21 Harwich First-Time Cruisers Cruise Reviews

This was our first cruise, so we had nothing to compare it to. It was a slick operation from start to finish, well organised, pleasant & efficient staff. The ship was well presented, clean & a very nice place to spend a week. We ... Read More
This was our first cruise, so we had nothing to compare it to. It was a slick operation from start to finish, well organised, pleasant & efficient staff. The ship was well presented, clean & a very nice place to spend a week. We were reluctant to cruise as we're not keen on the glitzy dinners, casino, art auctions etc. however, there is no pressure to take part n any of that if you don't want to. The casual dining room was fine & the menu seemed the same, it was just self service. We didn't spend any time by the Lido pool as this seemed to cater for families. They had music playing most of the time & the children seemed to be having a great time, but not for us, thanks. Our cabin on deck 5, was bigger than expected & a real treat to have a bath, albeit a small one. We paid extra for the spa, which we loved & was worth the extra cost of $149. It was a great way to relax after a day's walking & exploring. Geirangerfjord is beautiful & this is the only trip we did. We took the coach to the top of Dalsnibba mountain for a truly spectacular view. The weather was kind to us & we enjoyed a week with sun & light cloud. We used the hop on hop off buses in Bergen & Alesund. They both worked well & made it easy to explore on our own. The staff worked their socks off throughout the trip & it was sad to see so many Brits at the reception desk reducing their gratuities to £0. Really? Would like to know on what grounds people thought the staff deserved nothing. Hey, each to their own. We loved the trip & would book again, but sad to see this small ship leaving the fleet. We aren't so keen on the floating blocks of flats. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
We aren't people who spend time in a hotel room, so basic rooms that are adequate are fine. Adequate being the operative word. The room consists of a large bed with two overhead beds. Yes the bunk beds are above the adults head so you ... Read More
We aren't people who spend time in a hotel room, so basic rooms that are adequate are fine. Adequate being the operative word. The room consists of a large bed with two overhead beds. Yes the bunk beds are above the adults head so you are unable to sit up. The above bed is not able to sleep an adult and our 10 year old child is unable to sit in bed without banging his head. If you want to watch telly this is impossible as the settee sits 2 and then there is a single chair. You can't watch from the beds as the ladder is in the way. In the main dining room, the food that is actually presented to you is well presented and tasty. However we have experienced waits of 30 minutes even when booked. The other restaurants are all pay except the Windjammer, this is help yourself. This particularly reminds us of a school canteen, although some of the food is nice. There is a nice sandwich/panini place. Be careful when ordering the all inclusive drinks package. The wine and beer package is just what it says and no spirits are allowed. Freshly squeezed orange juice, latte, etc are all an extra charge. The inside pool is over 16 only accept between 16:00 & 18:00. The service is very hit and miss, with a few going out their way & others seem grumpy. Read Less
Sail Date August 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
First time cruisers but we felt well researched and organised our own shore excursions. More relaxed than expected, only two formal dining nights, very few dinner suits seen and some guests ignoring dress suggestion altogether. Main ... Read More
First time cruisers but we felt well researched and organised our own shore excursions. More relaxed than expected, only two formal dining nights, very few dinner suits seen and some guests ignoring dress suggestion altogether. Main Minstrel restaurant friendly service, food good quality, small portions but encouraged to order extra courses, some failures of cooking so not fine dining but excellent range of choices. Main effort seems to have been made on the entertainment which was excellent with six resident performers in lounges, nine piece theatre orchestra, singers dancers and many guest acts almost all of top quality. Cabins bigger than expected (cheapest outside), kettle provided so UK travellers can take their favourite tea bags! (Cartons of milk on cereal bar at breakfast can be taken to cabin and kept in mini bar fridge). Beds comfortable and well serviced by cabin attendant. Two bottles of wine allowed to be brought on board which can be taken to dinner with no corkage charge. Drinks at posh hotel prices but happy hours at various bars between approx 3pm and 8pm. (e.g. 2 Margaritas for £10) Negatives: Charging $14 (nearly £10) for a litre bottle of mineral water is obscene Lots of pressure to spend money in shops/spa/speciality restaurants/with photographer/on ship organised excursions. Not much of an enrichment programme on sea days, quizzes and a few amateur lectures, but physical facilities of ship good e.g. mini golf, solarium pool. Overall thoroughly enjoyed the trip and staff were very well organised at every point. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
This cruise had two classes of passenger and it was nothing to do with how much you paid but on which countries passport you used. A US passport gave you first class service and priority over other guests European passport holders were ... Read More
This cruise had two classes of passenger and it was nothing to do with how much you paid but on which countries passport you used. A US passport gave you first class service and priority over other guests European passport holders were second or even third class. The meal service was extremely slow and it took over 2 hours to have a meal, one problem was that the Americans had 4 course meals while others had 3 course meals but the tables were mixed this led to a long delay at the start while any US citizens got through there two starters to our one. The kitchen seemed unaware of this so our food was left standing until everyone on the table was ready and then served, by which time it was cold and unappetizing. The Captain advised watching the sail out of Stockholm. A number of people from various European countries had sat for hours waiting to watch and as the ship was about to leave they were all told to leave because Americans wanted the seats. We then had to stand despite the fact that we had purchased drinks throughout the afternoon. The entertainment was very poor quality and dated. Day time activities during sea days were all at extra cost. This was my first cruise and will certainly be my last. If they don’t want Europeans why advertise and take bookings in the UK. I am sure those from the US will have a different view of the cruise but they only had to ask and everyone else was moved to accommodate them. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
Embarkation couldn't have been any easier..our first time on a cruise I was a nerves reck but once on board and unpacked cases I was fine the ship is very stable nothing like I thought it would be..this was a special 80th birthday ... Read More
