10 Istanbul Holiday Cruise Reviews

We have just returned from a wonderful cruise and have the obligatory air con cold to prove it. We booked an internal room as we have found as its so dark this is the best sleep we ever get. We never sleep in long at home. We took the tip ... Read More
We have just returned from a wonderful cruise and have the obligatory air con cold to prove it. We booked an internal room as we have found as its so dark this is the best sleep we ever get. We never sleep in long at home. We took the tip of another reviewer and brought a tiny torch so we could find the loo in the night. Great Tip. We felt no vibration and at times forgot we were at sea. Only port we were disappointed in was Messini - very graffiti ridden and dirty so came back quite fast. At kusadissi we went to Ephesus as we had booked our own private trip before we left from England through www.ephesusshuttle.com Two of us in a minibus and Ali our guide was great, (even managed to find me a toilet away from all the crowds) The Centrum was lovely and the music was great. The shows at the centrum were brilliant. Simeon Baker and Erky are brilliant Ringmasters. Boogie Night, Parade of Flags etc etc brilliant fun!! Disco on top deck brilliant, even though a tad cold as it was November, we soon warmed up by dancing. However on previous ships usually the dancers take part and dance with the guests The in house dancers and singers had two big nights in our 11 nights. Never saw them in between. Dancers wearing laddered tights on the final night wasn't a good look either! The guest entertainers especially Geronwy Thom were excellent! SPECIAL AWARDS to Hott Stands on top deck playing in coats hoods and gloves!! Our Cabin Attendant was excellent always there. Our toilet blocked 3 times and he attended to it instantly. We liked the cards you placed in the key inlet to indicate DO NOT DISTURB or Make Up Room. The Aquarius Dining Staff were excellent and staff remembered your favourite foods or allergies. The food was wonderful. At night time we used to go the Smoking Area on top deck (as non smokers a horrible area anyway) to get our coffee walk across the top deck and into the Solarium Bar for our snack. The hot coffee and tea should be next to the food. And yes the coffee is vile but I need the caffeine! We did have a soda package and when we were in the Enchanted Evening area we were forgotten three consecutive times by the same Waiter on consecutive nights. You could see his face drop when we ordered a diet pepsi or coke. Thomson in the Champagne bar was completely the opposite and a joy to chat to him and sit in his Bar, our drinks at the ready before we crossed the room. Our £100 on board credit was not forthcoming. We asked three times at Reception and was told the computers were not working. Warley from Reception on the fourth day took charge and sent 8 emails to the UK and it was finally sorted on our 11th night on disembarkation morning. Normally Muster day is a bind carrying lifebelts and this was a greater controlled and pleasanter experience as per the new Safety regs you don't have to wear them on the Muster practise. At Captains Corner a lady asked why didn't we have to practice wearing our lifebelts, my thought was I never practise on a plane so why should I practice on a ship? The Crew and staff were wonderful and helpful and smiley all the time. Its a shame some guests couldn't be the same. I actually heard one woman complain she had to wash her hands before eating! Another woman complained that the dining ought to be structured according to class (hints of Titanic there) LOLS We noticed queuing was a novelty at times for some people but the rest of us sorted them out and the staff didn't let people jump ahead of the line either!! We took part in the Quizzes and as only 20 per cent of the guests were American we gave up at times as the songs were and the answers were American orientated. Who wants to be a Celebrityaironnaire 100 top answers as favourite car was a Chevrolet?? Erky and Simeon excellent quizmasters. Simeon Baker and Erky on Channel 14 are hilarious their rapport is wonderful. And we braved the wall!! The two guys were excellent! A great cruise a great time and we are now dieting madly Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Before I start and give my review of this cruise, I would just like to tell you my travelling companion and I have worked in the travel industry for over twenty years and we have both held senior positions on cruise ships in the past. ... Read More
Before I start and give my review of this cruise, I would just like to tell you my travelling companion and I have worked in the travel industry for over twenty years and we have both held senior positions on cruise ships in the past. After embarking the ship in Istanbul for our Holy land cruise on the 6th of November we were amazed how quickly we got through the terminal and onto the ship. The welcome onboard glass of champagne went down like a treat and our party of 6 couldn't wait to go and explore what would be our new home for the next two weeks. Being Diamond Plus in the Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor programme we were matched across to Elite status with Celebrity's Captains Club. We were all looking forward to being made welcome and special like we have enjoyed and experienced many times in the past. Once on the ship at 1pm we were shepherd to the Seaside cafe on deck ten to have lunch. Having not cruised with Celebrity before I was somewhat dumb struck at the rat race and free for all that was happening right in front of me. Trying to push my father through the cafe in his wheelchair was near impossible. Passengers were just hitting each individual section of the buffet from left, right and centre causing ciaos and frustration for many people just wanting a simple lunch after a long day travelling. My first impression was "why is it taking so long"? 