We are destination driven and booked this cruise as soon as advertised to visit India, although we had been to the UAE and Oman twice before. Had we waited a few weeks before booking we could have had a week before in India doing the Golden Triangle, but that shows how keen we were to get to India on a cruise!
Excellent waiter and steward services
We cannot complain about waiter service in the San Marco – it was excellent, nothing was too much trouble, even pre-ordering my meals the night before to ensure my dietary requirements were met. Our cabin steward introduced himself and throughout the cruise was welcoming and attentive, keeping the cabin cleaned and supplied with fresh towels etc. The cabin lads and lassies in corridors etc., as well as the washroom attendants and waiting staff etc. were always friendly, smiling and very welcoming.
India was disappointing – not the country itself
However, some of our visits within India were a great disappointment for several reasons, in particular the tours and docking arrangements, never mind immigration, which was a nightmare. (More of that in Abu Dhabi later!)
The queues were almost endless to go through face to face immigration, snaking across the deck with several people bunking in as they came out of lifts etc. never mind the fact that staff mislaid immigration cards and more had to be completed by a number of passengers including myself, yet all six cards for our cabin were delivered to Reception together once we had completed them and the rules for depositing them changed yet again. Reception Staff were unaware of what was required over the number of cards to be handed in e.g. just the Mangalore cards or all three of them for each person. Should the immigration form be handed in, too, or kept by individuals? The lower section on the latter form was unclear over phones entering the country, but it turned out that was for customs and not us to complete, so we had to submit a second form each as did many other passengers. Note most phones are cell phones and not satellite.
Communication was extremely poor at many levels, not only to passengers but also to staff, who should have been informed from the senior officers down. Senior officers seemed thin on the ground, although could be found in a large group in the Buffet late each evening. To be fair it was probably their evening break and mealtime.
Health & Safety
Docking opposite a ship being loaded by coal in New Mangalore was a big mistake. We couldn’t use our balcony later in the day due to coal dust. Having returned from a very poor tour, we found the swimming pool deck was covered in black footprints, more evidence of coal dust. Not good for health reasons and particularly those with asthma or other chest related problems. I have mentioned this in my feedback, so hopefully it will be rectified before their planned 2017/18 trips.
Tours – ship booked INDIA
The tour to the Artisan Village in New Mangalore was very poor value for money (nearly $100) as it appears to need developing further. Although we had a great and knowledgeable young guide, driving round the streets of New Mangalore for a few hours could have been improved by a stop or two to get out and mix with the people rather than ‘fish tank’ watching from the coach. When compared with the Temple and Village visit (amazing) in Goa followed by the Spice Plantation tour which included a meal and drinks, there is just no comparison $ for $ or interest factor.
During our 24 cruises to about 80 countries, we have visited some outstanding heritage sites, including the UAE and this was poor. Individuals were skilled in their chosen profession, but the setting out of the site etc. was disappointing. A lot of expense went on the artisan’s house when some could have been spent to improve the rest of the site.
On our return from the New Mangalore tour we did see the Excursions Concierge, Jose, who wrote down the details from many of us, but failed to act on it. More on that later! *
As mentioned above, the day in Goa was extremely enjoyable and the tour worth every penny! I would recommend it as opposed to sitting on the beach for hours with no parasol or lounger, although I have heard the meal there was excellent.
Day three took us to Mumbai (Bombay). We started half an hour late for our Shades of Mumbai tour as one lady’s immigration form had not been stamped, but we had a good guide who kept up the information with the help of an assistant to the coach driver – he checked our numbers etc. and informed her where we were going route by route due to traffic or other problems. Our visit to Khotachiwadi, a ‘frozen in time’ former Portuguese village was interesting and very worthwhile, as was Gandhi’s Bombay base, now a museum. It did seem rather pointless rushing through the Crawford fruit and vegetable market as we were limited in what we could buy and eat being on a cruise. Most coach passengers felt that a craft or mixed market would have been more appropriate with some time to browse and buy souvenirs.
The train ride was amazing, although one lady from another group fell as all her coachload tried to get off together rather than at two different exit points as warned by our guide. The lady received medical treatment, picked up by Celebrity, and ended up in severe pain and required a walking aid and wheelchair. The train only stops for about 15 seconds before moving off again, so be warned. Outside the station, we walked to the Mahalakshim Dhobi Ghat, a unique laundry service used extensively across Mumbai. Places of interest were pointed out along the way.
Lunch was provided at the luxury 5* Oberoi hotel and what a farce that was! All the coaches arrived close together, although we were last being late to start our day. The queue was horrendous and when we eventually got served it was rationed as there was not enough food for everyone. Being a buffet the early guests had topped up their plates! There we no vacant seats left for our coachload. When I asked the waiters they apologised saying it was Celebrity’s fault as they had booked for 100 guests and 120 had turned up! I asked for another room where we could sit to eat but none was found. Instead we sat on a low sofa and chairs just outside the restaurant with our plates and cold food on our knees. Eventually they brought a portable table which was too high to eat off from the sofa and a few chairs. Everybody else had a drink and water but we had to request it and not everybody was given one, due to the staff being run off their feet. I did take photographs on my iPad as proof for later discussions with the Excursions team.
