Pre-Cruise - we stayed two nights at the Hilton Doubletree - London - Westminster. The room was nice and spacious. The shower was fantastic. Only wish there was drawer space. Breakfast was way overpriced so we ate at two different cafes less than two blocks away on Horseferry Rd.
Transportation to and from pier - we used Smiths. From London to the pier we shared a ride with four others. Stopped at Stonehenge on the way. Driver was prompt in picking us up. From the pier to Heathrow we again used Smiths. We stopped at Salisbury on the way to Heathrow. We spent two hours there and could have stayed a little longer (but we reserved the car for a two hour stop). I'm we could have stayed longer if we would have asked, but we had a plane to catch. Our driver had heard traffic was backed up so he got directions for an alternate route and we were on our way to the airport and at the terminal just after noon.
The cruise before ours had the NORO virus so we were told that we would board late. We arrived around 1:30PM and were cleared to board immediately. That was a nice surprise. We were welcomed aboard with a mimosa and headed directly to the Bistro of 5 for lunch. Although they charge a $5 per person fee, it was well worth it. We had a wonderful, peaceful lunch with great service. It was a fore taste of things to come.
Beverage Package - we had the Classic Beverage Package (received through the 1-2-3 Go Promotion). What a wonderful thing that was. We enjoyed beverages throughout our cruise without worrying about the bill at the end. My husband upgraded his to the Premium Package to take advantage of higher priced alcohol beverages, but I was happy with the Classis Package and did not upgrade.
Room - our room was on the Starboard side and we were happy with the choice. The only port that it would have been nice to be on the Port side was Warnemunde (Berlin) as we were docked right by the town. We had a room on the hump, so had a larger than normal balcony. That was a nice treat that we enjoyed. If we wanted sun, we sat out near the railing. If we wanted shade, we sat closer to the room. This was actually the first time we had a balcony. It will be hard to go back to inside rooms.
Dining - we ate in the MDR each evening and were happy with the service, selections and meals. The food was wonderful. We did not see a need to eat at a specialty restaurant. We also ate breakfast in the MDR each morning with the exception of our first morning in St Petersburg (because of our excursion time). Breakfast in the MDR was also excellent. Some days the service was slower than others, but on port days, we always were in and out in plenty of time to get to our excursions. We were also impressed that we were able to eat breakfast in the MDR on disembarkation day. That was a nice surprise as usually we have to eat in the buffet (which we tend to avoid as much as possible). On port days we also ate in the MDR. Again, the lunches were superb. If they offer turkey tenderloin - get it. I never had turkey so moist.
Shows - we enjoyed most of the shows. The Eclipse singers and dancers were good, not excellent, but good. Our favorite acts were Mike Doyle (singer and comedian), Claire Maiden (piano and singer) and Gareth Oliver (ventriloquist). We almost passed on the ventriloquist - don't. He was really good. Mike Doyle and Claire Maiden were excellent.
Bruges - we shared a cab (Rony's) with six others that we met on Cruise Critic. The cab was waiting for us to take us to town and was there to pick us up as scheduled to return us to the ship. It was quite a bargain compared to ship transfers plus they dropped us off and picked us up right in the town square. In town we just wondered around and took in the sights, had a waffle and took a canal boat ride.
Warnemunde (Berlin) - we booked the five day special with Alla Tours, but opted to go to Schwerin rather than Berlin in Germany. Our tour guide was great. She took us on a walking tour of Warnemunde before taking the train to Rostock. In Rostock we again did a walking tour before taking the train to Schwerin. In Schwerin we had lunch before taking a walking tour of town and the castle. Needless to say, we walked a lot that day - but it was worth it. Each town had it's own charm and our guide was great at explaining the history and architecture of each stop.
Stockholm - Alla Tours - good tour again.
Helsinki - Alla Tours - this stop was rather boring and the guide was either new or very nervous as she hemmed and hawed constantly to the point where people tuned her out. If I were to stop at this port again, I would take the HOHO bus as we really didn't learn anything from the guide.
St Petersburg - Alla Tours again. We took the Grand Tour. I will admit that I had trouble keeping up on the first day in the Peterhoff Gardens. We toured the gardens for over an hour and it was hot and humid. From what I understand the Comfort Tour also spent over an hour touring the gardens, so I'm not sure that taking the Comfort Tour would have helped. The second day was much less intensive. But the tour was definitely worth the effort. We saw so much in two days because of the small group (16) size. It was an experience we will never forget. Also, if you are interested in lacquer boxes, buy then in the Hermitage Museum. We saw them in two boutiques, but they were so expensive we decided we weren't going to get one. While at the Hermitage, we again saw some. Luckily we decided to ask about the price. They were less than half the price we saw at the boutiques. Granted - they were still expensive. The one I bought was $195, but it is signed, certified and came in a box and with a velvet bag. I also trust it is real. Also, like I said, it was less than half the price of the ones I saw at the boutiques. The ones on the ship were also much more expensive. But the Hermitage does not carry the stacking dolls.
Tallinn - Alla Tours - We were glad we had a tour here as we spoke to others that went "on their own" who did not enjoy the town like we did. Although we were not impressed with our guide, he still provided information that helped us to appreciate and understand the town.
Copenhagen - Celebrity Tour - as we had OBC, we booked a tour through the ship that included the Carlsburg Brewery. The tour of Copenhagen was really good and we also stopped at Drager Village (an old fishing village) which was quite charming. As for Carlsburg Brewery - it was ok, but nothing special. It was more like a museum as they no longer use the facility other than for tours. As we have been on brewery tours where they are still actually brewing, this was a bit of a disappointment. For a real brewery tour - try Yuengling in Pottsville, PA.
We thoroughly enjoyed the cruise, the staff and the shows on the ship. We had a wonderful cruise. The only thing we did not like was that we did not have enough to do on the days at sea. Others we talked to found those days restful, but we tended to be bored. We did like the Corning Glass Show, but wished there were other thing to do as well.