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11 Celebrity Constellation Greece Cruise Reviews

This was our 22nd cruise and 8th with Celebrity. We were in Sky Suite 6102. Overall, we had a fantastic cruise. The ship is in really good condition, everything looks new and works well. And the ship is clean, the staff are always ... Read More
This was our 22nd cruise and 8th with Celebrity. We were in Sky Suite 6102. Overall, we had a fantastic cruise. The ship is in really good condition, everything looks new and works well. And the ship is clean, the staff are always cleaning the elevators and stairways. We had originally booked a balcony but upgraded to a suite when the suite prices reduced. The Sky Suites are great, lots of storage and walking room, additional seating, larger bathroom with full bath, and a larger balcony. Suite 6102 is also handy to the mid-ship elevator and stairs but on the starboard side. The room was quiet although you can hear the constant air conditioning hum. We have a butler, Ryan, and a stateroom attendant, Urban. Both are really good, Urban is like a magician - we go out for a bit and when we come back the room is cleaned or turned down or whatever. He is really quick. We see Ryan the most, he brings afternoon canapés and tea/coffee, and he arranges anything you need for the room. Brings room service, takes the laundry etc. He is really good and very friendly. The service is really outstanding. The best thing about the suite is the access to Luminae Restaurant for your meals and Michael's Club for drinks and snacks (pastries and coffee available at breakfast and appetisers in the afternoon, drinks of any type available anytime). Service in both Luminae and Michael's Club is also outstanding. We were mainly served by Anthony in Luminae and Angela in Michael's Club, but the other wait staff are really good too. Both Anthony and Angela keep on eye out and anticipate what you might want or need. Fabulous service. The food in Luminae was really high quality, and delicious. But if you don't want what is on offer you can ask for something from the Main Dining Room menu. We did this for dessert once (Celebrity's New York Cheesecake is my husband's favourite). We also ate in Tuscan Grille, Ocean Liners, and Bistro on Five. All of these have a cover charge, and the food and service is excellent in all. Everyone is keen to help you and ensure you have a great time onboard. The Concierge for the suites is Megan, and she was fabulous. Looks after any bookings for shore excursions or specialty restaurants that you want and saves you time and hassle. No queuing at guest services needed, Megan sorts everything out. She also manages any issues you may have, and provides general advice as well. She is a real asset to the ship. Constellation has the new fast internet system on board. And it is quick! You can buy various options or blocks of time. If you are a Elite you get 90 minutes free. For unlimited constant access, the price on our cruise was USD$199 for the whole cruise, and 50 per cent off for a second person or device in the same cabin. I was uploading photos onto Facebook and it was really quick, just a couple of minutes to load a dozen photos. Very fast and simple to sign up with immediate access. There is also an IT room with computers you can use so you don't need to bring your own device. It is so quick I saw people using Skype. Amazing. The itinerary was busy, we had 9 ports including an overnight in Venice in a 12 night cruise. The weather was great, we had a shower in Rhodes but otherwise we had fine days. We did ship tours in Athens and Venice, private tours in Naples, Ephesus and Santorini. And for Rhodes, Valetta, Mykonos and Crete we did our own walking around. The sail in to Valetta was beautiful, and the shopping was great as it was largely tax free. The sail in to Venice was a stand-out, we sailed down the Grand Canal at 1pm in the sunshine. Just beautiful. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
Having travelled twice before on sister ship Infinity, (and other Celebrity ships) we expected a lot from Constellation and on the whole she didn't disappoint. Boarding at Venice was a breeze, probably the quickest boarding we have ... Read More
Having travelled twice before on sister ship Infinity, (and other Celebrity ships) we expected a lot from Constellation and on the whole she didn't disappoint. Boarding at Venice was a breeze, probably the quickest boarding we have ever experienced. The sail out of Venice is amazing and a definite highlight that we had wanted to do for years.we understand that the Venice authorities will not be allowing this for large ships for much longer through the Grand Canal but it is the best sail away ever! We had an inclusive package which was great but even though we were not directly paying for drinks we found the bar staff still very happy to serve and generous with the measures. The friendliness of the crew was first class and as good as any we have experienced and better than on other lines which will remain nameless but have "sovereign " connections. Entertainment was generally good although we missed having a jazz trio in one of the bars. The theatre shows were well performed and produced but the new late night theatre show Elerya was awful. It tried to be "adult" but missed the mark but a long way, it was just rude. We hope this the shape of things to come on Celebrity. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
Went on Celebrity's "Connie" to Dubrovnik, Ephesus, Mykonos, etc. expecting a lot. Although I've been on 12 cruises, this is the first for Celebrity; I'd been told that this was the upscale Royal Caribbean and ... Read More
Went on Celebrity's "Connie" to Dubrovnik, Ephesus, Mykonos, etc. expecting a lot. Although I've been on 12 cruises, this is the first for Celebrity; I'd been told that this was the upscale Royal Caribbean and really the only line better was Crystal. Au Contraire. Perhaps if expectations hadn't been so high I would have enjoyed the cruise a lot more. Perhaps. So what was good first? The itinerary was perfect for me and a Venice departure is magical. The specialty restaurants, both Ocean Liner and the Italian one were simply great and in fact got close to if not even exceeded Crystal level food. The cabin, without a deck was fine and so was the cabin service. The entertainment and cruise director were also a cut above virtually any other line I've been on (which include besides Crystal, Cunard, Princess, Holland America, Norwegian, Paul Gauguin, Avalon, Chandris, RC.) The one excursion I went on was fine. So why then only a middling, at best, rating? Because: 1) nickel and dime-ing--every time you turn around a new charge, like the accountants have gone crazy. Perish if a venue is to close at 10:00 if you show up at 10:01. This attitude carries over to staff who reflect what management considers most important. If you found coffee there might not be cream or sugar nearby. Staff directed you to the other end of the ship. Virtually all of the lines mentioned above had a happier, more fun and service oriented staff than this. Yogurt in the morning costing over $5?? $5 for a smallish bottle of water? I don't think so. 2) Celebrity spent a huge amount on upgrading the spa area on this ship--and then couldn't make it work. No one would pay the $169 upgrade to stay in the area and they sheepishly refunded it when I thought I might. 3) Failed services. They touted giving away $500 of spa services--but didn't do it. They charged $50 for 3 games of bingo and supposedly a free suite upgrade as a prize -- but the same person won all 3 games. They also charged a very high $150 for what sounded like an interesting behind the scenes tour, then cancelled it when not enough people signed and discouraged everyone from signing up. What about those who wanted to go? 4) This is already an expensive line--but the package, mainly drink upgrades were ridiculously costly, -- I guess unless you got them free. 5) They had an interesting looking wine bar area...but none of the wine machines would work. 6) And the very worst? The service and food in the main dining room were, at best, marginally edible and at worst, not really. In a very similar space, Norwegian Epic had good, festive and happy food and a small orchestra playing with dancing. Celebrity had none of this and even lost my reservation for what table I should have been at. Room service meals were also forgettable. Why should this be when there are 130 chefs and a huge kitchen? I think the accountants made the purchase of lower grade product initially. I therefore spent 4 of 7 nights in the upgrade (and up cost) restaurants. One should just build that into the planned costs. Will I try them again? Maybe on a newer ship; I'm still intrigued by the grass of which this ship had none, and there are too many good reviews out there, but I suspect most of the problems above are line related, not due to this particular ship not fitting well into the current owner's plans. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
I slipped and fell on deck 10 because of the puddles of water. AFTER I fell and got hurt there were big yellow 'wet floor' cones everywhere but that does not help my very hurt back. ALSO...after a shore excursion around ... Read More
I slipped and fell on deck 10 because of the puddles of water. AFTER I fell and got hurt there were big yellow 'wet floor' cones everywhere but that does not help my very hurt back. ALSO...after a shore excursion around Santorini, the tour guide mentioned that the cable car to get back down tended to have very long lines. Thank goodness for that advice. 1.5 hours in line with people cutting in and no structure or help. People were arguing and fighting, really very bad organization. Angel the maitre d' at the San Marco restaurant is funny and helpful, very entertaining. Had mostly good dinners, the wait staff and sommelier in the San Marco restaurant were lovely. We ate there 6 of the 7 nights. One night in upgrade restaurant ($50 per person) resulted in a 3 hour dinner that should have been 1.5 hours at most but service was very slow, regardless of the fact that the restaurant was not busy. Buffet was always good, food as well as service. The buffet menu was good each day and it changed, so the food was not boring. Photographers were very nice and we got great photos. A nice perk and reminder of the trip. We took the train in from Venice and there was no help at all at the train station upon arrival. Don't know if it was our fault for not checking or our travel agent for not offering but it was very upsetting. The other cruise lines had signs and people waiting but we were stranded, with no help with the luggage, no signage, and no direction to the ship. We asked the locals for directions and found our way, but it was a long, hot walk followed by an anxious time with the 1.5 euro tickets for the people mover (train) to the ship, then more walking. The travel agent had us give advance passport and credit card info for an 'express check in' which was a total waste of time, as we still had to stand in line and give info all over again. Nothing express about it and we were not invited to stand in the express line although it was clearly stated on our paperwork. Disembarkation was probably the smoothest part of the process, there was help and transportation to the airport ~ we paid for it of course. Katakolon (last stop) was wonderful, an easy day in a beautiful port with great restaurants, shopping and people, even though it was very crowded, the shop and restaurant owners and workers were all wonderful. A day in Athens was highlighted by a taxi driver who offered us a tour and it was a great experience. Two cabs (there were 5 of us), we checked their business cards and licensing of course, and settled on price, squired us around town and offered a nice tour, gave us hints on getting around the Parthenon and other tours, changing of the guard, (use the same ticket for different tourist areas for instance)...it was much less expensive than if we had take the tour offered by either the ship or trip advisor...and then brought us to Zorba's (we asked for a great place to have lunch)...it was on the water with a fabulous view and incredible food and friendly and awesome wait staff and manager Nick ~ we promised him a shout out! Keep in mind that we are rather brave and didn't mind going on our own and it turned out incredibly well for us. Too tired to look for their business cards right now but one was getting married very soon and the other had lived in NY, both spoke great English and made the day just wonderful for us. We saw a couple of shows; not bad, considering...The Captain IS very funny, charming and very communicative with passengers...we wished there were more bars open outside in the evening. They close up by 730 or 8 pm and we were forced inside with karaoke singers and loud music etc...if we wanted a drink to bring back outside it was a long walk for peace and quiet under the stars. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
