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4 Amsterdam to Europe - Black Sea Cruise Reviews

This was our third cruise on Celebrity. I fell in love with the line on our first cruise, did a second one 2 years ago that wasn't to the first one's standard and now we were back to try again. Silhouette wins the prize for an ... Read More
This was our third cruise on Celebrity. I fell in love with the line on our first cruise, did a second one 2 years ago that wasn't to the first one's standard and now we were back to try again. Silhouette wins the prize for an amazing crew. Everyone was very friendly without being pushy. We had the basic alcohol package for the first time. While our server tried to up sell us to the premium package the first day, when we declined, he was very nice about it and went out of his way to get our non-premium drinks. Even more amazing, he remembered us on following nights and was quick to find us seats in the bar, remembered our drink preferences and called us by name. Coffee service in the Cafe al Bacio was just as outstanding with several servers that went out of their way to chat, bring extras and just make the day memorable. We were anytime dining and discovered in chatting with our waiter the first night that we could request to be seated in his section again when we made a time reservation on subsequent days. His name is Alit, and his section is back in the corner, which is quieter than the main part. His serving team is the best and I recommend asking for a table in his section. Loved the small group entertainment and the main shows we watched were good - although we were having so much fun at dinner (the food was amazing in the main dining room!) we missed multiple shows. If I could change anything, I would ask for more musical entertainment and things to do mid-afternoon. If you are not into Bingo and Trivia, ALL ships seem short on activities mid-day. Some of us like to stay up and dance til 1 AM, and consequently miss morning exercise classes! The house band was quite good and had a pretty extensive playlist. We did one Celebrity shore excursion in Stockholm - it was pretty typical for the cruise line and sort of a cattle call. Nice leader who tried to impart some knowledge while herding cats! Nice selection of ports and management handled the weather related loss of a day in St. Petersburg very well, adding time to our stay day two to make it better. Not super impressed with the beyond the podium speakers - did not seem particularly knowledgeable on their topics beyond the prepared remarks. Ship's 2nd officer did a Great talk on navigation and internal systems management. Loved this cruise - love Celebrity - we will be back! Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
Drawn to this Holland America 21 day Norway, Baltic Treasures Koningsdam cruise by the great itinary, previous excellent experience with HAL service, on Nieuw Amsterdam, we are independent travellers who enjoy the ease of relaxing ... Read More
Drawn to this Holland America 21 day Norway, Baltic Treasures Koningsdam cruise by the great itinary, previous excellent experience with HAL service, on Nieuw Amsterdam, we are independent travellers who enjoy the ease of relaxing time efficient travel to multiple destinations, the convenience of many choices in dining and entertainment, and the social interaction, offered by cruising. Koningsdam is lighter, brighter, occasionally glitzier, with pleasant furnishings, colours and fittings. Interesting art,paintings , sculpture and light fittings catch the eye in public spaces, while cabins are comfortable with a welcome glass doored shower, excellent aircon, great beds and larger TV. Cabin Staff are as efficient, unobtrusive and friendly as always. Food is fresh ,varied and generous , high quality meats ,fish fruit and vegetables, both in MDR and Lido and throughout the ship, attractively presented with appetisingly small potion sizes. However, whether it be a design issue, management strategy, system breakdown or staff issue ,dining and dining service delivery, formerly Hal's forte became its' abject failure throughout our cruise. Despite empty tables, (which often remained empty !) Open Seating diners were sent with Beepers to the in range Ocean Bar to wait sometimes 45 minutes before being seated ,or joining a table of other guests .Attempts to book days ahead to avoid this irritating daily debacle , either failed completely , or the available times were at 5.15 or after 9pm. I did observe guests with fixed seating who waited up to 40 minutes after their seating times to be seated, but don't know how widespread the issue was in this dining category Using the redesigned Market Station Lido during the main dining periods was a frustrating and at times difficult experience. Firstly , the new 12 second Handwash (Do the maths x passenger numbers ,and you 'll get the idea )stations , impractical, too few, ignored by staff and guests .Pueril Gel stations were made available but no emphasis on their use before entry. A hygiene breakdown waiting to happen. Perhaps this concern is behind the new Lido design, where even a glass of juice must be handed to you by a staff member, as self service has disappeared. A