This is a wonderful cruise on a lovely ship, and the highlight for us was definitely St Petersburg. We booked a two day tour with SPB which cost $200 each, and we felt it was good value, as it included visas, and entrance to several tourist attractions, including the Hermitage, which we were booked in at 9.30am, before most people are allowed in. There was a slight hitch caused by the SPB guide having to wait for our tickets to be delivered, and we were delayed by about 10 minutes which upset another tourist, who totally overreacted to what was only a very minor problem.
The Hermitage is amazing, and has collections of paintings by many of the most important artists from all over the world, as well as many other artworks of historical interest.
Also of interest was the Metro which is ornately decorated and has friezes depicting the triumph of Communism.
Our guide Max had an encyclopaedic knowledge, and could answer questions on all manner of subjects, and More
because we were part of a small group of eight tourists he was able to speak to us all personally.
SPB describes itself as "your personal tour operator", and at the end of the tour we were met by Vika from the tour company, who wanted to check that the tour had met our expectations, and this was a very nice touch.
However, it is obvious that tour operators have restrictions imposed upon them by the Russian government, and they are only allowed to take their tourists to approved places, which does not allow any contact with local people. It would have been interesting to talk to ordinary Russians and get their views on how Russia has changed since the collapse of Communism.
Stockholm is a lovely city, and my partner's cruise highlight after St Petersburg, was the sailaway through the Stockholm archipelago, which is very beautiful.
Tallinn is a picturesque and historic town, although it was difficult to tell which buildings were genuinely medieval, and which had been built more recently to match the style. We printed off a walking tour from the internet, and followed it to ensure that we saw all the most interesting buildings, and to get an appreciation of the history of the city.
We did not have much time in Helsinki, but what we saw of it was not very impressive. Some of the buildings in the city centre seemed very drab and quite badly maintained, but the cathedral and port area is attractive.
Celebrity definitely need to rethink their arrangements at Copenhagen, where we were docked alongside a desolate wasteland several miles from the city centre. If the ship has to dock here Celebrity should provide a complimentary shuttle service to the city centre, rather than charging the passengers to get off the ship, which is effectively what they are presently doing. Having said that it is an attractive and interesting city. However, its most famous landmark - the Little Mermaid - is quite a long way from the centre, and is small, although very charming.
We had a wonderful experience in Zeebrugge. We had not made plans to go on a tour so decided to see what the port had to offer, and stumbled upon an old Russian submarine, which is now a museum exhibit, together with an old lightship. We took the tour and when we returned to the entrance we asked the curator, Stephanie, some questions about what we had seen. She is a very nice person, and suggested that we really should take the opportunity to see Bruges when we were so close, and offered to arrange a taxi for us. However, she was so shocked at the quotation she was given of 50 euros each way, that she then rang her husband and asked if he could take us, which he did. We will never forget the kindness of this lovely couple, and this will be a treasured memory.
Warnemunde is billed as the starting port for a trip to Berlin, but it is about three hours each way so we elected to stop in the port which is a typical seaside resort, but has some lovely architecture and is an attractive town.
We have also cruised on the Constellation, and this was our second cruise on the Eclipse but was not as good an experience as we have previously enjoyed with Celebrity. We felt that standards of service were not up to previous levels. There were several instances of poor customer service, and we felt unwelcome on our last evening and on the day we disembarked. Cabin attendants should not start preparing the cabin for the next passengers whilst we were still using it, by for example hanging clean robes in the wardrobe whilst we still had our clothes in it, and changing bedlinen and remaking the bed whilst we were at breakfast, before disembarking.
On another occasion whilst we were eating in the Oceanview restaurant one of the waiters began hoovering around our table before we had finished our meal, and had to be asked to wait until we had left.
The worst occasion however, occurred in the Moonlight Sonata. We were on Select dining so expected to have to wait to be seated on occasion, and on this evening we had waited approximately 15 minutes before being seated at a table which had the sun shining on it and I could not see my partner for the light in my eyes. The waitress moved us to another table which was just as bad, so I asked if the blinds could be closed. She referred to her supervisor, who told us that it would upset other customers if the blinds were closed and that the only thing he could do for us was to seat us on the other side of the dining room. We agreed to this but had not realised that there were no tables available there and we had to wait another 20 minutes for a table to become available. To make matters worse, we could see that whilst we had been waiting for a table the blinds on the other side of the dining room had been closed. After our meal I went to ask the supervisor why he had not closed the blinds when I had requested it but had subsequently done so. His explanation that several passengers had requested that the blinds be closed after we had vacated out table did nothing to placate me, and our evening was spoiled by his initial intransigence.
There were also occasions when waiters leaned across us when serving and removing plates etc, which in itself is not a major issue but is symptomatic of a lack of awareness of the need make passengers feel comfortable. Celebrity should improve staff training to make them more considerate of their passengers.
The Celebrity offering is still very good, but does not match their claim to provide "modern luxury". Less
This is a very quiet cabin, and the only problems we found related to storage. The wardrobes are on the back wall of the bathroom and down one side of the bed, making access difficult and it is impossible for two people to use it at the same time. The whole of the dressing table surface is taken up by the kettle tray. The settee is uncomfortable and more space could be created by removing it and replacing it with two (comfortable) chairs.The beds are very comfortable and we slept well.