This was Jane and myselfs first Celeb cruise, though we got on as Elite members being already Diamond on RCI. This was our first time driving to Southampton too. Got to Gate 8 around1.30 (after a hold up on the M3). Dropped off luggage, parked car and in the terminal by 1.45. Quickly through the scanners then queuing to check in. Although it looked a long line, we had our cards within 10 mins. First problem...getting on the ship. Walked to the doors to the right of check in to go up the escalators. Girls from the Spa were accosting people this side of the doors and just the other side 3 (count them..3) photographers were trying to capture the looks of the road weary passengers and effectively blocking the corridor. True to form, we barged our way through and probably spoilt a few shots (sorry to any one involved, but I detest the ships photographers!! Rant over). Welcomed on board with a glass of champers or orange. We both had orange. Went straight up to our cabin (9280) and started unpacking our carry on. Even though we were later than many, our other bags arrived within 30 mins, so started on them too.
Cabin 9280 is in the centre of the starboard hump, so good views. It is probably a little narrower than similar RCI cabins we've had, but fine for purpose. The bathroom is bigger and well designed...which brings us to the two problems. The tap on the basin in the bathroom sticks right out in to the middle of the basin meaning you can't rinse your face or wash your hands without either i) banging your hands or ii) making a hell of a mess. This tap was to be increasingly annoying for the next 2 weeks. The second problem, which has been discussed, is storage. The wardrobe is not too bad, except it is hard to get at one half as the settee is in the way. There are only 5 small (15" x 18" x 8") drawers and 2 overbed cupboards, which are fairly narrow. I also wonder how elderly/disabled people get at them as you really need to stand on the bed to use them. Balcony is average sized with 2 chairs and around 'coffee' table. You can turn the fridge 'up' so it really is a fridge and not just a cool box.
The ship itself seemed much more spacious than, say, a Voyager class ship. The only reason I can think of is that the Royal Promenade on Voyager takes up so much 'air' space which is used for other purposes on Solstice class. I hope that makes sense! The Oceanview buffet area is also very spacious, though it can be tricky finding a seat at busy times. Definately a case of sharing with strangers and having a natter!! All the crockery is real (ie not plastic) and quite chunky and heavy. One lady I spoke to said she found it a bit awkward to carry as she had arthritis of the wrists. Food was generally good. Had all our breakfasts there and a couple of evening meals. We had early sitting in the MDR as late sitting was advertised as 8.45pm which we thought too late. We organised a table for 8 with some people off Cruise Critic, though on the first night the staff didn't realise that, so we sat in 2 fours, but next night they had it sorted out. Meals were generally good...you could normally find something you liked to eat. As with most cruise lines, you still seem for main course to get a big lump of meat (or fish or whatever) and hardly any veggies, so first night we asked for extra veg and after that they came automatically for everyone on the table. We only used one speciality restaurant. Went to the Tuscan Grille on the night of our second day in St Petersburg. We had pre booked this online together with the other 8 people in our CC organised tour group. However, we could only book in 2's and 4's...and there were 10 of us! So on the first evening during sailaway, we all went down and asked for a table of 10. The Tuscans maitre d' sorted it out and came up trumps with a table for 10 with a view over the stern. However, we found the service a bit slow and the Grille was not full. Sat down at 8pm, first course at 8.50, finished and asked for our wine bills at 11.20, finally left about 11.40. The food was good, but nothing super...and my pasta was cold! Not sure I would go there again. As Elite members we had our 'free drinks' event up in the Sky lounge (rather than Michaels Club), but 4pm - 6pm is not an ideal time. I would think 5pm to 7 or 8pm would be better. I'll mention other bits as I think of them.
We had our CC sailaway at the Oceanview bar and finally met everyone we had been talking to for the last 18 months. I think there was about 60 of us in the end. For the whole trip we had really good weather. Almost flat calm seas, around 28C in the shade most days...too hot for sightseeing if truth be told!
First port was Brugges (Zeebrugge) where we had organised a shared taxi to Brugges. You are not allowed to walk out of the port (even though its only 200yds), so are forced to use a taxi, ship excursion or ship shuttle for $12 return that actually takes you to Blankenburg to get the train (at your own cost). I think this was a right con. Either the shuttle should go to Brugges, or it should be free to Blankenburg. Sign of the times I suppose. We did the walking tour posted on these pages by brentjes. It was very hot and there were loads of people about. Had a beer in the Market Sq, bit more walking around then taxi back to the ship. This was alos 1st formal night. Why do they have formal nights on port days? We had 4 sea days available for formals. Surely it would be better to have them then.
First sea day spent exploring the ship and doing trivia's etc.
