this was a 16 day transatlantic cruise rome to fort L. They changed 2 port itenerarries for the worse, Great experience, no complaints,
I enjoyed the larger newer Solstice more because it had a sports bar and movie theater, many experenced cruisers differd with my opinion. This was my 3rd celebrity cruise and they all were excelent xxxx
Embarkation: A breeze. Arrived at the terminal at 10.45, went through express check-in, on board sipping champagne at 11.20. Headed for the buffet and enjoyed a great lunch by the window. We were docked at right angles to the Oasis of the Seas-what a behemoth! The cabins were ready at 1 p.m. and the luggage arrived by 3.15. Checked out our dining room location (a table for 8 on the main floor, centre), did the muster drill and got unpacked.
Our cabin: An outside on deck 2 mid ship just down the hall from the cabin we had in 2008, but looking much better after the refurbish-rather subdued décor but quite classy. New flat screen T.V. Very comfortable bed. The only wear and tear I noticed was a little rust on the bottom of the window. We met our room attendant who was very helpful and efficient-we asked to have the beds put together the next morning as one king because of the room configuration but it was done when we came back after dinner.
Main Dining Room: We had early seating and great table mates-4 more Canadians and a couplefrom Ohio. Thoroughly enjoyed them all. Our waiter was very good and the assistant was outstanding. He was ill one night and we all noticed the difference in the flow of the meal without him. Our maitre'd was a woman from Brazil who was at our table, and everyone's, every single night-somewhat unusual in my experience. Maybe a little over-zealous. DH complained to her about the bitter coffee one night and she immediately tore into the assistant waiter which was not warranted (in my opinion). The overall food was excellent-well prepared, well presented and served. My husband did make one bad choice-pork belly. Not sure why this is even on the menu-90% fat, and on one occasion my soup must have been made with salt water.
The Buffet: On previous cruises we've very seldom used the buffet-too busy and too repetitive. This time, however, we had lunch there 4 or 5 times. It never seemed to be overly crowded; we always found a window seat. And there was a huge selection to choose from-the usual hot entrees, made to order salads, Asian food, British food, pizza, made to order pasta, and custom made paninis. And yes! They still have trays and waiters to carry the tray if needed.
The Aqua Spa Café: This was our other choice for lunch. Not a huge selection but very unusual, very healthy cuisine-you had to ask for butter! You could order grilled chicken, salmon or pork chop. There was a choice of 3 or 4 salads, plus marinated fruits and a couple of low cal desserts. The café is located inside the solarium which can be a little steamy but once again we were always able to find a table by an open window.
Specialty Restaurants: This was our 13th cruise and the first time we ever ate in a surcharge restaurant-and very glad we did! We chose Ocean Liners and the meal and service were beyond expectation. I had steak and lobster, my husband opted for just lobster. After an appetizers of scallops and a goat cheese soufflé, I could (should) have had dessert and called it a night. I managed half the fillet and half the lobster but my husband was happy to help out. He also managed crepes for dessert which were prepared table side. A very memorable evening. This restaurant was very well attended but not so the Tuscan Grill which is a new addition. Not sure why but never saw anyone there. We had full intentions of trying the Bistro on Five but ran out of time and appetite. There were also two "Brunches at Sea" which were served in the Dining Room and were really over the top-there was literally everything-even caviar. But no crab or lobster.
The Entertainment: Celebrity has been our cruise line of choice for quite a few years but we've always thought the entertainment was lacking. Not so on this cruise. The resident singers and dancers were exceptional and they introduced a new show called Neverland. It was very ambitious for a cruise production with lots of special effects and fantastic costumes. We also got a very entertaining pianist, a very talented female singer from Vancouver and a magician (actually slight of hand artist). And our favorite Perry Grant did a great show in the theatre one night but I still think he is better suited to Michaels Club, which was SRO every night he performed there. There was also one of the best acapella (?) groups I've ever heard and a female string quartet who performed in different venues.
Public Areas: The new ice martini bar is a nice touch with juggling bartenders. There are also new wine dispensing machines on Deck 5 adjacent to the new Bistro on 5. The rendezvous lounge looks great with all new furniture ( maybe recovered). But the biggest improvement is Reflections, formerly the Bar at the Edge of the Earth-what a difference! This now has to be one of the most beautiful lounges afloat-we were there every day for sail away and sometimes during the day just to relax and enjoy the expansive view. The pool area was probably the most crowded public area, especially on sea days. The Thallasotherapy pool was never very crowded which was a pleasant surprise and the spa was well maintained. There was also no pressure to buy spa products. I really enjoyed the Persian Gardens! The casino was always bright and busy and thankfully smoke free. The internet café was well staffed-one IT spent over 20 minutes trying to figure out why my cell phone wouldn't work-not part of his job description I'm sure.
On Board Activities: The usual trivia, scrap booking, pool games, dance classes etc. during the day. Many more choices at night. One of the main reasons why everyone (that I spoke to) enjoyed this cruise was the Cruise Director Sue Denning. In a word, she was amazing. Not sure if she ever slept. On port days, she was there when we disembarked, was at karaoke, in the disco, did a trivia, a scarf demo, and she sang in the farewell show. I've never seen such a visible CD. She is a former music hall entertainer and actress from Britain and a genuine people person.
The Crew and Officers: They were all very friendly and accessible, always smiling and acknowledging you, from the cleaners all the way up to the Captain, who was very personable. He did a question and answer session along with the Chief Engineer, the CD and one other officer where he displayed his great sense of humor. He had started at the bottom as a painter and worked his way to the top so he related well to all those working behind the scenes. He also did a walk through the dining room one evening, chatting to as many as he could, including a young boy at the next table, even posing for a picture.
