1. Home
  2. Cruise Destinations
  3. Europe - Black Sea Cruises
  4. Europe - Black Sea Cruise Reviews

10 Europe - Black Sea Romantic Cruise Reviews

Drawn to this Holland America 21 day Norway, Baltic Treasures Koningsdam cruise by the great itinary, previous excellent experience with HAL service, on Nieuw Amsterdam, we are independent travellers who enjoy the ease of relaxing ... Read More
Drawn to this Holland America 21 day Norway, Baltic Treasures Koningsdam cruise by the great itinary, previous excellent experience with HAL service, on Nieuw Amsterdam, we are independent travellers who enjoy the ease of relaxing time efficient travel to multiple destinations, the convenience of many choices in dining and entertainment, and the social interaction, offered by cruising. Koningsdam is lighter, brighter, occasionally glitzier, with pleasant furnishings, colours and fittings. Interesting art,paintings , sculpture and light fittings catch the eye in public spaces, while cabins are comfortable with a welcome glass doored shower, excellent aircon, great beds and larger TV. Cabin Staff are as efficient, unobtrusive and friendly as always. Food is fresh ,varied and generous , high quality meats ,fish fruit and vegetables, both in MDR and Lido and throughout the ship, attractively presented with appetisingly small potion sizes. However, whether it be a design issue, management strategy, system breakdown or staff issue ,dining and dining service delivery, formerly Hal's forte became its' abject failure throughout our cruise. Despite empty tables, (which often remained empty !) Open Seating diners were sent with Beepers to the in range Ocean Bar to wait sometimes 45 minutes before being seated ,or joining a table of other guests .Attempts to book days ahead to avoid this irritating daily debacle , either failed completely , or the available times were at 5.15 or after 9pm. I did observe guests with fixed seating who waited up to 40 minutes after their seating times to be seated, but don't know how widespread the issue was in this dining category Using the redesigned Market Station Lido during the main dining periods was a frustrating and at times difficult experience. Firstly , the new 12 second Handwash (Do the maths x passenger numbers ,and you 'll get the idea )stations , impractical, too few, ignored by staff and guests .Pueril Gel stations were made available but no emphasis on their use before entry. A hygiene breakdown waiting to happen. Perhaps this concern is behind the new Lido design, where even a glass of juice must be handed to you by a staff member, as self service has disappeared. A wonderful concept, unfortunately a disasterous implementation, as it results in queues for every item of your meal, sorties to different stations ,cold food,and excessive time wasted assembling the simplest meal. The stations are understaffed , and stations frequently closed . On the floor,tables are covered with dirty dishes which overwhelmed staff have not cleared,so it is not clear if diners have merely returned to the stations to complete their meal , or that a space is actually available for newcomers. Fewer staff means water, drinks are much slower to appear. The Lido is a casual eatery, supposedly offering a faster dining option, and pleasant social contact in less formal settings,but it has deteriorated to a poorly run cafeteria despite the good food quality offered, and a place to be avoided particularly at Breakfast times. The Dutch Café another good concept ,poorly designed , offered good food, reasonable coffee, long queues (one coffee station) too few tables ,and dirty dishes uncleared for excessive periods. Explorations Café12Dive In 9 , Gelato Bar offered coffee cakes , hamburgers , sandwiches pizza , and provided good service and quick meals . The Tamarind Restaurant has excellent food, staff and service. All drink orders are now computer generated, but this has resulted in very long delays as waiters in public areas fill orders and return only when trays are full with several orders combined, a time consuming strategy in reality. The World Stage in the round is a technically excellent facility, with great sound, lighting and screens. Why is it not used more effectively? Hal repeated World Stage Shows 3 times during our 21 day cruise which is just cheap and not acceptable. Quality of entertainment varied from excellent Frozen Planet, the HAL singers, dancers and orchestra to tired magician comedian acts who should be superannuated. The Lincoln Centre, Two Pianos and BB King provided shows attended and enjoyed by many, but were rather repetitive in nature. The Cruise Director Role has been redesigned to that of Dutch translator for the Captain, and the focus on hosting has almost completely disappeared both around the ship and in the entertainment venues, leaving an impersonal void and lack of ambience or heart around the vessel. The Port Advisor gave very basic overviews which were .of little value, but the Library has disappeared and was replaced with some small shelves of new travel Books which could be used in Deck 12 Crows Nest We travel independently in ports , considering HAL Ecursions overpriced, overcrowded and poor use of valuable port time, a perception continually reinforced by our observation of them in cruise port hot spots. Yes we enjoyed our cruise, but it was only a good cruise for the above reasons , when it should have been a great cruise.Design flaws, new cost cutting Carnival management strategies, HAL you are seriously destroying your brand and formerly excellent reputation.Would we sail on Koningsdam again ?. No, not unless reviews show these serious issues are remedied . Would we recommend her to others.. NO Will we sail with HAL again.? Unlikely Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
In spite of all our preplanning always expect the unexpectable. Airline booked - check Small tours booked and paid - Berlin and St Petersburg through SPB Tours - check Planned Hop on Hop off buses for self tours in ... Read More
In spite of all our preplanning always expect the unexpectable. Airline booked - check Small tours booked and paid - Berlin and St Petersburg through SPB Tours - check Planned Hop on Hop off buses for self tours in Tallinn, Helsinki, Copenhagen and Stockholm - check Tickets pre purchased for Anne Frank Haus and Keukenhof Garden Tour - check Transfers pre paid from airport to Hotel and from Cruise port to airport – check The day finally came for our 12 day Celebrity Baltic Cruise vacation to begin. We had relatives take us to Miami Airport to board our British Air flight to Heathrow and connecting flight to Amsterdam. I booked the airfare months earlier when they were running a great sale on Business class fares that were less than economy class. I subscribe to an online news letter called First class flyer and get these great deals on Business and First class fares and strategies. We went early to the airport due to the stories of long TSA lines and then off to the lounge. Check in went quick and the lines were not bad. Off to the lounge. We were then informed that the flight was running 2 hours late. With only a layover at Heathrow of 2 hours that was going to cause us to miss our connecting flight. Now our prepaid transfers were lost since there was a 24 hour cancellation policy. We were supposed to arrive in Amsterdam at 10:45 am and then we had tickets to tour the Keukenhof Gardens at 2:45pm. We were not going to make that either. Totally out of our control. At least we had the lounge access. We finally arrived in Heathrow at 9am, our connecting flight left at 8:45. To