Tag Archives: Celebrity Constellation

Cruising to Naples

Cruising into Naples means your are docked very close to the city centre, as well as close to ferries that can take you to islands such as Capri. For people with mobility issues, if you can walk a bit, there is an elevator to the main floor of the port terminal.

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Next, however, is walking past all the taxis lined up to offer you tours of Naples and the surrounding area. The tours offered did seem to be reasonably priced and included Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast and Naples (although most drivers did not understand that you might really like to see Naples). They really did not understand that I might just want to see things like this castle — and easy walk from the ship and where you can find the main stop of the hop on, hop off bus. If you can make it to the end of the port area, the hop on, hop off bus may run a shuttle to their main stop, Castel Nouvo. You can see this castle from the ship and the walk is not bad, but is slightly up hill. There was also a lot of construction when I was there.

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For me, I was ready to just explore the city. The tourist information centre in the cruise terminal provides a good map and directions. But, by the time I’d been bombarded by tour offers, getting on the hop on, hop off bus seemed to be an easy solution.

This bus has two routes — one along the coast and one up the hill that winds through the older part of Naples. I took both — but stopped along the way to try to find a specific church. The directions the bus operators gave me were a bit off, but I did see some other interesting churches and wandered through the old streets.

The Archaeological Museum is also a great place to visit in Naples. From the cruise terminal, walk to the Metro stop and get off at Museum — it is very easy! While I did not go to the museum this time, I always like to recommend it. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) had an exhibit from this museum recently. The exhibit highlighted their Pompeii collection.

I do not recommend walking around Naples if you have mobility challenges. The streets are narrow and uneven, traffic is bad, and directions are not always the best. But do find some time to visit Naples before heading off to Capri or down the Almafi coast. There are some interesting things to see on hidden streets.

 

Xperiences #AtoZ Challenge

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I love to cruise and a majority of my cruises have been on Celebrity, which they highlight a Xperiences. In fact, my favourite cruises — one around the tip of South American and one of the Baltic were both on Celebrity ships.

The staff is incredible and you feel you can stop and talk to any of the ship’s officers. During a particularly rough time at sea, one of the officers stopped me to ask if I was ok, as many passengers were not. He found me taking movies of the rough water and comparing it to surfing. He said I had to be the only passenger truly enjoying the adventure!

When not visiting ports, I love the Solarium — it is a quiet oasis on the ship and I find that it is one of the most relaxing places.

My favourite bar has to be the martini bar. It is centrally located and just a great place to meet people — and spent time “drawing” on the ice that covers the bar’s counter.

I don’t take a lot of pictures while I’m on the ship, so just go the the Celebrity website for more details!

I’ll be on the Celebrity Constellation in just a few days!

Day 16 Amsterdam to Paris

Would you believe it – it was cold, foggy and damp as we docked in Amsterdam. I could get the impression that the sun never shines here! The ship’s foghorn blared all night long. When it stopped between 2 & 3 AM, I realized the ship was already docked in Amsterdam. We weren’t scheduled to be here until 6 AM. The Master of the Constellation, Captain Tassos, did a remarkable job getting us around the Baltic, usually arriving early. After a night surrounded by fog on our cruise back into Amsterdam, it was now time for me to bid farewell to my home for the past 12 days, the Celebrity Constellation. I loved the ship, the crew, and the experiences.

At breakfast, I ran into several of the friends I’d met during this sailing experience. Then, too soon, it was time to head through the main lobby, use my Sea Pass one last time, and head into the cruise terminal in Amsterdam. My bag was easy to find – and now I was off to catch a train to Paris.

It was an easy walk from ship to Amsterdam Centraal Station. Even dragging my suitcase, it only took me about 20 minutes. Once in the station, I was able to find an ATM machine and the platform for my train. I was very early, as it was before 9 AM and my train did not leave until 11:19. While I was waiting, I met a couple from Waterloo, ON. They had been on a barge-biking tour of The Netherlands and were on their way to Brussels to meet family. 

Check out the Thalys website for information on the train to Paris. I setup an alert to let me know when I could reserve a ticket for the day I wanted – it allowed me to get a discount ticket for 35 Euros!