The Itinerary: There were 8 ports of call, none new for us but we revisited some of our favorites. We did one cruise shore excursion to the beach in Barbados, other than that we did our own thing. We did 2 "stay-on-the-ship-port-days" along with 5 days at sea which was perfect for us. I noticed that the photographers were far less pushy when you disembarked-one "no thank you" was enough. Along with the cold cloths and drinks on your return, they now set up a small seating area with wicker furniture on a rug under a gazebo!
Disembarkation: We are Elite members of the Captains Club so we took advantage of the departure lounge in the cinema where a continental breakfast was set up. Once again, not at all crowded although there were 400 Elites on this cruise. We were off the ship at 8.30, got the cruise shuttle to the airport and were checked in at 9.30. And we were worried that we might not make our 12.30 flight?
I can't imagine anyone not enjoying this cruise. Very restricted smoking areas, no in-room announcements, no reams of paper from the Art Gallery or Spa. And a dress code that was adhered to by 95% of the passengers. I think our days of trying other cruise lines are over-we'll stick with Celebrity.
The Constellation is a well managed and the service is excellent. The major problem is with the cabin beds. We had a suite and the mattress's were so old and lumpy, we hardly slept at all even with the steward trying his best to solve the problem. One of the 'covers' provided had pee stains. Then how about - put one other lumpy mattress on top of the already lump. Almost fell out of the bed. We were told "the ship" had NO new mattress and they could do nothing more.
When we complained - we received a $89.00 refund WOW! Returned the check with the message, "We will no longer cruise with Celebrity." Just returned from a cruise with Norwegian - the mattress are NEW, LONGER AND WIDER and double sheeted. They have our business.
PS: Finally, after 4 days - I just bought my own foam cover in Spain.
Fantastic experience. Fantastic food and personnel. They really make you feel like a house guest. Very relaxed atmosphere. The buffet is always open, so you don't have to run to make meal times. Free coffee, tea and lemonade 24 hrs a day. Possible to eat outside on the aft deck. Nobody minds if you take food from the buffet to another part of the ship or to your cabin.
Free tropical pool and sauna.
Very quiet cabins with TV, but no radio and no clock. Ours was a decoration disaster; brown/beige carpet, pink chair and orange curtain. The matrasses had the shape of hunderds of people.
Paint spills on the balcony.
The deck chairs in the pool area are old and faded and there are not enough of them.
Shore excursions were very expensive, so we didn't take any of them. Exept for the main dining room, none of the public area's were very appealing. Bus transfer to/from the airport in Barcelona is the same price as a taxi, so if you travel with two of more, a taxi is the better option. Even with the airport surcharge and the port surcharge ourdriver on the way back invented.
Although the food and the atmosphere were far better than other ships, we will not travel with this company again. The reason : their smoking policy. Smoking is stricktly forbidden in your cabin. So is drinking and making your own coffee. What's next?
My friend and I were Concierge Class guests on the Celebrity Constellation sailing out of New York on October 30th. It was my friend's first ever cruise and my first Celebrity cruise. It was a wonderful experience, very civilized. Even though some soft goods updates are overdue, the ship is very welcoming, easy to navigate and staffed by friendly professionals. We enjoyed the onboard entertainment, especially Michael's Pub.
The port of Labadee has come a long way since my first visit on a Royal Caribbean ship many years back. Many activities are available and we enjoyed parasailing.
The one day in port, one day at sea worked well for us and many others as well.
A word of advice not only regarding this ship, but perhaps others as well.
Avoid an inside stateroom located by a pantry! You will hear very loud noises throughout the day and night with only an intermission between 11:00pm and 5:00am.
We booked cabin number 9187 on the Constellation and it was a nightmare. After repeated complaints to Guest Relations, they finally moved us to a cabin with a balcony at no extra charge.
These rooms really shouldn't be sold to paying passengers in the first place. Had we not been moved, it would have ruined our trip.
Celebrity is also aware of the noise in that room and they continue to sell it.
On a lighter note, the ship overall is beautiful. The food is about above average, but certainly nothing special except for the Ocean Liner Restaurant.
Introduction We are a couple in our 50's. This was my husband's second cruise and my eighth. I have cruised on RCCL, Princess and Celebrity ships over the last 20 years. Ours was an 11 night holiday cruise over Christmas and New Years, with 5 days at sea. Ports included Grand Cayman, Cartagena, Panama, Costa Rica, and Cozumel.
High Points The ship is beautiful. It is a very easy ship to navigate with several banks of elevators which are well positioned for easy access. Public rooms are spacious and nicely appointed. The theatre is very comfortable with loveseats instead of single seat seating. Small underlit tables are handy for drinks and purses. I found many nooks and crannies to sit and read and people watch. The promenade deck is equipped with lounge chairs for an afternoon snooze. The ship has aged gracefully and there is little sign of wear and tear.
The cabin was very well designed. We chose an ocean view on the bottom level. It had plenty of space to store clothing and the beds were high enough so that four large suitcases could be hidden, out of sight. The bathroomwas well stocked with spa quality soap, lotion, shampoo and conditioner in refillable bottles. The view was superb. I spent a fair bit of time curled up in the oversized chair by the window looking at the waves which were only about 30 feet below. In fact we liked the cabin so much that we would choose this kind of view, instead of a balcony, for future sailings.
