and Sergels Torg before boarding a motor launch for an approximate fifty-minute canal tour through the Eco Park, Stockholm's National City Park. We then cruised along Strandvagen, one of the most exclusive areas in Stockholm, and through the green and lush park areas of Djurgarden,once a Royal hunting area but today regarded as Stockholm's amusement and recreation center with great parklands and beautiful gardens. Out in open waters we passed Fjaderholmarna, the Feather Islands, being the first real archipelago island, then continued passed Prince Eugen's Waldemarsudde, the Grona Lund Tivoli and much more before leaving the boat to rejoin our coach. We concluded our panoramic sightseeing with a drive along Strandvagen, across the Bridge to the island of Djurgarden before returning to the ship. Sweden is located in the eastern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula, bounded by Norway on the north and west and Finland on the northeast. With an area of more than 170,000 square miles, Sweden is the fourth largest country in Europe and boasts a coastline of approximately 4,700 miles. Extensions of the Kolen Mountains in the northwest area of Sweden forms part of the border with Norway. The following day found us in the City of Helsinki, known as a city of the sea and the capital of Finland. Overlooking the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea, Helsinki is located on a peninsula with a fringe of small islands. The city is surrounded on three sides by water and, therefore, is a natural seaport. Helsinki Harbor presently handles most of Finland's maritime trade. They also produce agricultural and dairy products, along with lumber and wood. The city's spacious streets are interspersed with gardens and parks. With the absence of high-rise buildings, Helsinki is able to retain a small-town atmosphere. Our shore excursion offered an overview of this beautiful city and some of its major highlights. From the pier we passed the Helsinki Shipyard before continuing toward the heart of the city along the coastal road. We passed Embassy Park and the colorful open-air market before arriving in the neoclassical Senate Square. Perched above the square's wide steps we saw the domed Lutheran Cathedral. The square is surrounded by the University, State Council Building and Cathedral. Continuing our tour into Mannerheim Street, the main thoroughfare of the city, we passed the Parliament House, National Museum and Finlandia Hall. This unique marble structure is the concert and convention center of Helsinki. Later we visited Temppeliaukio, one of Europe's most unusual modern churches. Carved out of solid rock and topped with a copper dome, the Rock Church is a Helsinki landmark. Due to its magnificent acoustical qualities, the church is also used as a concert hall. We also made a photo stop at the Olympic Stadium, site of the 1952 Olympic Games. Our tour then took us to Sibelius Park, where we saw the unique stainless steel monument erected for the Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius. On the 6th of July, we arrived at St. Petersburg, Russia, where we spent two of the most interesting, enjoyable and memorable days of our entire trip. We were met here by Maria, our official tour guide, assigned by Alla, owner of Alla Tours, a private tour company which we had hired to guide us through this monumental city. Situated on the eastern coast of the Gulf of Finland, it is considered the most European city of all the cities in Russia. Once the capital of Tsarist Russia, it boasts Italianate palaces, ornate cathedrals and broad boulevards. Built on marshy islands at the mouth of the Neva River, along the Gulf of Finland. this was Peter the Great's city and vision. St. Petersburg is a very beautiful city at any time of year but particularly in late June during the famed "white nights" when the sun never seems to set, and the city never sleeps. St. Petersburg was built by Peter the Great in 1703 as Russia's "Window to the West". Today it claims over 5,000,000 residents, but the layout of the city never gives you the feeling of its being overcrowded. This is a city that remains one of Europe's most beautiful. Where Moscow may intimidate, St. Petersburg enchants. The city has more than five million people living within its borders and is the largest seaport in the country. It is also an important maritime center for Russia. Built on a network of islands, it features 65 rivers and canals that crisscross the city. It is a city of palaces, cathedrals and residences for the nobility. In 1712 St. Petersburg became the capital of Russia. The city continued to grow under the leadership of Catherine the Great. She is also credited with starting the Hermitage Museum, bringing in treasures of art from all parts of Europe. Rich in history, St. Petersburg is also known as the main focus of the revolution that took place at the beginning of the 20th century. The Palace Square is best known as being the center of many of the early political struggles. It was here that "Bloody Sunday" took place, starting the revolution of 1905. Many feel that the Hermitage, with the possible exception of the Louvre in Paris, is probably the biggest museum in the world with the most outstanding quality of displays. The collection is so large, it is impossible to see it all - there are more than 3,000,000 works on exhibit. To properly view the exhibits, it would take years. Our drive through this city featured a multitude of St. Petersburg's famous landmarks, which included the famous Bronze Horseman, the Admiralty Building, where the city's three main avenues meet; the impressive, broad Nevsky prospect, Rostral Columns; St. Isaac's Cathedral, The Cathedral of Spilled Blood, Palace Square with the Alexander Column; Cruiser Aurora and many others. Catherine Palace, typical of Baroque style, was built for the wife of Peter The Great in the village of Tsarskoe Selo, or today's Pushkin, and it became known as the Catherine Palace. We also entered the grounds of the Peter-and-Paul Fortress and also visited the cathedral inside where the tombs of all the Romanov dynasty rulers and their family members have been buried, starting from Peter the Great, himself; the Hermitage Museum, of course, which we visited during our city tour; Peterhof, the Summer Palace of Peter the Great and also called the Grand Palace; a visit to the Great Synagogue; The Yusupov's Palace, the only mansion of St. Petersburg nobility which is outstanding not only for its architectural and artistic merits, but also for the events that happened there in December, 1916, when Grigory Rasputin, one of the most mysterious persons in Russian history, was assassinated there. While visiting this Palace, we witnessed the enactment of his murder in the "Rasputin basement", where all the personages of that drama were depicted as wax figures and where it was recited to us by our tour guide. Our tour also included a visit to St. Isaac's Cathedral, the 3rd largest domed cathedral in the world after St. Peter's in Rome and St. Paul's in London. The cathedral can accommodate an audience of up to 10,000 people and is graced with 112 solid granite columns weighing up to 114 tons each. Our next port of call was Tallinn, which is the capital of Estonia and is located on the Bay of Tallinn, an inlet of the Gulf of Finland. Situated in northern Europe, Tallinn is a major Baltic port and naval station, as well as being a major industrial center. The town has also been known as Reval and in 1248 received town rights from the Danes, who controlled the region. Tallinn throughout its history has been a vital player in international trade. Estonia belonged to Russia from 1944-1991, and during that time industry started to flourish. In August, 1991, Estonia declared the reestablishment of its independence, and in 1994, the last of the Russian troops left the country. There are few places in Europe where the aura of the 14th and 15th centuries survive intact the way they do in Tallinn's Old Town. Our panoramic tour of Tallinn passed us through Kadriorg Park en route from the port in the city of Tallinn. A highlight of the park is the Song Festival Grounds with an amphitheater specially built for the popular Estonian Song Festival. We passed by the Forest Cemetery where distinguished Estonians are