15 minute to wait to get a salad was bad enough but this was topped by a 10 minute wait to get a cup of coffee. I didn't mind too much telling people not to push in front of me but poor old dad with his walking sticks he had no chance at all. At this point all I could I think was, don't they do things different and why is everything from a packet of butter to a glass of water being served personally by a member of staff? All I could I do was reflect on what I had seen in the Seaside cafe and try and make sense of it as we waited to get the announcement at 3pm saying that our cabins were ready. We settled into our generously large outside cabin on deck 6 and found the decor pleasing and cabin spotlessly clean which it remained to be throughout the whole cruise. Nothing was too much trouble for our stateroom attendant and it was nice to be engaging with someone who really had a passion for their work. The evening meals in the main dining room were exceptional. The choices on the menu we found to be fresh and creative and it was joy to have such wonderful dishes served by two very enthusiastic and fun waiters. At dinner on the second night compliments were sent to the chef and to our surprise no other than the executive chef himself came to our table to thank us personally. We were asked if anyone had any questions they would like to ask. I asked the chef "what was happening at the lunchtime buffet"? He told us steps had been taken for staff to serve everything in the buffet as the ship had experienced a bug on the previous cruise and many people had been taken ill. At this point things did start to make sense we had thought the cruise line was going over the top showing over and over again on the TV how to wash your hands and how to prevent the spreading of germs and infections at sea. On the third day of our cruise two out of our party had been struck down with a bug and by the end of the first week four out of the six of us had been isolated with the unspeakable virus! Of course for their own reasons the officers were tight lipped when asked if the Norovirus was present on the previous cruise. At one point we were told 4 passengers had embarked the ship in Istanbul ill and this had caused the outbreak! To be honest with you, should we have known this prior to embarkation I think some of our party would have thought long and hard about going on a ship with such a terrible and painful virus as some of our travelling party have had fragile health of late like I guess most of the population of pensioners onboard the "Connie". After being released from isolation I found the free for all had continued in the Seaside Cafe and the attitude from some of the stripes still remained aloof, arrogant and still in denial of what was happening around them. Today, having only returned home late yesterday I cannot find it within me to thank Celebrity Cruises for showing me how I am actually able to projective vomit and experience the other things associated with the unspeakable bug. However, once I receive the "gesture of goodwill" compensation payment in the form of a future cruise credit of one lost day in isolation, my opinion might just change but I don't think it will it took us almost three days to come around after. I am more than aware I have been going on and on so I'm not going to go into details of the cold food and never once seeing a food thermometer, finding sinks full of vomit in public toilets and the inability of stripes to communicate with one another along with the disorganisation in the dining room for breakfast and lunch and, don't even get me started on the elegant afternoon tea. So, go on, ask me did I enjoy my cruise? Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Sorry about the length of this but we have a lot to say! It was clear from the start that the ship has medical problems - and not brought on in Istanbul by the current passengers as was suggested. Gel being dispensed everywhere, all food ... Read More
Sorry about the length of this but we have a lot to say! It was clear from the start that the ship has medical problems - and not brought on in Istanbul by the current passengers as was suggested. Gel being dispensed everywhere, all food and drink being served, continual hand washing instructions,no library books, cushions glasses ice buckets info folder all gradually disappearing from the cabins, etc. In spite of this many passengers and crew came down with the virus throughout the cruise - people did throw up pretty much everywhere - pool, busses, dining room, lifts, but the crew worked very hard continually cleaning and clearing up so the ship did stay clean.I did wonder about the instructions that if you got it you had to make your way through the whole ship to the medical centre on deck 1 - surely they should have stayed in their cabins and been visited by the doctor? We didn't get it (noro) but it felt like the sword of Damocles was hanging over us all the time. A couple of points - The hard working but "brassy" CD Sue Denning gave a daily briefing, but it was really the same every day, "Thank you and keep washing your hands". She continually said that she would tell us the truth, but the one thing wouldn't tell us was how many people were affected. We understood that it was 400 - 500 people. Also I wonder how much the crew are involved in spreading problems. I saw one of the panini servers wearing plastic gloves pick up a handful of crisps, put them in his mouth and then go on serving, cutting and spreading the bread. I immediately reported this to a manager but don't know what action was taken. To be fair I also saw an idiot passenger use the restroom and then go out without washing his hands! Ok, on to the rest. If you take trips in Israel my advice is to arrange your own. If you take ship tours it may say "shopping time" but you won't get it at the many interesting little shops you will walking by, no, you'll get it at the end in a very large isolated store where the tour guide gets 35% of everything you buy (and it's not cheap!)