The musical venues on the ship made a positive contribution to our enjoyment of this cruise. We danced in the Rendez Vous Lounge every night, to the music of the Carl William Quartet. He approached us on the first night and asked us, along with other passengers, what kind of music we liked to dance to and he continued to be warm and charming throughout the cruise. The house band, Fusion, was excellent and took delight in playing requests and serenading people who were celebrating birthdays or anniversaries. A really good guitarist/vocalist played in the vicinity of the Café Nova each evening. It was a fun place to go to enjoy a coffee and chat. The A Cappella group was also excellent. I have never been on a cruise which offered such an extensive menu of music, with something for everyone, scheduled at regular times and in very pleasant settings.
I am not a big fan of buffets, but I must admit that I became one on the Constellation. Line-ups were short when we had breakfast and lunches, and the selection of food was long! Made to order omelettes were always available along with breakfast breads and pastries that were delicious. Made to order pasta was also wonderful at lunch, cooked by a chef who could not hide his pleasure in preparing such delicious offerings to the passengers. I am sorry that I did not make a note of his name. Desserts were plentiful and really tasty at the lunch buffet. Snacks were offered in the late afternoon and were in the form of small sandwiches and buns and assorted cakes. Timing is everything on a ship and a few times we were too late to take advantage of these wonderful little bite-sized treats.
I am a person who notices small details and I appreciate ambience. One of the features I enjoy about RCCL and Celebrity is their attention to art on the ship. The ship is a floating gallery and whoever selects the pieces should be praised for their ability to select works that speak to so many types of people. I always wondered why the cruise lines have not made guided tour tapes with headphones, to be used by passengers, as an onboard activity for sea days. There is an air of whimsy to the collection and it serves at least for me, as kind of a visual banquet. Sculpture is everywhere and the reclining woman in the indoor pool area is stunning. You will find very little bare wall space on this ship and I am the kind of passenger who will stop and look at framed photos lining the corridor and I will appreciate each featured piece on the landings of the staircases. My hat goes off to those who have made the decision to spend so much money amassing such a collection. I enjoyed it every day of the cruise.
I first tried a Thalassotherapy pool onboard the Century a few years back before the ship was refurbished and the questionable decision was made to do away with the pool. A much larger Thalassotherapy pool is found on board the Constellation. It is covered and intended for adult use only. Spa music is piped in and the whole atmosphere is calming and soothing. The water is very warm in this pool with curved overhead pipes positioned in the corners which spout high pressured jets of water intended to massage the back. At each side of the pool is an elevated rack of wide smooth pipes which you can stretch out on and jets of water pulse under you for a full body massage effect. In short, it is a little bit of aquatic heaven!
The Ports were interesting on this cruise. We experienced the partial crossing of the Panama Canal by ferry, the only excursion which we booked through the ship. It was really enjoyable despite the to/fro hour long bus ride on a bumpy road. The ferry departed from the second set of locks and the guides on the bus and ferry were both informative and entertaining. We even saw a crocodile. A light buffet lunch was served and cold drinks were provided. In Grand Cayman we took a cab to the Reef Grill and enjoyed their beach for the full afternoon. Lounges can be rented for 5 dollars and an umbrella for 10 dollars. Food is good and reasonably priced and change rooms/washrooms are available. One great feature about this spot is that they have a beach and bar web camera so that at a prearranged time you can stand and wave at your friends and family. Don't miss Nachi Cocum while in Cozumel. You don't have to reserve a spot at the Reef Grill, but you must reserve this beach club in advance and place a small deposit online. Like the Reef Grill, it is a short cab ride away from the port. The property is gorgeous and the service outstanding. It has a pool with a swim up bar, change rooms and, for an extra fee, opportunities to engage in water activities. Upon arrival, you are escorted to shaded lounges by your waiter who will continue to serve you drinks and superb food, covered under your admission, throughout your day long stay. The guacamole and breaded grouper are wonderful and the best Pina Colodas I had on the cruise were from Nachi Cocum. The sand is a little coarse, so you may want to wear beach shoes. After a swim, you can snooze on the hammocks under the many palm trees which grace this property. We felt that we received excellent value for the money we paid. Last, but not least, is the Craft Market in Costa Rica, just steps away from the ship. Don't miss it. You can get great deals on coffee and vanilla and the crafts made from the local wood, exotic to us, are beautifully made and very reasonably priced.
Low Points I am sorry to report that the quality of Celebrity food, in the dining room, has declined. This was the first cruise I have ever taken where I didn't look forward to my evening meal. The food was not bad. It simply wasn't very good and if I had to analyze why that was so, it would come down to a lack of flavor. The food was bland. Strangely, desserts in the dining room were not nearly as flavorful and appealing as those served in the buffet. I kept hoping that the food would improve after the first couple of days, but it did not.
Security was also an issue on this ship. Children were in places they should not have been and the security crew turned a blind eye to it. Even when confronted with the fact that children were in the adult hot tubs, the security officer I approached seemed very reluctant to address the issue with the parents present. Chair hogs were out in full force and despite warnings posted on the daily passenger newsletters left in the cabins, these inconsiderate passengers were given free reign to place their personal belongings on lounges, walk away and not return for hours, thus depriving other passengers of the use of these chairs. The posted consequence for this behavior was to have the property removed by the pool attendants, to be reclaimed later at a specific location. Not once did I see this happen. The most disturbing incident of a serious breach in security took place when an unescorted child of about 8 years old was allowed to board the ship after walking back alone along the pier at Costa Rica. This disregard for the rules and safety on the part of ship security personnel left me wondering what would happen in the event of a real crisis on board the ship or at sea.
