Highlights included the itinerary, entertainment, guest service personnel, availability of senior staff, speaker’s series, freshly prepared food on Deck 10, room service, and St Petersburg/Taillin. If you were Celebrity rewards Elite or above (we are not), there were many more free activities like cocktail parties, meetings with senior staff, ship tours, etc. Itinerary included a great sampling of Baltic countries topped off by two days in St. Petersburg. The entertainment was great – the show troupe had multiple great lead singers and these were complemented by several outstanding individual performers including a ventriloquist, magician/comic, and an A Cappella quartet. Guest Services always had the right answer and the staff had real people skills – especially when dealing with the folks that had problems. I was very surprised to see senior staff at the ramp welcoming you back from excursions and in many other public areas where you could easily approach them. The speaker’s series offered two knowledgeable and interesting speakers - one from NASA and an individual with in depth knowledge of the ports. Speaking of ports, St Petersburg was great because of the multitude of treasures (2 days does not even scratch the surface) and Taillin for its simplicity (just a quaint little old town). Deck 10 had multiple stations that would prepare fresh food – eggs for breakfast, pasta bar, stir-fry, Sushi, and my midnight favorite - made to order personal pizzas. The crepe specialty restaurant was fun for $5. We did not do either of the main specialty restaurants, however, the menu sounded like variations of the main dinner menu. We were in a Concierge class cabin. This type cabin comprises almost 50% of the cabins on the ship – so it is not as special as it sounds. There was more than adequate storage and the bathroom layout was very functional.
The staff provided pockets of excellence (headwaiter, cabin steward, and guest services as previously mentioned), however, the overall effort was disappointing. Our head waiter tried hard to provide quality meals however the kitchen made it difficult and his assistant could not keep us supplied with bread, butter, or ice tea. (Hint – Order your meat on the red side – Rare for medium rare.) Our room steward took good care of us and checked in on my wife several times when she was under the weather and I took a scheduled tour. On the flip side the assistant had trouble dealing with the shower mildew and picking up trash on the balcony. We spoke to many folks who had taken the transatlantic relocation cruise and raved about the crew on that voyage. Well in Amsterdam a large number of them went home for 2 months of vacation and the replacements came on board. This made the first week rough on the new crew getting to know their jobs and the new Baltic circuit. I hope things improve after this shake down trip.
Areas of improvement include embarkation, port docking locations, dining room experience, Internet, and value for the money. Embarkation was a hassle even though we arrived late and supposedly received priority boarding. The staff and facility did not understand the concept of a queue line and they needed more folks to handle a full ship check in. On this cruise you will see cargo terminals except in Amsterdam, Taillin, and St. Petersburg. This means ship shuttles to get to the town center or the Hop On Hop Off buses will meet you dock side at every port. HOHO is more expensive then the shuttle so make sure you need there full service. For the most part the food in the main dining room was hit and miss. We went for one breakfast and the food seemed pre-made. Only lunch experience was the lunch buffet – quantity over quality. The menu improved for the last three nights with several gems – prime rib, pork chops, lobster, Beef Wellington. The Internet was overloaded and response time was slow – all the celebrity Elite and above cruisers receive a large number of free minutes to use. Several ports offered free Internet connections; the fastest being in Copenhagen. The most disappointing item would be value for the money. If this had been a Carnival cruise it would have been fantastic, for Celebrity it was a disappointment especially around the food and the lack of a coordinated crew.
Ports – Rostock- Warnemuende – Cargo Port – Shuttle into town available. We took the Lubeck / Wismar ship tour. You did see two Unesco sites, however, there were no interior visits on the tour so it was a little disappointing. In hindsight we could have had the same experience taking the shuttle into Rostock. Note that almost all the folks that took the long trip into Berlin really enjoyed the experience.
Ports – Stockholm – Cargo Port – We took the Day in Stockholm tour. Found it worthwhile since highlights in Stockholm are spread out. The one item that folks will remember is the Vasa Museum which houses the full flagship Wasa which sank in 1628 and was totally preserved.
Ports – Helsinki – Cargo Port – Shuttle in to town – Visit Uspenski Cathedral, Senate Square, Market Square (open Air Market) and took the ferry over to Suomenlinna (Sea Fortress). Bypassed Granite Church since they are repairing the roof and there are no interior visits.
Ports – St Petersburg – Remember you can only leave the ship on a tour with a guide. We did the Celebrity two-day package. This package is equal to what is offered by third party tour companies – Celebrity listened to last year’s feedback. On the first day there were 6 ships in port and the venues in town were crowed. Actually because of the rain and need to give up coats before entering the Hermitage Museum, there almost was a catastrophe as there were people everywhere and a lot of stairs to navigate. The second day with only 3 ships left it felt like you had every venue to yourself. Everybody liked their tour regardless of what they chose. Again the folks that took the long tour – flight to Moscow – came back with positive comments.
Ports – Tallinn – Passenger Terminal – Old town is an easy 10 minutes walk from ship and easily explored on your own. The town is great and in general the prices are better than anywhere else on the cruise circuit. Note the shore excursions got into a couple of churches not open to public. Keep your eyes open for the Blue 18-wheeler Semi Truck at the harbor entrance. They sell “Kalev” candies – most bags are E1.50. A real bargain and the chocolates are actually good.
Ports – Copenhagen – Cargo Port – Shuttle in to town – Visit the Nyhavn harbor area and do the canal tour first to get the city layout. Nettie boats is off to the right past the HOHO Boat area that sits at the front of the Harbor. Tour is Euro 6 – change is in Danish currency. We had time for a Canal tour, Nyhavn harbor area visit, walk past the little mermaid, Amalienborg Palace (got lucky and watched part of the guard change at noon), and Rosenborg Castle a museum that includes the crown jewels.