10 Harwich Family Cruise Reviews

This was our first cruise with RCL, following previous experience with Cunard and NCL. We were a family of 3 (2 adults, 1 child of 11) also travelling with extended family. This was our first cruise where we sailed from the UK, we ... Read More
This was our first cruise with RCL, following previous experience with Cunard and NCL. We were a family of 3 (2 adults, 1 child of 11) also travelling with extended family. This was our first cruise where we sailed from the UK, we liked parking and the lack of hassle involved with flights, but while getting to Harwich was ok for us, it's not a great port. However, embarkation (and disembarkation at the end) was very efficient. From leaving the ship at 0745 we had cases and were driving off by 0805. The ship is a great size, very similar to the Norwegian ships we have been familiar with. We liked the cabin, great use of space and a decent bathroom (better than the NCL layout in our opinion). Cabin service was good, but the staff seemed very overworked. RCL were even more obsessed than usual with cleanliness on our cruise, and our corridor was closed at one point for 3 hours while they sanitised it after an 'incident'. We liked the interior spaces, the itinerary (12 night Scandinavia and Baltic was brilliant), and the general feeling of the ship. Our son liked the kids club and met loads of friends, which was a major bonus. We ate at Chops Grille, which was really good, but felt the other specialty restaurants were less appealing, so missed those out. We were less keen on the restaurant service in the main dining room, and felt there was a lack of choice in the main restaurant and the windjammer, especially if you are a veggie. Over several nights the same stuff kept cropping up, while the food quality was almost always good, the choice seemed narrower than the similar options on Cunard or NCL. Theatre shows were average, with a few high points. In particular the ventriloquist, juggler and final night magician were good, the rest was poor. Cruise director and staff were in federal good with one exception, which was dealt with professionally by Steve (the cruise director). Overall, we loved the destinations (especially St Petersburg and Stockholm); that made the holiday. The ship was 'fine', and we will probably use RCL again, but only if there is a a really good itinerary on offer. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
My family, including two sons aged 19 and 13 had a wonderful time visiting Norway, The Faroe Islands and Iceland. The scenery was amazing. We stopped off at Bergen first walking around the port visiting the fish market . We walked up to ... Read More
My family, including two sons aged 19 and 13 had a wonderful time visiting Norway, The Faroe Islands and Iceland. The scenery was amazing. We stopped off at Bergen first walking around the port visiting the fish market . We walked up to the Floyen Restaurant through residential area, parks and woodlands. Stopping to enjoy the views below of the Fjord and the port. It was quite a strenuous walk and not advisable to anyone who is not used to climbing up hills. At the top we enjoyed the stunning views and caught the Funicular back down to the town. Our second stop was Alesund a delightful port. We discovered the old wooden town houses and tasted the local bakes from the bakery. Finishing with a ride on an open top bus around the area. Our third, and favourite, was Gerainger, most spectacular scenery of all. We rambled along the trail of a waterfull, again quite a strenuous walk but very well worth the effort. Very quaint buildings, with grass covered roofs. We hired a Renault electric "Twizy" car with Satnav for a very enjoyable drive around the local roads visiting a farmhouse and beautiful scenic church overlooking the Fjord. We finished our trip with an exhilarating Rib ride on the Fjord for a closer look at the waterfalls. The food and entertainment on Board the Brilliance was excellent. When on board we hardly saw our boys as they had made friends and spent most evenings enjoying the activities and entertainment with the relevant groups. The Faroe Islands were very interesting, we visited the church and was lucky to be involved in a discussion with a local regarding the lifestyle and the whales within the area, which they do not hunt. Iceland, another fascinating country. We arranged an independent tour of the Island visiting the coast, hot springs and bubbling mud pools. Anyone visiting Iceland must go to the Blue Lagoon. Very helpful and friendly staff. So relaxing in beautiful warm waters sipping a prosecco. I was not overly impressed with the RC Brilliance of the Seas. In fact, I was extremely annoyed at having an extra 20% added on to all my bills for drinks as a gratuity with a further space on the bill for an optional gratuity. I queried this charge (as its not displayed on any of the drinks or fridge menus) when I was charged an extra 20% for a bottle of water in the mini bar in our room. Bearing in mind I had already paid over £350 up front for gratuities. When I questioned this I was advised that this additional 20% fee was for bar and waiting staff!! The gratuity I had already paid was for housekeeping staff! It is my opinion that this is not a gratuity but a service charge and should be shown as so. A gratuity is a gift!! I questioned why it was not advised anywhere on the menus etc and was informed it was printed on their website. In my opinion this is unethical, I questioned the fact that we were sailing in European waters and not American and they may have that system in America for paying staff but it was not acceptable in Europe. After a lengthy discussion I was eventually offered a refund which amounted to USD 108.00 in the extra gratuities that I had been charged. Again, In my personal opinion, I don't think this tipping system should be enforced it should be optional and paid for good service and not to supplement staff wages! Hence some of the attitude of some of the staff!! Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
I wanted to write a review to help others as I found this forum and website VERY informative when researching my first cruise. So to begin with, thank you! Hopefully I can give further information to new cruisers. :) We chose the ... Read More
I wanted to write a review to help others as I found this forum and website VERY informative when researching my first cruise. So to begin with, thank you! Hopefully I can give further information to new cruisers. :) We chose the Brilliance not for the ship, but for the ports of call and the timing was just right with the school holidays in Australia. As newbies, we didn't know what to expect and were guided somewhat by my travel agent. We travelled as a young family, myself 43, DH, 45 and two children, 13 and 9 years of age. It had always been a dream of mine to visit St Petersburg and see some of Scandinavia so we thought the easiest way to do this would be by cruising. To start, we flew into London and stayed there for two nights as we had jetlag to contend with. We caught a train from London Liverpool St station, to Harwich International with the quick, scrambling change at Manningtree. After our cruise, we had booked another fortnight in Europe so we had some rather big piece of luggage with us. Mistake number one! Anyway, we got to Harwich easily and the train to Harwich waited for us all at Manningtree (we thought we might miss the connection, so no problems there). Check in at Harwich was very easy and straightforward, and we looked a bit lost and confused and there was someone to greet us and point us in the right direction. Check in was reasonably quick, even with the queues, so that was great. We boarded the ship and we were advised to go and book in a time for our dinner (we had pre-paid gratuities so were automatically "My Time Dining".) So we went to the dining room where we were greeted by a slightly assertive man (the maître d'?) and were told that we would have to book in at 7.30 as they were VERY busy. I was a tad confused as I thought the point of "My Time dining" was that I could choose?? It didn't seem the case, but as we were total newbies we just meekly said "OK" and made our way to the Windjammer buffet, which was already heaving with people but we managed to find four seats at the back. We then went for a wander around the ship to see what was where, and then looked for our "stateroom". (cabin, but whatever!) We were surprised upon opening the door that it looked quite nice, and didn't look quite as small as I had thought. It had a little sofa and coffee table, so we felt comfortable in there...to begin with! We were on deck 3, so it was a midship oceanview. As new cruisers, I was worried about seasickness so was advised that this area was the best in case we hit rough waters. Anyway, the room seemed nice and our cabin attendant popped her head in and introduced herself to me and asked if we were new to cruising. I answered yes, and she explained some minor detail about the "do not disturb" cards that you can slot into the door. She then noticed there were four of us, so then came back later and set up the bunk beds which came down from the roof. So the bedding was arranged as one queen bed, then two Pullman bunks above the queen, on either side of the cabin with the ladders situated