4 Harwich Expedition Cruise Reviews

A review of the Celebrity Infinity by a first time cruiser As a first time cruiser who was on the Celebrity Infinity doing the Iceland and Norway cruise last week I felt compelled to write a review to clarify a few of the myths I had ... Read More
A review of the Celebrity Infinity by a first time cruiser As a first time cruiser who was on the Celebrity Infinity doing the Iceland and Norway cruise last week I felt compelled to write a review to clarify a few of the myths I had gleaned in the run up to the cruise. So this review is from the perspective of someone who is new to cruising yet has high standards and high expectations (especially of food). Like many, half the excitement of the cruise was discovering Cruise Critic. I learned a lot reading the forums and roll call every week and it certainly set my expectations - but they also mislead me a little. So here is my balanced review. So firstly, I have discovered there are 2 types of cruisers (& 2 types of cruise critic reviewers), those that are balanced and fair, with reasonable expectations and those who are going to look for fault no matter what. We met some of these one day at lunch in the Main Dining Room (MDR). We had excellent lunch of Teriyaki duck and lentils. Our neighbouring table got chatting with us and the first thing they told us was how limited the menu was for lunch, we disagreed and stated that there were so many choices for lunch at different locations throughout the ship that you were spoilt for choice. We came across this couple a number of times during the trip and they always looked unhappy or had a negative comment to make! Some other observations: The average age of our fellow travellers was quite a lot older than we expected (something I got from reading CC). We are in our 40s and were definitely some of the youngest on board. I found a number other passengers quite rude and few of them acknowledged us or said "good morning". And there was a general sense of "entitlement" that meant people didn't say 'please' and 'thank you' and found it acceptable to push and shove, which we found very rude. Also I never really understood why people felt in a rush to get somewhere. What was extremely impressive about the Infinity was that although the ship was full, it rarely felt crowded and we almost never had to queue longer than 5 minutes to get a coffee or get a table for 2 in the main dining room. Embarkation So back to day 1: we had a nightmare of a journey to get to Harwich - a 2 hour journey that took 4 hours and was very stressful- not the start to our holiday that we had hoped. Having finally got out of one traffic queue, we joined another and queued to get into the car park. After about 30 minutes we were unloading our luggage and then proceeded to park the car and get on a bus that took us to the terminal to check in. Another 20 minutes queuing and we were checking in and got our sea passes. Then through security and finally we were on the ship. Since we were on board 2 hours later than we had planned, we could go straight to our rooms. Again from reading CC, I got the impression that this process would be quicker, but not today (not that it was any worse than the typical airport checking process). The room We had 6048, a 2b class balcony cabin on deck 6 mid ship towards the front. This room had an extra spacious triangular shaped balcony. Which, whilst very nice we soon learned wasn't really necessary. We did use the balcony a lot but only had 2 chairs and a small table and a regular sized balcony would have been spacious enough (this cruise wasn't a hot weather cruise so no chance to lie out on your balcony). You did get to look into your neighbours balcony, so felt a little intrusive at times. The room itself exceeded my expectations based on my reading cruise critic. There was a lot of storage space as well as under the bed space for luggage. The bathroom is small but fortunately we are both slim so it was adequate! The "peg on the shower curtain" advice from CC prevented the shower curtain closing in the already small shower room space. The room was clean fresh and space enough for 2 and our attendant was great -invisible but always seemed to know when we were out to clean or do turn down. The ship I couldn't fault the ship and facilities (more on those below). It looked pristine, clean and well taken care of. Since its the only cruise I have been on, I have nothing t compare it to but it was similar to a good standard 5* hotel . The food Reading CC I got the impression that the food in the MDR was a little hit or miss so based on this we booked the 5 speciality restaurant deal in advance of the cruise. However, the food in MDR has been fantastic and as I alluded to in the introduction, I am a fussy eater. We had Select Dining and I would recommend making a reservation, even in peak time we only waited 5 minutes for a table for 2, whereas the line for those who had not made a reservation was considerably longer. Having said that, towards the end of the cruise we stopped making