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Constellation Review July 2nd Baltic (long)


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We just returned from the July 2nd sailing, North Baltic, Constellation and for the most part it was a dream vacation. The one major problem was scheduling and lack of follow-up by one specific member of the staff, but I will get to that later.


We departed Newark Airport on Tuesday, June 28th for a 3-night stay in London and then a 1-night stay in Dover. The British Air flight left on time but because of thunderstorms in the Heathrow area we were an hour late on arrival. We used JK Travel, info@jktravel.co.uk booked through the LondonTown.com web site for our transfer between Heathrow and the hotel. The driver was there as promised, was very informative and gave a tour on the way to the hotel. This was an excellent beginning to a trip. We stayed at the Mayfair Holiday Inn. We are a family of four including 2 children, daughter 14 and son 9. We chose the Holiday Inn because of the larger then normal London rooms and the fact they had air conditioning in all rooms. We booked through the Holiday-Inn.com web site and paid 120GBP per night. We did all the tourist stuff that London is famous for and in 2 full days saw a great deal. One of the highlights of our stay was stopping by the box office of Mama Mia, 1 ½ hours prior to show time and getting 4 – 7th row center seats to the show. Great show see it if you get a chance.


We also had the opportunity to meet Host Anne and her family. Anne it was great meeting you and hope you had a great time on the Jewel.


On Friday we shared a car with Live the Good Life, Kim and family for a ride to Dover. We used Central Executive and were very pleased with the service. They arrived on time and were very professional. We stopped at Leeds Castle and Dover Castle on our way to Dover. In Dover we stayed at the Churchill Hotel, and were fortunate to get a family room with a sea view. It was great waking up at 4:15am and seeing the Constellation beginning her docking procedure.


I prearranged a transfer to the pier with Steve Knibbs, nibbs@airport-transfers.fsnet.co.uk who met us in the lobby of the hotel at 10:15 and we arrived at the pier at 10:20. Steve charged only 5 GBP for the service and we again used Steve for a return to the airport on July 16th. Very good, friendly service, highly recommended.


This was one of the best embarkations we have ever had in our 20 cruises. We arrived at the pier at 10:20, check in began at 10:35 and we were on the ship by 10:45. You could not ask for more then that.


While Celebrity asks that you give the room stewards until 12:30 to prepare the rooms, we were able to drop off our hand luggage upon arrival. Our cabin was phenomenal!! We booked a family View, cabin 8166 aft, which was a corner room. Our room was approx. 293 square feet, our balcony was over 327 sq. feet and we had an entrance hallway which was 55 square feet, which we used for storing our luggage. The main area featured a Queen Sized bed, enough closets and drawer space for a family of 4 comfortably, a TV and VCR. The other area consisted of 2 sofa’s which were beds by night, a 2nd TV and VCR. The balcony was unreal. 1 round table, 2 sitting chairs and 2 lounge chairs. The view from the aft of the ship was magnificent. Being on the corner also afforded us a view of the full side of the ship, besides the normal aft view. These cabins are very hard to get, in fact they are now being treated the same as a handicapped room and allotment is given upon request of the main office. They are now being restricted to a minimum of 4 people. It was great waking up in the morning, going out to the balcony and looking around and seeing many of the cruise critic members we only met the night before but, have been speaking to for over a year.


This was a very port intensive cruise with only 4 sea days out of 14 days. The ports included Poland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia, Germany, Denmark and Estonia. We did private tours in Russia (DenRus) Poland (http://www.toursinpoland.com ) and Berlin( http://www.berlin-stadfuchrungen.de). DenRus was wonderful and we were fortunate to get Ilya as our guide for the two days. Poland was our favorite port and Anna our guide was also great. Berlin, was mixed. It is a 2 hour drive each way from the pier and the tour consisted of many drive bys and not enough getting out of the car and really seeing the sights. Again it was a time problem more then the operator chosen but, we felt we got more bang for our bucks in Russia and Poland.


Getting back to my original opening regarding what I felt should have been better.


As many of you know these itineraries were changed many times over the past year. The main reason for the changes seems to have been Celebrity/RCCL greed in trying to put a second ship in the market late in the game and had to split some of the port times between the 2 ships. Doing so not only reduces our port time as many people who booked did so with the knowledge of overnights in Stockholm, Copenhagen and St. Petersburg, but also changed many of the onboard activities. Now our only overnight was St. Petersburg.


1) Finland – We were docked between the hours of (9:00am to 6pm) so what does Celebrity decide to do? They schedule a Formal Night. So we need to be back on the ship by 4pm in order to get a family of 4 ready for a Formal night. 2 hours in Finland wasted for anyone who wanted to participate in the formal evening but were confirmed in main seating.

2) That same night or it might have been the next they schedule a book signing with Michel Roux between the hours of 7pm and 8pm, again not allowing the main seating to participate because we were at dinner.

3) On the 2nd day of St. Petersburg, with the ship scheduled to depart at 6:30, they set up this as an informal night, jackets for the gentlemen.

4) In Oslo, when we are only in port from 2:30-8:30 they set up this as an informal night again jackets for the gentlemen.


