Baltic Cruise on the Celebrity Eclipse
6/11/13 to 6/22/13
Due to the length of the review, it is in four parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top and bottom of each page.
Page 1 - Ship, Dining, Entertainment and Activities
Page 2 - Bruges, Belgium; Warnemunde, Germany; Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki
Page 3 - St. Petersburg, Russia (Part 1)
Page 4 - St. Petersburg, Russia (Part 2); Tallinn, Estonia; Copenhagen, Denmark
Ports of Call: Southampton, England; Bruges, Belgium; Warnemunde, Germany; Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; St. Petersburg, Russia; Tallinn, Estonia; Copenhagen, Denmark; Southampton, England
We had talked about doing another Baltic cruise since our first one was twelve years ago in 2001. Actually, that was our very first European cruise. The ports were so interesting; but we had only taken ship tours because we were still very new to cruising. This time I wanted to take private tours that would show us more sights and provide a better experience. Also in 2001, I had just gotten my first digital one megapixel point and shoot camera. I was so excited that I could take so many photos and not worry about the film developing cost. Looking back I can’t believe how few photos I took. This time I wanted to be able to show much more of the beautiful places we would visit. I think I overdid it; but I have to remember, that one of the reasons we do the reviews is to help us to remember the wonderful vacations we have taken.
In addition to a 14 day Baltic cruise, we were going to spend 10 days driving around the English countryside to see some of the smaller towns. We had already spent several days in London before a previous cruise. We loved London; but had wanted to experience more of England. Since I had just retired a couple of months before the trip, I would finally be able to spend as much time as I thought I needed without worrying about being away from the office too long.
Pre-Cruise in England - Since we spent 10 days touring around England, we have put that part of this vacation into a separate review in our Land Tour section. If you are interested in reading about it, you can click on this:
You can return to this cruise review by a link within the land review.
We had received an email a few days before the cruise telling us that embarkation would be delayed due to the ship needing a deep cleaning before passengers could board. They had a norovirus outbreak during the cruise before that required heavy cleaning to prevent the incoming passengers from getting sick.
So we had an extra 3 hours to kill on boarding day. We would be able to drop off our large bags at the ship; but would have to drag our carry-on with us. We had arranged with our new friends Paul and Gail, who we had visited with in York, to meet us so we could put our carry-ons in their car which they were parking at the port. That way we could kill time without dragging them around and could pick them up before we got on the ship.
We got to the port before 10:00 AM, and were concerned if we would be allowed to drop the big luggage off so early. There wasn’t any problem at all. Celebrity was really on the ball and handled the whole embarkation delay quite well. After depositing our bags, they then directed us to a shuttle bus that dropped us off next to an Ikea and the WestQuay Mall. They assigned us a 2:30 PM time for our bus back to the ship. We found a Starbucks and waited to hear from Paul, who was going to call when they got close to where we were.
It wasn’t long before Paul and Gail arrived. They had brought us all some Fat Rascals from Bettys. Just too sweet of them. Jim and Paul took the luggage to his car, and then they headed for the port parking. When they returned on the bus, we all headed over to the mall for lunch and to look around. We had an enjoyable time with our new friends.
We boarded the bus back to the port a little earlier than scheduled and were soon looking up at the beautiful Celebrity Eclipse at 2:30 PM. We were told that we could check in and board, which was great, since we thought we would have to wait until at least 3:00 PM. We retrieved our carry-ons from Paul's car and walked into the building, had our security scan and were directed into the Elite check-in line. Since we have been on many Celebrity cruises we have achieved the Elite level in their Captain’s Club loyalty program. It does provide some very nice perks onboard and is supposed to entitle us to priority boarding. Historically, it hasn’t made that much of a huge difference in the time it takes to board, but it surely did in Southampton. We had virtually no line and walked right up to the check-in desk. The paperwork was quickly completed and we were directed to the ramp to board the ship. My thinking is that it wasn't crowded because Celebrity had the foresight to stagger the bus times they had assigned to the passengers for returning from the mall. We were on the ship by 2:45 PM. It was absolutely the fastest and easiest embarkation ever. Good job Celebrity, it was a great way to start a cruise!