reservations and instead ate later. You are advised to avoid peak time between 6.30-8.00. Most nights we ate at 8 or later. The service in MDR has been very good and the wait staff are very attentive. They work very hard but somehow make it work. I do agree with CC that when on a drinks package and buying wine by the glass, it can be a challenge to get the attention of the sommelier but it seems that they have too many tables to cover but no problem, we just asked our waiter and soon had a refill. The food itself has been great and the portion sizes are just right and not too big (last night I had the sirloin steak and roast potatoes- the waiter told us that someone had ordered 3 portions for himself-amazing!!). On our final sea day we went to brunch. The presentation and the food was fantastic - only slightly spoilt by the feeling we were at "feeding time at the zoo" and we got the impression some people hadn't eaten for several days! Our 5 x speciality meal package meant we could eat in Qsine twice and SS Unites States 3 times but we changed this without hassle (at guest services) because we much preferred Qsine. Qsine was fantastic and some of the most enjoyable food I have had in a long time - the sushi lollipops are delicious and not to be missed. The staff were fun and looked like they enjoyed their jobs. SS United States was very spacious with great staff who were playful. I had the lobster which was cooked table side and delicious. The nights I have eaten there I have struggled to get through the dessert course-probably because I had already eaten too much! Only criticism is that the menu didn't change throughout the voyage. Drinks We have read many threads about the drinks packages but in the end decided against it since we had read the classic package didn't include fresh juice and premium coffees and we would have to drink an awful lot of alcohol to equate to $62/ day!! However on day 2 we succumbed to the allure of the classic package ($50/ day including tax) partly because we wouldn't have to worry about what we drunk and also because we found out that the classic packages does in fact include fresh juice and all the premium coffees from Cafe al Bacio- is this new or just different policies from ship to ship? I don't know but that is how it is on the Infinity. Also at the Martini bar we were able to get smaller martinis on the classic package. I know there has been much debate about this, so there is the answer- at least on this trip. I asked the waiter and he informed me that i could order a martini, appletini or Cosmo. This area became our location of choice for pre and post dinner drinks and was very sociable and fun. I kept a rough count and we were drinking around about $50 a day (thats 2 lattes, orange juice, tea, 2 glasses of wine and 2 G&Ts). I have to say that I am sure I have drunk more just because I have the package. It can be a challenge to drink $50 a day and I would think twice next time but its nice to know what our final bill will be (although its easy to check your bill daily). The staff In general I can't say enough positive things about the staff. They go out of their way to make your trip positive and seem happy to serve. There were a few exceptions but they were few and far between. As the trip went on, staff began to get to know you and your preferences and I thought they were outstanding. The entertainment I had some preconceptions about cruise entertainment and by and large that has proved to be accurate and the little we have seen has been slightly underwhelming but maybe we are the wrong demographic? At least we could make our escape from the (impressive) theatre quite easily! I would recommend the iBroadway show which was very good and the most "professional" of the shows we did see. The singers and dancers work incredibly hard. Excursions We avoided all the cruise's excursions and organised our own at much cheaper rates. There is a feeling of "sell sell sell"on the ship. Maybe they have targets to hit? Anyway, Faroe Isles was small enough to walk around and it was good to burn off some of the calories we have put on so far! A very pretty capital city. We walked for maybe 3-4miles and pretty much saw all the sites. Reykjavik Reykjavik was a tale of 2 halves. The countryside was stunning- (we organised our own excursion to blue lagoon and the golden circle tour) the waterfall, geysers and blue lagoon something very unique to Iceland - would highly recommend a dip in the blue lagoon!.... yet the town itself was rather disappointing and a little 'tired'. Akureyri My favourite stop on the journey and I wished we had more time here (arrived at 8am and left by 2pm). The weather was chilly but blue skies and sunny and still snow on the mountain peaks (which we learned was unusual for this time of year but due to a harsh winter). We took a bus excursion that we arranged ourselves, that took us to Godafoss waterfall and an old northern icelandic town. Just enough time to see both. You could get 'up close and personal' to the waterfall which was stunning and worth the 30 