the lounge again to see when we could get on another flight. We were originally rebooked on a flight at 2:40 that would arrive at 5pm but got on an earlier flight at 1 that arrived at 3:30p. The Concierge at British Air called our transfer company for us but they would not change the pickup time. Oh well that should be the worse thing that happens this trip. When we arrived in Amsterdam we decided to take a taxi. Hoping my trip insurance will cover this and the tour tickets. Many used the train to get into Amsterdam from the airport. We were not dragging 2 suitcases up and down the escalators. We got to the Doubletree Amsterdam Centraal Station and checked right in. After dropping off our stuff in the room we decided to take a walk through town. I had a self walking tour of the red light district that we did and visited the sex and Hemp museums. Hotel location was great and we used Hilton our points. We had tickets for the next morning at 9 am to the Anne Frank Huis so after dinner went back for the night. After breakfast we took a taxi to make it by our 9am ticket time. We spent 2 hours going through there. We then decided to do the Hop on Hop off bus and 2 boats that we bought tickets for. For anyone doing it with the wait time for the transfers we spent the rest of the day and finished at 5 pm. Saturday we started the day with rain and cooler weather. We still had access to the HOHO bus so went to the outdoor market in the morning. Then back to the hotel and a 10 euro taxi ride to the cruise ship. Cruise ship check in at 2 was quick and we were able to get right into our stateroom and had lunch. After the muster drill up to the sail away cruise critic gathering. How nice to after months of interacting with so many meet in person the people that contributed to the board. The next day was a sea day and we had our Cruise critic connection gathering. We met all the officers and they had coffee and Danishes. The Capt and officers introduced themselves to us and made themselves available for any questions we had on the ship and cruise. The next day we went to Berlin. We had a great tour booked through SPB Tours. We did take the bus and did have traffic going into the city as others have mentioned. Our bus was ½ empty so there was plenty of room to be comfortable. We did though see everything that was on our itinerary. Some were drive by but many other we got off the bus and walked around and had time for photos. I knew ahead of time that it was not an in-depth tour. We then got back to the ship no traffic within 2 ½ hours. We had met other that took the train tour from the ship and they did not see anything more than we did but they said the train ride was nice. The next day was a sea day. In our rooms shore excursions left us a paper to pay ahead of time for shuttles to get from the ship port to town. They said the distance was 20 to 30 min walk. The ports were Tallinn, Helsinki, and Copenhagen. We decided to use OBC to get it. It was not needed. First of all, all the HOHO buses come right to the port on cruise days. So did the HOHO boat in Copenhagen. There were 2 HOHO bus companies. One was Redbuses and the other citysightseeing. Our choice was city sightseeing. BIG MISTAKE. They did not run as many buses as the other company. We should have asked how many buses were running that day. Then again we would assume the person selling the tickets really knew. That meant more waiting time at bus stops when you only have a few hours at any given port. They told us 30 min between buses. We waited over 45 min at some stops. More about that later. So if you plan to self tour and use HOHO you do not need to pay for the shuttle. Tallinn was truly a hidden Jewel. It was a perfect place to do our own tour. BTW we did have with us the Rick Steves Northern Europe cruise tour book to help with the walking tours. If you should go out on your own take the HOHO to the top of the town and walk down hill back to the port . Some people took walking tours and said they could have done it on their own. It was a nice port to see. NO matter how you see it have comfortable shoes! You are walking on cobblestone roads which was difficult for many people. The next day we arrived in St Petersburg. We arrived at 7am but did not clear customs to begin getting off the ship until 8. We had book a private 12 person tour with SPB Tours for the 2 days there. Getting off the ship was a feat in itself. First EVERYONE lined up to get off the ship at the same time. We were not even cleared from customs yet. Some lined up before 6:30. We did meet everyone in our group at the lounge so we did all get off together. Next you have to go through immigration. No lie 10 – 15 min per person!!! They actually check a computer to make sure that you are on a list given to them from the tour companies that you may have booked with. If you are not on an organized tour you need to get your own VISA. Since we booked with SPB Tours they took care of everything for us. After clearing customs that first time the other times took moments to get through. SPB Tours took our tour to another level. Our tour guide was the informative spoke perfect English and took care of all our needs. Originally we were supposed to do a night Ballet but decided to change it to “Go Out Like a Local” It included a vodka sampling . The next day we toured again and made it back to the ship in plenty of time. I would not hesitate to use SPB Tours again. Helsinki was our next port of call. It was a very easy touring port. HOHO buses but again 45 min wait times between stops. Wasting that time when there for only a few hours……. Next port of call for us was Stockholm. We opted for the HOHO boat here. Many had said that the buses get caught in traffic jams so it would be easier. Our first stop was the Vasa Museum. If you plan to go you should go there first as well. Make sure when arriving by boat you go to the lines that are not for the group tours. We got in within 10 min. It was fascinating. After that we went to go to the Skansen. We felt if we did we would not have time to go to anything else so passed on it. The ship was leaving pot at 3 PM. Boy did we luck out with fabulous weather. We took the HOHO boat to the old town. It was magnificent. Again a 35 min wait . We went by the palace where the royal military band was playing. Then off to city center. Walked around a bit and then back to the ship. Make sure you are on deck as the ship leaves Stockholm. It was amazing to see and pass by all the little islands. The scenery was beyond words. Good thing we left when we did otherwise we would have gotten stuck in low tide. We sat on our balcony for over 3 hours before getting ready for dinner. Next day was a sea day. Good thing since we needed to recharge after 5 days of straight touring. Copenhagen was our final port of call. What a mess. There is only a 2 lane road to get off the port in and out. With all the tour buses waiting it became a single lane for in and out. We were stuck for almost an hour on the HOHO in front of the ship. What a traffic jam it was!!!! Considering we were only in port from 10 – 5 time is pretty precious. Again we used citysightseeing bus company. First stop for us was the old city area. We went by the round tower and walked around the old city. Very nice. Walked to the Rosenbourgh Castle and had lunch we brought in the gardens. Went back on the HOHO bus. Only 15 min wait time so not too bad. Went around the entire loop to see the whole city. We then got off across from Tivoli park. We wanted to go in but the lines were too long. It was now 3 pm. We decided to get back on the bus to head back to the ship wanting to get off at two fountains to take pictures. Little Mermaid being one of them. What a joke. It took 2 ½ hours to get back to the ship when it should have taken 30 min. Driver had us switch buses and that bus did not move for 45 min. Driver said I am just the driver go complain to the company. Then EVERY stop the driver gets off to have a cigarette. 