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John & Suzanne Madieros

Age: n/a

Occupation:Retired

Number of Cruises: 8

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Constellation

Sailing Date: August 17, 2002

Itinerary: St. Petersburg

Pre-Cruise
We wanted to do the Baltic’s and St. Petersburg on Princess, but after 9/11, they no longer offered this cruise. Travel agent called RCL, and they referred us to sister company, Celebrity Constellation. If you have the option of 2 different airports, check out both, as Orlando was $550 more person than Tampa, which was is our airport of choice. We did a $75/person air deviation fee, and got 3 of our 4 choices of flights. We didn’t want to connect in either Boston or New York, and they appeared to be the most common connections. There were some very bad connections as a possibility, so I would look into this possibility. We’ll fly Delta to Atlanta, then direct into Gatwick, London, which from speaking to people, is far easier to handle than Heathrow.

Celebrity has been marvelous to deal with. We got shore excursion booklet 9 weeks before the cruise. You can go over it relaxing at home, and then go online with a regular credit card to book. They say that you will get a confirmation within 24 hours. We had ours within an hour, with the promise that shore excursion tickets will be there in on stateroom when we boarded. This was fantastic having the shore excursions charged separate to a regular credit card, as the charges on the sail and sign cards have a tendency of building up fast, as we all know. We always book shore excursions through the ships, as we feel it’s a lot safer doing it this way. Please keep in mind, that excursions were planned with my using a walker. Included in the shore excursion booklet, was a notice that Diphtheria was a problem in Russia. While not mandatory, it was recommended you get the shot. We had already received Polio as well as Hepatitis A. We feel it’s better to lean towards safety, and it sure doesn’t hurt, where the opposite could possibly kill.

Day 0, August 16, 2002- Tampa
We were picked up by a limo at 9AM. This was the first time we’ve used a limo service, but equaled out to be the same as parking in the garage. We traveled with 2 large pieces of luggage, 2 garment bags, and 2 carry-ons. I walk with a walker, so everything was planned with that in mind. We had enough time to change $50 into English money, in the event we needed it going or coming in Gatwick. Tampa charges A $5 fee to change any amount. Don’t know if other airports do the same thing. I personally dislike the fact that there are no laundry facilities on board, so we each brought an additional 7 sets of underwear, rather than paying $1 per item to have laundered. Packing was difficult, as it’s a 14-day cruise, with vast temperature changes at this time of year. There are 3 formal nights, 4 dressy nights, and 7 casual nights. We had a light lunch in Tampa before leaving, and got beverages and a snack mixture on the flight from Tampa to Atlanta. Plane was a 2-3-2 configuration. We took off from both Tampa and Atlanta at the precise time we we’re scheduled. I had a wheelchair requested in Atlanta, and it’s a good thing, as we arrived at A-19, and took off from E-2. The E terminal (International) is massive. Do food and restrooms as soon as you enter the terminal, as there’s neither when you get down to the end of the terminal, at least not in the direction we were heading. Several gates back for each. We already had received our boarding passes in Tampa, so there was no need to get in line. The computers weren’t operating, and the poor counter girl was having a terrible problem with several demanding passengers. It was resolved in about a half hour or so, and really no big issue, as we got there 2 hours before our scheduled flight. Our plane to Gatwick was a 2-5-2 configuration, with 58 rows. We had seats in row 51, seats A & B. My husband knowing that I like to sit further forward, got our seats changed to 40 A & B. How wrong that was. We had a woman sitting behind us with a 6-7 year old boy, and a girl under 2, as she sat on her mother’s lap, and kicked the back of my seat for 7 of the 8 hours of the flight. They were not disciplined, and the mother didn’t care. Add on to this, this plane is very tight in seating, and being a fully loaded flight, just no place to change our seats to. We met people that flew in Virgin Atlantic, and the seating was even tighter there. We arrived in Gatwick at 5:35 AM, 35 minutes early. There was no gate to put us in, so we parked on the tarmac.