minute drive. Geiranger A beautiful fjord village but completely overrun with tourists and complete chaos! There were 4 cruise ships in so a population of appx 6000 in a village usually accommodating 250...... Must be lovely when everyone leaves! Bergen We took the funicular to the top of the city and walked back down mount Floyen. Incredible views from the top. It was a rainy day so not much fun wandering around the shops. We couldn't believe how expensive it was (£8 for a coffee!) So one observation at this point. Every time we got off the bus and were given a time to be back, someone would always be late, leaving the rest of us hanging around. Clearly they felt their time was more precious than ours! The facilities We are gym goers and made sure we used the gym pretty much every day. Helped us feel slightly less guilty about the food and drink we consumed! It was often busy but never too packed. Similarly most other locations were often busy but you never get a sense that 2000+ people were on the ship. A good tip is try and do things a little differently to others. Most mornings we had a light breakfast at the Aqua cafe (avoiding the Oceanview buffet) and like I mentioned earlier, we tried to eat later than most. We also visited Bistro on 5 a few times for lunch. Nice food and worth the $5 cover charge for the peaceful environment alone! Disembarkation We went to theCelebrity theatre for our allotted time of 8.30am and were in our car by8.50am. Very quick and painless. Sad to be back home but at,east the sun is shinning! My conclusions An excellent adventure that took us to locations I have never visited (and may never visit again) and a cruise was a great way to see them. The ship was surprisingly good as was the service, food and staff. I will probably do a cruise again but it will definitely not be the only kind of vacation I take (I know there were a number of travellers we spoke with who only do cruises). I think Celebrity do a great job at making the experience a positive one. They upsell a little too much but maybe that comes with the territory. Read cruise critic to learn about the ships, tips, roll call etc but realise we are all unique so when someone tells you the MDR food is terrible and someone else says its great, you just need to make your own mind up!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
Waiting at Glasgow station for the bus to harwich should have been a warning, when a 12 seat-er local mini-bus arrived to take us the 300 miles to the Shearings bus depot.The seats were smaller than a Ryanair buget flight the journey for ... Read More
Waiting at Glasgow station for the bus to harwich should have been a warning, when a 12 seat-er local mini-bus arrived to take us the 300 miles to the Shearings bus depot.The seats were smaller than a Ryanair buget flight the journey for all of us there and back was a nightmare.The cabins were good and the service by the filipino crew was excellent both in the cabin and at the dinner tables. The general on-board facilities were poor, the cruise entertainment management a disgrace, being Scottish I was embarrassed by the complaints as most were Scottish The main cause for complaint was the excursions at the Baltic Ports, simply a rip off.Many were simply Two and half hours round a city with two ten minute stops.A morning cruise to me is about a full morning.St Petersburgh had a riot by the bus load a lot of money for nothing was finally a rebellion at the Church of the Blood. The food at dinner was ecellantly cooked, but the portions were minute and thank god for the midnight buffet. Generally cruise buffets, breakfast and mid day are predictable but the choice here was even poorer A disaster by Shearings Community Manager's Note: 'This review was written when the ship sailed for Voyages of Discovery. As of February 2013, it is now sailing under the Cruises & Maritime banner" Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Being laid up in bed for a while I have had a chance to read all the reviews of Discovery so thought it was about time I wrote one myself. A fair proportion of the complaints I have read seem to have come from American passengers - maybe ... Read More
Being laid up in bed for a while I have had a chance to read all the reviews of Discovery so thought it was about time I wrote one myself. A fair proportion of the complaints I have read seem to have come from American passengers - maybe they are used to higher standards or larger portions at dinner but Discovery seems to suit British travellers quite well. OK the ship is not in the first flush of youth but at least she isn't a floating apartment block and can get into places where those monsters can't go. She is meant for discovery and adventure and does it well. The age profile is about right for us (I am 64, my man is 62), mostly about our age, some younger, a lot older but all very active. My partner and I have cruised on the ship three times, in 2003 or 4 (can't remember!), 2007 and 2010. Last time we met a couple who were well into double figures and have