at the base of the queen. Getting a bit snug, by that point.....our luggage hadn't arrived yet so we went out to continue exploring our "home" for the next 12 nights. We departed right on schedule at 5pm and were thrilled to be sent off by the sound of bagpipes on the shore! However the "sail away party" was a total fizzer and no-one was interested and very few people showed up. It was cold (for summer) and grey and started getting breezy, so that may have had something to do with it. Or maybe it was that most people were not really there to party, but to visit St Petersburg...I'll never know. We discovered "adventure Ocean" for our 9 year old and filled in some details for her, and tried to check out the teen area, but it didn't seem that there was anyone there! So by that time, we headed off to dinner. We didn't wait long and were seated quickly. We hadn't purchased nay drinks packages so we just ordered wine and drinks off the menu but were presented with iced water as well. My 9 yo was handed a children's menu, so we ordered from that for her. The food was fine but I cannot remember what I ate, so it was unmemorable. The service from Rahul was very friendly and he seemed to take to my 13 yo, offering him extra bread and desserts with a smile. I left early with the 9yo, as we were still so jetlagged we just had to get to bed. Getting back to our cabin, it seemed to have shrunk, with our 4 large suitcases having arrived, and with a few backpacks, cameras, videos etc...... We were really only on the cruise to travel around, so we were not interested in getting dressed up for dinner, or shows, or souvenir photos or art auctions and shopping. As we were travelling from far away, we did not bother with any formal wear at all. Our first full day was at sea, and we enjoyed kicking back and doing more exploring of the ship. We went to a talk about the ports on the first day, which was quite informative and recommended if you're cruising for the ports of call. But after that, there wasn't much else to do as it was very cold and windy, no-one was in the pools or on the decks, so it seemed a bit cramped in any indoors areas. The 9yo was in Adventure Ocean all day (it's open all day in port, but closes for an hour or so between each session on sea days). The 13 yo felt intimidated by the teen club, as there were a lot of teens that seemed to know each other and it didn't look like there was someone there to facilitate, so he never attended. All seas days for us were the same. Dropping off the 9yo at Adventure Ocean, and the rest of us just wandered aimlessly, looking for something to do. I enjoyed the trio in the atrium playing classical music, but seating was very limited. We always looked at the boards to see what was happening and where, but there was very little that interested us or that didn't cost extra $$$. So, sea days were tedious on one hand, but a welcome break from very intensive port days, too! By the second day we realised we actually preferred to eat in the Windjammer, as I enjoyed the views and the selection was quite good. I also prefer to not have to sit and wait as I get restless easily! The food was as good as buffet food can be...it sits there stewing in its own juices, so you can't expect too much but it was OK. Initially I was very worried about hygiene at buffets, but there were hand sanitisers and a person at the door making sure you sanitised your hands. It didn't help once you were in the queue and eating with your hands from the plate, but hey, it's a start. The food was replenished often, and we didn't have problems finding seating as long as we went early or late. (we were still jetlagged, so were early birds!) The second evening was a formal night, and we wandered around looking at everyone dressed in their finest and having a bit of a giggle at how seriously some people were taking it. We wandered around in our jeans and hoodies, but we were still offered a glass of bubbly by a circulating waiter, who must have taken pity on us silly newbies! We were very excited to arrive in Copenhagen, and thanks to the talk the previous day, learnt that it was a reasonably easy walk into the city so we skipped the hop on hop off and shuttle buses. (also, we were on a bit of a budget) Armed with a map from the ship, we made our way past the Little Mermaid, walked to Amelienborg, past Nyhavn and into the city centre. The walk back, however, got a bit tiring after walking all day, but we made it back OK. (just!) Another sea day after Copenhagen, bored but at least it was a bit warmer and not as windy, so we could spread out a bit in the open areas. DH and 13 yo attended the Captain's talk, which they found interesting and informative. Tallinn was another easy walk into the old city, which was lovely and the sun started shining and got a little warmer. Then, the jewel, St Petersburg. Most people had come to go to St Petersburg. You need to have a booked tour and a tour ticket with your passport to go through immigration. We were warned on the ship that the immigration officers could be stern, and they certainly were not wrong! It was a bit of a debacle getting off the ship, because most tours stated to meet off the ship at 7, and we weer still on the ship at 7am. Some people got upset and started arguing and pushing and shoving, which was not necessary. They were upset to see that those that had booked shore excursions from Royal Caribbean got priority getting off over the rest of us, so there was a fair bit of yelling which was ugly. A word of advice, SPB tours was great and very reasonably priced. It was easy to find them once we got through immigration and we had a fabulous two day tour. And yes, they wait for you even though it states to meet at 7am. They know we won't get through before 7.30.... There was a Russian folklore group in the theatre that night, but we were way too tired from our jam packed day to take advantage! One disappointment. The second day in St Petersburg, we still had to go through immigration but it was a lot quicker, and the officer actually gave my daughter a small wink and smile, which was a HUGE difference to the previous day! So, on to Helsinki the next day. This was the only port where we had booked a shore excursion through the cruise ship. It was very expensive, but I didn't want to regret it so I pressed ahead and booked. To make a comparison, it cost $250 for 4 hours in Helsinki with Royal shore excursions, and $250 for 2 full days with SPB tours in St Petersburg with all entry fees included. Go and do the maths! Anyway, we went to a national park for a bit of an easy walk through the forest, and at the end of it we could feed the reindeer and were given a cinnamon bun and coffee in a typical Lappish hut. It was fun and nice to see a bit of nature after several days of cities, culture, palaces and art, but it was very expensive for what you get, so not sure if it was worth it. The bus took us back into the city and we were given shuttle bus tickets as we took one of the ship's excursions. The Kauppatori market was lovely and had some great lunch options and fresh berries. Next stop, Stockholm. By this point we were very tired not having had any breaks, so we hoped to get a shuttle bus into Stockholm as the ship docked a bit too far from the city centre. But alas, we were told there were no shuttle buses! We had to get on a Hop On Hop off and we had to buy tickets in advance. So we rested up, put on our best walking shoes and walked in to the city. Again, it was fine walking into the city, but walking around all day and back was a chore. It was the most we had walked in any port so far, so I recommend trying to get a bus or taxi or Hop on Hop off if possible. Cruising out of Stockholm in the sunset was breathtakingly beautiful and it will stay with me forever... Finally, a sea day that I was actually grateful for as my feet were very sore and were begging for mercy! Another Captain's talk and some lazing around. Last port, sob, and we were back in Denmark. We were informed that there was a music festival in town, which sounded good, but when we got there you needed to buy day tickets, so it wasn't for us. Skagen is a beautiful small town and it seemed a holiday area for Danes. We enjoyed just walking around, poking into shops here and there and generally soaking up the atmosphere with the buskers all around and a lot of people there for the festival. Then another final day at sea, and this is when things got a bit uncomfortable. Even though we had pre-paid gratuities, we were being encouraged to give even more in cash. As Australians, we are not used to tipping, so found this odd and it made us feel uncomfortable. We were also being asked about disembarkation and we had no idea, we just thought we'd walk off ourselves with our luggage, which was an option. But then we were told, after choosing this option, that we had to leave by 6am! But then someone else told us we could leave when we liked, as long as it was by 9am. So it was a bit of a confusing day for us. We felt pressured to tip extra, so we gave some extra $$ to our room attendant, who really didn't go out of her way, just did the usual cleaning. I noted that some signs stated to contact my room attendant if I needed anything, but I had no idea how to! Was she supposed to have left me her contact details? I never really needed anything, so