Day 1, August 17, 2002-London-Harwich
We got off the plane by using a long, step flight of portable stairs, boarding busses for customs and the main terminal. I asked where an elevator was, and they looked at me like I had 3 heads. They’re called lifts in England. Nobody seems to know anything when you ask a question. We walked and walked before reaching customs. I had requested a wheelchair, but it did show up. We met someone who was picked up by an electric cart. Going through customs is strictly a formality, although we did see them going through the baggage of a 65+ year old woman who was traveling by herself. Luggage carts are free, so grab 1 or 2 of them as there’s hundreds of them all over. Making the final 3 turns, we met the Celebrity representatives who checked travel documents, put a red tag on us, and checked in all our checked baggage. They told us where to sit until picked up at 8AM for the first shuttle. That didn’t happen until 8:35, and by 8:45 we were on the bus, after much pushing and shoving by fellow passengers. It was like they were afraid that they wouldn’t make the bus. We were told that it would be 2-2 ½ hours to Harwich. (Please note, these are beautiful new buses with no restrooms, and no stops, so plan accordingly before leaving Gatwick) As we were both very tired from not sleeping, we slept an hour on the bus. The scenery is magnificent, and experienced going around 3 rotaries in the opposite direction. That was really hair raising! We arrived at the ship at 10:45 AM, 2 hours on the nose. Keep that time in mind, as it plays into the checking in process. We didn’t have one of the required documents, and representative followed us down, filling this form on a clipboard. Even though the line was long, there was 25-30 people checking you in. (Hint: Do all your paperwork at home, as this saves time) They thanked us for having this done, and all out and ready. I did have 1 minor problem here, and that was being given a white sail and sign card, rather than 1 with a picture of the ship on it. This is just petty, but would have been a nice souvenir.We got in line to have the normal embarkation picture taken, and walked up a very steep ramp I found rather difficult with a walker. At the top was security screening, and then crossing a gangplank, have photos taken for the sail and sign cards. As we arrived very early, we were told to put baggage in stateroom, but couldn’t stay there until noon. We were shown elevators, but not escorted as the crew was still cleaning the staterooms from the last cruise. Our room was almost done. Here’s where the time plays a factor. >From the time getting off the bus, picking up carry-ons, and doing all I mentioned, we arrived in the room at 11:05 Am. That’s right, 20 minutes from start to finish. Some other cruise lines should take lessons. Way to go Celebrity! We didn’t like the fact that they didn’t hand out pocket cards with the map of the ship, as you really need it on this vessel. They had a brochure type thing in the stationary packet of the desk. We went up to Seaside Café on Resort Deck 10, where they were serving beverages and pastries. It was way too early for lunch, which was being prepared. This is their buffet location. Sat down without realizing that we were sitting over big circles in the floor that you can see down to the ocean below. It was really beautiful and very different, but don’t think I would want to sit there on a rough sea day. We continued on to the pool area, which is just fabulous. There’s heavy metal lounge chairs with thick cushions, beach towels rolled in every chair. Also a table with extra towels, as well as plaid blankets, if you found yourself getting cold. There are non-skid surfaces, with plentiful amount of handrails throughout to prevent falling. We met Mario, a very handsome young man from Berlin who was a pool bar person, and certainly a rarity, as he was on his first contract, and they put him on such a gorgeous new ship. If a right producer or director should spot him, guaranteed he would be heading for Hollywood or Soap Operas, with natural good looks, and intelligence to go along with it. Proceeded to the Thalassotherapy Pool. This is an inside pool with wooden-slotted lounge chairs and 4 Jacuzzi’s in the complex. Must be 18 to use this area. Don’t forget to bring your bathing suits. We thought we could enjoy the Sunday sea day, but there appears just too much doing. Adjacent is the Aqua Spa, where we turned in raffle tickets and set up a hair appointment for tomorrow, which is a formal night. We went back to our stateroom, #7178 Vista Deck # 7. This was a balcony, category 2B, starboard aft. One thing to keep in mind, at least on our floor, corridors are all very straight from stem to stern, with only 3-4 turns, making it very easy to travel with a wheelchair. This room is 2 doors down from elevators, and no noise. Our room was more than adequate, with all luggage fitting under the bed very comfortably. Balcony was larger than what we’re used to, also with non-skid surfaces. Remember the clear circles from the buffet area that look down to the water, well we had one that looked down over our extended balcony. If you’re used to “sunbathing”, carefully check to see if you might have one of these balconies, as there’s probably a dozen or so that do the same thing. I’ve read other reports about colors being a problem, with nile greens, and a peachy-beige being in the staterooms. We found this to be very refreshing to the eyes. Our problem was with mirrors and more mirrors. The wall facing the bed has 3 large floor to ceiling mirrors, with another mirror over the desk. The elevators also have many mirrors. Our Cabin steward is Tomas from India, who has 16 staterooms to take care of. Shower is a little larger than normal, with a 4-inch lip to prevent water from getting over the bathroom floor. There’s also a handrail in the event it gets rough. There’s a fancy new faucet, with no instructions how to use. Also appears to be a problem with the water temperature, as you get it to a good temperature, and then you get a blast of cold water. There’s ample storage space for toiletries, as well as a hair dryer that has 1 temperature and 1 speed, hot and high. I’m not used to such, and wish I had brought along my own dryer. We showered and took a 2-hour nap, and it felt like 12 hours, as we were so tired. Our luggage, all 4 pieces, arrived together at 4:30, first time that’s ever happened. Life Boat drill at 4:45 in Rendez-Vous Lounge on Deck 4. This is a dance lounge, and very beautiful colors. We were to set sail at 5, but didn’t leave until 6, due to many very late arrivals. We were considerably away from the pier before we even knew it. Hundreds of townspeople were waving and cheering as we pulled away. There were many powerboats going along with the ship. We can only imagine what it will be like next week, when the Carnival Legend is christened by actress Dame Judith Dench.. We would love to know what we look like sailing away, but would much rather be on the ship to enjoy. We had first seating dinner, which was really not pleasurable, due to tablemates and not the staff. Food is excellent, with more than enough choices, with standard sirloin and grilled chicken breast if you prefer something else. We stopped at Fortune’s (Ha, Ha) Casino before going to the theater. No outside windows, very dark, and everything tight together. For video poker players, there are 6 $1 machines, and 13 (that should tell you something) $.25 machines, with 5 very low pay scale games. No bar top games are available. We proceeded to the Celebrity Theater located on decks 4 & 5 forward. While I prefer a theater without beverages, this was very functional, with no obstructed views whatsoever. The evening program started with the Cruise Director, Ray Carr introducing his staff. As cruise directors always seam to be a problem, Ray appears just the opposite. He in turn introduced our entertainer of the evening, Mr. Brooks Aehron, a pianist from Great Britain. Nobody had ever heard of him, with many, ourselves included, who thought he was a Victor Borge type piano player. How very wrong we were. He is without a doubt, the most talented pianist that we have ever seen. I played piano through grammar school, and my husband through high school. Brooks also plays the flute, of which he did. He was accompanied by the 7-piece Constellation orchestra. Supposedly, this was the first time technology was used on a cruise ship, a camera taking two shots of only his hands, and projecting them on to 2 large screens, high up, on both sides of the stage. There were several standing ovations, especially when he said the crew of 1,000, consisted of 57 nationalities, and the passengers having almost as many nationalities represented, with over 1,000 coming from the US. He also said everyone became American’s after Sept. 11th, and American’s weren’t supposed to be traveling. He continued on with a medley of American favorites, with everyone joining in singing and crying. He is truly a wonderful musician, and a remarkable individual. He offered to do a voluntary concert on Sunday afternoon, and more on that later. We continued to the Cova Café, where we sat and listened to a beautiful young woman, Melanie Brooks, play the harp. She performs in various areas of the ship, but always in the Cova Café at night. When we left, we went back to our room for a good nights sleep on a 6” foam mattress. There were no vibrations felt, being considerably aft. Ship as a whole is very smooth.

Day 2, Sunday August 18th, at Sea
Off to the buffet breakfast in Seaside Grill, very well planned and designed, cooks actually serving you portions. One person fixed the trays with linen tray covers, as well as utensils wrapped in a napkin. I was ½ way down the line, and a waiter came to carry the tray. I thought this was because I had the walker, but they carry for all women. The food was good, and everything I would normally eat at home for breakfast was there, cereal, bagel and juice. I’ve read complaints about food, but believe it’s people that feel more is better. Well-designed table area, with easy access for wheelchairs. We continued on to shore excursion lecture, which was a lot longer than I anticipated, but felt it necessary. Money is a problem in the Baltics, as many haven’t gone to the Euro, some accepting American cash, and others not. They suggest using credit card for large purchases, but cashed $20 for Norwegian Krona for buying from street vendors. Bank will not accept any change back, so that could end up being a problem, as a 50 Krona note is smallest paper denomination that equals about $7. It’s terribly confusing if you’ve done a lot of Caribbean or Mexican cruising, and also for Europeans, finding out that their new money isn’t accepted. A bolt in my walker came loose, and being able to fix without tools, the room steward called maintenance. They were up within ¾ hour to fix, giving him a small tip. They really reject taking tips, and the waiter that carried my tray earlier, flatly refused any. We got about an hour rest before going to Brooks Aehron 2PM performance. We got there early, and luckily we did, as there was standing room only. He told us something of his background. He started playing at 6 and won some award at 10 for the Royal College of Music. He has continued on to be a teacher there. He had CD’s with him, selling them in the Emporium (Boutique Stores). Two lines were formed, 1 to buy the CD’s, and the other to get them autographed, where we got a chance to speak to Brooks, as each was autographed with a special note. What a treat this was! The lines were very long. He’ll be leaving the ship in Stockholm, and then will rejoin in Copenhagen for another afternoon performance. I can’t imagine what the crowd will be like, as many people that got on late last night, or didn’t know about this afternoon’s concert will hear about it. The Emporium is made up of several different, yet connecting shops, probably a dozen or more that go down 2 separate hallways. 2 areas have normal “discount” center counters. No crowding was noted, and everything was handled efficiently. It’s almost like a mini-mall at sea. At the far end of the Emporium is the Art Gallery, and where the auctions are held, with probably 40 seats there at most. They auctioned off a Dali, but this is not our taste. While we love art auctions, we don’t plan on doing any here, as it’s a terribly poor set-up. The auctions are run by Park West Galleries. I then went up to the Spa to have hair washed and blow-dried for the Captain’s Welcome Party. While it felt nice after the traveling, $36 was pretty pricey. While waiting a flyer was out offering a couple massage to “bring out the senses”. A lot of senses could be brought out for $270 for 50 minutes. Got back in enough time to get dressed and to the Captain’s Welcoming Party. It was held on decks 3, 4, & 5. Drinks were plentiful, and a wide variety, but canapés were very scarce. This is where I have my first major problem with the ship. We came in on 4, as that’s where our table is for dinner. Captain and crew were on 3, and you couldn’t see or hear them. The Atrium leaves much to be desired, as there’s a straight stairway that cuts right through the atrium, not the circular and more functional as we’re used to on most ships. At cocktails, we met a couple that we flew in with from Atlanta and spent time with in Gatwick. They had 2 empty seats at their table, and we were ever so fortunate to be able to sit with them. They’re from Pensacola, one from Jacksonville, one from Detroit, and we from North of Tampa. We got to feel like one big family, certainly a far cry from last evening. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have a problem, as they will do anything they can to please. Tonight as I mentioned is formal, and they request that after 6 PM, you stay in the dress of the evening. I would estimate that 95% of the men complied, and just so nice walking through the Casino to see then dressed up, which reminds you of Monte Carlo. The entertainment of the evening was Adrian Walsh, a wonderful Irish Comedian. We walked through the boutique, with new and different things available.