- get the picture? This happened on all 3 trips for us and we didn't like it - so no tip for the guide, they get quite enough!! Finally the best for us was the variety and quality of the music / entertainment. This was the best we have ever experienced on a cruise. There was music happening all over the ship including - The ships Song and Dance company - It was the last 2 weeks of their service and they were great. The shows were fantastic. Ship's Orchestra - they were excellent performing and backing other acts. Jefferson Ang - Guitar and singing in the coffee bar. 545 Express - acapella group and very good. Arabesque Trio - 2 violins and piano. Lovely classical music in one of the lounges. Great Ideas Party Band - fantastic atmosphere every night. To see the boy and girl singer both perform footloose (?) was really amazing. Pity they didn't have a CD to sell - I would have bought it! Perry Grant - singing and piano. Very entertaining, but I couldn't face seeing the same performance and comedy every night although quite a few did! The visiting entertainers - were all good but the absolute highlight for us was SAMANTHA JAY. What a talented lady this girl is. She plays the oboe, violin, saxophone and piano in a wonderful fast moving show with popular and classical music. She also seems a genuine and modest person - a real star! If you get the chance go and see her. So we did enjoy the cruise in spite of everything and hope that the deep clean (again)in Barcelona where they made everyone leave the ship (including back to back passengers)will do the trick. I think they are worried about not being allowed to dock in USA. I somehow doubt it will be enough though. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
I have sailed on many lines, however this was my first cruise on Celebrity. My sister and brother in law with whom I sailed have enjoyed saIling with Celebrity and assured me that I would also do so. They were wrong, I was very ... Read More
I have sailed on many lines, however this was my first cruise on Celebrity. My sister and brother in law with whom I sailed have enjoyed saIling with Celebrity and assured me that I would also do so. They were wrong, I was very disappointed. This was the first time that I travelled as a single, consequently paying for two was a huge expense and I would only cruise again if singles get a better deal. The food on "Constellation" was very ordinary, definitely not up to the standard I have enjoyed on other ships. The buffet offered the same food every day. There were plenty of salads at lunch time but little in the way of meat or fish to go with them. This is the first cruise I have been on where afternoon tea was not served. On the last day of the cruise afternoon tea was offered at a charge of $18.00 per person. We did partake and it was very nice, however I think the charge was excessive. Indeed almost everyone I spoke to complained of the greed of the company in their charges for every little thing. In Mykonos there was a last minute change from a tender landing to a berth one. We were charged $7.00 for a two minute trip on the bus into town! The entertainment was very ordinary apart from a violinist who entertained us on two evenings. Norovirus struck down a huge percentage of passengers and crew. Disembarkation was handled smoothly although we were disappointed that there was no provision made for people who had a late flight out of Istanbul, to leave luggage. I sat at the airport for eight hours! Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Royal Caribbean Vision of the Sea Istanbul and the Holy Land departing 28 October 2012 Grand Suite 8518 The three star rating is based on the experience of a suite booking. Had a lower grade been booked the rating would have been higher. ... Read More
Royal Caribbean Vision of the Sea Istanbul and the Holy Land departing 28 October 2012 Grand Suite 8518 The three star rating is based on the experience of a suite booking. Had a lower grade been booked the rating would have been higher. This voyage was selected for its chance of a first visit to Israel at a time that suited me. We have cruised before, on Cunard, Silversea, Fred Olsen and Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas The Grand Suite category is the lowest grade offering Concierge benefits on this Vision Class ship. Check in was brisk although there was no dedicated line for Suite guests. We were allowed to find our own way to the suite and the nearest lift was not signposted from the entry on deck 1. On the Cunard Queen Mary we were once fortunate to be upgraded to Queens Grill status and we found the suite cabin on Vision of the Sea equally good if not better than that on QM. However, that was it and from then on it was not clear what benefits Concierge status had for us. Newer and larger Royal Caribbean Ships have a dedicated lounge staffed by an officer who gets to know and assist her passengers. On Vision and its class of ship this is not so. When I asked at reception the day after joining if I could meet the Concierge officer I was met with a puzzled stare but eventually the right person did appear and was helpful, though I saw her only once again on the last sea day when she delivered an invitation to visit the bridge. We were first assigned to a table of eight for dinner. Two places were unfilled and the other four were occupied by young women who had not met previously but were loyal RC cruisers who had earned enough points to be upgraded to Concierge status even though occupying inside cabins. They had much to share with each other and though polite and friendly it was pretty obvious that two 70 year olds were oddities on the table. I think the ship was incompetent about this placement, this was about feeding, not dining. Our one meeting with the Concierge officer the following day had us moved to a table for two. Special lunch menus for Concierge Guests were published in the suite literature but lunch in the restaurant was by open seating only. We joined a queue to be seated at tables of 8-10. Showing our Gold Sea pass cards at the restaurant entrance at the first lunch was again met by puzzled staff who were not aware of any special menus and we were made to feel rather like queue jumpers. The tables for ten were pretty miserable. Some passengers brought a book and read, couples sat in silence and there was never a communal feeling to meals shared this way. The Windjammer Cafe provided buffet meals. It was crowded but adequate though the staff look gloomy. Cabin 8518 is located right below the Windjammer entry. Other reports here have mentioned that the cabin may experience undue early morning noise as the Cafe is set up for breakfast. This was not a problem. From time to time heavy footfalls could be heard during the day, probably made by younger passengers running, but any noise would not have been commented on except to say that the main problem seems to have been sorted. There