First of all, I want to say this was an AWESOME cruise. Even though we had a few dips and turns on this vacation.
Pre Cruise. We stayed at the Southampton Premier Inn West Quay. Near the cruise terminal and adjacent to the West Quay Shopping center that was AMAZING and fun to walk around in...was able to find this great map of Copenhagen but ended up NOT needing it as the cruise ship had very detailed maps of each port BUT you had to go down to Guest Relations to pick one up at each port.
TO get back to the Premier Inn. It is a NO FRILLS hotel...i.e. sans a check in counter...more like a kiosk from the airport, no luggage trolley and only 30 min free WI fi. They did have a podium that a young girl was at and she ended up checking us in'and a young man in the lobby ended up carrying our 5 pieces of luggage upstairs for us. For 70 lbs., we felt it was a bargain with vat and full breakfast included'Little did we know that in the UK the residents were only paying 39 lbs per night'
Main problem was our ATM cards that did not work and necessitated a 55 min call back to our back to sort out the nightmare'We ended up at the White Star Tavern for dinner of delicious fish n chips and beer.
The following day we checked into the ship. NO PROBLEMS at all and were whisked on and got our glass of champagne or mimosa and headed up to the Oceanview Cafe for the buffet till our rooms were ready.
Our cabin- 1251 which was on the 10th floor'concierge class 'was great. BIGGER balcony than we had on the rear of the ship when we sailed the Reflection in April of this year. Very happy with our room and our cabin steward and his helper.
Dinner every night was prebooked into the Moonlight Sonata -select dining- for 730 pm.
Our waiter was Calet, from Honduras, and his helper from Mauritius. BOTH terrific wait staff. The pretty blonde maitre de was wonderful and accommodating as was the male maitre de ( I forgot both names, sorry)'we never had to wait more than 10 min for our table with the exception of the final formal night when we change our table from 2 to 6 to sit with new friends.
Our first port was Bruges and it was beautiful. It did rain in the early am but we got a TAXI by GEORGES and he picked up 6 of us with a van ( we ended up with 8 people ) so the cost into the city and back to the ship ended up costing us 25 euros per couple. Way cheaper than the cruise shuttle and we pre-booked it.
We took a carriage ride thru the highlights of town and then walked thru the city eating chocolates and waffles'we ended up at De Vier Winden restaurant for the best lunch of mussles in cream and garlic sauce..go to trip advisor and put in this place and read my review. DELICIOUS. Highly recommend it. Walked around the square and since it was Sunday, most good shops were closed.
Dinner the first night was in Murano (they have a 20% discount if u book the specialty restaurants on the first and last night of cruising, so we always do this. Food was good but my lamb chops could not be cut with 2 different knives so I changed my lamb into a diver scallop dinner. My starter was the crab parfait which was to die for. Hubs had the lobster bisque, which was amazing. Dessert was both a chocolate souffle and a chocolate ganache cake'both killers. We loved the tableside cooking of hubs lobster in cream sauce.
2day was at sea and for us , from FL, it was chilly'in the 60's ..But we sat at the indoor pool in sweaters and pants and read. Totally relaxing. I went to the gym to use the machines and it was totally full of people. The spa food at the indoor pool buffet was delicious as always'salmon salad or chicken salad in cups, or make your own salad, plus soups and yogurt sundae bar plus custard ice cream.
Next was on to Berlin. We did ALL of our tours (Berlin,Stockholm,Helsinki,and Tallinn) with SPB tours. The only tour we did with Celebrity was St Petersburg as it was a gift to us 'we should have done St Pete with SPB but I will get to that later. Berlin was one of our BEST TOURS and our BEST GUIDE, Heather. From SPB. She has a Masters in Jewish Studies and German History, is American, and lives in Berlin. Her knowledge of the city was bar none, THE BEST!!! She took us all over. And even ordered our lunch ahead of time so all we had to do was walk into the restaurant and eat it...saved us a ton of time and was delicious also'great schnitzel and bratwurst.
Our next day was at sea'we went to the outdoor pool and lay out and again just relaxed.