Day 3, Monday August 19th, Oslo
They request that you’re there 10 minutes before scheduled departure of shore excursions. Please note that as I mentioned before, all shore excursions were booked with comfort and ease in mind, as I walk with a walker. We elected to do OS-5 for $74/person. This was a tour to Hadeland Glass Works & Viking Museum. Tour buses in Oslo are all new, at least for Celebrity. Ours was a year old Mercedes with a little tray table. There are no restroom facilities aboard the bus, and no stop made for 1¼ hours. ½ hour tour of 200+ year old glass factory. They work in teams, with many women, none of which wear safety glasses. Pay is $10-$12/hour. We then went to a cafeteria where we were served Norwegian pastries and beverages. Several different shops were available for purchases, which almost nobody did, as prices were incredibly high. One shop sold candle, pewter, and sweaters in the back. They were selling in the $200-300 range. It’s felt that if shopping doesn’t improve, the ship’s boutique will be very busy at the end of the cruise. We returned by a different route, stopping on a mountainside to take pictures of a fresh water Fjord, not really a Fjord, as they salt water, more a lake, but still called a Fjord. We then continued to the Viking Museum, passing the king’s Summer house and cattle ranch. Getting to the door of the Museum, I felt very faint. The building is not air-conditioned. There were seats available to sit down. Don’t try to set up a tripod. They are forbidden, but no signs stating such. The ship itself is something to see, to know people actually rowed this. Restrooms facilities are in the basement, with a chair lift to take you down. I didn’t go, but John went to men’s room, which was non-ventilated and hot. The windows were bolted shut. Definitely not handicapped friendly. Drove around to get a view of the city and Royal Palace. This is a very plain yellow building, and not worth making an extra trip to see. Monarchy in Norway is a figurehead. We drove past Nobel Museum, where Alfred Nobel lived. He was actually Swedish, but lived in Oslo. They give out the Nobel awards in Stockholm, but the Nobel Peace Prize is given in the Oslo City Hall. Oslo people can’t figure why everything isn’t done in Stockholm. A couple of blocks away is the American Embassy which has very little security. Neighbors want it that way so their views won’t be obstructed, and there’s just a thin chain link fence around it. Bag to the ship for shopping at dockside stores. Very few bags were seen coming out for reasons previously mentioned. Went to Resort Deck for hamburgers, and no place to sit inside or out. Granted, everyone was coming back at the same time, but that area could use much improvement. Very easily, you could take out an extra row of lounge chairs around the pool, and add tables and chairs. John picked up food, and brought it back to the cabin, where we sat on the veranda, watching preparations for our leaving. Constellation is very punctual, and leaves precisely at 3 PM. Best to be there when you should be. This ship turns on a dime, just as smooth as can be. It’s fueled by Gas Turbine. We watched some of the sail away through the Fjords, with hundreds of people waving from the beaches. Yes, it was hot in Oslo. Yachts were waving and shouting. If you can possibly do it, get a balcony. A couple of big sailboats were playing “chicken” with the ship. We do have a very loud horn, and the only time we heard it. I can imagine what the Captain must have been thinking, writing up a possible accident report. A speedboat pulls away from the ship, and think it’s the harbor pilot. Showered and decided to take a 2-hour nap. We barely made it to dinner, and 2 of our tablemates slept through their alarm and did alternative dining. They say they won’t miss it again, as alternative dining on the Constellation leaves a lot to be desired. They advertise the same entrees are offered, but only 2 were similar, and you have to go up and get salads and vegetables yourself. The real alternative is to get to the main dining room when you should. Ocean Liners Restaurant is available for fine dining at $25/person plus tip. I might be able to report on this later, as 2 tablemates thinking of doing it. We personally don’t feel it’s worth that much, as food is excellent, and also free. Rendez-Vous Lounge has Karen and Carl singing and playing the piano. It sounds wonderful as we walk through to the theater. Colors are very appealing in reds, oranges, blues and greens. Large dance floor, with a good size bar, but never seeing anyone sitting at it, as most are couple who are dancing, or wishing they could dance. The majority of the cruise are 60+, with 80 children being on board. I have barely seen or heard them. There were 250 on the previous cruise, but that was the first 2 weeks of August, the time the UK celebrates holidays. It’s wise to try to get in websites and you might be able to find out what “groups” will be on specific sailings. Travel Agent’s can’t find out what groups, only if they’ll be one. Entertainment was OK for the evening, “An American Canteen in Paris”. It was based on soldiers in Paris during the war. Some people liked it more, some a lot less. There were 2 good singers, 1 of those outstanding. One voice was very weak. All were excellent dancers. The stage in incredible, as it goes up and down, rotates, and even rises to steps.

Day 4, Tuesday, August 20th, At Sea
Set alarm for 7:30, as I wanted to do pool before breakfast. Reset for 8:30, and fell back asleep, awakening at 9:15. Wanted to do main dining room, but they close at 9:30, so we did buffet again. Located omelet station was way aft of ship, with nothing else around it. Poor planning for couples that might want to have different things, as you’re a distance apart. I settled for regular buffet. This really does need a little change in design, but can’t help thinking they might have done it for a reason. We split up and I went to a flower demonstration in the beautiful conservatory, which a Boutique, Flower Shop, and Gift Shop. Take the mid-ship elevators to deck 11. Forward and aft elevators will drop you off so you would have to walk on open and very windy decks. Went to Shore Excursions regarding questions I had on 2 previously booked tours that I had done 2 months earlier. Tallinn, Estonia was changed with ease, as original was 1 mile walking over cobblestones, and the other concerned Catherine’s Palace in St. Petersburg. They say you have to wear covering on your feet, and my question was whether or not you could take a walker. They didn’t have an answer, and had to fax the tour company in Russia who said we should have an answer by tomorrow night. There are many tours in Russia, so might be able to pick up another if this doesn’t work out. Continued on to Photo Gallery to pick up Oslo gangplank picture, probably the only one of the trip, as countries must give their approval for pictures to be taken. Also have a problem with my camera, and another passenger heard me asking. The camera person wasn’t going to be in for a few hours, but passenger volunteered to help, and it wasn’t a problem, just the telescopic lens casting a shadow. Stopped at the casino, and won a jackpot on a $20 bill. Continued to get lunch before going to movie “Ice Age”, a wonderful cartoon. Movie scheduled to start at 1:15, but according to tablemates, actually started at 1. Very nice cinema holding 100 + people! They had no lighting when you came in, unlike regular theaters. Very difficult getting your eyes adjusted, and many, including myself, hung on to the walls for a couple of minutes. They could have easily put in a nightlight to help out. Went to the Art Auction where I picked up a couple of pieces that I needed for a small wall. Area is still very crowded. Free Champagne was served. It was Captain’s Club Party in Reflections nightclub on Deck 11 forward. Captain and staff were there to great us upon entering, and wonderful idea, as you didn’t have to struggle to get to him. This is in the real bow of the ship, with the San Marco Dining Room being on Deck 4, very aft. Our table was 3 tables in from the back window. This is quite a walk, when the ship is 965 feet long. There’s nice soft music available in dining room. Entertainment for the evening was again Brooks Aehron. The theater was packed long before the start of the concert, and standing room only. He will give another special afternoon performance at the end of the cruise.

