May 12, 2002
We were on the inaugural sailing of the Constellation to the western Mediterranean on May 12, 2002. Although not our first time sailing Celebrity, it was our first time on this class of Celebrity ship. Apparently, the layout of the ship is exactly the same as the other Millennium class ships. I must say that the Constellation is beautiful. The appointments are first class and much thought has been given to detail. The colors used on the ship are much bolder than I would have expected - purple, orange, lime green - but they were pleasing after the initial reaction. That said, I don't think that this would be our favorite ship. I think that ships with central atriums used as gathering places are much livelier. The central lobby with its grand staircase on the Constellation was beautiful, but rather cold. There were never any people to watch or music to hear. It was just a place to go ask questions at the guest relations' desk. Following are some additional observations:
Pre-Cruise in Barcelona
We arrived in Barcelona the day before the cruise and stayed at the Melia Confort Apollo Hotel. The hotel is near the port and the Ramblas. It is about 10 years old and was renovated last year. The staff was very helpful and gave several good restaurant recommendations. We also stayed there two days after the cruise. Nice place but not a lot of charm - much like an urban Holiday Inn. Barcelona is a nice city but I think you could see most everything in a day and a half. Fish is the specialty in all of the restaurants and is very good.
We arrived at the port about 11:30 and were checked in and on the ship within 20 minutes. We used the Captain's Club check-in line and there was only one couple ahead of us. The regular line had about 40 people in it but seemed to be moving well. We did leave the ship about an hour later and the line was much longer. We were met on the ship with champagne and taken to our room by a steward. No glitches even though we were the first group of passengers.
We traveled with our son and each of us had a 2C room with a balcony on deck 6. The room was pretty standard and rather small. The balcony was large enough for two small chairs and a table. Carpet, bedspread, and draperies were an orange print and the small couch was lime green. Walls were beige and wood accents had a bleached appearance. There was a good bit of storage with plenty of drawers and cubbyholes. There are two electrical outlets over the desk and one in the bathroom in combination with the hairdryer. The 1 A, B, & C category rooms are basically the same except they are a few feet longer and have a two-cushion couch.
Opinions on food are very subjective, but I thought that it was very good. I had expected that dining would be an experience since it was the first cruise. However, service was very prompt and it did not appear that there were any problems. Evening meals at the late seating generally took about 2 hours. Early seating was at 6:30 and the late seating was at 8:45 each evening.
Breakfast is not really our favorite meal and we did not eat breakfast in the dining room at all. We ate Breakfast once in the Seaview Cafe. It was pretty crowded and they offered standard breakfast fare. We had room service one morning. It came on time and the food was hot. A full breakfast is available from room service, not just cold items.
We ate all of our lunches in the Seaview Cafe. Some days the food was better than others. The salads were usually quite good and there were several hot selections and desserts. There was also either a pasta bar or pizza. The rear serving area usually had a special selection. One day it was Spanish food. Hot dogs and hamburgers were available in the pool area. The french fries were really good.
Dinners in the San Marco Restaurant were quite good. We had beef several nights and it was always cooked as ordered. Lamb was available two nights and was also good. Side items were tasty and attractively presented. Desserts were very pretty but not as good as they looked. Service was very professional and efficient. Our waiter, Jose, did not have much of a personality, but his assistant Igor was very pleasant. Our wine steward, Anne, and our bar waitress were both excellent. After ordering the first night, they remembered our preferences and our charge account numbers. The other nights they would ask us if we wanted the usual and just presented us the charge at the end of the meal without having to request the charge card. They were two excellent crewmembers.
One evening we dined in the alternative Ocean Liners Restaurant. The additional charge is $ 25.00 per person. We had a very nice evening. The service was very, very attentive and the food was very good. However, I did not think the food was all that much better than the dining room. The restaurant is very classy and a wonderful place to spend a special evening.
Again, entertainment is very subjective. Two new shows were premiered on the Constellation. We attended one, Batir. I thought the show itself was OK but the singers left a lot to be desired. The people from the New York production company were on board to see how the shows were received. I'm not sure that they got the response they wanted. Other entertainment included a concert pianist, a pickpocket in lieu of a magician, and a contemporary violinist. I don't remember their names, but they were all very good. The musicians and pianist who played at dinner were excellent. They also played in the Cova Cafe. The cruise director, Ray Carr, was OK as an emcee, but he excelled in his television bits. His trip to Rome that was shown on TV was hilarious as was his interview with one of the gift shop people where he kept "stealing" items that they were showing.
Villfranche is a beautiful little town to explore if you don't want to explore any further. We walked to the train station and took the train to Eze-Sur-Mer, which is about 10 minutes away. This turned out to be our first mistake of the day. We were going to go to the medieval town of Eze high on the hill, but the shuttle did not leave for 90 minutes. When they told us that it would take 90 minutes to walk up, we decided to get back on the train and go to Nice. That was our second mistake of the day. Nice did not do much for us. We were very surprised to see that the often- photographed beach was not even sand, just rocks. If we ever get back, I think we will better plan a trip to Eze and also try Monte Carlo.
Ajaccio, Corsica was our second stop. Their claim to fame is that this is the birthplace of Napoleon. We did not plan a tour and decided to walk around town. There was really not a whole lot to see and most places close for about three hours during the afternoon. It's a pretty island, but not worth a second visit.
Rome was our next stop. They say that Rome was not built in a day, but we tried to see it all in a day. We got in contact with several people on the Internet before leaving and arranged to take part in an all-day excursion. It was a fabulous day and we had a great time. I would highly recommend the tour company we used. The guide, Remo, and his assistant, Aldo, were informative, funny, and took us anywhere we wanted to go. You can find them at www.driverinrome.com.
We did not see much of Naples. Instead, we got a driver and went to Pompeii, Sorrento, and Positano. What a gorgeous area this is. Don't miss Positano. For a wonderful, and expensive, lunch, go to the Hotel San Pietro in Positano. Julia Roberts stayed there so you can guess what kind of place it is. The view from the terrace is breathtaking.
Our final stop was Malta. Be sure to be on deck when the ship enters this beautiful harbor. We did not know what to expect and were quite surprised by Malta. Take a taxi to M'dina about 20 minutes away. It is a walled town from the Middle Ages that seems to transport you back in time. We fully expected to see Crusaders on horseback coming down the street.
The process of leaving the ship could not have been easier. They began calling colors shortly after 7:00 AM. We were not even dressed when our color was called. We were off about 8:30 AM, quickly retrieved our luggage, and waited a short time for a cab. It went so smoothly that you would have thought that the Constellation crew had been doing this forever.
It was really special to be among the first passengers on the Constellation. It was our 20th. cruise and certainly was one of the best.