Lower Points While this cruise was operating at full capacity and the passengers were paying premium fares because Christmas and New Years were celebrated during the cruise, I was extremely disappointed with the nature and lack of festivities to mark the holidays. The Christmas show in the theatre was embarrassing. Production problems were obvious to the audience from the start and the stage was filled with a mish-mash of all things Christmas, assembled without thought, imagination or any sense of design. To call the whole fiasco amateurish would be an understatement. Carols were sung by some of the entertainment crew on the staircase on Christmas Eve and once again the whole thing seemed to have been thrown together at the last minute, rounding up whoever they could manage to find. Each day we received a newsletter in our cabin listing the activities for the day and filled with advertising sheets promoting Celebrity excursions, services and products for purchase. The song books, which were so hastily distributed minutes before the carols were sung, should have been enclosed in this package along with the program of songs. Instead the whole activity was brief and poorly attended. The final omission which made me most indignant was the lack of music in the dining room on Christmas day. When I asked why Christmas music wasn't being played over the sound system, at the very least, the waiter just shrugged his shoulders and shook his head and appeared to be as confused as I was.
Entertainment in the theatre was very poor. Once again, attendance at the theatre for me in previous cruises was an experience I looked forward to each day. This was not the case on this cruise. The ship's company of entertainers was very young and lacked any stage presence. The shows were boring and the staging uninspired. Having cruised on a Princess ship last year, I was very disappointed. I have never been on a cruise which did not feature at least one stand up comedian. Eleven nights on a cruise ship without a comedian is eleven long nights. On last year's Princess cruise you had to go early to get a seat in the theatre, it was that popular. Surely, the number of vacant seats should be an indicator to the entertainment director that all is not well. To please a wide cross section of ages and preferences, a cruise line needs a wide cross section of talent. Today's passengers are a savvy lot and what passed for entertainment ten years ago will not pass today. All of the onboard innovations in the world will not make up for a lackluster program of theatre entertainment.
Closing Remarks My husband and I enjoyed our cruise. However the low and lower points were such that we would seriously consider not taking another Celebrity cruise. It is a competitive industry and I hope the executives monitor sites such as this one to evaluate the delivery of their product. When we pay such a high premium to cruise at Christmas and New Years, we expect better "extra touches." A variety of entertainers who are talented is an important part of our cruise experience. A satisfying dining experience is a must. Finally, a security presence which inspires confidence among the passengers is another aspect of cruising which we value. Because of the great need for improvement in all of these areas, I do not think my next cruise will be with Celebrity.
Loved the ship and especially the entertainment in the theater by Linda Gentille. She was spectacular in her show. Very much a Liberace type entertainer but a virtuoso keyboard and comedy performer. The other shows were good too but she was awesome.
We loved the crew and the cruise director Rob LeForest who was so professional and fantastic!!!!!!!
We just returned from a 14 day cruise to Northern Europe on the Constellation.
As usual, Celebrity ships are beautiful and the service is always good -- especially in the dining room and cabin. However, we were very dissapointed with the food in the dining room. We had sailed on the Infinity to Alaska a few years ago and were looking forward to the same excellent cuisine. Unfortunately, the food did not meet our expectations. It was bland, unimaginative and tasteless. There were very few offerings for desserts and those were also tasteless.
To be fair, however, the food selection in the buffet -- especially for breakfast -- was very good.
London -- Harwich We thought we were lucky to discover "cruise trains" run by National Express, one per major sailing date this summer. We stayed at the Hyatt Andaz one block from the Liverpool Street Station, terminus for the "cruise trains" to Harwich. The Andaz is a very high tech, mod version of the old Great Eastern Hotel.
However, you can NOT count on the trains to run. Folks on the previous sailing had no trains TO the ship per the online reviews. We found out at the end of the cruise when they decided to work on the tracks (some Brits told us that was a ruse -- they just didn't want to pay the weekend labor). So now instead of a train to hold all of us and 2 weeks' cruise worth of luggage -- they sent a bus. Few could board that one. The next had no luggage hold -- so we stood out there another 2 hours til busses could hold us and our luggage.
Solution is to buy the ship's transfer. We balked at the price but regret that now. Not worth doing it on yourown when you don't know the port and you have to rely on small town transport.
Embarkation The train pulls up right next to the ship docks. Easy walk of one long block or so. No steps or stairs required for those so challenged. Some folks had paid no attention to the luggage tags given out in advance by Celebrity so that caused a hang-up as the porters had no clue who was coming or going, etc. Read your instructions, folks.
We arrived around 1:00 and had no trouble checking in. Heading up the gangplank was maybe a ten minute delay for security checks. Printing up the paperwork in advance off the Celebrity website made it smooth. We were greeted in the very attractive atrium by staff bearing platters of champagne. Period. No water or sparkling cider or juice. Everyone doesn't drink alcohol. It would have been nice to offer everyone a beverage after traipsing all the way to the coast and having paid lots of money for this cruise. Minor complaint.
Stateroom 6087 Easy to find. Mid-ship. Balcony was nice and felt more private than some on other lines. Well designed. Tasteful, clean, modern look - nothing garish or too mod. Bathroom is THE best of my ten cruises. Perfect sized shower for a non-suite category. Love that the shower curtain is affixed to the wall at one end so water can't easily flood the floor. Soaps provided. Hairdryer provided. Shaver outlets provided. Combination shampoo/conditioner in shower dispenser. Bathrobes provided. Umbrellas provided (and never used - hooray). One gifted canvas shoulder bag for going ashore. Ice bucket filled twice per day. Less movies on the tv than in years past unless you now want to pay. We never lost CNN coverage on this itinerary. Also some CBS comedy shows, sports and lots of ship info channels. View the enrichment lectures on upcoming ports from the comfort of your stateroom.