10 min each time. Worse experience ever. What a waste of 50 Euro for the 2 of us. I mention the price for others to consider is it worth the HOHO or just pay for tour from a company and focus on a couple of sites at a port. I know SPB Tours had a Baltic package with tours in each port we went to . We thought we would do better on our own. In actuality you are doing a panoramic tour of the city. Now taking in consideration the wait times between buses and boats we probably would have done better with the tours. No wait time, bus was there waiting to take you to the next location etc. If you are traveling and staying in a city for a couple of days then the HOHO would be a better option for an overview of the city and then you still have another day or 2 to see specific sites. If I would have known this before again I would have let SPB Tours take care of all my logistics. Others that used them loved all the tours. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
I loved this cruise!! The highlight to me was being up on deck with a gin and tonic when the ship left port!! The Aquavit outdoor dining experience was incredible, with the outdoor cooking and the incredible bartenders... Marvin and ... Read More
I loved this cruise!! The highlight to me was being up on deck with a gin and tonic when the ship left port!! The Aquavit outdoor dining experience was incredible, with the outdoor cooking and the incredible bartenders... Marvin and Frederico!!! The fresh fish which was cooked by Dennis one night was divine! Overall service was excellent. The only aspect which was less than perfect was the Tours. The Opera Tour in Venice was ridiculously described. As a dr. I was exceedingly worried about some infirm people who came and were horrified by the difficulty of the walk. It was very dangerous for them. The Santorini included trip was poor, we spent so much time in the more boring and less attractive parts of the island. But overall the ship was beautiful... I loved the understated décor. The restaurants were wonderful, each and every one of them. It was hard for us to tear ourselves off the Aquavit deck but we did go to Manfredi's twice and were very impressed by the food and wine list. In fact, I thought the included wines were excellent!! Also, the cabin size and décor plus balcony for those great arrivals.... all great. Thank you so much!!!! Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
Great time. This cruise was very port intensive...29 days and 20 post of call. Had to miss one port due to a storm but because of this we had to stay two days in Rome...no problem with that!! Over all cruise was great with no major ... Read More
Great time. This cruise was very port intensive...29 days and 20 post of call. Had to miss one port due to a storm but because of this we had to stay two days in Rome...no problem with that!! Over all cruise was great with no major problems. The staff is always wonderful. No problems with the staff in the dinning room and the food was always good. I do wish the entertainment was better but, it is a small ship with little room for big shows. This was our 4th time on the Prinsendam and will sail on her again. Love this ship, although, she does need a good deal of upgrading. Cabin and main areas need a lot of updating. This is an old ship and is really showing her age. Heard several guests had some major pluming problems. Although, we have never had any problems, we have heard that others have had the same pluming problems on every cruise. We have sailed with Holland America 10+ times. We have never had a problem that could not be fixed. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
I just completed two back to back cruises, 9/5-9/12 Piraeus-Istanbul (Greek Isles) and 9/12-9/19 Istanbul-Istanbul (Black Sea Odyssey) This was my first SB trip. For comparison, I have done 8 prior cruises, most of them on luxury ... Read More
I just completed two back to back cruises, 9/5-9/12 Piraeus-Istanbul (Greek Isles) and 9/12-9/19 Istanbul-Istanbul (Black Sea Odyssey) This was my first SB trip. For comparison, I have done 8 prior cruises, most of them on luxury competitor lines. EMBARKATION was pleasant and efficient, took less than a half hour. We got on board on a very hot day around 12:30 for a 4 PM departure, then went to the nicely air-conditioned Colonnade indoor/outdoor venue for a sumptuous buffet lunch while the rooms were readied. Around 2PM we were notified our room was ready. My suitcase was there waiting for me from Luggage Forward, a company sponsored by SB, shipped from the US in advance, right on time. ATMOSPHERE Contemporary, well-kept ship, very clean, with obviously well-off passengers averaging 55-65. Overall, pax were younger than on Silver Sea cruises I have done, by about 10 years, though this may have been due to the itinerary. Passengers were mostly well-behaved, healthy-appearing couples with varying marital status, including a few gay couples, and a handful of singles (there seemed to be less of them here than on SS). Though there were a few people who appeared unhappy and were having problems they unrealistically hoped a cruise would solve, generally people seemed to be polite, well-traveled, reserved, and content to enjoy their trips and the company of their traveling companions without inserting themselves into conversations with strangers. At least a third seemed to be from non-English speaking countries (I heard at least Italian, German, Spanish, Swedish, Dutch, Flemish, and Portuguese). The rest were English-speaking Americans (some originally from other countries), Brits, Canadians, Aussies. Most of the port excursions on these cruises required a pretty good fitness level (cobblestones, hills, and/or walking and standing around in the heat for the majority of offered excursions), so not surprisingly I did not see any wheelchairs (though some pax had canes and were mobility impaired), or many pax who were young children. However, I heard from a crew member that a couple months before here had been an unusual group of pax on board with 50 children, so absence of children is not guaranteed on this line. Note for smoking phobics: there were a few small outdoor smoking venues which did not bother me at all but might bother some. Even though I am a non-smoker, I am not worried I will die from a few outdoor sniffs of smoke here and there, though I know some people are, and some perceive reactions to even small amounts. Smoking venues were on the starboard side of the 9th floor outside above the pool deck (five tables), and starboard side of SB Square veranda (a couple sofas and tables), plus smoking is allowed on verandas, but overall, VERY few people smoked, or even vaped. FACILITIES were overall very nice, though the contemporary style modern furniture in most public areas was often uncomfortable for me (I have musculoskeletal problems) so I set up coping strategies (see below). The ship had immaculate maintenance, tasteful art displays, a very uncrowded environment, and even at the pools on hot days it was tolerable and you could swim laps (there is also a smaller pool lower and aft). I could always find a place to sit in the public areas, including the wonderful Seabourn Square