We had previously sailed on the Eclipse’s sister ships Solstice and Silhouette and were looking forward to experiencing another of Celebrity’s Solstice class ships. As expected, the Eclipse was very much like her sisters. We really like this class ship. The numerous public rooms are shown below by category.
Dining Rooms -
Moonlight Sonata Restaurant – This is the main dining room in the ship where we ate most of our dinners. I like the decorative wine rack at the front of the dining room.
Oceanview Café - The buffet is in the island design which provides different stations for each type of food category. If one isn’t interested in getting a salad, they can pass up that island and go to an Asian food or main course type island. I like this type buffet, but it can get treacherous with people rushing from one island to the other and not looking before changing direction. At breakfast and lunch it was normally a challenge to find a table. On previous Solstice Class ships, many people would take their food out to the Oceanview Bar area at the back of the ship behind the buffet to eat. With the weather being cold at times, I believe this contributed to the more crowded conditions in the main seating area.
Bistro on Five – This is a great place for a relaxed lunch in a quiet environment.
For $5.00 per person, we could order all of the crepes, soups, salads and Paninis we wanted on the menu. Plus they were really good.
Gelateria - The Eclipse also had a gelato area. The selection looked good, even though it was fogged up.
Blu - Aqua Class passengers eat in Blu. It is a smaller venue and has a different menu from the main dining room. The food is supposed to be prepared in a healthier manner.
Qsine - Celebrity describes specialty restaurant Qsine as “a culinary journey that delivers elements of surprise and delight.” They delivered on their promise. There are photos of our experience in the Dining section of this review.
Murano – This is the French style specialty restaurant. It is normally very good, but we didn’t have an opportunity to go there this cruise.
Tuscan Grille – This is the ship’s steak house. It is always very good, but we didn’t go there on this cruise.
The area outside of the above four specialty restaurants, is a lovely area. It is a good place to meet table mates to go into the restaurant at the reservation time.
Mast Grill - It is the best place on the ship for a hamburger or hot dog. They have some other food; but the hamburgers are really good there. It is outside on deck 14 overlooking the pool.
AquaSpa Café – The spa food is pretty tasty; but they only have a limited menu.
Lounges – (Link to drink menus)
We were able to get a free Classic Beverage Package with Celebrity’s 1-2-3 promotion. It included basically all drinks under $8.50, which was a great benefit. Carol has always gotten the coke package on previous cruises. However, we like to go to the Martini Bar every night before dinner, and the Classic Beverage Package would not be useable there. The way the package was set up, if the drink you ordered cost over the $8.50 maximum, you have to pay the whole cost not just the difference. So on the first day of the cruise, we went to the Reception Desk and upgraded to a Premium Beverage Package for $11.50 per day each, which covered all drinks including wine at dinner up to a certain price. It turned out to be a great move.
We normally don’t drink enough to justify any alcohol package; but we definitely got a lot of use out of the package on this cruise. Even the very special drinks in the Molecular Bar were covered. One of the nicest perks with a beverage package is that there is no receipt signing required.
We got to visit with the Head Bartender of the Eclipse, Gedeon from the Phillipines, regularly. A very pleasant guy who was always making sure everything was going well for the customers as well as his bartenders.
Passport Bar – This is in the main lobby area on deck 3. Since I was not concerned about spending too much on drinks, I actually used the Passport Bar for the first time on this cruise.
Molecular Bar – This bar specializes in unique and expensive cocktails. Each cocktail cost $12.00, plus a tip of $1.75. Some of the drinks are really good; but the best way to enjoy the bar is to have the Premium Drink Package. We tried so many of the drinks and enjoyed so many of the ones we really liked. We were there every night before and after dinner, so we definitely justified our $11.50 per day extra charge.
As good as the drinks were, they were outshined by the awesome bartenders Barbara from Hungary and Jelena from Serbia. Absolutely the best bartenders we have ever had. Very helpful, pleasant, funny and just very good friends for the two weeks we had to share with them. They will be missed.
Below are two of the wonderful drinks. One of our favorites was the Tanned Russian. The other one shown is Coming Up Roses. The four of us tried almost every drink on the menu.