it wasn't an issue, but I felt that she diddled us by not leaving her details. She also did not leave us newsletters on the kids programs a few times, so I guess she could have been better, but I felt sorry that she had to attend to our cabin used by 4 people, and dodging wet washing hanging from the ladder rungs and everywhere I could hang things! So she did an OK job, I guess. We did attend a few shows, they were OK but nothing spectacular. I also attended an enrichment talk. The first one literally put me to sleep (the rocking of the ship??) , but the second one was better. In all, we really enjoyed our first cruise, the Baltic was often as smooth as glass, we were very fortunate to have had good weather throughout the entire cruise. No seasickness! We had dinner in the MDR only about 4 times. My 13 yo thought it a treat and he felt quite posh as we rarely go to restaurants at home, but I preferred the Windjammer. My 9yo loved Adventure Ocean so much, that she refused to get off the ship in Stockholm and Skagen, so a very big THANK YOU to the youth staff who were fabulous! The ship was reasonably clean, I didn't have too much trouble with the cleanliness except for one spot in the Windjammer that looked like it had ice cream smeared on the glass and it never did get cleaned up.... The pool decks and chair were always washed down every morning and our room seemed clean. The service in the MDR was at times very slow, which is why I preferred the Windjammer, The menu in the MDR was the same as what was served in the Windjammer, we noticed, so no fear of missing out! Prices of drinks were very expensive, the cheapest glass of wine was $9 US, with gratuities on top of it. We didn't drink much! We bought the kids a soft drink/soda package. It was not advertised on the ship, so be careful, you don't have to buy the $20 package for the kids. They got a souvenir cup and a very limited choice of Coke, lemonade or soda water. Not really worth it but there was a minor tantrum on the second day and I acquiesced. We also got the 12 bottles of Evian delivered to our room, which they also charged gratuities for, which surprised me! But in all, we had such a great time, and it whet our appetites for another cruise, so it must have been OK! :) Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
Harwich made an excellent departure port being not too far to drive from home. 25 minutes car park to cabin equals speedy embarkation, something RCI seem to excel at. This was our first time on a Radiance Class ship and we were impressed ... Read More
Harwich made an excellent departure port being not too far to drive from home. 25 minutes car park to cabin equals speedy embarkation, something RCI seem to excel at. This was our first time on a Radiance Class ship and we were impressed having a few weeks earlier been on Anthem of the Seas. The cabin an inside on deck 8 was spacious and kept clean by an excellent steward. We had selected My Time Dining and it worked well. Service was attentive and the food acceptable. The new style menu's give the impression that it is a 3 course meal but in fact if selected correctly it was a 4 course. Surprised they ran out of Rose wine half way through the cruise though. The entertainment compared favourably with other cruise lines and a couple of the shows were excellent. Never had a problem getting a seat unless arriving just as the show started. It was a surprise to find that smoking was allowed in the casino bearing in mind the alleged effects from passive smoking. Giovanni's and Chops Grill were a delight. For the extra charged it was worth it. The ports of call were excellent with lots to see in all of them. The sail out from Stockholm was in my opinion only second to Venice. The sun was shining as we twisted and turned through the islands and made for a memorable experience. Skagen was a complete surprise and an area that I would like to return to for a longer stay. St Petersburg was the jewel in the crown. So much to see and such beauty as it would be difficult to find anything near it anywhere else in the world. The staff at guest relations like the others on the ship were excellent. All in all a good cruise experience representing excellent value for money. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
Harwich departure: booked car park a week in advance for £90 for 12 night cruise. This saves £30 if you just turn up. Efficient and friendly staff. Well organised. They take your luggage away and it appears in your stateroom. They ... Read More
Harwich departure: booked car park a week in advance for £90 for 12 night cruise. This saves £30 if you just turn up. Efficient and friendly staff. Well organised. They take your luggage away and it appears in your stateroom. They operate a constant stream of shuttle buses to take you to the ship. Same experience upon return. Excellent all round. Ship: lovely and clean. Professional, mostly friendly staff. Good range of bars, restaurants. Childrens activities: arcade, mini golf good. Pool was salt water (unlike Princess cruise ship)... this was not great for the kids. Pool with slide had limited opening hours e.g 4pm - 6pm on port days. To be fair was enough but it meant you needed to plan. Climbing wall had very restricted opening times and therefore was overly busy when open. Good staff and equipment though. Childrens club: staff OK - range of activities not great and facilities no where near as good as on previous cruise (Princess cruises). 9 year old disappointed. Restaurants: Booked 8.30pm time slot in advance. Perfect time... allowing enough time to refresh from the busy port days. Excellent staff. Good range of food, which was generally good. Sometimes portions not big - but there is 24 hour food on board! How anyone can complain about not enough food is beyond me. you can literally eat a 4 course meal in the dining room and then head straight up to the windjammer for supper. Good range of food... salads, bread and fruit always seemed fresh. Entertainment: fine... pleasant band, although heard the same songs night after night, theatre OK. Made our own entertainment really playing cards etc. A lot of activities for the older crowd e.g. line dancing, art auctions, introduction to bridge - - we expected this and just enjoyed having time together without the TV/playstations to distract us. Ports: wow... great way to see 6 countries in 12 days. Highlight Tallin - lovely medieval town. 20 mins slow stroll in and then you can just wander. St Petersburg amazing. Booked private tour with TJ Travel. 7 of us in our party. Private minibus with a tour guide... Excellent. Cannot fault. Do not hesitate to use. Other cities lovely... but capitals are bit samey e.g. the lovely church, the lovely park etc. Expensive shopping. RC trips are very over priced and we wished we had opted to organise port days ourselves with advance prep, using shuttle buses ... but overall it is amazing that you wake up in a different place each day. People: like anything it is the people who make or break a trip. RC staff on the whole were good but the holiday makers themselves let the cruise down at times. Rude, pushy - the lack of manners was unbelievable. My children could be waiting in a line for their turn to order and adults would just push infront or shout over them. Not good people! Overall verdict: we would book with Royal Caribbean again and go on the same ship, if price was right. For this particular cruise Princess (who we prefer) were £1000 more - not sure on a family budget that this higher amount is worth it? If your aim is to spend family time together then a cruise is great. It is what you make of it. Go armed with port information. Plan ahead. Take cards, small games and find a hidey hole. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
I think it is always important to understand who is providing a review on this site. There is such a diverse community of cruisers that perspective is extremely important. We are a 40-something couple with two young children, 5 and 4. We ... Read More
