Long days in the Baltic
Baltic & Northern Europe
This was our second Celebrity cruise but the first on Eclipse
Embarkation was so smooth, it really didn't take any time at all and Southampton is well organised for ships as large as the Eclipse.
The room was ready and excellent;plenty of room, neat, clean with friendly staff meeting you. We really liked the design.
We did Select Dining and didn't have to wait more than 15 mins on any night in the Moonlight Sonata dining room. We saw a variety of waiting staff who were all excellent and attentive, remembering you even if they did not serve you that night. At this point we must say how wonderful the staff were; they never failed to speak as you walked by them and could not do enough to please you. They were so patient with those who considered it was their place to criticise, far more than we could have been. How mealie-mouthed some people can be!
We enjoyed the trip around the kitchens and the Head Chef proved very entertaining, as was Que. More
The entertainment was OK although we would personally have preferred more comedy.We enjoyed the Behind the Podium lectures
We bought a Rick Steve's guide to use to walk around the ports on our own; our advice is that if you are fit do most of these ports on your own, language is not usually a barrier and the buses, trams and trains are reliable and cheaper.
Disembarkation was excellent and slick yet we didn't feel they were in a hurry to get rid of us to clean the cabins for the next trip. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
We only had 6 hours in Brugges on Sunday so opted for the 'Brugges on its own' trip rather than wrestle the vagaries of local transport. This gave us about 4 hours to spend in the City and opted to go up the Tower in the main Square, follow a Rick Steve's walk, have a trip on the canal and finish at the Half Moon brewery. Weather was cloudy but it was a good day
Copenhagen was a busy city and we were given the impression that we would be 2 days there but we do not count 30 mins past midnight a second day. This proved disappointing in the end because we felt the boat slowed down a great deal on this last leg giving us 2 days at sea when we thought it could have left Copenhagen at noon on the second day and still got back to Southampton in time
We found the Little Mermaid easily enough, a short walk from the boat, and also the Resistance museum which was very good. We then decided to go on the HOHO bus that was at the dock to try to get to the Carlsberg Museum which is some way out of the city. It was really interesting but by the time we had tasted our 2 beers and went back to the bus stop we had missed all the HOHO buses for the day. Apparently they stop running at 3.15. If you go to Copenhagen please be aware of this and do the bus tour first then around the harbour next. We didn't get into Nyhaven which was disappointing. The traffic was very busy and there were a lot of roadworks so the HOHO trips around the City although interesting were very time consuming
We needed the shuttle bus to get into Helsinki because this boat was too large to go too close to the Central area. Be aware of this if you are cruising, some of the larger boats moor out of town and need transport into the main areas. We caught the 'figure of 8' tram to get out to the Olympic Stadium but it was disappointingly closed. By the time we got back to do our Rick Steve's walk around the city it began raining! After a spell in the Stockman Shopping area and a bit of free WiFi in McDonalds we returned to the ship a little disappointed. I'm sure if the weather had been better it would have been a more positive experience;perhaps it calls for another visit,
Having been to Berlin in February (we did not think a long trip on this cruise would do it justice)we opted to go by train into Rostock, then return by river boat to Warnemunde. Rostock was OK but the afternoon in Warenmunde was really relaxing and charming. We walked along the promenade and had an inexpensive beer whilst others took advantage of the floating fish and chip vendors!
We were briefed by Celebrity regarding our visit to St Petersburg and getting off the boat. We had pre-booked a 2 day trip around the city and had concerns that we may be left to get off the boat after others on booked trips even though our was supposed to start at 7.30. This was not the case however and thanks to Celebrity organisation we were some of the first off the boat. I have to say though that the Immigration system is laborious and slow and apparently we got them on a good day! We must recommend our tour however. SPB tours are only a small firm and there were only 8 of us in a mini bus but their organisation was superb and personal. The guide, Katya was so informative and we really wasted no time at all. Neither did we rush around from place to place. We both loved St Petersburg despite all the crowds and didn't really have to queue for anything. We saw St Peter & Paul fortress, Yusurpov Palace, Hermitage, Catherine's Palace, Peterhof and the Church of the Spilled Blood; had a ride on the subway, saw several wedding celebrations, a trip on a boat and hydrofoil. We really didn't have the energy to go to the ballet at night but the ship did have Russian dancers for the entertainment
The trip into and out of Stockholm through a multitude of islands takes about 4 hours, and there several photo opportunities. We moored outside the city again but went to the Tourist information and bought bus tickets. Getting into the City Centre was easy from here. We did not have any Swedish money and there was not a cash point at the dock but the TI let us use a credit card to pay. We then went on the HOHO boat to go around the City which we paid for with credit card again. All was going well until we went to the Palace and attempted to go to the toilet where we needed to pay with coins!!!!! Having paid for a novelty from the shop in Euros we returned to the toilets to find that a groups of Spanish ladies had taken them over and decided that everyone would hold open the door for everyone else so we still have the coins in our pockets today!We went on a Rick Steve walk and found a Boston themed sports bar which was very friendly but beer is expensive. We visited the Vasa museum before returning to the boat which also does free english tours and sub-titled videos; a very interesting experience
After busy days in St Petersburg the laid back strolling around Tallin was a nice contrast. Entry into the City with the abundance of graffiti at the dock does not give you any inkling of the rest of the cit. It is easily walkable from the port and very picturesque. The Town Square is busy and great for people watching; there was a bell ringing concert as part of the City of Culture celebrations but we found people friendly and the views special