Overall a fantastic experience and we met some great new friends (other cruise critic members). The opportunity to communicate with them prior to departure and organise to form port tour groups was a great way to see the sights and enjoy ... Read More
Overall a fantastic experience and we met some great new friends (other cruise critic members). The opportunity to communicate with them prior to departure and organise to form port tour groups was a great way to see the sights and enjoy great company. The check in process was great and considering just how hot it was at Venice ( + 41 degrees) the cold drinks were appreciated. Drinks on the Helipad while leaving Venice was spectacular so thank you very much to the Best Captain in the World, the Greek God, (not my words, Cruise Director, Alejandro) Meals: Ocean Liners Restaurant we tried the 50% discount special offer first night and the food and service was fantastic. Great initiative to encourage people to try the restaurant. Blue Restaurant as part of Aqua Class was always great and much quieter for dinner. Please have a Sauvignon blanc available as part of the basic drinks package. San Marco main dining room we tried twice with new friends, but unfortunately we found it very noisy and food and service out of three would be 1.5 only sorry. Ocean View Cafe for breakfast and the occasional lunch on sea days was great with plenty of choice. Loved the Sushi bar thank you. However the drinks option at the Rear of the ship Bar we found it interesting on the drinks package basic that beer on tap was considered premium only but the glass bottles were not for Heineken? Cafe al Bacio great spot for sunset drinks, coffee breaks and liqueur coffees. :-) Bistro on five we were surprised to find this was not included and an additional cost. This may indicate while it always appeared to be empty unless you wanted a quiet spot away from everyone. The Martini Bar is popular but martinis overpriced is you are on he basic drinks package only. We did not appreciate the hard sell by the bar staff to upgrade all the time. Maybe some more chairs would be an option as the regulars never leave the ones around the bar. The ship photo's are too expensive and if you charged half the price people would buy them and you would not waste all that paper and harm the environment. The entertainment we attended the following: - Hypnotist - average - Staff dancing anything goes show - scary - Guitar singer in Cafe al Bacio - Good - Alejandro was very amusing. ( He is from Argentina) Would we try Celebrity again? Yes the Solstice Class. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
Just returned from our 25th Anniversary trip to Europe, having spent the first week on the Constellation and most of a second week on land. Perhaps we should have done it the other way around, as Celebrity had definitely spoiled us with ... Read More
Just returned from our 25th Anniversary trip to Europe, having spent the first week on the Constellation and most of a second week on land. Perhaps we should have done it the other way around, as Celebrity had definitely spoiled us with all the ice-water we could drink, unlimited towels and food, and constantly refreshed cabin . . .after that, traveling on land was a rude awakening! My husband, three teenagers (15, 17, 20) and I are experienced cruisers from Wilmington, NC and this was our second Celebrity cruise out of approximately 12-15 total; we definitely feel Celebrity is at the top of its tier with regard to service and food quality. [We had even taken a chance on Costa cruises last summer, only due to the itinerary offered for Northern Europe, and were sorely disappointed by crew decorum, lack of free water to drink, and absence of food availability between meals and late at night.] First to arrival: we took a taxi from the airport directly to the port, so no cruise connections were used. Given that we had arrived at 0900, we were very pleasantly surprised to be able to board shortly before noon, though our luggage didn't arrive at the cabin until ~3:30p. We had forgotten to buy duty-free bottles of wine to bring aboard, as one bottle per cabin is allowed at the onset of the cruise, so walked in the midday heat from the port to Piazza le Roma (~15-20 minutes) and visited the Coop store there; though we had asked a cruise rep, we were not advised that just past the security checkpoint, there was a duty-free shop right in the port terminal that would have saved us some sweaty steps! Cabins: The cabins we had were 7123 and 7127, both interior; there was adequate closet space, a nightstand per person, and the bathroom had storage in a cabinet under the sink. Beds were comfy. As always, I could have used more hooks to hang things on. Our kids' cabin needed to sleep 3, and we were unpleasantly surprised to find out that there weren't bunks to be pulled from the ceiling, but rather a fold-out cot/sofa-bed, which occupied much of the little floor space there was. Apparently, there are pull-out bunks on Levels 2 & 3, but not above those levels. As usual, the love-seat and cocktail table provided often were more in the way than useful in these smaller cabins, and I often wonder why there aren't at least tables that can be folded up or down against the wall to make more room. Dining: We had requested main seating at 18:30 and found the lower level of the San Marco Dining room to be quite nice, with large floor-to-ceiling windows looking out the back of the ship. We five had requested a table for 10 and were lucky enough to have been assigned a pleasant family from Dallas, TX who had girls of similar age to our teens, so dinner conversation was always lively! Our main server, Olman from Honduras, was a peach--always friendly and helpful, and his assistant, Ivana from Serbia, was just as nice. We give them both a "10"! Food was very good and we didn't have a bad meal all week: we always order one of each course (appetizer, salad or soup, entree, dessert) so there was always something to please. There was a lot of seafood, steak available every day, pasta, lamb/veal, and also vegetarian options daily. The Ocean-view Cafe buffet was available for breakfast and lunch and always had a wide variety of choices: Asian (the Indian options were always our favorite), Mexican, pasta cooked to order, pizza, sandwiches, salads, fruit, carving stations, meats & cheeses, the list goes on. We never paid extra to visit a specialty restaurant and did not purchase any of the drinks packages--the up-charges would only make sense if one were a BIG all-day drinker (who hadn't brought 2 bottles of wine aboard!). Ports: Our first port, the very day after embarkation, was Split, Croatia. Unfortunately, we should have docked and were tendered instead, causing us to miss a planned walking/biking tour that we'd been looking forward to. Celebrity was well aware of the clients' response to this snafu, and thereafter took great pains to make any other tendering/docking as painless as possible. We merely walked about the waterfront area and then returned to the ship, so I can't say too much about the port itself. Santorini: We were tendered here as well, but things went much more smoothly. Immediately upon landing, we heard an offer for 10 Euro pp tickets for a combined ferry/bus option that we took: fight from the tender landing area we boarded another boat that in ~15 minutes took us to the end of the island where we were transferred by minibus up to the top of the hill. There was the town of Oia (or Ia) which we strolled through and greatly enjoyed: so many vistas, replete with whitewashed buildings and blue accents and beautifully blooming bougenvillia everywhere! Bring your cameras!! Then, at a predetermined time ~1-2 hours later, we boarded a bus and rode the 15minutes to the city of Faro, at the top of where we'd initially landed. That area was much more overrun and crowded with tourists than Oia, so after strolling a while, we headed down on foot, on the same path that the famous donkeys use. It was a bit treacherous even going downward, as the cobbles are well-worn and somewhat slippery, so caution is advised (though at least one is in control of one's own destiny when walking, which can't be said for when on a donkey!) Mykonos: Docked. A shuttle provided brought us closer to the town, then we walked through town, along Little Venice, and to the nearest beach, which was a bit rocky to enter the water, but well worth the cool refreshing dip! Wish we had taken the opportunity to go to one of the more developed beaches, but had to re-board by 15:30 so didn't chance it. Windmills (not functional for some reason, though there was plenty of wind!) are a photo op, and again, all the cobbled lanes with overhanging flora. Katakolon: Docked. Main street is immediately adjacent to dock and many outfits sell tickets to Olympia. We opted to take Katakolo Tours bus round-trip to Olympia for ~10 Euro pp; the ride takes ~30 minutes each way and we had 2 hours there to see the museum and archeological site. Bring sunscreen, hat, and water, as the site is dry and HOT. Admission for these combined was 9 Euro pp. The bus back was barely air-conditioned, but served it's purpose. Venice: we hadn't arrived for any pre-departure time in Venice, so were very happy that we had one full day docked in Venice. It was blazingly hot, unfortunately, and that made our independent excursion to Murano, where the famous glassblowers work, a bit of an uncomfortable day. The wait for the vaporetto was long and crowded, and the town in general was even more busy than usual, as there was a celebration occurring that evening complete with fireworks over San Marco Square. Our purchase of a 24 hour vaporetto card for 20 Euro pp would have been a good deal if we had taken more than two vaporetto rides that day, but we opted to return