I think it is always important to understand who is providing a review on this site. There is such a diverse community of cruisers that perspective is extremely important. We are a 40-something couple with two young children, 5 and 4. We have done quite a bit of cruising with our children, we always focus on the itinerary first. Harwich - Just one observation regarding departure - take the train! Unless you plan to tour England a few days before the cruise, driving in England (particularly this route) is very slow and difficult. Google maps quoted a two hour drive, it took us four hours due to heavy construction on the M25, pretty much the whole way around London. The train station is literally a hop, skip and jump to the cruise terminal. Since we were the last folks to arrive in the cruise terminal, check-in was smooth, quick, and easy. The ship design is generally pretty lackluster, and shows its age. The process of "Solsticizing" this ship lead to a lot of questionable design changes. For instance, the kids club took over half of the forward nightclub, the Constellation Lounge. Gym The gym was at the front of the ship so it was a terrific location to hit the treadmill in the morning as the ship sailed through the Fjord. I was there at 6am to 6:30 and was usually one of two or three people in there. It didn't pick up until 7am when the staff came on duty. Food/Dining Celebrity did a good job with food quality, I was a little surprised that a ship with such a fabulous pastry chef didn't have a midnight buffet on a 10-night cruise. Breakfast in the buffet was ok. In my opinion all of the ships serve the same stuff, there is pretty much everything you could want for breakfast. The buffet did have a nice(but slow) eggs benedict counter. We ate in the main dining room most nights, the menu was diverse enough night after night that there was always something new to try and the staples steak and salmon were good. The chocolate cake served in the main dining room was to die for. It was so good, we took photos of it. Lots of photos. We dined one night at the Qsine restaurant, this is a very cool concept but make an early reservation as you would need several hours to try several of the menu items. Service is very slow. Celebrity does the RCCL Opening dining concept which to me falls quite short of being an open dining concept since they take reservations; they need to take a lesson from NCL on this - first come, first serve. Entertainment The entertainment was ok. The production dancers were very good, the production singers - not so much (except for one of the female leads). The contortionist couple were amazing. Celebrity always caters toward the older crowd when it comes to entertainment so it didn't surprise me to see a concert pianist in the theater one night. However, the pianist, Brooks Aheron, was extremely entertaining for all ages. The only real miss for us in the theatre was a female soloist who had been on The Voice UK. The club and lounge singers did a good job. Kids Club As previously mentioned the kids club took over a portion of the Constellation Lounge, so it provided great views for the youngsters but the club design was an after thought. No jungle gyms to keep the youngsters active like Disney or Norwegian. Considering what they had to work with, the crew of the kids club did a great job keeping the kids entertained and interested. The hours of the club were a little odd, i.e. it completely shut down from 5pm-7pm every night. The flip side is that we didn't have to pay for the club in ports unless we left them for lunch. Most of the cruise lines use that tactic on sea days (to make sure the kids get fed). It was a annoying that they did it everyday. My gauge on the quality of the kids club is whether or not my kids are pestering me to go there throughout the cruise. I'm happy to report they never lost interest! (To date - Only the RCCL clubs hold the honor of boring my children) Ports: (We did not go on any ship-sponsored excursions) Oslo We did the City Sightseeing hop-on/hop-off in Oslo since we had never been to Norway before. We used City Sightseeing in several of the cities and the buses usually had wifi onboard. If you've never done an Icebar before, the Oslo one is small but worth the price. Stavanger Stavanger is a quaint little city. There is a mall/grocery store close to the port if you need any supplies. Flam Flam is an incredibly beautiful place. I will spend the rest of my life trying to figure out how to retire there. These is a walking loop from the port is about a 2 mile circuit but it will take several hours due to all of the photos you'll have to take. (if we didn't have the kids with us I would have rented bikes here). Alesund - It rained heavily the day we were here. This is a quaint little city but I assume the reason the ship was in port for 12 hours there had to do with timing into the fjords. I recommend an excursion that takes you outside of Alesund. Geiranger - Beautiful, but this place was a zoo when we were there due to having three cruise ships in port that day. The Infinity had to use the tenders. There are several tourists buses that will drive you to the scenic overlooks. City Sightseeing also ran a bus service to the overlooks. One tip on Geiranger - get up early to get a photo of the Seven Sisters waterfall as the ship sails into Gerainger. In the afternoon, leaving Geiranger, they do the whole production and photo op turning the ship 365 degrees. However, due to the time of day you will most likely be taking your photos in to the sun. Olden - Beautiful place and similar to Olden, I would love to retire here. Again, if we didn't have the kids here we would have rented bikes. There is a glacier tour here, but if you have done Alaska, you'll be disappointed. Bergen - This historic capital of Norway seemed to have more life than the current capital. We also lucked out in having a beautiful sunny day in Europe's rainiest city. Everything was packed with tourists, not just from the ships. It was crowded, very crowded. I disembarked from Bergen and hopped a flight back to US due to work obligations. It would be a great end to a cruise to hop off in Bergen and tour around Norway a little more, just a thought. Several folks disembarked with me in Bergen, I suspect that was their plan. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
Overall a great cruise, the staff are wonderful and nothing is too much trouble. Unfortunately the hard sell of all extras is off putting which involves extortionate wine prices for average wines, the cheapest bottle was $37, high drink ... Read More
Overall a great cruise, the staff are wonderful and nothing is too much trouble. Unfortunately the hard sell of all extras is off putting which involves extortionate wine prices for average wines, the cheapest bottle was $37, high drink prices in general, no draft beers after 2/3 days, restaurant extras for certain meals, i.e lobster and every other restaurant apart from the windjammer buffet style dining area carried a cost. We all expect the never ending photo opportunities but this was somewhat excessive and bordering on annoying. We enjoyed the ports of call and went on 3 pre booked excursions which were well organised and informative. At most of the ports it was easy to make your own arrangements to sight-see and was more cost effective. The ship also had indoor smoking areas and certain nights for smoking in bars/casino which spoilt activities and the smell of stale smoke in the entertainment areas was ever present. The food was enjoyable but repetitive, one of our party was vegetarian and the choice was bland curry or pasta and tomato sauce most nights; in comparison with other cruises the food and variety was lacking. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
EMBARKATION Arrived at Harwich 11.30am and followed signs to the car park to the left of the Ship. Luggage was taken; we parked the car ourselves and got the courtesy shuttle bus to the Ship. It was busy already with the priority area for ... Read More
EMBARKATION Arrived at Harwich 11.30am and followed signs to the car park to the left of the Ship. Luggage was taken; we parked the car ourselves and got the courtesy shuttle bus to the Ship. It was busy already with the priority area for platinum members and above overflowing so we went into the normal queue which was much quicker. We then queued up to the scanners and all the way on to the Ship. The Windjammer buffet restaurant was not too full so we had lunch. Next we ordered the Evian water package from outside the Windjammer - yes I know it is very expensive (16x1 litre bottles for $66 including the 15% tip added automatically) but I do prefer it to the water on board which has a funny taste and as I do not drink tea or coffee, I am rather limited as to what I can have. This arrived in the cabin at 8.30pm so next time I will order beforehand if it says it will be waiting in the cabin on arrival. We went to our cabins at 1.45pm and they were open. I never did hear the announcement saying they were open so not sure if they said or not. Two out of 3 suitcases were already there and the 3rd arrived within a few minutes so very good service. We unpacked and attended the lifeboat drill at 4pm before sailing at 5pm. My cabin steward came to say hello and was generally very good. I did have to ask him for my bathrobe which should be standard for platinum members and above and Guest Relations for my Crown & Anchor Ultimate Value Booklet which was also missing. This has discount coupons for drinks, photos, casino, laundry, bingo, jewelry, tattoos, Pets at Sea, $7.50 internet credit and a few other things too. FOOD & DRINK The Windjammer was ok for self service. I like to look first so always eat here rather than the main waiter service restaurant which does make you feel hemmed in. I heard one passenger say they were all herded in like cattle down there! It is very handy having free lemonade here although they do fill the glass full with ice so I have to constantly ask for no ice or just 2 cubes. They also do occasionally have lime water and a couple of other flavoured drinks free. My only criticisms were that at dinner, half the Windjammer restaurant is closed off and the make your own pizzas at dinner had been replaced by plastic fruit! I spoke to the restaurant manager one night as the glare off the sea was so bright it was difficult to see in the only side that was open. He did explain it was due to staff shortages amongst other excuses but did say I could sit the other side if I wanted to anytime. Other people were coming in asking the same question but the waiter staff still insisted it was closed. We