For some reason, the ticket I printed off did not contain all the information I needed to board, mainly the coach and seat number. I was directed to the Station Master who was able to check the barcode and give me the information I needed. Getting on the train was a bit tricky as there was a big gap and three steps to get from the platform to the train.While there was plenty of room for my suitcase, it did get very tight as more people piled into the car with enormous bags! It was pretty crazy – how can you get around Paris with bags that my bag would fit in – twice. Luckily, I was able to find a place for my luggage and I was the only person in my row, so I had a comfy seat with a table and a window. The train seemed to fly across the Dutch country side.

The train ride to Paris is about 3 hours and goes through Belgium. I wish I could say I saw Belgium – but really, there was not a lot to see from the train. Soon, we were entering Gare Nord, the final stop in Paris. I got a shuttle from the station to my hotel in the Arrondissement 7 – Hotel du Champs de Mars. This is a beautiful hotel on a pedestrian street that is just a couple doors down from Rue Cler which is a pedestrian street filled with different shops and cafes. My room was on the 5th floor – and fortunately there was a small elevator, otherwise, I would have to climb the every-spiraling staircase. My room overlooked a private courtyard, so was very secluded and quiet.

Hotel du Champs de Mars
Hotel du Champs de Mars
Hotel Spiral Staircase
Hotel Spiral Staircase

After dropping off my luggage, it was time for me to get to know my neighborhood, the 7th Arrondissement.

My first stop was just outside my door – Rue Cler. This is the heart of the neighborhood with cafes, and shops for all sorts of specialties. This is where people come to but their bread, fresh fruit and veggies, cheese and wine, meat and fish. You can sit at one of the cafes and watch both locals and tourists. There was even a chocolate shop directly across from my hotel! I loved it all! 

Rue Cler
Rue Cler

My hotel was centrally located with several major sites to see: Les Invalides, the Eiffel Tower, Ecole Militaire, Assemblée Nationale, and Musée d’Orsay, what a a perfect location! I thought I’d head first towards Les Invalides, just because I did not go there on my last visit to Paris. Also, it looked like rain, so I did not want to stray too far just yet. So, an easy stroll took me to this vast park and massive building that houses the Musée de Armee and the Tomb of Napolean.

Dome of Napolean Tomb
Dome of Napoleans Tomb
Canons at Invalides
Canons at Invalides

After a few raindrops, the sun came out and I headed in the opposite way past my hotel to the Champs de Mars and the symbol of Paris, the Eiffel Tower. So far, I had a leisurely and calm walk – then I approached the tower and the crowds of people in lines that snaked in many directions. It was confusing to see where any of the lines actually ended and it felt like the entire world was represented in this space. I decided to forgo the crowds – I have pictures of being on the tower in 2001 with the lights sparkling. This trip was about doing different things and just soaking in the energy and the magic of Paris. I enjoyed the park, people watching and taking pictures.

Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower

Heading back to Rue Cler, I spent the rest of my evening at one of the corner cafes, enjoying a nice dinner, wine and espresso.

Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower

Day 15: My last day on the Celebrity Constellation

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The last sea day is always bittersweet – remembering a great trip, but saying good bye to new friends and the crew who took such good care of us during our brief time on board. There were, of course, activities galore. We also had a final gathering of our Cruise Critic Roll Call members. It was great to have the chance to connect and share our experiences during the cruise.

The last day also means packing our bags and generally preparing to leave. I ended the day trying to answer the “World’s Hardest 60s music Trivia” and trust me, it was HARD! But a lot of fun.

I also took one more opportunity for a massage before leaving the ship and heading for the next part of my adventure – Paris!

Day 14: Copenhagen – Castles, Horses and Canals!

After going under the Ostbroen Bridge, we were now sailing on a northern course through the Sound that divides Denmark from Sweden. The narrowest part is 2.3 miles and separates the Helsingborg, Sweden from Helsingor, Denmark – and the Kronborg Castle in Helsingor. What’s special about this castle? It is considered the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet!

Sailing the Sound
Kronberg Castle, setting for Hamlet
Kronberg Castle, setting for Hamlet

The Celebrity Constellation docked at the Langelinie docks – a great location that has shops, restaurants and is an easy walk to the famous Little Mermaid statue. It is very easy to find your own way around Copenhagen – and I was looking forward to wandering around the city.  Of course, it is also important to have a plan on what you want to see – and I had a plan! Because of the location of this dock, there are several ways to get into the city – a port shuttle, Hop On – Hop Off bus service and local transport located an easy walking distance at the end of the pier.

