After a gruelling but uneventful 13 hour flight to Singapore with BA we walked from Arrivals (not far at all) to the Crowne Plaza, which was obviously WAY out of Singapore centre, Why oh why Celebrity? It was a lovely hotel but we were a ... Read More
After a gruelling but uneventful 13 hour flight to Singapore with BA we walked from Arrivals (not far at all) to the Crowne Plaza, which was obviously WAY out of Singapore centre, Why oh why Celebrity? It was a lovely hotel but we were a 'captive audience' with no choice of eateries etc. and no chance to see the beauty of the city at night. Bad choice Celebrity! The following morning we were transported to the dock as normal. Embarkation was no trouble. It was lovely to be back on the 'Connie' once again! She was just how we remembered her but now a little tired and in need of a facelift perhaps. We love the layout of this class of Celebrity ship. Not too large to get around and sensible sized lounges etc. (Unlike some of the newer ships we've encountered). Due to the early arrival, the cabin was not ready, no biggie. Spent a while in the buffet with friends who had travelled in from another part of the World. The food was up to the standard we have come to expect from Celebrity and there was plenty of choice. Our cabin was on deck eight and the balcony protruded further than many on the ship. This gave us an uninterrupted view along the length of the vessel. Although a decent size with adequate storage, the cabin appeared somewhat smaller than on the likes of Silhouette, Reflection etc. and again showed some signs of age. Brilliant cabin steward!
Our first encounter with the main dining room was quite disappointing it has to be said! The food was quite poorly cooked and tasted as if it been stood under a heat lamp for a while. Not a great start. Sadly it never really improved. Although were persevered with the dining room most evenings, and there were a few very good dishes during the cruise, it was certainly below the standard we have become used to with Celebrity and far short of our experience on Independence of the Seas, last June. The dining room staff and waiters were brilliant, no request was 'too much trouble'.
As a musician myself I'm naturally quite critical of the standard of entertainers, musicians etc. on a cruise ship. The bands were of a good standard overall and the 'House Band' that backed most of the guest acts were brilliant. BUT as on most ships, the sound in the theatre was quite poor to my ears. It lacked punch and the bass player might as well have not been there as there was SO little bass content in the mix. Come on cruise lines, stop employing sound engineers with a 'theatre' background and get some rock 'n' roll guys in, your audience is changing! We didn't really see much of the other music acts on board so can't really comment. The guest artistes were all really good apart from a so called Elton John tribute who was dreadful! I've seen much better in the local clubs in the UK. Being of a certain age we didn't get involved in any physical activities on board but really enjoyed the daily quizzes on sea days and the port lectures were very informative, if a little over cautious about going-it-alone in ports. Which brings me on to shore excursions.
First port of call was Phuket. We made the choice to take a local tour mini bus from the dock side. What a fabulous decision! The vehicle was brand new and had been 'pimped' to a very high standard inside. A great driver who took us to the Big Buddha (breathtaking) and an area where there were a number of temples/mosques and market stalls, fabulous. He then dropped us at The Hard Rock Cafe later. Phuket, one of the highlights of the trip! Colombo was our next port. We took an excursion via the ship. A brilliant local guide took us to a couple of points of interest including the Independence Memorial Hall and the National museum. Not enough time was given to enjoy the museum! We finished the tour with tea on the veranda at the very upmarket Galle Face Hotel, which was an enjoyable experience. Overall, not a brilliant tour as much of it was spent in the bus in traffic. (to be expected in the this part of the World I guess) so wouldn't do it again. My advice, take a local trip off the dockside.
Cochin was next, our first real taste of India and that's what we got! The taste of pollution was with us from the time we hit the dock. (not literally) :) Again we foolishly took a trip via the ship. We were first taken to a ramshackle Shiva temple which was closed! A very unpicturesque building, so little point in taking us there. We then drove to Church of St. Francis, Fort Kochi which in its own way was quite beautiful but drab and fairly uninteresting. Some of the folks then walked to see some Chinese fishing nets which were quite a distance, we didn't bother as we'd seen them previously whilst driving. Which is really what the body of the trip consisted of, driving through traffic, it was hideous! We were so pleased to see the ship again! Don't bother doing that excursion.