to the ship for dinner and then had an upper level vantage point to see the fantastic (and fantastically long at ~20 minutes duration) fireworks at 2330 on the very last night of our cruise! Entertainment: After dinner, we would head directly to our 20:30 show and thereafter would go find whichever lounge was the liveliest. Given that we like having the teens with us most of the evening, we didn't have a chance to see what the Martini Bar had to offer, but it was always hopping. We did bemoan the fact that there was no piano bar for sing-alongs, and no real "disco"--the DJ had a small open space across from the Martini Bar, which made the whole level noisy and inhibited those who may otherwise have danced. Though he had some decent streaks of songs, we felt the DJ wasn't always attentive to the effect of his song choices: there would be a full dance floor and he would segue into some mix that would clear the floor, and he wouldn't change it up! Pay attention to your dancers!!! Also: It would be great if there were a "young adults" club where the 18-24s could meet and hang out; this demographic no longer has the organized "kids clubs" and would benefit from being thrown together more. The dancers and singers aboard were quite talented and enthusiastic, and we particularly liked the Celebrate the World show, though I heard it was being phased out after a 5 year run: would love to see it continued, but perhaps with updated costumes/songs? The newest show, Illyria, was a bit risque but no too, but the cast seemed to enjoy the challenge of a new and daring venture. The guest stars that we most enjoyed were the comedian Fred Klett from Milwaukee, and the female Ukranian violinist. The acrobats that are part of the cast are great as well. There happened to be two different Motown-type guests, which were both good, but it seemed too much of the same genre. Activities: As to the daytime events, the activities staff did a good job, offering dance lessons, ping-pong tournies (more, more!!), and trivia, but there was no shuffleboard competition. The library was well-stocked, but could use some travel guides and maps/atlases. Service: we found the staff aboard, from cabin stewards to waitstaff to officers and activity staff to be very attentive and polite. Super-Captain Tassos was great--with his involvement in so many activities, I don't know how the ship stays underway! The drink staff were never pushy. Disembarkation: We had independent arrangements to get to the train station for a 13:30 train, so requested the last # to disembark. We had to eat breakfast by 0800 and vacate the cabin by 0830, but then sat comfortably in a lounge for ~40 minutes until our # was called, walked off, found our luggage, and off we went! Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
Although, I was a little concerned about spending a few days in Istanbul prior to the cruise. I was pleasantly surprised I never felt concerns for safety in this very magical and warm city just the opposite I traveled around like I was ... Read More
Although, I was a little concerned about spending a few days in Istanbul prior to the cruise. I was pleasantly surprised I never felt concerns for safety in this very magical and warm city just the opposite I traveled around like I was home. I didn't chose a hotel suggested by the cruise line, because I felt I could stay at a Hilton type hotel anywhere. I did some research online and found a hotel in the Sultanmet district great idea you are able to walk to many things as well as stay in local surrounding the hotel was perfect. The cruise line was very well organized for getting on the ship, we encountered no wait or missteps. Our first cruise with Celebrity, and I found myself comparing this with Holland our normal choice. The comparision is hard to do since there were pro's and con's for each one. I find them both to be similar in most areas. We were over-all very pleased with the Constellation. Our location on the ship was very convenient, we were at midship and were able to get everywhere we wanted to be easily. This cruise you must have at the very least a good size window in your cabin. Many times during the night I found myself looking out to see villages on hill sides and small lighthouses that along with the beautful stars well wonderful. The crew was very helpful as well as those I reserved our cruise with, since it was our first trip on Celebrity I had to call several times with questions. I enjoyed all the shore excursions we booked with the cruise line. We did a Turkish bath with one excursion, since when else would you do a Turkish bath other than in Turkey. My husband and I are both in our early 70's, and really enjoyed the experience. We did excursions through the ship at every port except Santorini. At Santorini I wanted to do the hike between Fira and Oia after reading about online, and we did I would advise anyone that enjoys beautiful scenery and challenge to do it. I loved every minute of the hike there would be no way to describe how wonderful the scenery was, and the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the hike. We rode the bus back from Oia, and still had time to walk around the shops in Santorini before having to get to the tenders and back to the ship. This cruise covers so much from history to scenery and it is more challenging as far as physical activity than most of our prior cruises, and to me that is what makes this such a wonderful itenerary. Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
OVERVIEW This was our second cruise on a Millennium class vessel although the Constellation has been Solticised, so the layout and "feel” of the ship differed somewhat to our initial experience on the Infinity some four years ago. ... Read More
OVERVIEW This was our second cruise on a Millennium class vessel although the Constellation has been Solticised, so the layout and "feel” of the ship differed somewhat to our initial experience on the Infinity some four years ago. We nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed the cruises. We had visited most of western Turkey as well as Athens previously but this was our first experience of the Greek Isles which did not disappoint. But our overriding impression of the cruise was that of the outstanding service we received invariably from the ship’s staff at all levels and at all times. It is a truism that an organisation’s leadership largely dictates it’s ensuing culture and quite obviously the tone of this cruise was set firmly by the Master of the vessel Captain Tasos Kafetzis who we understand is the youngest ever Captain of a Celebrity vessel. He clearly leads by example, is obviously well liked and respected by the crew and ensures that his Officers are visible and approachable at all times, creating an almost family feel to the cruising experience. BEFORE THE CRUISE We flew from South Africa direct to Istanbul where we overnighted at the quaint Hotel Sapphire in the Old City. We had booked an airport transfer online through a service instanbul.safeairporttransfer.com that we can recommend. The service was on time, efficient, comfortable and, at Euro 23 for the car, probably not much more than the cost of a taxi. Even though our transfer was at peak morning rush hour, we arrived at the hotel some six hours before the regular check-in time of 14h00. We expected to merely drop off our luggage at the hotel and do some touring before the scheduled check-in time but the hotel reception staff made special efforts to release a room beforehand and to our surprise we were offered a room within an hour of our arrival. We were also offered a complimentary breakfast while we waited for your room which we declined as we had already had breakfast on our flight before landing at Ataturk airport. We were very impressed with quality of service and willingness of the hotel staff to go this extra mile a commitment to customer service that we have seldom experienced at other establishments on our world-wide travels especially from the major chains. After checking in and refreshing ourselves we set off to tour parts of the Old City. We had been to Istanbul on two previous occasions so were familiar with most of the major attractions but nevertheless opted for the hop on hop off bus tour of the city to re-orientate ourselves with where the major sights, mosques, palaces and markets are situated. That evening we decided to try a traditional Turkish kebab meal. Our hotel was literally surrounded by restaurants offering very similar menus at similar prices. We randomly chose the New Hatay because the outside seating seemed to be a bit more secluded than most others with seating projecting into the sidewalk and we think we lucked out with our choice. The food was good, reasonably priced with excellent service. The following day, after a late breakfast, we made our way to the port to embark on the Celebrity Constellation. Embarkation formalities were swift and uneventful and we were soon orientating ourselves to the layout and attractions of the recently Solticised vessel. We spent the balance of the day relaxing on board. The first official day of the cruise was actually a port day as we only sailed from Istanbul at 8 p.m. We decided to spend the morning touring the Dolmabache Palace, one of the major attractions we had not visited on our previous tours of Istanbul. Very impressive with historical significance to both the Ottoman Empire as well as to modern Turkey as the Palace was Mustafa Kamal Ataturk’s last official place of residence. THE CRUISE Itinerary Although we had visited Turkey and Greece before we had not yet experienced cruising the Aegean Sea and visiting some of the Greek Isles had long been on our bucket list. By and large, despite a feeling of sameness with what each destination had to offer, we were not disappointed with our choice of this itinerary. All ports were distinctively beautiful and all had unique feature/s and places of interest to visit and sights to view. This was our tenth cruise and for the first time we opted not to partake of any of the ship’s recommended shore excursions, deciding to experience the sights and features of each destination on our own. In Athens, Rhodes and Chain (Crete) we used the hop on hop off bus facility to orientate ourselves to the city and in all places visited we spent most of our time walking to the various view sites, scenic attractions and markets. Our favourite destinations, purely personal preferences, were Bodrum, Marmaris and Chania although Athens will always have a special place in our hearts as well. Santorini with its hilltop villages and Mykonos, picture postcard Greece in our view, were also well worth visiting. Food The food on the Constellation was generally good especially in the San Marco main dining room where we had, as always, opted for the Select dining experience. It never ceases to amaze us how the cruise ships can prepare and deliver banquet style meals day in, day out to over 2000 people, attractively presented and generally of consistent quality at each meal sitting. There was always an impressive range of pizzas and pastas available. On the two occasions we decided to have a casual dinner at the Ocean View we were more than happy with the fare on offer. We alternated breakfast and lunch between the Ocean View Café, the Aqua Health bar and the Poolside Grill. Although we were a bit disappointed with the sameness of the fare on offer, especially at lunch in the