Very Nice Mediterranean Cruise on "Connie
Celebrity Constellation Cruise Review to Europe - Mediterranean
We are an American couple in our mid-60’s. We very much enjoyed this 12-night Mediterranean cruise which was our 13th on Celebrity and 30+ overall. We’d been on the “Constellation” five other times, the “Infinity” twice and the “Millennium” once so we knew the ship and its features well. This was the first cruise of a B2B with the second one being a 10-nighter in the Adriatic.
We flew into Rome from Boston and arranged with the Triano hotel in Civitavecchia to transfer there from the airport in a private van. It cost 110 Euro (about $125) for the two of us, but it was worth it. We stayed one night to ensure that we wouldn’t miss the boat. It was reasonably priced at 94 Euro ($110) including breakfast with cappuccinos. The location was fine as we were able to walk down to the beachfront and the pedestrian shopping area in about 15 minutes. They also offered a free shuttle to the cruise terminal so we signed up for the first one to arrive early and were the second and third people to board. It wasn’t fancy, but we’d recommend it for a pre-cruise stay.
The ports included Naples, Valletta, Santorini, Rhodes, Mykonos, Kusadasi (for Ephesus), Piraeus (for Athens), Souda (for Chania in Crete). They were all interesting and the weather cooperated which made each day even better. We also had two days at sea which were needed to rest up. This cruise ended with an extra overnight in Venice so we had time to see the city again during the two days before our B2B started.
We booked a “Guaranteed Ocean View” and we were pleasantly surprised to get an upgrade to an unobstructed Balcony forward on Deck 8. Our cabin #8036 was right next to the forward elevator lobby so they was sometimes some noise from people using that area, but it really wasn’t an issue as it was pretty quiet as there were other cabins on the decks above and below us. It also didn’t have the overhang from Deck 10 which many of the Deck 9 balconies had.
The TV offered quite a few channels including International CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News, BBC, Euronews, Sky News, ESPN and ESPN2 and plus the usual Celebrity channels. They had three free movies rotating at set times each day and PPV movies but no free movies on demand.
The food in the San Marco MDR was very good with a wide variety of choices each night. The overall service in all areas and at all levels was excellent. We were greeted in the hallways by all of the crew which added to our experience. We’re also glad that many of the other guests still dress up for the “Evening Chic” evenings as it adds a touch of class to our cruises.
Maarten and Taylor did a great job as Cruise Director and Activities Manager. They seem to have a terrific working relationship and are very friendly and approachable. They made sure that people were having a good time and did a super job getting the parties going throughout the ship. Their personalities and senses of humor made the fun contagious.
We also had the pleasure to renew old acquaintances with some officers and staff from other cruises. They included Graeme Kelleher who is without question the best Captain’s Club Host we’ve ever had. He appeared to personally engage just about all of the guests at the “Elite” events and was always interesting to talk to about his upbringing in Southern Africa and his time onboard with his wife Amy who is an excellent Stage Manager. We were particularly pleased when Graeme selected us to be treated to special dinner with the Guest Services Manager and Food and Beverages Manager. Along with them and two other couples, we had a wonderful evening of food, wine and camaraderie at the Tuscan Grille. We were also happy to see Boban, our friendly Beverage Manager and Cecilia, our favorite sommelier.
All three of the production shows (“iHollywood”, “The Land of Make Believe” and “Celebrate The World”) were excellent. We’d seen the same shows on other Celebrity ships, but we found this cast of singers and dancers to be the best we’ve seen on all of our past cruises. The aerial artists were amazing (although we always worry that they might slip on the moving ship). The dancers also did several shows in the Reflections Lounge. Elyria (the late night show for adults only) was a pleasant surprise as it’s unique to the Celebrity fleet. We really enjoy the live orchestra and hope that Celebrity continues to keep them. The two DJs did a great job keeping the party going late at night in the Reflections Lounge, even if there were only a few couples dancing (sometimes after 2:00 am).
The other performers were also very good. We were in the third row for the show that Matthew J. Dowden did so we were as close as you could get to his card tricks. We still don’t know how he was able to do the sleight of hand so smoothly. The “West End” singer, Phillipa Healey, had a great range of song types and could really handle her operatic solos.
Casablanca was the “House Band” and we saw them in most of the venues. The musicians were very competent and could do a range from jazz to Santana (and maybe even Jimi Hendrix if they were let loose). However, their singer, Maria, seemed to have technical problems in every venue and even missed some slots. She was obviously reading the lyrics to the songs from her tablet to almost every song which was very distracting. That’s fine for karaoke, but not for a singer in a professional band. They appeared to be miscast in this role and probably should have been the “Dance Band”. We’ve seen many of these bands on Celebrity with much more energy and charisma so Casablanca was very disappointing.
Since we understand that there will be some problems during any cruise or other vacation, we typically accentuate the positives and ignore the occasional negatives. However, we consistently had difficulties with our “Select Dining” experience which impacted our enjoyment. Well before we arrived onboard, we’d made reservations online for a table for two at dinner each night in the San Marco MDR. The first couple of nights, we were seated at a table with Halim as our waiter, Igor as our Assistant waiter and Cecilia as sommelier in a section near the railing overlooking the lower level. We were very happy their service and banter as well as the table’s location so after dinner, we asked the ladies at the front of the house to see how we could arrange to be in that area again at any table at or near the railing. They told us that it was not possible to reserve a table for the next night or any other night, but that they’d make a note about our preference. We thought this procedure was a bit odd as we’ve done reservations for the next night on other Celebrity cruises, but we went along with it.
