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18 Celebrity Europe - Black Sea Cruise Reviews

This was our third cruise on Celebrity. I fell in love with the line on our first cruise, did a second one 2 years ago that wasn't to the first one's standard and now we were back to try again. Silhouette wins the prize for an ... Read More
This was our third cruise on Celebrity. I fell in love with the line on our first cruise, did a second one 2 years ago that wasn't to the first one's standard and now we were back to try again. Silhouette wins the prize for an amazing crew. Everyone was very friendly without being pushy. We had the basic alcohol package for the first time. While our server tried to up sell us to the premium package the first day, when we declined, he was very nice about it and went out of his way to get our non-premium drinks. Even more amazing, he remembered us on following nights and was quick to find us seats in the bar, remembered our drink preferences and called us by name. Coffee service in the Cafe al Bacio was just as outstanding with several servers that went out of their way to chat, bring extras and just make the day memorable. We were anytime dining and discovered in chatting with our waiter the first night that we could request to be seated in his section again when we made a time reservation on subsequent days. His name is Alit, and his section is back in the corner, which is quieter than the main part. His serving team is the best and I recommend asking for a table in his section. Loved the small group entertainment and the main shows we watched were good - although we were having so much fun at dinner (the food was amazing in the main dining room!) we missed multiple shows. If I could change anything, I would ask for more musical entertainment and things to do mid-afternoon. If you are not into Bingo and Trivia, ALL ships seem short on activities mid-day. Some of us like to stay up and dance til 1 AM, and consequently miss morning exercise classes! The house band was quite good and had a pretty extensive playlist. We did one Celebrity shore excursion in Stockholm - it was pretty typical for the cruise line and sort of a cattle call. Nice leader who tried to impart some knowledge while herding cats! Nice selection of ports and management handled the weather related loss of a day in St. Petersburg very well, adding time to our stay day two to make it better. Not super impressed with the beyond the podium speakers - did not seem particularly knowledgeable on their topics beyond the prepared remarks. Ship's 2nd officer did a Great talk on navigation and internal systems management. Loved this cruise - love Celebrity - we will be back! Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
In spite of all our preplanning always expect the unexpectable. Airline booked - check Small tours booked and paid - Berlin and St Petersburg through SPB Tours - check Planned Hop on Hop off buses for self tours in ... Read More
In spite of all our preplanning always expect the unexpectable. Airline booked - check Small tours booked and paid - Berlin and St Petersburg through SPB Tours - check Planned Hop on Hop off buses for self tours in Tallinn, Helsinki, Copenhagen and Stockholm - check Tickets pre purchased for Anne Frank Haus and Keukenhof Garden Tour - check Transfers pre paid from airport to Hotel and from Cruise port to airport – check The day finally came for our 12 day Celebrity Baltic Cruise vacation to begin. We had relatives take us to Miami Airport to board our British Air flight to Heathrow and connecting flight to Amsterdam. I booked the airfare months earlier when they were running a great sale on Business class fares that were less than economy class. I subscribe to an online news letter called First class flyer and get these great deals on Business and First class fares and strategies. We went early to the airport due to the stories of long TSA lines and then off to the lounge. Check in went quick and the lines were not bad. Off to the lounge. We were then informed that the flight was running 2 hours late. With only a layover at Heathrow of 2 hours that was going to cause us to miss our connecting flight. Now our prepaid transfers were lost since there was a 24 hour cancellation policy. We were supposed to arrive in Amsterdam at 10:45 am and then we had tickets to tour the Keukenhof Gardens at 2:45pm. We were not going to make that either. Totally out of our control. At least we had the lounge access. We finally arrived in Heathrow at 9am, our connecting flight left at 8:45. To the lounge again to see when we could get on another flight. We were originally rebooked on a flight at 2:40 that would arrive at 5pm but got on an earlier flight at 1 that arrived at 3:30p. The Concierge at British Air called our transfer company for us but they would not change the pickup time. Oh well that should be the worse thing that happens this trip. When we arrived in Amsterdam we decided to take a taxi. Hoping my trip insurance will cover this and the tour tickets. Many used the train to get into Amsterdam from the airport. We were not dragging 2 suitcases up and down the escalators. We got to the Doubletree Amsterdam Centraal Station and checked right in. After dropping off our stuff in the room we decided to take a walk through town. I had a self walking tour of the red light district that we did and visited the sex and Hemp museums. Hotel location was great and we used Hilton our points. We had tickets for the next morning at 9 am to the Anne Frank Huis so after dinner went back for the night. After breakfast we took a taxi to make it by our 9am ticket time. We spent 2 hours going through there. We then decided to do the Hop on Hop off bus and 2 boats that we bought tickets for. For anyone doing it with the wait time for the transfers we spent the rest of the day and finished at 5 pm. Saturday we started the day with rain and cooler weather. We still had access to the HOHO bus so went to the outdoor market in the morning. Then back to the hotel and a 10 euro taxi ride to the cruise ship. Cruise ship check in at 2 was quick and we were able to get right into our stateroom and had lunch. After the muster drill up to the sail away cruise critic gathering. How nice to after months of interacting with so many meet in person the people that contributed to the board. The next day was a sea day and we had our Cruise critic connection gathering. We met all the officers and they had coffee and Danishes. The Capt and officers introduced themselves to us and made themselves available for any questions we had on the ship and cruise. The next day we went to Berlin. We had a great tour booked through SPB Tours. We did take the bus and did have traffic going into the city as others have mentioned. Our bus was ½ empty so there was plenty of room to be comfortable. We did though see everything that was on our itinerary. Some were drive by but many other we got off the bus and walked around and had time for photos. I knew ahead of time that it was not an in-depth tour. We then got back to the ship no traffic within 2 ½ hours. We had met other that took the train tour from the ship and they did not see anything more than we did but they said the train ride was nice. The next day was a sea day. In our rooms shore excursions left us a paper to pay ahead of time for shuttles to get from the ship port to town. They said the distance was 20 to 30 min walk. The ports were Tallinn, Helsinki, and Copenhagen. We decided to use OBC to get it. It was not needed. First of all, all the HOHO buses come right to the port on cruise days. So did the HOHO boat in Copenhagen. There were 2 HOHO bus companies. One was Redbuses and the other citysightseeing. Our choice was city sightseeing. BIG MISTAKE. They did not run as many buses as the other company. We should have asked how many buses were running that day. Then again we would assume the person selling the tickets really knew. That meant more waiting time at bus stops when you only have a few hours at any given port. They told us 30 min between buses. We waited over 45 min at some stops. More about that later. So if you plan to self tour and use HOHO you do not need to pay for the shuttle. Tallinn was truly a hidden Jewel. It was a perfect place to do our own tour. BTW we did have with us the Rick Steves Northern Europe cruise tour book to help with the walking tours. If you should go out on your own take the HOHO to the top of the town and walk down hill back to the port . Some people took walking tours and said they could have done it on their own. It was a nice port to see. NO matter how you see it have comfortable shoes! You are walking on cobblestone roads which was difficult for many people. The next day we arrived in St Petersburg. We arrived at 7am but did not clear customs to begin getting off the ship until 8. We had book a private 12 person tour with SPB Tours for the 2 days there. Getting off the ship was a feat in itself. First EVERYONE lined up to get off the ship at the same time. We were not even cleared from customs yet. Some lined up before 6:30. We did meet everyone in our group at the lounge so we did all get off together. Next you have to go through immigration. No lie 10 – 15 min per person!!! They actually check a computer to make sure that you are on a list given to them from the tour companies that you may have booked with. If you are not on an organized tour you need to get your own VISA. Since we booked with SPB Tours they took care of everything for us. After clearing customs that first time the other times took moments to get through. SPB Tours took our tour to another level. Our tour guide was the informative spoke perfect English and took care of all our needs. Originally we were supposed to do a night Ballet but decided to change it to “Go Out Like a Local” It included a vodka sampling . The next day we toured again and made it back to the ship in plenty of time. I would not hesitate to use SPB Tours again. Helsinki was our next port of call. It was a very easy touring port. HOHO buses but again 45 min wait times between stops. Wasting that time when there for only a few hours……. Next port of call for us was Stockholm. We opted for the HOHO boat here. Many had said that the buses get caught in traffic jams so it would be easier. Our first stop was the Vasa Museum. If you plan to go you should go there first as well. Make sure when arriving by boat you go to the lines that are not for the group tours. We got in within 10 min. It was fascinating. After that we went to go to the Skansen. We felt if we did we would not have time to go to anything else so passed on it. The ship was leaving pot at 3 PM. Boy did we luck out with fabulous weather. We took the HOHO boat to the old town. It was magnificent. Again a 35 min wait . We went by the palace where the royal military band was playing. Then off to city center. Walked around a bit and then back to the ship. Make sure you are on deck as the ship leaves Stockholm. It was amazing to see and pass by all the little islands. The scenery was beyond words. Good thing we left when we did otherwise we would have gotten stuck in low tide. We sat on our balcony for over 3 hours before getting ready for dinner. Next day was a sea day. Good thing since we needed to recharge after 5 days of straight touring. Copenhagen was our final port of call. What a mess. There is only a 2 lane road to get off the port in and out. With all the tour buses waiting it became a single lane for in and out. We were stuck for almost an hour on the HOHO in front of the ship. What a traffic jam it was!!!! Considering we were only in port from 10 – 5 time is pretty precious. Again we used citysightseeing bus company. First stop for us was the old city area. We went by the round tower and walked around the old city. Very nice. Walked to the Rosenbourgh Castle and had lunch we brought in the gardens. Went back on the HOHO bus. Only 15 min wait time so not too bad. Went around the entire loop to see the whole city. We then got off across from Tivoli park. We wanted to go in but the lines were too long. It was now 3 pm. We decided to get back on the bus to head back to the ship wanting to get off at two fountains to take pictures. Little Mermaid being one of them. What a joke. It took 2 ½ hours to get back to the ship when it should have taken 30 min. Driver had us switch buses and that bus did not move for 45 min. Driver said I am just the driver go complain to the company. Then EVERY stop the driver gets off to have a cigarette. 10 min each time. Worse experience ever. What a waste of 50 Euro for the 2 of us. I mention the price for others to consider is it worth the HOHO or just pay for tour from a company and focus on a couple of sites at a port. I know SPB Tours had a Baltic package with tours in each port we went to . We thought we would do better on our own. In actuality you are doing a panoramic tour of the city. Now taking in consideration the wait times between buses and boats we probably would have done better with the tours. No wait time, bus was there waiting to take you to the next location etc. If you are traveling and staying in a city for a couple of days then the HOHO would be a better option for an overview of the city and then you still have another day or 2 to see specific sites. If I would have known this before again I would have let SPB Tours take care of all my logistics. Others that used them loved all the tours. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
We loved: the excursions and the quality of the guides that led them; the excellent speakers on topics linked to the region we were visiting; the range of activities and facilities on the ship; the friendly service from the helpful ... Read More
We loved: the excursions and the quality of the guides that led them; the excellent speakers on topics linked to the region we were visiting; the range of activities and facilities on the ship; the friendly service from the helpful crew. We disliked: the amplified music that generally resounded through the lounges and the wailing songs that screeched around the buffet dining room. Although the majority of passengers were senior citizens, the music seemed more calculated to suit their children and grandchildren. We hated: the endlessly slamming spring-loaded stateroom and cupboard doors, often into the early hours of the morning, that made it hard to sleep. Beware: Penknives and all sharp-pointed objects are liable to be confiscated by ship security. Typically these are allowed on to the ship by port security at the embarkation port but are seized the first time passengers return from an excursion when they and their belongings are scanned. If you take sharp scissors or similar, DON'T take them with you on an excursion or you will lose them until the end of the voyage. Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
Booked this cruise in January as we really wanted to see Yalta, Sevastopol, and Odessa, and the Putin invaded Crimea and the FO advised against travelling to the Ukraine. Despite this the itinerary remained unchanged in the adverts. I ... Read More
Booked this cruise in January as we really wanted to see Yalta, Sevastopol, and Odessa, and the Putin invaded Crimea and the FO advised against travelling to the Ukraine. Despite this the itinerary remained unchanged in the adverts. I wrote to them to ask where would we be going and got back a generic reply about safety etc and the situation was under review, and if a change was made we would be notified with the options. In May we received the revised itinerary from the TA and the options were go to the new destinations or lose our deposit! So we went to what was described as 'the finest possible experience of the Black Sea'. Burgas in Bulgaria was grim and the town looked like the 2nd world war had just finished; we did not land at Varna, also in Bulgaria as it was too rough to tender. Trabzon was a nice town but with very little for the tourist. We were advised that the trip to the monastery was a waste of time because of the 300 slippery steps, and the mist so we would not see anything. The most exciting thing in Sinop was a disused Jail!. Things improved considerably when we left the Black Sea, and Mykonos, Athens, and Ephesus were excellent. Hence if anyone is planning to go to the Black Sea I would think again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
After sailing on the Millenium fro Tokyo to Vancouver in May we were ready to give up on Celebrity but had previously booked the Constellation 2 Oct sailing and decided to give them one more chance and we are glad that we did. Everything ... Read More
After sailing on the Millenium fro Tokyo to Vancouver in May we were ready to give up on Celebrity but had previously booked the Constellation 2 Oct sailing and decided to give them one more chance and we are glad that we did. Everything that was wrong with the Millenium and there were a magnitude of service and ship maintenance issues- we found all in very good order on the Constellation. Ports were changed because of the strife in the Ukraine so we visited two ports in Turkey instead. Trabzon and Sinop. Neither were particularly attractive but we were not two disappointed because they were new and we had been to the ports that were dropped on previous cruises. Food, Cabin and Bar services were what we had previously come to expect from Celebrity. We booked our next Celebrity cruise on this ship for August 2015 doing the Adriatic. Be careful when booking onboard as they will not or cannot book you into existing groups. In our case I called celebrity when we got home and had the booking transferred to a group, kept the same cabin and on board booking benefits and reduced our cost by almost $1000 Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
