Exhausted but happy on the constellation
Europe - Western Mediterranean
We were on the western mediterranean cruise from 2 oct to 9 oct and we loved everything about it. If you are going on this cruise I'm sure you will enjoy it. The itinerary is very busy and tiring if you do full day tours in all the ports but of course the beauty of cruising is that you have a choice. You could stay on the ship all the time and enjoy the activities, spa treatments, food etc or do as we did and try to see everything in the time available. It is probably a good idea to do something in between.
We booked through an internet agent with no problems there. However, a problem we did encounter was with the airport transfers. These were organised by the travel agent through A 2 b and I cannot stress enough DO NOT USE THEM. When we arrived in Barcelona we were told that the coach would be one hour late as they were waiting for people from another flight. We waited about 1hr 20mins and later found out that there were only two people from that flight that were on our More
coach. They did not have our names on the list so they took the top sheet/voucher and kept it. We thought no more of it but when we were leaving the ship the following week, we only had the bottom sheet and the guy who was there was very unhelpful and just said "no reference number, no shuttle" We were starting to panic as we had no Euros left to get a taxi. I had to text home to get the reference number which luckily then got us onto the coach. There were so many people complaining, they had been told that the company had gone out of business and another coach company was being used. There were elderly people who could not stand for long but they were told they would have to wait for several hours at the port. I would suggest either using the celebrity transfers or simply get a taxi. Even with 5 cruise ships in port there were plenty of taxis available. THE SHIP: the ship of course is beautiful. I loved the new carpets and gorgeous upholstery. Everywhere was very clean and there were always staff or automatic machines around dispensing hand gel. We had an ocean view stateroom which was excellent, the only problem was that the shower was not very hot and tended to go cold at times.
THE FOOD: Excellent in every place we used including room service. Our waiter,Jayson was brilliant and our table companions,Gail and Richard from London and Larry and wife(sorry,bad with names) from Montreal were so nice and made our evenings very pleasant.
THE ENTERTAINMENT:we found this to be better than expected. We were lucky to have a wonderful concert pianist on our cruise, Brooks Aehron who was fantastic. Also Lindsey Hamilton the singer was great. We enjoyed all the shows but these two were particularly good. There was also a group of four young men, the High C's who were excellent.The other shows were always well presented with lovely costumes and sets.
THE STAFF; They are all so friendly and attentive, we could not fault them at all. The cruise director Rich, was lovely and always seemed to be there, wherever we were. A nice touch was every time we returned to the ship, several crew members were there to greet us including the captain. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
For Florence we had a tour for eight with Romeinlimo. It cost 150euros per couple but because we had booked Rome as well we got a discount. We decided to use that as a tip.Our tour guide, Carla was extremely good. Her English was excellent which helped a lot. First she took us to Pisa which is quite good for buying souvenirs such as fridge magnets,calendars etc as there are several market stalls. We took some nice photos of the leaning tower and the baptistry but decided not to attempt the climb up the tower. We set off for Florence but there was some very bad traffic congestion so we got off the motorway and took a drive through the Tuscan countryside which was beautiful. We stopped to buy some wine and olive oil and then continued on to Florence. The weather was warm and although we had made reservations for a couple of art galleries, in the end we did not manage to get in either of them.If you would like to buy any leather items,ask to go to the leather market there are bargains to be had. Carla asked us what we would like to do for lunch and she arranged a local restaurant which turned out to be really good and one used by the locals rather than a tourist place. This was one of the benefits of using romeinlimo as you have built in flexibility. We could have just stopped for a quick sandwich or pizza if that had suited us better. We then went and bought an icecream and wandered around the streets looking at the architecture - heaven !
I have rated this port as only 1, not because I have anything against Genoa but simply because we were not able to see it due to bad weather. We got the little shuttle boat from the ship to the aquarium but a bad storm started just as we set off and I don't think I can convey how bad it was. We managed to get off the shuttle boat and went into some shops to shelter. It was so bad we just got the next shuttle back to the ship. With hardly any visibility and thunder and lightening it was quite scary. It was also dangerous getting on and off as we were seated downstairs in the boat and had to climb wet, slippery steps to get off via a narrow and swinging gangway. On the walk to the ship the water was 4 inches deep so we were thoroughly soaked. There were towels handed out to us when we got back on board. The shuttle boat stopped then as it was too dangerous to continue. We heard from passengers who were booked on the trip to Portofino that their boat trip was cancelled and they were taken by public transport. They said that a whole coachload of passengers had to squeeze onto a mini bus which they believed was dangerous as well as uncomfortable. On the way back the tour guide had to call the police as a big argument broke out because of the overcrowding (locals not cruise passengers) So, not the best day but we enjoyed some time on the ship and had to send our clothes to the laundry as we had no way of drying them. Laundry service was fast and efficient.