Tanned Russian Coming Up Roses
Cellar Master – Since Carol and I aren’t that into wine, we have never been inside Cellar Masters.
Casino Bar – We don’t gamble, so the Casino Bar is just another photo opp for me.
Martini Bar – On previous Celebrity cruises when we travel with our friends who are in a group we call the Martini Mates, we normally go to the Martini Bar every night. Since we loved the Molecular Bar, we only experienced the Martini Bar for one drink during the entire cruise.
Quasar – A lot of the late night entertainment took place in Quasar, the contemporary night club. With the very heavy port intensive cruise, we were exhausted well before Quasar even started.
Oceanview Bar - It is located behind the buffet and provides outdoor seating for it also.
Café al Bacio – Another perk of the beverage package, is that specialty coffees are included. I normally just drink plain black coffee in the morning; but on this cruise I found a love for vanilla lattes. We were there most mornings and regularly on sea days. I have previously never had any coffee drinks at a Café al Bacio on any ship. Fortunately, since I have been back home I have been able to break the latte habit, since they are a lot higher calorie count than just plain black coffee. The also serve ice tea in a very different style.
Ensemble Lounge – It is a very large comfy lounge; but we normally don’t go there for some reason. This cruise, the Molecular Bar ruled. The entrance to it is decorated nicely.
Michael’s Club – They have a great beer and Scotch selection. The main problem was that they didn’t open before 5:00 PM, so those that wanted specialty beers by the pool were out of luck.
Pool Bar – It is right by the pool and has a nice selection of foo foo drinks and others.
Mast Bar – Just like the Pool Bar, but one deck up.
Sky Observation Lounge – This room is used as a bar; but also, since it is high up at the front of the ship, it is a great place to just sit and watch the sea go by. At night there is live music, dancing and theme parties.
Sunset Bar - All the way up on Deck 15 at the back of the ship is the best bar for a sail away party. There are lots of tables that stretch into the Lawn Club area, so it's also a very pleasant environment.
Eclipse Theater – This is the main live performance theater; as well as for events like bingo, that get large crowds. The sound and light systems are first class, making it a pleasure to watch performances there.
Celebrity Central – Sitting right outside of the Eclipse Theater, this smaller theater is used to show movies, for the various enrichment speakers and for meetings on the ship. It is a more intimate environment and was in use regularly.
Entertainment Court – It is the area between Celebrity Central and Quasar and next to the Eclipse Theater. Sometimes it is used as a gathering place for short term events like raffles and merchandise sales.
Fortunes Casino – With the way that the Solstice Class ships are built, it is not necessary to go through the casino when walking on Deck 4. As a result, I only went through a few times. There weren’t many people using the casino; but perhaps it was busier during late night.
Celebrity iLounge – The computer center was well utilized. I only needed it one day to set up my iPhone to use the ship’s Wi-Fi. The staff was very pleasant and helpful. They must be very patient people, since a lot of people are computer challenged and the staff had to solve their problems, which they did with a smile.
Hot Glass Show – I enjoyed the hot glass show on the Solstice; and missed having it on the Silhouette. The newer ships have a restaurant instead. Unfortunately, on the Eclipse I only saw the show once because it was normally too cold or windy to sit outside when at sea in the Baltic. I really liked the display on Deck 5 of some objects that were made on the ship.
Card Room - The Card Room was just outside our cabin, so we passed through it many times a day. I could not believe how many people used it; and they were there late into the night. All the tables were regularly full, with standing room only.
Library – The ship has a large two deck library. Since we have Kindles we didn’t need to borrow any books; but the chairs were pretty comfortable for reading.
The Lawn Club - Although it is a lovely grassy area, it wasn’t used much with the cooler Baltic weather.
Solstice Deck – At the very front of the ship on the Deck 16 is a nice sun deck. There are large bed type lounges and lots of chairs to use.
There is a huge variety of shops on the Eclipse. They are located on Deck's four and five.
Grand Foyer – Every evening musicians would be playing in the Grand Foyer. On this cruise it was a pleasure to hear, because the musicians were very good and played what seemed to be very well accepted tunes. It was funny to watch people riding up on the glass elevators dancing to the music.
