My wife and myself were celebrating our 25th anniversary with the Holy Land cruise of the Eastern Med on the Constellation and it did not disappoint. I have to admit it was not exactly what we expected, but the ship was great. The service was fine, considering the special procedures needed due to health concerns. The destinations were fantastic and the weather was close to perfect.
When we arrived at Embarkation in Istanbul, we found out that the previous cruise experienced some health issues and that we would be delayed boarding the ship and then would have to wait until our rooms would be ready. This of course put a wrench in the experience, but we felt better safe than sorry. I should mention that even with all of the precautions, about 70 people (we heard), were sick on our cruise as well. The ship was on high alert cleanliness, so we had to be served our food at the buffets and we had to apply Purell everywhere we went. I personally had no issues with this, but it always surprises me when people do. We were very careful and were not among those who got ill.
Considering all of the natural disasters, terrorists attacks and strikes; the impact to us was minimal. The only change was in Israel, where we ended up ported in Haifa for 4 days instead of 2 in Ashdod and 2 in Haifa. This worked out well, but resulted in a lot more driving but all excursions were run as scheduled, other than that all our ports when as expected.
The cruise started in Istanbul which is a great place to visit and explore. Once we finally left we headed to Kusadasi... it was great town with some great shopping. We did not go on any excursions choosing to explore the city. Next we were off to Rhodes, (on a Greek holiday). We explored the old city and its history and had a wonderful lunch at a little traverna. Then we were on to Israel. We had plans with friends and a guide so we had a full program. We had heard about some trouble is Israel (Hamas rockets launched at Ashdod), but it still looked we were headed there. Finally at 11pm an announcement was made that we would spend 4 days in Haifa and that shore excursions would take longer since we were an hour north of Ashdod. Although this happened and I felt the communication by the ship was a little lacking, we rolled with it and made our way to Haifa. Israel is a special country and the four days we spent turned out to include many special memories. As I said you have to be flexible and ready to adapt just like Israel. We finally left and we were off to Athens. We booked the shore excursion with the Celebrity due to concerns about strikes. It all worked out, no strike and an EU bailout. The excursion was not the best. The guide seemed to have no passion and really was just going through the paces. The Acropolis was overly crowded and it did not make for the best tour. We then returned and headed back to Istanbul to end our adventure.
On board it was also an adventure. Lots of people on the previous cruise had been sick, and our cruise in a heightened state of cleanliness still seemed to fall prey to the dreaded stoumach virus. We heard 68 people had been ill. This meant you could not serve yourself food, drinks, bread, salt or pepper. It seemed overwhelming to the crew. So you had to have patience and be flexible. Things took time.
A note about food; We did have dinner in Ocean Liner. The food was done well, but the up selling and other selling was way too much. Maybe it would be nice if they could just let us enjoy the food. Dining room was good as always.
Finally we left the ship, it was organized and quick. The cruise was great you just needed to be ready to adapt.