probably notched up 20 cruises on Discovery by now. So it does have a loyal following! The ship has several things that really make it stand out: the crew, mainly Filipino in the cabins, restaurants and bars, who are all unfailingly cheerful, helpful, polite and smiling at all hours of the day or night. They keep the ship spotlessly clean with the same attitude. Another good thing is the lecture programme, arranged to complement the itinerary with a few general topics as well. The lecturers are top notch experts in their field and I have always found them very approachable as well. There are so many lectures etc that it can be difficult to fit every thing in! As for facilities, OK the pools are laughable, there's no ice rink or climbing wall, but thank goodness for that. There are plenty of public spaces with comfy chairs where you can sit with a book or just watch the world go by, there's a library and cinema, and there are quizzes and lighthearted talks by crew members about such esoteric topics as napkin folding! There is always a monster jigsaw on the go (addictive - can keep you up till the small hours!). Sometimes there are art classes or a choir and if you like bridge there is plenty of opportunity to play with a dedicated room and tutors to help you. I have not tried the spa but it is reputed to be good and the gym, also not my scene, has a huge panoramic sea view window to gaze out of while you are getting hot and sweaty. There is also a shop selling basics such as toiletries, jewellery, clothes and souvenirs from previous ports. Entertainment is not lavish or in your face but in the evening there is always a show or a concert and during the day the musicians are usually to be found playing somewhere or other. There is usually a troupe of about eight dancers/singers who perform cabaret style shows with superb costumes, a small orchestra, a classical group and a duo or pianist performing lighter easy listening type music (of varying quality!). Most of these people do other things as well such as supervising deck games and accompanying excursions and like everyone else on the ship they all work very hard. Mention has been made by others of Cafe Concerto Strings, a Romanian classical trio led by the amazing violinist Marcel. We were lucky enough to have them on two of our cruises and in 2007 befriended their then pianist, with whom we sat up late on the last night introducing him to malt whisky! Another memory is of the Russian orchestra on our first cruise, a lugubrious-looking lot, all classically trained, playing Gilbert and Sullivan and wearing various hats in quick change to denote the different operas. I don't think they had a clue what that was all about! Also on that cruise, the lounge pianist spent a lot of time with a little girl of about ten, the only child on the ship, teaching her the piano, which we thought was a very nice thing to do. He was also trying to get one of the classically trained musicians to play jazz, with less success I think! I notice that the food on the ship has had mixed reviews, maybe due to a change in chef or caterers over the years, but we have always enjoyed it. I just find it mind boggling that they can feed so many people 24/7 and wonder what it's like behind the scenes. On our 2010 cruise the food at dinner in the restaurant was quite imaginative and the portions were not too large which I think is a good thing. If you go for the late dinner sitting (8.30) you can have a rest beforehand and take in a show afterwards which fills in the evening nicely. The Lido buffet area leaves a lot to be desired in terms of ambience but I don't think much can be done about that. The food is always plentiful however and I especially like the fact that I can gorge myself on melon which is one of my favourites. There's also plenty of other fresh fruit and salads available. I can't comment on the Yacht Club dining experience as we never felt the need to go elsewhere than the main dining room in the evening. On our three cruises we always had a standard outside cabin, quite adequate for the 21 days of our longest cruise, but perhaps if you were going for several weeks or months something more spacious might be advisable. As others have noted, the bathrooms are small but the showers are brilliant. And now for some details about where we went and what we did. Our first cruise was the first ever by Discovery, ten days round Britain. There were teething troubles of course, which we put down to experience, but several passengers got very upset and threatened to complain. Whether they did or not I don't know. We did not go to three ports, ostensibly due to weather conditions but we suspect it may have been because homework had not been done properly and a suitable berth was not available. The biggest disappointment for several people was that we did not get to land on St Kilda, which for some had been the whole reason for the trip, but when the resident warden on the island heard that 300+ people wanted to land a firm No was the answer. We did get a boat ride round the island