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Just back from Celebrity Constellation Baltic-Scandinavia

Just back from Celebrity Constellation Baltic-Scandinavia

Jul 26th, 2002, 05:17 PM
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Just back from Celebrity Constellation Baltic-Scandinavia

Overall, incredible experience. Ship is big and beautiful and the itinerary is one where you say, "Wow I visited that many countries in that period of time!" I have my opinions about services and a lot of other details. Post speficic questions if interested.
Jul 27th, 2002, 06:52 AM
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Glad you had a great time on the Baltic cruise and welcome home!

I don't have any specific questions about the Constellation, since we'll be on the Seven Seas Mariner in a couple weeks, but we are doing the same area, and I wondered about the ports you stopped at. We're starting in Copenhagen, which we're already familiar with, then on to Visby, on the island of Gotland, Sweden. After that to Tallinn, Estonia, where we've only been once, then St.Petersburg, Russia, where we've never been. Next stop Helsinki, Finland, which we're very familiar with and even have local friends that are meeting us, and then ending up in Stockholm, where I've been years ago, but my husband hasn't.

The only excursion we're already booked for is an all-day one in St.Petersburg. We have 3 whole days there, should we do another excursion, or will we be OK on our own? What were your impressions about Russia?

Also, what were the highlights of the other ports you stopped at? Any tips and hints on what to do/see?

We have a couple days in Copenhagen before the cruise (which is 7 days) and a few days in Stockholm after the cruise. What would you do in Stockholm?

I understand the weather's been just beautiful this summer. Any comments?

Also, did you mostly use credit cards while on shore, or did you use dollars or local currencies?

Thanks so much!

Jul 27th, 2002, 12:16 PM
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Benita - We did St. Petersburg with an independent tour company based on St. Petersburg. Frankly, we were so glad we did it the way we did. Our experience there was fabulous and based on what we saw and the logistics we had to go thru, it was the best way to go, at least, for us.

There is no question that I would definitely do at least two "organized" days in St. Petersburg. There is way too much to see and understand. I even had a good guidebook that I was reading on the ship, but our guide was that much better. Tips and summary for St. Petersburg:
1) Do more than one day with a tour. The city is too beautiful and too rich with history and culture to do one excursion 2) IMPORTANT - double check to see the size of your excursion. Obviously the Mariner is much smaller, but the if the group is a large enough number (15-20), the logistics could get tough. Believe it or not, keeping the group together in the Hermitage was a big problem according to friends from the ship. Some people actually got lost, and the Hermitage is not an easy museum to navigate. They had to cut their tour of the Hermitage short, find their way out (it wasn't easy), then return to the bus and wait. We were on private tour with a private mini-van, drive and tour guide. We encountered the large groups from our ship and from others i.e. NCL, Crystal, etc... and, at times, they looked frazzled. 3) The overall crowds at the palaces, museums, etc... were humongous and the lines were outrageous. I wouldn't doubt if folks from the ships waited in line for an hour or so. And it was fairly warm. Our tour, I don't know if it was because it was pre-arranged our what, would go right to the front and we'd walk right in. We bypassed the lines that a majority of the ship passengers were in. Double check and make sure that the excursions you choose either allow you to do this or the days chosen won't have long lines. Almost every major site had long "Disneyland" lines (except they were straight). 4) Don't change money to rubles. I don't think there is the real need to. They except (and prefer) almost anything else besides rubles. 5) Know that you have to pay a fee if you want to take pictures in the Hermitage - not large. Pay this fee and take all your pictures. After all, you are in one of the greatest museums of the world. 6) Compared to many of the other cities we were in, St. Petersburg didn't look as "on your own" friendly as others. It's doable, but I think you might waste a lot of valuable time just trying to deal with the logistics. Remember, the street signs are in Russian; but then again, maybe you know how to speak Russian

I'll continue in another email
Jul 27th, 2002, 12:35 PM
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First of all, excuse my grammar, spelling, etc.. in the previous email. I'm not really editing and I am typing quite fast. Hope you don't mind.

Final notes about Russia - we knew some people that were excited about St. Petersburg because it was one of the places they had not visited and they had heard so much about it. Anyway, they didn't think it was anything special. But I think they thought this way because of their tour experience. On the other hand, it was one of our favorite cities. By the way, the Constellation vistied Le Havre (Paris), Oslo, Rostock (Berlin), Talinn, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, and Copenhagen.

Stockholm is another great city. Since you have several days there, I would try to get a good overview and feel of the city. This is easily done by taking your ship's shuttle to the Opera House. If you face the Opera House (12:00), there is a little tour kiosk at around 7:00 called Sightseeing Tours or something like that. In the summer they have different tours leaving every hour on the hour. I would take the 90 minute tour but the 60 minute would probably do. The 90-minute tour cost around $17 per person. If anything, this will give you a really great general feel of the city, the different areas, etc.. It will help you when you decide to walk around on your own. There is also the Hop On & Off bus which, if I'm not mistaken, takes off near City Hall. Do something to get your bearings. It makes walking around later on that much better. Definitely visit the Old Town (very charming), Vasa Museum (huge, huge 18th century warship that sank on its maiden voyage), Skansen (dislay of swedish hosues, culture, crafts, etc...), and of course, the main commercial district that has its major department stores, including NK and Ahilen. Tip - remember to bring local currency coins as you go around... Bathrooms are not free.

