This is a fairly new concept for Celebrity, and overall I am very happy with our cruise. We began by spending three nights in London, staying at the Judd Hotel. The location was fantastic, being near subways, rail, and many sites we wanted to visit. Also, many pubs and restaurants in the area.
On the 19th, we traveled to Southhampton and boarded the Constellation, which has been "Solsticized." While it was updated and overall very lovely, I would go for the true Solstice ships the next time. Our stateroom was plenty large, tho the balcony was very small. As the weather was cool, it did not become a problem as we spent little time on it. The Wine Cellar had self-service wine stations, which were convenient, but I had expected they would change the wines frequently so that we could try many different labels. That did not happen.
The itinerary was what drew us to this cruise, and it did not disappoint. We first had a sea day, which was welcome as we had been on the go nonstop in London.
Our first port was Vigo, of which we got to see little (our own choice). We were picked up at the pier by Brendan of Guided Galicia and left for Santiago de Compostela. Our tour there was very enjoyable...Brendan was an excellent guide and we learned and saw so much. After touring the cathedral, the office for the pilgrim certification and some little shops we got back in the van and saw more of the countryside. We visited Lagar de Costa winery and met with Sophia, part of the family, and tasted several of their wines. Very good!! After buying some of the wine we headed out and saw more beautiful scenery. We then went to Cambarro, a harbor town that was very picturesque and had a delicious seafood and omelette luncheon (with local wine of course).
Next was Oporto, Portugal, another beautiful hilly town. We toured the Cathedral, then went to the Calem Cave to learn about and taste port. From there we boarded a boat to take us for a tour on the Douro River. We saw very interesting architecture and also saw a bridge designed by Gustav Eiffel. I really fell in love with Porto.
Back to Spain, Bilbao this time, we took a tour of the Basque country visiting a small fishing town plus the city of Guernika. Our guide was steeped in Basque culture and educated us in the importance of this area to democracy. That afternoon, upon returning to ship, we walked about 45 minutes along the harbor get to the shopping area in Gekxo. The next day we took the shuttle into Bilbao, another beautiful and progressive city. I could easily go back and spend a week there. We visited the Guggenheim Museum and loved walking in the city and just observing the buildings. Quite an impressive area!
That night we ran into some heavy seas in the Bay of Biscay...I'm not a good sailor and the Constellation's movement ended my evening very early. The next day was much better and we were sailing to France.
Our first port was Bordeaux. Actually the port is in Le Verdon, quite a ways out from anything, so we spent our two days here doing alot of bus riding. The first day we went to St. Emilion, a Medieval town with steep winding streets surrounded by acres of lush vineyards. On the way we passed many chateaux and vineyards. We did alot of walking in St. E, took a ton of pictures. I loved seeing the town and the surrounding area, but I think our guide was new. She didn't seem real comfortable with her English and was a little stand-offish.We reboarded the bus and drove a short way to a chateau and wine cave for a very lovely and delicious luncheon and wine tasting. It was a buffet with roasted meats, wonderful salads, cheeses, desserts and two or three bottles of wine. Made the long drive back to the ship very good for napping!
The next morning we took the "Bordeaux on Your Own" excursion and had cafe and croissants on the square near the Grand Theatre. We walked about quite and bit before meeting our guide, Patricia, from Bordeaux Walking Tours. She is American but has lived several years in France. She studied architecture and her enthusiasm for that subject is contagious! We learned (and saw) so much with her. She also educated us on the city's mayor who has pulled Bordeaux into a thriving city with modern transportation and regulations for keeping the city's historical buildings restored and cleaned so that everything is a treat for the eyes. The riverfront that he developed is filled with gardens and an amazing reflection/bathing pond. I would love to go back to Bordeaux also and spend much more time!
We sailed that afternoon for Le Havre. We had our last sea day and last formal night before reaching port. We never did see much of Le Havre, because we left the next morning for an excursion to Giverney and to Rouen. Giverney is home to Claude Monet's home/museum and gardens. We spent a couple hours here just soaking in the beautiful flower and water gardens. Sooooo gorgeous!! After, we drove a short distance to a restaurant in the countryside. It had been a millhouse and still had the water wheel working. We had a very lovely 3 course meal here with wine. We were impressed both with the beauty of the setting and the food served. Leaving here we drove to Rouen and saw where Joan of Arc was tried and burned at the stake, where the Black Plague victims were buried (80% of the population was wiped out in less than a week), a modern church dedicated to St. Joan. It is a city with both midieval buildings and new. The cathedral is impressive as are the city's many bridges. Leaving here we had another hour or so drive to return to the ship.
The next morning we packed up and left the ship by taxi for the train station in Le Havre. (The ship would sail back to Southhamption the next day.) We traveled into Paris and checked into our hotel, Le Petit Paris in the Latin Quarter. We spent 4 nights there and loved this chic little boutique hotel. Our rooms were small but efficient and very comfortable. After four days of non-stop walking and tour (and eating and drinking) we finally left for Charles De Gaulle and flew home.
We have fond memories of our time on ship. While I still prefer the larger Solstice ships I cannot fault any of the service or food we received on the Constellation. Our cabin attendant, Mathys, was very helpful and kept our room spotless. Our dining room servers, Moses and Olga, were fantastic. I feel the meals served on this cruise were some of the best we've ever had on ship. All in all, I highly recommend this cruise!