We are a retired couple ages 61 and 60 that travel and cruise a great deal. We live in Florida and part time in NYC. We are used to eating out at fine dining restaurants, and seeing theater, concerts, etc in NYC. We have cruised many times to the Caribbean, eastern western and southern, to Turkey and Greece, the Baltic, Panama Canal, Alaska, Barcelona and Lisbon. We usually like to take independent tours and not be with large groups.
We totally fell in love with Captain Tasos Kafetzis. We have never, in over 20 years of sailing had a more entertaining, enthusiastic, engaging and young Captain. We attended his lectures and saw the game show he participated in, all informative and fun. We also think he set a standard and tone for all his officers and crew which was certainly discernable. Smiles, interactions, and professionalism, even chance encounters in an elevator. And last but not least, his amazing DONUTS! What a treat to turn in a circle around the Seven Sisters and the Suitor waterfalls with music no less.
We stayed a night at the Amsterdam Marriott Rennaissance on Kattengat very close to Dam Square, the Central train station and the port. We like to arrive the day before so we can rest a little, start to timeshift and not be stressed. Very convenient for embarkation the next day. We chose this hotel because we had points. We ate at Lucius seafood restaurant on Spuistraat, which we could walk to. Wow, fresh
marvelous shellfish, get the seafood tower and you will not be disappointed. We did have lines at embarkation, even though we thought having the concierge level allowed us a quicker time. There were so many people with this level and above that the lines were probably as long as the regular lines.
We had a concierge level balcony cabin 8087 on this trip. Having midship was great, but I did not see the concierge value. We were told repeatedly by the concierge Michael, that we could make our dinner or spa/salon reservations better ourselves! There is no dedicated concierge or person to speak with, so I do not understand the term for this class of cabin. Michael did assist us with arranging a rental car, and I expect this is available to any passenger speaking to the concierge desk. We do love having a balcony and this cruise was no exception, with wonderful scenery and a serene, quiet and private place to sit. Our cabin steward was professional and attentive, we always had whatever we needed. I do wish there were passenger laundry facilities onboard, as we traveled an additional two weeks after the cruise. We therefore had to use the cruise laundry which is an expensive addition. The sail away out of Amsterdam is so interesting because of the lock, be sure to be outside and see it. We luckily had our balcony to watch the windmills and scenery go by.
This cruise is the first time we tried the luggage forward service and it was fantastic. Our large bag was picked up at our door and appeared in our cabin, then was picked up at the final port of Amsterdam and arrived back home. It contained our eveningwear, and pool and gym clothing. We were able to travel light on the plane with only carryon bags, and this also made it easy to travel by train during our ongoing trip after the cruise with also only small wheeled carryon bags.
We arranged for 6 of the 12 nights to have dinner at specialty restaurants. We like the ambiance, having a smaller more intimate room, and always being able to arrange for a table with a window! We had the open dining and wished to make all the reservations the first day. The policy is only the day or two before, so we had to constantly go and wait on a line to arrange for the dinners we had in the MDR. Although this was a pain, we never had to wait very long, and sat in the lounge when we did have to wait. Wish this could all be done online, the same with the specialty dining reservations package. I think individual specialty dinner reservations could be made online. Same goes for spa/salon. Most people know if they want to get their hair done before formal nights. Celebrity, step into the 21st century and get all this available online before one even begins the cruise. If you are aiming to get a younger demographic, this and better internet is essential. ( see note later)
We were disappointed in the quality of the food overall on the cruise. Especially if you are paying a premium, you expect superior quality food. Some of it was very disappointing, other meals were better. But none were exceptional. The fact that there was not even one evening to have Maine lobster in the MDR is a shame. There was a night with, I believe maybe warm water tails, that came out totally inedible. Must have been frozen a long time, just mealy and awful. The Ocean Liner restaurant did not have Filet Mignon on the menu, also a disappointment. The Tuscan Grille, on the other hand, did, which was surprising, and my husband enjoyed it there. The staff was professional and accommodating, albeit they have no control of their kitchens. We are not big breakfast or lunch eaters, and we always found good options, like egg white omelets, yogurt and fruit, and salads fresh and available. The gelato was a big hit with us for a treat.
We had the drink package for the first time, and only because there was a special promotion. It did not include the martini bar specialty cocktails, so we usually just went elsewhere, and my husband just had two small martinis, instead of one regular size one! We loved having our expresso everyday, and sometimes twice a day and the Cafe al Bacio was always jamming! We ended up purchasing bottles of wine a few times because we didn't like the choices with the package, and did have an anniversary celebration one evening. Otherwise, we had our cocktails or glasses of wine with our evening meals. We also liked being able to get bottles of water whenever we wanted. We don't drink juice or soda. So, I don't think we would do the package again, and we are not that big of drinkers anyway.