Cabin Attendant Fabian The best of my ten cruises. Service is what makes Celebrity so special, in my opinion. I also love the look of the ships, the cleanliness and the food - but the service overall is just so nice. Esp. after last sailing on a Holland America ship with an intentionally antagonistic F&B manager. And a cabin attendant we never knew the name of. Celebrity is number one in my book for service so thanks again Fabian.
One of the special things he did for us was to re-arrange the beds. They were not separated as we had requested. Nor had they been at the $500 a nite Andaz in London. No biggie so long as corrected before bed. What we changed after the first nite was keep Patty's bed adjacent to the bathroom and move the head of my bed up against the verandah window. This was the fix for my snoring that I am told penetrates right thru the ear plugs. Put the couch between the two beds so it all fits. Then the couch looks straight out the verandah rather than a side view so some folks would prefer that anyway. Each nite I pushed the heavy glass coffee table against the sliding glass door so I wouldn't hit it en route to the bathroom. The only thing I couldn't do in that configuration was use the bedside lamp. No biggie. And now I could peer out the window at the moon, bridges, islands, etc. Loved it.
Dining One of the reasons I love to cruise. Somehow I managed not to gain my usual pound per day on this one. Perhaps all the walking in Russia helped. We had the early seating for dinner. Very nice room as far as visuals. Not conducive to chat though. Noise level too high with so many folks coming and going and tableware clanking. Service was very pleasant but an occasional mistake in getting the right dish to the right patron. You could always choose from a standard selection menu if nothing appealed to you that night. New York steak, Caesar salad, etc. Nice backup plan.
Had some lovely entrees -- fish and steaks are certainly good enough for me. Midwestern tastes and not a gourmet. Willing to try the chilled fruit soups and some other rarities and enjoyed them. Everyone at our table agreed the soups are the best course on Celebrity - hot or cold - try em all. People seemed to concur that the seafood was high caliber. Loved the fish but can't testify to any shellfish myself. Pork chop one night was so juicy and tender. One woman at our table charmed the waiter into bringing an extra entrée for the table to share when we had trouble making a decision. Several nights people ordered a second serving of the entrée - and the plates were never left empty. We were quite pleased. Baked Alaska for the final formal dinner (of three). Nice coconut and exotic fruit desserts the other nights were superb.
Four of us went to the OceanLiners restaurant for dinner in memory of my mom's birthday. The room is dedicated to grand liners of the past, with panels from the Ile de France on one wall and display cases of historic ship memorabilia in the mosaic tiled foyer. Perfect way to sail out of St. Petersburg, dining to harp music, light in the air (sunset at nearly 11 p.m.) and the table surrounded by four or five handsome fellows so they could serve each course in unison to their eager patrons. Patty said it was the best steak she has had in her life. My fish dish was delicious. They added a free appetizer. Free petits fours. You felt very satisfied for this elegant change of pace one special evening. The $30 sounds steep but was worth every penny. I loved my chocolate soufflé. May I order one by mail??
Here is the menu for you to start salivating over: Starters: Classic Lobster Bisque, Tomato, Red Pepper & Mozzarella Soup, Caesar Salad, Salad of Diced Vegetables and Lobster, Smoked Salmon with Tuna Carpaccio, Twice Baked Goat Cheese Souffle, Frog Legs Provencale, Escalope of Foie Gras Normandy, Chilled Asparagus - sauce Gribiche. Entrees: Whole Dover sole Meuniere (YUM-O), Grilled Filet of Sea Bass, Scallops & Lobster, Magret of duck with sliced pears, Rack of Lamb in Puff Pastry, Large Shrimps Flambee, Saltimbocca alla Romana, Risotto al Funghi, Tenderloin Steak Diane. Cheese: A selection of Fine French Cheeses, apples, grapes and walnut bread. Desserts: Zabaglione with marsala, Coconut Crème Brulee, Chocolate Souffle, Chocolate and Orange Segment Mousse Cake, Light Lemon and Lime Mascarpone cheesecake, Ice creams and sorbets, bite-size surprises, coffee and petits fours.
From the sublime to the not, my reality check for Celebrity F&B folks. Room service quality has gone way down. Not only has the portion size decreased a third, the quality has too. The pepperoni pizza was decent, the tuna sandwich passable, the chefs salad not. The cookies are good. Beverage selection meager. I know - with all that good food in other venues, why whine about this? In certain ports, odd timing and all - you really need something delivered on occasion. One GOOD thing about room service in 08 versus my last Celebrity cruise in 04, you can now get the deluxe dinner from the main dining room menu. Just let your cabin attendant know before dinner service has begun. That was nice. Room service otherwise needs improvement.
Buffets were better than in past. More variety. Salads seemed more inventive here than in the main dining room. Lots of fresh fruits and cheeses. LOVE the POG - passion fruit, orange and guava juice, as well as lemonade in the self serve dispensers next to the iced tea, coffee, and water. Omelet station was very popular and for good reason. Also high quality for the waffles and French toast served at the rear of the other dining lines. Had some delicious BBQ and beef dishes worthy of the main dining room. Very nice quality overall. A healthy spa cuisine option at their end of the deck. The pool area right outside the main buffet has burgers, hot dogs and tacos. Also potato salad, other salad fixings too up until 6 pm daily. Or was it 5?
