This was our 4th Celebrity Cruise and we had previously sailed on the Consteallation pre 'Solcitization'. We were therefore interested to see the changes.
I had seen a blog before we left home that there was sickness on the Connie but I was hoping that by the time we arrived the situation would be resolved. On arrival at the terminal it was obvious that sadly this was not the case. We were given a number for embarkation and there were notices everywhere saying that staterooms would not be ready until 5pm. Nevertheless we were eventually allowed on board for some lunch, although without the usual welcome drink. As we had arrived relatively early we were part of the first group on board and were able to get our lunch fairly easily although everything, including teas and coffees, had to be served by the crew.
We were eventually allowed to our cabins and were very soon greeted by our lovely cabin attendant Lalaine. She did a great job looking after us. So then we were able to enjoy our sparkling wine whilst we unpacked.
After an overnight stay in Istanbul we departed for Kusadasi in the afternoon. This was when we had our Cruise Critic party so we missed sailing through all the shipping that anchors in the Marmara Sea. The get together was good and it was clear to see that Celebrity do take notice of the CC boards.
As we had made private arrangements for all the ports of call we cannot comment on the ship's excursions. But we were very pleased with the arrangements we had made.
In Rhodes we hired a car and drove ourselves to Lindos and back with a lunch stop at the lovely Seven Springs taverna which is in the middle of the island.
By this time the high level sanitization procedures had been lifted.
The next day was the sea day as we sailed to Israel. This was the best day of the sea days for weather and we enjoyed sitting around the pool. As we were retiring that night at 11:15 the Captain came on the public address system to tell us that Ashdod port had been closed to passenger traffic following an attack by the Israeli army on the Gaza strip. We subsequently found out from our tour guide that Hamas had targeted missiles on the south of Israel. The ship therefore diverted to Haifa for 4 days instead of 2 in Ashdod and 2 in Haifa. This threw everybody's arrangements into disarray and it wasn't until we were on our way to Bethlehem that we found out all the facts from our guide. We ended up on a bus in a group of 37 all of us having arranged private tours in smaller groups with Guided Tours Israel(GTI). The problem was that the tours arranged from Haifa were using local guides and drivers who were unable to get out of the south of the country. Although everyone was very disappointed we had to give credit to GTI for making the alternative arrangements at such short notice. Our guide, who did an excellent job, told us that he had been called by GTI at 2 in the morning!
Our second day was to Masada and the Dead Sea and because of the journey being from Haifa instead of Ashdod we had the opportunity to see some of the Jordan Valley.
These were two very long days as the journeys from Haifa were that much longer than from Ashdod. On the third day the small private tours resumed as they had originally been planned from Haifa. Unfortunately we did not make our trip as my wife was suffering from the dreaded bug. It came on very suddenly at the end of one day and the next day we visited the medical facility. My wife received very good attention, an injection and some medication all without charge. After 24 hours she had recovered other than not being able to eat as much as usual! So one day in the cabin. The last day in Haifa we looked arounfd the City and went up to the top of Mount Carmel and viewed the Bahai Temple -â€“ quite spectacular.
Then another sea day as we sailed back to Athens. Unfortunately it was quite a windy day and just a tad too cool to stay out on deck.
In Athens there were no strikes and we made our own way to the New Acropolis Museum followed by lunch in the Plaka.
This was followed by a final sea day and again as it was now November and we were sailing North to Istanbul not an outdoor day.
We sampled both the Tuscan Grill and Ocean Liners. The latter was as excellent as we remembered it and the Tusacn Grill is a very good addition and worth the fee for one night of the cruise. We also used Bistro on Five on sea days to avoid the crush of the buffet. Excellent Service and good value.
Towards the end of the cruise I asked Guest Relations for a form to make extra gratuities. I was told that this was not possible as the Finance Team controlled whether or not this facility was available and in this case it was not. I had met the Finance Controller as he was a Brit and had quite a conversation with him. He even sent some truffles to our cabin. I do think however that this was a little unfair on the crew. With an itinerary like this, visiting numerous countries using different currencies, it is not always possible to have a suitable currency to pass to the staff members you wish to thank. Nevertheless we received nothing but excellent service from all the crew we dealt with.
The entertainment was a bit mixed. The cast shows were excellent but the music in the various lounges of an evening was sometimes lacking. Indeed on the night after leaving Athens there was a scarcity of music in the bars.
Thank goodness for Perry Grant! I had read about Perry before we left and was not sure as to whether he would appeal to us. Well, he did! We went the first night with an open mind and returned every night!
So a good cruise, good food, good service an interesting but amended itinerary. All the downsides were way beyond Celebrity's control and they handled them excellently. We are even going to receive an onboard credit for the day my wife lost in quarantine. So although disappointments absolutely no complaints from us.