buried amongst the pine trees. We then continued on to Pirita, the beachside location of the yachting complex built for the 1980 Olympic Games. From this vantage point the 18th century ruins of St. Bridget's Convent could be seen. A short drive followed where ancient walls and tower gates came into view. Arriving at the Great Coast Gate of Tallinn we observed the magnificent "Stout Margaret" Cannon Tower. After this we walked the short distance up Toompea Hill to Palace Square to view from the outside the baroque Toompea Castle now housing the Estonian Parliament. We also visited the Alexander Nevski Cathedral, which dominates the city skyline. Departing from Tall Hermann Tower we continued past the original city walls built in 1229, then proceeded past St. Kaarli's Church, the Estonian Opera and the Hotel Viru, Tallinn's premier hotel located just outside the Old Town en route to the port. The following day found us in Klaipeda, Lithuania's only seaport on the Baltic Sea. It is a major ferry port with connections to Sweden, Denmark and Germany and is situated close to the mouth of the Curonian Lagoon. The buildings of Klaipeda have a picturesque framework architecture similar to that found in Germany, England and Denmark, and the area was converted to Christianity by the Teutonic Knights. Klaipeda is the oldest city in Lithuania and gateway to the lush natural beauty of the Curonian Spit. Our tour in Lithuania had us exploring life in Lapiai Village of 300 inhabitants just east of Klaipeda. We drove through the main street of the village and saw the houses and flats which were built during Soviet times to house the workers of the collective farm. The drive took us past the sawmill, which is the main employer of the village people in present times. We saw the large reservoir (also built in Soviet times), which was intended to provide water for irrigating land in the village area, now used for recreation. We learned about village life in the days of the collective farm and how it has changed since Lithuania regained its independence in 1990. Coming back to the village, the tour continued to the school, which had about 150 pupils from Lapiai and local villages. Our excursion continued down the hill and into the valley below. On the way down we passed the house of a well-known local artist and jeweler and viewed some of the sculptures in his garden. In the valley we visited the small holding of a village family, comprising of father, mother and son. They subsist off the land, using old traditional farming equipment, work the land with a farm horse and milk their two cows by hand. Our next stop is the home of their neighbor, the former British Defense Attache to Lithuania. We visited the old house (1926) and original outbuildings and wandered around the large garden at the end of the valley where we could see the Lapiai Castle Hill. We were served drinks and light refreshments, then returned to Klaipeda Old Town for a thirty-minute stop for shopping. Another of our most memorable ports of call was Gudynia/Gdansk, Poland, where, as in St. Petersburg, we took a private tour with our own group from the Internet website, "Cruise Critic", on Monday, July 10th. Gdynia is located in northern Poland in the Gdansk Province on the Gulf of Danzig, which is an inlet of the Baltic Sea. Besides being a major seaport, it is also home to one of Poland's leading naval bases. Gdynia and Gdansk are two of the three cities that make up the Troimiasto. The other is Sopot. This coastal city only recently became a major port for Poland. It wasn't until 1924 that the country transformed the little fishing village into a major port with container and ferry terminals. It was for reasons of prestige and military security that prompted Poland to start the construction of the port. Construction was completed by 1934, and Gdynia became one of the most important ports in eastern Europe. The people of Gdynia have an ongoing love affair with the sea. After many years the sea by Gdynia became clear of pollution and debris and is now a year-round resort specializing in types of water and underwater activities. The capital of Poland's Gdansk Province, the city is located at the mouth of the Vistula River at the Baltic Sea. With a 1000-year tradition (they celebrated their millennium in 1997), Gdansk offers fascinating monuments and old buildings, many of which were literally brought from the ruins. However, the city is probably best known as the birthplace of Solidarity, the movement where workers struck for higher pay and benefits. The success of Solidarity was the main force to free Poland from Communist rule. The city is more than just shipyards and manufacturing. It also has many fine churches, museums, theatres, a concert hall and opera house. Among some of the sights is St. Catherine's Church, the origin of which goes back to the 12th century and features an outstanding carillon. Our private tour took us from Gdansk for a 1 1/2-hour bus ride to the historic Stutthof Concentration Camp, now on display as a museum, showing where many Holocaust prisoners were confined and executed during World War II. A variety of pictures on the walls showed a number of these prisoners and their captors. On our way back to the ship, we were taken to a large outdoor shopping mall, where we spent about an hour until we were to be picked up by the bus for our ride back to the ship. The bus never appeared, however, and we learned later that it had broken down a few streets away. Luckily, the problem was corrected about half an hour later, and we were on our way before the ship was on its way at 3:00 p.m. Our next port of call was Warnemunde & Rostock, Germany, from where we took a rather lengthy bus ride inland to the capital city of Berlin, where we were met by our tour guide, Jonathan, who took us for a ride through much of the city and explained its connection to the Jewish faith. Later we had lunch at a delightful German outdoor restaurant, following which we were taken to a Holocaust museum, where he guided us through a one-hour tour before we were driven back to the ship, which set sail at 9:30 p.m. for Beautiful, beautiful Copenhagen, where we docked promptly at 12:30 p.m. Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark and is situated on two islands, which are connected by bridges. Most of the city lies on the eastern coast of Sjaelland Island, while the rest is in an area called Christianshavn on Amager Island. The city is a major seaport and commercial center with the citys business districts extending from Sjaelland Island to Kongens Nytorv, the main square. North and east of Kongens Nytorv is the fashionable section of the city with the royal and governmental palaces and buildings. The world famous Little Mermaid makes its home in Copenhagen. This statue, which reclines on a rock at the harbor shore, has come to represent Copenhagen. The Little Mermaid is the work of Edvard Ekiksen, a Danish sculptor. It was set in its present place in 1913 near the ruins of the Kastellet (the Citadel). The following day found us in Oslo, Norways largest city and leading seaport, as well as the principal commercial, manufacturing and cultural center of Norway. It is located on the Aker River at the head of the Oslo Fjord and is the capital city of Norway. Modern in design and architecture, it is famous for its many parks, public statues and museums. The very long and narrow country of Norway reaches so far north that the Arctic Circle runs about halfway between its southernmost and northernmost points. 95% of Norway is covered by forest with more than seventy per cent consisting of mountains, lakes, moorland and 1,700 glaciers. Measured straight, the coastline totals 1,625 miles, but that figure multiplies to 13,125 when counting in all of its fjords. Known as the Viking Capital, Oslo is surrounded by magnificent scenery from the majestic fjord upon which it rests to the vast forest-covered hills. Situated in the heart of Scandinavia, Oslo lies at the head of the Oslo Fjord in the southeastern quadrant of Norway close to the Swedish border. Ellis and I chose to remain on board the ship while it was docked at Copenhagen and then Oslo, as we had had the pleasure of visiting and touring both of these memorable cities during previous travels. The Celebrity Constellation, stretching 964.6 feet and measuring approximately 91,000 tons, set sail on its maiden voyage in May of 2002 and has offered its more than 2,000 passengers the finest in luxury cruising. While on board this spectacular vessel, we enjoyed the best in dining experiences and a huge variety of other activities. Among these was some of the finest Broadway-style entertainment, a wonderful health and fitness center, a delightful library, a variety of shops on board, an Internet cafe and numerous lounges throughout the ship for rest, relaxation, musical entertainment and dancing. Of many of these shipboard amenities we took full advantage during this two-week cruise adventure whenever we were not on shore, and we now look back very fondly on all of this as we at the same time, look ahead toward our next cruise experience. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2006