Having returned to the ship, we approached the Excursion Team only to be told there was a certain manager we needed to see, so made an appointment to do that. We discussed the problems with the meal in Mumbai and referred to the problems two days before in New Mangalore only to be told that Jose * had not passed on the complaints of numerous passengers. In fact he was senior to the Manager we spoke to and should have either passed it or dealt with the complaints himself!
To cut a long story short, Ana was excellent, copied my photos, was most apologetic and offered us compensation, a 30% refund on both tours. However, by that stage we were more concerned that Jose had ignored the discussions with numerous passengers, and felt he needed to be spoken to. We went higher, by two Officer Grades. After a lengthy meeting with the On-board Marketing Manager we were assured he would be spoken to and additional compensation was given, not that we sought that at all, but it was most welcome. Had it been a cabin steward or kitchen pot washer you can be assured they would have had a rollicking if not dismissal for ignoring a valid complaint. I just hope Jose was put in his place as his arrogance and strutting performances around the Excursions area angered several people.
Sadly it took four days to sort the first problem, but only overnight when taking it higher after discussing the second tour lunch problems. We were on holiday and really did not need to spend so much time following up the failures experienced.
Having been to Oman a few times before we decided to just take the shuttle bus and walk around the town. It looked like we were just about to dock when the ship took off again and an announcement followed later to say the weather was too bad to berth. No problem at all as Health & Safety were crucial. We therefore looked forward to an early arrival in Abu Dhabi, the port of departure, and an overnight there. How wrong we were! Yet again to cut the details, we had to disembark the ship late that evening for face to face customs regulations. Children were in their pyjamas as were many passengers, myself included, too. Some had taken sleeping pills etc. and had been in bed only to be dragged out to join extremely long queues and undertake immigration procedures. Wheelchair passengers had to be carried on and off and those with mobility issues supported. The need to process immigration was understandable in case anyone escaped that night, but nobody was allowed beyond the terminal building and customs officers once processed. The problem was how it was carried out.
I am sure Celebrity could have done more to ease the timing and distress it caused. Excuses were made about Miami offices been shut, but surely somebody must have been on duty 24 hours a day for emergencies. I suspect the delay may have been because it was a Holy Day in the UAE and staff were very limited at the port, but it seemed like a punishment for arriving a day early. Once again, Officers were in very short supply, leaving the remaining staff to deal with the difficulties arising. It was just not good enough for a five star ship and crew, although those dealing with the irate passengers in some cases, handled the situation to the best of their ability, their hands ‘being tied’ in what they could do. A letter of apology was issued the next day, but a fat lot of good that did to satisfy those who had a very stressful evening being turfed out of bed the night before.
Having just returned from Christmas in the Canaries on P&O’s Ventura, it far exceeded our Celebrity Constellation (and Eclipse in May) experiences. We will not travel with Celebrity again – it was not a five star cruise experience at all.
Positive features: (mainly)
• Excellent waiter and cabin steward experiences on both ships
• The Café al Bacio and Gelateria were excellent, although you had to pay for coffee and tea etc. unless on a drinks package – the cakes and cookies were to die for
• Cleanliness around the ship was first class – there was always a cleaner in the public toilets ensuring they were spotless
• Shows were very good to excellent with a superb Entertainment's Manager, Rich Spacey
• Port talks were informative and interesting although Michael Lee (Constellation) needs to learn that Oman is not part of the UAE!
• The American Embassy speaker on the Eclipse’s Ireland and Iceland tours was first class – informative, friendly and accepting if challenged in anyway, also careful not to offend either ‘religious side’. She met up with passengers in al Bacio and chatted freely – being from Belfast we had plenty to talk about!
• Two days in Dubai were good but the shuttle bus experience was horrendous and needs sorting urgently
• Good to excellent tours on the Eclipse as experienced (Blarney) as well as reported by others, although we booked our own direct including the Blue Lagoon, Whale Watching and The Titanic as much cheaper.
Apologies for the length of this account, but it needed reporting so that others know what to expect and don’t feel they will be ‘guinea pigs’ in India as we, along with numerous other passengers, did. A five star holiday should be a five star holiday, not a time for complaints, consternation and disappointment. We have taken 25 cruises and visited more than 80 countries, so we speak from experience. No amount of compensation makes up for a ruined experience/s.
ICT Lady, Hampshire UK
Excellent - see main text, please
Arranged our own and did a day & evening tour as part of our package with Planet Cruise - dune bashing, a camel ride and meal in the desert - absolutely fabulous!
We have been several times before, so used the shuttle bus which was horrendous. The Mall was fabulous but with over an hour wait and total confusion with the Hop on/off buses it was a nightmare.
Mostly great but lunch appalling - see main text and photos, please.View All undefined undefined Reviews