Just returned from our 25th Anniversary trip to Europe, having spent the first week on the Constellation and most of a second week on land. Perhaps we should have done it the other way around, as Celebrity had definitely spoiled us with ... Read More
Just returned from our 25th Anniversary trip to Europe, having spent the first week on the Constellation and most of a second week on land. Perhaps we should have done it the other way around, as Celebrity had definitely spoiled us with all the ice-water we could drink, unlimited towels and food, and constantly refreshed cabin . . .after that, traveling on land was a rude awakening!
My husband, three teenagers (15, 17, 20) and I are experienced cruisers from Wilmington, NC and this was our second Celebrity cruise out of approximately 12-15 total; we definitely feel Celebrity is at the top of its tier with regard to service and food quality. [We had even taken a chance on Costa cruises last summer, only due to the itinerary offered for Northern Europe, and were sorely disappointed by crew decorum, lack of free water to drink, and absence of food availability between meals and late at night.]
First to arrival:
we took a taxi from the airport directly to the port, so no cruise connections were used. Given that we had arrived at 0900, we were very pleasantly surprised to be able to board shortly before noon, though our luggage didn't arrive at the cabin until ~3:30p. We had forgotten to buy duty-free bottles of wine to bring aboard, as one bottle per cabin is allowed at the onset of the cruise, so walked in the midday heat from the port to Piazza le Roma (~15-20 minutes) and visited the Coop store there; though we had asked a cruise rep, we were not advised that just past the security checkpoint, there was a duty-free shop right in the port terminal that would have saved us some sweaty steps!
The cabins we had were 7123 and 7127, both interior; there was adequate closet space, a nightstand per person, and the bathroom had storage in a cabinet under the sink. Beds were comfy. As always, I could have used more hooks to hang things on. Our kids' cabin needed to sleep 3, and we were unpleasantly surprised to find out that there weren't bunks to be pulled from the ceiling, but rather a fold-out cot/sofa-bed, which occupied much of the little floor space there was. Apparently, there are pull-out bunks on Levels 2 & 3, but not above those levels. As usual, the love-seat and cocktail table provided often were more in the way than useful in these smaller cabins, and I often wonder why there aren't at least tables that can be folded up or down against the wall to make more room.
We had requested main seating at 18:30 and found the lower level of the San Marco Dining room to be quite nice, with large floor-to-ceiling windows looking out the back of the ship. We five had requested a table for 10 and were lucky enough to have been assigned a pleasant family from Dallas, TX who had girls of similar age to our teens, so dinner conversation was always lively! Our main server, Olman from Honduras, was a peach--always friendly and helpful, and his assistant, Ivana from Serbia, was just as nice. We give them both a "10"! Food was very good and we didn't have a bad meal all week: we always order one of each course (appetizer, salad or soup, entree, dessert) so there was always something to please. There was a lot of seafood, steak available every day, pasta, lamb/veal, and also vegetarian options daily. The Ocean-view Cafe buffet was available for breakfast and lunch and always had a wide variety of choices: Asian (the Indian options were always our favorite), Mexican, pasta cooked to order, pizza, sandwiches, salads, fruit, carving stations, meats & cheeses, the list goes on. We never paid extra to visit a specialty restaurant and did not purchase any of the drinks packages--the up-charges would only make sense if one were a BIG all-day drinker (who hadn't brought 2 bottles of wine aboard!).
Our first port, the very day after embarkation, was Split, Croatia. Unfortunately, we should have docked and were tendered instead, causing us to miss a planned walking/biking tour that we'd been looking forward to. Celebrity was well aware of the clients' response to this snafu, and thereafter took great pains to make any other tendering/docking as painless as possible. We merely walked about the waterfront area and then returned to the ship, so I can't say too much about the port itself.