Celebrity Constellation 14 Night Scandinavia and Russia Cruise Sailing June 3, 2006 from Dover, England We recently returned from two great weeks in the Baltic onboard Celebrity Constellation. We had a very good time and really enjoyed ... Read More
Celebrity Constellation 14 Night Scandinavia and Russia Cruise Sailing June 3, 2006 from Dover, England We recently returned from two great weeks in the Baltic onboard Celebrity Constellation. We had a very good time and really enjoyed seeing a new part of the world. We traveled as a group of four with my wife and me being joined by my sister and her husband. Much of the planning for the trip was hugely assisted by the resources of Cruise Critic. I spent hours and hours reading discussion boards and reviews and picked up an amazing number of tips that really enhanced the experience. The trip started for us with a flight from Atlanta to London on the Tuesday before Constellation's Saturday sailing. Arriving Wednesday morning, we found our way through Gatwick to the Gatwick Express train I had been told to use (www.gatwickexpress.co.uk). This was a bit of a challenge as the Gatwick Express station was in a different terminal and the signage was rather lacking in quantity and quality. Mental note: next time spring for the luggage cart instead of dragging those 50-pound suitcases piled on top of each other. After a 30-minute ride, the train deposited us at Victoria Station where we caught a cab to our hotel, London Marriott Park Lane. We spent the next couple of days doing some of the touristy London things: the hop-on hop-off bus, the London Eye (http://www.londoneye.com), Harrod's Department Store, etc. We particularly enjoyed taking several walks through Hyde Park and seeing all the cricket and soccer games (sorry, I guess those should be called football). I also enjoyed visiting the Rotary Club of St. Marylebone. On Saturday morning, I had arranged for Woodford Chauffer Cars (http://www.woodfordchauffeurcars.co.uk) to transport us from London to Dover. We "popped round" to my sister's hotel, only to learn she had taken a fall and badly sprained a knee the previous afternoon. She was waiting for us with crutches that were later augmented by a Celebrity wheelchair that her husband gamely pushed all over northern Europe. Using the first of many Cruise Critic tips, I had arranged for us to have lunch at the Duck Inn in Kent, very close to Dover. This inn has been operating since the 1600's and was a favorite haunt of Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond books. Fleming even wrote the Duck Inn into one of the books. We had a delightful lunch and very much enjoyed seeing the English countryside. After lunch, it was time for a quick stop to check Canterbury Cathedral off my list of things to see (www.canterbury-cathedral.org). We took a quick walk through this amazing piece of architecture. We could have spent a good bit more time, but other matters were calling. Then it was on to the first glimpse of our home for the next two weeks. Our driver had previously said he was not quite sure where to go in Dover (not what you want your driver to tell you). As the car rounded a hill, the port of Dover opened up beneath us. I was able to just tap his shoulder and point, saying "Take us there." Constellation looked great in the sunshine and dominated the entire port. Check-in was a breeze, starting from the moment the X crew opened the door of our van and whisked us into the terminal building. We arrived at about 2:30 PM, after most everybody was onboard, so I cannot report about the lines to check in. For us, there was no line; just a bunch of X employees sitting around looking bored. We were onboard within a matter of minutes, champagne in hand and carry-on bags in someone else's hands. After much discussion a year or so ago, we had booked an aft cabin. I can now say that if at all possible, I will never sail in anything other than an aft cabin. Cabin 9160 was about the same size as our starboard cabin had been on Millennium a couple of years ago. In fact, I think it was exactly the same size and layout. But that verandah! It's huge! It's almost bigger than the cabin. On the verandah were: two regular size lawn-type chairs with nice padding, a round table capable of handling four people for breakfast or lunch, two beautiful chaise lounges with padding to match the chairs, and a small round table to quite comfortably hold two drinks between those two chaise lounges. The 180 degree view was breathtaking and the wake was just magnificent. Discussions here on CC surrounding the aft cabin revolve around several different issues. I'd like to respond to each of those based on our experience on this cruise. Issue: The deck above produces way too much noise from the scraping of chairs. Answer: Every now and then over the course of a two-week cruise, this did become a bit bothersome. Enough that I would avoid an aft cabin in the future? No way. Issue: The motion of the ship is enhanced way back there in the back. Answer: I never noticed a thing. My wife did spend a day in the North Sea battling seasickness, but people all over the ship were doing the same. Issue: It's a long walk from the cabin to anywhere else on the ship. Answer: Get over it. The balcony and the view more than make up for the slight inconvenience of location. Constellation left Dover right on time and an hour later we met our tablemates, who were great. Chris and Naomi and Douglas and Ann, all from England, were a lot of fun. We enjoyed getting to know them. We all very much enjoyed our waiter, Carlos Jovel Arturo. Friendly, outgoing, courteous and attentive, he became part of the fun of our cruise. As he was fond of saying, beautiful choice. We were also happy with our sommelier, Alina, who helped me make more beautiful choices. Day Two, At Sea: Our first full day aboard was a sea day, as we plowed our way north across the North Sea. Unfortunately, there was a brisk wind from the northwest and the North Sea had us rocking and rolling all day long. Many people were confined to quarters and the rest of us learned to always keep one hand ready to grab on to something. That first morning at sea was when the Cruise Connection party was held. We gathered at 10:00 in Michael's Club and finally put faces to the names we had been seeing for over a year. X did a great job of hosting our little get-together, with Cruise Director Don Fluke being there to keep things moving along. The ship photographer took a group picture, but I don't know what happened to it since it never appeared in the photo gallery. That evening we had the first of a series of very entertaining shows, with the chorus group presenting "Spotlight Broadway". The same chorus group presented three other shows over the course of the cruise, if I remember correctly. They were all very good, if a bit forced at times. Some of the singers were a bit off-key here and there, but the shows were consistently very entertaining. Other nights saw solo artists, such as a comedian, a concert pianist, a couple of singers and even a xylophone virtuoso who put on a heck of a show. Overall we rate the entertainment on X to be very good and it is one of the reasons we like to sail with them. Day Three, At Sea: This was a nice easy day at sea where we slept in and then just enjoyed everything the ship had to offer. We did attend a lecture by "Destinations Lecturer" Jon Fleming on St. Petersburg. All