center aft where there are computers, printed newspapers, acceptable Internet, iPADs, easily available front desk personnel, coffees with snacks, ice creams, adjustable recliners, sofas, library books and games. Chairs and sofas in public areas were modern in appearance, some more comfortable than others. Poolside lounge chairs were uncomfortable for me without cushions. Chairs in the Colonnade were very nicely angled, padded, and comfortable, and this was my favorite dining venue (I love eating outside on a nice day). There were two modern styles of chairs in the main dining room: one style (rounded, yellow) was oddly shaped, such that I felt like I would slide off, whereas the others (white, more squared) were ok, though shorter than ideal on the backrest and with hard armrests, and thus not as cushy and plush as the main dining room chairs on competitor lines Regent or Silver Sea. I was a bit disappointed in the overall seating on this line (many hard seats and low backrests), but not enough to dissuade me from coming to SB again, as I can structure ways to get around these issues (e.g., target the venues or chairs that I like, and/or carry portable seating pads). Nothing looked worn out or tired. SPA: Beautiful spa with views of the ocean as you get serviced, with pleasant staff, (Tijan the manicurist from Serbia is a delight to talk to) and a special serene sitting area where you can lie on hard warm rocks if you choose (I did not, too hard), or wade through a serene area pool. You can also rent by the day or by cruise regular access to the serene area. Though I did not use the gym, it looked uncrowded and had a variety of equipment options, also with ocean views, and a trainer was available. ENTERTAINMENT: I went to several shows, which with the exception of a lovely and talented outstanding young classical pianist (Naomi Edemarian, whom I could listen to all day if offered), were nothing special, but I would never pick a cruise line for its shows. There were some competent Broadway-style singers and dancers, there was a magician, a talented and humorous female fiddle player, but unfortunately also a British comedian who was not too funny and a bit crude. Grand Salon is the main basic entertainment, gathering, and lecture venue, where attentive staff will bring drinks to your seats before and during the events if you want them. Chairs are a little stiff though padded, upright, not comfortable enough for me to want to lounge the evening away in them. There are also many on demand movies you could watch in your suite, almost all only in English, as well as the usual array of varying and mostly sparsely attended on-board activities common to other cruise lines (cards, dance lessons, trivia, casino, etc). TV showed BBC news, Sky news, FOX news, CNBC, MSNBC, Sky Sports, some TV shows, a view from the bridge, and had an interactive channel where you could book excursions and spa appointments (there were a few problems). There was also a cruise director who was a beautiful young American woman who looked terrific in a tight evening dress and very high heels, and tried very hard to be pleasant and amusing, but who seemed to have a somewhat false manner about her and periodically made jokes that I did not consider to be funny (e.g., about a particular classical music piano piece reminding her of Bugs Bunny themes). But to me, cruise directors (or event entertainment offerings) do not make or break a cruise, so she was mostly irrelevant to my overall rating of this trip as 5/5. ENRICHMENT lectures: not a strength of SB this journey; lectures were few and far between, weak and disorganized, with some misinformation provided on some topics (one British male speaker was particularly annoying in this regard, not sure if he is paid for his efforts). I would have been better off just reading about the referenced places and history on the internet or in books about the area I had brought on my iPAD, and watching online videos, rather than listening to the speakers with their poorly structured and barely legible slide presentations. But lecture availability does not determine my cruising choice or overall rating (here, 5/5). FOOD and WINE: Very good to outstanding, all venues, all meals. This is very important to me on cruises. There was a wide variety of competently cuisine, and portions were sensible so you could try more things (considering the constant ongoing feeding), with daily special themes. Also, personnel brought daily fresh fruit specials to the suite daily. I did not have a bad or mediocre meal the entire cruise though some courses were better than others. My biggest ‘complaint’ was that the delicate pheasant one night had a little too much rosemary on it, and the borscht on the Russian food night in the Colonnadede did not taste very Russian. Though I had some mediocre coffee here and there, it was usually good, and always served hot and well-caffeinated, even at room service. Seabourn Square personnel will make you espresso, latte, etc starting 6:15 AM, till 6:00 PM, no closures, and again 9-11PM, where you can also get little cakes, muffins, tiny sandwiches at will. Room service for breakfast was quick, (often arrived earlier than ordered) and except for one of the times I used it, the tray always had what I had ordered (the other time they had just forgotten to pick up the breakfast order from outside the door the night before). The included Nicholas Feuillatte champagne and international red wine offerings were decent to good, and though some of the included whites were not to my taste, personnel would bring me something different if I asked, also included in the basic fare (such as Stag’s Leap Chardonnay which drinks quite nicely with the wonderful assorted lovely fish dishes SB frequently offered). I did not feel compelled to constantly buy wine off the wine list in order to find something drinkable, like I did recently on SS. It was also not at all difficult to attract a waiter’s attention and the dining rooms appeared well-organized in true team efforts. Though food in all venues was very good, my favorite was the popular Restaurant 2 (multiple small gourmet portions served in a small quiet room, reservations are required there but there is no extra fee). Restaurant 2 also offered wine/food pairings on one of my two trips there, which were outstanding. Though I am not a vegetarian, I noted on SB there were always vegetarian options, quite tasty, and gluten-free choices were also marked. The main dining room and Restaurant 2 were not open for breakfast or lunch, which some people did not like but I did not care as I knew how and where to eat to get enough tasty food 24/7. For breakfast, most people either used pre-ordered room service for breakfast or ate at the Colonnade (7:30-10). Lunchtime people either ate at the pool (1-4), the Colonnade (12-2), or were on excursions. An improvement would be if advance dining reservations, e.g., for R2, could be made on the internet before the cruise, as on SS or some other lines, to avoid rushing around the first day trying to get a reservation in R2 (they booked out). SERVICE: Exceptional, and this is an important and distinguishing SB feature. Excellent, friendly and helpful staff everywhere I turned, and personnel did not seem exhausted or act overworked and annoyed with you: very good waiters and service in dining rooms, very good room stewardess (ours was the excellent Monica, from Slovakia). There were also helpful and readily available SB Square destinations and front desk service personnel, and computer tech support (e.g., Adrian — quietly competent and