Santorini: We were tendered here as well, but things went much more smoothly. Immediately upon landing, we heard an offer for 10 Euro pp tickets for a combined ferry/bus option that we took: fight from the tender landing area we boarded another boat that in ~15 minutes took us to the end of the island where we were transferred by minibus up to the top of the hill. There was the town of Oia (or Ia) which we strolled through and greatly enjoyed: so many vistas, replete with whitewashed buildings and blue accents and beautifully blooming bougenvillia everywhere! Bring your cameras!! Then, at a predetermined time ~1-2 hours later, we boarded a bus and rode the 15minutes to the city of Faro, at the top of where we'd initially landed. That area was much more overrun and crowded with tourists than Oia, so after strolling a while, we headed down on foot, on the same path that the famous donkeys use. It was a bit treacherous even going downward, as the cobbles are well-worn and somewhat slippery, so caution is advised (though at least one is in control of one's own destiny when walking, which can't be said for when on a donkey!)
Mykonos: Docked. A shuttle provided brought us closer to the town, then we walked through town, along Little Venice, and to the nearest beach, which was a bit rocky to enter the water, but well worth the cool refreshing dip! Wish we had taken the opportunity to go to one of the more developed beaches, but had to re-board by 15:30 so didn't chance it. Windmills (not functional for some reason, though there was plenty of wind!) are a photo op, and again, all the cobbled lanes with overhanging flora.
Katakolon: Docked. Main street is immediately adjacent to dock and many outfits sell tickets to Olympia. We opted to take Katakolo Tours bus round-trip to Olympia for ~10 Euro pp; the ride takes ~30 minutes each way and we had 2 hours there to see the museum and archeological site. Bring sunscreen, hat, and water, as the site is dry and HOT. Admission for these combined was 9 Euro pp. The bus back was barely air-conditioned, but served it's purpose.
Venice: we hadn't arrived for any pre-departure time in Venice, so were very happy that we had one full day docked in Venice. It was blazingly hot, unfortunately, and that made our independent excursion to Murano, where the famous glassblowers work, a bit of an uncomfortable day. The wait for the vaporetto was long and crowded, and the town in general was even more busy than usual, as there was a celebration occurring that evening complete with fireworks over San Marco Square. Our purchase of a 24 hour vaporetto card for 20 Euro pp would have been a good deal if we had taken more than two vaporetto rides that day, but we opted to return to the ship for dinner and then had an upper level vantage point to see the fantastic (and fantastically long at ~20 minutes duration) fireworks at 2330 on the very last night of our cruise!
After dinner, we would head directly to our 20:30 show and thereafter would go find whichever lounge was the liveliest. Given that we like having the teens with us most of the evening, we didn't have a chance to see what the Martini Bar had to offer, but it was always hopping. We did bemoan the fact that there was no piano bar for sing-alongs, and no real "disco"--the DJ had a small open space across from the Martini Bar, which made the whole level noisy and inhibited those who may otherwise have danced. Though he had some decent streaks of songs, we felt the DJ wasn't always attentive to the effect of his song choices: there would be a full dance floor and he would segue into some mix that would clear the floor, and he wouldn't change it up! Pay attention to your dancers!!!
Also: It would be great if there were a "young adults" club where the 18-24s could meet and hang out; this demographic no longer has the organized "kids clubs" and would benefit from being thrown together more.
The dancers and singers aboard were quite talented and enthusiastic, and we particularly liked the Celebrate the World show, though I heard it was being phased out after a 5 year run: would love to see it continued, but perhaps with updated costumes/songs? The newest show, Illyria, was a bit risque but no too, but the cast seemed to enjoy the challenge of a new and daring venture. The guest stars that we most enjoyed were the comedian Fred Klett from Milwaukee, and the female Ukranian violinist. The acrobats that are part of the cast are great as well. There happened to be two different Motown-type guests, which were both good, but it seemed too much of the same genre.
As to the daytime events, the activities staff did a good job, offering dance lessons, ping-pong tournies (more, more!!), and trivia, but there was no shuffleboard competition. The library was well-stocked, but could use some travel guides and maps/atlases.
Service: we found the staff aboard, from cabin stewards to waitstaff to officers and activity staff to be very attentive and polite. Super-Captain Tassos was great--with his involvement in so many activities, I don't know how the ship stays underway! The drink staff were never pushy.
We had independent arrangements to get to the train station for a 13:30 train, so requested the last # to disembark. We had to eat breakfast by 0800 and vacate the cabin by 0830, but then sat comfortably in a lounge for ~40 minutes until our # was called, walked off, found our luggage, and off we went! Read Less