Day 5, Wednesday, August 21st, Stockholm
We tried the dining room for breakfast, and what a big mistake. Service was very slow to say the least. Had to ask for coffee 4 times, of which I don’t drink any. Waiter was very rude and said “we do it this way so we don’t get confused”, turning my cup upside down. I’m not confused, as I know I don’t drink coffee. Maybe he was having a bad day, but first person that we’ve met not up to Celebrity standards. Tour of the day was Waterways of Stockholm WS-5, $40/person. This was probably one of THE BEST tours we have ever taken any where. It’s a 2-hour tour that takes you by boat past all the major sites in Stockholm, handicapped accessible, and would recommend it 100%. You get the boat right down from where the ship docks, so no need to get on a bus. Didn’t meet anyone who didn’t enjoy it. Briggita, a former schoolteacher, and now school designer was our guide. Just a tiny gift shop on the pier, so decided to make a deal with a taxi to take us to Old Town, where we wanted to buy Crystal. Most streets in Old Town are not accessible by car and very difficult to walk with cobblestones all over. Signs up at the pier that clearly states to make your deal before you get in the cab. Our agreement was $20 each way, and $5 waiting 15 minutes while we were in the crystal shop, which he couldn’t find. He took us to another right over the river. He spoke very poor English. It turned out to be far better for us, as they took care of all the shipping, got an exchange rate of 9.2 instead of the 8.75 the ship was offering, and they gave us a 5% discount for cash (they treat credit cards as cash there). They removed the VAT tax, and charged us $39 for a large box to be shipped by UPS, vs. the $49 for 30 lbs. That the recommended ship store was charging. American Express is not accepted there, only Master Card and Visa. All said and done, we were out in 20 minutes, instead of the 15 that we agreed upon. I had $50 out to pay him, figuring a $5 tip. He tried to get $70, saying he had to travel extra, and we stayed “long”. Explained no, and stuck to my guns. Make an agreement, and don’t give in. We were gone 45-50 minutes maximum, so even though we were not happy with the taxi, he brought us to the right store for savings we suspect was probably owned by a relative or friend. Had a hamburger for lunch as everything else was closed. Lunches could easily be extended until 3 PM for those people that took 5-hour tours in the AM. Tablemates who had buffet lunch said it was average at best. Pulled out late with no explanation given. Have yet to see a tug. According to tablemate Bill, a retired Navy Commander, with Gas Turbine and thrusters, you don’t need tugs. Great 4 piece combo playing in the dining room tonight. Entertainment was Lindsey Hamilton a stage actress and singer from the UK. She played Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady” on the London stage, and won this role at only 18. She has also played Eva Peron in “Evita”. This turned out to be her finale, where she sang songs, with pictures of Eva Peron being on the wonderful high screens. Celebrity keeps outdoing itself with fantastic entertainment. Lindsey will stay on the ship, and and give another performance the night we pull out of Copenhagen. She has truly a magnificent voice, a blending of Barbra Streisandand Sarah Brightman is the best way to describe her. She sold autographed CD’s, and as she put it, “they put me between the liquor and the mouthwash”. That’s really where they put her, and I felt that was in very bad taste, as there was an unoccupied where she could have been placed. It was very balmy on deck, and so delighted to go out. The moon was like a Harvest Moon, light orange in color. The Northern Lights we have seen previously were not at their best, but always exciting to see. Amazing just how many people had never seen them.

Day 6, Thursday, August 22nd, Helsinki
Poor nights sleep as we advanced clocks ahead another hour. Checked a clock that I brought with me, and we are now 7 hours ahead of EDT. Just haven’t figured on how to compensate before the trip, maybe just spend a few days in London so everything doesn’t hit all at once. Many Japanese and Hawaiians are on board, and they look like they’re really dragging. 1 woman from Hawaii told me between travel, transfers, and time difference, it took 2 days to get from Maui to London. Star Trek sounds wonderful at this point. Buffet breakfast and returned to cleaned stateroom. My husband in convinced that there’s some sort of system that tells the steward when you leave. I will find out before I leave. If you like to be pampered without spending a ton of money, this is the cruise for you. If you have sailed other lines where service is not important to you, don’t take this cruise, for as 1 man put it, “their always in your face”. I personally disagree with him, but it’s what a person gets used to expect. Our tour was Helsinki, Porvoo and Countryside, HE5A for $130/person. It’s a 7-hour tour with Helsinki highlights, on to Porvoo which is known for arts and crafts, and then to a working horse farm, our main reason for going. The owners of the ranch serve you a 3-course lunch in the main farmhouse. This tour is really not for handicapped, as Porvoo is a cobblestone town. The bus drops you off at the top of the hill by a church, and you walk down to town with the tour guide. I stayed with the bus thinking I could get off when we got to the bottom, but there was no place for the bus to park, and when it did get a location, no time to do any shopping at the couple of shops I wanted. If you like licorice, ask someone where the candy store is, as that’s what their specialty is, and just wonderful. We proceeded to the horse farm that is run by a family, with grandparents, 3 children and spouses, and 8 grandchildren, living in 4 separate houses on the property. They put on a small horse show for us, a gorgeous 16 year old stallion, a Shetland pony pulling a carriage with rider, and a very special mare with her 15 day old colt. That was worth the trip. Lunch was in the main farmhouse, occupied by the grandparents. 58 people were on the 2nd floor, with 20 of us being on the 1st floor, mainly people with mobility problems. There are still 12-14 steps to climb to get to first level, with no ramps available. Pea size gravel in the driveway make it difficult. Although very beautiful, it’s not a tour I would recommend for a wheelchairs. I booked online as soon as we got our excursion book, and tablemates that had off a few days, were not able to get on it. A Folkloric show will be on the ship this afternoon at 4PM but we won’t be back in time. 6 tours are held in Helsinki, and only 3 of the 6 back in time for the show. Also, missed the Officers and Staff Cocktail party with casual dress for the evening. A lot of people including myself think they could get a new “Social Director”, as dress code doesn’t fit the occasion, and not correlated with sea days, so everyone could attend. Restroom on the bus was very hard to describe, as you stepped down 2 steps in the middle of the bus where the seats are, and walk into a stand up restroom that sits right under the bus. Didn’t use, but everyone that did, said it worked fine. We continued back to Helsinki to the Rock Church, where we didn’t get off. Stop was very brief, and located on a very narrow cobblestone street, where it would have been very difficult. People showed us postcards, and very beautiful. They also use this as a concert hall, due to outstanding acoustics. We continued on to Market Square where I sent John off to do some shopping. No real bargains here, and last people to return to bus, 15 minutes late. If you plan on getting off the bus, be back on time, as you make it very difficult for others. Although there are several wheelchair passengers on the ship, with Celebrity accommodating beautifully, I personally wouldn’t recommend this particular cruise to a wheelchair passenger, as the Baltic’s don’t know the meaning of “handicapped accessible”. We didn’t make it back in time for the cocktail party, as people being late during the day got us back to the ship 35-40 minutes later than planned. Entertainment for the evening was “Batir, Pulse of the Tropics”. This was loud, extremely so. While the dance and costumes were beautiful, the lead male singer was terribly weak, mediocre voice at best. We could only compare the sound to “boom boxes”. Many people asked to turn the sound down, to no avail and left. I would estimate that 100-125 people left before we did, almost ½ way through, at that point my ears were hurting, when we left. This is certainly not the case that more is better. We went on deck to see if we could see the Northern Lights, and what a treat it was. The previous night was just bands of white against a black sky. Tonight was the most gorgeous mixture of yellow, orange, pink and lavender in different intensity. I took 3 pictures and hope they come out. (They did, and the best pictures of the cruise). Food tonight was a mixture of good and bad. I had a rack of lamb which was excellent. The problem was with the sirloin. While 1 gentleman’s was excellent, another couple couldn’t even cut theirs. They then ordered pasta dish, which was the thickest spaghetti you could ever imagine, and like rubber when they tried to cut.