thorough). Personnel who interacted with pax front-line were from English-speaking countries of origin from all over the world, or from countries where almost all young people are required to learn English. I never had trouble getting front line personnel to understand what I was saying, and many were multilingual and picked up on pax language preferences if they were not English. Personnel were readily responsive to the few problems I had: e.g., I have a musculoskeletal condition which makes hard (i.e., new) mattresses difficult for me to tolerate, and my stewardess did not rest until she found a solution to my mattress and sleeping problem (an egg crate topper). Adrian the computer guy also came personally to my suite to help me with my internet and email issues (he resolved a very complex problem I had). I had a sense of “can do, no matter what” from the staff, as opposed to “not my problem." INTERNET: not as good as I’d like (especially in my suite location), but it was reasonably priced for unlimited service and one way or the other, I was able to get on and stay on to get done what needed to be done. This is not a problem unique to SB. SUITE review: I had a very forward PH Suite on the 9th floor, right behind the bridge. Surprisingly, I heard no bridge noise. There was a huge amount of storage space, and a luxury bathroom with a side-by-side modern shower and a whirlpool tub. Nothing was broken, but a minor flaw was that the bathtub had no rinse-off hose. There were deep double sinks, plus another sink in the separate toilet area which could be accessed either from the hall or from the bathroom. Though the stewardess was great, the suite overall turned out not to suit my needs: as noted, the bed with its new mattresses was, to me, too hard, and the very narrow living room sofa/chaise was even harder and I thought more appropriate for a dentist’s waiting room than a luxury cruise line. The Istanbul airport had seats more comfortable than this sofa. The sofa was too narrow to stretch out on (it was not wide, like in the picture I saw of the PH on the internet) and as there was also no comfortable recliner in the living room either, just a couple stiff chairs at the dining table, I did not want to sit in the living room/dining area at all. Also, the suite had poor to non-existent wifi much of the time, though it improved after the internet team performed some upgrades later in the cruise (this was apparently just a bad location for wifi I did not know about in advance). So I had to go to SB Square or closer towards the other side of the ship to use my reasonably priced unlimited internet service plan. The deck in the suite was spacious, and the outdoor chaise lounge chairs partially reclined, but had no pads and were thus hard to sit on for more than a few minutes (I put pillows on them when I wanted to sit outside). The stiff chairs at the eating table on the suite's deck (identical to the pool area dining chairs) did have some pads but were upright and uncomfortable. Lighting functions were confusing, i.e., the switches let the living room and bathroom be either totally bright or totally dark, no “mood” setting option except in the bedroom. In sum, in hindsight, the extra price paid to have a PH suite was not worth it to me as I could not comfortably use most of the space to lounge in the room that had the view. I typically wanted to leave the suite as much as possible to go sit somewhere more comfortable. I would have been better off with a simple veranda suite prepared in advance with just a bed with an egg crate mattress topper, which is what I have reserved for my next SB cruise to Norway in 2016, where I will be able to ignore the hard sofa but still see the ocean while lounging on the bed. EXCURSIONS AND PORTS: SANTORINI: a lovely, must-see, though very crowded, picture postcard island, tender required. We did the SB excursion to Mt Profitis Ilias and Oia Village, ending in Thira. It was a good overview of the area, though the trip up to Mt. Profitis, which was just a ride up a mountain and back yielded nothing to do at the top except look down at the rest of the island (there was some trash lying around, and a monastery you could not enter, no inn or place to sit or relax and enjoy the view). So next time we would probably skip this in favor of more independent time in Oia and Thira for browsing the interesting little streets and shops and enjoying some refreshments. RHODES — a worthwhile port. We just wondered around on our own here rather than taking a tour (ship was docked right at the key tourist areas, hard to get lost, just follow the old city walls ), and we also toured the extensive Archeological Museum, definitely worth a long stop, it also has shaded gardens. PATMOS — Nice. We did the "Patmos Highlights” excursion on a hot day, including the Unesco World Heritage Site of the Monastery of Saint-John the Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse. This is an impressive very old religious site, and there was an active Greek Orthodox service ongoing. The tour included the 300-yr-old Simandris House, with the 90 plus aged female owner sitting there hosting as we toured, interesting, and then we went for a delicious plate of mezes, decent wine and Greek dancing at a local inn. A good tour, though quite strenuous going up the hills, especially if weather is hot, not for people who have trouble going up and down in the heat. KUSADASI — definitely do the Ephesus Evening Reception complimentary classical music concert, quite beautiful (though the acoustics at the site did not do the musicians justice, i.e., their music got partially drowned out, but this is a visually special event not to be missed. We did a separate Virtuoso tour of amazing Ephesus on the second leg of the cruise out of Izmir so I cannot comment on the quality of the actual SB sponsored Ephesus excursions out of Kusadasi. MYKONOS — I do not recommend the “Stroll through Mykonos.” The guide was boring, hard to understand, and we stood around in a poorly ventilated hot museum with no chairs to rest on, which had some interesting pieces but also a lot of echo. There was not enough strolling and too much standing. The ship is docked here, no tender, so you could do this high end town on your own. We bailed after the first 45 minutes and just wandered around independently, then ate at a local overpriced but pleasant inn on the water with a view of the interesting windmills. LIMNOS— did the Highlights tour, which was an ok tour of this more primitive island, which has quite a bit of military installations, rough vineyards, poorer people. Definitely not Napa valley style wineries. They do not get many visitors. We toured the beautifully situated Poliochnis ruins from 4000 BC as well as the British Cemetery and World War I Memorial, both are worth a look, though a private tour might provide more timing flexibility to explore the island ISTANBUL— we did the “Best of Istanbul” tour as this was our first time here and we were not sure what to expect. We would likely have done a private tour if it weren’t for the recent political unrest in the area. VERY CROWDED city overall, and this tour is not for the easily stressed or fatigued. The bus had stiff, closely spaced uncomfortable seats that did not recline. The palaces were packed, (though fascinating to view) as was the Hagia Sophia museum, (equally fascinating) and the lines were incredibly long at the Blue Mosque even for pre-booked big groups. The tour (at least on a hot day) was too tiring, with no significant rest or food breaks until close to 1:30 when we had an outstanding late