Ocean View Café, there was usually sufficient variety to ensure one did not go hungry! If we were ever at a loss on what choice to make we knew we could always rely on getting a quality burger at the Poolside Grill. Our main niggle is the quality of the coffee provided in the Ocean View Café tasteless and largely undrinkable in our view. Perhaps this is a cunning ploy to encourage passengers to make more use of the Café al Bacio coffee outlet which offers a range of excellent coffees  at a fee of course! Speciality Restaurants We dined at all three speciality restaurants. Our first night on board actually co-incided with our 43rd wedding anniversary, so we decided on a celebratory dinner at Ocean Liners, the speciality "French” restaurant. The food, service and ambience were all excellent although at and overpriced USD45 per head we posit that most guests will only be able to afford to visit this establishment for special occasions. The restaurant was only a third full at best. A nice touch though was a special cake commemorating our anniversary presented with suitable fanfare at the end of our meal. We were disappointed in the Bistro on Five casual dining venue specialising in a range of crepes and panini’s. We only used this facility once but found our choices to be too spicy for our taste although the crepes were of good quality. On the other hand the Tuscan Grille was excellent and of all three speciality venues, was the one we liked the best. Primarily a steakhouse it nonetheless offers an excellent selection of pastas and seafood as well, while the desserts are among the best we have yet had anywhere. Again, at USD35 per head, the price was off-putting and the venue was less than half full on the night we attended. Drinks Packages The cost of drinks on board continues to be horrendous especially for passengers who do not earn dollars or euros. For instance, at a current exchange rate of over 10:1 between the USD and the South African Rand, the cost of a beer at USD 5,5 is almost four times the cost of a beer back in South Africa. However, on this cruise we qualified for a Classics drinks package as a special Celebrity promotional offer. The package at USD 49,95 each per day is good value providing unlimited non-premium beers, wines, spirits, soft drinks and bottled waters up to specified limits plus the full range of speciality coffees and teas. The range of wines on the package is very restrictive but we still managed to find perfectly quaffable vintages within the selections available. While being incredibly convenient, unless one is a reasonably heavy drinker we found it was difficult to consume beverages to the value of the daily cost. Typically we would have a drink before dinner, a couple of glasses of wine during the evening meal and perhaps a beer or speciality coffee during the day. We also regularly used the package for fresh squeezed juice at breakfast and to obtain our supply of bottled water for the day. Even all this did not come close to the cost of the daily package. Service Quite unconditionally, the service on the Constellation was the best we have yet experienced on any cruise. Attentive, efficient and invariably with a smile, we could not fault the service offered by all staff and crew at all levels. Celebrity obviously places a strong emphasis on staff training. All staff are invariably polite, generally knowledgeable and willing to do that little bit extra with a smile. Entertainment The standard and variety of entertainment offers on this cruise was also some of best we have yet experienced. The Cruise Director, Mark Western, was energetic, personable and a great entertainer in his own right and ensured the comprehensive daily entertainment programme offered something of interest to all guests whatever their taste. Some of the acts and artists were undoubtedly of international class including an operatic quartet that could rival Il Divo anytime, a brilliant magician/illusionist, a breath-taking aerial artist duo, an absolutely outstanding pianist who kept the audience enthralled with his around the world compositions for an entire hour, a couple of very good singers and a number of excellent bands and musicians offering a range of music including classics, jazz , reggae and country in a variety of venues throughout the day. Cabins Our cabin was a standard balcony on the 7th deck amidships. We knew what to expect and were not disappointed. While somewhat small, it was always kept scrupulously clean and adequately equipped. Cabin attendants Sharon and Jaeval were especially attentive to any of our needs. Sadly, because this particular itinerary was so port intensive, coupled with a few days of inclement weather, we seldom made use of the balcony facility. The ship We like the size, design and layout of the Millennium class ships. Although we were informed the ship was fully booked with over 2100 passengers, we never felt crowded and even in the Ocean View Café we were always able to find a table although we tended to avoid the inevitable scrimmage at peak breakfast or lunch times. The range of bars, lounges and quite places are also impressive while the coffee bar Café al Bacio on deck 5 was always a welcome respite for a speciality coffee and slice of fresh cake in the afternoons. Disembarkation Disembarkation was somewhat chaotic caused mainly by the excruciatingly slow progress disembarking passengers made through the immigration/passport control process. As we were staying in Istanbul on our own for a couple of days post cruise, we had opted for a late disembarkation time so despite the delays we were not all that inconvenienced by the slow disembarkation procedure. POST CRUISE We spent two days in Istanbul prior to our flight back home. We had pre-arranged hotel accommodation and again were fortunate to be offered a room shortly after arrival at the hotel, the Eurostars Old City, a well situated establishment within walking distance of most of the major attractions of the Old City. During the two days before trekking off to the airport for a very late flight, we did the obligatory cruise of the Bosporus, walked our socks off re-acquainting ourselves with tourist attractions such as the New Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Hippodrome and Blue Mosque, before doing some late shopping in the Grand and Spice bazaars. The evening before we flew home we also returned to the excellent New Hatay restaurant for another lovely meal of traditional Turkish fare. SUMMARY All in all a wonderful two weeks in a part of the world we have come to love. The ship was great, itinerary interesting, generally good weather etc. and our only minor reservation is that this particular itinerary is perhaps a bit too port intensive with only two cruise days during the twelve night cruise. We enjoy the more frequent sea days that have typified our previous cruises. Irritatingly, Celebrity continue to penny pinch on a number of unnecessary issues such as the "complimentary” bottle of water provided in the stateroom that one is automatically charged an exorbitant 4 USD if it is used, or the 10 USD shuttle one is encouraged to purchase on board only to find this is twice as expensive as an identical service offered by public transport on shore! They should rather just build these irritating minor charges into the cruise fare and be done with it. It would create a better impression with the customers who would feel they were getting these additional services with the compliments of the cruise line. Our real beef though is with the Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited organisation itself that seems to be only interested in focusing on the interests of the North American market. We have previously sailed on two Royal Caribbean, one Azamara and four Celebrity cruises (with another already booked for next June 2014), so have already demonstrated our loyalty to the RCCL cruise line. Yet two new loyalty benefits that were aggressively promoted on board are denied to non-North American customers! We refer to: a) the newly devised "MyCruise Rewards Programme” that offers members benefits such as two for one airfares, discounts on beverage packages, speciality restaurants and shore excursions, plus the opportunity for members to earn loyalty points for all cruises and on-board services purchased that can be traded for discounts on future cruises or used to purchase on-board credits; and b) a special promotion offered towards the end of the cruise offering a 5% discount on a future cruise if booked before we arrived back in Istanbul. However, on enquiring about this special discount we were informed it only applied to Alaskan and Caribbean cruises which are almost exclusively aimed at the American market. This exclusive focus on pandering to the needs and expectations of an already privileged part of their customer base makes one question whether to continue to remain loyal to the RCCL brand or to try another cruise line that is more interested in treating ALL its customers equally and fairly.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
Constellation 10-31-13 Turkey and Greece Monday  Tuesday, October 28 & 29 We were driven by family members to Newark Airport. We had booked the flights through Choice Air and were actually on United tickets, but all flights were on ... Read More
Constellation 10-31-13 Turkey and Greece Monday  Tuesday, October 28 & 29 We were driven by family members to Newark Airport. We had booked the flights through Choice Air and were actually on United tickets, but all flights were on Lufthansa. The check-in process was incredible. We were waved over to first class check in as there were no first class passengers being checked in. The big bags were taken, and the nice person asked if we would like to check our smaller bags at no charge. Sure! This left us with only the laptop bag and DW’s small satchel with all our meds to carry on. The flight to Munich was very pleasant. We left a little late but effectively arrived on time. The flight from Munich to Istanbul  well, let’s just say it’s a good thing it was only 2.5 hours. The Airbus -200 had those skimpy plastic seats with almost no padding, and no legroom whatsoever. We had obtained our electronic visas in advance, so after deplaning went straight to passport control. Five minutes wait, stamp our passports, and have a nice day. Why can’t it be like this when we come back to the USA? Our driver was waiting for us. We kept him waiting 5 minutes while waiting to use an ING ATM to withdraw Turkish Lira. The drive from the airport to the Doubletree Old Town was interesting. The first two-thirds was along the Golden Horn waterway and there were a lot of people and families out along the water picnicking and enjoying the Republic day holiday, but traffic seemed somewhat light. The last third of the drive seemed like gridlock, and we felt a little bad for our driver. We asked him and he said the traffic was mostly normal, not any worse due to the holiday. All together it took about 40 minutes to reach the Doubletree. They took our luggage and checked us in promptly. With all apologies that our room needed another ten minutes to be ready we were invited to enjoy a beverage on the house. The room is adequate but nothing special, but the location is very central. The concierge had the six pre-ordered museum passes so they were obtained for our touring with friends starting tomorrow morning. That took most of our Turkish currency