This was a super cruise with interesting and appealing ports of call - would recommend it wholeheartedly! We really enjoyed working with Raymond Wright from who helped us with the booking as well as several questions along the way. We booked early enough (October 2017 for a July 2018 sailing) that we could watch the excursion offers from and pick up some good sale prices. Ray was more helpful with information about the cruise than the Celebrity website (which does not work well on tablets, and admittedly so by Celebrity staff). He also had good suggestions for hotel bookings in Amsterdam though we ended up finding a great hotel there on our own.
5 out of 5
Embarkation was smooth and carefree. Dropped our luggage, boarded the ship, and had lunch on deck before we left Amsterdam. Our boarding time was 10:30-11 and we showed up at 11:30 and were on board relaxing on deck by noon.
Food and Dining
5 out of 5
We were in Aqua Class with access to dining at Blu. The food and service there were terrific - both dinner and breakfast. The Maitre d'Hotel (Anita) was friendly and welcoming, remembering our names after the first night. All of the servers were incredibly nice and overall service was excellent. The food was outstanding with 5-6 starters and 5-6 entrees to choose from which differed every night. We found out that we could order a starter or entree from one of the sister restaurants on the second night - and we did just that. The French Onion soup was some of the best I've ever had. The "evening chic" (aka formal) was relaxed enough that my husband wore a short sleeve button down shirt, nice pants and work shoes, and I wore nice slacks and a pretty (though not super fancy) top and elegant sandals. Others were more formally dressed.
Most of our breakfast and lunch meals were at the Oceanview Cafe on 14 which was standard cruise buffet (meaning plentiful choices throughout the day and at each meal). Specialty coffees and juices/smoothies had to be ordered through wait staff or a walk up to the bar/beverage counter, but didn't take long on most occasions. The food at Oceanview Cafe was great. Evening meals usually had a theme and several items to choose from. We also did breakfast at Blu a couple times for a more relaxing, less crowded experience.
4 out of 5
Not much to say here. There were plenty of things to do throughout the day organized by the ship's team but we did not participate in many of them. The gym was spacious and up to date with equipment. My only beef here is having to pay for Pilates and Yoga classes but generally on cruises, you pay for any extras.
5 out of 5
We took in the first night show (percussion and music act Junnk) which was terrific. Very nice string duo in one of the bars and a good house band most nights (can't remember their name). Great DJ for salsa night too!
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
I don't know what "Kool Aid" these folks drink or how they keep smiling every single minute of every day. I know they work extremely hard in difficult conditions with very little pay: the service was exceptional, from the folks constantly cleaning the banisters and railings, to the steward, assistant, dining staff, bartenders, security folks. To a person they were friendly, welcoming, and engaging. Kudos especially to Feliano, Ever, Cevrine, Tyrone, Anita, Flor, Manuel, and Tyneesha. Amazing!
5 out of 5
The ship was super clean and hand sanitizer was available everywhere (including at the entrance to each restaurant). Ship personnel were constantly cleaning the common areas. The ship's design was easy to figure out and we had no problem getting around. We did stairs only throughout the cruise. Great way to work off all the food!
Cabin / Stateroom
5 out of 5
We enjoyed our room and its location at the rear of the ship, away from the elevators and most noise. The room itself was spacious with plenty of storage and a good size balcony. The bathroom also had good storage and we enjoyed the shower (rain head and/or hand held with body jets). My only beefs here were folks who let their children run up and down the halls of the ship screaming, and neighbors who let their doors slam shut rather than holding on to the door as it "auto closed". The steward assigned to our room was exceptionally nice and helpful and kept asking after me (as I caught a cold the first day of the cruise and was knocked out for 24 hours).
We spent three days prior to the cruise here and ranked this city #1 of all those visited on this cruise. Great vibe, plenty to do, and friendly people. Keep your eyes on the bikes! We booked our own hotel and excursions and transportation to/from the cruise ship terminal. Check out Hotel Fita if you need a convenient, small boutique hotel with a nice breakfast in a great location (close to the Rikksmuseum, Van Gogh museum, outer canal, and trams). For excursions, try Mike's Bike Tours, the Blue Boat Canal tour for a night cruise (9:30 was a great time in summer), the Van Gogh Museum and the Hop on Hop Off canal boat tour. Pompa is also a nice restaurant close to the hotel.
We had to nix our excursion to Berlin as I was knocked out from catching a cold on day one due to the AC on the ship. The day in port was so long that after sleeping most of the day, we still had time to get up and go out to Warnemunde late in the afternoon. What a great little seaside village. We had a pleasant walk through town and down the promenade. I can't imagine that we would have spent a whole day here if I'd been well, but folks we spoke with did spend the entire day at the beach and had a blast.
We actually docked in Stockholm rather than Nynashamn which was great as it cut down on travel time into the city. We ubered out of the cruise ship terminal to get to our excursion (we booked our own Vespa tour in Stockholm which was terrific). The problem was the return trip to the cruise ship terminal as the driver took us to "the other" cruise ship terminal, and once we realized we were getting to the wrong one we told him that we needed to go to the other one, he said "this is what you wanted and here you are" (basically, get out of the car, I have another fare). We found another driver to take us to the terminal where the Celebrity Eclipse had docked (not very close). Lesson learned: in every future subsequent port of call, we wrote down the name of the terminal! Stockholm was our least favorite city.