I can say is if Mr. Fleming intends to make a living as a lecturer, he needs to learn how to lecture. His delivery was very dry, his voice was a monotone and his pictures were too few and changed too seldom. The show that evening was Lindsay Hamilton, a London West End singing star. I dropped a buck or two in the casino afterward, but only on the slots. On the rare occasions I play table games, I prefer the craps table. But never once on this cruise did I see a real game get going on the table. The most crowded I ever saw the table was when there were three players. Day Four, Stockholm: I had picked up a tip here on CC to get up early for the sailing through the Stockholm archipelago and I am really glad we did. I asked the Captain's Club desk what time we would enter the archipelago and was told we would enter at about 5:30 AM with the best viewing being between 6:00 and 8:00. We made a party of it, ordering breakfast in to our mega-verandah for the four of us. The scenery was spectacular! Islands to the left of us, islands to the right of us, cute little houses on some, stately manses on others. Make the sacrifice and get up early; you'll be glad you did. We docked in Stockholm a few minutes before 9:00 AM local time. It was a national holiday in Stockholm. In fact, little girls were on the dock handing each passenger a Swedish flag. We opted to take the ship shuttle into Gamla Stan, but it appeared a few hearty souls were making the walk. I know this because I watched from my balcony as they left the dock and then a little while later I saw the same people still walking as our bus passed them. In other words, spend the five bucks. We wandered around a bit and then made our way into the Royal Palace. It cost a few Kroner to get in and it was very crowded. We and our thousands of new friends shuffled through, looking at rooms, furniture, ball gowns and china. Frankly I was not overly impressed. Compared to a Versailles or a Catherine's Palace, this palace is a bit dark and cold. Next on the agenda was a hop-on hop-off harbor boat. The plan was to get an overview and enjoy a nice boat ride. Good plan except for a) we couldn't hear the recorded commentary, b) the recorded commentary we could hear was pretty much one or two sentences between stops and c) a stiff breeze had kicked up making it rather chilly. So we hopped right off at the Vasa Museum (www.vasamuseet.se). The Vasa is a must-see in Stockholm. The ship itself is huge! How they blew the engineering on that thing is amazing. Be sure and sit through the film in the little theater. It was in Swedish, but I was able to pick out some of the stuff from the French subtitles. I heard it plays in English at some point, but regardless of the language it is a good little film about how the ship was located and raised. Next stop after a chilly run back across the harbor was shopping in the Gamla Stan. We wandered and shopped, shopped and wandered until it was time to head back to the ship for a 5:00 PM departure and a couple more hours of sailing through the archipelago. Day Five, Helsinki: Helsinki was a pretty little place that we just barely touched. My sister and her husband decided to give her wheelchair a break and they took a bus tour. My wife and I took the ship shuttle into town (another $5.00 each) and shopped for a while at Stockmann's Department Store. Then we walked on down the Esplanade to the Market Square. This is an informal little market with vendors selling from tents everything from strawberries to mink coats. Craftsmen were selling wood carvings, jewelry, trinkets, and much more. It is worth the visit. Along the way, we stopped for a nice bite of lunch at the Cafe Esplanade. It was a cozy little cafe with reasonable prices and good food. We caught the ship's shuttle back. A word about the shuttle here. I'm not real happy about X finding a revenue source in charging for these shuttles. It just comes off as annoying and petty. It is a good, easy to us service, but a premium line like X should be providing free shuttles. The good news is the accounting system is rather loosey-goosey. In a couple of ports, we bought shuttle tickets before leaving the ship. But in several ports we got out onto the dock, took a look at the lay of the land, and decided to hop on the shuttle. The X crew dutifully noted our cabin number, but only about a quarter of the charges actually worked through to my onboard account. Day Six and Seven, St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg was billed as the premier stop on this agenda and it did not disappoint. We had a very busy, but very pleasant two days crammed with sightseeing and really enjoyed it on a number of fronts. For a variety of reasons that can be read elsewhere, western visitors to St. Petersburg should definitely use a Russian tour agency. It is possible to do the city on your own, but it is extremely difficult. Starting about a year before the trip, I had begun researching the land-based tour operators in St. Petersburg. It came down to a choice between Red October (www.redoctober.spb.ru), Denrus (www.denrus.ru), and a private tour operator named Alla Ushakova (www.alla-tour.com). I read great things about Alla on the web and really wanted to use her. But I ended up deciding I did not want to take the risk associated with a single-person operation. If she were to come up sick on the day of our tour, we would be in serious trouble. I ended up going with Red October mainly based on how they handled the e-mail correspondence. The thing that probably tipped the scale was when I received an e-mail Christmas card from Red October. Then we began the process of refining the details of the itinerary. After much research on the web, I gave Laura with Red October a short list of tour guides that I would not accept and an equally short list of guides that I would prefer. We went back and forth on that a little bit, with Laura not really wanting to commit. But I had read comments from several prior visitors and I was absolutely not going to spend a bunch of money and have a tour guide with an anti-American attitude. Eventually Laura agreed to my request and assured me we would have one of the requested guides. As it turned out, we could not have had a better guide. Elena Liapakina was her name and she added a huge amount to our experience. We spent two days with her, not only seeing the sights, but gaining keen insights into the daily lives of the Russian people, both now and during the Soviet era. I would give Elena a very high recommendation and encourage future visitors to contact her through Red October or directly (liapakina@yandex.ru). I should mention a word or two here about disembarking in St. Petersburg. The Russian authorities still take their border control very seriously. As a result, the procedures for disembarking are different in St. Petersburg than any other Baltic port. Russian passport control can be a bit of a bottleneck. As a direct result of that, there appears to be a kind of guerrilla war going on between the cruise lines and the independent tour operators. The cruise lines, including Celebrity, send their passengers these dire warnings months before leaving home that are worded rather vaguely and seem to indicate that touring with anybody other than a ship excursion will be risky and full of delays. On their side of the battle front, the tour operators send their customers dire warnings about how the cruise lines will intentionally delay their disembarkation. Neither side is very happy about what the other side is saying and the end result is a bunch of confused tourists. I found the Celebrity process to work very smoothly, with no effort to hold us onboard until the ship excursion folks were gone. It ended up all being much ado about nothing. We started our time in St. Petersburg with a drive around the city to get an overview and see a few things from the van that we would not be stopping at. The first stop was the Peter and Paul Cathedral where the Romanovs are buried. Then it was on to the Hermitage museum (www.hermitagemuseum.org) to be wowed by the glitz and gilt. Our expert guide worked us through the western masters and then the French impressionists. The Gold Room was interesting, but I don't think I would bother. It costs an extra USD 15 to get in, plus we had to wait