We had long anticipated a return visit to Black Sea ports, hoping to see the way Ukraine is moving forward, and to enjoy a repeat of previous good Celebrity experience.
We were to be in for a deeply disappointing experience.
On early arrival at the port , as advised a few days beforehand, we found long queues, and staff waving pieces of paper advising embarkation would be delayed by at leat 4 hours, as a deep clean was necessitated by a Norovirus outbreak, a truly ominous, and prophetic beginning!
Finally we embarked after returning to our delightful welcoming hotel. We made our way to a poor, delayed Ocean View cafe lunch, with all food screened by cling film, served by hurried staff. Again, a poor start! Our cabin was finally released, and we discovered a mould decorated bathroom, and a strong odour of cleaning fluid, oh dear. The only plus was the size of the forward facing cabin, and nice light cabinetry.
Safety drill followed, with not an officer in sight, so realisation began to dawn that this inauspicious beginning might be the promise of things to come!
So it proved; dining room service was poor, menus dull and repetitive, with overcooked food. The "self service" Ocean View cafe was crowded, unappetising and dull, with the added nasty of an outside dining that permitted smoking !
, We did , finally , resort to dining in the speciality restaurants,despite the high cover charge, but even there, we found some strange items, a risotto, for instance, resembled a savoury rice pudding, saturated in cream and mascarpone, and to my surprise, a delicate Dover sole was served coated and deep fried, in the lovely Ocean Liners restaurant, though still described as meunière. Service in the speciality restaurant was excellent, with friendly waiters pacing the meal as diners wished.
Our highlight of the day was often the evening Elite lounge cocktail hour, with pleasant service, canapé trays and waiters anxious to please.
Black Sea ports were wonderful and easy to enjoy independently on foot, or using local taxis or public
Sebastopol has so much to offer with the wonderful history of this once elegant city and busy naval port. Many passengers enjoyed exploring the many battlefield sites, and we were finally able to visit the amazing submarine depot, tunnelled if to the hillside in the Soviet era. The evocative area of Balaclava is now a major wine producing region, producing excellent sparkling wines.
Yalta, the delightful resort city has an elegant promenade, pleasant cafés and the marvellous, though now shabby, Levadia palace, scene of the historic meeting between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill at the end of WW2.
The final Ukraine port, Odessa was an eye opener for many, and we were fortunate to be berthed at the foot of the incredible Potemkin steps, with almost 200 steps leading up to the city. Odessa is working hard on restoring the many grand buildings to former glory, and it is a pleasant place to stroll. There is a thriving cafe life, and local people seem to go out of their way to welcome . An easy way to orient yourself is to take the charming mini trains that have a guided commentary, and also visited some more unusual places, favoured by the individual guides.
The cruise continued to Burgas, where pretty Nessebur is easy to reach on local buses,and then on to gorgeous Mykonos, so pleasant out of season with its lovely white houses, charming windmills and attractive shore line restaurants. We took the ferry to Delos, a wonderful archaeological site for those with an interest in ancient times.
Athens has so much to offer, busy and hectic as ever, but is so shaming with its graffiti and rubbish everywhere.
Our final cruise port was Kusadasi, nowadays a shoppers paradise, and rightly so, as Turkey produces an excellent range of well made, well priced goods. Many passengers took the opportunity to visit world heritage site Ephesus, being amazed at the size and complexity of this ancient city. As many cruise ships were in port, it was very crowded, but by timing a visit well, it was possible to explore at a slower pace.
Had we not been visiting the ports in the excellent itinerary, we would rate this cruise a complete disaster.