One downside re: buffet service -- some of the guys did not have the English skills to tell me what I was ordering. This happened more than once. They smiled and tried - but I really couldn't grasp what was being served and no identifying labels out front in the dessert section in particular. Ah well -ate it anyway! Separate ice cream areas were very popular. Several exotic fruit and non-sugar options to choose from as well as the usual favorites. Cups or cones, your choice.
My overall take on the food this cruise, I am very pleased. When about 50 pct. of what I taste is delicious, and another 25 pct. very good - I can easily forgive the remainder being average or even on rare occasion just not worth having. The one area I would skip in future was the do it yourself pasta bar. Once they add the veggies- you have an inch of water in the bottom. But again, I focus on the 50 pct delicious mark and ache to return when I am so fortunate. On the other cruise lines, I am afraid they hit delicious maybe 10 pct of the time. Not Celebrity. YUM.
Public Areas Lumping a lot of things together here for brevity so I can cover the Shore Excursions at more length on this port-intensive cruise. The theater is top notch - great lighting and sight lines. Well attended. Some of the solo acts were world class - the man who played Phantom in Australia, the gal who did Evita in the West End, classical musicians from top circuits in the world. Entertainment gets a high mark. The regular show cast has very talented singers and dancers - well choreographed, lavishly costumed, and most shows a real winner. The Broadway show rates 8 or 9 out of ten. The finale from around the world had dancers doing Irish and Can Can and Russian and Jazz - well done. Singers do Verdi arias as well as heartfelt national tunes. The aerialists were of the Cirque de Soleil genre and a big hit. The Latin theme show was not quite up to the same level. How many Ricky Martin numbers can one endure. There is only one Ricky and he wasn't on board, sorry to say.
Spa was wildly popular. Nice facilities. Hard to book so don't delay once you get onboard. One fun feature was a silent auction near the end of the cruise. You can bid for any spa treatments, including the teeth whitening at a bargain price. Women looked great coming out with their hair and nails done.
Lounges were very tasteful, pleasant music, nice art throughout the ship -- some of it a bit too modern for me but most of it quite interesting and well positioned. Shops had some fun events - Russian fashion show and "spot the fake amber" and so on. They brought out lots of Russian dolls,hats,chocolates,jewelry, etc. so you had plenty of shopping opportunities right on board.
Disappointed in the highly touted arboretum. They're silks, not live flowers.
I went to one of the ship's free classes. Most now come with a charge. Dino was very good with explaining how to store your photos online at home with various programming tips. Class was full so book early.
Casino had a lot of jackpots coming and going. I had the feeling I would hit my mom's favorite numbers on keno on her birthday. And sure enough, I put in $60 and all five came in for nearly $800. Tasty treats on trays in the casino late nites - but that does NOT make up for the lack of a midnight buffet. None - all gone. Kaput. The previous sailing had the final one under new policy. I know we are all eating less, and being more green and so on - but not ONE on a 2 wk. premium cruise? When they announced the ice carving display near the pool it felt like a slap that they still show off these skills but with NO buffet?? Sigh -- an unexpected change.
Shore Excursions/Ports Amsterdam: Been numerous times before so I didn't get off. I was lazy that day. Also we were given the impression the ship was far from the Central Station and central area I was familiar with. Our view was of modern apartments and minimal dock facilities. Once we went up to the buffet (an hour before sailing away) I could see we actually were close to some interesting ship museums, etc. and not so far away for one to walk it. Sigh. This was an ongoing source of frustration. Various staff members would guess how far we docked from port cities and some were so far off base, I'd prefer they had said they just didn't know. I like to get off and do some exploring on my own even though I also bought tours in every port. You might as well buy the ship's shuttle passes with the exceptions of Copenhagen, Tallinn and Stockholm. An easy 20 minute walk can get you somewhere in those ports, esp. Copenhagen where you are just 10 min. from the Little Mermaid along the water.
Warnemunde: We bought the ship's excursion to Berlin. Train was within easy walking distance from the ship. Chaos in the main theater where ALL the Berlin tours were to gather simultaneously. Why they didn't deploy some in the other empty areas of the ship I don't know. Casino was closed, the lounges were closed at 8 a.m. so split things up rather than having 1500 people walk down one aisle of the theater to get boarding passes. Other ports were less of a madhouse but it was a bad start to the day. The train was satisfactory - rather crowded. Not as much leg room as I recall on trains in Europe. Coffees, water and fruits were dispensed as part of the $300 tour. We chose the tour that included luncheon at a brewery, a riverboat tour, a bus tour by Checkpoint Charlie, and walking near Charlottenburg Palace, the main shopping street with KaDeWe, the Brandenburg Gates and the Reichstag. Walking rapidly we could barely see all of this interesting city in the time given. 3 hrs each way by train - a nice big German lunch served family style - platters of sausages, two kinds of potatoes, and apple strudel - very nice. A snack bag on the train ride home and the ship buffet served late for us. A good but tiring day and a nice intro to Berlin.
Stockholm: One of the great things about this port was getting there. The ship comes off the Baltic Sea into the archipelago of thousands of islands at around 3 a.m. For our sailing, the full moon was shining across the water so I had to sit up and gaze. Docked around sunrise. A rather difficult 20 min. walk to the main part of old town but I had some shopping to do in one of the countries of my ancestors. What made the walk tricky was winding thru an industrial port that isn't clearly marked while they build a new cruise port there. Also building a large ABBA museum there for future cruise patrons to enjoy.
