This was my first cruise on the Celebrity Constellation, my first westbound T/A and my third Celebrity and transatlantic cruise. I think it is fair to say that I love the T/A cruises - those lovely relaxing days at sea and in fact I am booked on another transatlantic cruise for next April on the Century again.
I travelled (alone) from the UK the day before we sailed and stayed at Continental in Barcelona - a budget hotel compared to some in Barcelona but it was pleasant enough and had a balcony overlooking Las Ramblas and the highest bed I have ever slept in! Very comfy but I had to launch myself into it (not a pleasant sight).
I was hoping to meet up with some fellow Ccers (27 of us were staying in the same hotel) but my flight was late and I didn't meet up with anyone but did manage a drink and tapas on Las Ramblas that evening. I had planned to see Park Guell on the morning of the cruise (I have visited Barcelona many times before and love the city but had never made it to the Park) - well thanks to the comfy bed I didn't even wake until 10.30!! So I decided against the visit (another reason to go back) and went shopping instead and had a late breakfast/brunch at La Boqueria (delicious).
I then took a cab to the ship after picking up my luggage from the hotel. Check in was incredibly smooth and very professionally done I was on board within about 10 minutes. I had not cruised on the Connie before and it is also the largest ship I have been on so far - I thought it was lovely and in good shape.
My cabin was on Deck 6 (Cabin 6070) on the starboard side approximately mid-way between mid-ships and forward elevators. The cabin was a good size as was the balcony, My only complaint was that with the overhang from the higher decks there was not too much sun and I think starboard is better on an eastbound TA and port on the westbound,
My stateroom attendant Fabian was excellent and kept the room in immaculate condition,
Went to life boat drill and then joined my fellow cruise critics at the aft bar for a sailaway party. Garry had done a fabulous job providing everyone with name tags and it was great fun meeting people you had been talking to for some months. Just sorry I didn't get to meet everyone. I had requested 2nd sitting for dinner and a large table. I called in at the Martini bar for a pre-dinner cocktail at around 8 p.m. At 8.30 I joined my table it was on Deck 5 and looking over the wake right at the back. Didn't seem a problem to me but one of our fellow diners was not at all happy about being in "Siberia" and on the "Old Broads" table!! In fact we had excellent dining companions in the main -a table for 8 with 4 solo female cruisers and two couples. The four of us met up daily for lunch and/or drinks and did many ports together and will be keeping in touch in the future - definitely made some good new friends - what a bonus.
Our waiter, Wilson, was probably the best waiter I've had on a cruise - he was excellent and he didn't have the easiest of guests but his patience was endless and always with a smile. I tipped him quite a bit extra at the end of the cruise (not something we Brits do easily!!!) and the same could be said of our bar server Bobby who also served in the Martini Bar, the Bar at the edge and the pool - he was a great character.
All meals were excellent once again - I did not have a bad meal on this ship. The food in the dining room was very good indeed, great options, good servings and consistently excellent quality.
I also ate in Ocean Liners (thanks again Lois and Herb it was so nice of you to let me join you both and enjoy a lovely meal). The food was superb - just too much of it!!
I ate breakfast mostly in my room (just toast and cereal) but also ate in the dining room a couple of times and had good cooked breakfasts there with lots of fruit. I also had a couple of good breakfasts in the Aqua Spa,
I had lunch in either the Aqua Spa or the main dining room and again both were consistently good.
The new Brunch was available on two days on this cruise (replacing the midnight buffets) and were excellent - and yes the waffles were great!!
The first day was a relaxing day at sea and how lovely to use my balcony to eat breakfast - sheer bliss. This morning was the Celebrity Connections get together in the Bar at the Edge of the Earth (?) so went up there to meet everyone. We were honored to have a great turn out of X staff for the CC including the Captain!
I ate lunch in the Aqua Spa and then relaxed by the pool until it was time for my first poker tournament which I won. The poker was not a dealer unfortunately but PokerPro machine which is not as much fun and because of the high rake there were very few cash games (I played twice) in fact most poker players refused to play as the ship's rake was so high.