We just returned from the Sept. 20th 2014 cruise thru/around the Black Sea and what a disappointment.! We sailed about 18 months ago on the Solstice from Dubai to Singapore and expected a similar experience on the Solsticized ... Read More
We just returned from the Sept. 20th 2014 cruise thru/around the Black Sea and what a disappointment.! We sailed about 18 months ago on the Solstice from Dubai to Singapore and expected a similar experience on the Solsticized Constellation. Lets begin.... Celebrity after much delay finally amended the ports due to the crisis in the Ukraine. They hyped the new ports as if we were going to the most exciting,wonderful destinations..After returning home and rereading the letters from Celebrity-we started laughing at the promotion of this cruise ! We boarded without any real problems in Istanbul and within several hours our baggage was delivered to our cabin.We booked Concierge and were on the 8th deck. The cabin was fairly spacious and had adequate storage. The bathroom was what one would expect on a ship,but the shower was surprisingly large and almost like a normal size shower at home. Our room attendant -Desmond was great and always available to asset in any needs or answer any questions. Celebrity has done away with small things that obviously reduce costs. No longer do you get chocolates on your pillow each evening or those humorous animal creations using a towel-no big deal..afternoon canapés wee the same non descript greasy or salty tidbits and the fresh fruit each day was tired looking apple,pear and orange with no variety ever. The ship itself seemed tired and showing some wear and tear. Several of our fellow cruisers complained of mold in the bathrooms,obvious signs of chipped paint in hallways and worn bannisters in several areas. We also experience a terrible 'raw sewage'-to be polite smell coming from at least one or two cabins on the aft side and that aroma lasted three or more days before we wised up and walked to and from our cabin in another direction. The food in the MDR was OK -nothing really great and their Indian Vegetarian selections were awful not just to Indian couples but to our selves and others who attempted to eat the entrees. The buffet menu at nighttime seemed OK and at least offered more choices to dine. We ate several evenings in the Specialty Restaurant -Oceans ? and there the decor,service and quality of food,etc was worth the $ 55 par head charges.It is very similar to Murano on the Solistice if I am correct. As an example of Celebrity'sd cost cutting--at breakfast in the MDR jellys,preserves were provided in those little packets that one will see in a neighborhood diner and if you requested Ketschup for your eggs,in lieu of it being provided to you via severing dish or a Ketchup bottle,the server would stand over you and drop a serving on your plate and disappear. Whatever happened to the supposed upscale Celebrity experience that is so highly touted ? Entertainment was what one would expect on a cruise,nothing to talk about-in some cases like watching a rerun of the old Ed Sullivan shows ! We opted out of taking any of the overpriced,crowded and basic,pablum tours continually being hawked by Celebrity and joined with other cruisers in doing our own planning and booking. Now about the ports.... Athens,Ephesus and Mykonos were wonderful and whether it was your first time or the 10th visit,these locations never fail to please. But as far as Burgas,Varna,Constanta,Trabzon and Sinop--3rd rate stops and in some cases looked as if WWII just ended and the devastation,ruins were just beginning to be addressed. Constanta in particular is a real dump and in several other stops,some of the women from the ship felt very unsafe just browsing in the local shops.There is a reason that most of the cruise lines have bypassed these ports in the past and have mostly avoided them even now. In at least one port,we were the first Western ship of our size to ever visit and once you looked around you could understood why ! There always was a church or monastery to visit or a local museum or garden,but they were not major 'must sees' on any travel magazine or travel sites ... The obvious reason for their inclusion had to be Celebrity not being able to at a decent-read cheap cost price other availability of ports and Celebrity's marketing dept. attempting to maximize their expenses at our detriment. Several passengers wondered why we did not go instead to Gallipoli and Troy-maybe then it would have meant renaming the cruise as a Greek Isles cruise and not a Black Sea one. Bottom line- many passengers voiced very similar complaints and perhaps those of us griping aloud have come to expect a level of service that Celebrity is unable or willing to provide.If one wanted to sail on Carnival and receive that type of experience -why the necessity of paying the higher booking costs ? WE are already committed to sailing in the beginning of January on the Infinity from Buenos Aires to Santiago and approach the cruise with trepidation and major concerns. I just hope we do not have the same experience on board. At least we know the ports are acceptable... I am fairly certain that regardless of this upcoming cruise,it will be the last time we sail with Celebrity.I would rather pay a little more and receive the quality that is advertised and expected... As afinalcomment,please be aware that the overwhelming majority of your fellow passengers will be in their mid 70's + and also the dress attire is dismissed by too many of the passengers even on the so called'formal nights'..Ido not relish the idea of eating next to individuals who look as if they would be not out of place in a cafeteria setting and unfortunately dress for dinner exactly that way ! Others may express a totally different view of all that I have written-but that is up to you the reader to analyze.. a blue collar individual even if they have achieved success financially will still present themselves accordingly and sad to say do not expect or have failed to experience 'fine dining' and a level of sophistication promised but seldom delivered ! Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
We visited Istanbul independently prior to the cruise and spent 3 wonderful days site seeing. we boarded the ship on the 20/9 and the process was quick from getting on board to the cabin being ready and our luggage arriving , we were in ... Read More
We visited Istanbul independently prior to the cruise and spent 3 wonderful days site seeing. we boarded the ship on the 20/9 and the process was quick from getting on board to the cabin being ready and our luggage arriving , we were in aqua class deck 11 The cabin was spacious and clean but I was disappointed with the size of the bathroom/shower probably the smallest we have ever had and we have been on a number of ships . our steward Alvin was excellent nothing to much trouble for him . we dined in BLU most nights and the food was average my wife had to send somefood mainly fish back due to the way it was cooked . to be fair they were very apologetic and offered us any other dish . we went in the restaurant on deck 10 for breakfast and enjoyed what we had . the entertainment in the main show lounge each night was okay but we did not go to all the shows . we opted to go to reflections on deck 11 and the group were excellent although we did not feel the room was fully utilised . we were extremely disappointed with the activity programme throughout the day if you stayed on board there was very little to do . regarding the ports of call we booked this cruise to visit Ukraine we understand that this part of the cruise had to be cancelled but the new itinery was not good .the ports of bourgas,varna ,constanta,trabazon and sinop were very disappointing they all had the customary churches statues and museums but little else. we did enjoy mykanos kusadasi and Athens but we had been there before . when I booked this cruise in December 2013 the cost of the cruise was over £2000 per person after the cruise itinery was changed at the end of may 2014 the cost of the cruise was £1800 for two people and this is reflected in the ports of call and the lowering of standards compared with our previous cruises on celebrity . I would conclude that we have no problems with the cleanliness of the ship or the staff who were always polite and friendly .it was the ship , the itinery on board and the ports of call It is unlikely we will go on constellation again although we could go on celebrity again as we enjoyed eclipse in the past Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
Hi, I will write this review in my best English but it is not my mother language so I am sure I will make mistakes, I hope this won't bother the readers too much. We are from the Netherlands and we are 58 and 51 years old. This was ... Read More
Hi, I will write this review in my best English but it is not my mother language so I am sure I will make mistakes, I hope this won't bother the readers too much. We are from the Netherlands and we are 58 and 51 years old. This was our second cruise on Celebrity Constellation. Last year we had a Transatlantic from Miami to Amsterdam. We then found out that the ship is quite small, there was not much to do aboard. So, we decided never to have a transatlantic cruise with Constellation again. But.....this was something completely different. A lot of ports, not well known, we took the change. We booked in oktober 2013 when it was still quiet in the Ukraine. Sadly, things changed. Celebrity offered us a different cruise with different ports, no longer the Ukrain. Although we thought this was not a really good alternative, we understood. There was no compensation from Celebrity for people who booked early, instead there was a real price drop so we payed too much. Well, as long as the cruise is nice, that doesn't matter. We embarked in Istanbul. This was very good. No lines, from taxi to deck 10 took us less than 20 minutes! Our cabin was ready in a short while and our suitcases arrived half an hour later. Fantastic! In Istanbul we stayed for 3 nights in Hotel Amira. Nice hotel, beautiful rooms and five stars service! We went to dinner in the MDR. We always have second seating and we always ask for a table for 6 persons. We usually end up with people from our own country but this time we shared the table with four people from the UK. Very nice company, our dinners were the highlight of the cruise! Unfortunately, the weather wasn't all that good. But our captain was fantastic. He sailed detours and changed the itinerary to avoid storms and he managed to dock in two ports where we should have used the tenders. So, a big hooray for the captain! Entertainment on board was what we expected. We had three production shows. Those were the same as 16 months ago. Very good, but nothing new. We also saw the show of a magician, White Magic, very good. And a show of a singer, Peter Grant, he was very good. We didn't see any other shows. Because we had second seating at 8.30 we went to the shows at 7.00, that was well organised. But unfortunately, all the shows later in the evening in Reflections started at 10.30. The activity manager thought that a dinner that started at 8.30 must end at 10.00. This was not the case, not a single evening. We always got dessert at 10.35-10.40 so when we finished, we gave our card to the sommelier, waited to get it back, then ran through Rendez Vous, Martini Bar, Casino and Photoshop to the elevators. We got up to Reflections at deck 11 to find out that the show was nearly over. Usually when we got in we heard the host say: We are now at the end of the show! Very disappointing. We missed quizshows and Karaoke. The Karaoke finals (a big succes, Reflections was overcrowded) last for only 30 minutes! What a shame, because everybody enjoyed it and after the final song, everybody " ran " away and there were only 30 people left. I can't believe why the entertainment team (last year 4 people worked there, this year 3) didn't give more time to the successful items. Since our last cruise on Constellation, 16 months ago, it was obvious that there was less staff. You could see that in Oceanview. Tables were not cleaned in time. Several persons were looking for a table, a lot of tables still had leftovers and dishes from former eaters. The staff had no time to clean it quickly. Also there was one person walking around for barservice. We ordered once with this person but it took more than half an hour to get our drinks. Obviously we already finished our meal. That's why from that moment on we got our drinks ourselves. We had beverage packages, tips were included. The tip was always the same: ordering at a waiter who brought it with glass and ice was as much tip as getting it at the bar yourself in a can for takeaway. Hmmm....My husband liked the specialty coffees at El Bacio. Waiting time over there was sometimes very long, like twenty five minutes. There were long lines for take away. More staff would have been a good idea. Since Michaels Pub is now only for elite members and the Martini Bar (a great hit on our last cruise with a DJ who played crooner music, every evening it was hard to find a free chair) was ment for an other audience (with a DJ for people in their 20's) with lots of open places at night, there was only Reflections and Rendez Vous for bands to play. Both rooms were very big. Sometimes it should have been better to have a more intimate room for a few dancers but that's not available on Celebrity. Most people on board were in their 50's and 60's and then there were a few older and a few younger. We were surprised about the music choice in the public rooms. Too young!!!!! Celebrity claims to put much effort in the environment. That's a good thing of course. We couldn't rhyme this with the pictures taken on board. There must have been taken thousands and thousands. They sold this pictures for 25 USD a piece !!!!!! Of course a lot of pictures where not sold. These pictures gave a lot of garbage. Not so good for environment. I have a suggestion: make the pictures less expensive (how about 5 USD a piece). You will sell much more and it's better for the environment. We had the laundry done. When we got it back, one pantyhose was lost and one was torn down. We had no evidence of the dirty laundry we put in the bag. An advice for everyone: try to avoid laundry services. We had 2 formal nights and a semi formal night. We were not familiair with a semi formal night, so we asked at Guest Relations. They didn't know either. Hmmm.....We like to dress up for formal nights, so did our table mates. It was a real pleasure to see so many beautiful suits and dresses. It's a pity that Celebrity didn't do anything extra on this nights. No special menu, all very modest. The food was good but not fantastic. We missed extra things like a brunch or a dessert festival. There was nothing extra. You should think Celebrity would do this to compensate for the poor itinerary. But they didn't. We had several ports where no passenger had been before, I'm sure. You could take a shore excursion but we all know this is very expensive and not always good, you are with 55 people and often have to wait. We don't like shore excursions. There was a lady from Shore Excursions who told us about the ports, doing them on your own. That could have been nice but her information was not so good. For example, she told us that Aya Sofia in Trabzon was beautiful (she even showed us pictures of a beautiful ceiling) and she said it was an easy short walk tot Aya Sofia. Well, first of all, it took 90 minutes of walking to get there. No easy walk. Second of all, the ceiling was hidden behind curtains. Very disappointing. Also the only thing she told about Sinop was that it was a happy city with happy people. She forgot to mention the prison, very impressive and close to the ship. It looked like she didn't do her homework well. It was not possible to write a review for all the ports we visited because the options Burgas, Constanta, Trabzon and Sinop where not listed. So, I will tell something about these ports in this part of the review. Burgas is a small village in Bulgary. Friendly with a park and shops. Interesting?.....no. We took an excursion to Nessebar. It was 40 minutes by bus, we had 3 hours free time. Nice little village with old elements. We liked it very much. Constanta in Rumania didn't have good critics so we decided to stay on board (it was also raining, not really inviting). From people who went to Constanta we heard it was a very sad city. All these people should have stayed on board if they had only knew. We think Celebrity better skips Constanta en make a two days stop in Athens. Trabzon in Turkey was a nice place with good shops. Since there are not too much tourists there, they didn't pull you into their shops. Very pleasant. But interesting?....no. Sinop had a good museum, it was a prison. We spent lots of time there, although just visiting. They had a nice port and good shops. We liked it there. And the same as in Trabzon: not too much tourists so we were not pulled into shops. But again....interesting?.....no. Well, the cruise went on and on. We had a good time, nice cabin, reasonable food, great table mates and we had some fun time in the ports. But then THE LETTER ARRIVED. It was the disembarkationletter. We made 4 cruises before (2 RCL, 1 HAL and 1 CEL). On all of these cruises we were asked what time we wanted to leave the ship. This time we flew at 2.40 pm so we wanted to leave around 11.30 am, if possible. Unfortunately we had no choice, we had to leave at 7.40 am!!!!! I was never before in a 5 star hotel where checkout time was 7.40! There was no other option. The day before we already arrived in Istanbul. We tried to find a luggage storage at the port. There was none. The staff in the port didn't speak English but it was clear: no luggage storage. We went into town and found one next to the Taksim Square. On the day of disembarkation we got our suitcases in the port. My suitcase was broken. Two of the four wheels where off. Just opposite of the handle, so it was very hard to walk with it. We tried to find people from Celebrity but we didn't. Nobody spoke English so we went off. This departure (way too early, way too unfriendly and leaving us with a broken suitcase) was not the best departure ever. It gave a bitter sauce over our sweet cruise. THAT'S NO MODERN LUXURY!!!!! Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
