Let me begin by saying that overall we had a wonderful cruise. I travelled with my partner and another couple. The weather was perfect and the ports of call were mostly very interesting especially St.Petersberg, Stockholm, and Copenhagen.
We had always cruised on Princess and decided to try Celebrity on the advice of our travel agent so a good deal of the chatter amongst us was comparisons between the two lines. Naturally we remembered everything good about Princess whenever we had a complaint with Celebrity!
Overall, while my travelmates may beg to differ, I thought Celebrity was quite good. It was a little more laid back, treated us more as adults and spared us the constant onboard announcements of fabulous goings on at the Lido deck etc etc.
On the flip side, you have to be sharp if you want to know whats going on when and which food service location is open at what time of day. The constant opening and closing of food service locations was quite a source of bemusement for me and irritation for my friends. At times it almost seemed like the crew took some pleasure in closing a buffet line or a pastry shop just as a hungry passenger got there. There was no slack cut. They closed on time no matter who was waiting!
As for food quality we were disappointed, especially since we were told the food would be a cut above Princess. This does not apply to the upcharge location as we did not partake. Quite simply the dining room and buffet food was average to poor, the menu was repetitive and the desserts were tasteless. The exception was the Spa area where the food was very good although very repetitive. The dining room service was average and the wine service was very very slow.
Bar service was generally poor and was virtually non existent on the pool deck. The Cova Cafe was an exception. It was terrific and we loved the staff there. For the life of me I don't understand why they kept closing the pool deck bar in the middle of a sunny day or why only some locations had coloda mix. They sure didn't maximize their bar dollars from my group!
Cabin service was excellent. We were in Concierge Class and were glad of it. The in room breakfast service was punctual and classy and our Steward could not have been any more considerate.
As for shore excursions, we have learned to do things on our own whenever possible. We made the mistake of taking a couple of bus tours on this trip and were rudely reminded once again why we like to do things on our own. Guides droned on and some of the passengers rudely returned to the bus quite late. Most of the ports on this itinerary are easily done on your own and we highly recommend it. In Russia we hired a van and guide and were very glad we did. If you have a group of four or more this option is not as expensive as it seems and you get so much more flexibility.
In summary, this was an enjoyable itinerary and a pretty good ship, although you have to be a bit proactive if you want to get the most out of it. Celebrity seems more laid back and leaves you more in charge of your trip. If you need to be spoon fed with itineraries and food all the time you may be disappointed.