Across the water you can see their small version of Tivoli Gardens, the Vasa historic Ship Museum, etc. Expect some sticker shock given the poor exchange rate of the US dollar. Scandinavia is costly. Think Switzerland. COSTLY. But you can still pick up trinkets and candies, etc for a few bucks. We took the Waterways tour in the afternoon. Leaves right from the ship's dock. Walking past the bow we got doused with water. The crew didn't realize anyone was walking there as all the other tours and paths into town left mid-ship. We complained and in typical Celebrity good customer service, they gave us free dry cleaning for those outfits. Several people with mobility problems had chosen this tour since they didn't have to board a bus. It was still a challenge as there was a short but rather steep gangplank. The crew helped and everyone made it -- but just barely. Out on the water for a couple hours got nippy (we didn't have any rain in 14 days -- or the snows that hit St P in mid-May, but it is NOT a warm weather cruise). Saw the old hotels and palace downtown, the newer housing area where they built an "Olympic Village" but never got the bid from the IOC, and some really lovely large buildings along the waterway. Not an earth shattering port but very nice to look at and worth exploring. Again -- the sailing out was great to watch -- dining on the verandah with a sweater on was perfect. Never knew about the Swedish archipelago but a very pleasant surprise to have seen.
Helsinki: Loved Finland. Just the whole north woods, clean air look and feel of the place. Very attractive and outgoing people. Nothing in the way of a skyline -- it's not that type of city. Nice sized port -- too far to walk into town on your own. The buildings are low rise and modern as the oldest building dates back just to 1740 or so. They only used wood to build at that point and it just didn't survive for long. We chose one of the "specialty" tours that day. We went out of the city to HVittrask, the home of the leading architects of early 1900's. The one that Americans will know best is Saarinen, whose son also became famous in the US after they emigrated. They designed the classic Pan Am building at JFK, the Dulles airport outside D.C., and the St. Louis Arch. They had a large studio and several homes in a compound out on a lake with birch and pine trees north of the big city maybe 20 miles. The home has some great design features of course, built on 7 levels within a 3 story home. Very nice for those with any interest in seeing some of the countryside as well as the design aspects. We then came back into town, the guide pointing out the old train station and other buildings done by the same trio of architects, the new Concert hall, the old Cathedral built by a friendly Czar (Peter the Great?). You then had the option of staying in town to shop. I wanted my buffet so back to the ship we went. And thus we found something you too might enjoy. Across the parking lot from our dock were two little souvenir shops with nice books, art and some clothing for sale. They took any currency -- dollars, euros, pounds, and that would turn out to be rare in other ports. And they had a little P C set up and I thought maybe they let you surf online for a few Euros -- but it was FREE. So rather than pay what the ship charges, do a quick check of mail, etc. online there. I had seen one opportunity like that in Stockholm at the 7-11 grocery, but not free, about 3 Euros for a half hour.
St. Petersburg: At last. This was what it all builds up to, two days in this historic capital of arts and politics of the old Russia. We learned early on how serious they were about the "visa" situation. There was a souvenir shop across the parking lot from the dock. Thinking it was similar to Helsinki, and we could just stroll across, we tried but were thwarted by the frowning guards: "Russian visa?" No. "You can't go." Okay -- we tried. I took an afternoon tour while Patty rested up for our big night in town. I went on a tour of the Russian Museum and the Church on Spilled Blood. There were very few tours left once we boarded in Harwich, so I advise you go right away if you have any special tours picked out. Most will sell out in every port. We later learned there was a board on the counter stating which were sold out, which took waiting lists, and which (rarely) had been cancelled (lack of sufficient interest). The interactive TV in your stateroom allows you to book right on the screen. The info would sometimes make it look as if it were sold out but if you went to the desk you could sometimes still get booked.
The day we docked was the biggest festival of the year in St P., commemorating the city's birthday anniv. Why did someone NOT know this in advance? Our tour bus could not cross the parade route. We could not walk across the parade route. Had someone thought of this in advance, the tour could have been moved to morning, before the parade route became an issue. Needless to say it was chaos, We had to walk an extra mile, then go through a packed sidewalk crowd of parade viewers for blocks, walk under the street via a Metro tunnel, back up, and then towards the Museum. The museum was worth it but we lost about 1.5 hours of tour time and were panicked about getting back in time for the grand evening tours. Loved the museum, displaying all these grand Russian artists we had never heard of. Really a pleasant surprise, other than the parade fiasco of course. Then we strolled across a park right to the Church on Spilled Blood, a work of art itself. This was built on the actual site of the Czar's shooting in the 1880's. He was standing next to the canal and so they had to build out into the canal to make room for this stunning church to be built, housing a shrine to him on the actual spot where his blood spilled. The church is made of millions of mosaic tiles all the way up to the onion domes, depicting Biblical scenes. Some of the walls are made of stunning semi-precious minerals jasper and rhodolite -- like a poor man's emerald and ruby. Really wonderful to see the inside of this place. And shopping nearby afterwards.