but it will be replaced by our friends. After exploring the hotel we went out exploring. The weather is fabulous. "Shirtsleeve” weather, even after dark. It did seem hazy (dare I say ''"Smoggy?”)during the afternoon. Our driver told us that Istanbul recently exceeded 20 Million residents. That makes New York City, or certainly Philadelphia, seem like a country town! We walked up and down the main street and found that one does not need to find the ''"Grand bazaar” to shop. The whole city seems like a bazaar! If our luggage had been damaged it would have been very easy and inexpensive to replace a piece, two doors down from the hotel. Shops have their stock replenished by mostly young men wheeling hand trucks so overloaded that "OSHA” back in the US would certainly not approve! I have photos to prove it. We found a shop along the way where a man was carving chicken and beef off of huge Kabobs and making sandwiches. I had a beef sub and it was good. DW had a flatbed chicken sandwich and she said it sat in her stomach and was not very comfortable. We also had bottled water and peach tea. We walked some more and finally returned to the Doubletree at about 7:00. After a very long day, a short night, and another long day, it was time to shower and relax, and call it a day. A pleasant surprise awaited us in our room from the Doubletree! They left us a plate of sweets and a plate of fresh fruit. This sure helped round out our ''"Dinner” for the evening. Wednesday, October 30, 2013 Istanbul Our cruising friends Rick, Sharon, Lisa, and Harold arrived early this morning. The Doubletree had their rooms ready (at 7:00 AM!) so we left at 8:30 to see historic Sultanahmet. What did we do today? We toured the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, the Hippodrome, the Underground Cistern (really, really neat!), learned the tram system, found mile marker "Zero” (once considered to be the center of the earth), took a Bosphorous cruise, had a super late lunch at the ''"Hamdi restaurant” with an incredible view of the three cruise ships in port, toured the Spice Market, climbed a mountain walking to and through the Grand Bazaar, and back to the Doubletree. All this left everyone quite exhausted! Arrangements have been made for our transfer to the ship tomorrow at noon. Beforehand, we have lots of things to see in the morning. Thursday, October 31, 2013  Istanbul and embarkation on the Celebrity Constellation Thursday morning we enjoyed breakfast at the Doubletree. We met our friends and pushed our way onto the tram to visit the Topkapi Palace. We were there when the gates were opened and immediately began following Rick Steve’s printed tour. We saw all the highlights, including the Harem, and left the palace shortly after 11:00. We entered with no wait at all. When we left, the queue line for tickets was long and there were school groups and tour buses waiting to enter the grounds as well! We walked back to the tram stop and hopped back to the Doubletree, arriving at 11:30. We all gathered our luggage and checked out. Our arranged 12:00 transport through Istanbul Airport Express was waiting, but with a smaller vehicle than expected. I never thought they would fit the six of us plus the luggage. They did, but it was a lot like riding the Istanbul tram except in a Mercedes van. Arrival and check in at the ship was flawless. Porters took our luggage, we walked immediately through security, were checked in, went through Turkish passport control, and on the ship with a Mimosa in hand in about 150 minutes or less. We visited the Lido and obtained some lunch. Eventually our traveling friends found us (we had gotten separated at check-in) and at 1:30, just as we were finishing lunch, the ''"Rooms are ready” announcement was made. We dropped our hand luggage in the room and met up again at Café El Bacio to head out to take Rick Steve’s Golden Horn walking tour. We enjoyed the tour, seeing the fishermen on the bridge, the restaurants underneath, and the Sirkeci train station (the terminus of the Orient Express). We then hopped the tram back to the cruise port and headed to our rooms to unpack and get ready for dinner. A few of us took the time for a relaxing break in the Thalassotherapy pool. One of our group had made arrangements for all six of us to enjoy the Tuscan Grill tonight. Dinner was excellent and much enjoyed and appreciated. Friday, November 1  Istanbul A hearty breakfast of Celebrity waffles with an omelet began my day. DW enjoyed the spa cuisine and a smoothie. We met our friends at Café El Bacio and headed out for out day. Last evening, we all agreed to ditch the ''"New town” tour we had planned and instead spend the day at the Grand Bazaar. We found that walking North to the tram was half the distance we covered on Thursday by heading south. The tram brought us quickly to the area near the Bazaar. After walking part of the perimeter around a mosque, we reached one of the main entrances. What are we looking for? Watches, leather goods, possible ''"Made in Turkey” souvenirs are all on the hunt list. No ''"Made in China” stuff! After many hours, we estimate we covered perhaps half of the grand bazaar. Among our group, we procured a handful of ''"Made in Turkey” belts, tea sets, silk scarves, a pashmina, a purse, a turquoise necklace set, and two watches. I guess we did our part to support the Turkish economy today! We rode the tram back to the port, and had enough time to enjoy the T-pool before getting ready for the muster drill followed by our first dinner in the San Marco Restaurant. Not as a complaint, but as constructive criticism, this was the ''"Worst” and most ineffective muster drill we have experienced in sixteen cruises. Yes, they showed us how to put on life jackets. But really there was no instruction on what to do, where to go, in the event of a real emergency. It also seemed to take a very long time, as instruction was given in five languages. Tracking down the cabins that had not checked in also took quite a while. Even though "All aboard” was earlier, everyone knew the ship wasn’t leaving until 8:00 PM so it is very likely that some had not come to the ship in time for the drill? The six of us are assigned to a table of eight. A nice couple from Ireland are our additional table companions. Dining service this first night was good. As expected, beverage service in the San Marco leaves room for improvement. Most everyone was happy with their meal. After dinner we enjoyed the sail away party in Reflections on deck 11. We walked the ship during the late show and enjoyed a bit more music in Reflections before calling it a late night. Looking forward to our sea day on Saturday. Saturday, November 02, 2013 At sea” Saturday is the first of only two sea days on this port-intensive cruise. We enjoyed a late (for us) breakfast, very similar to the prior day. After coffee and tea at Café El Bacio, it was time for the cruise critic connections party. We had a huge turnout. The cruise director, the captain, and several other officers came to welcome us on board. Captain Tasos shared that he followed the cruise critic ''"Blog” and seemed pleased with the mostly positive reviews since he joined the ship on the transatlantic in May. We met everyone that has planned to join us on our earlier port excursions and that is always a good thing! After the party we shopped the ''"Bazaar” on the lido and bought two T-shirts. They actually had a nice one for Athens in XXXL. Too bad they didn’t have the Istanbul T-shirt in that size; Celebrity lost a sale here. After shopping we spent some time in our cabin sending out a very packed laundry bag (30 items ''" the maximum) for the Captain’s Club $20 laundry bag deal. We enjoyed lunch in the San Marco, always a nice option on a sea day. Shortly after lunch was the Captain’s Club party. This is always a very nice, and also, very packed event. That ended just in time to enjoy the party band playing on the pool deck. As we head South it is beginning to warm up a bit more ''" not that we have any complaints about the completely dry weather we have enjoyed thus far. We took advantage of the ''"Gelato happy hour” and the two-for-one Gelato cones. While this was very good, we likely won’t do this again as I didn’t think it was significantly better than the ice cream always available on the lido deck. The only benefit was we were able to get Coffee and Tea from Café El Bacio at the same time, and their service is super. This is the first formal night. The menu tonight in the San Marco we thought somewhat a disappointment for a formal night. DW’s Cedar plank Salmon didn’t taste right, so she did not eat it. I also had the Salmon and mine tasted fine, but I only ate about half. I also ordered the everyday available Chicken and sad to say, the Chicken was better than the Salmon. Dessert was a hit, however! The Warm Apple Crumble was filled with Apples and worth the price of admission. After dinner we listed to the Jazz trio for a while with friends and shut down the bar. No, we didn’t stay up until the wee hours! Rather, the bar essentially closed down once second seating dinner started and the first seating show was underway. We were too tired for the I-Broadway show and have seen similar Broadway themed shows before. Tonight is an early night as the meeting time in the morning for our private tour of Ephesus is 7:15 AM. Sunday, November 3 ''" Kusadasi / Ephesus The Constellation docked timely in Kusadasi, the first of four cruise ships docking here today. We had scheduled a 7:15 meeting for our private tour at Café El Bacio, and were off the ship and in our tour van by 7:30. We had booked this tour through White Travel tours, through a Rick Steve’s recommended guide referral. Ersin Gokce was our guide and he was a ten on a scale of ten. Ersin provided a wealth of knowledge and we greatly enjoyed our guided tour of Ephesus, the Terrace Houses, the Virgin Mary House, the ruins of the Basilica of St. John, and the ruins of the temple of Artemis. We were back at the port at 12;45 and immediately found our friends who had been on a different tour and began our search for the perfect watch. Early on in our search we found a few promising prospects, but we continued our search none-the-less. Eventually we returned to one shop, the ''"Watch Clinic.” Between our group we purchased four watches, and three pens. Several other items were also acquired by our group. A handbag, and a number of Turkish made scarves. An ATM stop on the way back to the ship was also required! Once back on board, some burgers from the pool grille and an assortment of beverages gave us a revival. At 4:30, a local group came on board to perform a folkloric show on the pool deck. They were very good. Afterwards quick showers were needed to get ready for tonight’s dinner in the San Marco dining room. Monday, November 4 ''" Bodrum Bodrum was a port that we didn’t find a lot of information on ahead of time. We did learn that the main attraction, the Castle of St. Peter and the Underwater Archeology Museum, we closed on Monday. We arranged a group of 11 through our roll call to ''"Wing it,” a primary thought being that if the weather cooperated, we would charter a ''"Gullet” to cruise around the harbor. We left the ship at 8:30 but it was soon apparent that Bodrum was just in the process of waking up. A fifteen minute walk brought us to a marina and we were offered a gullet cruise for the group for 350 TL. Split eleven ways, that came