My main problem in terms of individual personnel was with the cruise director Nick Weir. As an entertainer Nick was very good, but his dealing or lack of response when a problem arises was horrible. When I first noticed the Finland problem I went to guest services to discuss the matter, when I saw this was not going anywhere I asked how I can contact Miami to discuss this and her response was to have me call Miami from my stateroom at $7.95 per minute to discuss. I then asked to speak to the cruise director and he would not return a phone call to discuss any problems. The chief Concierge Anna was very nice and professional but even with her asking Nick would not return a phone call. This was later escalated to the Hotel Manger who was understanding, nice and professional but said all decisions regarding timing of events comes from corporate and there was nothing anyone on ship could do. I find it hard to believe that the book signing could not have been moved 30 minutes so both seatings could have met Mr. Roux. I find it hard to believe that it is a corporate decision that dictates which nights are formal, informal or casual. Celebrity, you need to look at the itinerary, see what times we are in port and then decide on a dress code. Just because you state 3 formal, 4 informal and 7 casual, does not mean you cannot deviate. Look at the port times, and then make the decision.


All in all a very good cruise, great ship, met many great people…… Will we sail Celebrity again, time will tell it might be time for a change. Celebrity might be the best of the large cruise ship market, but might be falling into the RCCL mentality of bottom line dollar. It is a shame.


Please ask any questions you might have and I will do my best to answer them.



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Alan, we are booked on the Constellation for a similar cruise nest year. I was wondering about the cost of the transfers from airport to Dover. I am not sure if we will be staying in advnace...we have been to Kondon on several occasions, but if time allows, might consider a day in Dover. I do not have air yet...too early so I cannot say. I was just making enquires at this point. Aside from Nibbs can you recommend anyone else. Thank you. Karen Queenk2@aol.com

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Alan, thanks for posting your issues with port times and dinner arrangements. I, too, was chagrined by the shortened times in ports that resulted from the multiple itinerary changes. Oslo was especially troubling. Even though the captain said he would try to get us there earlier than the 2:30 pm docking time, he didn't. We docked about 2:45, were cleared by about 3:10, with X excursions not leaving until around 3:20.


Original sailaway was to to be 9:00 pm but was later changed to 8:30. So we had 5 hours in port, IF we didn't care about missing our dinner at EITHER seating. Originally they scheduled regular seatings, which would have meant nothing but sushi, Aqua Spa (till 8:00), or room service, unless you wanted to reserve Casual Dining in advance. Then they relented and set up an extended open buffet.


By this time I was bored with the repeated evening buffets (St. Pete first night, Rostock) necessitated by evening tours or arrivals. (Hey, I'm paying good money for a sit-down, waiter-served several-course dinner, but that is difficult the way this itineray is set up.) I chose to stay in Oslo until after 6:00 but didn't see anywhere near what I wanted to see (poor logistical planning on my part; this is a good place to take an X tour). I ate at the Aqua Spa; my wife ordered room service.


My point is that previous Oslo stays were 7 to 8 hours, but, more importantly, they started in the early morning. Which meant that attractions stayed open. Our problem was that most closed at 5:45 or 6:00 pm, giving us only about 2-1/2 to 2-3/4 hours before they closed.


In addition, I believe we lost preferable docking positions to Princess (2 ships in area), possibly due to the changes. Princess always docks very far from the city in Stockholm, so we were better off just 20 minutes away. I understand X shifts between Rostock and Warnemunde and probably prefers the former because it's easier to bring a train in for those going to Berlin (we did not). But Princess was in Warnemunde, just a few steps from the town, far superior for our interests. It would help if the X daily newsletter was written to reflect whether we docked at Rostock or Warnemunde. The instructions for getting to town were hopelessly confusing, the dropoff point was not marked, so it took 5 minutes just to get our bearings, and the marked location of the Tourist Info office was dead wrong by about 6 blocks. Also, Princess was at the cruise terminal in Oslo; we docked a good bit further from town at the ferry docks, and that didn't help the situation there.


I didn't know about your run-ins with ship's management. I would gladly have lent you my GSM cell phone ($1.50/minute instead of $7.95), but that's not the point. They had colossal chutzpah to suggest such a thing to you. Worse, Celebrity's shore-based customer service is notoriously worse than what passes for it on board, so why call them? Especially since I am sure control over these things really rests with the captain and senior staff.


On my comments card I indicated I would have gladly traded off a few ports for more time in the ones remaining.


Nevertheless, it was a great trip with stunning memories. I'm about to begin editing and trimming the files of 810 digital photos I brought back.


It was our great pleasure to meet and tour with you and your family and so many more whom we first "met" here on Cruise Critic.



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Alan and Steve,


We empathize with your frustrations...Not only did we have to deal with the change in schedule by Celebrity a while back (no overnights in Copenhagen and Stockholm), but also this shortened day in Oslo. The shortened days in ports have really put a strain on our planning and caused multiple revisions of planning for many ports!


Despite that mediocre tour of Stockholm we had through Stockholm stories, I feel we still had some fun with youguys afterwards taking the ferry to Vasa, visiting it, walking to Skansen... and thanks to Steve's leadership, took a bus back to the Old Town!


It is unbelievable that they are tring to put the blame on us stating that we did not clearly communicate our intention of wanting to watch the beginning of the Change of Guard that resulted in us only catching the last 3 minutes of it (and non-musical part). This was communicated clearly via e-mails pre-cruise and again verbally when we were with the guide as we were walking towards the Royal Palace! The guide should have alerted us that it was time to be outside of the Palace to catch this very important event (and all of us made it very clear to her that we wanted to watch the Change of Guard even verbally during our walk!)...Helen and Norma (and spouse) were also very upset about this tour, verbalizing them again the next day to us when we ran into one another at the Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn!


Anyway, just venting frustrations just like you all...


Alan, your e-mail, Host Anne's e-mail, and e-mail from St. Petersburg this morning really made my day!


Steve and Jeannie, we had a fun time with you as well on the way back to Gatwick. Glad you, Joe, and Lisa had fun in London. I had no doubt that you would be able to navigate the whole group to/in London or anywhereelse!



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