That night was the piece de resistance. We did the tour that you MUST try and do. So many people later said they wished they had gone. It was a Night of Splendour at the Hermitage, with the climax being a private ballet performance in what was Catherine's private theater. Two busses of people from our ship were the entire crowd that night. So approx. 75 lucky people were given a private tour thru all four main buildings of the Hermitage Museum, seeing all the highlights without spending hours crushed between other tour groups. Mind you, we were the second sailing of the season, so there were 4 large ships in town. By the height of the season, that grows to 7 ships. Any chance you have to see any palace without the throngs, DO IT. We only wish we had an extra nite so we could have done the other grand evening event at the Summer Palace as it was a madhouse the next day. After seeing the Michelangelos and Raphaels and rooms full of impressionist masters, we were treated to the ballet -- seven vignettes from the great ballets. Most were danced as a pas de deux, some solos, and also the flanking 8 swans for Swan Lake in addition to the prima ballerina.
Fantastic orchestra, awesome dancers, and in that special setting -- what a night to remember. We walked out to see the sun still in the sky at 10 p.m. and many crowds for the Festival night. We did the nine hour tour the next day entitled Pushkin and Peterhof. This allowed us to see both Summer palaces -- the first in the Czars Village 20 miles south of St. P. This is the blue palace -- nearly destroyed by Nazi bombs. The majority of arts and ceiling panels were evacuated far into the countryside and thus preserved. The amazing Amber Room panels are still missing. What you see now is a replication. Stunning. Great palace to see -- but the crowds, and the walking are starting to get to us. Then our guide wants us to see one more garden, one more statue. Very nice and enthusiastic girl but the audio system didn't always work and we were weary long before Peterhof, the next Palace out on the Gulf of Finland. If you read the tour description, you expect to walk around 2.5 or 3 miles -- forget about it. We had to walk double that by the time we got thru all the upper gardens, lower gardens, inner gardens and the truly comical and impressive fountains Peter built to amuse himself. This is the yellow palace with the Cascades flowing behind. You must put on these little booties to tour inside. And some folks slipped. The floors are slick and we were tired so it was a real challenge. We did get some good prices on souvenirs from hucksters outside. The old dark "fur" hats and souvenir scarves and postcards, all about half what the ship charged. (The ship did have very nice shops and not terribly overpriced really.)
So there was much to see -- and whether you did a Celebrity tour or the private tours, we all want to come back and see more of St Petersburg and Russia. The included lunch was bland -- they put out some caviar and vodka to dress it up -- but the rest was not close to what we had become accustomed to on the Constellation.
Tallinn: Okay it was interesting. Mind you we have just seen St Petersburg. Why we thought this little palace tour here (we chose the Upper Town tour) would be of any interest, I don't know. The old town was quite something -- the best preserved fortress walled town I have ever seen. More than a dozen of the huge towers still standing guard over the old town. Medieval church full of coats of arms was interesting. The palace -- not so much. This was the spare Motel Six palace I think -- only for passing thru Estonia or harboring a mistress or whatever. A few nice paintings, a nice chandelier, some truly nice gardens yes -- but after Peterhof, sorry. Pick another tour. Shopping in Estonia was a challenge. They just stared at my VISA card -- not seeming to know what one would do with it. This was in the premier modern shopping mall mind you, not some goat stall. The only place I could actually make a transaction was at the post office so I could mail some cards with their postmark. The ship charges TWO DOLLARS per foreign stamp -- any country, and in some countries that really is the going rate -- but in others like Estonia you save if you get your own. The ship will mail them when they pass thru that country again if you miss the deadline -- so they could still have the postmark of your choice -- just two wks. after you disembarked. Russia and Estonia -- best prices. Some places took all currencies, some only took their local monies. Hard to know in advance so be prepared for anything. Except VISA in Estonia -- they don't know what it means.
Copenhagen: Loved the place. The most expensive place but still great just to walk around -- great old buildings, great new buildings, friendly people. Amazing Tivoli Gardens. (amazing that a medium diet Coke was 7 dollars US, ouch) Definitely buy the ships' transfer as it includes the admission and the bus back. I walked the 75 min. back cuz I had not purchased it. And it's a long hike. The Gardens were full of stage performances, a variety of restaurants and rides and shops and great lighting and flower designs. Don't miss it. We did another specialty tour here, to the village of Dragor. Historic farming village out 15 miles or so along the sea. No cars allowed in their narrow streets so you could see thick thatched roofs, huge flowers blooming, wondrous old style homes, and also the ship that was used to smuggle Jews across the sea, one or two at a time lying in the back of this inauspicious little fishing boat. Loved strolling here for an hour or so. The tour included coffee and a pastry -- they don't call them Danish in Denmark, but instead "Vienna bread" and good it was. Then back through the very modern airport area of high speed trains and apartments and finally back through the old town of palaces and museums. Unfortunately our table mate was among 3 women who were pickpocketed here on the palace tours. Throngs of people pressing against you and all the victims had zippers unzipped on backpacks or bags. One man was also prey in either St P or Tallinn -- his cargo pants zipper was undone and the wallet taken. The guides were constantly warning us to watch our surroundings in St P and we were fine. But the guide in Denmark said that professional criminals bus in to target the crowds in summer and then again at Christmas markets. Otherwise it is the 2nd safest country in the world, after Iceland. Non-violent snatch and grabs but not a happy day for some.
Disembarkation Couldn't be smoother. People were off the ship early actually. Didn't do us any good given the lack of train service but nothing Celerity could have done other than beg us to buy their transfers. Actually we were still pondering that as Patty wasn't walking that smoothly after the Russian hikes -- but the ship cuts off those sales a couple of nites before the cruise ends -- so be forewarned.
What more to say. Loved the ship. Loved the cruise line. Loved the ports. Was it perfect? No, of course not. But I wish all cruises were this nice -- and that I could go more often. Keep up the good work Celebrity, but bring back a midnight buffet every couple of weeks okay?