out to less than $20/pp. It was suggested that we cruise to ''"Black island” to enjoy the thermal springs and cave. Few of us planned ahead with swim gear, so we told the harbormaster we would return by 10:00 ready to go. It was a beautiful day to cruise the still harbor on a small boat. The thermal springs in the cave were nothing to go out of one’s way to experience, perhaps why we didn’t find it in any guidebook. In any case, it was a very pleasant and inexpensive outing. We returned to the ship for a change and lunch. A note on lunch, I had two pieces of fish from the fish and chips station. One piece was fine but the second piece tasted very fishy. Although I only swallowed one small piece, that was a mistake. After lunch, we caught the town-provided harbor taxi to take us downtown. We found the shopping in Bodrum to be more appealing than Kusadasi! Shop we did, and our group bought at least five watches, a handbag, and countless other items. Returning to the ship we enjoyed dinner in the San Marco restaurant. It was during dinner however that I began to feel the effects of the lunchtime fish. Tuesday, November 5 ''" Rhodos, Greece Our first time in Greece! My breakfast this morning was very light ''" just Cinnamon tea and dry rye bread. We had planned to take the bus to Lindos while on Rhodos, but after our frantic pace, everyone was happy to adapt those plans and simply walk the town instead. Again, leaving the ship at 8:30, the town was just in the process of waking. It was kind of nice to walk down the streets before the shops were open, and eventually we found the Castle of the Knights of St. John. This was unique to tour as many of the floors were painstakingly transplanted mosaics from around the Greek islands. Heading back to Constellation, we found our dining room waiter, Arslan heading out for his first visit to Rhodos. We thought of him again 30 minutes later, when, having lunch by the aft bar, a storm rolled in and for the next three hours the rain was ''"Intense.” This gave us time to head to the ''"T-pool,” in which I enjoyed a nap on the racks. I then enjoyed another nap on the padded loungers. Later, I enjoyed a third nap in our cabin. Dinner in the San Marco closed our day (can you tell I was tired? That ''"Fish” took a lot out of me) but DW and friends stayed out and went to the show. Wednesday, November 06, 2013 ''" Marmaris, Turkey. An early breakfast was followed by a 7:30 gathering of the eleven of us from the cruise critic roll call to meet our prearranged guide for a trip to Dalyan, and then a river boat cruise to the mud baths, thermal springs, rock tombs, and Turtle beach. Our guide and driver were waiting for us. Off we headed for the 80 minute drive to the town of Dalyan. We reach Dalyan and transferred onto the river boat, which was just our group. We cruised up the river to the mud bath and thermal springs. Three of the group actually went in. Once done, we cruised down the river, past the town, to the rock tombs. Seeing these, painstakingly carved into the side of the vertical cliff faces from the 2nd century BC until the 4th century AD was quite an experience. Finally, we cruised downriver through the tall grass where ''"The African Queen” was filmed and reached Turtle beach. I actually did see a turtle, twice, for no more than a second each time. The locals claim this is one of the top ten beaches in the world. It is a pretty beach, with a nice setting, but the sand is dark and in the summer must become incredibly hot. Sorry, but it would not be on the top ten list of beaches I have been to myself. We returned to Marmaris and we had asked our guide to show us the shopping area. Somehow, he misinterpreted the request that we be dropped off in the shopping area. He assured us it was a ''"Five minute” walk back to the ship, so everyone was kind of okay with the drop-off. We shopped a little, among our group of six, only one belt was purchased. Then we found out it was over a 35 minute walk back to the ship! I am sure some who were on our tour will not be happy that they were left with such a long walk. We weren’t happy either ''" it wasn’t just the walk, we were carrying full bags of towels and damp swimsuits, etc. Someone heard that the port often runs a shuttle, but for some reason it was not running today. Marmaris is a nice port, but I will rate it poorly on the survey due to the very long distance around the marina to get to the cruise port. Once on board, we had a little something (Jell-O from Café El Bacio and tea in my case) to hold us over until dinner. Tonight is formal night but we all made it ''"Formal light.” After a long port day we just weren’t up to the full tuxedo dress up thing. Dinner was good although one of our party’s steak orders was too undercooked and needed to be sent back. Thursday, November 7, Santorini, Greece Santorini. The view of the caldera wall in the pre-dawn light from Constellation promised a day unlike any other this cruise. We were up early as our group of six had arranged to rent a large enough vehicle for all of us to travel in. One of us went down to obtain tender tickets as they were made available at 07:00. He obtained tender tickets for ''"#1.” We all met for breakfast at 07:00 in the Oceanview café. At about 7:20 we heard the announcement that tender #1 and 2 were available to board. We were ashore at 7:35. Called the rental car place and received a message. We went up on the first cable car run of the day, and were in Fira at 7:45. We walked to the main road and one of the kind people at another rental company called our company for us. They were surprised we were off the ship and up the caldera so quickly, but that is possible with only one ship in port. Ten minutes later someone drove up and two of us went to pick up the vehicle and confirm the drop off point. By 8:15 we were in our large Fiat, and on the way to Oia. A number of ship’s tour buses had passed while we were waiting for our vehicle, so we knew we would not be alone in Oia. We followed a combination of Rick Steve’s cruise port volume suggestion and Tom’s port guide to Santorini for planning our day. We found the parking lot at Oia; made a quick run into the already open Pharmacy, and soon were taking the first of hundreds of photos that day. The main walking route is incredible, with every turn a new ''"Postcard view.” We walked all the way to the ''"Old fort” at the end of the peninsula, and enjoyed nearly every step. A few cold water bottles completed our early morning adventure in Oia. By about 10:30 we returned to the Fiat and headed back towards (and past) Fira, to the Santos Winery. This proved to be a great stop! Santos is located on a point on the caldera affording magnificent views. Clean ''"WC’s” and easy parking made this a pleasure. We sampled a number of their wines, and most were impressive. They also offered 30 minute complementary internet so this allowed a short opportunity to post a few photos of the day for friends and family back home. By 11:30 we were back in the Fiat heading to Prygos. We never found the parking area in Prygos, and ended up making a long turn taking us up a huge mountain. Before reaching the end of the road we realized our error, and returned to Prygos and the correct road to reach Kamari beach. Kamari beach is a ''"Black sand” beach. It is a really nice beach. The sand is not very fine, but coarse. Likely due to the volcanic rock from which it comes is less than 4,000 years old. We have visited black sand beaches on the island of Hawaii that have very fine black sand. The waves were crashing and the beach runs straight into the mountain (the one we were driving up!) that juts out into the Aegean Sea. Nearly all establishments along the beach were shuttered for the winter, so we were able to drive very slowly along what is likely a pedestrian walk during the season, and followed the beach north as long as we could. It is doubtful many cruise passengers make it to a place like Kamari. By now its 1:30 and we thought we should return to Fira. We followed the map and took a different route back, seeing still more of the island. Parking in Fira, even on a day with only one ship in port, is near impossible. We dropped off most of our group to shop, and began to return the car. A miracle occurred and a parking slot opened up 2 minutes later. We were unable to locate our group, but that did afford us a chance to see a little of the shopping area. What was disappointing (after Oia) is that the main pathway did not seem to afford the views, almost always blocked by buildings on the ridge. Returning to the car, we dropped is at about 2:45 at the designated return area, and then had a challenge finding the most direct path back towards the cable car. This entire route afforded not one good glimpse of the caldera, although we were on (or very near) the ridge line the entire time. There was a short (five minute?) line for the cable car, and by 3:30 we were back onboard the Constellation. An hour or so later the other part of our group returned. We enjoyed the hot tub and watched the guitar player set up to play at the pool. Well, he set up. He never did play. It was an incredible, 72 degree day and perfectly clear by late afternoon. Dinner in the San Marco was enjoyed, and for us that ended the day as all the up and downs walking the caldera proved to be very draining. One note on Santorini ''" we kept saying to one another, we can’t imagine being here and enjoying it with even two additional ships in port. We know there are days of seven ships in port. The infrastructure to move people up and down the caldera can’t handle that many people. After our most enjoyable day, we were in no physical condition to stand in a line for an hour (or more) to ride the cable car down. We are immensely glad we visited when we did, and would be extremely hesitant to book a cruise that visited here on a multi-ship day. Friday, November 08, 2013 ''" Athens, Greece WOW! An incredible day in Athens began early with a 6:30 breakfast meeting followed by our group of twelve gathering at Café El Bacio at 7:15. All arrived promptly and we left the Constellation. We were shuttled by port bus to the terminal. Exiting the terminal we found a few drivers but not ''"Billy,” our pre-arranged driver. It was 7:28 and our meeting time was 7:30. I checked my phone and sure enough I had a text from Billy that he ran into unexpected traffic and would be there by 7:35. A very short time later Billy came running up all apologies. He confirmed we were all present, and ran back to get his Mercedes Sprinter mini-bus. We all boarded the very comfortable bus and Billy gave us the plan for the day. Our first stop was to be the Acropolis. Billy was able to drop us off at an entrance that actually ''"Saved” us more than half what the climb would have been if we had taken the metro or a public bus into town. He gave us a lot of information on Athens during the drive into to town, and explicit directions on buying the Acropolis entry tickets and not to lose the paper ticket as it would also be used for sights later in the day. We prepped our MP-3 players and I-Pods that we had pre-loaded with Rick Steve’s audio tour. We followed Billy’s instructions and were quickly climbing the hill. We first saw Mars Hill, the outcropping on which the Apostle Paul preached. We next saw the Arena of Herodes, which is still used today for concerts and artistic presentations. Then we turned a corner and witnessed