saw our dining room waiter from last year's Russia cruise on Day 9 twice. We did not think he would still be here so it was nice to see him and catch up. Keeping up with last year, on the last day at lunchtime they had a giant cake and scooped ice cream. Yum! GENERAL The destination guides for each port are no longer put in the cabins in the evening before the next port. You now have to go to guest relations/shore excursions to pick one up -- I wonder why! Make sure you check the language is correct too. I was disappointed there was no proper information about where we were docking at each port. They did not explain if we would be in a working port area where we needed to get shuttle buses or if it would be literally next to the town and we would be able to walk. We only found out when getting off the Ship. In fact guest relations twice told us there were no free shuttles in Bergen when there were. CASINO I was disappointed it was impossible to walk from the front of the ship on deck 6 through the pit stop bar to the casino without being choked from the smoke. Some parts of the casino had no smoking signs but this was pointless with the smoke wafting through from the bar. We had two Crown & Anchor members' only casino tournaments. You redeem 1 of the $5 match play certificates in your ultimate value booklet to enter. For the 1st game you get 5 minutes on the slot machines. Whoever scored the most in the top 3 won prizes. Nothing special, T shirts etc. but it was free and good fun. We also had a blackjack tournament as we left Iceland where you get $500 chips to play 7 rounds. Again whoever wins gets a prize and no you don't get to keep the chips! When playing the slot machines in the casino, insert your Seapass card to accrue points which you can redeem near the end of the cruise. SHOPS ON BOARD The $10 sale has been replaced by the $12 sale. Also they were still doing a Russian Bazaar the last day trying to sell the dolls etc. which are a lot cheaper at the markets in Russia if you ever take that cruise. (Our cruise was a one off as normally this ship goes up to Russia). CABINS Still no flat screen TV's in room and no decent TV so not possible to check what is going on back home even if you wanted to. No BBC UK news, just BBC World news and no Sky. ESPN was the best channel if you like sports. This came in handy to watch us lose yet again on penalties in the European footie tournament but this time to Italy! Cabins are looking rather dated although clean but could do with a refit. The chair & sofa beds look grubby and worn as do the bathroom cabinets and the toilet had a permanent black ring around it. My hairdryer socket stopped working on day 6 but maintenance promptly fixed it but the next morning the hairdryer and the fridge had been fused again. When I returned from breakfast the maintenance man explained he changed the circuit board and was fitting a new fridge/cooler just in case. Later that day the same thing happened and the cabin steward said same problem next door. Not sure if they were plugging the wrong voltage in or not but it never happened again. Shower doors did not close totally in the middle but it only caused a spray of water outside no major flood so I did not report it to maintenance. Overall it was as clean as it could be. INTERNET We used our $7.50 internet coupons from our discount booklets during the cheap rate time of 7-9am making it 44c per minute. I bought my netbook this time so registered on one of the ships pc's to set up a username and password and then logged into it via my pc. Unfortunately it did not go back to the log off page and although I selected disconnect from the options on the pc, it was still charging. Luckily I checked with guest relations and the lady was very helpful and showed me on my pc what ip address I need to input for their internet cafe to log off. She also re credited me the extra time. On board internet seemed quicker than usual in Shetland but was very slow at Sea the last day so I gave up. I think it will be cheaper for us Brits in Europe to use a mobile phone with a good deal for internet access. I must get with the times and get a blackberry or something similar soon rather than just use my mobile for calls and texts. I had a text in Iceland saying calls 50p connection and then I can use my free o2 minutes. Also it said internet was only �£1.66 plus vat for all day up to 25MB. So it is worth checking with your provider if it will be cheaper and easier to use your own mobile instead for internet access. Obviously when at sea, you are connected to the Ships connection so will be very expensive. The internet packages the Ship offer were 60 mins for $35, 100 mins for $55, 150 mins for $75, 250 mins for $100 and 500 mins for $150. You need quite a lot of time as connection is very slow. SHIPS EXCURSIONS On Day 2 whilst at sea, we booked the Panoramic Faroe Islands tour. They had 3 different times for this tour but 1 was already sold out. I couldn't find much to do independently here in my research so decided to book with the Ship. I also asked about vacancies on the Reykjavik geothermal field's tour and she had 3 places left so we also booked this too. We have learnt over the last few cruises that the Ships tours are getting very expensive and it appeared to me they are charging around �£20-�£30 mark up on what you can get them for if you book locally in the Tourist Info offices or online beforehand. I wonder if they are also getting a group discount but are not passing this on either! We heard a lot of people comment on the same thing this cruise especially in Iceland where tours are a lot cheaper in the TI office just off the Ship. Of course the benefits of taking a Ships tour is that the Ship will not go without you if you are late back and you do not need to plan anything in advance.BERGEN, NORWAY Clocks had gone forward 1 hour the 1st night at sea so we were already on Norway time. We docked on the left side (port). Was quite interesting watching the goings on in the working port. Good views both sides though. It was quite warm & sunny until lunchtime then clouded over. (worth noting not to take much notice of the Ships weather forecast). We didn't bring any Norwegian Krone (NOK) currency with us this year which was a mistake. We decided to convert some dollars we had yesterday at Guest Relations but they told us they would not have any until they docked in Bergen and to come back at 7.15am. When we did this, we were told no they did not get any as thought but may have some later that evening. She said it was not a problem as our ports accepts Euros. This was ok for Bergen but not Flam. At the current exchange rate it would have been better value for us to use NOK. Last year we came with P&O and they had told us some useful information on the talk the day before in the theatre and that there would be free shuttle buses to the lake & fountain area. RC did not tell us this and we were told twice at guest relations there was no shuttle. Later on we were told there was a free shuttle. This delayed us getting off the ship. Last year we were off 8am and up the Funicular Railway -- just 80 NOK return. We decided once at the waterfall area to take the City Sightseeing Hop on Hop off (HOHO) bus this time as I am still recovering from DVT & PE's so cannot walk far yet. Not quite sure why RC set up the exit point at the far end of the ship, furthest away from the coaches! HOHO was 150NOK, or £20, 20 Euros or $30. You can pay in any of these currencies or credit card. The people in front of us used credit card. There were signs up in the road in Norwegian that had 12.00-21.00 on them. The driver on the HOHO said the streets were closed for a cycle race from 12.00. Shame RC decided to go here this day and also why were HOHO not charging half price! There were another 5 or so ships also in today so the place was heaving with people. The P&O Oceana docked over the other side right next to the HOHO stop. Last year P&O Ventura docked miles out like we did this year. We decided to go around anyway on the HOHO and when we reached the funicular at 10am which is only a 15 min walk from the fountain and lake by the way (where shuttles drop you off); the queue was right down to the bottom of the hill! (There are toilets at the bottom which you pay for I think but free ones at the top from what I remember. There is also a cafe at the top. We carried on to some picture stops, not that impressive and past some other cruise ships, the aquarium and back to the fountain area. Was it worth £20 -- no to be honest. The aquarium is 200NOK for anyone wanting to go in. Page them up online for timetable e.g. seal show, feeding times etc. Website says it is a 15-20 min walk from city centre and also the number 11 bus goes there. FLAM (pronounced Flom) Docked starboard side (right) looking over to the Flam Railway. Nice views over the bay the other side. Temperature was 18c sun & cloud but much colder up the mountain on the train. We arrived at 7am. Again they set the exit point off the Ship as far away as possible. Flam railway station is literally a few minutes' walk to the left past the souvenir shops & cafes from the ship. There is also a museum slightly further along to the left of the railway. We got off the boat at 8.10am to get our own Flam Railway ticket to Myrdal and back as the boat are charging approximately £25 more per ticket. Return ticket for adults is 360NOK (was just under £40). You can pay in NOK or credit card. You CANNOT pay in Euros so we used the credit card. People were just starting to queue out the doors of the ticket office but still we missed the 8.35 train by a good 10 minutes. The sign said ticket office open from 8.15am but worth getting in the queue from 7.30-7.45. Although this early train was not full even with the excursion tours, they would not allow tickets to be purchased on board so it left half empty. The next 2 trains were sold out as were the returns trains. Although there were spaces on the 12.20 this meant we had to get the 14.43 train back, arriving back at Flam at 15.40 when the time set to be on board the ship was ten minutes before at 15.30! The ticket office asked the Ship if they could book this train but they told us the Ship had said no. However, after we learnt a few people had booked it and some were told by Guest Relations that the ship will wait for them we also booked it. Even so, it was an anxious wait all day which was unnecessary. Surely RC knew the only thing people wanted to see here is the railway so why not say on board time 15.45? The timetable was clearly printed online so they must have been aware we needed just 10 more minutes. They have definitely lost some of their credibility with me over this! The captain was more concerned with the crew lifeboat race going on outside! Slightly better view up the mountain was on the left side going up (3 seats). It stops about 10 minutes from the top for you to get out and take a picture of the waterfall. Be warned you may get a little damp with the spray. You pass through the snowcapped mountains that you can see from ground level. Not much up the top but you could spend the hour and a quarter or so up there, but remember to take a warm coat, hat & gloves for when you get to the top. As we went up, we passed the sold out return 13.27 train which was not full at all. I wonder if RC had booked all the seats. Although we were the only ship in port, there were a few coaches from elsewhere who had booked tours. My tip for here is to get off the Ship around 7.30 and get in the queue for tickets! GEIRANGER This is a tendered port with town views to the right side (starboard). Good views both sides. As we left Flam yesterday, the Captain announced we would pass the Seven Sisters Waterfall in Geiranger at around 7.30am. This is around 10-15 minutes from the port. The sun was shining and a rainbow had formed over the falls. Everyone wanting to go ashore had to queue from 9am for tender tickets to leave from 9.30am but the ship announced at 8.45 that as they were ready early & anybody who wanted to go ashore within the next 10 -- 15 minutes can do so without tender tickets so we hastily left. We were ashore just after 9am and it was a beautiful sunny day so we walked into the tourist information office just by the docks and booked the coach up to Mount Dalsnibba. It was 250NOK or 35 euros. The bus left at 9.40am. There were 2 further tours later in the day. The HOHO bus only goes part way up the mountain which would be ok if the weather was not great and was 180NOK. I would say it is best to see what the weather is like before booking in advance. It took around 1hr 30 to get to the top as we picked up a couple of people en route and detoured to drop a couple off by the frozen lake. We didn't mind the detours as it was truly fantastic views and we went up into the snowcapped mountains. Great view up the top and a souvenir shop and clean free to use toilets. It is a lot colder at the top so even though it was 18c at the bottom of the mountain, it was below freezing at the top so a thick coat, gloves etc. required! The shop takes NOK, Euros, GB Pounds and Dollars. The trip down was only an hour and again great views. There are a number of souvenir shops at the bottom of the mountain by the tourist information. Reading other reviews I believe this is a visitor Centre (Fjord Centre) just a little way up the mountain that some people walked to. Also clean free to use toilets to the left side of the Tourist Info office. As we left the port, we again passed the Seven Sisters Waterfall. Clocks went backwards 1 hour overnight tonight. LERWICK, SHETLAND, UK We arrived around 9.30am and again tendered port so needed tickets for the lifeboat to go ashore from 11am. No early let off today so we got a tender ticket which was up to number 9 already. Unfortunately they were not calling the numbers out in the rooms or the corridors, only by the theatre where tickets were issued so we walked down to the lifeboats a little while later to see where they were up to and were let on after a tour party just going on had a few spare seats on their lifeboat. A good 5 minute tender ride to the pier, looks like independent boat trips available from here also. We just walked around the town and did not do any tours, as only 2 available anyway. I heard you can do the local boat trips to the see the birds on the cliffs -- check map given out when you get off the tender boats. Small town just off the pier with some big name stores like Boots and shoe shops, etc. Several souvenir shops including Shetland fudge but the shop was packed we could not get in the door. Lots of cafes and the smell of fish and chips were very tempting. There are lots of free toilets around the town and by the pier and local buses available also for those wanting to ride further around the island. As we were back in the UK we were able to use our mobiles free again. We heard people commented there was free Wi-Fi in most of the ports. KLAKSVIK, FAROE ISLANDS Sunny day 11c which actually felt quite warm, except when we went up the mountain on the tour pm. Arrived at 8am. Docked port side (left) but still nice view of the mountain the other side. Not many houses although there are lots of small villages around the island. Again, getting off the ship was right at the back of the ship with the end of the pier the opposite end. The free local shuttle buses were driving up to the departure point which was helpful. Shame the ship did not tell us this in the daily compass guide, seems they would rather use that to sell their chargeable services rather than provide useful information! We did not go into town but I imagine it was full of the usual tourist shops. Instead we were on a ships tour in the afternoon -- Faroe panoramic. My tip for the tours -- get off the ship earlier than it says. I am not sure if the ship overbooked this tour but all 3 coaches were full yet we still left around 7 people on the pier. They were not late, in fact 10 minutes before the departure time. This was a 2 hour 30 tour driving around the island. Maybe those left behind were the lucky ones, our guide decided to sing to us twice and really he was bad! He was very helpful though answering lots of questions. He was telling us the cost of houses here are 300,000 euros and you need 3-4000 euros per month to live here as taxes are around 42%. We drove through the 6km undersea tunnel. You drive downhill to 150m below sea level before going up and out the other side of the mountain. Then we passed through another shorter tunnel. We drove the whole time around little villages and mountains stopping for 3 picture stops. The 1st stop had toilets (1 passenger said they looked like a garden shed -- he was correct). Luckily as it was a short tour, the toilets were not required. The guide did not tell us there were no more toilets for the other 2 hours though. Clocks go backwards 1 hour tonight as At Sea tomorrow. REYKJAVIK, ICELAND Day 1 We arrived at 7am. Docked left side (port) but just overlooking the working dock area. The other side of the Ship has nice views. Gangway was once again at the back of the boat, as far away from the entrance to the dock. It was very uneven and not flat, and very difficult to walk on. Luckily however, Iceland Port had their own gangway they wheeled on and set up near the front so wheelchairs etc. could get off. Breakfast was quiet at 8.30am as many people were out at this time for the Golden Circle Tour. We docked in SKARFABAKKI harbour which happens to be on stop 9 of the HOHO City Sightseeing bus if you page this up on the internet. The HOHO is 3000 ISK for adults (approximately £15) and 1500ISK for 12-15 year olds and free for 0-11 year olds. The tour does not look very interesting, it goes to the main town, the BSI Bus terminal Stop 4 (other tours go from here but I think they also offer pick-ups from dock or hotels - you just need to ask.) It also goes to the National Museum, the Hilton Hotel and a hostel. You could use the HOHO instead of paying the $15 return for the ships shuttle buses which were not free here unlike the other ports we had visited. Tickets for HOHO are valid 24 hours. The Ships shuttle bus stops at stop 1 on the HOHO route. I spotted the tourist office from my cabin using the binoculars I bought with me and I could see it said on the windows of the building to book tours here etc. We walked down and there is also a Europcar rent a car desk inside the tourist office and an internet cafe -- didn't check if free or not. The staff were very helpful indeed and showed us all the tour leaflets and gave good advice. They offer even more tours than the ship does. They do several evening tours including the