Scandinavia and Baltic Cruise - Fabulous
This was our second cruise with Celebrity on a Solstice class ship. We cruised on the Eclipse in the Caribbean in February 2010. As before, the ship was beautiful, well designed and spotlessly clean. The cabins are somewhat small but functional and the bathrooms well designed with a reasonably large shower.
The staff were all very friendly and willing to do whatever it took to make the cruise enjoyable. Getting on the ship was a breeze and we were in our cabins around 1:30.
We went one day ahead and stayed at the Jurys Inn in Southampton. The hotel was clean and comfortable. We travelled from Heathrow to Southampton using the National Express Bus service which was easy to locate and economical.
Food in the main dining room was very good although not quite as good as on the Eclipse despite the fact that the menu appeared identical. This would be one very minor criticism as I would have liked a change in the menu. We visited all of the specialty restaurants - More
Tuscan Grill and Murano were excellent and we couldn't have asked for more. The table side service - lobster as well as dessert was fabulous. The cheese tray was delicious. Qsine was interesting and a fun experience but having done it once now, I wouldn't go again. There is an extensive wine list and many wines at quite reasonable prices. We went to the buffet for most lunches and some breakfasts. The food was really good and I loved the variety especially the Indian food. The food stations are well designed and there are few lineups.
Our shore excursions were very comprehensive and for what we received, good value for the money. When I booked the cruise I felt there were too many sea days but I appreciated every one as the tours can be quite tiring. Joining the excursions was handled very efficiently. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
A beautiful old cobble stoned city with interesting architecture and horse drawn carriages. Many of the old craft and guild houses remain. Canals run throughout the city and a canal trip is a must to view many of the buildings and bridges.
A beautiful city to walk through and explore. There are lovely old buildings, painted warehouses, canals, winding roads and parks. A canal boat trip is not to be missed. The Royal Palace is a great place to see the changing of the guard. You can easily walk to many popular spots from the cruise ship terminal e.g. the little mermaid, royal palace, shops in the center of town. The main shopping area has a wide pedestrian only area although there are also many shops close to the cruise terminal along the pier. You can easily go on your own self guided walking tour without paying for an excursion.
In Helsinki was took as bus tour through the city travelling along tree lined winding street with a mixture of art nouveau and modern architecture. There are numerous large parks. The rock church carved right into the stone is quite beautiful with a coiled metal ceiling. From Helsinki we travelled to Poorvoo which is the second oldest town in Finland. It is quaint with many small shops for browsing. We spent about an hour in Poorvoo which allowed enough time to see most of the town. From Poorvoo our tour took us to a horse farm and manor house. It was the highlight of our trip. The family could not have been more welcoming giving us a complete history of the farm, introducing us to their horses and serving a lovely lunch inside the house.
Warnemunde is a small port that is easy to walk around but is mainly a stepping stone to other areas such as Berlin. From Warnemunde, we chose to take a trip to Lubeck and Wismar which are both world heritage sites full of old building and beautiful churches. There are numerous cafes and outdoor restaurants on busy squares that are great for people watching. Remember to bring small change as there is a cost to use public washrooms.
St. Petersburg is a city rich in history. On a 2 day trip you can just scratch the surface. The palaces (Catharine's at Pushkin and Peterhof)are huge rivalling Versailles and the opulence almost unimaginable with gold lined rooms and priceless paintings. At 11:00 the gold fountains are turned on while music plays. It is quite dramatic and the surrounding park is beautiful with many statues, fountains and rest houses. The Hermitage has so much to see that it would take years to see it all properly. At peak vacation time, all the main tourist spots are quite crowded and the staff keep everyone moving so it limits what you get to see. The Churches are large and beautiful but a trip to a smaller church such as St. Nicolas while a service in being held is well worth visiting. You must be sure to dress appropriately as anyone in shorts will not be admitted. The icons and candles together with the singing make for a very moving experience. A visit to the Peter & Paul fortress where the last of the Romanovs are buried is very interesting. There are also quite a number of new churches being constructed in the old style. Travelling through St. Peterburg you see anything from designer stores along the Nevsky Prospect and American fast food restaurants to rows of drab 'Stalin Blocs. Food in the restaurant and hotel that we visited on our tour was generally good. Each meal came with a glass of champagne and a shot of vodka.
Coming into Stockholm on a cruise is a sight in itself as you travel through an area with tens of thousands of islands. Many are quite small with a single cottage. It's worth getting up a bit early to experience. Stockholm is a very attractive city and many old buildings and winding roads and canals with parked house boats. The city has beautiful large treed parks. The city hall which hosts the Nobel Prize dinner is quite beautiful with a large 'gold' room with walls decorated with glass and gold leaf mosaics. Gardens with statues grace the outside. The Vasa Museum should not be missed. The feeling inside is like a trip back in time. The ship is large and beautifully preserved. Throughout the museum you get a picture of life at the time the ship was launched as well as the efforts made to recover the ship. The forensic reconstructions of the crew are eerily lifelike. St. Nicolas Church with the huge statue of St. George slaying the dragon and the silver walled altar is worth visiting.
Talinn is a great port to visit as you can walk from the ship and explore on your own or take a short walking tour. The area is rich in history with 700 years of occupation by Danes, Germans, Swedes and Russians. The old town is surrounded by thick walls and towers and gateways leading to the town. You can get a great view of the old town from the upper section of town. Russian influence can be seen in the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral with is very ornate in the Russian style. The town has cobble stone streets and pretty pastel buildings. There are numerous spots to enjoy lunch either inside or outside along the main square. English is spoken by many especially in the shops. Talinn is a great place to purchase amber jewelry at reasonable prices and with good quality.