The spa is smaller on this ship than on the Solstice class, and does not have the Persian Garden room with lots of beds and a wonderful ocean view. That is why we were not interested in an Aqua class cabin, nor did we get any day passes for the Persian Garden. In fact, we never even had massages this trip, which we usually do. I did use the salon for hair and nails and my technicians were lovely. We both used the gym and never had to wait for equipment. I usually practice yoga on my own, as the class times were not good for me. The pool areas always had seats available and we Floridians watched the swimmers in amazement. The upper pool deck was a wonderful place to watch us going in and out of the fjords and the Captain opened the helicopter deck a few times for passengers.
We do like having the small size ship, and the Constellation was upgraded previous to our sailing, and we thought the ship looked fine, bed okay, bathroom clean, tile and grout clean (a pet peeve of mine) public areas nice and not glitzy. This was a port intensive cruise and we only had three sea days out of twelve. We are not big shoppers when cruising so I cannot comment on that aspect of the cruise. We always wish the internet would work better. One would think all the cruise lines would have worked this out better somehow. It is also a very expensive addition. Even though we are retired, we always read the NYT online each morning, check CNN Money for market info and check and send email each day. And where is the Skype? I think all the cruise lines need to step up to the plate on this issue. We often make port arrangements ourselves, often by email or skype, and we had a difficult time confirming or making additional arrangements without internet capability.
We would like to commend Cesar Paucar, one of the musicians. He often played at Cafe al Bacio and Michael's lounge. A very talented guitarist and we thoroughly enjoyed all of the performances that we were able to hear. Maybe we are becoming too jaded, or seen too many cruise shows, but we were not that impressed with the shows in the theater. I seem to remember we liked the shows last summer on Celebrity Millennium in Alaska. We had a blast at the Motown night and the 60's night. The dancers were so much fun to dance with and along with most of the room we sang all the words to the songs we all remembered.
Disembarkation was easy and we took a cab to the Central station to catch our train to Bruges. Trains are very easy to use and we took the high speed Thalys train to Bruges through Antwerp. The Antwerp station is a lovely old classical station and we saw tour groups visiting during our change of trains to the local. The Thalys train was very comfortable, with free internet access, and free snacks and drinks in first class. This train does go all the way to Paris .
We had a very wonderful cruise and we loved Norway. Thank you to Captain Tasos and crew for a very memorable journey, and I hope many of you will get to sail on the Celebrity Constellation.
As per the cruise critic instructions, I will add my cruise ports that are not listed below:
Small village with about 480 residents. We did not do the glacier tour as we have done this before in Alaska, British Columbia and Alps. We took a short walk and went into the internet cafe for tea and email. It was a dreary drizzly day and we decided not to spend hours on a bus and just relaxed on the ship.
We rented a car from the airport to go see the highly recommended Altantic Road, Atlanterhavsvegen". It was a cloudy, not particularly nice day, but we headed off anyway. A bit of a hassle to have to get to airport to rent auto, and have to also get back from airport. It is very small, with only maybe one flight a day, so not staffed. The young woman at Hertz waited for us to arrive to pick up auto and then closed up! We also would have had to call for a taxi back to port if one had not shown up to return a child car seat which was providential for us. Back to the road trip. Very easy to follow the map or our iphones. Maybe it would have been nicer on a beautiful sunny day, but we were not impressed with the route. Stopped a few times to meander by the shore and stretch our legs. The bridge was interesting but a long way to go. We climbed a very muddy hill at the restaurant, marina stop for a better view. We saw a boat load of tourists going over to the island for lunch at the inn. On the return trip we stopped to see the cute bus stops with the soil and grass roofs. Surrounded by farms it was truly pungent.