The first attraction to see from where we were docked is the famous statue of the Little Mermaid. This statue has been damaged several times – and it is no wonder.  It is very close to shore. However, everyone wants a picture — and it is just expected to take one or two when in Copenhagen!

Little Mermaid at dawn
Little Mermaid at dawn
Little Mermaid
Little Mermaid

I hopped on a bus that took me into the city centre, passing highlights including Tivoli Gardens, the gardens and amusement park founded in 1843 and the Town Hall and, of course palaces. But, let’s remember, I had a plan!

Christianborg Slot
Christianborg Slot

I decided to go to the Christiansborg Slot (aka Palace). This is a very large collection of buildings that are used for official State events – and it includes my first goal of the day: the Royal Stables. I was surprised, when I got there, that the doors were wide open and I could just walk into the gardens are areas behind the façade. In the back, there was an area that looked to be a parade area. And soon, I found out what it was really used for – training horses for pulling the royal carriages! I watched as a pair of horses pulled a carriage, doing patterns like figure eights as they trotted around the area. It’s so cool when you find exactly what you are looking for so easily!

Royal Stables
Royal Stables
Horses from the Royal Stables
Horses from the Royal Stables

The entrance to the stables was easy to find – the door was open and there was a sign to mark the entrance. I followed another couple into the stables where we were met by a very tall Danish man. He informed us that they were not scheduled to do tours of the stables today, however, since there were just three of us, he would show us around the stables, then let us into the carriage house. His only request was to ensure we locked the door to the carriage house as we left. WOW!!! We learned all about the horses, where they come from, how they are trained, etc. Then, he unlocked the carriage house and left. Each carriage had a plaque with a description of the carriage and sometimes a picture of when it was used. Let’s just say, I was in heaven!

Inside the Royal Stables
Inside the Royal Stables
One of the Royal Horses saying hello!
One of the Royal Horses saying hello!
I think I'll take this carriage today!
I think I’ll take this carriage today!
Golden Carriage
Golden Carriage

After this, I wasn’t sure what I should do next – It was like I was blown away and all my plans could not match what I got to experience. So, I did what I do best – I wandered around the streets a bit where I found the gardens behind the National Library, the Senate buildings, and a church with the serpent steeple. Wandering is good, but I thought it was time to see more of Copenhagen.

Serpent Steeple
Serpent Steeple

So, I took a canal tour and saw more of the city from a different vantage point.

Sandskulptur Festival
Sandskulptur Festival
Copenhagen
Copenhagen
Canals of Copenhagen
Canals of Copenhagen

And I took a lot of pictures of things I found interesting. Copenhagen is a beautiful city. I ended my day in Copenhagen walking from the park near the Little Mermaid statue back to the ship. What a wonderful day!

Windmill in Copenhagen
Windmill in Copenhagen
Angel statue
Angel statue
Dockside in Copenhagen
Dockside in Copenhagen

Once on ship, it was our last formal night – and everything was sparkling. I met some friends at the Martini Bar before dinner and enjoyed a fabulous dinner with my regular table in the dining room. The production show was “Celebrate the World” and was a lot of fun.

Day 13: Finally, a Sea Day and a bridge!

Since this was my first sea day in almost a week, I did not have a “habit” of what to do – like I had on other cruises. But, I easily got into the pace of reading, sitting in the Solarium, and just relaxing. Of course, on the ship there are always activities galore. But the real highlight of the day happened at the dawning of our next day – literally at midnight. The sky still held traces of the sunset and our ship was passing under the Ostbroen bridge that spans the Baltic Sea and connects Denmark to Sweden. So, at midnight, I was out on the top deck in a dress that I finally had to tie the skirt so it would not blow up around me taking pictures of the bridge. Pretty cool!