was no vibration nor engine noise in the cabin and almost none in remainder of the ship including the auditorium over the stern. It was a very stable ship even in the moderate seas we experienced for a day or so. In the cabin, the restaurant and the auditorium you could not be sure if the ship was tied up alongside, or at sea. The ship is clean and well maintained. The carpets look new and the underlay is thick and springy, feeling freshly laid. A large amount of space has been allocated to the shopping arcade but it seems odd that no simple goods like toothpaste, aspirin or reading material were available. The casino too is large, perhaps even oversized. I tried to count the number of slot machines and came to numbers between 150-200, so many rows, columns and arcs of banked machines I gave up on accuracy, but the numbers do indicate that RC is doing all it can to separate passenger from their dollars. There was a general grumble of recognition that this was something resented but tolerated. The Captain announced on day three that there was some diarrhoea on board and regular videos about hand washing were shown on cabin TVs and encouraged at all food outlets. After this announcement I avoided the Windjammer buffets where there was so much exposed food and restricted dining to the restaurant, even with its shared tables for lunch. No one I came across had any problems with the norovirus, nor did they know of cases personally. There was a special morning reception for suite guests, about 40 were there. At least ten officers were present to circulate and were introduced to us. They including the Finance Controller, Communications, Marketing, HR, Inventory and so on but oddly missing was the officer dedicated to suite guests. There were three formal nights but no tux for us even though up to now we have always taken formal gear. It was a good decision as it was poorly observed. I estimated fewer than 20% of men were in black tie. Some in black tie were not wearing coats and nearby one in the full kit set it off with a baseball cap, black of course. At the next table to us, on all three formal nights the man wore a black T-shirt. (a young man who looked more elegant than many others of us) It would have been disappointing to have compromised our 23k baggage allowance for the flight out and then back to have packed tuxedo. Tuxedos were available to rent on board but why bother? Concierge guests have access to a reserved section of the Viking Lounge between 5-8pm for free drinks. I asked for a sauvignon blanc on my first visit and was told that that wine was too expensive and the choice was a house red or white. I had the white but did not finish it. Later on I found that you could order any bar drink at a 25% discount though service was still added. On previous RC voyage with access to the dedicated concierge lounge a good bar was maintained and canapés and other hot dishes were available too. When I did ask if they were serving any canapés I was told that they were off because of the viral problem. The Vision's evening lounge arrangements are a poor compromise and I did notice that most of the users of this facility seemed to be upgrades with an absence of suite guests. I used the facility only twice, mainly because it was inconvenient, ending at 8pm while second seating dinner was not until 8:45pm. A cocktail before dinner was not the function of this service. The food on board was average standard but there is special mention of the pastry chef whose work was outstanding, and I usually avoid desserts. But nevertheless it was best to avoid desserts that involved alcohol. A superb savaran had a light delicate texture but the Gran Marnier based syrup it was to absorb saw little if any Gran Marnier and instead was an unpleasant rather bitter/sour substitute. Later a black cherries with kirsch suffered much the same way, so instead I kept to his varied creations that outshone the remainder of the galley's output. Had we booked a lower grade which did not offer a Concierge service this could have been a cruise offering good no-frills value. The passengers looked contented and were having a good time. Our Concierge experience on Brilliance of the Seas encouraged us to repeat it on Vision. RC's advertising does inform that the full Concierge experience is not present on Vision class Ships but the offered service is unnecessarily patchy with a lack of attention to detail and my advice would be to forget it, though we did get a really nice cabin! Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
This was our 4th Celebrity Cruise and we had previously sailed on the Consteallation pre 'Solcitization'. We were therefore interested to see the changes. I had seen a blog before we left home that there was sickness on the ... Read More
This was our 4th Celebrity Cruise and we had previously sailed on the Consteallation pre 'Solcitization'. We were therefore interested to see the changes. I had seen a blog before we left home that there was sickness on the Connie but I was hoping that by the time we arrived the situation would be resolved. On arrival at the terminal it was obvious that sadly this was not the case. We were given a number for embarkation and there were notices everywhere saying that staterooms would not be ready until 5pm. Nevertheless we were eventually allowed on board for some lunch, although without the usual welcome drink. As we had arrived relatively early we were part of the first group on board and were able to get our lunch fairly easily although everything, including teas and coffees, had to be served by the crew. We were eventually allowed to our cabins and were very soon greeted by our lovely cabin attendant Lalaine. She did a great job looking after us. So then we were able to enjoy our sparkling wine whilst we unpacked. After an overnight stay in Istanbul we departed for Kusadasi in the afternoon. This was when we had our Cruise Critic party so we missed sailing through all the shipping that anchors in the Marmara Sea. The get together was good and it was clear to see that Celebrity do take notice of the CC boards. As we had made private arrangements for all the ports of call we cannot comment on the ship's excursions. But we were very pleased with the arrangements we had made. In Rhodes we hired a car