In Warnemunde, using HeinBloed's advice, we got the 119 bus to Bad Doberan and hopped onto the Molli steam train. Went to Kuhlungsborn West, walked down to the 'seaside' and walked along the sea wall, stopping on the way for a bite to eat and a beer. Walked to K'born East station for train back to Bad Dobern, where we caught the local train to Rostock and tram into the town. We had been walking round for about 15 mins when we decided it was too hot(!), and caught the tram and train back to Warnemunde and the ship. A very easy day to do on your own for €7.60 for all the bus/train and trams and €11.60 for the steam train.
In Stockholm, we docked at S167 and got the HOHO boat to the Vasa. Very interesting couple of hours, but unless you have got a 'proper' camera with a big flash, you can almost forget taking photos as it is so dark. Walked to the Djursgarden HOHO dock and got the boat over to Skeppsholmen. Walked round to the Royal Palace and Gamla Stan, then did a complete circuit on the HOHO boat back to the ship.
The approach roads to Helsinki LMA dock are being rebuilt, but it is easy to follow the green line out of the dock for about a 15 min walk to the big traffic light junction. We hopped on a No 8 tram and bought a day ticket (€6.80), got off by the Rock Church (which has restricted opening times...we had to wait about 20 mins until it opened at 1030), then off to do a figure of 8 round the city on the 3T/3B tram. Got off at the Olympic stadium and went up the tower (€2) for a view from about 300 feet up. Great on a day like that...no wind and sunny. Carried on on the tram to the market, where we should have gone to the Suommelenia (sp) fortress as the boat trip is included in your day ticket, but we were pushing time a bit. When walking back to the port, be aware that a lot of trucks are queuing for the ferry on the roads...just be aware of the traffic.
We then had 2 days in St Petersburg (and it was still very hot!). Celebrity had asked all guests on private tours what they were doing and had organised the whole thing well. 10 of us had booked with Denrus for a 7.30 start, so we said 7am. We met in the Tuscan Grille at 6.45 and were escorted to immigration. Just take your passport (both days), tour ticket (both days) and landing card provided by Celeb (1st day), go up to the booth and 30 secs later you are in Russia. Easier than entering the US!! Our total group size was 26, but this was OK. The itineries of the various companies are on line. My personal favourite was the Peterhof fountains. As it was a Sunday it was fairly crowded with locals. My main disappointment was the Hermitage. It was so hot and crowded (especially after queuing outside for 30 mins) it just wasn't enjoyable and most of the group were pleased when we got out into the fresh air. A couple we met did a custom tour with Anastasia (I think) and went to the Hermitage in the morning and said they had no crowds at all. This might be the way to go if the Hermitage is your priority. That night had dinner in the Tuscan Grille...and watched a Russian submarine heading the other way!
In Tallinn we again did the brentjes walking tour, but prior to that climbed onto the old cruise terminal to get a photo of the Eclipse. Its 96 steps up to the top of the old, crumbling, but partially used terminal, but a great view.
Next sea day we did a bridge tour. Thomas (2nd officer from New York) was more than happy to answer any questions and we saw the Constellation going the other way about 3 miles on our beam. You can ask for bridge and engine control room tours at guest relations, but no one is supposed to know that!!
Last port was Copenhagen (still very hot!!). We did a Segway tour with Seamus which starts right beside the ship. Great bloke and very knowledgeable. After a swift lunch on the ship, we walked to Nyhavn and got the DFDS (unguided) water bus and did the blue and green routes (getting off at the Langeline pier stop). Quick dinner in the Oceanview, then off to Tivoli. (Used the ship shuttle/entrance ticket offer. $24 for shuttle and entry). I could not get over how many restaurants were there...and they ain't cheap! Walked round looking at all the rides. I'm too old and wise to go on them now!! Back to the ship about 11pm.
We then had 2 sea days before arriving at Southampton. Disembark was a breeze and we were home by 10.30am.
Lastly, entertainment. Now I know they have to entertain all ages and all tastes, so this is just our opinion. The production shows are OK, but why do the singers (especially the girls) have to scream into the mic? It does spoil it. The last show (Eclipse:The Show) is worth going to though. Its a sort of mini Cirque du Soleil with a husband and wife acrobat/gymnast act, Sabrina (contortionist) and a Chinese guy whose name escapes me, who does the Diabalo and walks the slack rope. On the farewell show he also did 'face changing'. You tell me how he does it! The only distraction at this show were the singers warbling what I assume were supposed to be tribal chants! Of the 'guest' acts, we had Greg Bonham (Australian singer trumpter who loves himself), a girl singer (whose name escapes me) who was good...the resident singers should take note of how to do it, and best of all Neil Austin who is a comedy magician. He had the whole theatre in stitches and was by far the best act. There were the usual 'groups' around the ship, the best of these in my opinion being Sound Decision (4 guys doing acapella, but catch their Jersey Boys routine).
We did the usual trivia and name that tune sort of things and came away with some pens and T shirts etc, so not a total loss!!
We had a great time, but could have done with slightly cooler weather. The ship is beautiful, the staff great.
Any questions, I'll do my best.