Embarkation couldn't have been any easier..our first time on a cruise I was a nerves reck but once on board and unpacked cases I was fine the ship is very stable nothing like I thought it would be..this was a special 80th birthday ELVIS CRUISE..!!! And what great fun..there were two acts on board plus the ships singers dancers band and comedian.quiz nights film shows and talks by the two Elvis E T A'S dance lessons bingo ..there was a coffee and a cocktail of the day every day..we were lead to believed drinks were very pricey on board..NO they are not..a beer was about £3-80p and a cocktail £5 or £6 it did very a little but you could pay more in your local pub at home..cabins are not huge but they are OK.you have tea and coffee in there all the time and a hair dryer..beds are very comfy..the ship is kept spotlessly clean all staff a so sweet and very attentive..the food is fabulous very very tasty each night the them of the menu was changed..again the entertainment was fantastic..we had a couple of tours one to Randers Graceland..not a copy of Memphis Graceland ..the out side is the inside is a shop cafe' and museum and there is a huge room upstairs which is used for talks and concerts..the food in the cafe is great..and the owner Henrik is such an amazing man so down to earth a real people person..our only let down was because of the nature of the cruise the entertainment lounges just weren't really big enough..and left people having to stand through the shows..at different times through the cruise photos were taken at £5 each we felt this was not a bad price..you can also buy frames if you wish to..there is duty free shops on board but you can not buy ciggys or alcohol ..and so I went from being scared stiff of getting on board to NOT wanting to get off..!!!! Thank you so much Fred Olsen and you amazing staff on the Braemar....hope if our pennies allow to be back on board in the future.. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
Embarkation couldn't have been any easier..our first time on a cruise I was a nerves reck but once on board and unpacked cases I was fine the ship is very stable nothing like I thought it would be..this was a special 80th birthday ... Read More
Embarkation couldn't have been any easier..our first time on a cruise I was a nerves reck but once on board and unpacked cases I was fine the ship is very stable nothing like I thought it would be..this was a special 80th birthday ELVIS CRUISE..!!! And what great fun..there were two acts on board plus the ships singers dancers band and comedian.quiz nights film shows and talks by the two Elvis E T A'S dance lessons bingo ..there was a coffee and a cocktail of the day every day..we were lead to believed drinks were very pricey on board..NO they are not..a beer was about £3-80p and a cocktail £5 or £6 it did very a little but you could pay more in your local pub at home..cabins are not huge but they are OK.you have tea and coffee in there all the time and a hair dryer..beds are very comfy..the ship is kept spotlessly clean all staff a so sweet and very attentive..the food is fabulous very very tasty each night the them of the menu was changed..again the entertainment was fantastic..we had a couple of tours one to Randers Graceland..not a copy of Memphis Graceland ..the out side is the inside is a shop cafe' and museum and there is a huge room upstairs which is used for talks and concerts..the food in the cafe is great..and the owner Henrik is such an amazing man so down to earth a real people person..our only let down was because of the nature of the cruise the entertainment lounges just weren't really big enough..and left people having to stand through the shows..at different times through the cruise photos were taken at £5 each we felt this was not a bad price..you can also buy frames if you wish to..there is duty free shops on board but you can not buy ciggys or alcohol ..and so I went from being scared stiff of getting on board to NOT wanting to get off..!!!! Thank you so much Fred Olsen and you amazing staff on the Braemar....hope if our pennies allow to be back on board in the future.. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
My partner and I just came back from our first cruising experience on RCI's Brilliance of the Seas. I feel the need to write this review in retribution to all the fellow cruisers whose tips and reviews on this website made our Baltic ... Read More
My partner and I just came back from our first cruising experience on RCI's Brilliance of the Seas. I feel the need to write this review in retribution to all the fellow cruisers whose tips and reviews on this website made our Baltic cruise more enjoyable. I hope this information is useful for future cruisers even though our cruise was the last Baltic voyage the Brilliance made this season. The main reason we chose this particular cruise was the ports of call, and in that sense, the Brilliance and its staff did not disappoint at all, despite the fact that due to bad weather, the last two ports of call (Stockholm and Visby) had to be cancelled and substituted by Gothenburg (a bit dull) and Oslo (nice). As two young travelers on a certain budget we opted, in general, for the most cost efficient options with regards to transportation (to the port of embarkation and within ports of call), dining options, and shore excursions. Our experience is the following: THE SHIP The ship is well maintained and overall the staff is polite and very efficient. Plenty of public spaces allow you to feel at ease and, generally, one does not feel trapped in crowded events thanks to the variety of public spaces available. There is a decent fitness center for sea days and early morning work outs. Much needed variety of drinking venues if one is to be on a ship more than a week. We stayed in a basic cabin with ocean view in Deck 2, which we thought offered enough space for both of us and our luggage. Impressively, even though our stateroom was located very near the elevators and the area where the Centrum is located (which could get very noisy during the evenings), outside noise didn’t bother us at all. ENTERTAINMENT Our most important complaint has to be entertainment. Shows in the main theater were OK. Performers in smaller venues not so much, and after one week you could tell they didn't have very broad repertoires, often playing the same tunes one night after the other. The vibe at the club in deck 13 (Starquest) deserves a special mention: sad. It was mostly empty every night and the DJ didn’t make any efforts to encourage the few that were present willing to have fun. Maybe I'm being unfair, for it was quite evident the entertainment catered mostly to British families and retired Americans (which we were not) who outnumbered any other demographic in our voyage. Besides, partying till late night is not everyone's priority during an ambitious tour that includes many Baltic capital cities and huge St Petersburg. But still, I think it is important to offer entertainment options to everyone. We felt entertainment was so dreadful at times that one of our table mates from the main dining room suggested as an inside joke to re-name the ship "Monastery of the Seas". DINING AND DRINKS Service in both, the main restaurant and the Windjammer café, was very good. We opted for late dinner in assigned tables, which proved great because we were able to make good friends: some were experienced cruisers who were able to tell us how the Brilliance compared to other RCI ships (not so good, was their verdict). It was obvious that RCI assigned seats according to nationality and language, because we were able to share meals with other Spanish speaking travelers from Mexico, Spain and Argentina, and the same was evident in all the tables in our area. Portions in the main dining restaurant are just not fair. Soups were served in tiny bowls best suited for drinking tea. Other appetizers were very small as well. That comes as a disappointment especially after those exhausting port days in which we walked long distances to try to see as much as possible. In the end, we opted to grab a quick bite at the Windjammer half an hour before proper dinner in order to feel satisfied (sad, I