Black Sea cruising is usually offered in a limited time period. Since cruise itinerary is my most important criteria for cruise selection and the Celebrity Constellation filled the bill, I booked myself and several good friends (a total of ... Read More
Black Sea cruising is usually offered in a limited time period. Since cruise itinerary is my most important criteria for cruise selection and the Celebrity Constellation filled the bill, I booked myself and several good friends (a total of 6 brave souls). In this writing, I will briefly review the ship, list the ports and include a few details of our pre and post cruise adventures. I have sailed the Infinity which is a sister ship to the Constellation, so I pretty much knew what to expect. We arrived in Istanbul two days prior to cruising to see the town, which is not enough time for a newcomer to Istanbul. We booked our stay at the Erboy Hotel; following the cruise we flew to Bucharest. On cruise departure day, due to the amount of luggage, our party of six flagged two taxis from our hotel (Erboy - more on that superb hotel later) and following a short drive to the port, we were at the dock. Embarkation in Istanbul was a painless process. Cabins: We stayed in a variety of cabins, and there were no complaints. For me personally, my room steward was one of the best I have ever had - attention to detail was his motto. Loved the interactive TV, but the dinner menus need to be listed. Dining: All but two of our dinners were eaten at the MDR. No complaints; in general the food was good and tasty. I did order one special Indian dish one evening, and it was delivered following a very long wait due to a little miscommunication. The two nights we chose not to eat in the MDR, we were at the Ocean View buffet which was a nice break, as the buffet offered a nice variety of choices and more flexibility in dinner time and dress. When not in port, I grabbed lunch at the buffet - many choices for lunch but lacking the quality I was looking for. Entertainment: the Broadway type show productions by a new British troupe were excellent and I loved the magic show; the other shows I walked out on. The featured house band “Emily and the Nightcaps” was very good but the “lifetime” activities were not often enough and many nights I walked around aimlessly looking for some fun activities but not finding much if anything. Ports of Call: Istanbul, Burgas (Bulgaria), Varna (Bulgaria), Constanta (Romania), Trabzon (Turkey), Sinop (Turkey), Mykonos (Greece), Athens, and Kusadasi (Turkey) - with ports like this, I could not pass this up. (In my blog; I detail what we did in each port and include all contact information). One one GREAT! Disembarkation: A total nightmare. Turkish customs seems to want to check everyone even though you have been through customs before boarding, and you will go through customs once again before departing the country. The lines were endless and the taxis outside the terminal were a rip-off, so we opted for the tram to drop off bags at the Erboy Hotel while we spent more time in Istanbul before our flight. Additional comments: If you are an ‘Elite’ Captain’s Club member (which I was), you are offered the opportunity to have breakfast at the Ocean Liner restaurant, and free evening cocktails during a limited time are also available at Reflections lounge deck 11. The amenities were fine but not as good as RCL. Overall: Great itinerary made the cruise a go, but overall I am disappointed in the Celebrity product; less staff on board, less smiles, less activities and seems to be a lot of hoopla over nothing. The one thing that Celebrity does well is put together great itineraries, which does mean I will keep coming back.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
This was the twentieth cruise, eight with Celebrity, the second on Constellation and, because of advancing age and declining health, possibly the final sailaway. The decision, for what might be the last time in a lifetime, was to take a ... Read More
This was the twentieth cruise, eight with Celebrity, the second on Constellation and, because of advancing age and declining health, possibly the final sailaway. The decision, for what might be the last time in a lifetime, was to take a relaxed approach to travelling. After four and a half hours from the house to Gatwick by train. We had requested assistance at our local station which we discovered included Reading and Gatwick. We stayed overnight at the Premier Hotel with dinner and breakfast included. We had stayed at the Premier on a previous trip and were satisfied. The food is very good. In the morning we had a short and easy walk from the hotel to the terminal. We dropped our bags and having arranged assisted boarding we went to the waiting area. The assisted transfer to the boarding gate was efficient. We settled in on the Turkish Airlines Boeing 737 for the four hours flight to Ataturk airport Istanbul. The assisted boarding seemed to include a special meal! The Hotel (at a cost of 30 euros ) had arranged a transfer and it worked well. We stayed at The Best Western Blue, The President Hotel. We arrived at the hotel at the at 7.30 local time a total time of nine and a half hours from the hotel in Gatwick. The President is a reliable modern hotel in the centre of the city, located near a tram stop. It is very much a transit stopover rather than a place to settle into. We stayed two nights. The Terrace Restaurant has a spectacular view and it also serves food. The waiter in the lobby café was wonderful. The hotel arranged a boat tour of the Bosphorus. It was a lovely sunny afternoon and the commentary was good. This was one of the highlights of the holiday. The day and a half in Istanbul refreshed our memory of our previous visit when on the Summit. We had a taxi from the hotel to the Constellation. (12 Euros) The transfer was easy given the dreadful stop start traffic. Boarding the ship was quick and our Suite 6128 was not ready so we had lunch in the Oceanview buffet restaurant. We liked the selection of food and it became a preferred place to eat when we were on the move. We soon got into the suite and waited only a short while for our luggage. The room looked brighter than a standard stateroom and there was more room, though the layout didn’t appear to deliver more useful space. There was a bottle of bubbly which we don’t usually drink and eventually we got a bottle of still white wine. There was a small bunch of flowers and three pieces of fruit. A pleasant surprise was we were able to use the Blu restaurant. The butler, a charming man from India, walked us to the restaurant. The Blu is a good restaurant and we had most of our evening meals there. We used the two complementary Speciality Restaurant visits. The Oceanliner was more of an occasion than the Tuscany. The coffee at the Tuscany was perfection. We went to the main dining room once but the service was slow. On previous cruises we had used the SPA healthy eating restaurant but people who might have eaten there seemed to be at the Blu. We went there twice and eventually only went to the Oceanview, sitting outside to see the sea go by. The weather and the Black Sea ports were disappointing. People in the UK had better weather than we had. The ports we visited were a poor substitute for the Crimea. The weather was adverse and we had to divert from the island of Mykonos, Greece to Kusadasi, Turkey. We went on a tour to Ephesus by a Cruise Critic member. The trip to Ephesus was almost worth the cost of the whole holiday. The next day we went with another Cruise Critic group to Corinth. We had been there previously and it was not a special day. We then went to Mykonos where they have the windmills. If you have ever wondered why they have windmills in Mykonos… it’s the wind. The ship has been ‘Solicised’ or ‘nickel and dimed’ so that things that were provided in the price are now chargeable. Charging for nearly everything has taken the edge off the feeling of ‘special’. Now we are sitting duck paying customers. Having said that being in a suite and also being Elite Captain’s Club members meant that we had freebies. Gratefully received! The final full production show was the best we’d seen on any of the previous cruises. Did we like everything? No, we didn’t, but there were enough things that satisfied us. We took the ship’s transfer to the airport at a cost of $50. The flight to the UK was without a hitch (a short takeoff delay only.) We stayed at the Premier Inn and had what was the best evening meal of the holiday. Well done Premier Inn. The cruise and its associated costs was value and ‘if only’ we’d had better weather and the Crimean ports.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
This was my first sea cruise. I was really excited to do it because of the Black Sea destinations and the rave reviews I'd read about small ships in general and Celebrity in particular. But, after 12 days of constant, overpriced ... Read More
This was my first sea cruise. I was really excited to do it because of the Black Sea destinations and the rave reviews I'd read about small ships in general and Celebrity in particular. But, after 12 days of constant, overpriced 'up-selling' of everything, and nothing in the way of creating community among the other cruisers I realize I was just on an expensive floating hotel, and not a very good one at that. There was a lot of herding up, right from the first day. We started out in a holding pen for hours while they cleaned the ship of infection that occurred on the previous sailing. This caused the staff to obsess over cleaning for the first 10 days of the cruise. This was OK, maybe a little over zealous but I could understand their concern. But the daily herding in the theatre each morning in advance of the sightseeing departures was wearing. The really big frustration was the complete lack of any activities designed to help the other cruisers to come together. I concluded that they really didn't want to do that because they make a lot more in extras when the keep people isolated from one another. From start to finish it was 'every man for himself'. From the jockeying for a table at breakfast to the dispirited 'parties' at the end of the day, people kept pretty strictly to their original groups. There is so much good research out there in the travel industry about how to create community that I just can't believe this isn't a conscious management strategy. If they is no facilitating interaction, then it's much easier to sell the overpriced shore excursions and transfers. Exhorbitant prices for wifi at .75 cents a minute, and $3 for a bottle of water that can be had for .50 cents just off the ship just adds to the feeling of being constantly fleeced. An all inclusive it ain't. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
We had long anticipated a return visit to Black Sea ports, hoping to see the way Ukraine is moving forward, and to enjoy a repeat of previous good Celebrity experience. We were to be in for a deeply disappointing experience. On early ... Read More
We had long anticipated a return visit to Black Sea ports, hoping to see the way Ukraine is moving forward, and to enjoy a repeat of previous good Celebrity experience. We were to be in for a deeply disappointing experience. On early arrival at the port , as advised a few days beforehand, we found long queues, and staff waving pieces of paper advising embarkation would be delayed by at leat 4 hours, as a deep clean was necessitated by a Norovirus outbreak, a truly ominous, and prophetic beginning! Finally we embarked after returning to our delightful welcoming hotel. We made our way to a poor, delayed Ocean View cafe lunch, with all food screened by cling film, served by hurried staff. Again, a poor start! Our cabin was finally released, and we discovered a mould decorated bathroom, and a strong odour of cleaning fluid, oh dear. The only plus was the size of the forward facing cabin, and nice light cabinetry. Safety drill followed, with not an officer in sight, so realisation began to dawn that this inauspicious beginning might be the promise of things to come! So it proved; dining room service was poor, menus dull and repetitive, with overcooked food. The "self service" Ocean View cafe was crowded, unappetising and dull, with the added nasty of an outside dining that permitted smoking ! , We did , finally , resort to dining in the speciality restaurants,despite the high cover charge, but even there, we found some strange items, a risotto, for instance, resembled a savoury rice pudding, saturated in cream and mascarpone, and to my surprise, a delicate Dover sole was served coated and deep fried, in the lovely Ocean Liners restaurant, though still described as meunière. Service in the speciality restaurant was excellent, with friendly waiters pacing the meal as diners wished. Our highlight of the day was often the evening Elite lounge cocktail hour, with pleasant service, canapé trays and waiters anxious to please. Black Sea ports were wonderful and easy to enjoy independently on foot, or using local taxis or public Sebastopol has so much to offer with the wonderful history of this once elegant city and busy naval port. Many passengers enjoyed exploring the many battlefield sites, and we were finally able to visit the amazing submarine depot, tunnelled if to the hillside in the Soviet era. The evocative area of Balaclava is now a major wine producing region, producing excellent sparkling wines. Yalta, the delightful resort city has an elegant promenade, pleasant cafés and the marvellous, though now shabby, Levadia palace, scene of the historic meeting between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill at the end of WW2. The final Ukraine port, Odessa was an eye opener for many, and we were fortunate to be berthed at the foot of the incredible Potemkin steps, with almost 200 steps leading up to the city. Odessa is working hard on restoring the many grand buildings to former glory, and it is a pleasant place to stroll. There is a thriving cafe life, and local people seem to go out of their way to welcome . An easy way to orient yourself is to take the charming mini trains that have a guided commentary, and also visited some more unusual places, favoured by the individual guides. The cruise continued to Burgas, where pretty Nessebur is easy to reach on local buses,and then on to gorgeous Mykonos, so pleasant out of season with its lovely white houses, charming windmills and attractive shore line restaurants. We took the ferry to Delos, a wonderful archaeological site for those with an interest in ancient times. Athens has so much to offer, busy and hectic as ever, but is so shaming with its graffiti and rubbish everywhere. Our final cruise port was Kusadasi, nowadays a shoppers paradise, and rightly so, as Turkey produces an excellent range of well made, well priced goods. Many passengers took the opportunity to visit world heritage site Ephesus, being amazed at the size and complexity of this ancient city. As many cruise ships were in port, it was very crowded, but by timing a visit well, it was possible to explore at a slower pace. Had we not been visiting the ports in the excellent itinerary, we would rate this cruise a complete disaster. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
This was our 28 cruise and our first Celebrity experience. I must say that this will be our last Celebrity experience too. We began our trip of a lifetime with four full days in Istanbul enjoyed a pre-arranged private tour experience that ... Read More