Day 7, August 23rd, Tallinn, Estonia
Woke early to bright sun. They say exceptional weather for this time of year, hottest Summer since 1988. We bought warm clothes with us, but not necessary so far. Prepare yourself though if you plan on doing this next year, as you never know. Our tour today was Panoramic Tallinn, TL-3 $28/person. Trip advertised as seeing Tallinn from comforts of a coach, with 1 stop. NOT SO! There were 5 stops, and passengers left before the tour was actually called, taking the reserved handicapped seats in the front of the bus, and refusing to give up. We were 2/3rd way back on the bus, which were the narrowest we’ve seen anywhere. There was a bathroom on board, which was padlocked. I got off at only 1 stop, Terminal A, a ferry terminal with a few shops, restrooms, and places you could get snacks. Our tour guide was Sirka, a gorgeous 22 year old, speaking fluent English, and already accepted at UCLA for next year to get her Master’s in teaching, and then return to her native Tallinn. English is a 3rd or 4th language for Estonia, but most people speak English, unlike Helsinki, where it appears they don’t even try. We returned to ship to drop off purchases, have lunch, and off to Old Town to shop. The cruise paper as well as morning tour-guide, were very explicit in saying pay no more than $5 for a cab to Old Town. There were cabs lined up outside, and going to the 1st cab, he insisted on $10. We told him we were told $5, and he was adamant. Even though there were 3 other cabs there, you must go to the 1st in line. Everyone else that got off the ship following us did the same thing, and when the shuttle bus pulled away 2/3 full with the cab still there. They say don’t give in, as that will stop the taxis taking advantage of the tourists. We were originally scheduled for Tallinn Highlights, TL-2 @ $34/person. It was stated a “short” walking tour over cobblestones. We talked to physically able people who did this, and it was challenging for them. Got off the shuttle in Old Town to flat cobblestones, were very easy. Beautiful hand-made sweaters, 75% less than Oslo. We started buying, and turned a corner to the most beautiful flower mart.Bring film! We bought a dozen miniature yellow roses for $2, and an arrangement of a dozen pale orange roses with mums for $6, which we gave them a bit more of the $5.50 asking price. Now the trouble began, as I wanted to go down a rounded cobblestone alley to get to a crystal shop. This is impossible to do with a walker without outside help. 3 people actually fell on the walking tour. Russian stacking dolls can also be bargained for here. Know your prices and make an offer. If they don’t accept, start walking away, and more likely than not, they will chase you out. Entertainment for the evening was Kenny Martyn, a multi instrumentalist from the UK, now living in France. Retired early as clocks turning ahead another hour tonight. I believe we are now 8 hours ahead of Tampa. No Northern lights tonight, as a thick haze over the sea.

Day 8, Saturday, August 24th, St. Petersburg, Russia
In freight harbor of St. Petersburg, as cruise ship harbor not large enough for such a huge ship. Harbor canal very polluted, yet people fishing and swimming in it. We did an afternoon tour, St. Petersburg Cathedrals, PZ-16 $65/person. They tell you to stay right with your tour, as it’s very easy to get separated from your group. We experienced that at out first stop, St. Isaac’s Cathedral. This is the cathedral to see for the gold and ornate. People wouldn’t move when off of the bus, forcing us onto cobblestone street. Besides tour guide, there was another person behind, rounding up stragglers. There’s about 15 steps up and down with railings but no ramps, and would be impossible for a wheelchair, even with help. Bargain outside for Russian fur hats, and stick with $7-10 range, and you’ll get it. Next stop was Church of Resurrection, aka. Church of Spilled Blood. This is know for mosaics. While not as opulent as previous church, this was worth it for mosaics and icons, and only 2-3 easy steps. A young woman was beautifully playing violin outside for money and many put in dollars or coins. There were many other “beggars” in area. A “comfort stop” was made at store where many people bought souvenirs. One man bought set of 10 Russian stacking dolls for $123, while another woman purchased set of 3 at 2 for $3. These vary in prices dramatically, so check and bargain. Small shot-glasses of Vodka were served, as well as coffee and tea. We continued on past Hermitage and went to the Monastery and Cemetery where many great composers were buried. I decided to stay on bus and wise decision, as a very long walk in, with many “beggars”, and very heart wrenching, according to those that did. According to tour guide, many do this to get Vodka money, and one was passed out in center of rotary, with no police taking notice for the ½ hour we were there. On the other hand, they were going through papers of 2 average looking men just walking. We got to see a good portion of the city by just driving around on the bus. 3 busloads of people flew to Moscow for the day at a cost of $675/person. Paperwork on that had to be completed weeks beforehand. This was about a 17-hour day for them, and you had to be able to walk 8.5 miles in Moscow. St. Petersburg is an island, connected by many drawbridges that stay open from 2-5 AM, so you can get trapped if you’re not careful. We thought about doing a Visa, but decided against it due primarily to cost, and having to send your passport in. It was a wise decision, as the shipyard has nothing, and your about 7 miles from town. There is also the language issue. Unless you are fluent in Russian, don’t even attempt it, as the Russian alphabet looks nothing like the English alphabet, and all streets appear to start with H’s and K’s like in Hawaii. Safety would also be a concern, and left all jewelry and most cash and credit cards in safe. 1 credit card, passports, and small amount of cash was placed in a neck pouch. A fast clean up to get to the open seating dinner which was at 6 PM. Many felt they could have opened it at 5:30, as 1,200 of us were going to either the Folkloric or Ballet, and had to meet in the theater by 7:20. They were already giving out bus numbers when we got there, and everything very organized with 12 buses going to each location. A little difficulty getting off the ship, as pier built for cargo vessels, and gangplank opening not very high. They had padded yellow buffers to protect your head, and thankfully so. Had to go through Russian immigration again which was located in doublewide trailer. Red tickets given and taken back when you return. Passport is actually stamped. 1,200 people were loaded in no time with great ease, and just the opposite when we returned, having very long lines both going through immigration, as well as waiting for elevators. We picked the Folkloric Show, PZ-12 for $56/person. It was held in a non air-conditioned former palace, and just a wonderful show. There’s a$2 fee to bring in a regular camera, $10 for a video. Bring plenty of film, and make sure your batteries are OK. They give you a receipt that you must carry with you at all times. Playing music outside, or should I say trying to were 2 men. I felt so bad, that I put $1 in their case, and they started to play the worst “Anchors Aweigh” that I have ever heard. There’s 7-8 flat rock steps to get into building with no railings or ramps. Then the fun part starts, having 3-4 steps of slippery marble to get to a landing before having another 12-15 marble steps, again with no railing or ramp. Many stands were selling a variety of Russian souvenirs, and while you couldn’t bargain, there wasn’t a need to. The prices were very reasonable, and the quality very good, with all the employees speaking fairly good English. The gentleman who paid $123 for the stacking dolls earlier, could have bought the same thing for $20 tonight. Constellation, as well as other ships we’ve been on lead you to believe that you should buy from approved stores because of guarantees. Most stores only offer a 60-day guarantee, and very overpriced. Stores stay open in Russia until 10 PM, and the main streets looked like Times Square at noon. There was much pushing and shoving at the elevators on returning, and I managed to get on one OK. The problem was when a wheelchair woman with husband pushing her, tried to follow, and American people (they were speaking English with no accent) tried to push in front of her. My husband made a barricade for the wheelchair woman to get on. If you are able bodies, be thankful for it, as you could be in the same situation some day. Only 4 elevators go to deck 1 where we all came in. There was a large Russian buffet awaiting us on our return. John went up to pick up some things to eat, as dinner was cut short, and pandemonium ruled up there, just too many people trying to eat at the same time. “Lord of the Rings” was the entertainment for the 500-600 people that stayed onboard.