know). We consequently discovered that some of the dishes available at the main dining room were the same you could find at the Windjammer (just decorated in a slightly “classier” way). Our bodies didn’t gain a single pound during this cruise. With regards to variety we thought the options available for dinner were good and never seemed repetitive in a 12 night cruise. Breakfast, on the other hand, was pretty much the same everyday. We had one dinner at Chops Grille, one of the specialty restaurants onboard. It was pretty decent, smaller venue with a more personalized service. Not worth repeating, though. Drinks are obviously quite pricey. Various cocktails are available, as well as wines and beer (special ales available at the Schooner Bar and the King and Country Pub add a British touch). RCI offered drinking packages which for a 12 night cruise amounted for more than 800 dollars, which frankly is not worth it. We were able to enjoy ourselves without the need of purchasing that costly beverage package and spent less than half that amount. INFORMATION ABOUT PORTS OF CALL RCI doesn’t share many details with regards to the specific pier the ship is going to arrive to. That might be troublesome for those travelers who tend to explore the cities by themselves. Personally, I found the official websites of each port authority very useful, because they show in advance the expected pier in which the ship is expected to arrive, and in some cases that can make the difference between walking towards the city center or taking a shore excursion, Hop On Hop Off, or shuttle. Now, about the specific ports of call: HARWICH Getting there on train from London Liverpool Street Station is no problem at all. Just be sure to catch a direct train that will free you from changing trains in Maningtree. The name of the station is Harwich International, not Harwich Town. We were able to get on an almost empty direct train with no stops (bliss) that arrived at Harwich International at around 1 PM. The station is conveniently located next to the terminal, so you don't have to drag your luggage long distances. Embarkation was our first ugly experience, taking more than 1 hour and a half. We were told that one of the metal detectors broke. Once onboard (around 40 min before the security drill, and starving to death after a train ride and a long queue in port), staff at the Windjammer cafe informed us that we no longer could enter to grab a quick bite, despite the very decent amount of time still left to eat something. When we asked if any other venue of the ship was offering food we were told "no", which proved to be incorrect as we were able, by mere chance, to eat something quickly on the café at the Solarium, which we discovered was still serving much needed food. COPENHAGEN The ship docked at Langelinie pier, which is great because it’s a short 10 minute walk to the Little Mermaid, that famously overrated Danish tourist attraction. We, of course, decided to do all the sightseeing in Copenhagen walking on our own. Tip: visit the Little Mermaid early in the morning just after getting out of the ship. That way you’ll avoid crowds. We walked to all the other major attractions (Royal Palaces, canals, Tivoli Gardens, Stroget) and we even climbed the tower of the Church of our Saviour (not for the faint hearted, as I sadly learned). If walking seems daunting, Hop on Hop Off buses are available. TALLIN Hidden gem. Very well kept medieval town (walls surrounding it and all) that one can explore all day. Narrow streets, plenty of churches with tall towers that one can climb. We took advantage of the Tallin Card which (unlike the Copenhagen Card) is available at the pier and if well used can mean great savings. We first took the Hop on Hop Off bus (included in the Tallin Card) to Kadriorg Palace (also included) which is nice, but you can totally skip if you take into account that more grandiose palaces await in Saint Petersburg. Then, we went to the other part of the city to a newly opened museum called Lennusedam (maritime museum with real boats, ships and even a submarine). Later we visited the medieval town, which was a shame because of the small amount of time left (which left us unable to climb at least one of the many climbable structures in that part of the city). Had lunch at a very peculiar restaurant serving medieval food called Old Hansa, very close to town square. Very recommended. SAINT PETERSBURG The evident highlight of the cruise. We booked a two day “Grand tour” with Alla tours which is totally recommended. Our small group (16 people) navigated much easier in the crowded spaces of the Hermitage museum and the various palaces and churches we visited. Expect queues, crowds and very little time to appreciate the masterpieces and extravagant rooms you will be shown. Overall the tour Alla offers is great, covering all the highlights you must visit on a first time in that city. Russian immigration’s infamous treatment of tourists was present, but nothing to worry about. HELSINKI Getting to the city had to be done via the shuttle bus provided by RCI since the pier was not as convenient as other ports (not close to the center and no tram service available, although it was possible to take an ordinary city bus onsite, which can be paid on cash –euros- but we preferred to avoid the hassle). Once in the city center, the visit can be done by walking (except if you plan to go to the Open Air Museum and Sibelius park, which are farther away. Don’t miss the Rock Church and the Senate square, with its very sober Lutheran Cathedral. The Orthodox Spenski Cathedral is a remainder of Russian influence in Finland. From then on, our itinerary changed because of bad weather and we were rescheduled to visit Gothenburg, Sweden and Oslo. GOTHENBURG RCI did a good job at providing information about the new ports of call and organizing shore excursions in such short notice. Since we were told that the city center is very far from the pier we decided to book a shore excursion from RCI and take advantage of the fact that we had already booked a RCI excursion in Visby which of course was cancelled but was promptly refunded. I thought it was an OK city but with no memorable tourist attraction. There was a visit to a wooden church and a lovely Botanic Garden and them, the usual exploration at downtown. Didn’t visit the Volvo Museum, though. OSLO A nice surprise of this particular voyage, due to the fact that it wasn’t planned in the original itinerary and we were able to add one more country to our trip and completing most of Scandinavia (yei!). Ship couldn’t have docked in a more perfectly central location (the Norwegian captain and the cruise staff kept mentioning how lucky they were to “pull some strings” and getting a prime docking position in Oslo). In Oslo we opted for the Hop on Hop Off bus since some important sights are far from city center (Viking Ship museum and Vigeland park). However, that proved to be quite a stressful experience because it was evident that the buses couldn’t handle the huge amount of cruisers that had purchased a ticket. Maybe the unexpected call of the Brilliance had to do with it. Overall, we had a great experience in the Baltic, however, since cruising is new for us and for the reasons explained above (lack of good entertainment, meagre amounts of food) we ended up wanting to cruise more but not with Royal Caribbean, or at least, not with that particular class of ship.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
Never been on a cruise before so no preconceptions when we were invited to go with friends. Our only committment was that we would meet for dinner each day so we often went our separate ways for other meals and excursions, this gave us the ... Read More