and drove ourselves to Lindos and back with a lunch stop at the lovely Seven Springs taverna which is in the middle of the island. By this time the high level sanitization procedures had been lifted. The next day was the sea day as we sailed to Israel. This was the best day of the sea days for weather and we enjoyed sitting around the pool. As we were retiring that night at 11:15 the Captain came on the public address system to tell us that Ashdod port had been closed to passenger traffic following an attack by the Israeli army on the Gaza strip. We subsequently found out from our tour guide that Hamas had targeted missiles on the south of Israel. The ship therefore diverted to Haifa for 4 days instead of 2 in Ashdod and 2 in Haifa. This threw everybody's arrangements into disarray and it wasn't until we were on our way to Bethlehem that we found out all the facts from our guide. We ended up on a bus in a group of 37 all of us having arranged private tours in smaller groups with Guided Tours Israel(GTI). The problem was that the tours arranged from Haifa were using local guides and drivers who were unable to get out of the south of the country. Although everyone was very disappointed we had to give credit to GTI for making the alternative arrangements at such short notice. Our guide, who did an excellent job, told us that he had been called by GTI at 2 in the morning! Our second day was to Masada and the Dead Sea and because of the journey being from Haifa instead of Ashdod we had the opportunity to see some of the Jordan Valley. These were two very long days as the journeys from Haifa were that much longer than from Ashdod. On the third day the small private tours resumed as they had originally been planned from Haifa. Unfortunately we did not make our trip as my wife was suffering from the dreaded bug. It came on very suddenly at the end of one day and the next day we visited the medical facility. My wife received very good attention, an injection and some medication all without charge. After 24 hours she had recovered other than not being able to eat as much as usual! So one day in the cabin. The last day in Haifa we looked arounfd the City and went up to the top of Mount Carmel and viewed the Bahai Temple -â€" quite spectacular. Then another sea day as we sailed back to Athens. Unfortunately it was quite a windy day and just a tad too cool to stay out on deck. In Athens there were no strikes and we made our own way to the New Acropolis Museum followed by lunch in the Plaka. This was followed by a final sea day and again as it was now November and we were sailing North to Istanbul not an outdoor day. We sampled both the Tuscan Grill and Ocean Liners. The latter was as excellent as we remembered it and the Tusacn Grill is a very good addition and worth the fee for one night of the cruise. We also used Bistro on Five on sea days to avoid the crush of the buffet. Excellent Service and good value. Towards the end of the cruise I asked Guest Relations for a form to make extra gratuities. I was told that this was not possible as the Finance Team controlled whether or not this facility was available and in this case it was not. I had met the Finance Controller as he was a Brit and had quite a conversation with him. He even sent some truffles to our cabin. I do think however that this was a little unfair on the crew. With an itinerary like this, visiting numerous countries using different currencies, it is not always possible to have a suitable currency to pass to the staff members you wish to thank. Nevertheless we received nothing but excellent service from all the crew we dealt with. The entertainment was a bit mixed. The cast shows were excellent but the music in the various lounges of an evening was sometimes lacking. Indeed on the night after leaving Athens there was a scarcity of music in the bars. Thank goodness for Perry Grant! I had read about Perry before we left and was not sure as to whether he would appeal to us. Well, he did! We went the first night with an open mind and returned every night! So a good cruise, good food, good service an interesting but amended itinerary. All the downsides were way beyond Celebrity's control and they handled them excellently. We are even going to receive an onboard credit for the day my wife lost in quarantine. So although disappointments absolutely no complaints from us. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Chosen for its interesting itinerary, this cruise from Istanbul went to Haifa, Ashdod, Athens, Kusadasi, back to Istanbul. And it gave good shore time, including overnites & evening departures. We're Brits, we booked late ... Read More
Chosen for its interesting itinerary, this cruise from Istanbul went to Haifa, Ashdod, Athens, Kusadasi, back to Istanbul. And it gave good shore time, including overnites & evening departures. We're Brits, we booked late through a T/A who had an excellent eye for an opportunity. The ship had obviously been under-booked, so with RCI slashing prices but no flight availability, the T/A had lined up flights for a day ahead & an overnight hotel in Istanbul. Add Heathrow hotel/parking, direct flights by BA, and ship's auto-tips taken care of, and we couldn't resist this attractive package. Early-morning flight no problem with a Heathrow hotel - we even slipped into central London for the evening. A private transfer booked at €20 to our Istanbul hotel, on the fringe of Sultanahmet, gave us the afternoon & evening exploring. We later met folk who'd booked ship's fly-cruise from Heathrow. Via Amsterdam. Took all day. Left us feeling smug. Next morning, transfer to the ship. Hotel was near the tram line. Port was near the tram line. 2 Turkish lire pp by over-crowded tram, or ten times as much by taxi? No contest for cheapskates. With all our luggage, getting on the jam-packed tram was errrrr ..........interesting. No matter, a tenner saved is a tenner saved. Warm welcome on Vision of the Seas. And at the CC meet-and-mingle Some reviews had suggested that the ship needed a re-fit & that crew morale was low. Nonsense Cabin very acceptable, decent size, clean & up-together, though no fridge or hot drinks. Older-style TV with no access to our on-board account. But all OK & no issues. Excellent public facilities, indoor & outdoor pools, two