wonderful concept, unfortunately a disasterous implementation, as it results in queues for every item of your meal, sorties to different stations ,cold food,and excessive time wasted assembling the simplest meal. The stations are understaffed , and stations frequently closed . On the floor,tables are covered with dirty dishes which overwhelmed staff have not cleared,so it is not clear if diners have merely returned to the stations to complete their meal , or that a space is actually available for newcomers. Fewer staff means water, drinks are much slower to appear. The Lido is a casual eatery, supposedly offering a faster dining option, and pleasant social contact in less formal settings,but it has deteriorated to a poorly run cafeteria despite the good food quality offered, and a place to be avoided particularly at Breakfast times. The Dutch Café another good concept ,poorly designed , offered good food, reasonable coffee, long queues (one coffee station) too few tables ,and dirty dishes uncleared for excessive periods. Explorations Café12Dive In 9 , Gelato Bar offered coffee cakes , hamburgers , sandwiches pizza , and provided good service and quick meals . The Tamarind Restaurant has excellent food, staff and service. All drink orders are now computer generated, but this has resulted in very long delays as waiters in public areas fill orders and return only when trays are full with several orders combined, a time consuming strategy in reality. The World Stage in the round is a technically excellent facility, with great sound, lighting and screens. Why is it not used more effectively? Hal repeated World Stage Shows 3 times during our 21 day cruise which is just cheap and not acceptable. Quality of entertainment varied from excellent Frozen Planet, the HAL singers, dancers and orchestra to tired magician comedian acts who should be superannuated. The Lincoln Centre, Two Pianos and BB King provided shows attended and enjoyed by many, but were rather repetitive in nature. The Cruise Director Role has been redesigned to that of Dutch translator for the Captain, and the focus on hosting has almost completely disappeared both around the ship and in the entertainment venues, leaving an impersonal void and lack of ambience or heart around the vessel. The Port Advisor gave very basic overviews which were .of little value, but the Library has disappeared and was replaced with some small shelves of new travel Books which could be used in Deck 12 Crows Nest We travel independently in ports , considering HAL Ecursions overpriced, overcrowded and poor use of valuable port time, a perception continually reinforced by our observation of them in cruise port hot spots. Yes we enjoyed our cruise, but it was only a good cruise for the above reasons , when it should have been a great cruise.Design flaws, new cost cutting Carnival management strategies, HAL you are seriously destroying your brand and formerly excellent reputation.Would we sail on Koningsdam again ?. No, not unless reviews show these serious issues are remedied . Would we recommend her to others.. NO Will we sail with HAL again.? Unlikely Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
In spite of all our preplanning always expect the unexpectable. Airline booked - check Small tours booked and paid - Berlin and St Petersburg through SPB Tours - check Planned Hop on Hop off buses for self tours in ... Read More
In spite of all our preplanning always expect the unexpectable. Airline booked - check Small tours booked and paid - Berlin and St Petersburg through SPB Tours - check Planned Hop on Hop off buses for self tours in Tallinn, Helsinki, Copenhagen and Stockholm - check Tickets pre purchased for Anne Frank Haus and Keukenhof Garden Tour - check Transfers pre paid from airport to Hotel and from Cruise port to airport – check The day finally came for our 12 day Celebrity Baltic Cruise vacation to begin. We had relatives take us to Miami Airport to board our British Air flight to Heathrow and connecting flight to Amsterdam. I booked the airfare months earlier when they were running a great sale on Business class fares that were less than economy class. I subscribe to an online news letter called First class flyer and get these great deals on Business and First class fares and strategies. We went early to the airport due to the stories of long TSA lines and then off to the lounge. Check in went quick and the lines were not bad. Off to the lounge. We were then informed that the flight was running 2 hours late. With only a layover at Heathrow of 2 hours that was going to cause us to miss our connecting flight. Now our prepaid transfers were lost since there was a 24 hour cancellation policy. We were supposed to arrive in Amsterdam at 10:45 am and then we had tickets to tour the Keukenhof Gardens at 2:45pm. We were not going to make that either. Totally out of our control. At least we had the lounge access. We finally arrived in Heathrow at 9am, our connecting flight left at 8:45. To the lounge again to see when we could get on another flight. We were originally rebooked on a flight at 2:40 that would arrive at 5pm but got on an earlier flight at 1 that arrived at 3:30p. The Concierge at British Air called our