Never been on a cruise before so no preconceptions when we were invited to go with friends. Our only committment was that we would meet for dinner each day so we often went our separate ways for other meals and excursions, this gave us the opportunity to meet other people on shared tables. I think it was day 2 that experienced cruisers asked our first impressions to which I replied "It's Butlins at sea!". I hope this is not going to be a long review, plenty supply all the details, but more a flavour for others who may be in our position. Overall, given that the cost of a cruise from cheapest to most expensive cabin has a factor about 10 times, Celebrity do a great job of providing something for everyone. The art seems to be to miss out the bits you don't like and concentrate on the things you do like, then you'll have a great time. It only took us about 2 days to figure this out. Personally, the cafe on 10 felt like a motorway service station most of the time and the entertainment(?) in the Constellation lounge during the evening was cringe worthy, but we accept some people like these things so we just avoided them. Theatre entertainment also just needed to be selected. Food in the MDR for b'fast lunch and dinner was of a good standard and that in the speciality restaurants was superb with great service(SSUS) and fun (Qsine). We would rate SSUS up to some Michelin starred restaurants and went twice! Upgraded to the Premium drinks package, a good investment and gives a good opportunity to try new things without worrying about the cost. The bars are fine but Rendez-Vous can become suddenly crowded as the set time dining room empties. Did a couple of Celebrity excursions, reasonable to good overall. Little niggles: Formal nights they still let in those who could only be described as scruffy; enforce the dress code. Service in coffee lounge Al Bacio could be a little tardy, even when it was not busy; motivation issues? The stock of Peroni (my favourite beer) was late ariving and ran out quickly; why advertise it? Tips: Despite all the warnings about the Flam railway being fully booked, it was easy to buy tickets from the station on the day, at about half the cost of the excursion; that's one expensive waffle! Overall: Loved it! Yes there are bits like Butlins (and we went to butlins many years ago when the kids were small) but luckily we shared a table again later with the day 2 people so could update thoughts then. The logistics of the operation are impressive, getting everything and everyone to where they need to be seemed to go like clockwork. Yes, there was a delay on car park entry for embarkation, and I see that other reviews make a big deal of this, but in the scheme of things it is minor, nay negligible; loosen up guys you're on holiday! We expect to go again one day. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
This was our first cruise, Thomson's being recommended to us. Because we live quite close to Harwich International we decided to use the train, upon arrival it is a 4 minute walk to the cruise terminal (if you go by car, follow the ... Read More
This was our first cruise, Thomson's being recommended to us. Because we live quite close to Harwich International we decided to use the train, upon arrival it is a 4 minute walk to the cruise terminal (if you go by car, follow the signs to port, drop off luggage, park car and then it's a coach transfer to terminal). Here you drop off your luggage and pick up your boarding cards (these are also used for all spending on board, although the casino accepts cash). Then you check in. At this point your passports are checked and your credit or debit card are registered along with your boarding card as well as your picture taken. Next it's through customs and on board. We fell in love with the Spirit almost immediately, she's not the newest or flashiest, but she has character and she was our home from home. Life jacket drill takes place about 30 mins before sailing so check your muster point so this goes smoothly! All staff were outstanding and a special thanks goes to our housekeepers Valentina and Alla who kept our cabin spotless twice a day. Food was excellent, we ate in all three restaurants (there's a surcharge in Sirrocco's and booking at reception required) and enjoyed them all. On board entertainment is unmissable, from the afternoon plays to the evening shows. We also watched two lectures which were very informative. We pre booked only one excursion, this being the Flam Railway following a recommendation. Unfortunately, due to a fire in one of the main road tunnels this was cancelled so we went on a walk around Flam instead. The cost of this trip was automatically refunded. There is an excursion showcase which gives a brief outline of what you can book for each port, so we opted to watch this before deciding what else to do. Stavanger and Bergen are easy to walk around yourself and within minutes of the ship so I would suggest getting some information off the net before going and decide whether its worth the excursion expense. Geiranger is just beautiful so have your cameras ready. We booked a tour for this stop as we couldn't resist the coach trip up along 11 hairpin bends to the viewpoint :-)). Personally, I would recommend taking a look in at the Casino. Some great nights here with good company (Mark & Debs, hope you're both well) and being looked after by Angel, Jackie and Nelma. Now for some, I hope, helpful tips. Remember the European adapter plug. Television only has a few basic channels which are often lost in the fjords. The lido restaurant has free tea and coffee 24/7 which you can take away. A pint of beer in Norway is 10 and coffee not much less. A small bag of peanuts was 5.40!! There are laundry rooms about the ship. You need a token from reception for the washing machine but the dryers are free. Irons are within the laundry room along with ironing boards also free. Basic place maps are available from reception the night before port reached. If you don't fancy sitting with others in the restaurants just ask for a table for two, its not a problem. Tap water is available with meals just ask for it. It tends to rain a lot, take some wet gear with you just in case! A suit is fine for the gala night, but if you fancy the full bow tie and tuxedo...go for it. You can drink the water in the cabins but it is chlorinated (we took our own supply of bottled water as its not cheap to buy on board). Clocks go forward an hour when at sea. So, would I have another cruise on the Thomson Spirit? ABSOLUTELY, I'm already looking for my next one. Have a great cruise! Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
We chose Thomson because some of our friends have cruised with them and we were told they were good for first time cruisers and their prices are competitive. We arrived at Harwich early just before 12.00pm and already the queues had ... Read More