We were blessed with beautiful weather. At times, it was pretty hot (shorts weather).

Finally, regarding currency. I used as much credit card as I could. If you have an ATM card, take out money from local machines. That's the way to go. I used to be one that would go around for alittle and compare exchange rates. Gone are those days. It's a waste of time and the value you recieve in return is not worth your precious time or energy. Use the ATM machines when you can. One word of caution. If you really want it to be a no-brainer, change money on your ship. Know, however, you will not receive a good exchange rate and you will be totally ripped off when you have to change back your remaining currency. ATM machines may charge a service charge, but it is comparable if not less than the fees charged by exchange houses. Use your credit card as much as you can, and get a little local currency for incidentals i.e. bathroom, drink, a snack, ice cream, etc...

Hope some of this info has helped.
Jul 27th, 2002, 10:01 PM
Paull Therault
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Excellent reviews by Jun and Benita

Correct to state the ship's tour to the Hermitage is too long and much wasted time. Best to hire a private tour guide. Most of the Hermitage is not air-conditioned.

Try to save a few hours to visit Peterhof, it is extraordinary. Ship's tour is best.

Jul 28th, 2002, 06:39 PM
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Hi Jun,

And thanks so much for all your helpful info. Your itinerary sounded great, too, it must have been longer than 7 days. Maybe 10?

And thanks, Paul for your comments, too. I appreciate your wast knowledge.

Jul 28th, 2002, 06:42 PM
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I read your posts with relish because my wife and I are getting ready to leave on the Constellation, from Dover on August 3. We have teamed up with a family of three, who will also be on the ship, to share expenses on a private tour in St. Petersburg. We plan on doing everything else on our own. We have done the research and we are confident about striking out on our own in those other port cities.

regarding the Constellation, is there an indoor pool/spa for the use of all passengers or is it just for those who decide to shell out large sums for spa/therapeutic services?

Were you able to get second seating? We have been on the wait list since first booking in February. The first thing we do after getting into our cabin is rush off to see the Maitre D' for second. It is a must for us.

Did you attend the ballet or the folklore show? We have heard raves from those who have gone to the Folklore. Was it first come seating? How did you enjoy it? What about lunch with the Russian family? Was it very contrived or were you able to get a glimpse at Russian family life? Did you go Red October as we are doing? How far away from the main exit did the ship dock in St. Petersburg? Walking distance? Shuttle?

A reply from someone within the next 24 hours would be most welcome since we will be leaving shortly after that time.
Thanks so much for sharing your opinions of the cruise.

p.s. how many Tuxedos on formal night. I am bringing only a dark suit.
Jul 28th, 2002, 09:26 PM
Paul Therault
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Hi Jay,

I'll help with a couple of your questions.

You can use the aqua pool without charge but not the Thalasotherapy pool unless you have booked a suite.

I have not been on all tours but I can tell you that the ship will dock in a commercial/industrial area and the entrance to the area is quite far from the dock. You wouldn't be able to walk anywhere on your own in Russia if you only have a ship visa.
Therefore there are no shuttles into town. Cabs yes, but make sure you have your own personal visa.

There will be about 50% tuxedo clad. You certainly will not be alone with your dark suit and tie. You can also bring a dark blue blazer and wear tan or white slacks. Just so you won't have to wear the same thing at every formal night. All this is acceptable.

If you plan on going off on your own in foreign countries be sure to plan on getting back at least two hours before the ship leaves since you will never know what unforeseen circumstance may occur.

Have a wonderful and safe vacation.

Jul 28th, 2002, 09:51 PM
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Hope you got the response to your email. Paul is correct on basically everything. 50% tux is about right. I personally wore a dark suit on formal nights and felt very comfortable and not left out. Something regarding St. Petersburg - do make time to get back to the ship. Since I have first hand experience with the tour company you have contracted, I know they are very good about this. Funny that Paul mentioned getting back on time. I didn't think any of thought about what type of traffic there could be in St. Petersburg. Well, there was. Reason why it was funny was because even the ship's excursion to Peterhauf didn't plan well enough and ended up getting back late. The ship sailed an hour later because it's own excursion didn't make it back on time! Anyway, my guess is that your private tour company will decide to do Peterhauf in the morning. This will be good since it is probably the furthest site you will go to.

Jul 28th, 2002, 09:57 PM
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the constellation set sail on a 13-day cruise, which included two days in copenhagen, st. petersburg and stockholm and two days at sea.

have a wonderful time and let me know if you'd like to know anything else.
Jul 29th, 2002, 04:05 AM
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What was the name of the independent tour company you used in St. Petersburg? And when did you book them, prior to the cruise or when you got there.?? Ive heard of horror stories of tour companies that dont show up/
Jul 29th, 2002, 11:45 AM
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fran - we booked with red october several weeks prior to the cruise. lines of communication were excellent. they answered my inquiries and responded to my email in an efficient manner. frankly, i was a little worried about the whole visa situation, them showing up, etc...

my guess is that mishaps with this type of arrangement may occur if the lines of communication are not clear and open i.e. misunderstandings, etc.... i would guess that the last thing tour companies would want is a bad situation and bad press like that. i believe a lot of indepdent tours that operate out of st. petersburg get a lot of business from people who do research on the net and look for first hand experiences, then decide to book. bad experiences could truly ruin these companies. besides, they can't even run away with your money because the transaction takes place when you are there. i suppose the "honor system" plays a role if one wishes to go this route.

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