We are in our 60s, have cruised with Celebrity seven times, three times on Constellation, but the first time since she was refurbished. She looks good. This time we flew to Amsterdam on the day of the cruise. (I normally wouldn’t recommend this, but it worked out fine.) Our plane reservations were made through Celebrity, and since we had made that arrangement over a year earlier, the flight was less expensive - the air fares have gone up so much. Our flight arrived about 9:30. After clearing passport control and collecting out luggage, we found the Celebrity sign and showed them our transfer voucher. They took charge of our luggage and asked us to wait for the shuttle for about 30 minutes. The bus took us to the port where we were given a boarding number. We filled out the health questionnaire and waited until our number was called. We were onboard about 11:15 and there were Mimosas and champagne waiting. By 11:30 the buffet opened and a message that cabins were ready was made before the usual 1:00 time. It all went very smoothly.
Our cabin was as expected - concierge class on Deck 9. Our luggage arrived about 3. We find that the cabin has ample storage for us. The only complaint about the cabin is that it should have much better room darkening drapes. On this trip we had about 4 days with no night – it was a cruise above the Arctic Circle, after all. Both the cabin attendant and his assistant were excellent! In fact the entire crew/staff were the best that we have had. And the captain and other officers were very visible and approachable. In the dining room the waiter and assistant were also top-notch. Two people at our table of eight put in a request for chocolate milk and iced tea, and they were there every night. We also requested bowls of berries for dessert and 4 bowls arrived each night. On lobster night (it’s actually a seafood platter) one person requested two lobster tails on his plate. Remember you can request two or three (or more) of anything. A couple of nights we asked for an extra entrée to pass around our table, so everyone could try something else.
I won’t go into details about the ship as that information is available other places on this web site. The itinerary of this cruise was unique, though. Bergen and Alesund are also ports on another cruise, but Leknes (Lofoten), Longyearbyen, and Honningsvag are once a year for Celebrity. In Bergen we docked away from the more interesting old town area and a free shuttle was available to the town center. We turned Alesund into a walking around port for us. When we were here previously we took the onshore excursion Path of the Trolls. I recommend it highly! Leknes is a tender port and there is a shuttle from the dock into town which can be purchased onboard for $7. There really is not much there. The ship offered three different excursions. We took one that went to a church and a restored fishing village/museum. We were supposed to make another stop at Sund, but for some reason it was skipped. We asked about it at guest services and were given about 1/3 of the cost credited back to our shipboard account. The tender service returning us to the ship was the low point of our cruise. I don’t know what happened, but we waited in line for almost an hour, and we were fairly close to the front of the line. Some people must have waited for about 2 hours, and there were lots of complaints about it. Even the crew person at the dock was very frustrated. We heard him calling back to the ship and asking them to send the tenders.
In Longyearbyen it was very easy to walk into town. There are some shops here and a very fine museum. In the afternoon we took an excursion around town, to the museum, and out to a dog park. Dogs are not allowed in town because so many people have dog sled teams, and the dogs would create a mess and nuisance. Outside of town are several places to board dogs. The dogs were very friendly. We were given a snack, of sorts, of dried seal meat and thin, crispy bread. My husband really liked this as it was very similar to the thin bread his Norwegian mother made.
In Honningsvag almost the whole ship made a trip to the North Cape. This is done by shuttle bus which is only a transfer with a set time to return. It is emphasized that this bus trip is not narrated. There is a lot to see and do at the North Cape, and we were lucky that it was not raining. If you do this, try to get as early a bus as possible. If you want to watch the video they show, do that first. There is a large souvenir shop and the prices reflect the remoteness. (Norway is expensive all over, though.) Many people like to buy and mail post cards from here with the North Cape postmark. A stamp costs about $3. We enjoyed the scenery along the way. There is also a brief stop to see and photograph a Sami herdsman and his reindeer. And, of course, there is a little souvenir shop. We were in Honningsvag on Sunday, so not everything was open. There is an Ice Bar that is a big attraction. It has a cover charge that includes two drinks. There is also a small souvenir shop right next to the pier. There is a troll and a statue of a large dog out front. In fact I think there were troll statues at about every port! After the ship left Honningsvag it passed by the North Cape, so we were able to see it from the vantage point of the sea.
There is a lot to do on the ship – trivia, golf contests, sports, cards, lectures, shipboard tours, cooking competition, wine tasting, reading, relaxing, pools, exercise, nothing, and music of many different styles. We were not bored. The performances with the Celebrity singers and dancers were outstanding. The other performers were average. An a capella group, Lemon Squeezy, was very well received. Perry Grant performed in Michael’s Club nearly every night and had one performance in the theater. (He was returning to Constellation and had problems with his flights, so missed the first two nights of the cruise.)
We have reached elite status with Celebrity. One of the perks is a free day at the Persian Garden when the ship is in port. Not knowing what this is, I asked at the spa desk and was able to walk in and look around. A couple of days later my husband and I made a trip there. It consists of two shower areas, an herbal steam room, a Turkish bath room, a sauna room, and a relaxing area. I believe you can either buy a one day pass or a pass for the entire cruise. Two other perks that we used were the light breakfast and the evening social hour, both in Michael’s Club. In short order the servers there got to be friends and knew what we wanted. An elegant tea is also complimentary one afternoon. Elegant tea was also offered, twice, for a fee, in Ocean Liners restaurant.
A brunch was offered twice on this trip. It ran from 10-1 in the main dining room and seemed to serve as a replacement to the midnight buffet with ice sculptures, omelet and carving stations, and other special touches. Also one evening at 11:15 a chocolate buffet was presented in Reflections. We did not eat at any of the for-a-fee dining areas. There is a coffee shop on deck 5 that was heavily used, especially in the afternoon when music was provided. The small sandwiches, cookies, and pastries are complimentary, but the various coffees are not. You could serve yourself a coffee from the buffet area on deck 10 and take it with you to enjoy an afternoon treat on deck 5. Gratuities are automatic. However, you have the option to opt out or to change them by going to Guest Services and filling out a form.
We were very lucky on this cruise to actually see the midnight sun as the weather was clear. There were people onboard who had been in the area twice before but had not seen the sun at midnight (and later) because of poor weather. It was an amazing thing, but it sure threw off sleep patterns for most of the passengers.
Our departure luggage tags and departure time were delivered to our cabin a couple of nights beforehand. The time is based on the arrangements you have for leaving the port city. We headed to our shuttle bus, waited for about 30 minutes for it to get filled, and were taken to the airport where our luggage was waiting for us curbside. The departure process was very easy.
Was this our favorite cruise? Would we do it again? Probably not, but we are very glad that we’ve done it!!