Turkish lunch at a lovely air-conditioned upscale restaurant, Nar Lokanta. You may wish to skip the extra morning coffee that day if you are female, as the toilets offered in the area of the tour (other than later at the immaculate restaurant in the afternoon) were less than lovely, often the squat type (though western style at the Museum), with LONG lines as well, and at the Blue Mosque toilets some Muslim women were ritualistically washing their feet and bodies in the washroom sinks though posted signs said they should not do this there (there are other designated locations for this). NESSEBUR: we did the pleasant Bulgarian cooking demonstration. Seas were too rough to tender off this ancient town, so we docked 16 km nearby at the modern port terminal in Burgas and were then bussed to the colorful UNESCO heritage site of Nessebur where we did a walking tour, then had a wonderful 5-course Bulgarian feast at a local restaurant (Gloria Mar) with a cooking demo before, and recipes provided to take home. Unfortunately the lunch was quite late (close to 2PM before we actually ate) and we were tortured with the preceding cooking demonstrations and aromas around us without having even a morsel of food on the tables for the hungry pax who had not had anything since breakfast to munch on. So, some pax were quite cranky and expressed themselves accordingly. I should have brought some snacks with me to eat late morning in the bus, or perhaps to improve the experience the restaurant could have served the first course salad while demonstrating the rest of the food preparations. If you do this excursion, it might be good to plan on either eating a big breakfast or bringing snacks for late morning, and/or planning skipping a big dinner that night as you will be very full from the lunch feast. As it was, we had to rush through 5 courses, and the last course (a plate of ripe fruit) was mostly uneaten. VARNA, Bulgaria: a fairly large industrial port, not much to see in town other than a museum. We did the “Treasures of Varna” excursion, on which we saw some notable archeological treasures, also walked in soft sand through a petrified forest near the sea (interesting photo ops), then drove to a forest where we were saw some Bulgarian folk dancers perform (under a sign in German for some reason that said “Waldfest” , which means forest festival). Bulgarian music is not to my taste, too droningly repetitive, but the costumes were colorful and there was an audience participation option which some frisky pax took advantage of. We were offered a snack of lunchmeat and unremarkable cheese, one roll per person, and bad Bulgarian wine, while sitting on hard benches. The excellent, witty guide Elke (who speaks 8 languages) saved the day, though I would probably not do this organized excursion again. CONSTANZA, Rumania: “Constanza Highlights” excursion — unfortunately, there was not much to “highlight” here. This is an industrial port, a rundown town in a poor country, that shows significant evidence of the damage that communism did over the years. The archeological museum had some interesting treasures and there were a few other historical ruins, ancient and communist, to see. The bus then took us to the “Rumanian Riviera” beach town of Mamaia, which was mostly deserted as the season had ended. We took a gondola across town with a coastline view of the mostly shabby hotels lining a wide, sandy beach. We then were given too much time to kill in an uninteresting location with a few tacky shops and unfriendly locals, and there was surprisingly quite a bit of trash on the streets. I would not do this excursion again. IZMIR: we did a private group excursion to Ephesus. Ephesus is not to be missed, either from this end (longer drive) or from the Kusadasi access. The Terrace Houses were particularly interesting, fascinating history. Must be fit and able to go up/down uneven areas, best done when the day is not too hot (it was VERY hot, so I struggled). The additional Virgin Mary crowded site was not worth the trip to me but might be if you are a Christian following a pilgrimage route and must see this location. DISEMBARKATION in Istanbul did not go as smoothly as I expected, likely due to local port issues rather than SB fault. We ordered an early private car through SB to pick us up at 8AM and take us to the airport and were told to wait to be called to disembark at 8. We were given early disembarkation luggage tags. However, the way things evolved, in the AM we did not see any groups gathering waiting to be called, and it was close to car pick-up time, so we left the ship at 7:45 to make sure we did not miss our 8AM pickup outside the port. We and another couple with a 7:45 pickup got stuck in a huge passport and customs line of thousands of disembarking Celebrity pax, with no priority line for us with our early cars, and our luggage was not prioritized (it seemed to emerge randomly), so it was not until 8:45 that we had our delayed luggage and were finally in the car on the way to the airport, when it should have been at 8. We did not miss our flight, not even close, but some anxiety was created. CONCLUSION/SUMMARY: Despite a few minor glitches (I always expect something to go wrong when I travel) I had a very positive overall experience with Seabourn. My problems with hard mattresses and sofas are likely unique to me or a small minority of people. Food, wine, service, ambience, and a “can do” sense that everything is being taken care of in a professional manner, were and are the main features that I value (plus, of course, the itinerary). I had previously pre-booked a journey on SB with my husband on the Quest to Norway July 2015 (Copenhagen-Dover), and my current experience has reinforced my desire to retain that reservation (but with an eggcrate mattress pre-arranged with the future cruise services desk :). I definitely look forward to more SB excellence in the areas where it counts — cuisine, service, responsiveness, and class. I will also compare it with Hapag Lloyd’s equally highly rated but somewhat different style ultra luxury Europa 2 ship in December where I am booked with my husband as a new customer. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
We went on the Thomson Spirit highlights of the black sea August 2015. Had a really good time. There was a wide selection of food, could either have self service with alot of variety, eat in one resturant being served, with limited choice ... Read More
We went on the Thomson Spirit highlights of the black sea August 2015. Had a really good time. There was a wide selection of food, could either have self service with alot of variety, eat in one resturant being served, with limited choice which was from the self service resturant anyway or pay a supplement to go to the 3rd resturant, we didnt go. Our room was a good size with a double wardrobe, 2 single beds, a double would of been better but we didnt pay to reserve our cabin. The decor of the ship was quite dated but still nice. The only bad thing was the size of the swimming pool as it was very small plus the price of the drinks package when some people were offered them cheaper. We didnt get the drinks package in the end and it worked out cheaper. The itinery and trips were really good. We went on a city tour of Istanbul which was well worth the money, we did the bike tour in romania which was really good and then a beach transfer in Greece. This was quiet expensive for what it was but it was still a good day. We have already booked our trip for next year as we loved it so much! Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