accompanied by several thousand puffins, and we could see the deserted village very well from the sea. We did land on Orkney and Shetland, though there was some trouble with lowering the tender boats at the first port of call. One of the good things about cruising is that it gives you a taste of many different places to which you can return at your leisure, which we have since done by spending a week on Orkney. For part of the time the ship cruised very close to the coast and it was possible to pick out features, helped by commentary from the resident lecturers. The cruise was also aimed at bird watchers so there was quite a lot of twitching going on too! In 2007 we went on an Arctic Circle cruise. This was supposed to call at the Faeroe Islands but did not thanks to a force 8/9 gale. This meant we got to Iceland at night rather than the following day so we had time to sample the nightlife of Reykjavik. We chose to go on an all day excursion popularly known as the Golden Circle tour, taking in all the touristy sights like Geysir, the Gullfoss waterfall and Thingvellir, the site of Iceland's first parliament which is actually a place where the earth's tectonic plates are pulling apart and you can see the gap between them. Quite a sight and trip is well worth doing if you only have the one day as we had, though we fully intend to go back one day with our camper van and perhaps call in at the Faeroes on the way! We did also get a very good view of Surtsey the volcanic island which appeared a few decades ago and is being closely studied to see how it is colonised by flora and fauna. Next stop Greenland where we were very lucky to be able to sail through Prins Christiansund, very early in the morning, a magical experience in the mist with icebergs all around and glaciers tumbling down the slopes with their moraines clearly visible. Just like a school geography lesson! The icebergs were very small but they were the first most people had seen so they were well photographed, little dreaming what we would see later on! We then went on to Nuuk, capital of Greenland, quite a depressing place with high rise flats and a lot of social problems - but a good museum! Then up to Disko Bay and Ilulissat, for me the highlight of the trip. I had done lots of research on the www and bought a map of the hiking trails so we were able to walk to the edge of the ice fjord, following a trail well marked by coloured poles and passing lots of mean-looking chained up huskies on the way. The fjord, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is a sight I shall never forget. Thanks to an underwater terminal moraine where the fjord meets the sea, the fjord is completely choked with huge icebergs calved off from the glacier at its other end several miles away. Every so often one of these breaks out and enters the sea so all around there are icebergs of all shapes and sizes, mainly enormous. On the way back to the ship we actually saw (and heard) one of them turn over and break up and we have several photos of it. A truly memorable day. Later we called at two other places in Greenland, an old whaling settlement where we saw an Inuit funeral procession, and the site of a Viking settlement where we were entertained by modern Viking lady in a reconstructed building. This place is quite a long way up a fjord which was very calm and full of very small ice floes. May have been warmer In Viking times but they had still managed to grow some corn there when we visited. Our latest trip was also to the Arctic Circle, the North Cape of Norway and the island of Spitsbergen. I had wanted to go to Spitsbergen in the hope of seeing polar bears (of course we didn't!) but it was interesting as a contrast to Greenland as all the population are incomers, there are no natives, unlike on Greenland where the native culture is so interesting. Spitsbergen was originally a whaling and coal mining area, and today the capital Longyearbyen is a thriving modern town mostly inhabited by young Norwegians. We also visited a scientific research settlement where we saw some cute Arctic foxes and one lonely-looking reindeer, and most interesting of all a Russian coal mining settlement firmly stuck in the Cold War era complete with statue of Lenin and murals exhorting the workers to great things. They also had some wonderful genuine Russian souvenirs, made I imagine by the miners during those long dark evenings! On our Greenland voyage there was lots to see in the way of marine life and a very good position high up on the top deck from which view it, as well as two marine biologists from an organisation connected with whales, who were only too happy to answer questions. However on the way to Spitsbergen there was very little to see so the days at sea were quite boring but I now have two certificates to say I crossed the Arctic Circle and one to say I've been to 79 degrees North! We also visited several places in Norway and saw the midnight sun at the North Cape, though when we got there about 10pm it was so foggy you couldn't even see the edge of the cliff never mind