Our sunniest and most beautiful day of the cruise. We were so happy because it was our 39th wedding anniversary. We rented a car through Geiranger Adventure, great people! 990 NOK for about 5 hours. Sadly, when we stopped at the information booth we were told all cars were rented, none available, and were not told about this company. They were maybe a few hundred feet outside the building and right on the road! Shame on the tourist information booth. If all your available autos are rented, why not tell tourists about other options. Anyway, with map in hand we started driving up up up. Only one road, no way to get lost. First view point is at Flydalsjuvet, and it was a beautiful first stop to see Constellation at the mouth of the fjord and about halfway up to Mount Dalsnibba. We also stopped at Lake Djupvatn where there is a place to stop and pick up food for a picnic or eat there. Then we headed up to the top of Mount Dalsnibba for the million dollar views. Just amazing and we were so thrilled to have perfect sun. It was cool and windy up top, so glad we brought scarves and jackets. Don't forget to stop and hug or kiss the troll. The store has clean bathrooms and hot chocolate besides other snacks and gift items. After we got back down to town we saw a group dressing up as Vikings for a boat ride in a replica Viking ship. How cute and fun for families. We watched them pull up alongside the Constellation to threaten her with their make believe weapons and give some nice loud Viking yells.
Easy town to walk into where we easily hopped a city bus, you pay the driver, to go out to Sunnmore Museum. This is a folk museum replica of Norwegian coastal culture. It was built in 1931 and is about 50 acres (120 hectares) with 50 old preserved buildings and some boats. There is also a beautiful church, the Borgund Church with a very old graveyard adjacent to the museum. There is also an exhibition hall with cafe, souvenirs and clean restrooms. This was so interesting we ended up spending more time than we originally thought, and came back to town with time to stop at a cafe for some coffee when it started to drizzle. We always carried our trusty folding umbrellas, so a little drippy walk back to the ship.
This was a very small town with no major attractions if you did not plan to take a tour. I think many things were far away and would be a long bus ride. There were no rental cars available in town although one could request one and wait until it got there. Great tourist information building that seemed to also be town community hall with library and pool. We decided to enjoy nature and take a hike up to a lookout point above the town. The beginning of the path was very easy and paved. It became a little more difficult and unpaved with tree roots as we climbed up to the lookout viewpoint. We were glad we did as the view was pretty, with the town and farms and fjord spread out below. After so many days of eating it was good to get some exercise. This port had the best free wifi and we were able to skype with our grandchildren. Many crew members were at the port feverishly using the wifi, some even at the railing on the open deck closest to the port building.
We continued our trip for another 10 days staying at a fabulous bed and breakfast, the huis t Schaep ( house of the sheep) in Bruges Belgium and back to Amsterdam staying at the boutique hotel The Canal House. This hotel had only 28 rooms and the largest backyard enclosed garden in Amsterdam. If you have a chance, we would definitely recommend Bruges, a city older than Amsterdam by almost two centuries, with romantic cobblestone streets and canals. Take a bike ride to Damme along the waterway and enjoy lunch or coffee at Tante Marie's garden out back before returning to town. It is also an easy train ride to visit Brussels for the day. There is a great cafe at the top of the Musical Instruments Museum (MIM) with especially good gazpacho and tuna nicoise and nice views. We were lucky to fall into a group of traveling college choir students singing on the streets of Brussels, and walked with them to the cathedral where they were having a concert. Sometimes the best things happen serendipitously. Have dinner at the Michelin one star restaurant Den Gouden Harynck, in Bruges, our best meal during our entire trip. We also enjoyed a great meal at Reliva on Goezepustraat, and a great new tapas and wine bar, El Rincon on Katelijnestraat. We also recommend staying in Bruges, as it is so much nicer after the crowds of day trippers leave at 5pm or so, and don't forget to eat chocolate, try the Chocolate Line on Simon Stevinplein. The Church of our Lady has the only Michaelangelo statue taken outside of Italy during his lifetime. Don't forget to watch the film In Bruges although it is bloody and violent, it does make you want to visit the city.
Amsterdam is a city we have visited before and a wonderful mix of the old and the new. This is also a great city to rent a bike for the day, a little more challenging to dodge traffic, although there are many bike lanes and lots and lots of other riders. We biked to the Vondelpark, with many beautiful paths and lakes, lots of places to stop and sit and enjoy the day, with a few outdoor restaurants for lunch or coffee, with not so clean bathrooms. We went to the newly reopened Rijksmuseum after not seeing it for 10 years, and it was wonderful. We recommend trying to get tickets beforehand to avoid some of the long lines. We also went to one of my favorite museums, the Van Gogh. Just so happened that an outdoor sculpture exhibit was going on around town, and we took our bikes to see it, lots of fun. This is also a great place to just wander up and down the beautiful canals, and take a boat trip if you have not done it before, and sit and have a beer or coffee and watch the world go by. We took a day trip by train to Delft to see the home and workplace of Vermeer. Be warned his paintings are not here. Great place to stop at the fish market and eat herring like the natives. We went to the Museum Het Prinsenhof and also a very small 19th century home owned by Paul Tetar VanElven. Ran out of time but there are a few delft ceramic factories to see delftware being made today. Other great restaurants in Amsterdam, Der Kas for farm to table in a beautiful greenhouse, Blauw for authentic Indonesian rice table, and Izakaya, for a hip Asian fusion kitchen and bar. Don't bother with Vinkeles, a Michelin star at the Dylan hotel, overrated, and we were also not impressed with dVijff Vlieghen 5 Flies although it has gotten great reviews elsewhere. We were lucky enough to be in Amsterdam for just the right time to have the specialty Hollandse Nieuwe herring, which is available from mid May to mid July. Don't be scared, just try it! Like sushi. Hold the fish by its tail with your thumb and forefinger and let it slide right down.
