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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The cabin is bigger than we had on Princess or NCL America. It is almost in the middle between the middle and aft lifts so very convenient. Location is quiet.