the sea or the sky and several people got straight back on the tour buses and didn't stay so they missed the sun which appeared just before midnight! It was almost as spectacular as the seafood buffet which awaited us when we got back to the ship. In port we have tended to do our own thing rather than go on organised trips, being content to mooch around towns and take in the local colour. However we have been on a few excursions and I would recommend the Golden Circle tour in Iceland and the tour in the Lofoten Islands, Norway, which took in a visit to a Viking site with a huge reconstructed longhouse, as well as some very spectacular scenery and a pretty fishing village. What else? Well, we have always driven to Harwich and left our car there, no problem with parking or embarkation though in 2010 we took a wrong turning on the way and were so late they thought we weren't coming! Disembarkation was also fine though the lower down the ship your cabin is, the longer you have to hang around before you get off. Gives you an opportunity to see all the stuff being loaded on for the next trip and wondering where they put all that food! Mention has been made by others of the bridge wings where you can see the captain directing operations as the ship ties up, and sometimes talk to him as well (and hear some fruity language directed at whoever is making a hash of it today). I found that very interesting. On our first voyage the captain was Norwegian, and in his daily tannoy message he always recommended the sausages for lunch. The other two times it was Captain Derrick Kemp, now retired, a large imposing man who had his wife with him, an equally large woman that we christened the Pink Lady, as most of her clothes were that colour. She even had a pink camera and mobile phone! I think you may have guessed by now that I like the Discovery, and it was nice to go back again each time to familiar surroundings. We may sail on her again but next year we have booked to go to West Africa on Braemar with Fred. Olsen. I wonder how that will compare?? Community Manager's Note: 'This review was written when the ship sailed for Voyages of Discovery. As of February 2013, it is now sailing under the Cruises & Maritime banner" Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
After reading previous reviews, we were worried about embarking on a 14 day cruise of the Baltics, however our concerns were groundless. We had a fabulous time and would definitely go cruising again. The Constellation is a lovely ship ... Read More
After reading previous reviews, we were worried about embarking on a 14 day cruise of the Baltics, however our concerns were groundless. We had a fabulous time and would definitely go cruising again. The Constellation is a lovely ship and the service was outstanding. We were very pleased with our accommodations and were happy to have a balcony. While all of the services were good, the guest services desk could have been a little more friendly. The were competent and professional, but were not as helpful or anxious to please as other personnel. The dining room staff was excellent and always ready to accommodate special requests. The food was great....the prime rib with Yorkshire pudding was probably the best I've ever had anywhere. There was lots of choice! Our butler was great, always ready to be of assistance without being intrusive. We took the ship's excursions and found they were great. Celebrity made it easy for us to enjoy our holiday and see the sights. We liked the automatic tipping and were happy not to have to worry about saving up money and hunting down people we wanted to tip. It's a great improvement over previous trips. It is nice to have the option to discontinue the auto tipping if you aren't receiving good service; but, that was certainly not the case for us. Our accommodations were lovely. The room was a good size, the bed was comfortable, the washroom was large enough and there was lots of storage space. We enjoyed the quiet of our room, and on a particularly rough sea day were were happy to just relax in our room, which was situated mid-ship so we didn't feel the rough seas as much there as we did in other parts of the ship. The ports of call were fantastic. St Petersburg is a must! We took 2 all day ship's excursions in St Petersburg, which were informative and included interesting sites, and really good lunches! Copenhagen and Tallinn are beautiful. Also, the ship had fantastic shore excursions into the countryside outside of Helsinki and Stockholm. We went to 3 variety shows featuring the Celebrity entertainers and we thought they were great. We also enjoyed the ship's enrichment series on Happiness which was offered by a University of British Columbia professor. We knew about the sales pitches going in, and for the most part, having expected it, it wasn't a problem for us. The only glitch was the gym which charged $50 (per couple) to basically sell you on their products for what was billed to be part of an enrichment program. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click