This was our 28 cruise and our first Celebrity experience. I must say that this will be our last Celebrity experience too. We began our trip of a lifetime with four full days in Istanbul enjoyed a pre-arranged private tour experience that was outstanding, staying at the Pera Palace which I strongly recommend. The hotel's history, being the hotel for the guests traveling on the original Orient Express, and their outstanding service made the start of our vacation a Wow experience. Unfortunately, our Wow experience ended when we began our experiences with Celebrity Cruises. As per our travel documents from Celebrity we arrived at the cruise terminal a few minutes before 12:00 noon on the morning of October 7th. A long line outside the cruise terminal surprised us. Then a few minutes on a line that did not more, a representative of Celebrity stated that they flew in earlier that morning from London to assist the Constellation staff as the dreaded virus had effected about 100 people on the previous cruise and the entire Constellation was being decontaminated before we could board the ship. There were at least 4 staff members from the London office telling everyone on line that we can not board until at least 3:00 p.m. We were told we could wait in the terminal but there was only one bathroom and limited seating. They suggested we go back into town and return later in the day. With Istanbul traffic it can take an hour just to get back into town. We opted to stay along with everyone else. These London Celebrity reps all stated that Celebrity tried to contact all guests to inform them of this problem and the delay. This was a blatant lie. I had my laptop with me and my cell phone with international access. I never got any emails or phone calls. Neither did our travel agent or any other guests after they checked while we were on-board. As we had late checkout at the hotel, we could have stayed at our hotel instead of sitting in a warehouse building with only one toilet for 3 1/2 hrs. OK, so Celebrity can not control people getting sick. So we were willing to let this pass even thought they lied about the contact info. We now are on board at 3:45 p.m. We find our room, on our own. The room looked very basic, obviously stripped. So we thought they still needed to work on it. We took our own tour of the ship, then went to the mandatory safely drill at our muster station. They specifically stated, do not go to your cabin for the life vests and we would not be going to our lifeboat stations. After the safety drill, we returned to the cabin at approx. 5:20 p.m. and it looked the same and no luggage either. We found a bar opened and had a drink before dinner and then dinner. We had early sitting and arrived at 6:25 p.m. Our waiter Omer was so professional and friendly and so was his assistant Santos. Finally we are about to relax. Our sommelier Marko was also the perfect man to insure the best wines at dinner. Throughout the cruise these three men helped to make our dining experience memorable. Return to our stateroom at 9:00 p.m., our luggage is outside the cabin and we bring it in ourselves. On all other cruises the luggage was brought into the room. Still the room looks bare but not sure what is missing. After unpacking I finally realize what is missing: No bathrobes. No welcome/bon voyage champagne. No glasses to drink anything in. No welcome gift from our travel agent. No welcome anything. To late and too tired. First full day aboard is a sea day: Call housekeeping to pick up laundry, they promptly pick it up at 8:00 a.m. I then go to Guest Relations asking about the missing items. I am told by Ellen that champagne and bon voyage gifts are Never in your room on embarkment day but the next day. Seems to ruin the whole idea of a bon voyage gifts but she was adamant that is how Celebrity does it. We received the warm champagne (no ice bucket) at 11:00 p.m. on day 3, the candy/fruit at 10:00 p.m. on day 4. The bathrobes arrived on day 6, the drinking glasses arrived on day 7 and a small bucket of ice started to appear on day 8 but not regularly. By this time I had to just laugh at the incompetence. Oh, the promptly picked up laundry was partially returned the night of day 3 and the balance was lost until I asked for a manager on day 5 and they found the clothing, still dirty, somewhere in the laundry room. At least I got an apology and they didn't charge me for the cleaning. By the way, the stewardess introduced herself on day 3 and her assistant on day 4. The assistant was very good and for most of the time he was the one doing the cleaning. We saw him a few times early in the morning making the room up. On the few days that the stewardess was in the room, the room looked sloppy and never vacuumed. From all the other experiences on board I learned that making complaints gets the guest in trouble so I didn't bother saying anything else. This was the first time I did not tip a stewardess. Her behavior and attitude was appalling. The daily buffet: Beyond atrocious. Due to the prior cruise virus outbreak all stations were sealed in plastic. The guests could not touch anything. They served you. Long lines with no signs where to enter or exit was causing outbreaks of bad behavior early in the mornings. We ate all breakfasts in the dining room as we thought it was more civilized. It was but the dining room staff all acted like it was their first day on the job. We arrive early right after opening time, asked for a table for 2, the room had only 4 other people in it and boy were they put out. You get a look and an attitude that they must now do you a favor and find you a table for two. And the room is almost empty. Every single day the same thing. Then you get a menu & I ask for a cup of coffee, yes sir. Then we get the water guy, I ask for a cup of coffee, yes sir. Then we get the juice guy, I ask for a cup of coffee, yes sir. Then the waiter wants to take our order. I ask for a cup of coffee and he says they are still brewing it in the kitchen and he must take our order. This happened every single day. Oh and I found out were the carafes of coffee were stationed and just helped myself. No one said a word. Was this crappy behavior necessary? I might be wrong on the day but we were not able to serve ourselves at the buffet for any meals until day 9. The virus thing: I am sure that Celebrity must be careful will this type of illness but to many of us on board we all thought it was a scam. You couldn't touch anything in the buffet line. There were signs everywhere to wash your hands and sanitize your hands. And they had staff all over the buffet areas and lounges and bars constantly washing down the tables and surfaces we might touch. The captain even made announcement daily. The staff were all told not to touch guests even with a handshake. This went on for 9 days. But as the days passed, I observed the following: When we were given menus no one washed them down after we held them. They were placed back in the pile at the entrance. No chairs of any type were sanitized. If you sit in a chair what do you do? You either put your hands on the arms and pull in or put your hands under the seats and pull in. Not one chair was being cleaned. You get a drink at the bar, then ask for another. Several bartenders would then take your glass and refill the same glass. They were touching a glass you used and they weren't wearing gloves. Nothing was being sanitized in the gym. When you used a machine you walk away and the next person uses it. No sanitizing. This became the topic of conversation with many people about the absurdity of Celebrity thinking that washing down tables, removed salt/pepper shakers, no loose butter or rolls on the table and all the other inconveniences we were put through would eliminate a virus. Ironically while on board bartenders told us the virus started with guests that went to a particular restaurant while on an excursion and not because of the ship. The entertainment was mediocre at best. The various bar venues has some good singers/musicians but the nightly theater entertainment was so obvious a cost cutting cheap show. Many high school shows are far more entertaining then what Celebrity drags up. The excursions were truly wonderful and not too expensive. Yalta and Odessa were fascinating. Skip Bulgaria, I can say I was there, but it truly is a third world dirty unpleasant place and tourists shouldn't go there till they get their act together. Athens & Mykonos have great history. Ephesus & Istanbul are so over the top wonderful experiences. If you get to Ephesus you must experience the Terrace Houses. A tour ever better then Pompeii, Herculaneum or the Valley of the Kings. We would love to go back to Turkey and explore more of this wonderful country. Enrichment Activities: Were almost non-existent. Only two sea days but we love speakers talking about the region we will be traveling in (and not the sales pitch by the excursion dept.) And just 2 talks with odd topics. Another cost cutting. Celebrity Cruises and the Celebrity Constellation in particular should be ashamed of themselves for advertising Luxury cruises. This was anything but!   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
I’ve read the three preceding reviews of the Black Sea cruise we just completed, and while I don’t doubt the veracity of those reports or the feelings that prompted them, I’m compelled to present a very different report. In short, we ... Read More
I’ve read the three preceding reviews of the Black Sea cruise we just completed, and while I don’t doubt the veracity of those reports or the feelings that prompted them, I’m compelled to present a very different report. In short, we had an excellent experience. Although the delayed boarding was unfortunate, given that Celebrity was doing its best to cleanse the ship of the Norovirus, our reaction was “take all the time you need.” In fact, we appreciated all of the safety measures taken, and we assume that’s why the number of cases on our cruise was vastly reduced from the previous group. That said, we were among the first to board and had the Oceanview Café to ourselves for about 20 minutes while the staff doted on us (this was the result of chance, not any personal connections or star status on our part). Our room was very nice and the service provided by Gwen (our “butler”—still loving that, although I would have preferred that he change his name to “Jeeves”) and Suhas (our steward) were unceasingly attentive and immediately responsive to the few requests we made. I can’t imagine any better service than what they provided. In that regard, we were really impressed with the friendliness and service level of every staff member we encountered. A special shout out goes to Natalia in the Gelateria. After Day Two, she would call us out by name (kind of like “Norm!” on Cheers, I suppose) and was fun to talk to while she dished up our latest calorie bombs. I’d regard the food service overall as very good, even though it started off questionably. We were assigned to dine by ourselves at a location that was hilariously awful: the first table against the wall as one enters the Main Dining Room, and next to the kitchen entrance as well as the Maître D’s stand. At that table, one can dine while heavy laden waiters brush past, expectant diners hover nearby, and an overworked headwaiter deals with the usual issues. While we were waiting for our appetizers, bemoaning our outcast state, I got up and approached the Maître D, and began gently with, “You know, I don’t think this table is going to work for us…”, but before I could finish my entreaty the guy shook his head and said, “That’s terrible. Come with me….” He cancelled our order and took us up to the dining room’s higher level and told the head guy there that he was changing us to Anytime Dining and we should be given the best table available. Never another problem after that. Over the ensuing eleven nights, we dined multiple times in each of the main dining room, Tuscan Grill (loved the Ravioli Ripieni con Carne Brasata di Manzo and the chocolate and pistachio crème brulee—can’t remember the exact name as by the dessert course I was in a food coma), Ocean Liners, Blu and The Bistro on Five, and enjoyed all of them. The food in the main dining room was only good- to very good, but fine considering the volume they have to meet. And recognizing that after 40 years of marital bliss the conversation can sometimes lag a bit between us, we usually requested dining companions and we were always given two or more really interesting people to dine with. We ended up eating multiple times with a few couples and it was a highlight of the trip. As a form of repentance, we used the fitness center and track often. The center has a good selection of resistance and cardio machines and a fair selection of free weights. Most users were careful to wipe down after use, and we saw the staff wiping down everything frequently. The track is decent, but best utilized before 8 am or so. The evening’s entertainment was always good if not particularly great, although the violinist was exceptionally talented and the Man from Mars and his amazingly limber wife (“Okay, I’ll stop staring, honey…”) were very entertaining. One beef: I hate it when Emcees call out things like “Are you having a good time????” and similarly banal inquiries obviously intended to evoke a big round of applause. Hey, if I like the show, I’ll clap enthusiastically. I’d like to organize a group response along the lines of “WELL, IT WAS JUST OK…” but that’ll have to wait for another cruise. We really enjoyed the shore excursions, all but one of which we arranged privately. By doing so we got to know several couples in advance and developed friendships with several that will endure well beyond the trip. And if anyone doubted that ship-based excursions include a hefty surcharge, consider that for the Odessa Ballet we attended, the ship’s charge would have been around $120 each and seats would have been in the middle or back of the theater (great opera house, btw). Planning ahead, we purchased Row 3 seats for $30. True, my purchase didn't include bus transportation to and from the theater, but we saved 2 x $90 by walking to and from the ship, an enjoyable stroll down Primorsky Boulevard and the Potemkin Steps, much less than a mile. It was an outstanding itinerary we’ll recommend to anyone interested. And despite a couple of hiccups, which were immediately resolved, we thought Celebrity did an excellent job under difficult conditions. We’ll be back.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
We have cruised many times and this is our third Celebrity Cruise and the second on the Constellation. I am surprised by the other reviews of this cruise. Celebritys approach to the Norovirus was correct. Yes, it caused inconvenience but ... Read More
We have cruised many times and this is our third Celebrity Cruise and the second on the Constellation. I am surprised by the other reviews of this cruise. Celebritys approach to the Norovirus was correct. Yes, it caused inconvenience but was the correct approach. We chose Aquaclass but obviously for the first time on the Constellation. We choose it simply for the Blu Restaurant. You would never know you are on a ship carrying 2,000 passengers. We found all the staff were very professional particularly Sheyla in the Blu Restaurant and Katerina at Bistro on 5. We ate breakfast and dinner every day at Blu. We had one dinner at the Tuscan grill. That meal was very good but in fact Blu does a very similar job. We ate a few lunches in Bistro on 5 and they were good. We had one lunch at the Aqua Spa cafe. This is good but we noticed they have now introduced some additional dessert options but for additional charge. It is a silly policy of Celebrity to sneak in some further charges. We also noticed they no longer serve a small bowl of nuts when you sit down for a drink at one of the bars. Much better to chafe a few dollars more for the cruise and supply a couple of nuts with drinks and a few additional desserts in the Aqua Spa cafe. Overall a professional cruise with good ports and a very clean well run ship. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
Istanbul, the Aegean and Black Seas, and a temperature swing of 30 degrees Trip Planning We booked the Celebrity Constellation cruise in March of 2012, soon after the cruise was announced by Celebrity. We had not been to Istanbul or ... Read More