Day 9, Sunday August 21st, St. Petersburg
We cancelled out of Catherine’s Palace for the afternoon, as were told it would be ¾-hour to 1-hour wait to get in, with no place to sit. This was not the case for the AM tours, as they opened up 1 hour early for Celebrity guests, and tours went in every 5 minutes. Afternoon tours started backing up as other tours came along. Finally used the Thalassotherapy Pool, and very hard to explain, other than it’s wonderful, with no children under 18. 4 Jacuzzi’s are also there, as well as many tables and chairs where you can enjoy light lunches and breakfasts. Friends went to Peterhof, with 2 ½ hours going, 2-hour return, and 1 hour there, all due to road construction to get ready for St. Petersburg 300th anniversary next year. Pulling out slightly late, as buses were coming in late. We see what appears to be a Naval Base, and while we were told that you can usually see submarines there, none were spotted. “Russian Bazaar” was in the Emporium after sailing, and due again tomorrow. Prices were very high, at least 2-3 times more than we paid at Folkloric, and 4-5 times more than in Tallinn. Small St. Nicholas’ statues went for $50-$250. People were buying like crazy, and can only think they didn’t know to shop in Tallinn, or get things on shore in St. Petersburg. The show of the evening was “A Hot Minute”, and we lasted about 5 minutes longer than we did with “Batir”. These shows are run by Nederland Worldwide Entertainment with bad singing, way too much talking, and not at all entertaining. Celebrity is doing itself a disservice by letting this company run the production shows. I would estimate about 75-100 people left this one before we did. Having a free day, we did a lot of walking around. Michael’s Lounge is a club for cigar and pipe smoking. The Martini Bar sits on top of the Rendez-Vous Lounge with an opening over the dance floor, a railing being around it. Colors are smoky-blue and beige, and very appealing. Not being a martini drinker, never realized how many different types there were, but looking at a menu, they probably had them all. Saw 1 woman with 3 different ones in front of her. You can enjoy the music from the lounge below, quieter, with the people dancing. Computer room is quite large, and almost always filled. 2 to 3 1-hour classes are given free daily. At other times, you can use for $.50/minute. Didn’t use, as family and friends know how to get hold of us in an emergency, and felt it way too costly.

Day 10, Monday August 26th, Sea Day
Put our clocks back 1-hour. Tampa and St. Petersburg are 8-hour difference. Flower demonstration where we got to make a boutonniere for tonight’s 2nd formal night. Beolieve there is 1 more formal night, and hopefully the rest casual. Celebrity has 3 formal, 4 dressy (suit or sport jacket with tie), and 7 casual. Everyone that I’ve spoken to feel that 2 formal and 2 dressy, as well as having them correlated better, would be more than sufficient. Went to Bingo for 1st and last time. 4 games only with prizes $55 to $82. Continued to Aqua Spa for a nice light lunch, sliced turkey breast, cottage cheese and raw veggies. This was very refreshing for a change after eating so heavy. Russian Bazaar had a few extra items with what appeared to be high priced Icons. Master Art Auction this afternoon, with Dali, Peter Max and Picasso, to name a few. Several people were showing interest, but not to our liking. “High Crimes” was movie of the afternoon, and John thought it was great. I stayed in the room to get ready for formal night. The Baltic Sea was as smooth as glass for most of the day. John was in the Navy for 3 years, and said he has never seen anything like it. Many people were out taking pictures, but not being an expert photographer, couldn’t get a picture in focus. Just watched a special on the TV about the engine room. With Gas Turbine, there’s no smoke from the smoke stack. There are 2 GE engines of 25 tons each. I commented before on how the ship turns on a dime, it parallel parks due to the “mermaid” pods which turn 360 degrees. The evening show was the last of the production numbers thank goodness. While there were a few good numbers in “Spotlight Broadway”, some voices are downright bad. There’s also 1 instrument out of tune, as well as a crackling microphone, most annoying. Along came several big doses of smoke. Staff doesn’t want to hear complaints and say it’s to make the lights look better. The stage, state of the art with the way it goes up and down and rotates is worth seeing, but forget the most annoying smoke that makes it way on stage for everything they do. Many people left during the performance of 1 male singer who was really off key. Dancers are OK, but singers, extremely loud music, and that smoke must be dealt with. Many people around us feel that Celebrity is lowering standards to be another “party cruise line”. Putting clocks back another hour tonight, and really messing our systems up terribly. Even some of the teenagers onboard appear sluggish. Don’t really know why we couldn’t have done without the last change in Russia, and just change tours accordingly, as that was the 1-hour that did everyone in.