The area above the Grand Foyer is a real eye catcher. It contains a living tree in a round container. It is interesting from the many angles it can be viewed from.
Photo Gallery – I must say that the photos taken on this cruise were some of the best we have had. Normally it is pretty easy for us to throw away the bad photos quickly; but not so on this cruise because they were almost all good. I don't think we had a single one that was grainy or out of focus, as we have had on other ships. The photographers did a very good job.
Team Earth – This area on Deck 7 is supposed to bring to the people an awareness of the how the ships in the fleet operate and the conservation efforts that are used. It is intended to raise people’s eco-awareness.
AquaSpa – As with all ship spas, it was well equipped to pamper any and all.
Fitness Center – A very nice gym that I never got to use on this cruise.
Solarium – This is an adults only pool area. With it being covered, it was very popular with the colder weather outside.
Swimming Pools – I was surprised to see how many people used the pools during the day. It was just too cool for me most days; but people would lay out with towels over them. I guess if we didn’t live in South Florida, sun bathing would be more important to us.
Guest Relations –
Basketball Court -
Medical Center – Unfortunately I did get to experience the Medical Center on this cruise. Three days into the cruise, I was having lots of drainage and developed a deep cough. With the best ports yet to come, I did not want to miss any of them due to bronchitis or a fever; so I saw the doctor and got some antibiotics. It paid to get ahead of the illness. It was totally gone in a few days.
We booked the cruise way in advance, so we were able to get Cabin 9215. The reason to get this cabin or others on the hump, as the area is called, is because the verandas are 2-3 times the size of a normal veranda. Additionally, the great centralized location is a real plus since this class ship does not have any elevators in the rear of the ship. We became painfully aware of that fact when we had an aft cabin on the Soltice.
Last year on our Silhouette cruise we had cabin 8257, which is right below 9215, so we knew we would like it. The cabin is nicely arranged and relatively roomy for a non-suite cruise ship cabin. We had plenty of storage space and the luggage fit nicely under the beds. Carol utilized the above bed storage cabinets by storing the wooden hangers that were in the closet. She brings wire hangers so she hang a lot more clothes.
The veranda on our cabin is about 3 times the size of a standard veranda. With the cooler weather, we didn’t get to use it much; but it was really nice to have.
The view down to the water is pretty much unobstructed. The view to the front of the ship is also very nice.
The bathroom is adequately sized and we particularly enjoyed the glass enclosed shower after experiencing very small showers in some of the lodgings we stayed in during our pre-cruise trip in England.
We had very good cabin attendants again on this cruise. Pius from India was the attendant and Arvin from Mauritas was his assistant.
Dining (Link to menus and food photos)
The food in the main dining room was very good as normal; but we did have the worst service we have received while on a Celebrity ship from our waiter and assistant waiter. They were so bad, I didn’t put their photos in the review, since I don’t want to remember them. They were nice people, but they just were not up to the Celebrity standards that we have come to expect. They didn’t take care of our table and would leave us without service for long stretches. Everything they did was in slow motion, and they only tended three tables. Not once did they scrape up the crumbs before dessert. One night, all eight of us had finished the main course. We waited and waited to be handed the dessert menu. We watched our waiters serve the other tables their desserts and hang around conversing with the other guests. We finally had to flag him down and actually ask for the menus. We did discuss some of the problems with our Assistant Maitre D, Daniella from Chile. She was just wonderful and tried to help us out as much as possible. She was having to take care of table service much more than any other Assistant Maitre D we have had, and not just at our table.
Fortunately, we had some of the best table mates ever to spend the long delays with. In addition to our regular cruising buddies, Jim and Kathleen from Redmond, WA; we had June and Ken, a couple from England, and Hilary and Andrea, a mother and daughter from England and friends of June and Ken. We had so much fun and laughed so much with our new British friends. The few times they ate somewhere else, we really missed their company. They really made our dinners such a pleasure. We will miss them.