Make sure the fishman does the final cleaning in front of you so it is definitely fresh. For a nostalgic trip back to the sixties walk into the Bulldog and check out the menu. Hope you can spend more than a day here before or after your cruise.
First stop Bergen. We had been advised to go up the Floibanen funicular, which we did and had a great view and it was fun. 80 NOK per ticket. We had a few rain sprinkles, but brought our umbrellas, so no bother at all. Visited Bryggen the Hanseatic Wharf, oldest medieval settlements in Norway, and walked in and out of a few art galleries. We wandered over to the fish market and had some very tasty treats, like whale, eel, and salmon. This port had a bus ride back and forth to the ship which dropped us off at the main park square, Lille Lungegards-vann, with a small lake and fountain. Cute park with young kids playing music and breakdancing.
Home of the famous Flamsbana Railway line. Thank you to cruise critic for allowing our cruise to set up maybe six different groups for this tour. We needed a minimum of 10 guests to make a reservation, extremely easily done with email. We had one group leader for each party of 10 or more. This person was required to set up the group by email or phone or skype and collect the funds in cash before the day of the tour. Then this person also had to be at the railway office to stand in line and pick up the tickets. Ah, therein lies the rub. The office did not open until 8:15am and people began lining up before 7am. Many tourists were trying to buy seats that morning and many trains were sold out because of the cruise line tours. Our tickets were substantially less than the cruise price, at $60/pp which included our group discount. We were told there was a special line for prepaid tickets and we would not have to wait on the regular line. There were no staff out before 8:15am and no indication where the prepaid line was. I am only 5 ft 1 inch tall and got swamped! Once the doors opened there was one cashier for the prepaid tickets and a few big guys pushed in front of me. Not sure why if our tickets were prepaid? Our group met outside and waited for our special car with our group name taped to the window with our reserved seats which was great. Beautiful ride up from Flam to Myrdal. Nowhere in the world is there an adhesion-type railway on normal tracks with a steeper climb. Almost 80% of the railway line has a gradient of 55% or 1:18 with many tunnels. Work began in 1923, opened for electric trains in 1944. There are 20 tunnels on the hour long journey, with 18 excavated by hand. Each metre took a month. The train stops at Kjosfossen for a brief photo op of the thundering falls complete with mythical water sprites and music. There are stops both going up and coming back so plenty of opportunities for a picture. Not much to do at Myrdal, so we only waited maybe 10 -15 minutes for the return train down. After we returned to Flam the weather got rainy again and we were tired from being up and out so early ( we are not the proverbial early birds) so we went back to the ship to rest. Others took boat rides out on the fjord or found other pursuits.
Capital of Norway and a big city, we headed into town to catch the tram to the Vigeland Sculpture Park. Beautiful day with lots of families picnicking in the park. We were amazed and loved seeing these 212 bronze and granite sculptures. I think we could have easily taken 212 photos as one was more wonderful than the next. This park is a great place to relax with many paths, ponds and a snackbar/souvenir shop and clean bathrooms. Great ice cream too. We got back on the tram heading for the center of town and the museums. We went to the National Gallery with a surprisingly beautiful impressionist room with gorgeous works. We saw a special exhibit for the 150th birthday of Edvard Munch including The Scream and I got my cultural fix. Afterwards we mosied down to the Spikersuppa for a bit of lunch and people watching at an outdoor cafe. Luckily it was under a tent as the skies opened up for a brief rain shower. We then walked past the Palace on to the Akershus Fortress and took a tour of Akershus Castle. We saw a bride and her military officer groom taking photos in the garden. The castle was originally built as a medieval fortified castle around 1300. It's primary function was to defend Oslo. It was rebuilt in the renaissance style in the 17th century. It's primary function today is to house the representation rooms of the Norwegian government. I always enjoy seeing the furnishings and artwork in situ. The tapestries were magnificent.