Our June 15, 2011 cruise on the Celebrity Constellation was exceptional in the service that the ship provided. This is the best run ship that we have ever been on with one exception. The Captain was visible and involved in various aspects of the Ship and his senior officers were always around. I have never been on a ship before where several senior officers were at the Gangway for the hour or so before sailing to welcome guests back to the ship. It was very impressive. They were involved and visible and responsive. The ship is very nice with the exception of the cabins which have not really been refurbished. They have new carpet and beds, but areas where the age of the ship shows are on the Verandas and in the bathrooms where there are cracked tiles and rust on the railings. As this was a Baltic cruise, it would have been nice to have had some room darkening drapes as there is very little darkness at this time of year, so if you go bring a sleep mask.
Our cruise was mid June, but we did not expect the kind of weather that we had. We had heard that the weather last year at this time was very warm and were very surprised by the 50-60degree weather that we had and the rain--so bring a raincoat. The Shore excursions that we took were well run (except for one)and the guides were knowledgeable and spoke English well. We took a wonderful excursion to Catherine's Palace in St. Petersburg that was in the evening and included a private tour, performance, champagne and dinner. The fact that we could see the palace when no one else was there was a real bonus, but the guide walked very quickly, didn't wait for the group to catch up, spoke softly and with poor English. Otherwise, this was a great tour and I highly recommend it.
The second day in St. Petersburg, four of us took a private tour with TJ Travel to visit Peterhof in a private car. We were exceptionally pleased with our experience. We were very, very pleased with our guide Sasha and the itinerary that she and Alec, our driver came up within consultation with us. We had only very general requests before we arrived and they were flexible and most cooperative. Sasha was an excellent guide, spoke wonderful English and made sure that we were able to see all the highlights in the city before we took the hydrofoil to Peterhof. On the previous day we had seen the city, but without any stops. We were able to visit the Great Synagogue, Church on the Spilled Blood, and other important sites. Her information about Peterhof and its gardens and development was comprehensive and easy to understand. After visiting the amazing grounds with outstanding gardens and fountains we stopped at a typical Russian restaurant at which we had lunch. The borscht was very nostalgic as it tasted just like the one that my Russian grandmother made. Made me very happy. All in all a terrific experience and I highly recommend TJ Travel.
One comment about the activities staff on board. The Activities director was enthusiastic and friendly. The staff, not so much. Several activities were cancelled and Progressive Trivia was so hard that on the first day the high score was 6 out of 20. Not very much fun. One word about the Name that Tune pianist--Richard Rubin--FANTASTIC! By the end of the cruise you had to arrive 30 minutes before the start just to get a seat.