Ken and June Andrea and Hilary
Kathleen and Jim
One night we went to the specialty restaurant Qsine. As mentioned earlier, Celebrity bills Qsine as “a culinary journey that delivers elements of surprise and delight.” It was surprising and delightful in so many ways. The first thing we did right was to go with lots of friends. The more people in the party, the more different items that can be tried. Jim had organized a fun group of ten of us, so we would get to try lots of items. If you are going to Qsine, be sure to bring as many people with you as possible to increase the fun.
The first surprise is the menu that is given to each person. It is on an iPad. It is supposed to be used to select the many different items; but in the end we just gave our orders to the waiter. The iPad menu shows what the various items are with good descriptions. It is supposed to have videos of the items also; but I didn’t see them.
The menu items are really unique, as are their names. Below is a photo of the paper menu with all the items. I normally put photos of menu and food in the Menu section of the review; but since Qsine is really a dining and entertainment experience, I thought it should be highlighted here.
When a course is presented to the table, everyone just passes the dishes around and you take a portion or spoonful. Fortunately the portion sizes are small, so you can try several of them. They really did surprise us with what was brought out. The taste also delighted us. Most of them were quite delicious. Below are several of the items we shared.
Zathaar Lamb Chops M's Favorite
Slider Party Painter's Mignon
Spring Rolls/Vegetarian & Baby Back Rib Lobster Escargot
I got a real kick out of the dessert menus. The different Rubik’s Cube type menus are delivered on a tray and each person takes one of them. It needs to be played with before each of the desserts are displayed. It was different and kind of fun.
Before dessert was delivered, a waitress came out with a grass covered tray that had chocolate covered strawberries and crème Brule eggs. Yummy!
Then we got the main dessert items we had ordered. Kathleen and Angela ordered cupcakes and were surprised to see that they had to decorate them themselves. Fun. I had the Qsine Surprise, which that night was an apple bread pudding. Carol had something called a Bullet, with ice cream and fruit.
It was an absolutely wonderful evening; but we ate way too much and were overstuffed. In addition to the great food and fun time, we were also celebrating Paul and Gail's anniversary. Great time with great friends!
We enjoy the evening shows and try to go them every night if possible while on a cruise. With us having so much fun with all of our Cruise Critic friends at the Molecular Bar, this time it was easy to pass on performers that didn’t appeal to us. Plus with the port intensive itinerary, Carol preferred to go back to the cabin after dinner to read and relax.
Our Cruise Director was Ian Cresswell from Australia. He is the youngest Cruise Director in the fleet. I do prefer CD’s that are more seasoned; but he did a pretty good job. He was very personable and always around the ship talking with the passengers. He was always very up with a constant smile; which almost seemed like he was trying too hard.
The first production show was Edge and was supposed to be “...a classic Rock and Pop meet cutting edge technology.” The singers were very good; but it was very difficult to tell what was going on with the performers on the stage with the very bright flashing lights behind the performers. Captain Dimitrios Manetas came out before the show to welcome the passengers to the cruise.
I guess we have just seen too many production shows. The acrobatic acts were very good; but some of the acrobatic routines are pretty much the same as on prior cruises. Don’t get me wrong, they are very talented and enjoyable to watch; but I have seen too many performers swinging on long pieces of fabric. Plus with the overpowering flashing lights, it was difficult to even see what they were doing. The show tried to do too much at one time. They had aerialists, gymnasts, dancers and singers all performing at the same time. It was just too much.
The individual performers I saw were very good. The first was British comedian Jeff Stevenson. He was very funny with great expressions.
Gary Arbuthnot was billed as an international virtuoso. The interpretation of international virtuoso in this case means flautist. It probably helped to use that title to get more people to the show, since they didn’t realize that he would be playing the flute and a penny whistle. But I must say that he was very talented and he put on a very enjoyable show.
I had seen West End performer Lindsay Hamilton previously. She is a very good singer and I enjoyed her; but it appeared that she performed the exact same songs and stories she used on the previous cruise.
Mike Doyle was billed as a comedy vocal entertainer. He was a good singer, but his comedy was what the audience most liked. He had some great material and he performed it like the pro he is. He volunteered to come back for a show about his life on the final day of the cruise. He talked about how he had gotten into show business with very funny stories. The Celebrity Theater was quite packed to see this comedian again.
