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Baltic cruise on Celebrity Constellation in May

Baltic cruise on Celebrity Constellation in May

Apr 4th, 2012, 05:54 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 38
Baltic cruise on Celebrity Constellation in May

We are booked on a Celebrity cruise from Amsterdam for 12 nights in May. Ports of call are
Warnemunde ( Berlin )
St Petersburg
We are comfortable seeing most of these cities on our own as we have travelled to Europe several times. We do plan to book a tour in SPB and have been reading a lot of reports on this forum for ideas. I would love to hear from anyone who has taken this particular cruise on Celebrity and what they liked or did not like about it. Also , if you book a private tour company, do you pay ahead of time. If you pay there, do they accept credit cards and how much do you tip?
As this is so last minute, I am trying to plan ahead as much as possible and would appreciate help from savvy Fodorites. Thanks
trvlbliss is offline  
Apr 4th, 2012, 09:43 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 2,621
I took a Baltic cruise on the Constellation several years ago, though we departed from and ended the cruise in Harwich. I think it was 14 nights. Otherwise, we had all of the same ports you have listed.

I loved this cruise - this was the first I'd done on a longer itinerary and IMO this made all the difference. I can't really think of anything that I didn't like about the cruise. It never felt overcrowded in the public areas, the crew were all really friendly, pleasant and eager to please.

We always ate in the regular dining room, so I don't know how the restaurant where you pay a surcharge is. However, I did enjoy all of our meals in the dining room. The breakfast and lunchtime buffet selections are pretty wide - it wasn't until sometime in the second half of the cruise that I discovered the buffet went all the way around the back part of the deck.

One of my favorite things is that in one of the lounges every afternoon from about 4 p.m. they had a free tapas bar - there was always some kind of musical entertainment and it was a nice place to sit and relax with some pre-dinner drinks and appetizers.

We purchased a couple of wine packages of differing levels - they were 3 bottles per package and the top package also included a wine tasting seminar and a food and wine pairing seminar. The food and wine pairing seminar was interesting and included 2 sets of 4 Riedel wine glasses (shipped to you once you return home).

At all of the ports we toured around the cities independently except St. Petersburg. We booked with Alla Tours and had an excellent time. We paid for the tour at the start of our second day, in cash. I don't recall how much we tipped, but I had asked Alla for a guideline and did that plus a little bit more.

I'm not really one to duplicate vacations (because there are so many other places I still want to see) but I would do this same cruise again in a heartbeat if I had the opportunity.
chepar is offline  
Apr 4th, 2012, 10:15 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 13,430
I booked with Alla Tours in St. Petersburg and had a great time with Alla.

I paid at the end of the second day....in cash, and like chepar I tipped above the normal guideline.

Alla comes to meet and greet you at the end of the second day.

I have done many cruises and in my opinion the Baltic Cruise was my best cruise because I really enjoyed all the ports of call.

Nine months prior I had done a Mediterrranean Cruise and I liked the Baltic way better

Hi chepar!
Percy is offline  
Apr 5th, 2012, 09:27 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 2,621
Hi Percy, how are you doing?

trvlbliss - I forgot to add that you may read a lot of stuff about the best "strategy" on how to get off the ship ASAP when it docks in St. Petersburg - on the cruisecritic.com forums I had read complaints (regarding various cruise lines, not just Celebrity) about how people who had booked independent tours were held back in favor of those who booked tours through the ship, causing them to be late.

I was somewhat nervous about that, as we had a meeting time with our guide at 7:30 a.m. - turned out that everything moved relatively smoothly. Everyone who had tours booked at a certain time met in a lounge (we fudged a bit and said our tour left at 7:00, so we met in the lounge at 6:30) and we were escorted as a group off the ship. Even though we were off the ship pretty early, there was still a sizable crowd lined up to go through the passport control. We were through to the other side by around 7:20 and our guide and driver were already waiting for us.

On cruisecritic.com I had read advice from people to ignore the crew's directives to meet to be escorted off and to just wait by where they would open the gangway (and then exit the ship on your own), but my father didn't feel comfortable doing that. Just be aware that earlier is better in trying to get off the ship - by the time we reached the head of the line at passport control, the crowd behind us in the hall had more than doubled. The second day getting off the ship was much easier, less crowded.
chepar is offline  
Apr 7th, 2012, 05:08 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 38
Thanks Chepar and Percy. Really appreciate your help. I think we will also do the other cities on our own and book a tour for SPB. I like the idea of a smaller group and so will opt for ALLA ( if they still have openings) rather than the cruise line tour. Chepar, will take your advise to get off the ship as early as possible.
Just one more question. If you paid in cash, was it in USD ? We try not to carry too much cash and just withdraw what we estimate we may need from an ATM in each country when we travel.
Percy, I read your report on the Baltic cruise and really enjoyed the details. I think planning for a trip is half the fun...you enjoy the trip 3 times, the planning stage, the actual travel and then the review when you post it online or in a diary.
We are very last minute on this and really hope we can book with Alla.
Thanks again to both of you for your input.
trvlbliss is offline  
Apr 7th, 2012, 06:11 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 9,530
Listen to Percy and chepar!
Seriously I think the private guide is the way to go. We too did the Baltic and did not use a private guide b/c our travel companions preferred the ships tour but it seems clear that we missed out on a better experience. We did use private guides last fall in Israel and it was so well worth it.
There are other SPB guides that are well reputed guides besides Alla if you can't get them.
You will really, really like this cruise!! Cheers, Larry
jacketwatch is offline  
Apr 7th, 2012, 08:12 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 13,430
Hi Everyone


I hope you have as much luck as I did getting off the ship in St. Petersburg.

Yes planning is a lot of fun and work, but when it is all done it is worth it.

If there are certain spots you might want to see...then make note of them.

Alla has a good tour but asking her to see some of your "extra sites" would help you.

For example:

As we drove about St. Petersburg, getting to our various places,
I would ask our driver:

"Could you just turn here at the lights so I can see Peter the Great's Original Log Cabin."

"Boris could you drive down this street , I would like to see the building of the House of Faberge Eggs".

another time I said, "I would like to walk up into the Field of Mars and take a picture of the Eternal Flame."

They accommodated my ( our) wish.
Percy is offline  
Apr 7th, 2012, 09:16 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 38
Thanks Larry and Percy. I will certainly have a list of places we want to see and will ask if they can accommodate if we are close by.
As we are going end of May, I hope all the palaces and museums are open, or at least most of them.We are really excited about SPB as we will probably never go there again.
I am a history buff and have read a fair amount of Russian history ( mainly the revolution ,and the more famous Tzars).
Last year we did a tour of Normandy in June and enjoyed the D-Day reenactments and museums there .
I love this website as Fodorites are so well travelled, well read and so generous with their time and expertise.
Thanks again !
trvlbliss is offline  
Apr 9th, 2012, 09:49 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 2,621
You pay cash in USD to Alla. Keep in mind that they are very picky on the condition of the bills that they can accept - preferably they should be new and crisp. If you can't get all new bills, at the minimum they should not be creased or marked in any way.

For small souvenir shopping and incidentals I went to an ATM to withdraw rubles.
chepar is offline  
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