Day 11, Tuesday August 27th, Rostock, Germany
Many people are going to Berlin for the day and really wanted to do it. It was very expensive $275-360/person, depending on tour. There was a 2 ½-hour train ride each way on a non-air conditioned train, not our idea of fun. We decided on the Minster & Molli Steam Train for $72/person. Supposedly it’s very difficult to get on the train due to very large steps. Will just have to wait and see what happens. Ship was to dock at 7AM. We awoke at 6AM to a military band playing wonderful music. Would recommend a starboard side balcony so you could enjoy. Some tablemates disagree, and feel lower mid-ship is the best to avoid any rocking and extra expenses. 4 balconies in a row now, and won’t have it any other way. Starboard is the way to go on this cruise. If you plan on doing the Panama Canal, port balconies are a must either way you’re going. Buses are all off to take people to the train for the 12 ½ hour day trip to Berlin. Many people took continuous shuttles into the city of Rostock, which is 15 minutes away. The main problem in the former East Germany, is many of the older shopkeepers don’t speak English and won’t accept American money. They want Euro’s or plastic, even though Euro’s are the same value as dollars. The tour guide said most older people didn’t want the change, and won’t do anything to go along with it. Elections are coming up shortly where a new Prime Minister will be elected. The port was very neat and clean, unlike St. Petersburg, which was dirty and very “run down”. The city is very pretty as is the countryside. On the Minster Tour, you ride on very nice buses, none of which had wheelchair lifts. Houses are all in pastels, with some of the older ones being in red brick. It’s just incredible to see how this country has pulled together after so many years of hardship. Much graffiti was noted on the older buildings. The Minster in a 13th century Catholic Abbey, and unlike any church I’ve seen before. The stained glass windows are worth the trip to see them, as well as the organ, where we motioned to someone up in the loft, and the organ started to play. Tour guide had been there dozens of times, and never heard it. The church itself is very wheelchair friendly and on 1 level with just a small threshold. The group walked around the back to see a cemetery, but I stayed on a bench in the front until they returned. Soda and snack stand across the street take dollars. We were too early for the train, so the bus driver drove us around the village, which was immaculate, with most houses having window boxes. It could be anytown, USA. Boarding the train is difficult, though they say that wheelchairs have been on it. You would need 2 people to help you get on and off, as the step is very high. HINT: If you take the train, the seats are in both directions. I made the mistake of sitting in the direction that the engine was going. It switches tracks and the engine goes to the back of the train. I missed photo ops, as I rode the 45-50 minutes driving backwards, and no extra seats to change places with. One woman complained that it was not romantic enough, as the brochure had explained. I went back and read it over 3 times with nothing about romantic being mentioned. The bus was waiting to take us to Kuhlungsborn, a seaside resort on the Baltic Sea. We enjoyed 2 huge pieces of German Apple crumb cake with assorted beverages, served on china in a very nice hotel. There were 20-25 minutes for shopping, depending on how fast you ate. Roughly a 35 minute ride back to the ship, worth every penny we spent on the shore excursion. Therewere 3 busloads of people, with 3 railcars that were reserved for Constellation. Open seating dinner tonight from 6-7 PM, which we just made. Dining room usually closes 15 minutes past the opening so people won’t be interrupted. Tonight they left it open for a full hour, due to the tours. Kenny Martyn with the Celebrity singers and dancers were the entertainment, and decided not to go, as watching the pier was far more fun. Dozens of people milling around, taking pictures of this city on water. The Berlin train pulls in, and busses bringing people back to the ship, as well as many walking the few blocks. It was really a madhouse to watch them go through ship security, as hundred’s were hitting there at the same time. John was down watching “Score”, the movie of the evening. Spoke to the people in cabin next to ours, and they did train to Berlin. Even though non air-conditioned, they were in compartments of 6 people each, with doors and windows that opened, and said it was pretty comfortable. They passed out bag lunches for them going and coming, with lunch being served in a Berlin restaurant. There was very little walking, with the hardest part getting off and on the bus. People that just took the train and then did the city on their own, almost missed the train, as the return bus wasn’t parked where they had been told and had to get a taxi to take them to train station. The communication problem also played a part in the problem. Get to starboard to watch the loading and unloading of ferries. We watched 1 ferry load 18-wheelers on the top deck, while unloading a TRAIN from the lower deck. We didn’t have too much to drink, and David Copperfield wasn’t there. Several of us on various decks with balconies started to count, and we got up to 18 freight cars, before the ship turned and lost our view. We were all in disbelief, but have video to prove it.

Day 12, Wednesday August 28th, Copenhagen
Baltic 50% discount sale. The same things as before, with many people pushing and shoving for “bargains”. Most logo wear is Gear, so quite expensive to begin with. Sitting in the Martini Bar as we sail into Copenhagen Harbor. Attended a computer class on how to do a newsletter. This is the first one I’ve been able to attend, as I’ve always been busy. Standing room only, so if you plan on doing this, get there very early. Scenery is beautiful on starboard, with oil tanks on port. Harbor is very clean with a breakwater. Ship pulls in and does it’s wonderful turn, backing in. Starboard has the waterway view, with port having the very crowded street and unloading area. There’s not really much of a view there, unless you were on 10 or higher, and no staterooms there. This is due to a large rock wall facing you. We picked Copenhagen Harbor Tour, CP-$ $47/person. This is definitely not for a wheelchair. A stop is made at Amalienborg Palace, actually a series of 4 palaces, one occupied by the queen and king, one that was occupied by her parent’s before their death, the 3rd by the single crown prince, and the 4th is a “guest cottage”. John went to take pictures, as a brief stop, and again, cobblestones. We were driven around the city and saw most of the sites. NOTE: Bicycles have the right of way in Copenhagen, and there’s hundreds of thousands of them. I was almost run down twice by one. They stop for nothing. We later experienced the 5 o’clock rush, and you get a new meaning to what that is. Don’t even think about renting a car here for the reason I mentioned, as well as the fact there’s no place to park. All the parking places are for bicycles. As far as the boat, you must climb down 10-12 uneven rock steps and go a short distance on cement and cobblestone combined. To board the boat, you step on one very rickety top step with a weak railing on one side. The boat trip certainly wasn’t what we expected and certainly not worth what we paid for it. While they have open boats, we got one with smoky glass covering. The water level is very low, and you can only see things at an upward angle on your side of the boat. If you look out directly, you’ll be able to see the walls, on some of the boats that people fish and live on. Not my idea of what boats to live on should look like. Boarded the bus and toured the city a little, stopping at the “Little Mermaid” statue. Sent John again to take pictures, as there were a lot more cobblestones, learning my lesson in Tallinn. The statue itself was a lot smaller than I expected, and almost in shore. I always thought it welcomed you to Copenhagen Harbor, but very wrong in that respect. Statue is on it’s 3rd head, as people have taken the last two. Returning to the ship, we got ready to do a transfer to Tivoli Gardens, CP-8 $18/person. Where the bus drops you off, you have a long walk (1 side of the park) before you even get to the entrance. It’s really a must see. It’s a combination of Disney World, amusement park, and less gardens than I expected. We tried to follow a map, which at best, was very difficult to read. A wheelchair would have to go in and out of the same entrance, as there are many stairs at the exit were the bus is, with no elevators. Many beer gardens and souvenir shops that had things for 50% off as the season is about to end mid-September. It will re-open in April, and also briefly at Christmas for holiday lights. We ate at a restaurant, Danish open faced sandwiches as well as very good draught beer of which we didn’t get the name. Horseradish for the sandwich looks like shredded cheese. We made a mistake and came out the main entrance, turning out to be far better for us. We walked another side of the park, and saw many local shops and cafes. The entrance that we were supposed to come out from had a huge flight of stairs that I would not have been able to do. We estimate that we did about half the park. Returned to the ship to freshen up before the Oriental Buffet. They had a few interesting things, but certainly not the variety that you would expect, with all stations having the same thing. Fireworks from Tivoli Gardens are on Wednesday and Saturday nights at closing. We laid down, fell asleep, and by the time we got back on deck, found out we just missed them. People that were leaving said only 6-7 minutes, with low fireworks and not what we’re used to in the States.I must say that today I’m really ashamed at being an American, as fellow American passengers were pushing, shoving, demanding, and VERY rude to the poor tour guide. We must remember that we are guests in these countries and act respectfully. We realize that this isn’t a majority of people, but certainly enough that we should make mention of it. These people can really spoil a trip for others.