to get matched up with another group due to the minimum group size. Once in the room, the objects are very small which means everybody crowds around the various display cases. Finally, with the multiple groups in the room, the acoustics are very bad and somebody like me with a little hearing loss just gives up trying to hear anything. Leaving the Hermitage, we headed for a local restaurant selected by Red October. I don't have a clue as to its name or where it was, but it was very good. After lunch, we made the 30-minute drive west outside of St. Petersburg to Peterhof (www.peterhof.org), an amazing place billed as the Russian Versailles. It is a great visit and should not be missed on any visit to St. Petersburg. Since returning I have learned that one can take a hydrofoil back to the shop from Peterhof. I wish I had known that at the time. We dashed back to the ship as it was by then late afternoon. We scarfed down a quick bite onboard while Elena waited on the dock. Then it was off to a Russian folk show. We had debated doing a ballet (too long, not to mention boring) versus a river dinner cruise versus a folk show. Having settled on the river cruise, we were disappointed to learn that an insufficient number of people had signed up and the cruise had been cancelled. So we opted for the folk show. It was a great show with no talking at all; the dancers just came out in their classic Russian costumes and started dancing to recorded Russian music. They alternated acts with a singing group. (The website at www.cossack-show.ru has lots of pretty pictures, but not a word of English.) In spite of it being a lot of fun, we all found ourselves nodding off after a hard day of touring, so at halftime we made a break for it and retired to our home away from home. Our second day in St. Petersburg began with another 30-minute drive, this time south to the town of Pushkin and the incredible Catherine's Palace. Again, this is well worth the visit, especially the famed Amber Room. Catherine the Great had this palace built and rejected the first five attempts, having the builders tear them down and start over. The Nazis effectively demolished the place during the Battle of Leningrad. I did find myself a bit amazed that the Soviets would then come right back and re-build the same decadence after the war. From Catherine's we drove back into the city and went to the Savior on the Spilled Blood Cathedral (eng.cathedral.ru/saviour). This is an absolute thing of beauty, from the multi-colored onion domes outside to the never-ending mosaics inside; it is a place that I will never forget. Then it was off to lunch at another unnamed restaurant. The distaff part of our group spotted a department store across the street and we prevailed upon our friendly guide to take us through. Of course, it was impossible to escape the store without buying a little something. At that point, the shopping muscles had been flexed and there was no stopping them. We declared that we had seen enough palaces, museums, etc. and decided to hold our own little revolution. We bagged the trip to the Yusopov Palace in favor of spending a nice hour shopping in a street market close to the Spilled Blood Cathedral. It was a lot of fun, allowing for some true market-type interaction with the Russian vendors. Then it was off to the shiny, clean Constellation for our 6:00 PM departure. My summary thoughts and recommendations on St. Petersburg: • Research and plan well before leaving home. The tour operators will try to push you into an agenda that is convenient for them. They also build in "comfort stops" that just happen to be at souvenir shops where I suspect the tour guide gets a little piece of the action. I have no problem at all with capitalism. Just be aware that you can set the agenda. • I felt like we wasted a little time making the two trips out to the suburbs. If I were doing it over, I would try to do Peterhof first thing and then head straight to Catherine's Palace. Or reverse the order. The point is to combine them. • The lunches at local restaurants were really nice. I did not talk much about them above, but they really helped get a flavor (so to speak) of the local culture. Many tourists and tour operators will push for having a box lunch while driving. That's fine if that's what you want to do, but my feeling is that I'm on vacation, not an assembly line. • Build some shopping time into your agenda. The tour operators consider "shopping time" to be the time you spend in their store, paying for your tour and shopping among their very nice assortment of souvenirs. They are nice stores, with perhaps the same items as what is sold onboard the ship. But you really get into the local culture with a stop at a street market. Day Eight; Tallinn, Estonia: We disembarked with every intention of walking in to the old town, but didn't make it past the parking lot before we decided to hop on the shuttle. On the short drive to town, the X crew person was saying something to the front two rows which was impossible for us to hear. More on this later. The bus dropped us a block from the old town which turned out to be a very pretty, very quaint place with a bunch of small streets for exploring. There is a rather large main square where the old city hall is located that is ringed with very nice cafes. Much beer and wine was being consumed on the day we were there. Some of the folks in our party had held off buying much in Russia because they had heard that Tallinn was the place to buy the same stuff at lower prices. I would say that was not true. We did buy a couple of higher priced antique items here that were not easily available in St. Petersburg, but the normal Russian souvenir items were equally priced here. We really enjoyed a snack we picked up from a street vendor. It was a brown sugar snack whose name is foreign to me. But it was really very good. Several vendors were making and selling the same thing from carts in the street. After a pleasant lunch on the square and more shopping, we headed back to the shuttle pickup. At this point it was about 3:20. The ship's scheduled departure was 4:00, but since the shuttle run was all of 8 minutes we were hardly in a panic. We saw a bus pull away as we were approaching, but we were not alarmed because there was another bus right behind it. As we were boarding, the X crew person mentioned above gave us attitude, telling us she had announced earlier that the last bus was to leave at 3:15. She went on to tell us how lucky we were that there just happened to be another bus. It was suggested to her that in order for her "announcements" to be heard, they should be directed beyond the second row. In defense of X, in a few minutes I saw this young lady dismount and walk away, apparently to her Estonian home. All was well as we arrived back in plenty of time without having to swim out to Constellation. Day Nine; Klaipeda, Lithuania: By this point in the cruise, we were ready to relax for a while and Klaipeda proved just the ticket for that. As we disembarked, we were greeted by an organized group of locals, all decked out in local costume. They were waving some kind of fabric banner above our heads, forming an arch for us to walk through. Leaving the arch, we found a group of about 20 dancers, including a half-dozen little kids, doing a local dance for us. Finally, a little girl handed us a flyer inviting us to attend a crafts fair. We made our way to the crafts fair after a very nice 10-minute walk and were delighted with what we found. Some of us spent the next several hours shopping (I'll let the reader guess which of us did that). Others of us quickly discovered a permanently moored sailing ship tied up directly next to the fair that had been converted to a cafe. A vast assortment of local brewery products was on hand. Again, dear reader, you may try to noodle out which of us sampled the local brews. Leaving the fair some hours later, we strolled through the quiet Sunday streets and made our way to the town square, where yet another performing group was on hand, this time a group of young adults with beautiful voices. By this time, it was obvious that the local chamber of commerce was putting on a full-court press. We had a nice lunch at an outdoor cafe on the square and then made our way back onboard. Day Ten; Gdynia/Gdansk, Poland