We chose Thomson because some of our friends have cruised with them and we were told they were good for first time cruisers and their prices are competitive. We arrived at Harwich early just before 12.00pm and already the queues had started and it took one and three quarter hours for us to board the ship. Once on board the checks with passport and security were quick and efficient. Spirit is an older ship but generally well kept, it is spotlessly clean and you could see the cleaners all day cleaning handrails or vacuuming. Some of the carpets were worn on the edges and will need replacing soon but other than that no complaints. Our bedroom on deck 4 was more spacious than I had expected we had two wardrobes, ample drawers and our cases fitted under the beds. All the staff were very friendly and helpful and they appeared to genuinely enjoy their jobs. The entertainment team were first class and Richard a fantastic Entertainment Manager. We eat mainly in the Compass Restaurant where the food was superbly presented and cooked. The Lido also offered a good range of food to suit all tastes. Tea and coffee were available all day in there free of charge. There are several drinks packages you can buy on board for either wine of beer some of the wine packages appeared to be good value. However they were charging £225 per person to upgrade to all inclusive drinks package but added to this costs were supplements for some drink which made it very expensive. We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and the Gala Night was an excuse to dress up you do not need to go 'black tie' unless you want to any smart suit will do for the men and a special dress for the ladies - no need to go overboard people were wearing a wide range of clothing long or short. I would recommend Thomson Spirit to everybody and the delightful scenery of the Fjords just added to our delight. Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
My Husband booked this cruise to celebrate both our Wedding Anniversary and my Birthday. We booked the Tower Hotel (Harwich)for the night before and met fellow cruisers. We highly recommend this charming seaside hotel, and Harwich is well ... Read More
My Husband booked this cruise to celebrate both our Wedding Anniversary and my Birthday. We booked the Tower Hotel (Harwich)for the night before and met fellow cruisers. We highly recommend this charming seaside hotel, and Harwich is well worth a walk through, be sure to see the REDOUBT fortress. As for the cruise itself, Royal Caribbean never disappoints, Kudos to the line who hired an exceptional Russian Folk Group one night in St. Petersburg. In fact, all the entertainment was great including a comic from Wales who had everyone screaming with laughter. Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki all great tour stops. St.Petersburg Russia was a 2 day stop. We toured both Pushkin (Catherine's Palace) and the Hermitage the second day. Catherine's Palace was the highlight of the trip for us. The Hermitage is touted equal to the Louvre, we didn't think so. The biggest surprise was Helsinki and Tallin Estonia, our two favorite ports. Walking and shopping Helsinki (a very modern city) is reminiscent of the Via Vennata in Rome, a great experience. Tallin was the most fun, the market place, the Nevsky Cathedral, and our tour guide was a scream. St. Petersburg overall is the cruise highlight, but we learned on shipboard that a one day to Moscow was added..but no one told us beforehand, and the 60 spots were quickly filled. For that reason alone, we will not pre-book months in advance again. Brilliance of the Seas is a good ship, and we enjoyed the Solarium deck and the food being offered there, as you could starve until they open the Windjammer Restaurant. We give this cruise 5 stars out of 5. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
This was the first cruise that I have been on, in fact neither me nor my wife have ever been on holiday outside of the UK. We are both pensioners and had no idea what to expect. We booked a 12 night cruise in the Baltic with Royal ... Read More
This was the first cruise that I have been on, in fact neither me nor my wife have ever been on holiday outside of the UK. We are both pensioners and had no idea what to expect. We booked a 12 night cruise in the Baltic with Royal Caribbean on The Brilliance of the Seas from 8 June, sailing from Harwich in the UK. Embarkation was fast and problem free and we were on board and having a coffee in a matter of minutes. The only delay is that we had to wait for the stateroom to be got ready. The room was larger than I had expected with a small but adequate balcony. Everything was clean and tidy with plenty of storage space for the huge amount of luggage that we brought. ( I blame the wife for taking to much notice of the advice to pack clothing for all weathers.) Dining There were several options for dining on board. Included in the price were meals in the Minstrel dining room (waiter service) and in the Windjammer Cafe (self service). The cafe served basic foods but there was plenty of choice and it was well cooked. The Minstrel was a more limited menu with a distinctly continental flavour. I personally prefer a plain diet and sometimes found nothing on the menu that I wanted, however that which I did eat were well presented and well cooked. I did not try the speciality restaurants and cannot comment on them. Staff The staff on board were welcoming, friendly and seemed to enjoy there work. I never saw any of them looking upset or annoyed in all the time I was on board. service from them was always prompt and they were all very helpful, particularly to the two of us who were a bit unsure of things in the first couple of days. Excursions I have some mobility problems and therefore used excursions that didn't involve a lot of walking. In the main this did not turn out to be much of a problem. However Saint Petersburg was a disappointment as all the excursions to the places of interest, the palaces and museums, did involve too much walking for me and this city was the highlight of the cruise. In general those that I did go on were interesting and reasonable value for money. Entertainment The general level of entertainment I thought was good. We went to the theatre most evenings and enjoyed what was on offer. There were other places on board where a variety of entertainers performed and those that I saw performed well. The cost of drinks was not as bad as I feared and at eight dollars for cocktails it wasn't too bad. I had fancied trying my hand at poker in the casino but when I got there I found that the games labelled as poker were a little odd. When I read the rules pamphlet the game was more like a complicated version of blackjack with no betting against other players. General Comments. All in all I enjoyed the cruise. If I had been on a previous cruise I would have enjoyed it more as it took a few days to really get into the swing of the cruise. As value for money I would say that it was good value. We were lucky with the weather, blue skies most days and only one afternoon of heavy rain. Would I go again? The answer is definitely yes. Port 7 was Gothenburg (not listed). City tour rating 5. Tour booked through agent with cruise company. Excellent city tour with very knowledgeable guide who sang to us. An interesting afternoon with time to look at the shops. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
My partner and I have a Bucket List and a cruise was one of the items on this list. We decided to do this cruise after a message from an old golfing buddy from Australia advised that he and his wife would be passing through England to join ... Read More