Following day was Stockholm'we got up and had breakfast up on the Oceanview Cafe. Best place to make sure you got HOT EGGS and HOT WAFFLES as if u ordered these items in the main dining room, they arrived at room temperature.
Getting back to Stockholm'what a gorgeous city. Again we did an SPB tour and our guide was wonderful.
Absolutely loved this city. The architecture was colorful and beautiful. We definitely want to come back here.
We had lunch in Old Town at this Italian restaurant in the Center of the Sq. DELICIOUS and it included Coffee.
The shows on the ship in the Eclipse Theater were always good'where it was the singers and dancers, the magician, the juggler or the "Circque De Soleil " type acrobatic show'ALL were top notch and kept us occupied and happy campers.
Most of the travelers on this cruise were British'a lot were travelling with small kids but u really never saw these kids during the day as they were in kid camp. The teenagers, however, took over the hot tub and Celebrity had to have a security man there to limit their time in the tubs as they were overcrowding them.
We met the nicest British couples that I sure hope we get a chance to see again!!
Moonlight Sonata was good to very good. Portions ran from very small to huge'most appetizers were amazing'it took them 3 days to get the French Onion soup up to par but when they did, it was FABULOUS!! If Lamb Chops are on the menu in the main dining room, order them. They were actually better than Murano's rack of lamb.
We had dinner one night in Tuscan Grille and nothing was right. Seafood was like rubber bands (overcooked), so they invited us back for a "try us again meal "2 nights later and it was AWESOME'we will DEFINITELY GO back to Tuscan Grill on our next cruise. Their Lobster papparadelle dish was to die for!! And their mango sorbet was the best gelato on the ship.
Most mornings in port we had room service delivered so we could make the best use of time. Since we were concierge class, we got canapes and anything else that we requested in the room in the afternoon...2 bottle of wine were sent to our room by Celebrity and we ended up taking both bottles down to the dining room and drinking them there..
Helsinki was next. OF ALL the ports we visited, this was our LEAST favorite. The architecture was nothing spectacular 'except for the Rock Church'The esplanade was gorgeous and full of designer shops'but the fun place was the OPEN MARKET. Make sure u go there for some fried smelts and some salmon soup. BEST bargain for lunch on the entire trip. Food was enough to share one order of each for 2 people and total cost was `17 euros. You sat outside under tents with little tables overlooking the harbor. And then had a chance to walk thru the market and see what the local talent made and sold.
There is an AMAZING ARTIST as you come off the ship and walk thru a huge covered warehouse on the way to the sightseeing buses. She is on the left side. And her hand dyed and hand painted textile tops ( linen) with matching linen scarves or linen and silk shawls, were GORGEOUS'I could not pass this up as the colors were beautiful'so I brought home a little bit of Finland with me..in shades of turquoise ,lavender and purple. This lady is the ONLY true custom artist that I saw the entire day (that was in an outdoor venue)'Support her. Her work is GORGEOUS!!
Our tour guide in Helsinki was via SPB tours and was AWFUL. Her English was terrible, it was hard to understand her and all she did was telling us how students get all these discounts all over the city...2 hrs of listening to this was enough. Get a better guide to show us the city.
Following day was St Petersburg and here it gets dicey. We did our free 2 day St Petersburg tour via Celebrity. They changed the itinerary on us and gave us 2 easy tours the first day and 2 long hard tours the 2nd day. ONE WORD'AWFUL'.we were herded like cattle. Our guide, Innah (I think this is how u spell it) was good. She didn't understand a lot of American slang so there was a slight language problem but all in all, she was good. Lunch was included and on day one we went to this cute Russian rest. Where the waiters were dressed in costume, the place had red walls, was festive and the food was decent : hot borscht, teeny cracker with spot of caviar, salad and beef stroganoff with some mystery dessert that look like jell on a biscuit. But also included champagne and a shot of vodka.
The 2nd day in St Pete was a Sunday. We were taken to Catherine's Palace (AWESOME with gorgeous rooms, amazing parquet floors and stupendous gardens and fountains. Lunch (via Celebrity) was at the Grand Palace restaurant...which was neither grand NOR a palace. In fact, it was a joke. They herded 3 buses of people upstairs to one room and we were about 8 to a table.