theatres, varied bars, very poor library. The multi-floor atrium looked like a triumph of design over utility, but the entertainments team knew how to use it, and they laid on some hot-hot evenings. Way better than the theatre offerings, though they had their good moments too. Food in the MDR was very acceptable. We'd chosen my-time, met one couple at dinner & booked together for the next night. Ditto other couples later, & we finished our cruise as effectively fixed dining for 8, without the lottery of fixed-dining companions. The Windjammer was also very acceptable, reasonable choice though some was rather bland, including excessive use of tasteless buttercreams, etc. Nice surroundings, table-clearing mebbe a shade slow if I want to be picky, but no bunfight for seats. Staff were pretty good - cheerful, willing, helpful. Negatives. There were a few. RCI's high drinks prices are notorious, certainly amongst Brits. But to compound that, RCI were very cagey about disclosing prices. Drinks featured on table promos were un-priced, as were the cocktail-of-the-day being touted by the tray-full, and the printed wine suggestions on the dinner menu. If I have to ask the price, they can keep it. Cheapest wine was the unmemorable but drinkable "La Terre" house at $30 incl service charge. But this wine was not offered everywhere, and other more expensive wines were quoted as the house wine, causing confusion. Except in the Schooner bar, where the cheapest wine was, from memory, $60 plus 15% service. Never bought a beer or a soft drink aboard, and drank more water, tea and coffee than I've ever drunk on a cruise. Rationing meant we spent about the same as on other cruises, and the under-worked bar staff touting for business suggests others were doing likewise. Minimal extra profit at the expense of significant customer dis-satisfaction, and self-imposed rationing because we hate being ripped-off is not the way to fully enjoy any vacation. Entertainment staff. Way too much of the "Hey, hey", "whooooooo-yeahhhhhhhhh" and, worst of all, "remember, I looooooove you" from the tannoy. Cringeworthy at first, then comical, then downright boring. But cruise director Simeon, perhaps a little too in-your-face life-and-soul for us despite his Welsh ancestry, did know his stuff, was full of enthusiasm, did inject life into the activities, and was interesting to talk to in a quiet interlude. The guy is well-worth a 9+ Stuff like the belly-flop competition. Ugh. But we're plebs, it was a bit of fun. Rather more fun is "Quest". Don't ask. If it's promoted on a cruise just go along and see. Then roll about laughing, or walk out in disgust. Ships' excursions. Last-minute we took ship's over-priced Piraeus-Athens transfer, after learning of a 24-hour transport strike incl taxis. Shame we hadn't known that the ho-ho buses included a transfer route from port to city centre, at €20 they were about half the cost of RCI's transfer. In other ports we did our own thing, for the usual reasons. RCI's promo for their Bethlehem excursion made us laugh. It went to great lengths to berate the fact that in Bethlehem, which is a Palestinian enclave, a Palestinian guide will take over & will direct clients to chosen outlets. Thus time spent ....... "is solely at the discretion of the local guide who may receive a commission for any purchases. .....this is beyond the control of RCI." This from RCI !! - the cruiseline with perhaps the world's worst reputation for wasting their excursionists' valuable shore time by diverting them to commission-earning shops etc. Which in the case of this cruise included an awful lot of carpet demonstrations !!! But the positives outweighed the negatives, and all in all a good cruise experience. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
My wife and I joined Constellation in Istanbul and sailed the Eastern Mediterranean itinerary. If flying from the UK you usually arrive at the ship late evening so we travelled the day before and stayed overnight in a hotel in Istanbul. ... Read More
My wife and I joined Constellation in Istanbul and sailed the Eastern Mediterranean itinerary. If flying from the UK you usually arrive at the ship late evening so we travelled the day before and stayed overnight in a hotel in Istanbul. This is a great way to start your holiday as it not only gives you an extra day in Istanbul but you are fresh and ready to join the ship at lunchtime the next day. Istanbul airport passport control is very busy. You should be aware you need to queue to buy a Visa with payment in cash only, before you can go to passport control. It's £10 British citizens, all nationalities have a different price in their own currency. The traffic can be can be very bad and we heard of passengers taking four hours from leaving the plane to arriving at the ship. As we arrived at the ship early afternoon embarkation was really efficient, virtually walking straight on to the ship. First impressions of Constellation where excellent. Our stateroom was available within a couple of hours of boarding and it was great. Quite big, very comfortable with a balcony on Panorama deck 8. The only drawback was a connecting door to the next cabin and occasionally we could hear voices of our neighbours but it was not a big problem. This cabin would be ideal for a family to have adjoining cabins. On all our previous cruises we have taken the later seating option in the restaurant. For the first time we chose Select anytime dining. It has benefits as you can go for dinner at different times each evening although occasionally you may have to wait briefly for a table. If you choose a large table you can meet different people each evening. The drawback is that you do not get to know other guests very well and form good friendships as we have done on previous cruises. You cannot get to know the table waiter well as you will usually be on a different table each night. My wife prefers open seating but I prefer fixed later seating! A previous reviewer gave the Dining a one star rating. Just what rating system and standards are they judging the food on? This is clearly a ridiculous rating and it's a shame as it then makes their whole review pointless and not worth reading. Surely a rating must be taken in context of the circumstances you are eating i.e. on board ship