My partner and I have a Bucket List and a cruise was one of the items on this list. We decided to do this cruise after a message from an old golfing buddy from Australia advised that he and his wife would be passing through England to join a Baltic cruise and "Why don't we join them"? A few phone calls and emails later and we were on. We drove from Southport to Harwich with and overnight stop in Cambridge and arrived at the terminal at about 10.30am. As we had prepaid for the Cruise Parking, we went where directed, dropped of our baggage, caught the shuttle to the terminal building, checked in at the RCCL desk and received our SeaR and this is Pass cards. Walked on board the ship and up to The Windjammer for lunch. All very painless and very efficient. We were advised that our stateroom was ready and went to check it out, it was a balcony stateroom on deck 7. and was an "access" stateroom which meant that it was a bit bigger than the standard balcony stateroom . We had upgraded from an Oceanview to a Balcony S/R and this was what we were assigned to. Very nice indeed. As we had chosen My Time Dining, we had nominated an initial 1830hrs reservation in the Minstrel sitting with our friends for a catch up of all our news over the years. We had two very charming wait persons who made us feel so at home and comfortable that we ended up booking the same table at the same time for the rest of the cruise. They were excellent, loads of personality and superb service. Incidentally, the food was excellent as well. The only criticism was that the breakfast service in the Minstrel was very slow. Eg, one morning we arrived at 0815hrs, were seated and had ordered by 0820hrs and at 0855hrs my partner had to leave as she had an 0900hrs Spa treatment booked. Her omelette eventually arrived at 0910hrs. After that, if we had an early appointment, we used the Windjammer Cafe for a quicker turnaround. We enjoyed some very good shows in the Pacifica Theatre and also enjoyed the live music in the Centrum. We did two RCCL shore excursions, one in Helsinki and one in Gothenburg which were good. We went with an outside tour company for St Petersburg for the two days there. For the other ports we just did our own thing which was fine. Disembarkation at Harwich at the cruise end, was absolutely superb. We left our luggage outside the cabin the night before, got up the next morning, had a leisurely breakfast and were advised when our luggage was ready for collection on shore, walked off the ship, on to the shuttle bus to the carpark, collected our bags, a porter loaded them on to a trolley and took them to our car. The longest time was remembering where we had exactly parked. We were on the road travelling home twenty five minutes after stepping off the ship. We could not believe it how smooth and well organised everything was. It sure beats travelling by air and airports and spoils you completely. Roll on the next cruise..... This was our first cruise and we are hooked. With regards to service on Brilliance of the Seas, we did not see a single member of the crew who did not have a smile on their face and they went out of their way to make you feel special. Thank you RCCL. Now, let's see, where did I put that Cruise catalogue????? Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
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
We have been putting off a cruise for years even though most of our friends do it and love it. Neither I or my wife are interested in being trapped at sea with 3,000 strangers and their children so when I found this particular itinerary ... Read More
We have been putting off a cruise for years even though most of our friends do it and love it. Neither I or my wife are interested in being trapped at sea with 3,000 strangers and their children so when I found this particular itinerary and this cruise line (and the reasonable price) we decided to give it a go. Now we're hooked. We are not very interested in the Caribbean and have already visited the ports around southern Europe by car. So this itinerary looked interesting. Starting in London (right on the Thames by the Tower Bridge) visiting the Scottish isles, and Iceland at a leisurely pace of 9 nights. The Silver Cloud is the perfect size, less than 300 passengers, but large enough for most of the comforts one would expect. The line's descriptions we found accurate and now our impressions: First, we have NO complaints. We are grown-up seasoned travelers and tend to roll with the situation. Everything went smoothly, everything in our comfortable suite worked, our butler was a very helpful young man who did his best to anticipate our needs (each butler serves 15 suites -- some people seem to think they should have the guy all to themselves.) Of course dining and drinking is a highlight of cruising. and we were very pleased with the quality and service. We tend to avoid buffets anywhere as the offerings are usually mediocre at best and are turned off by the behavior of too many "greedy" diners intent on getting their "money's worth." So most of our meals were taken in the main dining room -- fine service and B+ cuisine. Hint: while most diners were elbowing each other at the breakfast and lunch buffets, the dining room was half empty, quiet and elegant. I've read complaints about the condition of the ship. Yes she needs some TLC and is scheduled for a face lift this year. Other than being a bit dated, we found her graceful in middle age. Living in a Nevada casino town, we are long past interest in cabaret style entertainment, and of course the dreaded buffet. We took in one show and it was enjoyable enough. True, the included wines are rather generic but acceptable. If you simply must have a premium quaff, use some of your on-board credits. The bars are decently stocked with upper-tier brand booze. In summary, we are pretty well decided on another trip on the old girl next year. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
My husband and I went on the 20 day cruise from Harwich to Norway and Russia. I will not comment too much on the ship as she is going for a re-fit soon which she badly needs. She is still loved and looked after with maintenance going on ... Read More
My husband and I went on the 20 day cruise from Harwich to Norway and Russia. I will not comment too much on the ship as she is going for a re-fit soon which she badly needs. She is still loved and looked after with maintenance going on somewhere on the ship most of the time. Hopefully the character of the ship will be the same when she returns from dry-dock in Spring 2013. As other reviews have said, she is like putting on a comfy pair of slippers. But we had a fantastic time and saw some amazing places. The majority of the passengers are repeat offenders and they were older than we expected. There were a couple of passengers under 30 and one under 20 and we think they felt a bit out of place. But the crew certainly know how to look after everybody. Nothing was too much trouble. This was our first cruise so we have nothing to compare with but we considered the food on the Discovery to be excellent. BREAKFAST can be taken in two areas - the Lido on top deck (level 9) which is buffet style but with so much choice and the other option is in the Seven Continents Restaurant on level 3 which is a mix of waiter and buffet service. LUNCH can be taken in the same two areas as breakfast and in the same style (buffet on level 9 and waiter service on level 3). TEA at 4pm at the Lido - choice of sandwiches made to order, cakes, biscuits, hot desserts and cream tea. DINNER - 2 sittings (6.30 or 8.30pm). The choices are excellent and superb quality. Portions are a sensible size and I don't think we had any dish repeated over the 20 days. There is also the YACHT CLUB -no extra charge but can only go once a week. Food here is equally as good and a lovely setting on level 9 at the front of the ship. Then there is a LATE BUFFET at 11pm!! There was always a hot dish, cold meats, breads, cheese, fruit and cakes and sometimes a chocolate fountain! There is 24 HOUR TEA AND COFFEE on Lido deck which is self service and very welcome and free. If you request a hot drink in the bars you will be charged. Entertainment is very good. The evening entertainment is performed by a very talented group of singers and dancers, the Discovery Orchestra, the Coral Duo and the Discovery Strings. Evening shows are performed twice for the two dinner sittings. In the day there was various entertainment, crazy golf, giant Jenga, Quoits , the gym, the spa, movies, the Internet room and the library to go to as well so there is not a lot of time to get bored! There are plenty of places to sit on level 6 and everyone had their favourite areas. Most of the chairs were not