Again, we got our champagne and shot of vodka but then, AWFUL rest of meal. Had Soup that literally tasted like dishwater. A salad with no dressing. DRY chicken with mashed potatoes (the chicken was inedible as it could have been used as shoe leather it was so dry and tough)...and ICE CREAM for dessert.
Not a typical Russian meal by any stretch of the imagination. We were then taken to Le Hermitage Museum along with 5 other cruise ship buses and it was hurry up, wait in line, hurry up and move, wait, move 'you get the picture'plus it was SUNDAY and the museum closed an hour earlier.
BAD MOVE on Celebrity's part. We were told the change was due to the G20 Summit being planned and roads being closed but in the 2 days in town, we saw stuff 4 and 5 times over from the bus. I WISHED I had taken the SPB TOUR as they got a grand 2 days and it was way more personalized. I had not done a cruise ship tour in 20 yrs. and it will be another 20 before I do one again.
HEADS UP TO ALL WHO WANT TO BUY AMBER'Do NOT buys it in St Pete. It is overpriced and a major rip-off'.they see us Americans coming'My husband got me a gorgeous pendant in Catherine's Palace Museum shop and paid a fortune for it...They also did not offer any VAT refund.
As we left St Pete, we had dinner in the Tuscan Grill .Make sure u book this place on the day you LEAVE St Pete as u go thru a set of locks in the sea. Bring your camera. While it is not the Panama Canal set of locks, it is still interesting how Russia protected her port with these locks. We had the BEST veal chop and rib eye steak ever. And Lobster Papparadelle'with dessert of pistachio Brule over a bed of hard chocolate.
The Following day was TALLIN, Estonia and again we did an SPB TOUR. We LOVED our guide, a wonderful young man, who walked us up and down the cobblestone streets'and suggested great restaurants to try. We had lunch in the old town at "Hansa" , a local culinary place'they are known for their HONEY BEER ( try it..I hate beer and I could have drunk a liter of it...it was delicious)...Our waitress was in costume and we ate outside under a cover arbor...We had the cream of wild mushroom soup, the meat soup, and a plate of local cheese and meats and amazing bread.
If you want to buy AMBER, TALLINN is the place to purchase it on this cruise IN OLD TOWN.
Items were more unusual and way cheaper than St Pete. Plus this little town was friendly and happy and the people were a pleasure to deal with.
We had another dinner at Murano on the ship and the 2nd time, it was PERFECT'Lobster was cooked tableside to perfection'just a total joy there. Had the grand marnier souffle with vanilla sauce for dessert. TO DIE FOR. Had pieces of orange at the bottom of the souffle'yummy. Service in here is amazing and always top notch.
The Next day was Copenhagen'we had no tours planned. We did the hop on/hop off green bus. NOT WORTH IT...and we did the canal tour with a guide of the same sights we saw from the bus...WAYYYY better...you could get pictures and the guide was wonderful.We used STOMMA canal tour. Took about an hour and was wonderful. Had lunch at some little restaurant in NYhavvan on the canal. THIS was the MOST expensive city that we were in..Lunch cost $45 EUROS for a piece pork tenderloin, an open face sandwich of ONE meatball sliced into 4 parts on mayo , 1 small beer and 1 lg beer. Food was dry. Day was hot'If u want better food, u do not have to walk all the way to Nyhavvan as there is a little alley leading to Strogert St that is full of fixed price restaurants for lunch. Then we went shopping on Strogert St ( they were having amazing sales so I got a butter soft very stylish suede jacket that is paper thin) :D
This was at Stampe ( a local Danish furrier and leather shop)
And finally , the last 2 days were again at sea'it was cool . so we opted to sit by the indoor pool and read.
Heads up to those who love SCONES'every day from 2 pm til 4 pm, the Oceanview Cafe has outstanding scones with strawberry jam and whipped cream ( not clotted cream) and they are FABULOUS..
Disembarkation was a piece of cake'we shared a van back to Heathrow and overnighted at the Crown Plaza Hotel...even though it is in the middle of nowhere next to the airport, it had a fabulous Indian restaurant called Eriki'Unusual and amazing Indian food.