We arrived on the next night at our appointed time and mentioned that we’d like to be seated where we’d been before. The lady smiled and quickly printed out our ticket so we were surprised to be led to a completely different section in a line of tables for two which were about a foot apart. We sat there for about ten minutes and nobody came over so I went back to the front desk and asked why we were seated there. They really didn’t have any explanation so we waited until they could find a table in our section. We continued to come in at our reserved time, but this situation didn’t get much better. We told them that we were flexible on when we’d come in and we willing to wait. We then arrived earlier several times in the hope that we’d be accommodated, but we were still seated in various areas.
After we were seated, we’d then see open tables that would have be perfect for us, but instead they’d just seat us anywhere they felt like. We weren’t asking a specific table or a specific time so we’d expect that they could make some effort to try to place us as requested. Even though we were overdressed if anything and I wore a tuxedo several times, it was the same routine.
We really have no idea why this particular group handled seating like this. Just as the servers in the fixed seatings get used to the diners’ preferences, that’s also been our experience on just about all other cruises for “Select Dining”. In March, we’d been on a 14-night Southern Caribbean cruise on the “Eclipse” where their staff made sure that we were consistently able to do that. It’s actually counterproductive to the staff and the guests to randomly be bounced around the dining room from night to night and having to get used to each other. We felt that this was a totally unnecessary runaround that didn’t benefit anybody.
Maybe this was an aberration with these ladies on the “Constellation” so we brought it to Celebrity’s attention in our survey as it was the only negative experience that we had on the entire cruise. In the coming months, we have three more cruises booked on the “Millennium” and another three on the “Solstice” so we’re hoping to get an explanation and some advice from Celebrity on how we can avoid this situation in the future.
We also gave them a couple of minor suggestions to make their guests’ stay better:
Post the dinner menus online so that they can anticipate the evening’s offerings
Add some free “on demand” movies to choose from as you do for PPV as is done on the “Solstice” class ships.
In the ports, we still like to do what we can on own but since we’re getting older, we did more ship’s excursions than in the past. This time, it was five on our own and three with the ship.
In Naples, we went out on our own to Capri on one of the ferries that were docked about a ten minute walk from the ship. It cost about $42 RT for each of us which was a little pricey but much less than the ship’s unguided transfer at $100 each. We queued for about 45 minutes to take a small crowded bus up to the town of Anacapri which costs about $6 more each. It was touristy and crowded, but we enjoyed seeing it again.
In Valletta, the ship arrived at 1:30 in the afternoon so there wasn’t time to do much. So, we went up on the elevator for 1 Euro each to the Upper Baraka Gardens and on to St. John’s Co-Cathedral. We’d been in Malta before, but we didn’t have much money then so we weren’t willing to pay the 10 Euro entrance fee. This time, we definitely didn’t want to miss it. The interior was very ornate and the included audio guide helped us to understand what we were seeing. After that, we walked around the walls of the city and the Lower Baraka Gardens and then went back down to the ship on the elevator which is free in that direction.
In Santorini, we’d done the usual tours so we booked the “SO65 Kaiki Ride and Volcano Hike”. After tendering to shore, a small wooden ship took us to a nearby island where we then trekked up some pretty steep trails to the top. It was strenuous as advertised but it was worth doing. This tour included a RT pass for the cable cars to Fira so we went up and took a public bus to Oia for about $4 each. It’s a bargain as we really enjoy seeing this amazingly picturesque town so we keep going there when we’re in this port.
Next was Kusadasi with Ephesus nearby. It’s a very popular site and is certainly worth doing if you haven’t been there. Since we’ve been there four times, we took the day off and went to the Starbuck’s on the pier and each spent several hours on the internet in a comfortable chair for the price of a cup of coffee.
In Rhodes, we unfortunately arrived on a national holiday of Easter Tuesday so all of the museums and archeological sites were closed. We had planned to take a public bus to Lindos to see the acropolis there, but there was no point since you couldn’t get in. We’d hoped to see the Palace of the Grand Masters last time but it was under renovation. That’s now completed, but it was also closed so we’ll have to wait until we’re back there. We walked around the town and the walls until the rain poured down and everyone got soaked by the unavoidable rivers of water in the cobblestone streets.
In Mykonos, we’d been there before so we skipped the ship’s day pass transfer into town at $5 each and walked in the other direction over a hill to a beach to get some exercise. There’s no real sidewalk so you need to watch out for traffic, but it was fine and served the purpose.
In Piraeus, we skipping our usual train trip into Athens and opted for the “PR01 Corinth Canal”. After a couple of hours on the bus, we arrived in Corinth and went out on a bridge to see the canal from above. The bus went down to water level where our group hopped on a private boat to traverse the canal. They provided a surprising nice selection of local Greek food including spanakopita, shrimp, octopus and other snacks, washed down with a small glass of Ouzo.
When docked in Souda, we took the “IQ10 Real Crete” which drove around the island to some high spots with great views of the water. It ended in Chania with over an hour of free time. We’re not shoppers so we were a little concerned about killing time, but the harbor area and markets were very nice and we then wished we’d had more time.
Cabin / Stateroom
The coffees and other drinks at Cafe al Bacio cost extra unless you have the beverage package. However, the cookies and desserts in the glass case are free to all.