During my trip research, I had seen a number of cruisers suggest just grabbing a taxi at the dock in Gdynia and negotiating an all-day fare on the spot. I later saw these taxis and would have been very comfortable doing just that. But I decided to arrange a guide and got in touch with www.ToursInPoland.com. Based again on web research, I requested Agnes. I communicated by e-mail with Danuta, who soon told me that Agnes had received permission from the headmaster at the school where she teaches to take the day off and guide us. When we arrived on the dock, Agnes was right there. We rode through Gdynia a bit, but soon headed to Gdansk which is very close. Along the way, we stopped at a cathedral that was very nice, but rather plain when compared to most European cathedrals. Gdansk was an interesting place, with very friendly people. No doubt the highlight of the day was strolling Dluga, the mile-long pedestrian shopping street. As with everyplace else in the Baltic, there was much amber available to be purchased. On the way back to the ship, we stopped off for a photo op at the Solidarity memorial. This is certainly something that should be included in any visit to Gdansk. It takes all of five minutes! The one lasting impression I had of Gdansk and Gdynia was graffiti. It was everywhere! There almost was not a vertical surface that was free of graffiti. The local government has tried to address the problem by declaring a section of elevated highway as a graffiti zone in the hope that the local artists would focus their work there. They apparently did, and then proceeded back to the rest of the city. Some of it was quite good. We had planned ahead and made reservations for dinner in Ocean Liners Dining Room. This was a special night for us, as we were celebrating 31 years of marriage! And I can't think of a better place to celebrate. The service in this specialty restaurant is above and beyond. The food is excellent. (Trust me; have the goat cheese soufflE.) The extra charge of $30 per person is a value. I've been to some of the finest restaurants in the world and this experience rivals any of those. Day Eleven; Rostock, Germany I had arranged for a rental car in Rostock. I rented from an Avis store in Rostock, which was about 15 minutes away by taxi. I have since read that other car rental companies will meet a renter at the dock with their car. Compounding the problem was the fact that Avis gave away my car since we took our time getting there that morning. So we had to hang around for an hour waiting for them to round up another car. From Rostock we headed out east to Bad Doberan. This is a nice little town where we did a little shopping. We had quite an adventure when we tried to pop in to a little cafe for a soft drink and maybe a little snack. Nobody spoke English and we were doing the hand sign thing, without much effect. If I had spoken German, my first request would have been for them to turn on the air conditioner. Our next stop was Schwerin. To reach it we hit the autobahn. Man, do those Germans know how to drive! In Schwerin, there is a beautiful schloss that we drove around but did not have time to visit. We had a bite to eat in a sketchy sidewalk cafe that apparently sat atop a smelly sewer drain. We then tried without success to find a good shopping area. By this point, it was mid-afternoon, we were 50+ miles from Rostock and our ship, and we were a bit frustrated. So back to Rostock we went. If I had it to do over again, I would probably take the ship excursion train trip to Berlin. We had a good time, but we just didn't get much accomplished. Day Twelve; Copenhagen, Denmark In Copenhagen, the ship was a little delayed getting into port, because some other ship was late vacating our berth. We actually hung around outside the harbor entrance for about 45 minutes. Copenhagen is a delightful place. We started our visit with a 15 minute walk to the famous Little Mermaid statue. If it had not been around a bend and behind a few little trees, I would have been able to see it from our balcony. Plus it would have been hard to see because it is so small! We had planned to walk on into town from there, but a hop-on hop-off bus presented itself at the Little Mermaid, so we.....hopped on. We got the overview and then .....hopped off at the Nyhaven Canal. We were greeted by a large banner welcoming Rotary International which was having its international convention there. Since I am a Rotarian, it was a little weird. Several of my friends were in town for the convention, but we were not able to meet up. We quickly found our way to the Stroget, the huge pedestrian shopping street, which by the way is actually labeled "Ostergade". Gdansk may brag about their Dulga being the longest pedestrian street in Europe, but the Stroget is the best. Every imaginable name brand is there as well as every imaginable local shop. We went all the way from Nyhaven on one end to Hans Christian Anderson Boulevard on the other. That put us right at one of the entrances to Tivoli Gardens (www.tivoli.dk), so in we went. We strolled Tivoli, enjoying some people-watching and stopping for a few performances at some of the stages. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant inside Tivoli, even though it was a little confusing that Americans were eating Italian in Denmark. By this point, it was dusk and the lights were starting to come on. All the tour books say to be sure and visit Tivoli after dark to enjoy the lights. What they don't point out is that it doesn't get full dark until the middle of the night. The day we were there, sunset was at 9:55 PM. The ship sailed at midnight and I have a picture from the sailaway that looks like a sunset picture. But Tivoli is beautiful and if you can see the lights, it just adds to the experience. Day Thirteen; Oslo, Norway The dock location in Oslo was great. We were right in the main harbor and could walk to tram stations, cafes, and shopping, all while keeping the ship in sight. We caught a harbor shuttle boat across the harbor to visit the Viking Museum and then the Kon Tiki Museum. Both are worth the visit, but two cautions need to be mentioned. First, the museums are at two different shuttle stops. The shuttle ticket is purchased on the first boat and can be used to re-board. But it is time-limited. I don't remember exactly, but I think it was a two hour limit. By the time we boarded for the run back to the main harbor, we had to buy another ticket. The second and bigger caution has to do with the actual location of the Viking Museum. From the shuttle boat dock, it is a half-mile away, but it is a half-mile straight uphill. And it's not a real gentle uphill either. For anyone who has a little trouble walking, it is probably too much. After returning to the main harbor area, we caught a tram to Vigeland Park. This is definitely the way to get to Vigeland. It's too far to walk and a taxi would have been a little costly. The tram stops right in the main harbor area and then right outside the entrance to Vigeland. The trick is to get on the correct tram headed in the correct direction. We just asked for directions from somebody and everything worked great. Vigeland is interesting, if a little bothersome. We're not prudes, but we got a bit tired of all the nakedness. We're talking hundreds of statues of naked men, women and children, all running, laughing, crying, embracing, and doing all human activities. Well, almost all human activities. Fortunately, the artist left one or two things to the imagination. Back at the harbor, we stopped for a glass of wine at a cafe. I did a double-take when I got the bill and converted it into dollars. Each glass of wine was twelve US dollars! We laughed with our waiter about it and he said Norway is one of the most expensive places to live in the world. Plus, we were sitting on some pricey real estate, given the fabulous view we had of the harbor. We decided the wise course was to beat feet back to the ship, after finishing every drop of our wine, of course. Day Fourteen; At sea Our final full day aboard Constellation had us taking it easy, packing and participating in diverse activities. Several of us went to a presentation by Cruise Director Don Fluke entitled "Fabulous Fins of the Fifties", where Fluke detailed the design history of automobile fins and showed multiple pictures. At dinner, we had to say our goodbyes to our new friends and exchange addresses, both e-mail and snail mail. Then it was off to one more show before the final packing session. It is always so sad to see all those suitcases lining the passageways on the last night of a cruise! Day Fifteen; Return to Dover Celebrity, as usual, did an excellent job of organizing and executing the disembarkation. We had a fairly tight schedule to make it to the Ashford train station to catch a Eurostar train for Paris. I had informed Guest Services of that and requested an early disembarkation slot. Whether due to that request or our Concierge Class status, we were in the first group off the ship. Taxis were lining the dock and about 20 minutes after leaving the ship, we were in the Ashford train station. In summary, we had a great cruise. The Baltic ports were interesting, although they do not hold the same fascination and history as, say, the Mediterranean. The ship was clean and well organized. The crew was great and went out of their way to be friendly. We eagerly await our next time onboard and we consider our current position of being stranded ashore to be "a temporary exile". Read Less