Day 13, Thursday August 29th, Leaving Copenhagen at noon
Shuttle service was available to town, and stores opened early. Many people took advantage of this, as last shopping opportunity. There were also shops at the pier, but 3 ship lengths down the narrow street, and the last shop being another ship length further. Many people were seen walking and running back to the ship, as they cut it too close. We actually met 2 women in the morning who were upset that Bingo was cancelled, due to lack of interest, and they thought the activities weren’t that plentiful, and poor entertainment on the ship. All I can say to that, if you can’t find something to do on this ship besides Bingo, then you’d be better off staying home. Out of curiosity I checked the schedule for a sea day for the 10-11 AM period. There were 11 things doing. Between the 2-3 PM hour, 8 things were going on. This is also not counting music the music that continuously goes on at different venues on the ship. People were on balconies of office buildings, in the streets, as well as the breakwaters when we pulled out. It was exciting, yet very sad, thinking the next time we saw land we would be heading home. Brooks Aehron gave another performance in the afternoon, and Lindsey Hamilton sang again in the evening. Both have CD’s out, and both performances were standing room only. Plan on getting to each a minimum of ½ hour prior to a performance. This was the 3rd and final formal night. Wonderful food with a few exceptions! The 80-year old Navy Commander and his wife sat at the Captain’s Table, very deserving of this honor. This is also the night of the Grand Buffet. If nothing else you must go into the photography sessions. Only complaint here is that they move you along too fast. Photography session is from 11:45 to 12:15. It’s incredible to see how they can break table down and get this entire buffet set up in 45 minutes. The seas started to get rough about 9:30, and I’m not sure that an ice swan made it through the night, as it was swaying pretty good when I was there. This was the first rough seas in 13 days, so no complaint there. It was really not necessary to take lined raincoat and an umbrella, but you know what would have happened if we didn’t. The weather was incredible, and by far the best cruise weather-wise that we have taken anywhere. Celebrity doesn’t do pre-tipping and you can’t buy vouchers to put in envelopes. This really surprised us, as we prefer pre-tipping, as well as less troublesome the last night. We had enough cash on hand, so remember to keep some handy. I got small bills before we left home for tips, purchases, etc., and broke it up this way, $100 each of $1, $5, & $10, and $200 in $20. This of course in addition to the normal $50 & $100 we took.

Day 14, Friday, August 30th at sea
Disembarkation talk for Dover, England, supposedly one of the easiest places to disembark a vessel. We filled out forms getting of the ship, and they claim these were our custom forms. Also, the city of Dover provides FREE porter service at the pier. We’ll have to see that one to believe it. Had 2 questioners to fill out, one the standard ship questions, and the other looked like it was special form, printed up on the ship as a last minute deal. It dealt strictly with the entertainment. I certainly wouldn’t want to be the person reading these forms, as I’m sure they’ll get an earful on the production numbers. A woman sitting next to me at the disembarkation talk was filling her form out with mostly excellent. Some people are afraid to say anything derogatory, but this is the only way a cruise line will know just how the majority feel. Went back to the room to pack, and we have blue-1 tags. Because we joined the Captain’s Club ($35 couple), were told that we would be leaving the ship first. Wish we had known that when making return flight arrangements. We weren’t going to the show in the evening, as it was on a little later than usual, but being all packed we changed out mind. Barry John from Miami was a juggler, comedian, pickpocket and unicyclist, and an excellent show from a very talented individual. Unfortunately, there were many empty seats, as people were still packing. A helpful hint on a cruise of this length regarding packing is to pack up dirty clothes and purchases about 8 days into the cruise. We had 1 suitcase as well as a garment bag basically filled. Made the rest of the packing a breeze, as you didn’t have all the clutter. Mentioned this to several people, and they thought it was a great idea but never thought of it.

Day 15, Saturday August 31stDover, London, Tampa
Whatever they told us about disembarkation in Dover, we can only vouch for 100%. If you have a choice of a ship that disembarks in Dover, TAKE IT! From the Atrium of the ship at 6:45, to having collected luggage, putting it on the bus, we were in the bus and ready to leave at 7:05. There have to be 50+ porters with different size carts. A gentleman asks how many in your party, and calls for the appropriate cart which is right there. 3 of or 4 pieces were right next to each other, and the 4th, 2 lines over. The forms that were filled out for us while we were in line in Harwich, turned out to be British Immigration forms, which they had 2 weeks to check for irregularities. The color-coded tags told Celebrity which airport (Gatwick or Heathrow) as well as the airline you were heading to. 3 buses were going to Delta at Gatwick. We got a porter, but free luggage carts are available inside and to the left of the front door. If you have a later flight like we did, go immediately to Delta Ticketing, which is to the left of the front door. DON’T get into the check-in lane, as they can’t do anything with tickets. We found this out the hard way, after standing in a very long line. By the time we got up to the ticketing, the 11:45 flight was filled, or at least the computer said it was, so we got on standby for the 1:30 flight to Atlanta, knowing we were 1 &2, and there were 82 available seats. The 11:45 flight left with 22 empty seats, but no way to get luggage transferred. Our original flight was for 4:30.Delta is now charging $100 for standby (money making), and don’t know just how this would have affected us. Would be worth checking this out before you make plans for flying. A Delta male representative was very rude, and insisted that we get back in to the very long check in line, but fortunately, a female Supervisor knew we had stood in 2 lines already, and put us through Business Class to check in. Gatwick is a huge airport, and if you have a mobility problem, insist on an electric cart. There are many moving walkways, but they end after awhile, and you just keep walking. Cash in any foreign currency at Gatwick, as they don’t charge a commission charge, and will accept change, unlike the foreign exchanges, at least at the Tampa Airport. Only ended up with 1 coin about the size of a dime. Everyone that flew into London said the same about all the airlines, very tight in coach. Never did find anyone that flew American, as they’re supposed to have much improved legroom. About 4 hours into the flight, 2 of the 3 coach restrooms wouldn’t flush. The Co-Pilot and stewardess with a flashlight and manual in hand, tried to fix the problem by removing an overhead panel. They never did fox it, and we survived with 1 restroom which wasn’t bad, seeing that we were probably 50 people less than capacity in coach.

Order a wheelchair in Atlanta. It’s worth the tip you pay the porter, as they know how to get you through the mad-rush, just the opposite of what we went through in Dover. There were very long lines, and the first time we’ve been through Atlanta immigration. Had a few minutes to call the limo and notify them to pick us up early. They were right at baggage pickup, and seeing this was the first time we used a limo service, were 100 % satisfied.

All things considered, this is a tremendous ship and well worth the money. You may pay a pit more, but the service is wonderful, the food is great, and this ship is by far the cleanest place we’ve ever vacationed in, either on land or sea. We would rate the ship 5 ½ stars out of 6, due to the few minor problems previously mentioned

Not able to review or didn’t attend
1) Note’s- a story room where you can listen to music with headsets 2) Library-Couldn’t read what I brought 3) Enrichment Series-Many were available with other people saying they were terrific 4) Daily Bridge Classes-Always filled 5) Golf Simulator-Loved by tablemates 6) Exercise equipment-Large area that always appeared crowded 7) Catholic Mass Daily-well attended.

Things liked about Celebrity/Constellation
1) Staff/Crew 2) Very easy to deal with 3) Cleanliness 4) Photo Gallery set up 5) Watching Ship turn 6) Great Individual entertainment

Things we didn’t like
1) No waitlist for handicapped staterooms 2) Way too many mirrors 3) Straight staircase through Atrium 4) Omelet station positioned badly 5) No laundry facilities 6) Not enough table space at burger luncheon area 7) Bad production numbers 8) Limited room service menu 9) No place to get food 24 hours other than room service 10) Badly co-ordinated Formal/Dressy nights

Best Shore Excursions
1) Waterways of Stockholm 2) Russian Folkloric Show

Worst Shore Excursion
1) Waterways Of Copenhagen

If you would like any further information about the ship or shore excursions, please feel free to contact me by email. I know this is lengthy, but felt it necessary to include a comprehensive review from all angles, especially the handicapped traveler.

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