Now that the holiday festivities are behind us, I can get my report out to you about the 2nd leg of our excellent adventure to the UK and the Baltics. When I left off on Part 1 we had left London and arrived in Southampton and boarded the Celebrity Eclipse for our 12 day cruise of the Baltics.
We boarded and received a glass of champagne and headed to our stateroom. As we travelled with carry on luggage only, we could unpack right away and settle in. We didn’t have to wait hours for our luggage to show up in the room. Our room was surprisingly large and comfortable. We did not spring for an outside cabin on the trip. My logic was that we were not going to spend a huge amount of time in the room so let’s go with a less expensive room. I would think that if we were going somewhere like the Carribbean where it would be nice to sit out on a balcony in the warm air, a more expensive balcony cabin might be warranted. But this is the Baltics where it really isn’t warm. And we were going to be busy in ports a lot of the time. We were very happy with our inside cabin. Lovely big king size bed which was nice and comfortable. There were bed side tables on both sides, a large desk area with a wall mounted TV and lots of drawer space. There was a large double closet with adequate hangers and a big bathroom with a good sized stand up shower. What more could we ask for? Sure we couldn’t see outside but it really didn’t bother us. When we were in the room we would put the outside camera bridge view on the TV. We turned off the sound and left it on all night. Then we could see in the morning when it was getting light and what the weather was like.
We loved the Celebrity Eclipse. The ship is clean and well kept, lots of areas to hang out. The staff were all very professional and friendly. There was always deck chairs available on sea days. The buffet was excellent. We liked the flexibility of it. We could go whenever we wanted and not get all dressed up. Loved it. They did a great job with gluten free options as well which my husband appreciated. The bars and lounges even had gluten free beer! We are not huge drinkers so we did not purchase a drink package. We did order a glass of wine most evenings with dinner and had the occasional cocktail in the afternoon. We spent way less doing it this way than the cost of a drinks package. There is something for everyone on the Eclipse. It is not a party boat which we liked. For us it was all about the ports. One extra value add that they had which I loved was that they had a historian on board. Prior to arriving at a port she would give a talk in the theatre which was all about what we would see and the history of the area. There was also a talk about the Vikings. I loved that. If I missed one they always replayed them on the TV in the stateroom. I saw them all and really enjoyed them.
Our first port was Copenhagen. Celebrity had a shuttle bus at the dock which took us into the city centre. We just wandered around the centre area for a few hours and took it all in. We saw the palace, some cathedrals and the canal area and down town shopping area. When we were tired, we stopped at an outdoor wine bar and enjoyed a glass of wine and watched the people go by. Then we found our way back to where the shuttle took us back to the ship. Before we boarded, we walked around the dock area, saw the statue of the little mermaid and looked in all the touristy shops. It wasn’t a long port day but we did see the main points and loved it. This is a port where it is not necessary to book a tour. The city centre is perfect to walk about.
Second port was Stockholm. We had a full day in port this time and it was pouring rain. I and I mean pouring. We had our umbrellas and hats and jackets. I was really glad that we had booked a tour of this port as it turned out. Because the weather was so lousy we wouldn’t have seen nearly as much as we did. We were a small group of only 8 people. We had a small van and a lovely very knowledgeable tour guide. We went straight to the Vasa museum first off. We spent a few hours there and really loved it. The Vasa was a ship that was built in the 1600’s in Stockholm. It sank shortly upon it’s launch in the harbour. It sat on the bottom for over 300 years until it was raised and reconstructed. The museum was built around it. We found it fascinating. It is something not to miss. Then we had a tour of Stockholm, saw the Nobel Museum and a few other spots of interest. Then went to the old town area where we strolled around. Then back to the ship. This is a port where a tour made sense.
Next stop was Talinn Estonia. This was probably my favourite port of all. This place is right out of a fairy tale. The ship had a shuttle once again which took us to a drop off point right outside of the gates of the old town area. Really interesting architecture to see. There were lots of shops with crafters and artisans selling really interesting things at a good price. We spent hours just wandering around. This is a walled city so you can walk the wall and see the views from higher up. We had a lovely lunch at a sidewalk cafe. Gluten free was no problem. Then we walked to the town square where there were more crafters set up. It was a great day and again this is a port where there is no need to spring for a tour.
Then it was St Petersburg. We were in port for 2 full days there. Here it is pretty much a necessity to book a tour. On day 1 we walked off the ship and through the customs and immigration. Visa’s were all arranged by our tour company so super easy process. We found our mini van group and our guide Alexi. We found him to be very good and certainly knows his Russian history. There was a lot packed into the 2 day tour. It was totally mind boggling. As we drove from the port into the city you pass a lot of old big square cement apartment buildings that are quite depressing really. Then you get into the palaces and museums and cathedrals and your mind explodes. They are all covered in gold and are so over the top you almost cannot believe what you are seeing. We saw the Hermitage (Wow!), The Church of our Saviour on the Spilled Blood (another Wow!) We saw the Faberge Collection which is out of this world, walked along Nevsky Prospect and had a bit of a driving tour with Alexi explaining what we were seeing. We enjoyed a lunch in a cafe on Nevsky Prospect. We liked this tour as we were a relatively small group of only 16 people so we were able to have lots of questions back and forth with Alexi. Then back to the ship, exhausted. Day 2 we met our group and we were off to Pushkin and Catherines Palace which included the Amber Room. It was fab! We had a nice lunch in a pub where we were able to get gluten free with no problem at all. Then a tour through Peterhof gardens and Peter and Paul’s fortress. Sooo interesting and like I said above quite overwhelming. Definitely a once in a lifetime experience I am so happy to have had.
Next was a much needed sea day to recuperate from our 2 very busy days with lots of walking in St Petersburg. We enjoyed some deck chair time with our books. Next stop was Warnemunde Germany. This is a port where you can simply walk off the ship and into the town. It was a lovely day and we just strolled about, went to a museum, went into a few shops, had coffee at a sidewalk cafe and just enjoyed the day. Some of the passengers booked the day in Berlin. They were off early on the train. Journey time there and back was somewhere around 3 hours each way, leaving only a few hours in Berlin. We opted to not do that and just enjoyed our day in Warnemunde. Berlin will wait for a future trip.
Then 2 more sea days as we journeyed back to Southampton. I can 100% recommend this cruise. This is a very expensive area of the world to visit. There is no way we could ever see it, as it would be way beyond our budget. We found the cruise to be a great way to at least get a taste for this part of the world and see some highlights. It is an affordable way to see the Baltics. I can also recommend Celebrity Cruise lines. I thought the Eclipse was a lovely ship and for folks like us in the over 60 crowd it was excellent. If you are a 20 something looking for more excitement, then there are probably other options, but for us baby boomers it was right on. There was something for everyone on it. Great food, great programming and on this cruise the itinerary was excellent.
Upon docking in Southampton, we had a quick breakfast on board, grabbed all our carry on luggage and debarked. Another plus for having only carry on luggage. We could just leave when we were ready to leave. We didn’t have to wait our turn to pick up our bags. We got a taxi right at the dock and headed to the train station to get our train to Cardiff for the next part of our adventure. More about that in a later post. If anyone is considering a Baltic cruise and has any questions they would like to ask, feel free and I will be happy to answer if you are looking for any more in depth information.