Sail Date: June 2006
CELEBRITY CONSTELLATION SCANDINAVIA, RUSSIA & CLASSICAL EUROPE 3rd to 17th June 2006 OPINION marks out of 10 EMBARKATION -- Smooth but lost luggage 7. SHIP -- Excellently presented and stable 8. STATEROOM 9030 -- Needs sagging bed ... Read More
CELEBRITY CONSTELLATION SCANDINAVIA, RUSSIA & CLASSICAL EUROPE 3rd to 17th June 2006 OPINION marks out of 10 EMBARKATION -- Smooth but lost luggage 7. SHIP -- Excellently presented and stable 8. STATEROOM 9030 -- Needs sagging bed replacing and new soft furnishings + larger towels 6. CABIN STAFF -- VERY GOOD 8. MARCO-POLO RESTAURANT -- V Good but tasteless, dry fish, friendly waiters anxious to please 7. OCEAN GRILL -- V Good with good helpful staff 8. OCEAN LINERS RESTAURANT -- High Class ambience. First class food and perfect staff 9. COVA CAFÉ & BAR -- Relaxing place to be with good staff 8. EDGE OF THE WORLD- BAR -- Tranquil observation lounge by day. Great Club at night. 7. MICHAELS CLUB -- Excellent Gentlemans Club Bar with a wow of a camp singer - pianist 9. CELEBRITY THEATRE -- First Class show with professional entertainers and very well managed 9. RENDEZVOUS LOUNGE AND CHAMPAGNE & MARTINI BARS -- Good atmosphere with attentive staff with occasional lapses 8. SHOPS -- Trash goods at Harrods prices 3. POOL AND DECKS -- Roomy and attractive with enough sun-beds (in cool weather) 8. DISEMBARKATION -- (Not debarkation) Smooth 8. JOURNEY TO THE SHIP -- Booked a car parking company called REVON off the web and they turned out to be a shoestring company. The car was parked in a dirt open-air compound and I was transferred to the ship in one of a set of clapped-out minibuses with ripped dirty seats. Not in the league of a high standard cruise. Never mind  CAR OK. FIRST IMPRESSIONS DOVER (England) -- Massive and beautiful ship and the embarkation was very smooth and we were soon in our stateroom awaiting the delivery of our luggage. It took three hours and a visit to Customer services to winkle it out and then I had to manhandle it a long way to our new home. After the 6 hour early morning drive - most unpleasant. This was our first trip on the Constellation (third on Celebrity ships) so we explored the ship and called in for an appetising lunch in the Ocean Cafe. The first evening we were the last to arrive at our allotted table of ten and immediately felt at-home with our new friends-to-be. Four American and six British, We were all very relaxed and cheerful in each others company. Throughout the voyage we felt privileged to be with such great people. JOURNEY The two days at sea were slightly choppy but only to be expected through the North Sea. The Constellation dealt with the waves with ease. Once in the Baltic all was calm. STOCKHOLM (Sweden) -- Our first port of call it was unsurprisingly chilly. It is a city of regal old buildings, which are well-loved and Scandinavian thoroughness shows. A good glimpse of this major city but as it was a National Holiday it seemed deserted. HELSINKI (Finland) -- The ship seemed to glade above the calm sea through wonderful low-lying fiords with hundreds of small islands where the well heeled have their very attractive summer residences. The city seemed cold in character to match the temperature  a minority of good older buildings amongst a majority modern unremarkable ones. ST PETERSBURG (Russia) -- The ship docked in a container port and here we had arranged with a private tour company Danrus to take us to magnificent places over two very full days. Our guide was a lovely Russian girl who was very knowledgeable and seemed to get us to the front of all lines, with authority, at the palaces churches and museums. First our old bus took us through residential areas of un-cared-for dusty streets and blocks of flats to the immensely opulent Peterhof Palace. Passing through immaculately manicured parkland to a view of the yellow-ochre edifice with three intricately formed towers topped by gold-leafed typical Russian pinnacles, across a small lake. Once inside we were watched by elderly ladies with severe countenances, with many eyes (reminiscent of KGB spies), who kept us in line through the place, as though we were sheep being controlled by collies. Off with the shoes and on with plastic slippers- to skate along passageways, in and out of huge utterly magnificent halls dripping with wealth. Woe-betide anyone who leaned on walls to rest or even steady themselves. Then, out into the grounds on the maritime side to see glorious fountains and spectacular waterfalls leading to the sea by a canal between a colonnade of massive trees, all guarded by gold-leaf clad statues and gold covered vases. Then Russian Lunch at a restaurant in the surrounding parkland. Back in the city we visited several tremendously rich churches whilst becoming even more aware of the lack of pride taken by the inhabitants. The poor living quarters seemed neglected as the window were unclean, the walls unpainted and the cars covered in grime. Then at the end of our first day in St Petersburg we went back to our great ship. St Petersburg day two was to be a treat as we went to the magnificent Hermitage Museum , which overloaded us with awe as Peterhof did. Visits to the Peter & Paul Fortress, St Isaacs Cathedral, Yusupov Palace, the Church of the Spilt Blood culminated in a Canal and River Cruise which went from the Fortress through the Centre of the city giving us a superb aspect which was unseen from the streets. At noon the boat stopped in the centre of the river to await a body-shaking boom from the salute of the cannon at the Fortress. Al in all our impression of the city is that the legacy of magnificence is not matched by the present-day Russia. Denrus served us well on both days. TALLIN (Estonia) -- A beautiful city with friendly people, which has been tastefully restored, again with beautiful Churches and public building, matched this time by the present-day Estonians. The weather was kind and warmer than St Petersburg. KLAIPEDIA (Lithuania) -- We are still mystified why this town was chosen by Celebrity as there is very little of interest. GDANSK (Poland) -- Wandering out into the dockyard where the ship was docked we bargained with a taxi driver to take us into the city about 10 miles away. The very helpful Polish driver told us that he had spent some time recently working on a Fish Farm in Oban Scotland. When he returned he went for a few days to Belarus were conditions appalled him and gave him a huge culture shock. The Polish houses are far superior to the ones we saw in St Petersburg and it is obvious that there is National Pride. The City of Gdansk, extensively bombed during WW2 has been meticulously restored to become an excellent example of how things can be achieved if the will is there. The main square has a cafe society feel and all the buildings reek with history. Our willing driver was waiting for us two hours later and took us to see Lach Walesas house and to a Cathedral in time for an organ recital. Elegant seaside towns were on our route back to the ship and the whole visit gave us a happy feeling. ROSTOCK (Germany) -- Moored