Helsinki ranked #2 of the cities we visited. We took the tram into town (no cash accepted at the ticket machine, and heads up, there is more than one machine at the tram stop - folks were queue'd up to get tickets and it took a little while to figure the machine out) and found the meeting spot for the excursion we organized on our own. We used Happy Bikes Helsinki to create a private bike tour for us and the guide. They made booking easy via email and were helpful with directions on public transportation use to find them. Plenty of time in town for a five hour bike ride (historic city center, and arts and archipelago combination).
We were excited to visit St. Petersburg and arranged three excursions: 2 half-day trips (each half day being about 5 hours) and a night-time drawbridge excursion through the cruise ship company. St. Petersburg is massive and fascinating and full of history. We specifically signed up for the half day trips rather than the full day trips because we thought two full day trips was excessive both from an overkill perspective and a stamina perspective (and we are fit)(if you're a history buff and want to soak up as much as possible and see as many sites as possible it might be for you). The first day was a small group (8 hour) on a small bus with a terrific guide (Maria) and driver (Nick). We got on and off the bus several times and had a good hour tour around the Peter and Paul Fortress and another hour at the Church of the Spilled Blood (beautiful and amazing!). Maria is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic and her English is excellent. Traffic into and out of town from the cruise ship ate into our allotted time on both days, and the disembarkation process the first day was tailored to passengers who had booked excursions through Celebrity. We had read a prior review saying everyone could get off at the same time, but Celebrity seems to have changed its organization for this port of call since that review. Celebrity excursion passengers were allowed off first, and all others had to queue for "tickets" to disembark subsequently in groups (we were group 6 of 16). Passport control was easy the first day because enough of the booths were staffed. The other 6 folks on our tour had to wait for us to disembark before we could take off on our first day. There was no way to coordinate with these folks ahead of time to know we were on the same tour and coordinate our disembarkation. The second half day tour was with the same folks so we came up with a plan to have one person get the same non-Celebrity excursion disembarkation group "tickets" for the second day so we could get a timely start, only to find out that everyone could simply walk off the ship the second day and go through passport control again (which was easier the second time). All 8 of us met up early at 8:30 for the 9:00 meeting with our guide. Trouble here was that unbeknownst to us, the tour company had picked up 6 other people from a different cruise line and didn't get to us until 9:30. Their "first day of St. Petersburg" was our "second day of St. Petersburg" so we heard a lot of the same thing from the guide (but made different stops). Our focus for the second day was Peterhof, the summer palace outside of town. Maria decided to add in a brief stop at St. Isaac's Cathedral and at a souvenir shop (our only one) before heading out of town to get to Peterhof. Most of us were appreciative of that even though traffic was thick and parking was nearly impossible. It took quite a while to get out of town and head out to Peterhof, and at one point, traffic came to a standstill due to an accident. One of the folks who had joined our tour from the other cruise ship publicly criticized Maria as if it were her fault that we were running behind and hit traffic and wanted to know how we were going to make up time, or if the tour would be extended. She was extremely rude and thoughtless to criticize our guide who was clearly affected by this person but made the best of it. We had about an hour to tour the grounds of Peterhof with Maria guiding again. What a beautiful place. If you can find an excursion that allows for more dedicated time here, take it. One hour was just enough to have a pleasant stroll, take in the beauty and be on our way. I managed to grab a one Euro program/guide in English on the way in. All other souvenir kiosks were limited in their English versions which cost seven Euro. One suggestion for this port: get rubles if you can from a currency exchange place before you travel. We were told before the cruise that most places would accept Euros, but several places would not, and we missed getting specific souvenirs at those places. Folks simply refused to accept Euros. I don't have the description of this excursion in front of me, but another passenger and I both thought that a stop for lunch was included on both half day tours. There was no stop for lunch so either eat a filling breakfast and/or bring your own snacks and drinks along for these days).
We loved this town too. Really enjoyed the bike ride we had booked through United Cruises. We had a great guide (Rasmuss) who was knowledgeable and spoke superb English. He readily answered all kinds of questions about history and culture and current living in Tallinn. He took us around the sights outside of the old town with a few stops for info and pictures, and then continued on to the walled old town. We had found out from another review that we could drop off our bikes in the old town for three Euros each rather than riding back to the cruise ship so we could spend time on our own in old town and then walk back to the ship. This was a good option, and for the extra three Euros, it was easy to find the bike shop in the old town, then enjoy a couple more hours in old town for lunch and wandering before an easy walk back. We "lost" some folks in our group who missed a turn on the way into old town and had a few nervous moments when an ambulance approached was stopped as we waited for them to join. Part of the ride into the old town is on cobblestones and narrow streets, so care must be taken to pay attention as you ride, both to the street and to the guide. In most ports of call, there will be a souvenir shop very close to the dock. The one in Tallinn was one of the best and had some great gifts by local artists.
This was an enjoyable town as well. We booked a free walking tour on our own and had an entertaining guide for that. We each paid $20 for an out and back shuttle bus into town from the cruise ship, but on any other day we could have managed to walk into town. We didn't want to cut into our time town and had to get to our meeting point for the walking tour at 11am. We didn't bother with the Little Mermaid statue as reviewers had said it wasn't worth it and our shuttle bus driver and other passengers confirmed the same.
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