transfer company for us but they would not change the pickup time. Oh well that should be the worse thing that happens this trip. When we arrived in Amsterdam we decided to take a taxi. Hoping my trip insurance will cover this and the tour tickets. Many used the train to get into Amsterdam from the airport. We were not dragging 2 suitcases up and down the escalators. We got to the Doubletree Amsterdam Centraal Station and checked right in. After dropping off our stuff in the room we decided to take a walk through town. I had a self walking tour of the red light district that we did and visited the sex and Hemp museums. Hotel location was great and we used Hilton our points. We had tickets for the next morning at 9 am to the Anne Frank Huis so after dinner went back for the night. After breakfast we took a taxi to make it by our 9am ticket time. We spent 2 hours going through there. We then decided to do the Hop on Hop off bus and 2 boats that we bought tickets for. For anyone doing it with the wait time for the transfers we spent the rest of the day and finished at 5 pm. Saturday we started the day with rain and cooler weather. We still had access to the HOHO bus so went to the outdoor market in the morning. Then back to the hotel and a 10 euro taxi ride to the cruise ship. Cruise ship check in at 2 was quick and we were able to get right into our stateroom and had lunch. After the muster drill up to the sail away cruise critic gathering. How nice to after months of interacting with so many meet in person the people that contributed to the board. The next day was a sea day and we had our Cruise critic connection gathering. We met all the officers and they had coffee and Danishes. The Capt and officers introduced themselves to us and made themselves available for any questions we had on the ship and cruise. The next day we went to Berlin. We had a great tour booked through SPB Tours. We did take the bus and did have traffic going into the city as others have mentioned. Our bus was ½ empty so there was plenty of room to be comfortable. We did though see everything that was on our itinerary. Some were drive by but many other we got off the bus and walked around and had time for photos. I knew ahead of time that it was not an in-depth tour. We then got back to the ship no traffic within 2 ½ hours. We had met other that took the train tour from the ship and they did not see anything more than we did but they said the train ride was nice. The next day was a sea day. In our rooms shore excursions left us a paper to pay ahead of time for shuttles to get from the ship port to town. They said the distance was 20 to 30 min walk. The ports were Tallinn, Helsinki, and Copenhagen. We decided to use OBC to get it. It was not needed. First of all, all the HOHO buses come right to the port on cruise days. So did the HOHO boat in Copenhagen. There were 2 HOHO bus companies. One was Redbuses and the other citysightseeing. Our choice was city sightseeing. BIG MISTAKE. They did not run as many buses as the other company. We should have asked how many buses were running that day. Then again we would assume the person selling the tickets really knew. That meant more waiting time at bus stops when you only have a few hours at any given port. They told us 30 min between buses. We waited over 45 min at some stops. More about that later. So if you plan to self tour and use HOHO you do not need to pay for the shuttle. Tallinn was truly a hidden Jewel. It was a perfect place to do our own tour. BTW we did have with us the Rick Steves Northern Europe cruise tour book to help with the walking tours. If you should go out on your own take the HOHO to the top of the town and walk down hill back to the port . Some people took walking tours and said they could have done it on their own. It was a nice port to see. NO matter how you see it have comfortable shoes! You are walking on cobblestone roads which was difficult for many people. The next day we arrived in St Petersburg. We arrived at 7am but did not clear customs to begin getting off the ship until 8. We had book a private 12 person tour with SPB Tours for the 2 days there. Getting off the ship was a feat in itself. First EVERYONE lined up to get off the ship at the same time. We were not even cleared from customs yet. Some lined up before 6:30. We did meet everyone in our group at the lounge so we did all get off together. Next you have to go through immigration. No lie 10 – 15 min per person!!! They actually check a computer to make sure that you are on a list given to them from the tour companies that you may have booked with. If you are not on an organized tour you need to get your own VISA. Since we booked with SPB Tours they took care of everything for us. After clearing customs that first time the other times took moments to get through. SPB Tours took our tour to another level. Our tour guide was the informative spoke perfect English and took care of all our needs. Originally we were supposed to do a night Ballet but decided to change it to “Go Out Like a Local” It included a vodka sampling . The next day we toured again and made it back to the ship in plenty of time. I would not hesitate to use SPB Tours again. Helsinki was our next