Celebrity Constellation Cruise Review by Kaktus: Arctic Circle
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The Arctic Circle Itinerary goes almost as far north a cruise ship can go; we had only five ports of call and six sea days. The northest port of the itinerary is Longyearbyen, a small community located in the Svalvard Archipelago, the climate is moderate, and in summer the temperature is above the freezing point. Don't expect to see great glaciers or wildlife, as in an Alaska cruise, the ship does not navigate through ice fields or near icebergs. On the other side all the fjords we visited were spectacular.
Embarkation was by far the slowest I have experienced. Security was the bottleneck. We arrived about noon at the ship terminal in Amsterdam, we received a card with a number, and we had to wait until our number was called. We got Nr. 12, and had to wait about two hours. After going through security it went fast. I packed two bottles of wine and, later in the room, I got a notice stating "Your luggage has been scanned and potentially questionable prohibited items have been More noticed. Please proceed to Deck 1... for further inspection". Since two bottles of wine are allowed I could take my bag, but I noticed that liquors were confiscated to other passengers and they were going to be given back at the end of the cruise.
There were a lot of European passengers, announcements were made in English, Dutch, German and Spanish. I guess the average age was around 60, few youngsters and almost no kids.
We booked an oceaview cabin and we got an upgrade to a room with balcony. The cabins are nice and spacious with the usual amenities.
There were not as many activities as in other cruise ships, and too many of them are directed to sell you something. A bridge tour was offered, but it cost $ 150.- USD (Lunch included). Entertainment at the Celebrity Theater was good, the best performances were offered at the formal nights.
I would rate most of the food between standard and good, and only a few dishes very good. Even the lobster prepared at your table at the Ocean Liners was a little bit chewy (it was still very good). We choose select dining and the service was outstanding. I was impressed by one of the sommeliers, Ivan from Serbia, he gave us always the right advice about the choices on the wine chart, he remembered every choice we had made before and even our cabin number.
We had dinner one night at Ocean Liners; it was really a good experience, worth every extra penny. If you make a reservation on embarkation day you get a 20% discount, but if you go next day to the culinary demonstration, you get 25%; as I stated before many of the activities are offered to sell something.
In Leknes we were very lucky to have a sunny day, we really could appreciatte the turquoise sea with white sandy beaches. A group of CC members chartered a Bus in Leknes; unfortunately as I wanted to join, the bus was full. We decided to take the ship tour to a nearby Island and Nusfjord, it was not very expensive and it was very nice.
Other shore excursions were really overpriced. In Longyearbyen we paid 169.- USD per person for a three hour hike, we were a group of almost 100 persons, and only three guides, (a half a mile bus transfer included). The guides must carry weapons to be used in the unlikely event of a life threatening polar bear attack. In fact the bears are looking for food on the other side of the island. Part of the hike was on snow, there were people that could not make it. We did not climb up to the summit, since we did not have time, if fact the ship sold a reduced version of the normal seven hours tour, but the view from the point we arrived was wonderful. After walking down the mountain we walked into the town. It is a small beautiful village.
A bus transfer from Honningsvag to North Cape cost $ 100.- since it was very foggy it was not worth the money nor the time. Even if the weather had been good, I don't think it is worth it unless you want to have a picture of yourself at the point, but who wants a picture at 71Â° (North Cape), if you have already been at 78Â° (Longyearbyen), I think the bird safari would have been a better option. I would have preferred an scenic cruise along Svalvard instead of going to Honningsvag.
Molde is a larger town with more than 20,000 inhabitants, we just walked to the tourist information office and asked how to go to Varden, a panoramic point with a spectacular view of the fjord , it took us more than three hours (both ways) hiking through the woods but every step was worth of it. People on the ship that took the excursion were driven there by bus and they walked down. In Molde we noticed people trying to rent a car but they were all gone. Later we took the bus to the Atlantic Road, also highly recommended, extra rides were offered in order to fill the demand from the ship, and we paid the local fare, it was not cheap, but much less than the ship's tours.
In Bergen we also hiked up to the mountain, but there is funicular for those not wanting to walk. The fish market is very interesting.
Since the some of the towns are very small, it is difficult to find a choice there if you have not previously booked. For those taking a similar cruise I would advice to make previous arrangements by internet with the locals or to pay the expensive excursions onboard.
Internet was, as nearly in every cruise ship, very expensive and slow. We bought a package just for checking and sending mails. We found free hotspots in every port of call. They are easy to detect, since there are a lot of tourists with tablets or PCs nearby. I always carried my smartphone, I could even use skype.
I recommend the Arctic Circle Cruise as one of the great experiences of my life. If you are thinking about it hurry up, I have just read that Norway has approved new laws limiting the size of ships going to Svalvard
This was my eighth cruise, but my first one with Celebrity, I give the Constellation a rating of 9.0 out of 10, there is room for improvements. I will sail with Celebrity again if I find an appealing itinerary.
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