This was our 28 cruise and our first Celebrity experience. I must say that this will be our last Celebrity experience too.
We began our trip of a lifetime with four full days in Istanbul enjoyed a pre-arranged private tour experience that was outstanding, staying at the Pera Palace which I strongly recommend. The hotel's history, being the hotel for the guests traveling on the original Orient Express, and their outstanding service made the start of our vacation a Wow experience. Unfortunately, our Wow experience ended when we began our experiences with Celebrity Cruises.
As per our travel documents from Celebrity we arrived at the cruise terminal a few minutes before 12:00 noon on the morning of October 7th. A long line outside the cruise terminal surprised us. Then a few minutes on a line that did not more, a representative of Celebrity stated that they flew in earlier that morning from London to assist the Constellation staff as the dreaded virus had effected about 100 people on the previous cruise and the entire Constellation was being decontaminated before we could board the ship. There were at least 4 staff members from the London office telling everyone on line that we can not board until at least 3:00 p.m. We were told we could wait in the terminal but there was only one bathroom and limited seating. They suggested we go back into town and return later in the day. With Istanbul traffic it can take an hour just to get back into town. We opted to stay along with everyone else. These London Celebrity reps all stated that Celebrity tried to contact all guests to inform them of this problem and the delay. This was a blatant lie. I had my laptop with me and my cell phone with international access. I never got any emails or phone calls. Neither did our travel agent or any other guests after they checked while we were on-board. As we had late checkout at the hotel, we could have stayed at our hotel instead of sitting in a warehouse building with only one toilet for 3 1/2 hrs. OK, so Celebrity can not control people getting sick. So we were willing to let this pass even thought they lied about the contact info.
We now are on board at 3:45 p.m. We find our room, on our own. The room looked very basic, obviously stripped. So we thought they still needed to work on it. We took our own tour of the ship, then went to the mandatory safely drill at our muster station. They specifically stated, do not go to your cabin for the life vests and we would not be going to our lifeboat stations.
After the safety drill, we returned to the cabin at approx. 5:20 p.m. and it looked the same and no luggage either. We found a bar opened and had a drink before dinner and then dinner. We had early sitting and arrived at 6:25 p.m.
Our waiter Omer was so professional and friendly and so was his assistant Santos. Finally we are about to relax. Our sommelier Marko was also the perfect man to insure the best wines at dinner. Throughout the cruise these three men helped to make our dining experience memorable.
Return to our stateroom at 9:00 p.m., our luggage is outside the cabin and we bring it in ourselves. On all other cruises the luggage was brought into the room. Still the room looks bare but not sure what is missing. After unpacking I finally realize what is missing: No bathrobes. No welcome/bon voyage champagne. No glasses to drink anything in. No welcome gift from our travel agent. No welcome anything. To late and too tired.
First full day aboard is a sea day: Call housekeeping to pick up laundry, they promptly pick it up at 8:00 a.m. I then go to Guest Relations asking about the missing items. I am told by Ellen that champagne and bon voyage gifts are Never in your room on embarkment day but the next day. Seems to ruin the whole idea of a bon voyage gifts but she was adamant that is how Celebrity does it. We received the warm champagne (no ice bucket) at 11:00 p.m. on day 3, the candy/fruit at 10:00 p.m. on day 4. The bathrobes arrived on day 6, the drinking glasses arrived on day 7 and a small bucket of ice started to appear on day 8 but not regularly. By this time I had to just laugh at the incompetence. Oh, the promptly picked up laundry was partially returned the night of day 3 and the balance was lost until I asked for a manager on day 5 and they found the clothing, still dirty, somewhere in the laundry room. At least I got an apology and they didn't charge me for the cleaning. By the way, the stewardess introduced herself on day 3 and her assistant on day 4. The assistant was very good and for most of the time he was the one doing the cleaning. We saw him a few times early in the morning making the room up. On the few days that the stewardess was in the room, the room looked sloppy and never vacuumed. From all the other experiences on board I learned that making complaints gets the guest in trouble so I didn't bother saying anything else. This was the first time I did not tip a stewardess. Her behavior and attitude was appalling.
The daily buffet: Beyond atrocious. Due to the prior cruise virus outbreak all stations were sealed in plastic. The guests could not touch anything. They served you. Long lines with no signs where to enter or exit was causing outbreaks of bad behavior early in the mornings. We ate all breakfasts in the dining room as we thought it was more civilized. It was but the dining room staff all acted like it was their first day on the job. We arrive early right after opening time, asked for a table for 2, the room had only 4 other people in it and boy were they put out. You get a look and an attitude that they must now do you a favor and find you a table for two. And the room is almost empty. Every single day the same thing. Then you get a menu & I ask for a cup of coffee, yes sir. Then we get the water guy, I ask for a cup of coffee, yes sir. Then we get the juice guy, I ask for a cup of coffee, yes sir. Then the waiter wants to take our order. I ask for a cup of coffee and he says they are still brewing it in the kitchen and he must take our order. This happened every single day. Oh and I found out were the carafes of coffee were stationed and just helped myself. No one said a word. Was this crappy behavior necessary? I might be wrong on the day but we were not able to serve ourselves at the buffet for any meals until day 9.
The virus thing: I am sure that Celebrity must be careful will this type of illness but to many of us on board we all thought it was a scam. You couldn't touch anything in the buffet line. There were signs everywhere to wash your hands and sanitize your hands. And they had staff all over the buffet areas and lounges and bars constantly washing down the tables and surfaces we might touch. The captain even made announcement daily. The staff were all told not to touch guests even with a handshake. This went on for 9 days. But as the days passed, I observed the following: When we were given menus no one washed them down after we held them. They were placed back in the pile at the entrance. No chairs of any type were sanitized. If you sit in a chair what do you do? You either put your hands on the arms and pull in or put your hands under the seats and pull in. Not one chair was being cleaned. You get a drink at the bar, then ask for another. Several bartenders would then take your glass and refill the same glass. They were touching a glass you used and they weren't wearing gloves. Nothing was being sanitized in the gym. When you used a machine you walk away and the next person uses it. No sanitizing. This became the topic of conversation with many people about the absurdity of Celebrity thinking that washing down tables, removed salt/pepper shakers, no loose butter or rolls on the table and all the other inconveniences we were put through would eliminate a virus. Ironically while on board bartenders told us the virus started with guests that went to a particular restaurant while on an excursion and not because of the ship.
The entertainment was mediocre at best. The various bar venues has some good singers/musicians but the nightly theater entertainment was so obvious a cost cutting cheap show. Many high school shows are far more entertaining then what Celebrity drags up.
The excursions were truly wonderful and not too expensive. Yalta and Odessa were fascinating. Skip Bulgaria, I can say I was there, but it truly is a third world dirty unpleasant place and tourists shouldn't go there till they get their act together. Athens & Mykonos have great history. Ephesus & Istanbul are so over the top wonderful experiences. If you get to Ephesus you must experience the Terrace Houses. A tour ever better then Pompeii, Herculaneum or the Valley of the Kings. We would love to go back to Turkey and explore more of this wonderful country.
Enrichment Activities: Were almost non-existent. Only two sea days but we love speakers talking about the region we will be traveling in (and not the sales pitch by the excursion dept.) And just 2 talks with odd topics. Another cost cutting.
Celebrity Cruises and the Celebrity Constellation in particular should be ashamed of themselves for advertising Luxury cruises. This was anything but!