Golden Circle at 13.00 or 19:00 which goes to the Gullfoss waterfall 120km away and the geothermal area. Gray Line operates a lot of tours from here. One company from BSI terminal was advertising free Wi-Fi on their coaches. Most tours are in English with some offering other languages also. The whale trip we booked was English and as the guide was German, she repeated everything in German also. There is also a souvenir shop inside the TI Office and the staff said you can pay in ISK, Euros, Pounds, dollars or credit card (which we used) for the tour we booked. We could not believe how much cheaper the tours were than the ships excursions to the same places. We went back on board and cancelled the geothermal tour which they did without charging us a cancellation fee. We decided it was such a lovely sunny day with very flat sea that we should do the whale watching instead. I would recommend waiting until you arrive and only do this tour if the sea is very flat. I read the reviews on the whale watching boats and they do say many people are sea sick on it if rough seas. We paid £47 euros or 7500ISK each and that includes the pick up from just outside at the back of the TI office -- just look for the blue whale watching minibus. Pick up is 30 minutes before the tour. We did pick up at 2 other places around town but it gave us an overview of the town and to be honest there doesn't look much here. Most of the interesting bits are further afield. It was called Whale watching & puffin tour LIFE OF WHALES. There are around 3 different companies all about the same price. They leave at 8.55am, 12.55 and 16.55. Other companies were around the same time or 10am 2pm 6pm and 1 leaflet says 20.30pm June -- August. The whale watching boat accepts credit cards for purchases in the cafe and Euros. There are thermal suits downstairs if you want to wrap up warm. Even though it was 18c by the ship, it is still windy out in the bay so you do need a thick coat, hats & gloves. It is worth noting that the ships Whale excursion was using another boat in the same area and was packed. We only had around 30 people on our boat and it was therefore a lot easier to get a good viewing position. We mostly spotted whales ahead of us so it is worth trying to get to the front although very windy there. We saw a mother and calf mink whale and another whale further along. The morning trip saw a humpback whale also. Toilets on board were clean and the cafe had lots from cans of drink to hotdogs & sandwiches. The tour also went past Puffin Island on the way to the whales. There were loads of puffins but I would recommend binoculars for a good view though. I wouldn't recommend just the puffin island tour (around 24euros) as the boats look very small so could be very bouncy. The windjammer restaurant opened before 6pm tonight although it was advertised as 6.30pm as usual, due to the fact many all day tours arrived back just before then. REYKJAVIK, ICELAND Day 2 Sadly we had to be back on board at 12.30 so we did not do any of the other tours. We would have liked to have done the Golden Circle and could have done the evening tour last night but I decided against this as still not 100% fully fit but it is possible to cram lots in here. I will have to come back next year! There were some local buses going to the blue lagoon on a regular basis for anyone not wanting to pay the Ships excursion prices. We went ashore early and got some souvenirs in the TI office before it good too crowded. Not cheap but Norway and Iceland are expensive anyway. Thimbles 495 IKR, Postcards 100ISK, fridge magnets 695IKR, ornaments from 895IKR. Clothing is quite expensive. Calendars were very expensive at 1295IKR. If we had gone on the HOHO bus yesterday we could have used the ticket today for a ride around as valid 24 hrs. Ship was due to leave at 1pm which was a shame. I do not know why they did not stay until 4 or 5pm as this would have allowed a lot more sightseeing and we are back in Harwich at 4am Monday which is really not necessary. I can only assume the mooring fees are very expensive in Iceland. Real shame though. Lots of the ships tours were late back so we didn't get away until nearly 1.30pm. Just before we sailed away the captain warned us we would be sailing in to rough weather and 12ft waves from midnight tonight and during tomorrow. Having been on some rough seas in the past we didn't take much notice even when it started getting very rough and swaying later in the evening. However, it was a relentless night of jolting about and the whole ship shuddering. The next morning I felt sick when I walked or tried to walk around the cabin. This is very unusual for me but most people were affected today. It was difficult to stay upright at times. It felt much better lying down. By 11am I had to take anti seasick tablets. I ordered room service for the 1st time the whole trip and it appeared everyone else had too as I was told it would be a 45 minute wait. I thought I may feel better if I ate something as had skipped breakfast. Room service menu is rather basic but OK. I had a couple of slices of pizza and then rested in bed again. A couple of hours later I was feeling a lot better but could not face getting up until dinner. The captain informed us we had changed course slightly due to the storm and were battered by 5 metre high waves (as if we didn't know)! It started to ease about 7pm thankfully. Clocks went forward 1hour tonight. The last day at sea was a lot easier but did get a bit choppy again in the afternoon. We packed before dinner and used up our quarters from our winnings the days before in the casino. It took a good hour to lose $10 and was good fun. Worth noting, some people got off the ship in Iceland. This is actually not a bad idea. You could spend a good few days here seeing all the sights and then fly back rather than taking 2 days. Maybe the Ship should have called in to one of the other ports on the way back instead of on the way up. DISMEBARKATION We were allocated a numbered ticket depending on travel plans on departing the Ship. For the car park we had a choice of 7.20am or 8am so we selected 8am. When they allocated them, there were actually 4 times for departure for the car park but we were allocated 7.40am. We had taken milk and cereal down to our cabin the day before to avoid the crush in the Windjammer! The departure lounge for platinum members was on deck 13 in the Vortex but as it was so early we just left from our room. Overall a great trip apart from the storm and a bit of a wasted 2nd day in Iceland but that happens. Looking forward to booking another cruise soon.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
We are from Hong Kong and we cruised before on Princess and NCL America before. We are Chinese, I am 37, my wife is same age, my sister is 49 and my father is 73. Well, this could get long so I will say it here, we really enjoyed this ... Read More
We are from Hong Kong and we cruised before on Princess and NCL America before. We are Chinese, I am 37, my wife is same age, my sister is 49 and my father is 73. Well, this could get long so I will say it here, we really enjoyed this cruise. We loved the food, the ports and the staff were excellent. We do recommend this cruise to our friends. The ship's shuttle buses were expensive though, but if you can find your own way to get around the ports (just do a little more research before you go) you should have no problem. For example, Celebrity charges US$100 per person for the transfer from Harwich to Heathrow. We spent just GBP21 each using train and tube. We had to haul our own luggage along but we were up to it so no problem. We also wish there was a self-service launderette on the ship for us to use, like they have on Princess or NCL, since we had to fly such a long way we could carry only so much clothing. Fortunately this was summer so we didn't have to worry about jumpers or coats. Food Dinner in San Marco is excellent. Our waiter Cyrel was very professional and very helpful. The menu changes everyday for 14 days and it was just so good. We are so happy we didn't even try Ocean Liners. On the day we left Copenhagen at the formal dinner, the entire kitchen staff and the waiters came out in a parade with the ships's captain, so remember to bring your cameras. On two of the sea days the San Marco also served brunch from 10am, so that gave us the chance to have a good sleep-in. Seaside Cafe was where we had our breakfasts and lunches. There was a lot of variety and the quality is good. But strangely there were not many soup options. Coffee is bad both in San Marco and Seaside Cafe. Probably served from the same coffee machine. Celebrity really needs to look into it. I resorted to drinking teas. When we left Amsterdam at 2pm, the Seaside Cafe was totally packed as everyone returned to the ship for lunch. I think Constellation should have opened San Marco till a later time to serve lunches that day. Cova Cafe Milano - the only place to get a decent cup of coffee onboard. Prices are alright at $3 for expresso and $4 for cappuccino. We tried AquaSpa Cafe once and enjoyed its lighter offerings and friendly staff. Entertainment If you are expecting the likes of Andrea Bocelli, Sarah Brightman and Lang Lang, then I think you will be disappointed. But we did not because we knew it was unrealistic and honestly, which cruise