Background: This was our 13th cruise in the last 3 years, but our first Baltic cruise. It followed a transatlantic crossing on the Celebrity Constellation, so we were constantly comparing the experiences on the two ships. And, frankly, the Constellation came off second best by a large margin.
Travel to Port of Embarkation: We got off the Century in Amsterdam and spent a few days there. The weather was great and the tulips were in bloom! We flew to Gatwick and rented a car for a couple of days. It rained on us, and this was the only rain we saw on the entire trip of over one month. We returned the rental car (Enterprise) to Colchester, which was the closest office to the port of Harwich. I would not recommend this rental because of the high dropoff charge. We then had to take a train from Colchester to Harwich.
Embarkation: The train station in Harwich is right in the cruise terminal - very convenient. Celebrity checkin was not busy and we were on the ship in under 20 minutes, although we had to wait until the room was ready after 1:00 PM. People who checked in after 1:00 PM said that the lines were long and it was slow, but we did not see this.
Stateroom: We book a guaranteed inside cabin and got one of the smallest and most run down. However, the storage space was more than adequate and the location was OK (low down and towards the middle of the ship). No complaints.
Ship Info: Celebrity likes to boast that the Constellation was been rated #1 in many polls. This was not our experience, and I certainly would rank the Connie behind the Century based on this cruise. The Connie is newer and larger, but this does not make it more attractive on our eyes. We prefer a smaller, more traditional ship. We would rate both ships well below the smaller classes of the Holland America Line.
Dining: Here is where the Constellation really fell down. We were at the late seating in the dining room and our waitstaff were some of the slowest and least responsive of any cruise ship. We complained to the head waiter, but it didn't seem to help much. Other tables said that their service was excellent, but ours was poor. For the first week of the cruise, I found the food almost inedible. I let the dining room and the customer service people know that I was unhappy, and I was not the only one who had a problem with the food. It was so bad that I refused to dine in the dining room after the first week - the only time I have ever done this on a cruise. The chef's name was Anthony Gatheral. I will never knowingly sign on to a cruise where he is the chef. The buffet was OK, but somewhat boring. The best items were the sushi and the ice cream, although I think those on the Century were better. The specialty restaurant had outstanding service and good food - I recommend this.
Activities: This cruise was very port intensive - this was why we selected it. The staff had several special events, which were well done.
Staff & Service: Except for the terrible dining room service, the rest of the staff were very helpful and friendly. Special recognition to Marissa Medal (Captain's Club Hostess) who solved a problem we had on the Century and got us our Club benefits, and Claudio Barry (Events Coordinator) who handled the CC Group activities. He got us a few extras including a tour of the bridge!
Entertainment: The production shows were good and the dancers where some of the best we have seen on the ships. Headliners were OK
Shore Excursions: The only ship's excursions we booked were the shuttle buses at the ports. These were run very well. The highlight of the cruise was our stop in St. Petersburg. We booked a tour with DenRus and had 20 people in our group. Anna, our tour guide, was the best guide we ever had. Overall, this two-day tour was excellent and well worth the money - highly recommended. I will not describe the other ports except to say that Warnemunde, Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn and Copenhagen are all great ports to visit and are not to be missed.
Disembarkation: We took the bus transfer to the airport. This was prompt and comfortable, although somewhat pricey.
Summary: A Baltic cruise is something special - and we had wonderful weather for the entire time. The Constellation is an OK ship, but we had some very bad experiences with the dining room. This is why I cannot recommend this ship. My wife said that the dining room food got significantly better the second week of the cruise, but I cannot testify to this since I did not have dinner there after the first week.