The Show was more enjoyable than Edge. It was supposed to be a European style theatrical circus. Most of the same performers we had seen on the first production show did pretty much the same routines again. There were some new things; but it was too much of a similar type thing for me. Once again, they were extremely talented and I am sure that people in the audience that had not seen that type act before thoroughly enjoyed it.
Gareth Oliver was a very funny ventriloquist. His material was very good and he even used his fiancée as a dummy at one point. I had seen ventriloquists that put a mask on an audience member before. It can be hilarious. The person Gareth pulled out of the audience really got into the act and made the show outstanding.
Pianist and Vocalist Claire Maiden was very entertaining. Apparently she had recently returned from sold out shows in Las Vegas. She sang mostly music by popular artists.
The last production show, Ovations was a Broadway and West End music show; which is more of the traditional type cruise production show. It was my favorite of the three. There was some more gymnastic routines and aerialists; but they played a much smaller role.
On one night Eclipse lounge singer Perry Grant performed a show in the Celebrity Theater. Most other nights he was in Michael’s Club to packed audiences. I went in to see what all the fuss was about and get some photos of Perry. He didn’t do anything for me. Some people love him and others can’t stand him.
Cruise Critic Connections Party (www.cruisecritic.com) - We always look forward to the Connections Party, where the people we have been communicating with for many months on our roll call get to meet each other. The party was scheduled for 10:15 AM on the first sea day in the Sky Lounge. We were happy to see a large turnout. We had over 100 people on our roll call and a number of them were there to meet other new friends. We had also met many of them at a sailaway get together on the first day, so they were familiar to us already. Cruise Director, Ian Cresswell, hosted the event and thanked us all for attending. He also apologized for Captain Dimitrios Manetas. He said that the Captain would invite us all to a bridge tour later in the week because he felt badly that he couldn’t be at the party.
Elite Afternoon Tea – Elite Afternoon Tea – With our having been in England before the cruise, we decided that we would go to one of the Captain's Club events for the Elite member category, the Elite Afternoon Tea. We normally don't go to these because we are too busy with other things on sea days; but we wanted some tea and scones, so we went. We started to question our decision to go when along with a bunch of other of Celebrity's best customers, the Elite members, we were still waiting outside the dining room eight minutes after the starting time. Everyone was frustrated and confused as to why the doors weren't open and no one was telling us anything. I went into the dining room and walked up to Bruce, the Captain's Club host. I told him that he needed to let everyone know what was going on, since some of Celebrity's best customers are getting very frustrated outside the doors. He told me they were still setting up. Shortly thereafter, he came out and told everyone that they were having problems with the ice sculptures and it would be a couple more minutes. We finally got to go in twelve minutes after the starting time. I don't think the waiting was as bad as not being told why we were waiting. After we were seated, he did come around briefly to each table. However, after he finished his round, he left the function. The host left the party, but that fit into Bruce's personality. We have always found the Captain's Club Host/Hostess to be very accommodating and friendly. Not so with Bruce. Along with many of our friends on the cruise, we discussed how condescending he was toward everyone. He just couldn't be bothered with guests. He never even introduced himself to us or asked us our name. His whole attitude was flippant. He is not a good representative of the service that we have always appreciated from Celebrity.
Bridge Tour – Captain Manteas kept his promise. We were all invited to a bridge tour to meet him and see the workings of the bridge. I think he got a bigger turnout than he expected. There were too many people to fit comfortably around the equipment while one of the other officers explained how everything worked.
I particularly liked looking through the glass window on the floor. Even though it was crowded; everyone had a good time and appreciated the invite from the Captain.
Coffee Chat with the Captain and Senior Officers – Captain Manetas and some of his other officers including Hotel Director Mark Tomley met with whomever wanted to attend in the Sky Lounge on the last day of the cruise for an informal talk. They took questions from the audience and answered to the best of their ability.
Brunch -Near the end of the cruise the there was a very nice brunch served 10:00 AM through to 1:00 PM. There is always a very nice assortment of food to eat; but the main attraction is the decorations including lots of ice sculpters.
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