Pre cruise stay: Miami Intercontinental, very good choice which I can highly recommend for a pre cruise stay in Miami. It is right next to Bayside Market- Place. If you stay longer before your cruise starts and you are fancy about beach and sunbathing, a Hotel in Miami Beach would be more handy! A bit pricy, but well worth the money in my opinion.
As I don´t get tired from the view of a port packed with big ships, I asked for a room facing the port of Miami. The staff at the hotel and most of all those at the front desk were very attentive and helpful and the room I got was not just facing the port, it was also "overlooking" it, as the room was on the 24. floor! Could not have started out better!
As the most reviews I read start with the embarkation- I will follow this path. Usually and on all my cruises with X- embarkation was a breeze. Not so this time. I have no idea why- it was zoo right from the moment I left the cab. It was the first time I embarked a X- vessel in Miami. As bigger ships start out of Miami I am sure it has nothing to do with that- just a mere coincidence I suppose.
After an hour or a little less I made the first step on board the Constellation after 7 years and enjoyed my welcome "champagne" - well it tasted more like sparkling wine to me, but I am not much of wine or champagne enthusiast.
As I read comments about the "sloppy maintenance " of the Millie- Class ships it is obvious that one takes a closer look. I am definitely not the " lift every carpet- you may find at least something to complain" kind of person, so traces of wear and tear are not bothering me at all. Overall I found the ship, with only a few exceptions, in good condition, very well kept and as always on board a X- ship- spotless clean.
I booked a regular veranda cabin, ( Kath. 2A ) aft. - very close to the aft Lobby stairs and elevators. Great location. The cabin itself was in need of a refit. The carpet was stained, one door of the closet was not working properly. As the ship went right into dry-dock after our Transatlantic Cruise that will no longer be an issue- as all the cabins get a refit.
My last two cruises were with the brand new Solstice so I wasn ´t sure myself if the difference between brand new- and eight years old , would be extreme. Well, it was not- there was a difference , of course, but I found the public rooms of Connie in excellent condition. In fact I thought the carpets in the landings in every one of the three staircases must have been replaced lately.
What really needs a total refit is the Top- Deck - Jogging Track floor. If one just gets a look at this particular deck- one might thing the ship is soon to enter Alang for Scrap.
I always enjoyed sailing out of Miami, so I really looked forward to Sail Away. Big Bummer- A heavy thunder storm hit us right when were about to leave port. I got soaked wet, but still stayed on the outside decks.
The boat drill was a very quick one- because of the ongoing embarkation of passenger who ´s planes arrived late or wasn´t on time. After the "zoo" at load off stations at the port and chaos there I feared my bags would not show up in my cabin- well I got them, late, but just in time to get unpacked before the first dinner!
One of the most exciting moments of a cruise always is the first evening, when I meet the dinner companions for the upcoming cruise. I choose the traditional dinning- in my case always 2nd seating. Well to avoid " surprises" I ask for at least a table for 6- and if possible, international group. Much more interesting to chat we people from all over the world than just with you own citizens. Anyway this time I was seated with a couple from Germany - as it turned out we could not have had more fun during each and every dinner! I looked forward to every dinner!
Entertainment - I saw two shows in the theater, both were very good. I finally had the chance to see the famous Perry Grant. He performs every evening in Michaels Club. Never, ever I saw this great lounge so packed as when Perry Grant was in there. There were passengers standing in the doorway of Michael´s Club - even well in the photo shop, to see or hear him. When Rob Wheatley introduced him on his only performance in the Theater he described him as a mix of some comedian ( sorry forgot the name) and Judy Garland. There are just two options; whether you like Perry or you can´t stand him. There is nothing in between. I opt. for the first and liked his shows, great jokes, great songs. I still chuckle when I remember: " Can you please turn on this little ball?? " Thaaaaaaaaaaank you- ah he adores meee! " " Oooh I think am going through the change - again... ...... and so on and so forth!
The Cruise Director, Rob Wheatley was great, very friendly and always took his time to greet , meet and mingle. He and his assistant together were priceless.
Dining Experiences: That's said in a few words - great- as always with X. Great in the main dining room. Outstanding good in Ocean Liners.
The new elite perks are much better than in the previous years. I like the laundry coupons and free internet minutes most. Other than that- the coupons are arranged in the way " buy something THEN you get something! And one has to notice the laundry coupon is just washing and folding - no pressing- for that " extra service" you have to pay.
The team in the Martini - Bar and in Cova Cafe cannot be praised enough. Elli - if you read this- you provided us with the best Martinis - ever, always served " in style" and along with a nice chat! Cova staff- the same, a pleasure to enjoy my tea´s there.
The Crossing- the weather was okay during the first two days- very windy but no rain. After we passed the Bermudas it got worse and worse by the day. Nevertheless I enjoyed these calm and relaxing days immensely. If you are forced to stay inside - that's when the pro´s of the Millennium Class of ships against the S- Class get obvious. No loud background music all over the place ( very annoying on board Solstice)
After eight days at sea in a row we finally made landfall- Le Havre - France, had to skip Paris due to the ongoing cold I caught. Instead I walked a bit in Le Havre. Nice city, almost everything in the city is within walking distance. X provided a shuttle bus- no cost.
Next port of call was Dover- well the famous White Cliffs were quite visible from the place where we docked. Again had to cancel London, so I just walked through Dover. Also a very British and charming little city. Well worth a visit and walk.
The last stop was Rotterdam / NL . Very interesting BIG City- nice walkways, some interesting buildings! Excellent Tourist Center, with great possibilities for information's!
Sailing out of Rotterdam was a real thread after the unhappy Sail away out of Miami. First of all the nice scenery. Then, as a tradition in Rotterdam, a Shanty - Choir sang for us and made this " Good bye" unforgettable .
" All good things have come to an end" - so the last sea day was here, once again I enjoyed the "old Constellation" , made pictures from the interior and especially from the rooms and decks that get a completely new layout! A last dinner and a goodbye to new friends, tablemates and from an exceptional friendly staff! I love the tradition of singing Auld lang Syne after the last Formal Dinner!
Debarkation in Hamburg was a very rushed one. At about 8 am everyone had to be disembarked. As I understood the ship had to get prepared for the Dry Dock. Well it almost looked like the where rolling up the carpets behind us. We docked in Hamburg Altona- which is not jet finished, so our luggage stood piled up in a big tent. All a bit disorganized. Far to less cabs on hand for so many passengers. For that I blame Hamburg not Celebrity- Cruises!
I can recommend a Transatlantic Cruise to everyone who enjoys being on a ship for several sea days and look for a relaxed way to come from Europe to the US or visa verse! It is absolutely not to recommend for those who look for the most sightseeing possibilities one can put into two weeks.
Michael Bayer Mai 2010