We just returned from the Sept. 20th 2014 cruise thru/around the Black Sea and what a disappointment.! We sailed about 18 months ago on the Solstice from Dubai to Singapore and expected a similar experience on the Solsticized ... Read More
We just returned from the Sept. 20th 2014 cruise thru/around the Black Sea and what a disappointment.! We sailed about 18 months ago on the Solstice from Dubai to Singapore and expected a similar experience on the Solsticized Constellation. Lets begin.... Celebrity after much delay finally amended the ports due to the crisis in the Ukraine. They hyped the new ports as if we were going to the most exciting,wonderful destinations..After returning home and rereading the letters from Celebrity-we started laughing at the promotion of this cruise ! We boarded without any real problems in Istanbul and within several hours our baggage was delivered to our cabin.We booked Concierge and were on the 8th deck. The cabin was fairly spacious and had adequate storage. The bathroom was what one would expect on a ship,but the shower was surprisingly large and almost like a normal size shower at home. Our room attendant -Desmond was great and always available to asset in any needs or answer any questions. Celebrity has done away with small things that obviously reduce costs. No longer do you get chocolates on your pillow each evening or those humorous animal creations using a towel-no big deal..afternoon canapés wee the same non descript greasy or salty tidbits and the fresh fruit each day was tired looking apple,pear and orange with no variety ever. The ship itself seemed tired and showing some wear and tear. Several of our fellow cruisers complained of mold in the bathrooms,obvious signs of chipped paint in hallways and worn bannisters in several areas. We also experience a terrible 'raw sewage'-to be polite smell coming from at least one or two cabins on the aft side and that aroma lasted three or more days before we wised up and walked to and from our cabin in another direction. The food in the MDR was OK -nothing really great and their Indian Vegetarian selections were awful not just to Indian couples but to our selves and others who attempted to eat the entrees. The buffet menu at nighttime seemed OK and at least offered more choices to dine. We ate several evenings in the Specialty Restaurant -Oceans ? and there the decor,service and quality of food,etc was worth the $ 55 par head charges.It is very similar to Murano on the Solistice if I am correct. As an example of Celebrity'sd cost cutting--at breakfast in the MDR jellys,preserves were provided in those little packets that one will see in a neighborhood diner and if you requested Ketschup for your eggs,in lieu of it being provided to you via severing dish or a Ketchup bottle,the server would stand over you and drop a serving on your plate and disappear. Whatever happened to the supposed upscale Celebrity experience that is so highly touted ? Entertainment was what one would expect on a cruise,nothing to talk about-in some cases like watching a rerun of the old Ed Sullivan shows ! We opted out of taking any of the overpriced,crowded and basic,pablum tours continually being hawked by Celebrity and joined with other cruisers in doing our own planning and booking. Now about the ports.... Athens,Ephesus and Mykonos were wonderful and whether it was your first time or the 10th visit,these locations never fail to please. But as far as Burgas,Varna,Constanta,Trabzon and Sinop--3rd rate stops and in some cases looked as if WWII just ended and the devastation,ruins were just beginning to be addressed. Constanta in particular is a real dump and in several other stops,some of the women from the ship felt very unsafe just browsing in the local shops.There is a reason that most of the cruise lines have bypassed these ports in the past and have mostly avoided them even now. In at least one port,we were the first Western ship of our size to ever visit and once you looked around you could understood why ! There always was a church or monastery to visit or a local museum or garden,but they were not major 'must sees' on any travel magazine or travel sites ... The obvious reason for their inclusion had to be Celebrity not being able to at a decent-read cheap cost price other availability of ports and Celebrity's marketing dept. attempting to maximize their expenses at our detriment. Several passengers wondered why we did not go instead to Gallipoli and Troy-maybe then it would have meant renaming the cruise as a Greek Isles cruise and not a Black Sea one. Bottom line- many passengers voiced very similar complaints and perhaps those of us griping aloud have come to expect a level of service that Celebrity is unable or willing to provide.If one wanted to sail on Carnival and receive that type of experience -why the necessity of paying the higher booking costs ? WE are already committed to sailing in the beginning of January on the Infinity from Buenos Aires to Santiago and approach the cruise with trepidation and major concerns. I just hope we do not have the same experience on board. At least we know the ports are acceptable... I am fairly certain that regardless of this upcoming cruise,it will be the last time we sail with Celebrity.I would rather pay a little more and receive the quality that is advertised and expected... As afinalcomment,please be aware that the overwhelming majority of your fellow passengers will be in their mid 70's + and also the dress attire is dismissed by too many of the passengers even on the so called'formal nights'..Ido not relish the idea of eating next to individuals who look as if they would be not out of place in a cafeteria setting and unfortunately dress for dinner exactly that way ! Others may express a totally different view of all that I have written-but that is up to you the reader to analyze.. a blue collar individual even if they have achieved success financially will still present themselves accordingly and sad to say do not expect or have failed to experience 'fine dining' and a level of sophistication promised but seldom delivered ! Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
We are just back from a fantastic cruise on Oceania Riviera from Istanbul to Athens with stops in Nessebar (Bulgaria), Constanta (Romania) for 2 days, Batumi (Georgie), Trabzon (turkey), Sinop (Turkey), Kusadasi (Turkey). Everything was ... Read More
We are just back from a fantastic cruise on Oceania Riviera from Istanbul to Athens with stops in Nessebar (Bulgaria), Constanta (Romania) for 2 days, Batumi (Georgie), Trabzon (turkey), Sinop (Turkey), Kusadasi (Turkey). Everything was perfect from food to service by all employees. Everybody was smiling, try to help in anyway they can. Everyday was sunny and hot....perfect for visiting... The ship itself is very beautiful, very clean. We had an interior room and it was perfect because we like to be around the pool, walking on the 14th deck or visiting around in all ports of call....The food was faboulous in every restaurants we tried (Main dining room, 4 speciality restaurants complimentary with no extra charge(Toscana, Red Ginger, Polo grill and Jacques) and the terrace cafe/wave grill). For the ports of call (we did many excursions with the ship and it was very well organised and the guides in every excursions were very interesting and knowledgeable): Nessebar (Bulgaria): very nice town, small and easy to walk around (no need for an excursion); Constanta (Romania): we did two excursions..one at the ancient city of Histria..it was a bit disappointing (not much to see) and we did one other excursion for a visit at two museums plus folkloric show and wine tasting (we really apreciated that tour); Batumi (Georgie): very nice town and we did an excursion for the botanical garden, a fortress, a mosquee, folkloric show with a meal and we really appreciated that tour; Trabzon (Turkey): we did a tour to the Sumela monastery, a mosquee and a beautifull house and we really enjoyed it; Sinop (Turkey): very small town and the ship docked directly in town....so we walked around and see an old prison, ethnological museum, archeological museum, we saw an old church they were excavating and while we were there they just discover an human squeletton and we were very happy to see that discovery; Kusadasi (Turkey): we did an excursion to Ephesus and we liked it a lot. The embarkation and disembarkation process was very smooth.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