at sea with 2000 people being served and of course the price you pay. What would this reviewer expect for five stars and what price would they have to pay? Don't let their rating put you off Constellation! My view on Dining: The restaurant food and service is first class. The table waiters do everything they possibly can to satisfy your requests. If you are at all unhappy with any item they will replace it immediately. The lunchtime buffet is superb. The choice is so wide it's hard to choose. There is a huge choice of salads, hot meals, specialty meat of the day, and separate pizza, Asian delights and traditional English serveries. Choice of fish is poor, only limited and should be improved. The gourmet sandwich bar offers a wide variety of breads and fillings - if you want to add some different meat to your salad then this is the place to go. The poolside grill offers the usual burgers and fries type snacks. Very good too! One of my favourites for lunch was the healthy option by the spa pool. Several choices including delicious chicken or tuna cooked to order. Breakfast? Well, so much to choose. Everything you would expect. My personal favourite was eggs benedict, although the waffles were close seconds! Afternoon tea and cakes is available at 4pm in the buffet restaurant. We visited both specialty restaurants - Ocean Liners and Tuscan Grille - an extra £20 and £18 per person respectively. Ocean Liners service was exceptional. The food was great, although the fine wines are rather expensive. Tuscan Grille was our favourite. A little more relaxed with fantastic Italian style dishes. I would definitely visit both restaurants again as they make a pleasant change from the main restaurant option. I think they offer good value for the additional charge. The entertainment provided overall was good. There were some star singers (Jane, the English lady was superb), the entertainment team put on some good shows and Perry the piano entertainer in Michael's bar was in a league of his own -â€" really entertaining! All the public rooms have their own 'character' and we found them all very comfortable and enjoyable. Although the ship was full we never really felt it was crowded anywhere other than the most popular theatre shows. All the rooms were kept very clean. The gym was well equipped and although well used was never too busy. The spa pool area was very relaxing and our favourite spot. The ship was affected by norovirus for the last few days but you could certainly not fault Constellation for that. The captain implemented a sanitisation programme - staff were everywhere sanitising everything! They certainly did everything that you could expect to eradicate it. It never ceases to amaze me that some passengers just walk into the restaurants without sanitising their hands, they seem to object to this for some reason - they are probably the first to complain about illness on the ship. Once the sanitisation programme was in place the staff ensured all passengers observed the correct procedure. Disembarkation was very organised - just arrive in your allocated meeting point at the correct time (dont' go too early!) and we left in an orderly manner. After collecting our cases there was a slight delay in boarding coaches but again considering all the circumstances with 2000 people disembarking it could hardly be better. Overall, we had a fantastic cruise and would certainly sail on Constellation again. I must also mention that all the staff, without exception, provided excellent service and were really keen to assist at all times. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Due to a lack of proper sanitation/hygienic conditions on the ship, there was an outbreak (publicly announced throughout the ship) of a gastrointestinal virus which I contracted. My immune system was not up to battling the bug, I could not ... Read More
Due to a lack of proper sanitation/hygienic conditions on the ship, there was an outbreak (publicly announced throughout the ship) of a gastrointestinal virus which I contracted. My immune system was not up to battling the bug, I could not function nor eat for one full day and thereafter medically quaranteed for 24 hours. Unfortunately, the virus struck at a very critical time so I missed what I traveled half way around for, a visit to Jerusalem and Bethlehem in Israel. As soon as the crew took corrective actions via sanitizing most areas, the virus abated, but it was too late for me as I had already suffered 2 real bad days and two more functioning at half speed. I was furnished superior medical care by the medical clinic doctor and the nurses. Although I was furnished no info by ship personnel, I was able to take care of the medical bill and the $380 I had paid for the Jerusalem/Bethlehem shore excursion was refunded without great hassle. When I arrived back in LA, I contacted the post cruise guest relations section in Miami re issues dealing with the norovirus. Unfortunately, an indifferent disinterested advocate answered my call and e-mailed back in two days telling basically that he could not or would not help me. My responsive e-mail was never answered. Since I have spent my adult life as trial atty, I could not let this slide, and after two weeks, a very friendly lady from the executive staff called me, apologized and offered me a very-very small voucher (what I consider a bone) off a future cruise. A written apology would have been preferred. RCI is headed for a class action lawsuit re the Norovirus caused by its lack of proper maintenance. Remember, the bug abated when the crew took corrective action, so it mi9ght have been preventible.As to the positives about the cruise, the staff was excellent and not just the cabin steward and dining room waiter and his assistant, but everyone. They were friendly, polite and helpful. As I said, the medical care furnished was superior. I have been on many cruises, but the evening entertainment in the main showroom was the best I have seen. Although the breakfast menu was the same each day in the main dining room, it was extensive and it rates a an A minus rating. The negatives are extensive. I sailed on the very same ship, Vision of the Seas, last May to the Baltic, so I am comparing the two sailings. First off is the price gouging. RCI charges $31 per person each way