We upgraded to Concierge Class cabin 7203, which faces off the stern of the ship. This is an exceptional cabin due to its large balcony, which is approximately the same length as the cabin itself. Unfortunately, due to a combination of cool, sometimes wet weather, and our long days in port, we rarely took advantage of the balcony. This would be a great cabin on a Caribbean cruise or a long cruise with several sea days. By the way, our cabin steward was excellent.
The ship is in very good condition. However, its design feels a bit dated after being on the Celebrity Solstice earlier this year. This is not a knock against the Constellation, just a reflection that the Solstice public rooms are so well designed. The one area where the Constellation is better than the Solstice is the Thalassotherapy pool, which is heated on the Millennium class ships.
We chose Celebrity Select dining and ate every night between 7-7:15pm, the only exception being the day in Rome after which we were just too tired to dress up and went upstairs to the buffet. The buffet food appeared to be the same served every night. However, the addition of the sandwich and pizza bars probably made it a reasonable place to eat more than one night. In general, the food on the ship was very good regardless of where we ate. Celebrity Select dining is a great option if you want some flexibility.
Entertainment was OK, with Carl Andrews (magician) and Lindsay Hamilton (singer) being the highlights. Getting a seat was not a problem if you arrived before show time.
We really liked the way that every crew member said hello to us whenever we passed them in the hall. They have a tough life but Celebrity must have a program in place to encourage this personal touch.
If you read my port reviews, you'll see that we did the "trains, planes and automobiles" mode of touring, mostly venturing out on our own. I've also included prices for our transportation and entry fees in the reviews.
Overall, a great but exhausting trip.
Due to the high cost of the taxi, we decided to take the Metro (station near SF, 1.4E) to the Catalunya Plaza. From there we walked down La Rambla to the seaport. This was a great way to unwind after our long flight, with the many street artists/mimes being a particular treat for my mother.
We then took a taxi from the seaport to the ship (10E), as the walk just seemed too long to make.
I'd been to Barcelona twice before and highly recommend the hop-on/hop-off bus if you've got several hours to sight see.
The main attraction in Pisa is the Field of Miracles, which includes the Leaning Tower of Pisa. While this was my third time visiting here, the Tower is still awe inspiring. My mother and brother thought it was one of the highlights of the trip. We were only allowed 30 minutes or so before the bus left, but that gave us enough time to take pictures, use a restroom (0.30E), and do some souvenir shopping. By the way, the ship excursion bus is parked about a 20 minute walk from the Field of Miracles.
The bus then transported us to Florence, dropping us off at the Piazza di Santa Croce. This is a great starting and returning point for visiting Florence. During the roughly 4 hours in Florence, we ate lunch at an outdoor cafe in the Palazzo della Signoria, viewed the famous statue replicas in the Pallazo, crossed the Ponte Vecchio bridge and went as far as the Pitti Palace, then doubled back to visit the Duomo. Finally, we visited the famous Basilica of Santa Croce (5E), where many famous Italians e.g., Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli, are buried or memorialized.
We didn't have time to visit either the Uffizi or Academia museums, each of which could consume a few hours.
A proper visit to Florence would probably take 2-3 days.
Santa Margherita is a pretty little seaside town that must be great to visit in summer. We walked around a bit and then took the Servizio Marittimo Del Tigullio ferry to Portofino (5.5E).
Portofino is exactly as it appears in tourism photos i.e., small, hidden at the end of a small bay, surrounded by high hills. There's not much to do in Portofino other than shop and eat, each of which is expensive. We also climbed to the top of a hill with a small church for a beautiful view of the port.
By the time we had finished lunch in the square, the departure time for the next ferry back to Santa Margherita was still an hour away. As a result, we walked to the back of the village and boarded the public bus (1.2E). The bus was crowded but the ride was at times very scenic. I'd recommend either the bus or the ferry to get between these two towns.
One comment about Santa Margherita - the "beach" is composed of small round rocks. Several people were sleeping on the rocks, a sight also common in Positano later in the cruise.
We walked from the pier to the bus station (also the train station), a trip of about 30 minutes. From there we took a SITA public bus (3.4E round trip) to Positano. The bus trip has some fantastic views, especially if you sit on the right hand side of the bus. However, you must take the trip early in the day to avoid very crowded buses back to Sorrento later in the day. Also, make sure toe disembark at the second bus stop in Positano, after you've crossed over the "valley" separating the two sides of Positano.
Positano was a highlight of the trip. We walked down to the beach, passing a myriad of small shops along a vine covered walkway. On the beach we ate lunch at a restaurant - not cheap, but memorable. Finally, we climbed back up to the bus stop (about a 30 minute walk from the beach, all uphill) and traveled back to Sorrento.
We walked around Sorrento, visiting several squares and plazas, including a park along the cliff that provided some great views of the Med. This is a town you could spend a few days relaxing in, despite the tourists.
Finally, we took the train (3.4E) from Sorrento to Naples, stopping for an hour visit to Pompeii (12E). Pompeii is well worth the stop.
This was a very exhausting day. You must be in fairly good shape to visit all of these locations in one day.
Our Vatican visit included entry to the Vatican Museums and a private guide who ahd been arranged by RomeInLimo. It's worth mentioning that we would not have been able to see all the sites that we did plus visit the Vatican Museums without the assistance of the guide. She led us through the entry maze and directly to the points of interest, as well as giving us great info on the Museum pieces. During our two hours there we (too quickly) passed by many interesting sculptures, walked through the Sistine Chapel, and then St. Peters Basilica. Pictures and video are prohibited inside of the Sistine Chapel due to copyright ownership.
Was the Sistine Chapel worth the visit? Yes, for two reasons: 1) Our guide spent 15 minutes prior to entering it describing in detail what we would see since conversations are also prohibited in the Chapel and 2) contrary to many reports, I found the Sistine Chapel to be larger than I had expected. It's very impressive when you consider that the Church hierarchy select the Pope by voting within this chamber.
Total cost for the day was 500E for five of us in a Mercedes van plus 150E for the Vatican Museum guide, plus tips. In addition, we had to purchase our tickets to the Vatican Museums prior to our trip (15E).
Rule #1 when using public transportation in Europe - be sure to validate your ticket or you may face a large fine.
We walked from the train station to the "old town" area. This is a very nice walk and an interesting area to walk around, culminating in a walk to the waterfront.
After two hours in Nice, we decided to take a train from Nice to Monte Carlo. Since the ticket line was too long, we used one of the ticket machines in the station (3.4E).
Rule #2 when using a credit card in Europe - your American credit card will probably not work since most of the credit card ticketing kiosks require a card with a chip. We had to scramble to dig up 17E in coins.
Looking back on the trip, the train station in Monte Carlo is magnificent when compared with others. We walked form the train station to the top of "The Rock", where the prince's residence is. The "must see" attraction for my mom was Princess Grace's final resting place, located in the cathedral on The Rock. The adjoining village is mostly for tourists but is charming. The views on either side of The Rock are great.
We made it back to Villefranche by 5:30pm taking another train (2.6E)