Istanbul, the Aegean and Black Seas, and a temperature swing of 30 degrees Trip Planning We booked the Celebrity Constellation cruise in March of 2012, soon after the cruise was announced by Celebrity. We had not been to Istanbul or cruised the Black Sea and jumped this one. Our early planning paid off when I found a great price for airfare for $825 round trip from Orlando on United. We prefer to fly Delta, but Delta’s prices were hundreds about this fare. Jacksonville is our usual departure airport, but flying out of Orlando saved us about $400. When booking our hotel in Istanbul, I did my own research and was prepared to go with a hotel, but another member of the cruise critic website had booked at the Hotel Lausos. The location was great, a block from the Hippodrome, offered free breakfast, free pickup at the airport for about 90 euros per night. So many Constellation cruisers booked at the hotel, the hotel had a special tea for us; allowing us to get to know our fellow cruisers before the cruise. Further, while many of Celebrity’s excursion prices were very reasonable, those for the Ukrainian ports were limited and expensive, but I found great private tours there and organized them on cruise critic. Also, I organized transportation from the hotel to the ship and ship to airport at the end of the cruise. The transport cost 5 euros each to the ship and 7 euros each to the airport. All these plans worked out well, except for the weather. Istanbul temps from September 21-25 were in the 70s and very nice, as were our ports in the Aegean. We had temps in the low 80s and it was glorious. Nature demonstrated its power after we entered the Black Sea as September ended. A storm from the north brought us high winds and temps ranging from high 40s to mid-50s F. The storm caused the Captain to divert from our first Black Sea port of call at Yalta, to Odessa, Ukraine. We heard that the storm had virtually closed the port of Yalta. The Captain’s decision proved to be a wise one; however, the cold weather persisted. I had researched the typical weather in these ports, as well as projected weather (on weather channel, you can get a weather forecast 10 days ahead. Predictions for Ukrainian ports were temps in the high 60s. That was not to be and my light jacket with extra t-shirts and shirt (four layers) still left me chilled when out in the open. I have never had such a swing in the weather on a trip. The locals told us the weather was typical of early winter. In the future, I will always take a jacket and whatever it takes to keep warm, in the event of unusual weather. Istanbul We arrived mid-day and the Hotel Lausos had a driver pick us up at the airport (no extra charge). The traffic was awful and we were glad to arrive at the airport as our aggressive driver probably violated the traffic laws on several occasions. A couple of times the driver went up a one-way street in the wrong direction. The hotel was located in the old (Sultanahmet) district of the city, with its narrow streets that were probably set hundreds of years ago. The hotel had about 50 rooms and most of them became occupied by Constellation cruisers within a couple of days of the cruise. Service was great, the free breakfast excellent, with Turkish and American options and the hotel clean and tidy. TripAdvisor had given Lausos good ratings, but reviews mentioned that its rooms were small. That proved to be true. The hotel room had a whirlpool bathtub and room safe. The bed was comfortable, but we had to leave our clothes in our suitcases since there was no place to store our clothing. Our cabin on Constellation was larger than this room. Still, the hotel was great and we spent little time in our room. We were able to walk to most of the sites in the city. Also, good restaurants were close by. The hotel staff was friendly and always helpful. We would stay there again, if we visit Istanbul once more. We enjoyed the Turkish food in Istanbul. Turkish food is similar to Greek, Egyptian, Arabic and Israeli food. Moussaka, Kabobs (lamb, chicken and beef), yogurt, hummus and baklava are notable examples of Turkish food. I had searched on TripAdvisor and written down some restaurants close to the hotel Lausos. Every place we dined was great. We enjoyed great meals at the following restaurants: Amedros Café and Restaurant Amedros is located about four blocks from Hotel Lausos on Divanyolu Cad. which is on the street were the tram runs. It is a busy street with many restaurants. Amedros is in an area with several other restaurants. East-West Erhan Café and Restaurant Erhan is on Binbirdirek Mah. Klodfarer Cad. about fifty yards from Hotel Lausos. It specializes in Turkish and Kurdish dishes. We ate at Erhan twice and with a large beer paid about 75 TL ($38) each time ($1=2 TL). The owner was Kurdish and we talked with our waiter, who was Kurdish. He stated that of Turkey’s 75 million people that one-third (25 million) are Kurdish. I knew that the percentage of Kurds was significant, but did not know it was one-third of the population. The food was great and price reasonable. Lady Diana Hotel This hotel has a rooftop restaurant with great views of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the city. It is located at Binbirdirek Mah. Terzihane Sok. No:9. The food was excellent, but you pay for the view, as the prices were almost double the prices at Erhan. Still, the view was worth the prices. Several of the Constellation cruisers ate together at this restaurant and enjoyed the ambiance of the view. Exploring Istanbul We visited most of the main sites in Istanbul, specifically, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern, Topkapi Palace and Harem, Istanbul Archaeology Museums, Byzantine Hippodrome, Spice Bazaar, Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, Chora Church and Theodosian Walls. After arriving on 21 September, were had the usual jet lag, but visited the Hippodrome and Blue Mosque that afternoon. Hippodrome The Hippodrome was the Byzantine version of Rome’s Circus Maximus. Directly west of the Hippodrome was the Emperor’s palace. Emperors had a private path within the place building to the Emperor’s box at the Hippodrome. The Blue Mosque is in that location today. Most of the structures of the Hippodrome were taken to construction buildings in the area. The Hippodrome is now something of a large oval square with column at one end and the Obelisk of Thutmosis III in the middle. The Hippodrome was enlarged by Emperor Constantine in the fourth century when the capitol of the Roman Empire was moved from Rome to Constantinople. The Hippodrome could seat 100,000 spectators. Chariot races were popular in those days. When we arrived at the Hippodrome, we found it to be partially filled with stalls of a cultural exchange exposition between Turkey and Korea. The Blue Mosque is an imposing structure adjacent to the Hippodrome. It has six minarets rather than the usual four. We entered the courtyard adjacent to the mosque and were approached by a man offering to guide us through the mosque. He said we could pay him what we desired after the tour. I should have said no, but agreed. His half hour tour of the mosque was fine, but I had already read most of the information in my guidebooks. I offered him 10 TL ($5) and he indicated he was insulted, so I added another 10 TL. He still was unhappy, but we left him in any event. We were approached frequently by locals and some would try to just chat with you then lead up to the solicitation visit at a run shop. From then on, we just said no. Blue Mosque The Blue Mosque was a very impressive structure. It was constructed from 1609 to 1616. The Sultan meant to build a mosque that outshined Hagia Sophia, which is not far away. Hagia Sophia was the Byzantine cathedral built by Emperor Justinian in the 6thCentury AD. The interior of the mosque is very impressive with its beautiful blue tiles and many windows. Before entering, we removed our shoes and carried them in a plastic bag provided at the entrance. Ginny had brought a scarf to cover her hair. If you plan to visit the Mosque, you must avoid visiting during the Muslim prayers. Muslims pray five times a day, but for some reason a sixth prayer call exists for the Blue Mosque. Inside, there are carpets on the floor for prayers and the wide front of the mosque points toward Mecca, which is designated by the mihrab, a structure next to the pulpit where the Imam preaches. Hagia Sophia The next morning, after sleeping 12 hours to recover from jet lag, we set out to visit Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace. I had purchased museum passes for each on the internet, so we could skip the line waiting to buy tickets. The only snag with this plan was that our home printer printed the scan able passes on a slightly reduced scale, which did not work on the museum scanner. The museum attendants reprinted our passes for Hagia Sophia, Topkapi and the Harem, but took a few minutes. We decided to purchase the audio guide for each museum that we visited in Istanbul, and I highly recommend that option. You don’t need a guide and you save on paying for guided tours. The audio guides are easy to use and well understood. We paid 25 TL ($12.50) each for admission and another 10 TL for the audio guide. The prices were similar for admission to Topkapi (Harem another 15 TL). Hagia Sophia was an engineering marvel to have been constructed in the 6th Century. Two earlier, lesser buildings were destroyed by earthquake and fire. Justinian wanted a building to last, so the domed roof was the largest cathedral in the World for a thousand years. Buttresses were added by later Emperors to support the dome and walls. The Ottoman Turks converted the building to a mosque after 1453 and the building was converted to a museum by Attaturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic in 1935. The building includes the minarets added by the Ottomans, in addition the mihrab and pulpit for the Imam as well as panels with quotes from the Koran. The Ottomans plastered over the mosaics in the cathedral, since Islam does not allow human forms to be displayed in art. Ironically, this acted to protect the beautiful mosaics. It takes less than two hours to go through the museum using the audio guide and taking in all the mosaics and other impressive features. Basilica Cistern The Basilica Cistern entrance is located not far from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. The cistern was built by Emperor Justinian to provide water for his palace and the surrounding area. The cistern is huge and while underground, supported by many columns that were taken from other buildings in the 6th Century. You can see that the columns are of different styles and types. Some have art work on them, such as the Medusa column. The cistern was used during the James Bond movie, From Russia with Love. It takes less than an hour to go through the cistern. The audio guide is somewhat useful, but not as good as in the other museums. Topkapi and the Harem After visiting the Cistern, we had a light lunch and then moved on to Topkapi and its Harem. We purchased the audio guide for both. We spent the rest of the afternoon going through the Museum and Harem. Topkapi is spread over a large area and includes hundreds of rooms. The first portion of the museum includes the Imperial Gate and Courtyard, kitchens, porcelans, silver items, weapons. The Treasure room is very impressive, with its thrones, and jewels (like the crown jewels). The Topkapi Dagger is included. The 18th century Topkapi Dagger was meant as a gift from Sultan Mahmud I to Nadir, the Shah of Iran, but he unfortunately died before it could be delivered. There are several pavilions in the palace that are impressive structures. They are located close to the north end of the palace, near the Golden Horn (water). There is a section for Islamic relics that included items important to Muslims, such as the Prophet Mohammed’s signet, sword and bow. The Harem is notable for its decorative tiles and baths and courtyards. The Harem held the Sultan’s wives and concubines. Large Ethiopian eunuchs controlled security at the Harem. We learned that the Harem included women that the Sultan never met, but were sheltered there for some reason. The palace and Harem took more than three hours to go through with the audio guide. We finished in late afternoon and thought we were museumed out, but we still had more museums to see. Chora Museum The next day we wanted to visit the Chora church. The Byzantine church is now a museum. It was located about 4 or 5 miles from our hotel. We could have taken the tram to within a mile and a half of the site, but it required a transfer. We decided to take a taxi. The taxi cost 25 TL with tip included. The church was located in a residential area near the ancient city walls built by Emperor Theodosius, so we planned to walk from the church to the wall and follow it about a mile to where the street along the Golden Horn. The Golden Horn is an inlet of the Bosphorus dividing the city of Istanbul and forming the natural harbor. The Chora was a relatively small church compared with Hagia Sophia, but contained many mosaics that were well preserved. We found the mosaics to be spectacular and well worth the visit. It reminded us of Byzantine mosaics we saw in Ravenna, Italy. After visiting the museum, we walked north for a short distance to the remains of the city walls. Much of the walls were ruins, but in some areas the walls were more intact. In particular, a restoration effort was underway on one section of the wall, demonstrating a massive and formidable barrier that protected the city for over a thousand years. On our way toward the street facing the Golden Horn, we got lost, but friendly locals pointed us in the right direction. We made it too street, turned south on our way towards the Spice Bazaar. We probably walked about four miles to the Spice Bazaar, but the exercise felt good and we saw parts of the city that were not normally exposed to tourists. We saw a wide range of homes and businesses. We saw some housing that could be described as unlivable in most countries, but those building were likely abandoned. Other houses and apartments were modest but clean. Other dwellings demonstrated some level of prosperity. Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar The Spice Bazaar was a mini version of the Grand Bazaar, but was interesting, due to the many stalls or shops that offered many spices, with the spices piled up in separate boxes like in a Chinese apothecary. There were other items sold in the spice bazaar, like dried fruits and foods, cooked, packaged or uncooked. It was very picturesque and worth the trip. The Bazaar is next to a mosque and built in an L shape. The Grand Bazaar is much larger and over a half a mile from the Spice Bazaar. Between the two bazaars are more shops. By the time we reached the Grand Bazaar, we had clearly been overexposed to shopping. The Grand Bazaar looked like a shopper’s paradise. We did not go through the entire Bazaar, which would take hours. I am glad that we saw the bazaar, but since we had walked from the Chora church we did not linger very long to shop. That afternoon, the Hotel Lausos had the tea for our group of Constellation cruisers. There were about 24 participating and we all enjoyed getting to know each other. Several of us went to eat at the rooftop restaurant at the Lady Diana Hotel, which had great food and a great view of the city. Istanbul Archaeology Museums The next day we slept a little late due to our heavy schedule of sightseeing the previous days. This was our last full day prior to moving to the ship. We decided not to take a Bosporus cruise, since our ship was going to make two transits of the Bosporus. That turned out to be a good decision, since I had two guidebooks of Istanbul and the DK Eyewitness Travel guide of Istanbul had an excellent section on the key buildings and features facing the Bosporus. The Eyewitness Travel guide was great, with much detail and a great map of the city. I also had a Rick Steves Istanbul, which was helpful, but probably unnecessary since I had the Eyewitness Travel guide. The Archaeology Museums were great. We spent four hours there and loved it, but at the end were definitely museumed out. We did use the audio guide, which was excellent. Admission to the museum was only 10 TL. There were three museums. The first museum we visited was the Museum of the Ancient Orient. This museum contained antiquities from Egyptian, Hittite, Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations. It contained friezes from the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, which reminded us of a similar exhibit at the Pergamum Museum in Berlin. There was a large and impressive collection of Hittite items. The Hittites were a Semitic people with an empire that was centered in Anatolia in the second millennium BC. The Hittites challenged the Egyptians. One of the most interesting exhibits is the Treaty of Kadesh, circa 1269 BC between Egypt and the Hittites. The treaty included provisions for the protection of the citizens of both empires. The second museum that we visited was the Cinili Pavilion with Turkish Tiles and Ceramics. This museum includes many beautiful works of art in tile. The third and most impressive museum was the Museum of Classical Archaeology. This museum was quite large with many impressive items. It included a huge span of history, but much was ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine. We saw many sarcophagi (ancient burial containers) with magnificent sculpturing. The so called "Alexander Sarcophagus” was awesome. It was not actually Alexander the Great’s sarcophagus, but built for another King, but depicts Alexander’s victory over the Persians. There were several impressive busts of Roman Emperors, as well as a bust of Alexander the Great. The museum is loaded with impressive items and is a must see if you visit Istanbul. However, after four hours of non-stop museum hopping, we had reached our limit. We wandered back to the hotel to relax a bit and planned an early dinner, since