port of call. It was a very easy touring port. HOHO buses but again 45 min wait times between stops. Wasting that time when there for only a few hours……. Next port of call for us was Stockholm. We opted for the HOHO boat here. Many had said that the buses get caught in traffic jams so it would be easier. Our first stop was the Vasa Museum. If you plan to go you should go there first as well. Make sure when arriving by boat you go to the lines that are not for the group tours. We got in within 10 min. It was fascinating. After that we went to go to the Skansen. We felt if we did we would not have time to go to anything else so passed on it. The ship was leaving pot at 3 PM. Boy did we luck out with fabulous weather. We took the HOHO boat to the old town. It was magnificent. Again a 35 min wait . We went by the palace where the royal military band was playing. Then off to city center. Walked around a bit and then back to the ship. Make sure you are on deck as the ship leaves Stockholm. It was amazing to see and pass by all the little islands. The scenery was beyond words. Good thing we left when we did otherwise we would have gotten stuck in low tide. We sat on our balcony for over 3 hours before getting ready for dinner. Next day was a sea day. Good thing since we needed to recharge after 5 days of straight touring. Copenhagen was our final port of call. What a mess. There is only a 2 lane road to get off the port in and out. With all the tour buses waiting it became a single lane for in and out. We were stuck for almost an hour on the HOHO in front of the ship. What a traffic jam it was!!!! Considering we were only in port from 10 – 5 time is pretty precious. Again we used citysightseeing bus company. First stop for us was the old city area. We went by the round tower and walked around the old city. Very nice. Walked to the Rosenbourgh Castle and had lunch we brought in the gardens. Went back on the HOHO bus. Only 15 min wait time so not too bad. Went around the entire loop to see the whole city. We then got off across from Tivoli park. We wanted to go in but the lines were too long. It was now 3 pm. We decided to get back on the bus to head back to the ship wanting to get off at two fountains to take pictures. Little Mermaid being one of them. What a joke. It took 2 ½ hours to get back to the ship when it should have taken 30 min. Driver had us switch buses and that bus did not move for 45 min. Driver said I am just the driver go complain to the company. Then EVERY stop the driver gets off to have a cigarette. 10 min each time. Worse experience ever. What a waste of 50 Euro for the 2 of us. I mention the price for others to consider is it worth the HOHO or just pay for tour from a company and focus on a couple of sites at a port. I know SPB Tours had a Baltic package with tours in each port we went to . We thought we would do better on our own. In actuality you are doing a panoramic tour of the city. Now taking in consideration the wait times between buses and boats we probably would have done better with the tours. No wait time, bus was there waiting to take you to the next location etc. If you are traveling and staying in a city for a couple of days then the HOHO would be a better option for an overview of the city and then you still have another day or 2 to see specific sites. If I would have known this before again I would have let SPB Tours take care of all my logistics. Others that used them loved all the tours. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
Just returned home after a Magnificent 11 day cruise. Having never been to Europe and having read the reviews, I had very low expectations. Well, this trip was fantastic. Embarkation was very easy and quick. Our cabin which was a balcony ... Read More
Just returned home after a Magnificent 11 day cruise. Having never been to Europe and having read the reviews, I had very low expectations. Well, this trip was fantastic. Embarkation was very easy and quick. Our cabin which was a balcony on the rear of the ship was spacious and immaculate. We have 9229 which has a little extra hallway attached to the room which made for more storage and very private. Food, PERFECT. I'm not sure what people expect based on reviews I read but our experience in the dining room was nothing less than perfect. There were a couple of meals I didn't care for but that was because I tried something new that didn't appeal to me. Our servers, Hugo and Stephan were on it and had our lemons and beers ready to put on the table every night when we arrived. Food presentation was great and food arrived hot. The buffet had a good variety. Only problem we incurred was pushing and cutting the lines by certain people. Can't expect manners by all and that is not the cruise lines fault. The shows were very good. Being from the US we enjoyed the European feel to some of the shows. This trip was our once in a lifetime trip and we have no regrets. I recommend this ship and this itenary to all. LOVED all the ports and realize that cruising gives you a taste of each place. Although there were only 69 Americans on the ship we were never made to feel shunned. Read Less
Sail Date May 2014

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