particularly comfortable but our favourite areas were the Explorer Bar in the day and the Hideaway Bar in the evening. The Hideaway Bar is small, friendly and sometimes noisy with Karaoke and lively chat. Allan and Chino were the barmen and they were great fun (made good cocktails as well)! Our Cabin Steward was excellent and we never heard any complaints from anybody. The cabins are cleaned in the morning and again when the beds are turned down in the evening when chocolate is left beside your bed along with reminders to change your clocks if necessary. A few points that you may wish to know. Toiletries are supplied and I liked them. Tissues are provided in the bathroom. Towels and face flannels in the bathroom are supplied and replaced twice a day if you want. Towels for sun-loungers and swimming are supplied on the decks where needed. The pools are small so no good for swimming but good for a cool off if you are in a hot climate I suppose. I found there to be plenty of storage in the bathroom and there was a washing line in the shower cubicle if you need it. There is not a lot of room for storing suitcases so make sure they are not too deep so they can go under the beds. Take insulated cups for a morning cuppa in bed (if your other half can be persuaded to go and get one for you!) or to drink when watching the arrival of the ship at ports early in the mornings up on deck. Take a small bag for the last day as your luggage has to be out before midnight so you will have some things to carry off in the morning. Air freshener is an essential item to take! If you go to Norway or Russia you do not need much in the way of local currency as everything in Norway is so expensive and in Russia you do not get a chance to spend anything as you do not go near shops etc. PORT REVIEWS The trips organised from the ship are expensive so choose carefully! BERGEN, Norway The ship docks near to town centre and it is an easy walk to the shops, the Bryggen and the funicular. There are maps of the town supplied by the gate on the way out of the port. We had an excellent cup of coffee and cake at 'Baker Brun' along the Bryggen where the staff spoke perfect English! The funicular costs 80 Krone return but worth it if the weather is good as the views are great from the top (320m above sea level). Trains depart every 15 minutes and the journey takes 7 minutes. BODO, Norway Did not seem to much there but we went on an organised trip to the Saltstraumen Maelstrom which was excellent. MURMANSK, Russia We did not buy our own visa so could only leave the ship with an organised trip. We went to the ice breaker Lenin and the Museum of the Northern Fleet - both excellent. SOLOVETSKY ISLANDS, Russia We did not go ashore but most who did said they enjoyed it but make sure you have good supply of Mosquito repellent. ARCHANGEL, Russia We went on an organised tour round the City and to the Museum of Fine Art. Very enjoyable. KIRKENES, Norway A long walk into town from where the ship docks and not much there when you do get there! Maps are provided by Reception on the ship. HAMMERFEST, Norway Lovely town! Easy walk from the ship and plenty to see and do. We went on an organised tour to the Museum of Reconstruction but we walked back from the museum as it was a lovely day. On our walk back to the ship we went to the Polar Bear Society and became a member. TRONDHEIM, Norway Maps supplied by Reception on th eship. Shuttle bus provided but it cost '£5 each but essential as it is a tricky walk into town. Nice town, plenty of shops but everything is expensive!! A McDonalds burger costs '£10!! But it was good to look around the Cathedral and the Kristiansen Fortress on top of the hill. The Kommandanten Restaurant is very good there - we had homemade burger with homemade tomato sauce, homemade bread and hand cut chips. It cost around '£15 but well worth it. ORSTA, Norway Complimentary shuttle into town. Not much there but there is a nice marina and a few shops and it was good to have a walk around. FLORO, Norway We went on an organised trip to the Black Friday Museum - very interesting. Refreshments were included and we had some lovely Norwegian cakes. Good trip. We enjoyed this cruise and will probably go on the Discovery again one day. When the Captain was asked why so many passengers come back time after time he replied it was because of the crew and we agree with him. The crew are amazing and make your time on board unforgettable. 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 2012
This was the first time on a cruise, and the cruise was more a means to an end (ie seeing the Northern Lights!) rather than us wanting to go on a cruise. But we went into it with an open mind. Overall, the ship was ok, staff were really ... Read More
This was the first time on a cruise, and the cruise was more a means to an end (ie seeing the Northern Lights!) rather than us wanting to go on a cruise. But we went into it with an open mind. Overall, the ship was ok, staff were really lovely and helpful, but I don't think we're cruise people. The weather was really bad (gale force 8/9, 10m high waves) for a few days on the outleg and a few days on the return leg. The crew did a magnificent job to just keep working and smiling whilst the rest of us were feeling sick and falling about the restaurant! The bad weather meant we missed Alesund and Molde however this couldn't be helped. The only thing I would say is that I think this could have been communicated sooner, and more details of the weather forecast given over the tannoy so we would know when the bad weather was due to end. The ship itself was ok, bit dated in places, but overall no complaints. It was cleaned regularly and the staff did an excellent job in this. There was regular entertain laid on, however we felt this catered for an older clientele (bingo, bean bag bowls) and it was actually quite difficult to get away from the entertainment at times as there wasn't that much space on the common areas of the ship. It would have been better if we could have sat out on deck, but that was a no go with the weather. The food was to a good standard. We missed the gala nights (due to the bad weather and illness) but the normal restaurant nights were very quickly served and very accommodating. The lunches and afternoon tea in the bistro were good, however the amount of people and lack of manners displayed by some of our fellow cruisers spoilt the occasion (for example, pinching scones off other peoples plates!). The best thing we had was a champagne breakfast in bed and private dining in the card room for our anniversary (we paid for the celebration package). This was well worth it, with a full bottle of champagne and a chance to dine alone and be waited on hand and foot. We saw the Northern Lights on around 5 occasions - the best being in Alta when we went on the tour. We got into the routine of going out on deck after dinner (after getting changed into our warm weather gear) and standing out there for a couple of hours. This provided us with the best viewings and meant we actually saw the lights develop from the grey to the green which was great. The cruise director did announce any lights to the rest of the ship, but a lot of the time by the time people had come out on deck, they had faded again. A few points about the ports of call: - Amsterdam - 20 mins walk to the centre, only there for half a day so didn't do a lot - Svolvaer - small place, went on the organised boat trip which was great, but freezing. Got some lovely views of sea eagles - Narvik - went to the polar zoo. There are only a few animals there (5/6) and we were only there for a couple of hours, but the trip there on the bus went through some magnificent scenario which added to the trip. - Tromso - gorgeous little city. Shuttle