we were part of a group that planned to see a Whirling Dervish show that evening. Mevlevi Sema Ceremony of Whirling Dervishes Several of our Hotel Lausos group opted to see this ceremony, which was arranged by Marianna. It would be wrong to call it a show, since the participants consider it a religious ceremony. Apparently, the participants have a religious experience by whirling in a counter clockwise manner for about half an hour. They did stop a few times during the ceremony. The show or ceremony was interesting and we learned something of the Sufi Islam. The ceremony had is origin in the 13th Century. We were all impressed by the ability of the men to constantly spin for many minutes at a time. However, all agreed that after seeing the ceremony, we would not likely wish to do it again. After the ceremony, we returned to the hotel, but again visited the rooftop of the Lady Diana Hotel for a nightcap. Again, we enjoyed the awesome views of the city, particularly the lit up Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. The next day we checked out of the hotel and our group moved on to check in the Celebrity Constellation. I had arranged for a bus transfer for 14 persons from the hotel to the ship at the cost of 5 euros per person (also for 10 persons from the ship to the airport at the end of the cruise for 7 euros per person). I had found the transfer on the internet with eyewitness travel. I learned that being in charge of such a transfer has its problems. I had located the office of eyewitness and pay for the transfers in advance. When the bus arrived at eleven that morning, the bus had 14 seats, but one was for the driver. The driver got on the phone and another vehicle appeared very quickly, so we all made it to the ship without delay. I emailed eyewitness while on the ship and the response was that the additions vehicle had been arranged in advance. That is possible, but I have my doubts, in any event the transports worked out just fine on both ends of the cruise. We saved a lot not just taking a taxi for both transfers. THE CRUISE I had booked the cruise soon after it was announced. Being active on cruise critic, I was able to connect with many of our fellow cruisers in advance. Before the cruise, Ginny and I had not met any of the people on the cruise. However, after exchanging messages on cruise critic and email, I felt that I knew some of our fellow cruisers already. Through cruise critic many of us booked at the Hotel Lausos, which allowed us to meet and socialize prior to the cruise. Also, I arranged the transport as previously explained. Further, I organized tours for the Ukrainian ports, since Celebrity’s excursions for those ports were either too expensive or not extensive. Celebrity has three options for dining for all but a small portion of its passengers. You can dine at 6pm or 8:30pm at your same table every night, with the same wait staff and same table mates or select dining, which allows you to eat when you want, but you will likely have a different wait staff and different table mates. We have done both 6pm dining and select dining and prefer the 6pm. Also, Celebrity allows you to tie your dining request to others. We selected a table for 8 and via email; three other couples opted to join us at the same table. This was a great choice, since we had a connection with the other couples. We were at table 302 and our table mates were Marianna and Charlie from Long Island, NY, Pattie and Dennis from Madison, Wisconsin, and Tom and Sue from Northern California. Ginny and I very much enjoyed dining with our new friends. Our dining experience was enhanced by our wait staff, which took care of us during the cruise. Our head waiter was Gardita from the Philippines, assistant waiter, Arslan from Turkey and sommelier, Mehti also from Turkey. Service was excellent, as it usually is on Celebrity. The embarkation process was uneventful and we boarded the ship about lunch time. Our cabins were not ready, so we had lunch at Bistro on Five, a crepe restaurant that we enjoy (cost $5 per person) as opposed to the usually crowded buffet. After lunch our cabins were ready and we moved up to our cabin (7171). We had the same cabin on Infinity on another cruise and like the angled balcony, which is larger than most on that deck. My suitcase arrived soon, but Ginny’s was two hours later (don’t know why). ELITE After five cruises, Ginny and I qualified for Celebrity’s elite status, which includes some notable benefits. Primary benefits are a free happy hour from 5-7pm with free drinks; 90 minutes of free internet use; priority tender tickets; and one free bag of laundry each. I estimated that we spent about $300 less on alcohol on this cruise than we usually spend, probably due to the free drinks at happy hour. We were well taken care off during happy hour by Sasha, our waitress from Jamaica. Since the drinks are free, no service charge is added for the wait staff, so I had some dollars to tip. It was appreciated. After a few days, Sasha would have our favorite drinks for almost before we sat down. Also, the free bag of laundry (we only used one free bag) allowed us to not bring a carryon bag. We downsized our packing to just one checked bag each. This worked out well, until we were hit with the unusually cold weather in the Black Sea. I should have brought my heavy leather jacket instead of lightweight jacket. ENTERTAINMENT We found the entertainment on the Constellation to be about what we have experienced on other Celebrity cruises. However, we did not go to all the shows. The cruise was very port intensive and we had excursions or tours that wore us down a bit, especially when the weather turned cold. Still, we did enjoy about half of the shows. We very much enjoyed violinist Kateryna Sychova, a talented Ukrainian that performed classical, jazz and Ukrainian, Armenian, Irish traditional and American Country music. The string trio of young women was excellent. We enjoyed the IHollywood show by the Constellation singers and dancers. That show was not the same as we had seen on other IHollywood shows on other ships. Also, we enjoyed the Celebrate the World, which we had seen a few times on other ships, but still enjoyed. Peter Cutler was great, especially singing opera. The Ukrainian folk show was excellent and the cirque de soleil act was good. The fitness center was not used much in this port intensive cruise, but I did use it on our one sea day. It was clean and well maintained. Ginny and I also took advantage of our one free trip to Persian Garden to the saunas there. We also used the hot tub a few times in the covered pool area. It was especially nice when the weather turned cold. THE PORTS Now, the ports, I think are the most important part of the cruise. The cruise included three ports that we had previously visited on a cruise in 2010, but we opted to take excursions to see things that we had not seen before. ATHENS We chose an excursion to Corinth (on the isthmus to the Greek Peloponnese). The tour was PR01 Ancient Corinth and Canal Cruise. Our tour took us first to the ancient city of Corinth. Corinth rivaled Athens as a major city state. Actually, the city that we visited was one from the Roman era, since the ancient Greek city had been razed by the Romans in 146 BC. The Romans rebuilt the city. The apostle Paul visited the city in AD 51 or 52. Our tour guide was excellent and had a very good knowledge of ancient history. She took us through the city and museum, pointing out significant features of the city and how people lived in ancient times. After visiting the city, we were bused to the dock where we boarded a boat for our transit through the Corinth canal. The canal was completed in 1893. It is four miles wide and a sea level canal. Our boat transited the canal twice, so we returned to the same dock from which we had departed. During the cruise, we had a lunch with Greek food that was pretty good for a tourist buffet. The canal was interesting, since it was cut through stone and we had very high walls on both sides as we transited. This excursion was good and I would recommend it to others that have visited Athens before and seen the major sites there. MYKONOS Mykonos was our next port and we elected to take the Delos tour. The tour was MK01A Ancient Delos. Celebrity’s price of $74 per person was a very reasonable price. While you can take the ferry from Mykonos on your own for 17 euros ($22), having a guide is well worth the excursion price. We had chosen not to take the Delos tour on an earlier NCL cruise, because NCL’s Delos tour exceeded $100 per person. Delos Island was reputed to be the birthplace of the god Apollo. There was a Temple of Apollo on the island. Delos was home of the Delian League, founded in 478 BC as an association of Greek city-states, under the leadership of Athens, whose purpose was to continue fighting the Persian Empire. It evolved into the Athenian Empire and the treasury that once was kept on the island was taken to Athens by Pericles prior to the Peloponnesian War (with Sparta and its allies). Our guide took us through the residential area and some of the dwellings, explaining how people lived during the Roman era. She pointed out some art and features of homes, including cisterns to collect water and the ancient sewer system. We then visited the sacred area with the Temple of Apollo and Terrace of the lions as well as the ruins of other ancient buildings. The original lions had been taken inside to the museum for protection. Our trip was completed by a visit to the museum which housed the lions as well as mosaics and statues. We then returned to Mykonos, where we had lunch at Niko’s restaurant, where we had dined with Jack and Jason in 2010. We saw the same or a similar large pelican nearby. Some things never change. The Delos tour is excellent for those interested in ancient history. EPHESUS Having been to Ephesus before, we chose an excursion that included the Terrace Houses. We did the plain vanilla tour of Ephesus the last time we visited there. The terrace houses proved to be well worth the second visit to Ephesus. Apparently, the houses were covered by a wall of mud that preserved much of the art work on the walls and floors of the houses. The tour was KD28 Ephesian Modus Vivandi and included the terrace houses St. John’s Basilica and a good lunch. Our guide was excellent. Our second stop was at the Basilica. The Basilica was below an ancient Byzantine fortress and enough remained of the building to get a sense of what it was 2000 years ago. Our lunch was at a hotel and excellent. We were greeted by people dressed as Romans and the lunch was billed as a Roman lunch. The carpet demonstration was very close to the cruise port, so after the demonstration, we excused ourselves and walked a few blocks back to the ship. TRANSIT OF THE BOSPHORUS We had a second sea day, but Celebrity dressed it up as Bosphorus Strait (cruising). It was exciting, passing by Istanbul and going through the Bosphorus. Most people, myself included missed the Dardanelles transit, since we entered the Dardanelles at 4am. We passed Istanbul between 12:30 and 1pm. It offered many photographic opportunities. Viewing the city from the water gives a new perspective. We decided to go to the deck 12 viewing on the bow of the ship. It was very crowded and the plexiglass needed cleaning, but you could stand briefly on a lounge chair and take photos over the plexiglass. We stayed there until we crossed under the second Bosphorus bridge and went back to our cabin, were we could see the European side of the Bosphorus. It was like being on a river cruise. We saw old fortresses, Naval Schools, Mosques, villas and other historical buildings. My DK Eyewitness Travel guide of Istanbul had a nice section on notable buildings and features on the Bosphorus, so we were able to view and understand what those buildings were. We passed through it again at the end of the cruise, so we were able to view the wonderful scenery again. THE BLACK SEA Visiting the Black Sea was one of the draws of this cruise. We had never been to the Black Sea, but had been to Kiev, Ukraine in 2011. We had three ports in Ukraine to visit, Yalta, Sevastopol and Odessa as well as Burgos, Bulgaria. The weather turned around the planned itinerary. Soon after we entered the Black Sea, we noticed the waves picking up with more ship movement. At dinner, the Captain came on to announce that due to a storm in the Black Sea, we were diverting from Yalta to Odessa. Sevastopol and Yalta were to follow our two days in Odessa. Pattie and Dennis, at our table #302 immediately got up (didn’t finish their dinner) and went to Guest Relations to call their taxi driver in Odessa. Dennis’ family came from Ukraine and he and Pattie had planned to have a taxi drive them over half way to Kiev to the two towns were Dennis’ family originated. Celebrity was nice in providing free phone calls for those of us that had arranged private tours in Ukraine. Guest Relations did assist us all. My tours in Ukraine were private and I was able to contact the tour companies in Odessa and Sevastopol to confirm that the tours were still to go on. When we docked in Odessa, the temperature was 9 degrees C, which is less than 50 degrees F. I put on a t-shirt, regular short sleeve shirt and then my light jacket. I was still a bit chilled when outside in the wind. Ginny was chilled and after we had tea and cake about lunch time, our guide talked the restaurant into loaning our group three orange blankets for three ladies to use during the day. Ginny had one of these blankets and was glad to have it. Our guide told us that the weather was more like what Odessa has in November or early winter. It was unusual for this time of the year. The weather channel predicted highs in Odessa of 68 degrees F. Olga was our guide. She was with Odessa walks. (www.odessawalks.com, odessawaks@gmail.com ) The tour was the Grand Tour of Odessa with a visit to the Opera House: The tour itinerary: 10.00am " meeting with Odessa Walks guide at the disembarkation point on the cruise ship pier 10.05am " a walking tour through the historic city center. This tour will take you through two hundred years of the city's history. We'll get to see the city's landmark sights as well as ever so picturesque backstreets and Odessa's hidden gems. Sights to be covered: • City's landmarks: Potemkin steps, Primorsky blvd, Duke de Rischelieu Statue, Kateriniskaya square, Deribasovskaya street, City Garden, St Nickolas Church (=Transfiguration Cathedral) • Odessa's palaces: Sheikh's palace, Vorontsov's Palace, Tolstoy palace • "Off the beaten track” sights: Monument to the Bribe, Gogolya street, Odessa's courtyards, Palais Royal 12.00am "12.30am - tour of Odessa's Opera Theater interiors 12.30am - 1.30pm - continuation of a walking tour 1.30pm - 2.30pm " lunch with Ukrainian/local twist in a local restaurant 2.30pm " 4.00pm - tour by car: "Undiscovered Odessa” and Odessa's market. The tour will take you further to the city center once populated by the city's first craftsmen, later by artists, doctors and men of science. This is the area where the oldest city market and the second in the world bacteriological lab are. Sight's to be covered: • Odessa's oldest market, founded in 1810. • Naryshkin palace, Pototsky palace • Odessa's "medical quarters”: following the steps of Pavlov, L. Paster, Sechenov and many other men of science, who lived and worked in Odessa 4.00pm " a tour by car to Odessa's neighborhoods: French boulevard, Shevchenko park 5.30pm- drop off at the cruise ship pier. Olga was an excellent guide and our tour was great. The price was $60 per person and an additional $9 for admission to the Opera House. Odessa was an interesting city. It had marvels like the Opera House and Russian Orthodox Cathedral, with other historical buildings. However, you could see that the Ukraine is still recovering from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the communist system that had almost put the country on a third world level. Olga was a Russian speaker that had lived in the United States for some years. She did not speak Ukrainian, as about half of the Ukrainian people. The Ukraine is something of a divided country with the western half Ukrainian and more oriented to Western Europe and the eastern half (including Odessa, Sevastopol and Yalta) more Russian oriented. The Opera House was really awesome. It had a stairwell that reminded me of one in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Some passengers on our ship managed to go to the Opera House on the overnight that we had in Odessa. We did not try to do that, since we had a full day’s tour and did not wish to go back out again. The next day, we had a half day tour of the Catacombs. Cost was $25, which was reasonable. This was the tour as provided by Odessa Walks: Odessa Catacombs tour Odessa's catacombs are the largest labyrinth of the underground tunnels (2, 500 km). They were home to smugglers, criminals and World War ll protestants (partizans). After WWll, most of them were closed, and now only one section is open for public visits. This section also houses WWll partizan museum. During the tour, you'll get to walk through the underground tunnels (you'll spend about 40 min inside the catacombs), see how people