From Naples we took the celebrity excursion 'a taste of Sorrento'. We went in the coach passing mount vesuvius with the guide telling us it was due to erupt any time...drove up into the hills to a farmhouse where we were shown how they make olive oil and a cheese demonstration. We then had lots of things to taste and there was a little gift shop where the prices were cheaper than in Sorrento so if you see anything you like, I would suggest buying it here. We then drove into Sorrento where we were taken to a furniture store and given a very quick demo of how they do the inlaid wood on furniture and things such as jewellery boxes. We bought a couple of small items and would have loved to buy the furniture but they were EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE. If you have the money you can have things posted home. I think they are good quality items, very well made and very beautiful. Another warning - we left two people behind in sorrento as they had mis-heard the time. Luckily they caught up with the coach when someone from the furniture shop drove them. We then went to Pompeii and the weather by this time was extremely hot. They gave everyone a bottle of water. You need to wear sensible shoes as the roads are very uneven. There is a steep incline at the start but then it is ok as long as you watch your step. Pompeii is an amazing place well worth visiting. Something to mention if anyone doesn't already know, the drivers in the Naples area are slightly crazy and you have to be very careful when crossing the road, especially watch out for scooters/motorbikes, they come from nowhere. On the way back to the ship we stopped at a place where they make cameo jewellery. It's ok if you want to buy something but I do find it a little irritating that they do that. The items were very expensive.
For Rome we had booked a tour for 8 with Romeinlimo and our driver was Salvatore. He was probably the best driver we had all week. I would not like to have to drive around Rome in all that traffic. If you get Salvatore, ask him to put on a cd as you leave Rome and he will serenade you with arrividerci Roma ! The cost was 600Euros for 8 people but because we booked Florence as well they gave a 50Euro discount. We decided to leave it at 150Euros per couple to include a tip. We had pre-booked tickets for the Vatican so we did not have to queue but the amount of people in there was incredible. We opted not to have the guide and just went around on our own making our way to the Sistine chapel. There is some amazing stuff in there. We went to the usual sights starting with the Colisseum -WARNING- do not have any photos taken with a couple of gladiators,they will rip you off by refusing to hand back your camera until you give them 20 Euros each.
Salvatore took us to the Egyptian embassy for a 'surprise' I won't spoil it but just say it involves a keyhole.
We saw the spanish steps, trevi fountain (got out there for photos)and the usual buildings. Made a stop above Rome so we could see the city. The only disappointment of the day was that when we got to st Peter's, the security queue was so long that we didn't have time to go in. There had been some sort of evacuation of St Peter's Square that day because of a demonstration. I have been before but still wanted to go in again but these things sometimes can't be helped. For lunch Salvatore booked us into a local restaurant (I mean a restaurant for locals, not tourists) It was quite amazing. They came out with huge plates of all sorts of stuff, huge carafes of wine and then 3 different pastas followed by desserts. The owner then came with a free bottle of limoncello. We paid 20 Euros each for all that and the experience of eating in a 'real' Italian restaurant with people who were real characters. I would highly recommend it.
The transfer from the ship was by tender so took a while longer than a normal port stop but was fine. Villefranche is a nice little place if you just want a wander round. We did the celebrity excursion to Nice and Eze. The coach did a little tour of Nice with about an hour to walk round on our own. We then went to Eze which is a lovely medieval village. The walk is described as strenuous and that is no exaggeration. There are hundreds of steep steps so it really is not suitable for anyone with walking difficulties or not fit. The views from the top are stunning and the buildings are nice to look at. There is a fragonard perfume shop (not factory) which sells perfume, soap and souvenirs. I believe it is fairly easy to get public transport but we didn't try. the guide gave everyone a radio and earphone so we could hear her commentary outside.