We left Canada on a red eye flight to London direct from Edmonton, Alberta. Having been to London recently we decided to stay in Southampton and traveled there directly from Heathrow. We hired a private car to take us to our hotel and I have to tell you that after a long flight it was worth every penny. Once we got to the hotel it was all my wife and I and seven year old son could do was stay up for a couple of hours before calling it a day.
We stayed at the Novotel which is right next to the pier for two nights prior to the cruise. The hotel is nice enough and the staff was very friendly. There are lots of amenities close to the hotel so we spent our time looking around and buying some items for the cruise.
Embarkation Day was a breeze. It is a very short taxi ride to the pier and as we arrived after 1:00 p.m. it was a breeze to get on board. The staff ashore is very friendly and most helpful. Don't worry if you forgot or did not receive your luggage tags as their are porters on the pier that can make them on the spot. We were on the ship in no time and our room was ready and our luggage got to the room very quickly so we set about unpacking.
We stayed on deck 6 (room 6266) with a balcony. The room is very nice and the bathroom is by far the best one we have had in 9 cruises in this category of room. As for storage space....the three of us really did not have any issues at all and we had four suitcases ! The beds are comfortable and the only knock I have on this room would be the noise coming from the lounge below...it bothered my wife some but my son and I really had no problems. I only mention it as I heard it a few nights from my wife...If you are a light sleeper make sure you know what is above and below you when you book. The extra bed for our son was good as well.
Dining - We had a fixed dinner seating in the Moonlight Sonata at 6:15 pm. We had a small table with just the three of us which is the way we like to dine when traveling with our son. Our wait staff Hendar and Marsha were fantastic ! Loved them. They went way out of their way to make sure our son was well looked after and to get him those little extra items that make the service on this ship first class. We did not try any of the specialty dining on this trip. The food in the dining room was a hit 13/14 nights which to me was incredible. Our wine steward Andrej kept our glasses full and displayed a fine understanding of wine despite being new to his position. I understand they have a very tough training course to take on before they can work in the dining rooms. On port days we had breakfast in our room and found a lot more variety then on other ships. The buffet was very well laid out with a ton of variety for everyone. Our son, is somewhat of a picky eater and always managed to find something to eat.
My wife and I did purchase the drink packages in advance. We are moderate drinkers at best and I think we may have just broke even or Celebrity may have mad a few bucks off of us in this department. I really enjoyed the convenience of the drink package though...the only down side would be with the wines. You need to order wine by the glass and the selection is limited. That being said you can find some decent ones but I found myself sticking to two or three varieties throughout the cruise. They offer a great selection of wines by the bottle but I was determined to pay off the drink package and did not order any.
Entertainment - We took in most of the shows and thought they were pretty good. The Cirque style shows were the best. I am going to throw this out though of all the singer and dancers lets just say the male singers should be thankful they have a strong supporting cast....it was painful at times to listen to them.
Kids Club - This was a surprise for us ! Usually our son has no interest in going to the kids programs... this was his fifth cruise too. About half way through the cruise he decided to check it out and after that we had to drag him out of there ! Great staff. Very friendly and he loved the activities ! My wife and I also made the best of it and had some extra time to ourselves !
The ship is beautiful ! Lots to do for all generations of people ! The lawn club was a huge hit with our family and we played a ton of games up there ! Great idea by Celebrity and a great place to relax too. The staff are very friendly and go out of there way to provide a high level of service. After sailing Holland America in May this was a refreshing change from that cruise ! The Captain was not the most personable fellow mind you...I guess having to be "on" 100% of the time would try all of us. We loved this ship period and did put a deposit down to return in the future.
The fitness centre was well used by my wife and I and is quite frankly the best of all the ships we have been on.
The ports of call were amazing...traveling as a family I tried to book excursions that would appeal to us all, but on some days it got a bit long for our son and he lost interest. My wife and I on the other hand loved every minute ashore. We did book shore excursions with Celebrity for each port but having been there now I would change things a bit.
Bruges - We did book a "Bruges on Your Own" however would have been just as well to take the shuttle into town and look around. Very walkable town with lots of character. Take a canal tour and have a Belgium Waffle
Warnemunde - We did not go into Berlin as it takes about three hours each way to get there. We did book a tour in Warnemunde but there is no need...you can walk to town look around and then take a train to Rostock on your own as it is only 15-20 minutes away.
Helsinki - This was a flop ! We took a brief tour around Helsinki which was nice as part of Santa's Summer House Tour...as far as Santa's Summer House....well the two elf helpers were nice the rest of it was a huge disappointment.
St Petersburg - You need to take some sort of tour here either through the ship or an approved tour company in order to leave the ship. You have to pass through immigration each time and need your passports..it really is not that big of a deal at all..sure adds a few minutes to your day but remember you are in Russia. Our first day we did a City Highlights tour which was 10+ hours long. It was truly amazing well worthy it. Our second day we toured Yusupov (Sp?) Palace and did a canal tour. It was comical in the palace as you had a bunch of elderly ladies rushing the groups through in a no nonsense sort of way. Our tour guide warned us of this so we were well prepared. Our son actually liked learning about Rasputin although I gave him the G rated version ! We then did a canal tour which was a great way to see the sites in a relaxed way ! Well worth the money and take on as much as you can here time wise.
Tallinn, Estonia - We did a walking tour of upper town but here is another place that if you are reasonable fit you can easily walk to and from the ship..or take a taxi to upper town and walk back to the ship.
Stockholm - Beautiful to sail in and out of...very nice port. One of the most scenic ports to sail into we have done in our nine cruises. We did do a Highlights tour here which included a stop at the Wasa Museum. We loved Stockholm and will head back there sometime for sure.
Copenhagen - Did a city and canal tour again very neat place to see. Loved it.
Disembarkation was a breeze. We took a tour to Windsor Castle as we had an extra night to kill. Windsor Castle is so frustrating to get into ...long lines and airport style screening but I understand why they need to do it...took forever but very nice once inside the walls !
Overall this was one of our best cruises ! Celebrity is a great ship for families ! Unfortunately, there are some folks who turn their kids loose and let them run about unsupervised which is probably why you see some reviews reflecting negatively towards kids. For those of us who don't our son gained so much knowledge and appreciation for the ports and had a great time on the ship. He made lots of new friends as well. If you are thinking about taking your family to the Baltic go for it !