lived there for almost 2 years during Odessa's occupation and also visit the "on the ground" WWll partizan museum. This section of the catacombs is located in the city suburbs (in the village), 15 km away from the city center. So, you'll get a chance to see some remote Odessa's districts and a little bit of countryside. We were amazed that people could live two years underground. They had to wash their clothes twice a day. We learned that most of the partisans were eliminated by the NAZIs; however a 13 year old boy had survived the war and just passed away last May. I would highly recommend Odessa Walks with Olga if you ever visit Odessa. SEVASTOPOL Our next port was Sevastopol, which was a tender port. The tour that I arranged was with Anna Ermakova (sarvanidi@mail.ru). Our group met at Guest Relations at 8am in order to meet our tour guide at 9am just off the dock. Some of our group didn’t have priority tender tickets, but had managed to acquire tender # 3 tickets, so we departed together, when tender #3 was announced. We met Olga, our guide (not the same Olga in Odessa), who Anna had provided. Olga turned out to be an excellent guide and very well informed. Our tour was extensive, since it covered four major items: In 7 hours you can visit the most interesting places of interest in Sevastopol area. I suggest the visits to - Bakhchisarai, - "the city in the garden" located in 35 km to the North from Sevastopol- to visit the former residence of Crimean Khans who ruled here in the 15th-18th centuries. You'll see Divan Hall, Falcon Tower, Great Khan Mosque, the harem buildings, the Fountain Patio with Fountain of Tears glorified in poetic lines of Alexander Pushkin. In Bahkchisaray you'll continue to Assumption cave Monastery located in the mountainside and considered to be one of the most ancient Crimean cave monasteries. Its foundation was connected with the iconoclasm in Byzantium. Lunch at Tatar cafe is recommended (Crimean Tatar cuisine). In Balaklava (12 km from Sevastopol downtown) we'll visit the former Soviet top-secret underground military complex (submarine pen) located in one of the rocks. When back to Sevastopol you'll visit the world-famous Panorama "The Defense of Sevastopol, 1854 - 1855". This tour is $440. (this fee includes my guiding and transportation but doesn't include entrances and food but Admission fee is $10 per person each of them). We had a nice drive through the countryside to Bakhchisarai to the palace of the Crimean Khans. It took us past the valley of death where Tennyson’s Light Brigade charged Russian artillery as well as other notable landmarks of the Crimean War. The Khans’ palace was very interesting. I was not expecting such a well preserved palace. After the Khans Palace we went to see the Assumption cave Monastery, which was in the side of a mountain and in caves. There was a good walk up the hill, but our small minibus was allowed to drive up rather close to the monastery, while the Celebrity busses could not go that far. It was very scenic with beautiful rock formations on the opposite side of the mountain. The monastery had several more modern buildings in the valley below the caves. After the monastery we had a great lunch at a Tartar restaurant in town. The price was good, only about $17 for two persons. We learned about the Crimean Tatars that were a Turkish type people that migrated from Asia into Crimea. Stalin thought the Tartars were too friendly with the Germans in the WWII occupation (Hitler promised them independence), so he deported the entire people to central Asia after WWII. Almost half of the tartars died in this relocation. During the 80s, Gorbachev arranged for them to return to Crimea on their own. About 250,000 did return to Crimea. The Tartars that we met looked more like Turks than Asian people. After lunch, we drove to Balaklava to visit an abandoned Soviet submarine base used during the Cold War. The former base is a museum and visited by many Russian Navy sailors from the nearby Russian base. We learned that the Ukrainian Navy still has one submarine. The visit to the former base was interesting. We saw the pens were the subs were kept and channels to the sea. Also, we saw the place were nuclear weapons were kept and transferred to the subs. The museum included some weapons and uniforms of the era as well as a section dedicated to the Ukrainian Navy. Our last stop in this long tour was to see the magnificent Panorama of the battle of Sevastopol. The Panorama reminded us of the Cyclorama in Atlanta, Georgia of the Battle of Atlanta. The Panorama had been damaged in a German firebombing in WWII, but reconstructed by the Soviet Government. The Panorama was amazing. All in all, I considered our tour of Sevastopol to be great. We were so glad that we could see Sevastopol due to not being able to see Yalta the next day. YALTA I was excited about seeing Yalta, especially the Livadia Palace, the former summer residence of Czar Nicholas II. The famous Yalta Conference was held in Livadia Palace. Unfortunately, that was not to be. Our group was prepared to depart on tender #3, but after tender #2 the Captain suspended tendering due to high winds and heavy waves. Later the tendering was resumed only to pick up passengers that had made it ashore. Celebrity allowed me to call Anna and Olga to cancel our tour, so they would not be waiting any longer at the dock. Sure, we missed Yalta and we endured the terrible weather, but our cruise Black Sea adventure was still good. It would have been wonderful at 68 degrees. BURGOS Our last Black Sea port was Burgos, Bulgaria. We took a Celebrity tour, A506 Historic Varna. Because of a change in the ports we arrived in Burgos two hours late and did not start our tour until 11am. The tour was 8.5 hours, so we did not arrive back at the ship until after 7pm. The tour involved almost two hours each way from Burgos to Varna. We enjoyed visiting the Bulgarian countryside, but I think some of our tour thought it was a long way to drive. On the way to Varna, we pass through the Bulgarian Rivera. Bulgaria has become a tourist mecca with visitors from Russia, Scandinavia, Britain and Germany. Apparently, hotels are very inexpensive. We saw several attractive hotel and apartment buildings. However, we saw half-finished apartment buildings as well as some that appeared finished but not used. Overbuilding had hit Bulgaria as well as the USA. The tour started out with lunch, since we were late starting. Lunch was good. We then visited the remains of Roman Baths. Our guide explained the significance of the baths and how business was frequently done there, as well as the bathing process. The baths as Varna were the fourth largest Roman baths in the World. Next we visited the Archaeological Museum. The museum has some amazing gold from 5000 year old graves. Our guide pointed out key sites in Varna. Our last stop was at the Assumption Cathedral, which was filled with beautiful art. ISTANBUL Our ship arrived back in Istanbul on 6 October at 2pm, one day before our cruise ended. Ginny did not go out, but I went out for a couple of hours, walking up to Taksim Square. This is a large square in the newer section of Istanbul that was the site of anti-government demonstrations in months prior to our cruise. The square has a large park nearby and the square itself is very large. That area of the city had a modern mall like one would find in Europe or the US. This portion of the city was more modern than what I saw in the older section of the city. Our trip home was a long one. We had arranged for transport to the airport at 8am. We arrived just before 9am and our flight was not scheduled until 1:55pm. I had quite a time trying to find anyone connected with United Airlines. Finally, I found a ticket booth (not for checking luggage, just purchasing tickets). There was a small sign indicating that we could check in at H 7 starting at 10:55am. We had some time to wait, so we moved to the Burger King and waited until about 10:15, then moving to get in line for checking in for our flight. On arrival, we found a very long line. There were two United flights leaving at the same time. It took us about an hour and half to check our bags. Then we moved through immigration, and finally to our gate. At our gate, there were contracted local agents that kept checking and rechecking our document, for whatever reason. We made it to Newark and then found our flight to Orlando was delay. We managed to stay awake until we boarded the plane and both fell asleep until shortly before arriving in Orlando. After retrieving our car at Cheap Airport Parking (Orlando Marriott) we checked into our hotel and the next morning departed for home. It was a great trip, with the cold weather in the Black Sea the only real negative. I still loved the trip. The bad weather was not Celebrity’s fault. We will be better prepared for such unusual weather on our next trip.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
We are elite level Captain's Club, traveling in concierge class with an interesting group. Overall, we found the experience not near what we have previously experienced on Celebrity. This was not a premium cruise, and not close to ... Read More
We are elite level Captain's Club, traveling in concierge class with an interesting group. Overall, we found the experience not near what we have previously experienced on Celebrity. This was not a premium cruise, and not close to luxury. However, this review will show both the unexpected above and beyond responsiveness of the crew to some truly adverse conditions. First, a weird gout-related condition requires that I consume black cherry juice every day, accompanied by another weird combination that required mixing ingredients in our cabin. The staff provided it and delivered everything I needed to my cabin. Yes, it was pre-arranged, but it still stands out and needs to be mentioned because this was above and beyond the call. We had a very few problems in other aspects of the cruise, most of which were easily and promptly resolved. The entertainment was very good to superb, particularly the pianist Brooks Aehron and the string quartet. Superlatives are inadequate, but I recognize that quality classical music is not everyone's taste in entertainment. The stage shows were entertaining, but within the realm of what we have come to expect: very good quality. Unfortunately, our pleasure was impacted by a cruise director who focused on himself, instead of the entertainment of the passengers. There were serious problems, all of which adversely impacted the quality of service and food on-board. First, there was a major outbreak of respiratory ailments, followed by an outbreak of the dreaded noroviris. Thus, Food & Beverage Dept was forced to eliminate self-service in the Oceanview Cafe. Passengers were handed their eating utensils; normal condiments (salt & pepper) were no longer seen; and crew did their very best to control the outbreaks. It was clear that crew were over-stretched trying to sterilize all surfaces while they were being used. The weather did not help. After beautiful skies in the Aegean Sea and Istanbul, we suffered across the Black Sea, again as best that could be done by crew. The itinerary was changed to try to avoid a major storm. In Odessa, all we got was showers and cold. Sevastopol was fine, if a bit cooler than expected. At Yalta, a couple of tenders were able to reach port, before the port master told the ship's captain to cease tender operations because the sea was too rough. Thus, we were forced to wait around until the passengers who were able to get off returned late in the afternoon. Again, crew did their best in an ugly situation, and again, lunch meals were difficult. Substitute entertainment did the best possible, but it just wasn't fun. Due to the weather, external pools were closed. "Solsticization" from my perspective is solely a way to generate more income. It's real world impact: on formal nights we weren't able to use the main dining room; there was little variety in the Oceanview Cafe; and "Bistro on Five was similarly limited. Specialty restaurants were crowded with formal night lovers. A positive note: "anytime dining" works!! It is a choice if you prefer options. In addition, it was a relief to the normal over-burdened eating experiences on the Black Sea. "Enrichment" has been better on almost every cruise; port previews left something to be desired. Very little beyond the Greek ports and Istanbul. In prior cruises, the daily calendar of activities listed all events, including religious services, AA, LGB, etc. This is no longer done; it only lists "officially sponsored" activities. Several friends, all "elite level" experienced travelers, missed events because they were only listed at Guest Relations. It was an unexpected "hiccup" when we were expecting notice of group meetings. Prior boarding for concierge and "elite" level worked very well.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
We have cruised many times on Celebrity and chose this itinerary because it had a combination of ports that we wanted to see again, ports in the Black Sea that were totally new to us, and because the cruise sailed round trip from Istanbul, ... Read More
We have cruised many times on Celebrity and chose this itinerary because it had a combination of ports that we wanted to see again, ports in the Black Sea that were totally new to us, and because the cruise sailed round trip from Istanbul, which we had always wanted to visit. We were joined by 3 couples we met cruising the Adriatic last year. I call it a cruise of two halves because the first few days can only be described as perfect, perfect weather, perfect ports, perfect excursions, and the second half of the cruise was, well, less than perfect with unexpectedly unseasonably cold weather, rough sailing conditions, a change in the order of ports, a missed port and a spot of norovirus thrown in for good measure. To quote Dickens, "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times...” Pre-cruise We flew out to Istanbul via Munich on United a few days before our trip. We had paid to upgrade to Economy Plus when we first booked our flights and had seats in row 17, but when I came to check in 24 hours ahead we were for some reason in middle seats in row 39, aka Economy Minus. It took a while to get that sorted, and while we didn’t get our original seats back, we did at least get seats in Economy Plus. A word of advice if you have a booking with United, check regularly that your seat assignment hasn’t changed, as our seats disappeared on the way back too. We had a tight connection in Munich, but our flight arrived 30 minutes early so we had no problems making our onward flight to Istanbul. Arrival in Istanbul was relatively painless. We had purchased the Turkey visa online and the immigration officer just gave it a cursory glance. For those who didn’t buy the visa ahead of time, the line at the airport was short and the visa looked a lot nicer than my printed out barcode! We stayed for 2 nights at the Hotel Sultania in Istanbul and can highly recommend it. It’s in the Sirkeci area, about 10 minutes walk from the Blue Mosque and the same to the Galata Bridge in the other direction. We did the obligatory full day walking tour around all the main sights of Istanbul, but with the jetlag it was pretty much a blur! We then took a 2 day side trip to Cappadocia, booked through Turkish Heritage Travel which was amazing as was the Sultan Cave Suites Hotel that we stayed in. The landscape in Cappadocia is truly unique and we visited ancient churches hidden in the rocks, underground cities, and saw really amazing rock formations. If you get chance, do the balloon ride, (ours was with Butterfly Balloons), everyone except me, (with my fear of heights), loved it. Back to Istanbul for 2 more lovely nights at the Sultania Hotel and more sightseeing. We took the long day cruise up the Bosphorus for the bargain price of 25TL (about US$13) per person, had a super seafood lunch at the last stop and then caught the ferry back, passing Constellation which had just docked. There is no better sight than seeing your ship has arrived safely, except perhaps seeing all your bags on the luggage carousel at your destination airport! Boarding We booked a car from our hotel to the port for Euro 25 and were among the few passengers whose driver was able to get into the port and actually drop them at the baggage area. I think money changed hands! Other cars stopped outside the port and passengers had to drag their own bags in. FYI I think we were among the last cars allowed into the port as our hotel was unable to send a car to meet us at the end of the cruise. Boarding at Istanbul can only be described as chaotic. Security staff were more interested in yelling at each other than in directing the passengers. We had checked in online so had a choice of the Aqua line or the Elite line in the terminal. We picked Elite as it was empty, and check in was pretty easy. We had to wait a long time to pass through immigration, and then had quite a hike to the ship. Photographers were really disorganised and for the first time ever we didn’t get a boarding photo. Once on board we were given a glass of fizz and then sent to a mystery line, or rather mystery crowd