As first time cruises we traveled with family who are old hats but we used Cruise Critic to help with the planning and as a result we had an absolutely amazing trip. We are now converts to the cruising experience and are planning the next trip already.
Not sure what to put so I may seem to be rambling but here goes. We arrived at the embarkation early and basically walked right on to the ship, really had no waiting other than the security area. The staff were very helpful and so we were able to begin enjoying the experience with no stress after boarding. When we disembarked our group was called as we arrived at our meeting area and we were able to leave the ship pick up our luggage and be on our way with absolutely no delays.
Not having anything to compare it to we were very pleased with the ship, it was easy to find our way around and we were always greeted with pleasant smiles and helpful staff.
We did not use any of the extra facilities or services - to busy relaxing and enjoying the piano bar (see below). We did use the buffet area for breakfast and for snacks when we arrived back from the port visits. We were able to find what we needed and it was very tasty, we even tried some things that were new to us which is what these experiences are all about.
We tended to take our before dinner refreshment in Micheal's Club and were treated like we were someone important. Randy and Lily became a key part to daily activities - checking in each night before and after dinner and they made us feel like old friends. Not sure if this appropriate but we would encourage a visit to see Randy and Lily in Micheal's Club. During this trip the piano player was Richard Rubin and we also highly recommend spending time with very talented musician. His "act" is very dependent upon audience interaction so keep that in mind.
We had the late sitting and this is the only real negative because they changed the time from 8:15 to 8:45 which makes for quite a late evening. We ate all the dinners in the dining room except for the day in Berlin because we arrived back too late. Our dining room staff of Sweetee Gonzales(?) and Nesimi Tucmuck(?) were again instrumental in making this such an enjoyable experience. We had a table with just the 4 of us and we were able to laugh and joke with the staff developing a good rapport.
Obviously the meals were great with a good selection although I would have liked to see a couple of regional dishes when we were in the areas. It would seem to me that this would be an opportunity to showcase what are some of the unique foods in northern Europe. I realize that there are health concerns and food inspection concerns but I wonder if those could not be overcome.
We did not participate in any of the Cruise line shore excursions. With the exceptions of Berlin and St. Petersburg we did the ports on our own using the Jump On and Off buses and generally these worked well. Copenhagen was not as good due to traffic congestion but that is the nature of the beast when 6 cruise ships arrive in the port at the same time and there was road construction in the older areas of the city.
For Berlin and St. Petersburg we used SPB Tours and had great service and tours. In both centers we opted for the private car with a driver and guide and we found that this was an awesome way to see the cities. Especially in St. Petersburg where were able to by-pass the long lines and because we were a small group we were generally able to move quickly through the crowds. Highly recommend this company.
All in all it was an interesting experience and if you are interested in the history of the Baltic region and the historical cities located there we highly recommend this cruise and a cruise on the Constellation is certainly one you will remember for a long time.