by Derek Phillips
June 4, 2005
We just returned from the Constellation's Baltic cruise, and it was outstanding. We booked over a year in advance, so we had plenty of time to plan, generate expectations and something to look forward too, of which we were not disappointed. The weather was almost perfect, just a little cool the first couple of days, but no rain for two weeks. We selected June to get ahead of the summer tourist season and for the weather, and could not have been more pleased.
Boarding the Constellation was a breeze. We arrived at the ship at 10:30, after just ten minutes in the terminal and we were on board. Celebrity seems to have this process down to perfection.
The ship is in immaculate condition, with everything extremely clean and polished. Having been on many Celebrity ships in the past, they seem to keep their ships in top condition. We had a balcony room on deck seven mid-ship, which was quite comfortable and adequate. Having traveled with our friends before, we get rooms on the opposite sides so we can take advantage of each others balcony for viewing opportunities and evening get togethers.
The food on board was simply the best we have ever had on any cruise, it was outstanding, along with the service. You have a choice of five entrees at each meal, and it was a hard decision on which to choose, quite often we would have to get an extra selection for the four of us to sample, and the same for the desserts. We did go to the Oceanliners specialty restaurant one night, and I would highly recommend it, the food and service were outstanding. The buffet selection for breakfast and luch was also quite good, both in selection and quality. The salad bar and Pasta station was open 24 hours a day, and you also could get hamburgers, etc. from noon until late in the evening.
Entertainment on the ship was also very good. We attended the shows every night and very much enjoyed them. Nick, the Cruise Director was the best that we have experienced, we could all use a shot of his enthusiasm.
The ports of call were the main reason we selected this cruise. However, we were a little disappointed that Celebrity changed the itinerary about two months before our cruise, and reduced our port times considerably, this is our only complaint. As an example, Gdansk was added to the itinerary and we only had about six hours in port, and the city is an hours drive away, it just didn't do it justice.
I'm not going to elaborate on every port, but each one was wonderful, especially Stockholm and St. Petersburg. Don't miss the sail into Stockholm, the three hours up the fjord is prettier than the inside passage to Alaska. We made our own arrangements in each port except Gdansk, were we took a ship's tour because of the time constraints and the distance. The trip to Berlin had some issues, as you can see below, in addition it is a very long and tiring day, and is not for the weary traveler.
In St. Petersburg we used Red October for a two day tour, and it was an outstanding two days, the highlight of our trip and one that we will remember forever. We had a great tour guide, whose English was impeccable and we were also joined by three other delightful couples who we connected with through Cruise Critic before the cruise. Red October's store is also a great place for souvenirs and gifts.
While our experiences of making our own shore arrangements have served us quite well over the years of travel and cruising, just a word to the wise, you can encounter problems. We initially booked a tour of Berlin for the four of us through Berlin Stadtfuehrungen Sightseeing Tours, however after connecting with others through Cruise Critic, who also booked with the same company, we cancelled our tour several months in advance to join with the other group. After arriving in Berlin following a 2-1/2 hour bus ride, the tour company then advised me that they did not accept my cancellation, despite my four e-mails to them, of which I showed them copies. They then held our group hostage and would not return us to the ship until I paid additional funds. This put a damper on what should have been a terrific day. We're now protesting the charges through our credit card company. Be careful who you book with, unfortunately their are company's who lack integrity.
The debarkation process at the end was as good as the boarding process. We were off the ship by 7:00, luggage was easy to find, and we were quickly on our way to London for more fun.
As I said at the beginning, this was an outstanding cruise, and I would highly recommend it to all. Now, to start planning our next journey.