of people where eventually we were asked to surrender our passports. We tried to go to either Bistro on Five or Cafe Al Bacio to chill, but the crew member in charge of the elevator said they were closed and wouldn’t let us out before deck 10. They were open. Grrrr. We had just had breakfast and weren’t really interested in the buffet lunch, so went and checked on our spa reservation and christened our drinks packages with a perrier each! Cabin We were in 9114 an Aqua 2 cabin. It was located under the entrance to the buffet and was in the open area between two overhangs, so had the standard sized balcony roof. The cabin was quiet. Our steward, Joao, did an excellent job in keeping the cabin clean and dealing with my requests, extra towels and no feathers or flowers in the cabin. I had spoken to Captains Club before our trip to mention the feather and flower situation in the hope that they would notify the ship ahead of time so I wouldn’t have to get the steward to redo the cabin. Unfortunately they didn’t and he did. Food Blu We were in Aqua Class so were assigned Blu dining. Despite this being my second time in Blu, I must confess that I still can’t get the hang of it or it’s menu. I typically eat clean and light at home, lots of salads, lots of veggies, fish, chicken, not many carbs, very little red meat, and hardly any cheese or dairy. On the first night the waiter said their food was a fusion of Mediterranean and California cuisine, that they use milk instead of cream and serve jus instead of sauces. Fair enough. The menu typically lists 3 appetisers, 2 soups (one hot, one cold), 2 salads, one main course salad and 5 mains (pasta, fish, poultry/game, red meat, vegetarian). Often the waiters would recommend against the poultry/game (too small and fiddly to eat), and fish (too bland), which really left only the red meat or the cheesy pastas and vegetarian dishes to choose from. As for vegetables, they were so few and far between that "spot the veggie on the plate” became something of a game. The menu descriptions were often unappealing, with off-putting ingredients in the description that didn’t materialise in the dish itself, but put me off ordering them. So I didn’t starve, but I didn’t think the food was that fantastic either. There were some standout dishes, the frogs legs appetiser, the smoked trout, the thai style coconut soup, the filet mignon, the available everyday roast chicken breast which came with great veggies, and the pot of coffee creme dessert. The shrimp cocktail and the onion soup from the San Marco everyday menu, and soups from the San Marco vegetarian menu were also very good. The lobster was bland and disappointing. Last time I remember it being outstanding. I feel I should also mention the wine service. One sommelier and occasionally a bar waitress could not possibly provide good beverage and wine service to the whole of Blu, especially when the sommelier had to go out of Blu to fetch wine for people ordering by the bottle. We had the premium drink package and were never able to get more than one glass of wine with our meal. It was often quicker and easier to go to Cellar Masters between courses, but you really shouldn’t need to do that. Breakfast service in Blu was very quiet and relaxing. Much nicer than the main dining room or buffet. The Buffet We ate at the buffet on 2 occasions in the evening, when the menu in Blu just didn’t have anything we fancied. The curries in the buffet were an excellent alternative. The stir fry too was very good. Aquaspa Cafe I had 2 lunches here, one a shrimp salad and the other a tuna salad. Both were cooked to order and excellent. Cafe Al Bacio They had some great croissants and pastries here in the morning that were fresher than those from room service. In the afternoon they offered cakes, but the lunchtime sandwiches and snacks that they used to serve have been discontinued, which is a shame, because they made a nice light lunch. Room Service Room service breakfast was very hit and miss with either wrong items being delivered or things missing. Delivery was always punctual. Other things we liked were the excellent chicken noodle soup and club sandwich. There was often a significant wait of 30-45 minutes for food during the day. Hors D’Oeuvres The in-cabin hors d’oeuvres were a great improvement over the bits of bread with squirty toppings we had last time. Every day there were chips and some sort of dip like hummus or tzatziki, peanuts, olives and either eggs, breadsticks, salmon or shrimp. Entertainment Entertainment wise we are pretty much self sufficient, preferring to read or write rather than going to organised activities, but we do enjoy live music. I am not a show person so never saw any of the production shows in the theatre. I did however enjoy the different musicians playing in the bars and lounges. There was no acapella group this time (yay!!!), but we had a string trio, a guitarist/singer, a classical guitarist who occasionally sang, and a couple of guys, the TNT Dynamic Duo, who typically performed pre and post dinner dance music in the Rendez-vous lounge, but who occasionally performed Britpop and alternative acoustic sets, that were excellent. Other activities seemed really few and far between. There were lectures on the regions we were visiting, but I was never quite sure whether they would morph into "what to buy and which shops to buy it from ashore” type talks. Trivia popped up occasionally, but Name That Tune has now been replaced by the ghastly "Billboard Multiple Choice Trivia”, and I don’t care what the quizmaster says, Billboard is predominantly americentric, and as for multiple choice, ugh. Art Auctions are also back on the ship, apparently "by popular demand”. Our cruise director was Alejandro. Spa We had a couples massage that was very nice, although instead of the usual plinky plonky new age music, we had jazz and latin music with a bit of blues thrown in. It was really quite bizarre. We enjoyed the thalassotherapy pool and the hot tubs in the aquaspa. A couple of afternoons they did open this adults only area to families with children, but as I only ever saw 2 small boys on the ship, it really wasn’t a problem. Captains Club Elite We have been Elite for quite a while so don’t really bother with the Captains Club functions any more. Been there, done that, as they say. Elites do get an evening drinks party and a private buffet breakfast, but with breakfast in Blu and having opted for the free drink package in the 1-2-3- Go promotion, we didn’t feel the need to go to either. We did however appreciate the coupons for free and discounted laundry and internet. Ports We travelled with 3 other couple that we met on the Silhouette Adriatic cruise last year, and did a combination of ships tours and private tours together. Athens, Greece We toured Athens with "George The Famous Athens Taxi Driver.” He offered a full day tour, but having done that before, and knowing how tiring it was, we modified it so we could see fewer places, but spend longer at them. We started with the Acropolis and the Parthenon, went on to the Roman Forum and the Ancient Agora and the Library of Hadrian. We had a nice lunch in the Plaka and then went to the scenic overlook for a panoramic view of Athens. George was a great tour guide, full of knowledge and eager to improve his english and to learn from his guests. We would highly recommend him. Mykonos, Greece We had always wanted to go to Delos, but last time we docked in Mykonos they weren’t offering Delos tours. This time they were and we decided it would be easiest to go with the ship tour. The ferry docked beside our ship and took us straight to Delos and returned us to the town centre in Mykonos. Previously we had heard mixed reviews of Delos, but we loved it. We had an excellent guide who did a wonderful job bringing the ruins to life. Once back in Mykonos we wandered the streets, saw the windmills and had lunch in a waterfront restaurant in Little Venice before taking the shuttle bus back to the ship. Ephesus, Turkey "If it’s Ephesus it must be my birthday”. 21 again and what a fantastic birthday present, being the first group of people into Ephesus and having it all to ourselves. Amazing! Having been there once before in the crowds and heat of July, this was like night and day. The ruins were fabulous and I highly recommend paying the extra to see the Terraced Houses. I booked this tour privately with Ekol Travel and we got a heavily discounted rate if we prepaid, which we did. There was an offer to visit a carpet factory or handicraft centre which we declined. Glad there was no hard sell. Cruising The Bosphorus OK so another way to describe a sea day, but a great one, sailing into Istanbul and then up the Bosphorus, in the sunshine, seeing the palaces, marvelling as the ship squeezed under the bridges. Then it got a bit breezy, and then rather chilly as we entered the black sea. "Ominous” I thought. A couple of hours later it was rather cold and windy and the boat was lurching around and I thought that the next days tendering in Yalta wouldn’t be much fun. Sick bags started appearing in the stairwells. At 7pm the Captain announced that there was a massive storm ahead of us, and that for the comfort and safety of the passengers, and to enable us to visit all our ports in the best weather conditions, they had decided to turn the ship around and change the order of the ports and do Odessa, Odessa, Sevastopol,Yalta, instead of Yalta, Sevastopol, Odessa, Odessa. They said that anyone with ship tours would receive a revised tour schedule and anyone with private tours would be able to make free phone calls to reorganise those. All our Ukraine tours were booked privately with Crimea Consulting and fortunately they were able to rearrange them for us. Odessa, Ukraine Day 1 We had a private Catacombs and Odessa walking tour booked for 9am, but there were problems getting the ship cleared by the Ukranian authorities. We finally got off around 11am and found our guide. We had an abbreviated tour because of our late arrival and went first to the catacombs as our guide thought it would warm up in the afternoon. It didn’t. It was unseasonably cold, wet and windy. We saw the main sights, including the outside of the opera house and then headed back to the ship. I’m sure in better weather it would have been much nicer. Odessa, Ukraine Day 2 Even colder today. People were layering and had picked the ships shops bare of sweatshirts and jackets. We wandered around some of the sights we saw yesterday and then head back to the ship to warm up. We decided that perhaps October is a bit late in the season for the Black Sea. Sevastopol, Ukraine Another private tour, Sevastopol and Crimean Khanate, and another absolutely freezing day. Our first stop was at the roman ruins. I’ve only ever seen ruins in the hot sun. This was a new experience. We ended up being the only tour group brave (or crazy) enough to go down to the ruins by the sea! Next we went to a Palace, and then witnessed a spectacular disagreement between our guide and driver as to where we should eat a traditional Tartar lunch, the decision being made based on the toilets. The big problem was that traditional Tartar restaurants have outdoor seating, or rooms with no windows, ideal for summer, but we were freezing. In the restaurant we finally ended up in, we had the best soup ever, a choice between Lagman and Shurpa. Both were delicious. The toilets were not so good and were described by the ukranians as "Turkish”. I didn’t need to go quite that badly and crossed legs sufficed for the rest of the tour. We visited a cave church and then headed back. Our guide said she would also be our guide tomorrow but that our tour had been pushed back an hour to 10:30, perhaps, maybe, which struck us as odd. Yalta, Ukraine Seas were pretty rough but tendering started. Tender 1 went ashore. Tender 2 was loaded but never left and then the Captain announced around 9am that tendering would be suspended for a short time due to high winds. By 10am it was still suspended, and by 10:30, the time our tour was due to start, it was still suspended and we made an executive decision not to bother. The guides "perhaps, maybe” from yesterday, now implying that maybe they never thought we’d be able to tender in in the first place. At 11am they announced that we would not be tendering to Yalta and that they were focussing on getting people who had tendered ashore, back. Yikes. A hasty entertainment program was cobbled together, bedraggled looking performers were dragged out of bed and the dining room opened for lunch. There were some very disappointed passengers who had really wanted to visit Yalta, but in the end we all made the best of a bad deal. Burgas, Bulgaria The sun came out and we did the Nessebar Highlights ship tour. The tour was well organised and we had a good tour guide but there really wasn’t a lot to see. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of it’s houses, which were quaint, but to me it looked more like a seaside resort. Istanbul, Turkey We arrived after lunch in Istanbul and had the afternoon to sightsee before disembarkation the following morning. We walked up to Taksim Square, along the main shopping drag, by the Galata Tower and back to the ship. Norovirus I feel I should mention norovirus as it reared it’s ugly head on this sailing. The first sign that something might not quite be right, was when the menus disappeared from the tables in Cafe Al Bacio. Someone else said they got sachets of salt and pepper in Blu for breakfast. It wasn’t until the evening that the Captain announced that a small number of passengers had become ill with a gastrointestinal bug and that the best way not to catch it was by washing your hands frequently. Hand sanitiser was everywhere. Everything was served to you in the buffet which really slowed things down, tables were sanitised between customers and everything was either being sprayed or wiped down constantly by crew members. Fortunately none of our party contracted any illness, but our cruise was still impacted, because staff were having to do more with service (pouring milk, squeezing condiments, serving bread), which slowed things down. We seemed to have fewer waitstaff in Blu, whether that was due to their being sick, or reassigned, I don’t know, but the ones we did have were run off their feet. Disembarkation We had selected to leave around 8:30 and were planning to get a taxi to the hotel. We had a last breakfast in Blu, then went to wait in the conference room for disembarkation. Other friends had either arranged rides to the airport or to their hotel. We had steeled ourselves for a very long wait for a taxi, but were pleasantly surprised to get one straight away, and were in our hotel room just after 9am. It seems that everyone else have major problems finding their drivers, so perhaps in Istanbul, getting a taxi is the way to go. Post-Cruise We had 3 more days in Istanbul, and revisited sites we had seen when we first arrived, this time without jetlag, and also went to the Chora to see the mosaics and the city walls. We also visited the Spice Market. Our flights back to the USA were with Lufthansa and United, but we checked in online with Lufthansa. Once again our seats had changed, but when I printed out my boarding pass, it had the original seat numbers on it. Go figure. Interesting that even though the long haul segment was with United, Lufthansa didn’t charge me for the extra bag, so I felt vindicated, and had finally got one up on United for all the irritation they had caused! In Conclusion We had a fabulous time despite the weather and despite the presence of Noro. With hindsight the Black Sea is probably better visited in Summer. We noticed that despite the promotion of the beverage packages, there seems to have been a major cutback in the number of bar staff. Lounges don’t seem to be open for bar service as long as they used to be. A lot of activities and tastings are now available for a fee. Much as they promote anytime dining and Blu and Alternative restaurants, the entertainment schedule is still geared to the early and late seatings. If you want to eat at at 8pm and have a pre-dinner cocktail at 7:15 good luck finding a lounge with live music to enjoy it in. The only entertainment at that time is typically the show. A lot of the lounges in the evening were dark and unappealing. When I say dark, I mean dark enough to need the flashlight on your iphone to read the drinks menu! Perhaps they are saving energy to power the Martini Bar, which was always bright, but never had live music, always taped. Those of us who have been cruising Celebrity a long time can see the cutbacks. They appear to be staffing at the bare minimum at the moment, which they get away with under normal circumstances, but when something unusual like norovirus happens, staffing really is inadequate. I remember when Celebrity used to tout their high staff to passenger ratio. I would love to see what it is now, and while I will continue to sail Celebrity, I can’t help thinking how wonderful the crossing I did on Cunard this past summer was, and how now, more than ever, I might be tempted to try them again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
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