The Ryndam is still in good shape considering her age, although the policy of using only Indonesians and Philippine staff has its limitations. Holland America would be better served with an international staff. The ports were all ... Read More
The Ryndam is still in good shape considering her age, although the policy of using only Indonesians and Philippine staff has its limitations. Holland America would be better served with an international staff. The ports were all interesting enough, with the exception of Aarhus (we should have gone to Visby instead). Copenhagen was the least interesting, and the dirtiest, but Stockholm and St. Petersburg both deserved the two days each they got, and were well worth it. The food and service on board the Ryndam were both excellent, and when we complained that our room was below the kitchen (and thus very noisy late at night and early in the morning), we were moved to another room without hesitation. Although I would chose my cabin more carefully next time, I would not hesitate to sail on the Ryndam again. The entertainment was on the level of a high school production, but that is to be expected on a ship of this size. We have had much better entertainment, but always on much larger ships. We never had a problem with lines or waiting. Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
I’ve read the three preceding reviews of the Black Sea cruise we just completed, and while I don’t doubt the veracity of those reports or the feelings that prompted them, I’m compelled to present a very different report. In short, we ... Read More
I’ve read the three preceding reviews of the Black Sea cruise we just completed, and while I don’t doubt the veracity of those reports or the feelings that prompted them, I’m compelled to present a very different report. In short, we had an excellent experience. Although the delayed boarding was unfortunate, given that Celebrity was doing its best to cleanse the ship of the Norovirus, our reaction was “take all the time you need.” In fact, we appreciated all of the safety measures taken, and we assume that’s why the number of cases on our cruise was vastly reduced from the previous group. That said, we were among the first to board and had the Oceanview Café to ourselves for about 20 minutes while the staff doted on us (this was the result of chance, not any personal connections or star status on our part). Our room was very nice and the service provided by Gwen (our “butler”—still loving that, although I would have preferred that he change his name to “Jeeves”) and Suhas (our steward) were unceasingly attentive and immediately responsive to the few requests we made. I can’t imagine any better service than what they provided. In that regard, we were really impressed with the friendliness and service level of every staff member we encountered. A special shout out goes to Natalia in the Gelateria. After Day Two, she would call us out by name (kind of like “Norm!” on Cheers, I suppose) and was fun to talk to while she dished up our latest calorie bombs. I’d regard the food service overall as very good, even though it started off questionably. We were assigned to dine by ourselves at a location that was hilariously awful: the first table against the wall as one enters the Main Dining Room, and next to the kitchen entrance as well as the Maître D’s stand. At that table, one can dine while heavy laden waiters brush past, expectant diners hover nearby, and an overworked headwaiter deals with the usual issues. While we were waiting for our appetizers, bemoaning our outcast state, I got up and approached the Maître D, and began gently with, “You know, I don’t think this table is going to work for us…”, but before I could finish my entreaty the guy shook his head and said, “That’s terrible. Come with me….” He cancelled our order and took us up to the dining room’s higher level and told the head guy there that he was changing us to Anytime Dining and we should be given the best table available. Never another problem after that. Over the ensuing eleven nights, we dined multiple times in each of the main dining room, Tuscan Grill (loved the Ravioli Ripieni con Carne Brasata di Manzo and the chocolate and pistachio crème brulee—can’t remember the exact name as by the dessert course I was in a food coma), Ocean Liners, Blu and The Bistro on Five, and enjoyed all of them. The food in the main dining room was only good- to very good, but fine considering the volume they have to meet. And recognizing that after 40 years of marital bliss the conversation can sometimes lag a bit between us, we usually requested dining companions and we were always given two or more really interesting people to dine with. We ended up eating multiple times with a few couples and it was a highlight of the trip. As a form of repentance, we used the fitness center and track often. The center has a good selection of resistance and cardio machines and a fair selection of free weights. Most users were careful to wipe down after use, and we saw the staff wiping down everything frequently. The track is decent, but best utilized before 8 am or so. The evening’s entertainment was always good if not particularly great, although the violinist was exceptionally talented and the Man from Mars and his amazingly limber wife (“Okay, I’ll stop staring, honey…”) were very entertaining. One beef: I hate it when Emcees call out things like “Are you having a good time????” and similarly banal inquiries obviously intended to evoke a big round of applause. Hey, if I like the show, I’ll clap enthusiastically. I’d like to organize a group response along the lines of “WELL, IT WAS JUST OK…” but that’ll have to wait for another cruise. We really enjoyed the shore excursions, all but one of which we arranged privately. By doing so we got to know several couples in advance and developed friendships with several that will endure well beyond the trip. And if anyone doubted that ship-based excursions include a hefty surcharge, consider that for the Odessa Ballet we attended, the ship’s charge would have been around $120 each and seats would have been in the middle or back of the theater (great opera house, btw). Planning ahead, we purchased Row 3 seats for $30. True, my purchase didn't include bus transportation to and from the theater, but we saved 2 x $90 by walking to and from the ship, an enjoyable stroll down Primorsky Boulevard and the Potemkin Steps, much less than a mile. It was an outstanding itinerary we’ll recommend to anyone interested. And despite a couple of hiccups, which were immediately resolved, we thought Celebrity did an excellent job under difficult conditions. We’ll be back.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click