Which brings me on to Goa, our next port. I'm a collector of Hard Rock Cafe/Hotel pins (badges) so we always endeavour to make it to any HRC in the ports visited. In this case it was a HR Hotel in the Saligao district of Goa. As none of the trips offered on the ship went near to the hotel, we (foolishly) decided to take a private excursion offered by Celebrity Cruises at a cost of $800!!!! We gave them our desired points of interest including the Reis Magos fort, which was recommended to us, plus assorted temples etc. We were quite excited about this tour, a private vehicle, a guide plus wonderful points of interest, what could be better? Most of it basically! The bus was old and rickety, the guide arrived late and the fort was closed! What angered us was, there were bus loads of Constellation guests already in the fort when we arrived (although the fort WAS officially closed on that day) but we were NOT allowed in despite our tour being booked on the ship! We were granted a 10% discount off a future tour and a small refund by the tour desk but this really didn't make up for the pretty poor experience sadly. But at least we had lunch at The Hard Rock Hotel and I bought pins and a tee shirt!
We didn't know quite what to expect in Mumbai. Having watched various travelogue progs on TV we had preconceived ideas about India I guess. Our guide was fabulous! She was SO interesting and genuine. In keeping with other ports, the traffic and pollution was excessive, to be expected. We were taken to the Gateway to India (obligatory), the Victorian railway station and Ghandi's house plus a few other sights. Altogether an enjoyable day! We were overnight in Mumbai but didn't go ashore the second day.
After a couple of days at sea we arrived in Muscat, Oman. The highlight of the cruise!! Pristine is the word that sums up the city. Not a scrap of rubbish or debris on the streets, beautifully kept road-sides, roundabouts and public places. Our guide on the ship-booked excursion was superb and a really lovely man with SO much knowledge about not only his country but the whole of the middle east in general. We were escorted to the most spectacular Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, about half an hours' drive from Muscat centre. You HAVE to see this if you visit Muscat! We then went to the Mutrah souq where one can buy anything from clothing to lamps. An absolutely wonderful and enriching day! Having looked forward to seeing Dubai (and getting to another Hard Rock Cafe) for a long time, it turned out to be quite disappointing! For a start it was cold and I made the big mistake of travelling in to the centre on the top deck of the bus! The bus we were actually taking the tour on was picked up at a terminus outside the Dubai Mall. Chaos reigned there with people trying to jump the queue to get out of the cold wind. After already losing an hour of our day we managed to get on the bus and begin the rather tedious tour of Dubai. SO many road works and building sites. The traffic was hideous (I believe I've used that word before). We didn't get off the bus until we arrived at the WAFI Mall where we needed to get a cab to the Hard Rock cafe which is in the Festival City Mall way out of the centre. The cabs are so well priced! Probably our fault but we didn't enjoy our day in Dubai much as we made little effort to see 'the sites' as such, plus it was very cold. Maybe return someday?
Our final destination and point of departure was Abu Dhabi, a day later. As we were there overnight we thought we would be able to take a walk around parts of the city after being dropped off at the hotel. NAH! Once again Celebrity had decided to stick us in the Novotel Al Bustan out near the airport! Why Celebrity?? It was a super hotel though and we were able to get a cab to a nearby mall to eat and do a little last minute shopping, as you do. The downside was, we had to leave the hotel at 4am as we were flying from (you guessed it) Dubai, where we had been a day earlier!! No problems at the airport as we were there before the cleaners had finished their work having taken only an hour and a quarter to drive from Abu Dhabi. A lovely breakfast at Giraffe Cafe, Terminal 1 was very welcome. Such a shame the HRC Dubai Airport is in Terminal 3 so I couldn't get there. Hey Ho.
Summing up (please do)! It was a wonderful cruise on the Celebrity Constellation and we enjoyed most of the experiences both on board and on land. We would highly recommend this cruise if you've not been to this wondrous part of the world. So much culture with some spectacular vistas to behold and remember for the rest of your days on the planet. My advice, for what it's worth, ignore most of the excursions offered on board (expensive and not good value generally) and go for a local mini bus and driver/guide found on the dockside in most ports. Ask to see the bus before committing as they vary widely in age and quality and HAGGLE! We (four people) got a full day tour in a brand new bus in Phuket for $150 US. Wonderful memories! Read Less