bus laid on to the centre. We walked over the bridge, to the cathedral, and up the cable car for some magnificent view and waist high snow! Easy to do on your own. - Alta - went dog sledding which was amazing, really enjoyed it. Alta itself is very small, so I would recommend doing a ship tour or organising something yourself. Trip out at night was great, however this is obviously northern light dependent. - Bergen - docks in the centre so easy to go into town. The day was cloudy, but we went up the funicular anyway and had a lovely walk around the mountain at the top, with a nice lunch at the restaurant. Few tips - dress code not that formal so don't worry about it. - sea sickness tablets are available from reception (I didn't know about this for the first few days) - coffee was not great at the coffee station. I stuck to fruit teas. Would be worth taking your own instant and making that instead. Alcohol was reasonably priced. - we ordered a wine package, which included bottled water which we had in the room and was worth it, as the tap water wasn't great - the tv did have some british classic on it which was good, and different films every day, however I would have taken a laptop/DVDs if I'd known how little there was to do on the ship if you didn't like the organised activities - if you want to take photos of the lights, you definitely need a SLR camera and decent tripod. And be prepared to stand in the cold for hours. Overall, we did have a really enjoyable cruise and have some great memories, especially of the northern lights and dog sledding. It was a great way of seeing a lot of Norway without the stress or hassle of arranging our own travel/excursions. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
As first time cruisers my husband and I boarded the Jewel of the Seas with an open mind. We had not visited any of the ports before and reasoned that if we did not enjoy the cruising bit then we had the shore visits to look forward to. ... Read More
As first time cruisers my husband and I boarded the Jewel of the Seas with an open mind. We had not visited any of the ports before and reasoned that if we did not enjoy the cruising bit then we had the shore visits to look forward to. The check in and embarkation were a little slow - some problem with the gangway. Once on board we headed for Windjammer, for a buffet lunch. We usually avoid buffets but the food was good. Whenever we ate in Windjammer we enjoyed the food but not the ambiance.The dining experience in Tides was far better. We had breakfast and lunch there whenever we were able. The dinner each evening was good with lots of choice. The food did arrive lukewarm, but was still tasty. Service in both the Windjammer and Tides could not be faulted. Our cabin was spacious and kept immaculately clean by the steward. As first timers we were not certain about dress codes so packed a lot of clothes but there was drawer and wardrobe space to spare. We had pre-booked our tours, after carefully reading Royal Caribbean's website. The tickets were waiting for us when we got to our cabin. The destination talks for each port highlighted were useful - especially as we were not used to cruising. All the tours we booked were well organised, although they were expensive compared to similar tours I looked at on the web. There were also lectures about the history of each port which were informative, if a little dry. The highlight for us was the quality and variety of entertainment. Each evening was a combination of a drink in the Champagne Bar, followed by dinner and then a show. The shows ranged from a Tamla Motown group to a comedy/classical string act. The cruise director Clo was a star in her own right, very funny and warm. Would we cruise again? Yes. Would we cruise with Royal Caribbean? Yes but maybe not next time but in the future. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
As i used this site a lot when preparing for my cruise, i thought it was only fair to post a review and offer tips. The first impressions of the ship were great, but because everyone had been told to arrive at 2pm the que to get on was ... Read More
As i used this site a lot when preparing for my cruise, i thought it was only fair to post a review and offer tips. The first impressions of the ship were great, but because everyone had been told to arrive at 2pm the que to get on was huge! As this was my first cruise i have nothing to compare it to, but in my humble opinion the ship was beautiful. The cabins were spacious and well equipped and the attendants were excellent. The food was generally good and was available around the clock.The waiters in the dining room were efficient but their 'catch phrases' got a little wearing. The shows were not really to my taste but i did spend many happy hours rushing from quiz to mini golf to shuffleboard to Wii competitions. I turned into a bit of a joiner-in, which is unusual for me. The ports of call were generally interesting-see reviews Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
As people who have been sceptical about the whole idea of cruising we have been completely won over. The parking and check in at Harwich were easy and with very little queueing we were soon onboard. The cabin was ready and the luggage ... Read More
As people who have been sceptical about the whole idea of cruising we have been completely won over. The parking and check in at Harwich were easy and with very little queueing we were soon onboard. The cabin was ready and the luggage quickly arrived. Jewel is a beautiful ship and we found it to be very clean with staff frequently checking. Our cabin was great, super shower and large comfy bed. Wonderful view from such a high balcony. We made good use of the indoor pool which was warm and often not very busy. The gym also came in very handy in trying to ward off the weight gain! There was a good choice of food in the buffet restaurant especially at breakfast with fresh omlettes cooked to order. The main restaurant had a good choice, and while we had read about small portions this was never an issue as we were offered extra portions of all courses if we wished! The staff were brilliant especially the waiters who really looked after our table. We had evolved from four groups of two on 'My time dining' into a table of eight which we thoroughly enjoyed. One of our group had a special birthday and we all ate in the speciality restaurant Chops Grill where I would highly recommend the fillet mignon. It was a good idea to buy a wine package as it works out much cheaper than buying individual bottles. Our ports of call were really the reason for this holiday and we were not disappointed. We easily walked into Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki and Tallin, only needing the shuttle bus into Gothenburg. We enjoyed all of these, make sure you do your research first so that you dont miss anything. In St Petersburg we took two half day excursions to the Hermitage, and then the canals and Yussopov palace. Both were very good and we had the added bonus of having a really quiet ship for the rest of each day. The best show we saw was the Frankie Valli tribute which was excellent and some of the others were enjoyed by our friends. We enjoyed the music in the various bars especially the 70s night. Leaving the ship was very well organised, we were allocated times and meeting places so that small groups left at specific times. The luggage was taken to the car park and the only complaint is that there weren't eough trolleys available. So amazingly this was one of the best holidays we have taken and we will certainly be doing it again having already booked for Alaska next year. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010

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