the magnificent Propylaea, or the ''"Grandest gate ever built.” Many photos were taken and we all were amazed at the incredible structure and also what a marvelous day the weather had given us. This was certainly the ''"Clearest” day so far. Not a cloud in the crystal blue sky. Continuing with our climb through the Propylaea, we reached the summit and beheld the Parthenon, or actually, the Temple of Athena Nike. Athens is named after the goddess Athena, the patron of the city, and goddess of wisdom. The temple has been in the process of being rebuilt with the original stones since 2001, when it was completely disassembled. The hope of the Greek government and EU (who is footing much of the bill) is that when complete the temple will be ready to last another 2,500 years. In our photos scaffolding can be seen from some angles and I actually shot some video of a crane moving a large section of stone into position. Not much less impressive was the Porch of the Caryatids, part of the Erechtheion. This structure was perhaps more prestigious that the Parthenon in its day. Even here, on ground with over 2,500 years of history, more recent history was made as the Greek Flag flies on the far end of the Acropolis. This flag can be seen from almost everywhere in Athens and when the Nazis occupied Athens this flag pole became the first rallying point of the resistance. We gradually descended from the Acropolis to meet Billy at the designated 10:00 AM meeting time. This was just the right amount of time, not too little, nor too much. Next Billy drove us to the ruins of the Temple of Zeus. These are the highest historic columns in Greece, at 15 meters. A handful of columns remain, the rest having been scavenged over the centuries for ''"Recycling” in other buildings. The ruins only hint of what must have been an incredible structure. After the Temple, we made a quick photo-stop at the all-marble ''"Modern” Olympic stadium, built in the 1800’s. This stadium, built entirely from white marble, is still used and in fact was being prepared as the finish line of the Athens marathon just two days later. Next we climbed Lykavitros Hill, to the highest point in Athens. From here, we could take photos looking down towards the Acropolis, and got a good bird’s eye view of the sprawling city. The Ancient Agora was the next stop on our whirlwind tour. Billy left us here for two hours, the idea being one hour to tour the Ancient Agora and another hour or so for lunch. It took almost exactly one hour to tour the Ancient Agora using Rick Steve’s audio tour. The highlights were the museum and the Temple of Hephaistos (a.k.a. the Theseion), one of the best preserved temples, being built in 450 BC. Another building just too inspiring for superlatives. Lunch could be quite another story, but one left for telling at another time. Suffice it to say that for a very reasonable cost, all were fed with authentic Greek dishes. Billy picked us up at 1:30 for the 15 minute drive to Syntagma Square, for the changing of the guard ceremony in front of the Greek Parliament building. When we arrived, there were two guards at their post, but also about 1,000 pigeons all over the ground. We watched some people feeding the pigeons, and others letting pigeons rest of the heads, shoulders, and arms. We wisely kept our distance ''" although this did prompt us to think that the Parliament may be ''"For the birds.” The ceremony was very interesting and caught on video. After this brief stop, as discussed during our drive, Billy split the group up. Seven of us went to the Plaka, or ''"Central market” for an hour or so of shopping. Five of us went to the Acropolis museum to enjoy the highlights of this truly world class museum in one hour. At 3:30, the pick up being made at the museum, Billy began to return us to the ship. He had one question for us? Would we like to visit the best bakery in Athens for Baklava (or whatever we wanted?) It was directly on the route. All agreed, and what a great bonus stop this was. Most everyone seemed to buy something, and they even had Gelato. Outstanding Gelato ''" the best I’ve ever had. During the drive back to the port, Billy told us that the bakery had won the Europe-wide competition for the best Gelato. They use only natural ingredients and no preservatives. We returned to the port and said our goodbyes to Billy, one of the greatest guides ever. Getting through the terminal building here in Athens was the most ''"Airport-like” we’ve ever witnessed returning to a cruise ship. Soon enough we were on board, and settled down at the aft Lido deck to relax after a very exciting day, enjoy a beverage, and watch the sunset. We enjoyed dinner as usual, although dessert service stumbled tonight. The Captains Club senior officer’s party was tonight so we visited there for a while. We tried the show after some said how outstanding it was but found it boring and turned in for the night. Saturday, November 09, 2013 - Mykonos After the frantic pace we’ve been keeping we were looking forward to a relaxing day for our visit to Mykonos. Celebrity tries to convince their guests to purchase an $8/person bus pass good for ''"Unlimited” trips back and forth the 2 KM to town. However, right outside the port gate is a local public bus that will take you there for 1.60 Euro each way. That is well under $5 round trip. We found the public bus to be super-fast going into town (it left just after we were seated) and we needed to wait just ten minutes for the return trip, but were seated comfortably on the bus while we waited. No early start this morning, we met at 10:00 to head out and explore Mykonos. It was another wonderful weather day, around 68 degrees and crystal-clear. We followed the walking path outlined in Tom’s Port Guide and also used the Rick Steve’s chapter on Mykonos for reference. Another day of postcard after postcard photos. We found Pertos the Pelican, and posed for photos with Pertos. The classic Greek windmills of Mykonos were also the subject of many photos. Not far ''"Behind” the windmills, we found a pleasant little piece of beach. In four trips to Europe I had not yet had a good opportunity to dip my feet into salt water, so this was the chance! Off went the shoes and socks, and I was able to enjoy the crystal-clear water up to my knees. We had noticed the design of the beach allowed one to pretty much avoid sand sticking to the feet when putting the socks back on, and this worked out about 98%. A very pleasant ten minutes indeed! Next we began exploring the maze-like streets of Mykonos town. There is the usual assortment of souvenir shops, T-shirt shops, clothing shops, mini-markets, hi-end jewelers selling ''"Authentic” watches (29,000 Euros for one!) and one other shop, named Hermes. It turned out that Hermes is owned by an independent businessman, who has a good friend who is a ceramic artist. Everything in his shop is hand-made and hand-painted by his friend in Greece. This was the second to last day he would be open this year, as the season is over. Everything in the shop was half-price, or perhaps just a little less. Our group all purchased something at Hermes for their homes. That luggage scale is going to get a work-out! We also ran into Captain Tasos of the Constellation while walking the town. The Captain was kind enough to pose for a photo and also took my photo as I had just found a shop named after myself. We can’t say enough nice things about Captain Tasos. He and his command crew at least equal the most ''"Visible” crew we’ve ever experienced on a ship. Soon, carrying around the ceramics we purchased signaled that it was time to head back to Constellation for lunch and a relaxing afternoon. After the quick bus ride back, we had our lunch on board, some beverages and snacks at Café El Bacio, and just ‘chilled’ until it was time to get ready for dinner. Dinner was nice and ran very promptly until dessert. We are not sure what happened with dessert, but the ladies were served and a very long time passed before the men’s desserts appeared. Even then one was missing. Well, no one went hungry. We closed out the night listening to the party band in the Rendez-Vous, but their sets are beginning to sound very repetitive. Sunday, November 10, 2013 ''" Chania (Souda port), Crete, Greece Our meeting time this morning for a tour arranged with Lefteris of Crete by another roll call member is 8:15. DW enjoyed a spa café breakfast while I obtained hot-off-the griddle waffles and an Omelet and carried it to the spa café to meet her. We then picked up our travel gear and headed down to Café El Bacio to meet for our fourteen person tour of this part of Crete. I love the port set up here! We got off the ship and less than 100 feet away; there is Lefteris with his mini-bus! We were ''"On the road” at 8:28 AM! Our first stop was the Souda Bay WW2 cemetery. Over 1,000 Allied foreign soldiers are buried there in a setting befitting their sacrifice. Lefteris and his associate both emphasized how much the people of Crete still today, remember how so many from around the world helped them during their battles with the Nazis. Crete is situation at a mid-point in the Mediterranean. Crete is 180 miles from mainland Greece (Athens), 180 miles from Turkey, and 180 miles from Africa. Crete enjoys an average of 310 days of sunshine a year, and a Caribbean type of climate without the humidity or hurricanes. Next we climbed (and climbed) in the bus, to a park including a Greek Orthodox Church with a service in process. From this vantage point we could observe the entire Chania area and see all the way to the western end of Crete. The chanting of the church service was amplified and played outdoors. The graves of two revered leaders from prior wars are also on the grounds. Next we drove down to Chania town. We were dropped off and toured the central market, the leather market (where some purchased belts, or handbags), and then came to ''"Little Venice.” This area along the harbor was built by the Venetians many hundreds of years ago. It is very photogenic and we enjoyed walking along and seeing the sights. Our driver picked us up and we were off to see ancient Aptera, built by the Minotians 3500 years ago. The disappointment at Aptera is that the Minotian Theater is closed as it is under restoration. There is a monastery at the sight and it seemed we spent too much time there. Nearby is a fortification only a few hundred years old built by the Turks when they controlled the area. From there, sweeping vistas of Souda bay and the surrounding waters, mountains, and Olive groves were enjoyed. We were then taken along the interior roads through small farming communities and stopped near a mineral water spring for lunch. ''"Lunch” was not on the scheduled agenda and this caught all by surprise. While the lunch was a nice opportunity to try many locally grown foods and wine, three of us passed on this. My DW very much enjoyed it, while I passed. We visited an Olive Oil processing facility. Being a Sunday, nothing was running, but they certainly explained the operation. Of course, there were items available for purchase, which some did. On the way we had passed a beach, and I asked if we were heading back that way could we stop at the beach? We did, and everyone seemed to enjoy the stop. The shame is, it was actually warm enough to enjoy the beach, but this was only a photo stop. Everything along the beach was closed as the season is over. While on the beach stop we organized