line features these artists? Annette Wardell, Nicola Loud, Jordan Bennett, Mario D'Andrea, Perry Grant, Naki Ataman were what we got and we felt they did well. David Deeble, the juggler, was very good one night but not so good the other and I think he knew it himself. Performers sometimes have off days/nights. We understand that and we did not let it ruined our holiday. Embarkation We took the train from Liverpool Street. We pre-booked tickets on the internet and I just printed them out at one of the station's ticket machines. Unfortunately the Cruise Train failed to start so we took a regular train. It was quite easy at the cruise terminal, but we didn't realize we had to check our luggage first before checking in ourselves. But it all went very smoothly. Surprisingly there was no immigration or customs. Ports Amsterdam - We lost one hour's sleep at night as we arrived in Amsterdam. We went to Zaanse Schans to see the windmills. The walk from the pier to Amsterdam train station is a 15 min walk. Zaanse Schans is just 15 minutes by train from Amsterdam and very doable. On our return we took the tram back to the pier and the driver actually told us to forget the fare as it was just one stop away! The Dutch are very friendly and we hope to return one day. As the ship sail from Amsterdam to the North Sea it sailed through the North Sea Canal. The scenery was good and was very interesting. Later we learnt that some guests left the ship at Amsterdam to re-join it in Warnemunde. That is quite an interesting option and I wish I had thought of it. Warnemunde - we took the train from Warnemunde and went to Wismar and Schwerin. At Schwerin we went to BUGA, the national flower show. My father cannot walk far and the good people at BUGA lent him a electric wheelchair so he could drive it around the park. We had a very good time there and Schwerin is just so beautiful. At night when the ship departed, many small boats were around and gave us a very big send off. It was so amazing. Stockholm - we took the HOHO bus, which turned out to be a mistake in terms of costs. For 4 of us it costed 120 Euros (30 each) and we reckon that we could have just gone around in a taxi and saved a lot of it. We stopped at the Palace and the Town Hall, then went to the interesting Vasa Museum. Stockholm is beautiful and we hope to visit again. Also, the ship opened its helipad at the front to allow guests to view the fantastic sail out of the Stockholm archipelago. Helsinki - We lost another hour's sleep as we arrived in Helsinki. After Stockholm my wife said no more HOHO. This time we took a taxi to the Market Place and it costed us 15 Euros only, that's about 3.75 Euros per person, that's cheaper than either the ship's shuttle or HOHO. With the Lutheran Church and Upensky Cathedral right in the town centre, we spent the entire morning there. We bought our day pass at 7.8 Euros each and went to see the Rock Church and the Sibelius Memorial. After that it began to rain and we took another taxi back to the ship (15 Euros again). Celebrity had umbrellas at the gate for its guests to use for the short uncovered walk back to the ship. In the end we only spent about 10 Euros per head on transport, what a contrast to Stockholm. St. Petersburg - Again we move another hour forward for St. Petersburg. This is important if you have a pre-booked tour because you must be careful to reset your watches and alarm clocks. My father and sister almost missed it because they woke up an hour late. By now we are just four hours behind Hong Kong! We didn't expect the time change throughout the cruise. We joined a SPB tour organized on the cruise critic roll call board. We had a Mercedes van to our group with driver and guide. The organization was first rate but the guide sighed quite a lot as she went through some of the stories of the city, particularly the story about Rasputin. But still we saw some great sights, including Catherine Palace, Peterhof, Yusopov Palace, Church on the Spilled Blood and were very happy. One interesting story on the canal boat tour. We saw a little Russian boy wearing a red t-shirt waving at us at every bridge that we went pass. He actually chased our boat all the way round the tour. When we finally came back to the pier he was right there and I think most of us tipped him a dollar or two. Tallinn - Taxi to the old town (15 Euros) for 4 of us and we then walked our way downhill. Tallinn is a lovely little city. The old town is so nice to walk around. While we were there we saw two men rushing around with backpacks, an envelope in one of their hands, looking for a taxi with a television crew running behind them. It was "The Amazing Race"! We returned to the ship at about 1pm and we had lunch on the ship. Just as we were returning the Costa Mediterreanea docked alongside us. The two big ships docked side by side at the pier looks quite stunning. Copenhagen - We took bus no. 26 at the pier. Then we went to the central train station to change Danish Krone and bought two 10 trip 2 zone bus tickets. This ticket costs 130 Krone for 10 trips so each trip is 13 krone, which works out at less than 2 Euros per trip. We went to visit Rosenborg Castle. The treasury there is a must see. Then we went to Nyhavn for the DFDS canal tour. Nyhavn is very pretty and a tourist attraction by itself. It was such a hot day we all came back with sun burns. Celebrity had cold towels for guests returning to the ship, nice touch. The next day we took no. 26 all the way to Carlsberg's visitor centre. It was a 30 minute ride. The entrance to the visitor centre cost 60 Krone but you do get a decent sample of the company's best product at the end of the visit. There is a small replica of the Little Mermaid in the yard, too. Before we returned to the ship we went off to take pictures at the Little Mermaid proper, which is about 10 min walk from the ship. Harwich - disembarkation was easy. We went to the theater at 7:30, got our luggage back in the cruise terminal, again no immigration or customs. We were on the platform of the train station by 7:55, just nice for the 8:06 train to Liverpool Street. Others Thalassotherapy pool - Very enjoyable, the water was warmer than I thought. Emporium shopping - Almost everyday they try to layout something different there so we walk around there after dinner quite often. There was a $10 sale one night and on the day we left Copenhagen there was another sale, 3 t-shirts for $20. Bridge - We signed up for the Cruise Critics Connections Party but we missed it because something else was happening (I don't remember what though). But we were also invited for a tour of the bridge. Celebrity had an officer there explaining to us how the ship works. This was very interesting. Medical Facility - unfortunately I got cough in the middle of the cruise and I went to see the onboard doctor. He gave me a good check-up then gave me antibiotics, cough syrup and lozenges. The bill is $121.5, a little bit on the high side but I did get 5 days of medicine. 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Sail Date July 2009
There was a lot of good and some bad to this cruise. First the good: a fortnight of great ports and great weather. And the bad ? ... something has happened to "Connie". Harwich was its useful efficient self for embarkation and ... Read More
There was a lot of good and some bad to this cruise. First the good: a fortnight of great ports and great weather. And the bad ? ... something has happened to "Connie". Harwich was its useful efficient self for embarkation and we were on board within an hour of driving through the port gates. Cabins were ready on time and she still looked stunning. Entertainment was more silver than golden. The same production shows as last year, but with a much inferior cast. Also the cruise director, Jeff Potts, was nothing special. He just didn't compare to stunt-man John last cruise. Service just seemed to have gone down a notch somewhere in 12 months. Whether it was in the main dining room, food quality or the state room service. When once nothing was too much trouble, now it seems to be. One of the bar service waiters summed this up as "many of the top people have been reassigned to the new Solstice class ships". I don't know if that is true, but it want the same happy and attentive crew. There is a much more evident hard-sell push on board this time. Whether its the soda package, the spa package, the camera shop or the excursions, Celebrity need to harvest your money somehow. The "Russian Bazaar" was heavily sold prior to St Petersberg and advice given to wait and buy your souvenirs there. When you did they were much more expensive than the official gift shops in Russia. Main dining room food was often hit and miss. You didn't always get what you ordered and sometimes the rendering of classic dishes was a little odd. There was also a tendency to finish all the savory dishes with a drizzle of olive oil. Just too much. That said, the short order evening restaurant in the Seaview was still great and dinner in Ocean Liners was a delight of cooking, service, theatre and even ballet. Well worth the surcharge to experience. It was still a great cruise experience, but this year Constellation is starting to show some signs of tiredness. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009

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