The Ostbroen Bridge between Denmark & Sweden at midnight
The Ostbroen Bridge between Denmark & Sweden at midnight
Will we make it under the The Ostbroen Bridge
Will we make it under the The Ostbroen Bridge
Passing another ship at the Ostbroen Bridge
Passing another ship at the Ostbroen Bridge

Day 12 Tallinn – Getting lost in a walled city

After the whirlwind of St. Petersburg, I was looking forward to a slower pace. Unlike other cruises I’d been on, this was now our 5th port day in a row – my last cruise was a transatlantic cruise on the RCI Vision of the Seas from Brazil to Portugal and had 6 straight “sea days”. Guess I got spoiled from that!  Fortunately, this day we docked in Tallinn, Estonia and I was on my own to explore – no pushing to see all the highlights.

This is a perfectly magical medieval town that will let inspiration move you – if you are open to the experience. I was one of the first people off the ship and looking forward to visiting the old city centre of the capitol of Estonia. Once off the ship, there is little information centre and craft shops. There are many ways to get to the city centre – a port-sponsored shuttle bus, a Hop on, Hop off bus, a local bus or tram, and it was really only about a 20 minute walk. The Information Centre can help you decide the best way and will even sell a Tallinn Card which will get you all day transit and admission to many museums. Knowing I would be walking a lot within the city, I opted for the bus which stopped at a flower market just outside one of the gates into the walled city.

Tallinn
Tallinn
Flower Market in Tallinn
Flower Market in Tallinn

When I got there people were opening shops and setting things up for the day. It was quiet – a perfect time for walking and soaking in the atmosphere. I love wandering through the cobblestone streets and just being drawn to things that looked interesting or different. Wandering the nearly empty streets was a wonderfully peaceful start to the day.

Street in Tallinn
Street in Tallinn

 

Town Square Tallinn
Town Square Tallinn

I headed through the main square then up to Toompea Hill, which includes a castle that was first built in the 13th century and the Alexander Nevski Cathedral. The cathedral was built in the 19th century, but in the style of 17th century Russian Orthodox churches. Inside are the mosaic icons similar to the ones I saw in St. Petersburg. I also earned some “brownie points” by helping a lady with a baby carriage go up the stairs to the cathedral (couldn’t believe how many people pushed her aside…)

Castle
Castle
Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Tallinn
Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Tallinn

Close to this church is the Cathedral of St. Mary the Virgin, which is also known as Toomkirk (Dome Church). It is the oldest church in Tallinn, dating from 1219. It has several tombs with stone-carvings and a baroque altar. I wanted to spend more time here, but it was getting organized tours for 3 cruise ships were now starting to crowd the streets and churches.

Toomkirk
Toomkirk

I decided to duck down a side street to get away from the crowds and found a little piece of home – the Canadian Embassy! And what was even better, it was close to the overlook from the wall. I then just wandered through the streets – and along the walls of the city, finally making my way to the opposite side of the city and close to the Fat Margaret Tower.

Canadian Embassy
Canadian Embassy
Wall Tower
Wall Tower
Towers in Tallinn
Towers in Tallinn

 

Wall Gate
Wall Gate

From here, I was discovered I was on Pikk Street – a main street that had several interesting things, including the Oleviste Church, St. Olaf Church, the former KGB headquarters and guild houses such as the House of Blackheads, a merchant’s guild.

At this point, I wanted to find Katherine’s Pikk – a street that was supposed to have a number of craft vendors. After a few wrong turns, I finally found it (I had to find it as it is my name!). As I walked down it, talking to some of the vendors and looking at various hand-knitted items, I saw a sign for the St. Catherine of Sienna Dominican Monastery. Leave it to me to find something dedicated to my patron saint – and discovering why this street was called Katherine Pikk. (NOTE: ok, that may NOT be the reason, but it is a good story and I’m sticking to it!)

Katherine Pikk
Katherine Pikk
Artisans on Katherine Pikk
Artisans on Katherine Pikk

 

St. Catherine Monestery
St. Catherine Monestery

 

St. Catherine Monestery
St. Catherine Monestery

The rest of my day was spent wandering through shops, grabbing a snack at a café and then heading back to the ship. At the port, I was drawn into the little craft stores for one last look. OK, maybe it was the guy wearing the Viking Horns that caught my eye! Or maybe it was a good place to take a picture of the Celebrity Constellation. All I can say is that it was a perfect day.

Celebrity Constellation
Celebrity Constellation

I would recommend Tallinn for so many reasons – but one of the best is it is so easy to do this on your own and just enjoy all it has to offer.