the finances and took care of paying Lefteris for the tour. From here we drove along the beach, back to the highway, and twenty minutes later were back at the Constellation. It was a very pretty afternoon on the Constellation. After boarding, it was obvious that many chose not to leave the ship today. The sun worshippers were out in force on the pool and upper deck. We picked up a snack and snagged a table at the aft lido deck bar. Our dining room waiter, Arslan, was working back there (he looked tired) and he said it had been packed there all day. We enjoyed being in the open air (and in the shade) and relaxed with our friends. This is the final formal night. We did it up right tonight, and met early to take our own formal portraits. We went into dinner and the one couple at our table who don’t come to formal night again, did not attend. Dinner tonight was another adventure. Lobster! Well ''" everyone except one ordered the lobster. Two of us received perfectly ''"Okay” Lobster. Three of us had mushy lobster that did not taste right. The seafood curse on this cruise continues. Alternate meals (not lobster) were brought. Of course, the introduction on the executive dining team and parade of waiters was held towards the end of dinner. I used to think this was a nice event. Not anymore. For first time cruisers I guess it’s a big deal, but I would not miss it at all if Celebrity decided to stop this. The baked Alaska was even somewhat of a disappointment ''" so much so that I asked for Apple Pie. Thanks Arslan! After dinner we relaxed a while in the Rendez-Vous listening to the party band that was playing a different set tonight. The dance floor was packed. Rather than attempt the show we took a round of beverages back to the cabin and called it a night. Monday, November 11, 2013 ''" Sea day After nine port days in a row, this one lone sea day is very welcome! A lazy morning was in store, along with some coffee/tea from our favorite place on the ship, Café El Bacio. We wondered the ship a little during the late morning and met our traveling friends at 10:45 to attend the poorly publicized sea day Brunch in the main dining room. The Brunch is a very nice affair. Many intricate ice carvings were slowly melting away while all kinds of food is wondrously presented. And it’s even tasty! We all enjoyed the food. What could be better at this event? Well, table service (to take away used plates, bring beverages, etc.) is virtually non-existent. I ended up ''"Busing” our used plates to the waiter station myself twice. After the second time, a dining room manager was walking by and I snagged him to let him know. Later in the day we heard that there were a crush of guests who all showed up at about 12:00 (when the crew talent show let out) and many people were unhappy with the situation, as tables had not been cleaned and reset for new guests. We left the event in order to attend the party band at the pool; on the schedule for noon. Well, we were there ''" the band wasn’t. It took a while to find anyone who knew anything and we were finally told they canceled due to bad weather. Temps in the high 60’s and sunshine is bad weather? It may not be ''"Go in the outdoor pool” weather, but certainly pleasant enough to sit and listen to the band. Were they playing somewhere else instead? No. We had just about completed our passenger survey and this moved the rating for entertainment from fair to poor. We sat on the very pleasant pool deck for quite a while as I downloaded our friend’s photos onto my PC. Once home, I will copy them onto SD cards and send everyone all the photos. Once this task was done, it was back to the cabin to pack. Packing went well, and our portable luggage scale was in high demand! We managed to keep the two big bags right under 50 pounds each. Once everything was packed we found an unused carry-on case. This was filled coming in with the first day’s clothing. Now it was filled with the pottery from Mykonos that we will carry-on the plane heading home. We visited the Café once more for teas and found an ideal table at the aft bar on deck 10 for our transit of the Dardanelles, which conveniently was happening between 4:00 and 5:30 PM. All too soon it was time for our farewell meal in the San Marco dining room. Tonight’s dinner had no incidents although again, for some reason, dessert seemed to take a long time. After dinner we had some more tea from the Café and attended the show. The show was a magician from the UK and he was very good. I was selected (I did not volunteer!) to be one of the witnesses for one of his tricks. Even being ''"Right there,” I had no idea how he did the very convincing illusion. That made a good last event for the cruise! We put out the luggage for transfer to the dock and called it a night. Tuesday November 12 ''" Disembarkation We met for breakfast at 7:40 at the Ocean view. Everything was in full force and we were able to get our last ''"Fresh squeezed OJ” for the trip, along with waffles and an Omelet. We met another couple at Café El Bacio for our last coffee and tea of the trip and at 8:35 proceeded towards the gangway to leave the Constellation. There was quite a line leaving the ship. Seems like quite a few people got the ''"Buzzer” when trying to leave and needed to return to guest services for one reason or another. By 9:25 we were in the terminal with the entire luggage. Our prearranged driver was waiting for the eight of us with the promised ''"Sprinter” mini-bus to take us to Ataturk airport. We arrived without incident and began to navigate a very strange airport situation. We went through security twice. First, with the checked baggage going on the belt. Very strange. There was then a very long and very slow moving line to check in at Lufthansa. So everything nice I said about them at the beginning of the trip was ruined on this end. Eventually we got through the line, left our bags, and headed toward the gate. Another passport check and another security check, and we were finally in the main international terminal. We did lots of walking as our boarding pass said gate 224. While having a beverage near #224, the monitor changed to gate 205. That is on the other end of the airport. The good thing is we passed several additional shops and picked up a few items. We arrived near #205 to find the gate changed to #222 ''" back where we were! Well, at least we got some exercise before lots of sitting… We boarded a few minutes late but supposedly arrived in Munich on time. We needed to get from one end of the terminal to the other, and pass through yet another layer of security in Munich, before boarding our flight for Newark. No time to dawdle as the flight was boarding as we arrived. This 9 hour and 15 minute flight seemed longer. To end a very long story, at 11:30 PM we arrived in our driveway, 22 hours after we began the process of leaving the Constellation. Summary: This was a journey we will remember all our lives. The trip was certainly port-focused, and for the ports this was a five star trip. The Constellation is a fine vessel. The captain was great and almost without exception, the crew a delight to be around. The cruise experience itself was very good. ''"Cutbacks” are evident and I doubt that a Celebrity cruise will ever again reach the five star rating we gave Infinity back in 2010. We certainly never went hungry, but overall felt that food quality has slipped from even last fall when we were on the Summit. That is a half-star reduction. Add to that the lack of entertainment available when returning from ports (even in ideal weather); the good ship Constellation gets four stars out of five.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
We've done quite a few cruises on Celebrity so knew what to expect but we had one really fabulous surprise and that was getting one of those elusive upgrades. We originally booked Concierge cabins but after the final deposit date the ... Read More
We've done quite a few cruises on Celebrity so knew what to expect but we had one really fabulous surprise and that was getting one of those elusive upgrades. We originally booked Concierge cabins but after the final deposit date the price for a guaranteed suite dropped a little below what we paid so we switched. We had 3 cabins and they were assigned to Sky Suites. Shortly before departure I printed our Express Passes and saw we all had been upgraded to Royal Suites! That was a fantastic surprise and it was wonderful since we were celebrating my mother's 80th birthday on this trip. The ship has been Solsticized complete with the Martini bar. We ran into one of our bartenders from last year's Panama Canal cruise which was fun. This time out, we decided to do the open dining. With all the stops we didn't want to be locked into a particular dining time. It turned out really well but if you want to meet other people, be sure to tell them you want to be seated with others or they will seat you with just your party. They also lead you to believe you should make a reservation but it wasn't necessary. We never waited more than a few minutes. We tried both specialty restaurants since they were included with our Royal Suite. The food was great and so was the service. We went early both times and the dining rooms were not well attended. They might pick up later in the evening. If you have a special occasion it might be a nice upgrade for the evening, otherwise I'm not sure I would be willing to pay the extra $40 per person when the food and service in the main dining room is quite good. This itinerary has many stops with only 2 sea days out of 12. We went ashore at all but one. We did not get off in Rhodes. It rained all day so we decided to skip it and relax on the ship. We only did a couple of excursions with the cruise line. Those were in Istanbul, Ephesus, and Marmaris. At Kusadasi, almost all the tours go to Ephesus and that is worth the trip. It's an amazing place. In Marmaris, we did the Turkish Bath tour and that is another one you have to do if you go to Turkey. It was an option at most stops in Turkey. Although they listed it as a co-ed excursion it is not co-ed inside the bath. They take all the women then they switched and took the men. The pool area, where everyone wore swimwear is co-ed. The rest of our stops we either hired taxis to take us on tours, took no tours, or hired private tours. Since we had 6 people in our party it was affordable to hire private tours but not through the cruise line. Those are outrageously priced. We found good escorted private tours on TripAdvisor and all went well. In Athens and our last day in Istanbul we hired private guides. Taxis are available at most stops right outside the terminal, are cheap and they'll take you wherever you want. Fortunately, English is spoken by most everyone at all of these stops so it was easy enough to find drivers that we could communicate with and could share information about their hometown although some were a little sketchy on the English but it was a good value for the money. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
Celebrity Constellation Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 5.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
Public Rooms 4.0 4.3
Fitness Recreation 5.0 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.5
Enrichment 4.0 3.4
Service 5.0 4.3
Value For Money 5.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 4.1

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