Our Celebrity Eclipse Cruise was so good in many ways. But it could have been better. The main problem was the itinerary. The first stop was Zeebrugge for Bruges. Having been to Bruges recently, we thought Zeebrugge might be interesting, but having been told that the highlight was an old U-Boat - and none of the taxis wanted to take you into town (Bruges only) - we gave it a miss. BUT - what has Bruges got to do with the Baltic? Next stop, after a day at sea, we arrived in Warnemunde, ostensibly for Berlin, which was three-hours each way. The ship had to go round the tip of Denmark being unable to pass the Kiel Canal. We took a train to Rostock, which was nice. Then another day at sea, before arriving in Helsinki. Now, if you don't know the ports too well, you might rely on the Cruise information and decide you need to take a tour. These are, as everyone knows, pretty expensive. We took one of the cheaper ones - $39 - which took us to four venues in the city. One of them was the More
Olympic Stadium, over 50 years old. Very exciting, but we didn't have time to go in. The Sibelius memorial was interesting.
Next day we arrived in St Petersburg. We had booked a two day tour from the company - $305 - in order to see all the sites we wanted. This was mostly pretty good, although it was very hot and the palaces were very crowded: but all well worth seeing. However, spending 40 minutes in a souvenir shop, which sold exactly the same stuff as all the other stalls etc, meant that the visit to the Church on the Spilled Blood was a look at the outside only. Only now do I discover that you can book private tours and do more or less your own thing in a small group. I had got the idea that visas had to be acquired if you weren't with a group from the ship. Silly me.
Next day was Tallin, which we did with a taxi to the top of the old town, and walked our way back down to the ship. Following day was Stockholm. Here we took a tour, under 3 hours for $64, which included a boat trip. Interesting, although the weather was poor. But value for money?
The next day was at sea. The ship was going to Copenhagen - but unbelievably it went clockwise around Sjaelland to approach Copenhagen from the north instead of goping up past Malmo. Was the Eclipse too tall for the bridge? Apparently not - it's to fill in time, I am led to believe.
We had a day in Copenhagen. The brochure said we left there at 13.00 on the following day. Before the cruise started, we were sent a letter saying that the time of departure from Copenhagn had been altered from 0100 to 2359. Well it was certainly altered to 2359, but NOT from 1300. So we lost a half day in Copenhagen. Which meant the ship had two whole days at sea to go from Copenhagen to Southampton. No wonder every other ship on the sea overtook us.
If there was a decent programme of on-board events to keep one occupied and interested, fine, maybe. There were lectures (on the Cold War, James Cook, Francis Drake, identity theft) and the usual quizzes, bingo etc. The evening entertainment - in an excellent theatre - was OK. Three production nights, the rest single artists - singers, comedians, instrumentalists, who were good (mostly) but no exactly starry. Mostly they lasted 45 minutes. The shops were fairly dull and full of souvenirs or designer stuff and very expensive.
The food was very good and the service in the restaurants excellent. Evening meals could take up to two hours sometimes, which, when you are on lates starting at 8.45, you don't get up until 10.45, which is late to be eating.
State rooms were a good size; we had a balcony. The staff here were pretty good too.
Our overall impression was that Celebrity were always trying to part you from your money, with expensive drinks, expensive tours. They didn't give you the information about ports that would enable you to take decisions about going it alone - of course, that's not in their interests... In Copenhagen, the Little Mermaid was 400 yds from the ship, and a hop-on hop-off bus left virtually from the gangplank.
You can't come away from a tour like this feeling miserable, and we certainly didn't. We enjoyed it but having spent over £2100 on the cruise alone, you need to enjoy it. Next time, I shall look more carefully at the itinery and get ore information about the ports of call before I go. Less