for airport transfers for a total cost of $124. I used a cab for a total round trip cost of about $51 to $52 and I had fast private service. I live in California where wine is inexpensive. However, what they charged plus a 15% tip for one bottle of wine, I can buy a full case or 12 bottles here in LA. Usually free, but here there was a $150 per person charge for a ship tour. The prices for the shore excursions were about double the cost of those offered in the Baltic in May, 2011. Remember, the Baltic northern europe) is a very high cost area for everything The shore excursions were awful with the emphasis being on the tour guide wasting time in souvenir shops where they obviously get a kick back. Over this, there was even an argument in one shop between one guide and tourist over the amount of wasted time. This souvenir shop stopping was on all the shore trips. There was a complete lack of management of quality over the shore trips and their guides. In May, the dinner menu in selection and quality rated an A. By October, in the main dining room, the choices were meager and the quality was not close to gourmet. In fact, it was below average except for service. The buffet (Windjammer) where we rarely ate was mediocre. It was like a very cheap all you eat cafe which are abundant here in LA. This is all for cost savings. There is a dearth of activities on the ship on the at sea days. There was 2 sessions of a napkin folding class which my wife enjoyed plus a scrapbook class. Other activities appeared to revolve around the spa which was a front to purchase services or the casinos. Of course, sitting in the sun or using the pool were available and free. Due to a lack of customers probably because of the cost, at the spa, the attendant threw in a facial for the cost of a massage. My wife accepted the offer. Unlike May, when we disembarked and there was plenty of staff outside the ship to assist, there was a sole lady and exit door. Although, the luggage was neatly arranged, exiting the terminal was a nightmare because RCI's transfer buses clogged the way and but for a porter, were we able to find a taxi. Of course, these were not cabs that used meters so the price was triple what it should be. I knew the correct price and eventually found an honest driver. RCI has an obligation to direct you via personnel or signs to other modes of transfer apart from their overpriced (as described above)transfer service. RCI, since May of this year, has made the bottom line its primary focus. I am reasonably sure that this principle is applicable to all their ships and sailings. Please note airfare from LA to Istanbul, Turkey is not cheap, so when I add that cost to that of the cruse's shortcomings, I was at best disappointed with the cruise. I suppose that if the cost of the RCI cruise is very cheap and you live close enough to the start off point so air is cheap, I would recommend an RCI cruise, but always be wary of the Norovirus. If you are lucky like my wife, you may have an immunity to the virus so this potential malady should not scare you off. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We have just returned from a 12 day Eastern Med cruise on the Celebrity Constellation. We had a wonderful time and gladly recommend Celebrity to any cruisers. The embarkation process in Istanbul was fast, well organized and efficient. ... Read More
We have just returned from a 12 day Eastern Med cruise on the Celebrity Constellation. We had a wonderful time and gladly recommend Celebrity to any cruisers. The embarkation process in Istanbul was fast, well organized and efficient. Upon boarding, we went straight to the Spa to make reservations for massages. When we returned to our cabin, our luggage was there. The staff were all very friendly and accommodating. I did not hear any staff talking about the Hotel Manager and received excellent service from the cabin steward and staff. I had requested some special items in our cabin because of a medical device I travel with and it was delivered promptly, as promised. The food in the MDR was very good and the wait staff and servers were attentive and very nice. The menu choices were varied on every evening and were well received by all of the guests sharing our table. I do believe that the food was not quite as good as we experienced on the Summit two years ago. However, the differences were not that significant. Also, I must point out that chefs are different from one another. That difference does not necessarily correspond to "worse" or "better", just different. The food in the buffet on Deck 10 was quite good. We experienced the Pasta Station, the Stir-fry station, the Mexican Station, and others. We had no complaints with the service. I frequently saw servers carrying trays and getting drinks for guests, and not just alcoholic ones.The entertainment was adequate, though I must admit that this is an area that is not a high priority for us on a cruise. Perry Grant was quite different, but had a huge following. I admit that after just a couple of visits, I became a fan. The casino was well appointed and had a good variety of games. The casino staff were very friendly and helpful. Sadly, there were not many guests who chose to participate on this cruise. The ship sponsored excursions were well organized and, for the most part, very informative and interesting. As with most cruises, it seems that there is always one excursion where the guide is less that satisfactory; but I have to admit that that is a very subjective and personal point of view. Debarkation was a snap! We did early exit because of an early return flight. We were off the ship at 7AM with plenty of time to make our flight. In conclusion, we plan to sail with Celebrity again for our next cruise. I will admit that we do not take three or four cruises per year and we are not at the top tier of the Captain's Club. Perhaps that is a good thing because it seems that we can still clearly see the great things that Celebrity does without expectations of "special" treatment. I believe that all of the guests on the Constellation had the opportunity to experience the special treatment from a staff that was welcoming, efficient and attentive. Thank you Celebrity! Read Less
Sail Date September 2011

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