The casino staff were very poor, surly, arrogant and no idea how to make customers feel welcome - they really could have made a lot of money from the number of poker players on the ship but behaved so badly that they put a lot of people off.
I spent most sea day afternoons in the Casino playing poker (and managed to pay off of some of my on-board account with winnings there and at bingo I was probably about break even in reality).
Formal nights were that - the majority of people dressed up, which is great to see. I'm not going to start a dress code debate but think it's safe to say that people travelling on a TA cruise enjoy the ambience of dressing for dinner and did so every night.
Our first stop was Malaga - I have visited often so stayed onboard the ship. The weather throughout the cruise was fabulous, sunny and warm until our unscheduled stop in Newfoundland (more later) and seas were very smooth and calm.
Friday was Morocco and I had booked the Marrakesh tour - I knew this was going to be a very long day but felt it would be worth it and it was. Our guide was very knowledgeable and spoke excellent English. The bus trip went through the Moroccan countryside and gave you a great feel of the country.
Marrakesh was pretty hectic but was to be expected with such a short time there, it was hot and dusty but the sights were marvellous. This is such a "different" culture that you really know you are in a different country.
It is not to everyone's taste and some people really hated it but you have to go with an open mind, understand that it is a VERY different culture and just go with it and enjoy the moment.
Celebrity laid on an excellent lunch with wine and Moroccan dancers and entertainment. We got back to the ship at about 09.30 p.m./10 p.m. and were able to eat at the Seaside Cafe.
Cadiz was a really pleasant surprise a lovely resort, fabulous beaches and interesting mix of architectures. We took the HOHO bus but it would have been nice to just chill on the beach.
Sunday was Lisbon where we stayed overnight. Again Lisbon is a city I have visited many times so I took the hoho bus tour (there are several options, we decided on the historical one).
Then more relaxing days at sea playing poker, bingo and reading my books by the pool or on my verandah, meeting "the girls" for lunch and checking into a few trivia games or visiting the Persian Gardens.
The Azores was the final stop before Bayonne (and more sea days!) again I have been before so we just wandered around the town and did some shopping.
I should mention the Spa - I booked the Persian Garden for the duration of the cruise. This is advertised at $99 but they then add 10% gratuity - now for a treatment I can understand a gratuity but not this. Also some of the facilities were not working on two separate days so I did ask and received a discount for this fact but as with my previous X cruises I do think the Spa lets them down. I don't their customer service is great, some of the staff are excellent but some really do need more training in customer service. I wouldn't pay for the Persian Garden again at the beginning of a cruise - I might ask if they would discount part way through.
I don't usually rate the entertainment on X but there were some very good acts on this ship and I enjoyed them immensely however the star that (nearly) everyone raves about, Perry Grant, is just not my cup of tea - didn't find him funny at all and the songs he sings would be golden oldies for my great grandmother and I'm 57!!! Still, each to his own he kept many people very happy.
I did not attend any of the enrichment programmes but heard very good reports of the cruise expert.
I mentioned our diversion earlier - on Saturday we had to divert to Newfoundland for a sick passenger to be evacuated by helicopter which happened at 5 a.m. Sat or Sun morning. I heard 5 different versions of who was ill and what they were suffering with but my thoughts are with the family and the sick person and I hope that whoever it was is recovering well now.
Our arrival in Bayonne was a little delayed and so the disembarkation was quite late - great for me I had the most relaxing last morning I have ever had on a ship! I left for the shuttle to Newark about 10.45 a.m However the transfer to the airport bus was pretty chaotic with no information from anyone we had to find our own way to the bus fighting through lines of people queuing for taxis half of whom thought they were queuing for the bus!
I had plenty of time at Newark before my flight and had a good flight to Dublin with Continental but my onward flight meant 6 hours in Dublin feeling very cold, tired, jet lagged and generally YUK. Thank goodness I felt human again the next day and enjoying the benefits of a two week cruise.
All in all probably the 2nd best cruise I have been on (I would put the Legend first maybe because it was my first T/A). A great ship, great food, great company - I know there's lots I've missed but who is going to read this anyway?
But if you do - YES I would heartily recommend this ship and this cruise.