in a dockyard again we found ourselves on the coast some miles fro the city of Rostock and got an expensive ships transfer into the town. A typically German small town, with neat old buildings and a large central square, with pavement cafes. On the advice of a delightful waitress in the Ocean Liners Speciality Restaurant on ship we were told to go to Warnermunde, which was our original destination for the cruise. We caught a tram to the station and a train to Warnemunde and this was very worthwhile. It is a very picturesque civilised holiday resort clustered around the river mouth. Another very pleasant sunny day. COPENHAGEN (Denmark) -- Although sunny, the weather in this city was chilly. A short drive on the expensive transfer bus took us into this majestic City. We caught a hop-on hop-off tour bus and got a good general feel of the city then went for a drink and prawn sandwich in one of the pavement cafes along the river. The price of the sandwich was mind-blowing. It is a town of large traditional typically Scandinavian grandeur. OSLO (Norway) -- We had been expecting to cruise through tall fiords from the sea into Oslo but this was not to be. The ship once more seemed to hover above the glass-like water as the captain maneuvered between many islands reminiscent of the Helsinki approach. The islands were greater in altitude but not high. The scenery for the four-hour approach was beautiful. This time we moored close to the city centre at the side of a castle. This time we found a city tour bus alongside the ship and paid our dues. The guide thought of himself as a comedian and made funny comments as we walked through the castle grounds then through the city to a very large impressive park with fantastic carved stone sculptures of clusters of people depicting life from birth to death. Then, on to a Viking Museum before returning to the ship. DOVER (England) -- Returning to Dover after a day at sea, there was the line of scrap busses ready to take us to our car in a dockside carpark. FINALLY The entire experience was great. The passengers on board were very friendly and happy and particularly our table  Bob & Pat, Alan & Monique, Lou & Bonnie and Alex & Moya couldnt have been better company if we had taken them with us. What a superb time we had. We also became friends with a like minded couple- Hui & Toni who we met at the Elegant Tea. The Captain runs a fine ship and it is generally well maintained at a high standard. It must be said however that Celebrity seem to be keeping the cruise prices low by taking-advantage of the captive audience with high prices for the wine & drinks. Also the shore transfers are now being charged for, which is petty. Our Itinerary said we were calling in at Warnemunde and Gdansk yet we had to pay to get there when we docked  miles away! If they dont actually go to the places on their itinerary, the least they can do is take you there by free bus. If you dont purposely say you are giving tips yourself they enforce them by adding them, uninvited, to your bill. Still, even all this said if the onboard account is added to the cruise cost it is still good value for our money. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2006
We have just completed our second cruise and our first with Celebrity aboard the Constellation. We could not have wished for a better cruise visiting 9 ports during the 14 days. Each of the ports were different and in all cases a tender ... Read More
We have just completed our second cruise and our first with Celebrity aboard the Constellation. We could not have wished for a better cruise visiting 9 ports during the 14 days. Each of the ports were different and in all cases a tender was not used. We arrived at the ship around 11am on day of departure and were in our cabin by 12 noon, this was much quicker than we expected. Our cabin was very clean and quite spacious, bearing in mind it was not our intention to spend a lot of time in there. The bed was clean and comfortable. We never failed to sleep at night, best sleep had in a while. We chose second sitting which we found ok, however at times felt a little late to be finishing usually around 10.30-10.40pm. We could not fault the food, however, thought the desserts could have been better so more often than not went for cheese and biscuits. On two occasions we chose to eat at the Ocean Liners Restaurant, we can only describe here first class, would recommend 'Steak Diane' and 'Grand Manier Souffle'. The second time we went we chose the course which included different wine with each of the five courses. This cost us an additional $27.50 each, so total price each was $57.50 but well worth it. On another occasion we chose the diner on Deck 10, good choice of food, and it cost us $2 service, in all instances, staff were very attentive. If I found any gripes, it was due to the formal, informal evenings and I did make my opinion known to the Maitre De, is that people do not adhere to dress code and I feel they should not be allowed into the dining room. We noticed on a number of informal nights, guests wearing jeans and gents not wearing jackets, come on now, if there is a dress code, then stick to it and refuse admission to the dining room. The two pools on the deck are fine, the Aqua Spa seemed very popular. There is a free sauna in each of the changing rooms, however, if you wish to use the steam-room and sauna in the other part there is a cost of $30 per day or $100 for the full cruise, my advice, stick to the free one, the view is much better out of the port hole. I would say to anyone going on a cruise, to do their homework beforehand to see if it is possible to get round the ports/towns etc on their own. The majority of places it is easy to do so and works out a lot cheaper. We got round Stockholm and Helsinki on our own. We docked in Rostock got the coach in and then went by tram and train to Wernemunde and cost us 3 euros each. In Klaipedia it was easy to walk into town, but where the ship docked u walked about 500m and catch the ferry to the Island across where the ship docked, it is very very cheap to do so and takes minutes to get there. The Island is great, some good walks round and good beach. Make sure you go to the correct beach, male, female or family, they are all separate. Tallin is such an easy place to get round as are Oslo and Copenhagen. In Oslo you can make your own way to Vigaland and the Royal Palace, take tram No 12 cost 20 krones stops outside Vigaland, and then after take the same tram into the town then change to tram 19 which stops at the Royal Palace, from there its a nice steady walk back to the ship. What can I say about Russia, obviously either a guided tour or get your own visa. St. Pete's is brilliant, however, we did the Moscow trip although it was expensive, it was well worth a long tiring day and the traffic congestion is just something else you will never see, where does it all come from or go to. The Russian people however, seem to lack personality at times or frightened to smile and let themselves go. Loved Moscow, but not sure if I would like to return there. Gdansk, what a picturesque place, really nice people, so much to see and do in so little time. Where would I return to, well it has to be Gdansk, Tallin and Klaipedia and yep think Warnemunde. Scandinavia nice places, but very expensive. Can I think of anything negative from the cruise, well its has to be coming home and perhaps disembarkation when you start to leave the ship after 7am in the morning, which gave us a long long day sat in Gatwick Airport has our flight home was not until 7.25pm, so we spent 8 hours sat around. I would recommend a Baltic Cruise to anyone so many places which I knew little about and found that the people of the respective countries had fantastic stories of new and old to tell. If I can help with any more information, please do not hesitate to ask and I would be happy to oblige. Read Less
Celebrity Constellation Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 5.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
Public Rooms 4.0 4.3
Fitness Recreation 5.0 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.5
Enrichment 4.0 3.4
Service 5.0 4.3
Value For Money 5.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 4.1

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