To date, 14 nights is the longest cruise we have taken. As we have been accustomed to for Ft. Lauderdale sailings, we stayed at the Hampton Inn in Plantation, Fl the night before, and took advantage of their up to 30 day complementary parking.
At 11:00am, we met the bus to the port, and as there were 4 ships in port that day, we had to make the rounds, and were dropped off second.
As it seems to be recent tradition, it rained.
The check-through process was typical, but when I checked my netbook through, I noticed that they were no longer wanting to x-ray it separately. I experienced this a couple of months ago as well, so apparently there is no longer a need to do so.
Since we were Elite members, we got to go through a quick check in process, and after having to catch an elevator (my wife is deathly afraid of escalators), we made our way up the gangplank and on board the ship. As we entered the ship, we were greeted with a glass of champagne.
Odd thought that the entrance was into the Casino, so we were not exactly awed by the first sight on board, given the beautiful ship that the Constellation is. With our carry-on luggage, we made our way to the buffet for lunch. And like our experience has been on embarkation day, people tend to plant their rear ends at the tables in the dining area and stay there after eating, until their room is ready.
This is one of my pet-peeves, and seems fairly inconsiderate of other passengers wanting to find a place to sit and eat. There are plenty of places on ship to sit and wait for the rooms to be ready, so why congregate at the buffet? Human nature just seems so flighty sometimes.
We were able to go to our room at around 1:30 pm, and we just dropped off our carry-on luggage and my excess camera gear so that we could explore the ship without having to carry it around with us. I took a few photos of the ship, but as it was raining, we could not get a good look-see at the outside.
Around 2:30 our luggage arrived... wet. At any rate, our luggage was waterproof enough that none of our contents were wet (however on a previous trip with another cruise line, we did have our expensive photo ruined because of this).
We unpacked and at about that time, it was ready for muster. Muster was a bit unusual in that everyone mustered in inside areas, and in the event of a real emergency, everyone would be directed outside as they lowered the boats. Muster was a bit earlier than on other ships; 3:45, so we figured we might leave the port early. However, we were still loading supplies - probably due to the 14 day cruise, so we were next to last to leave.
We went up to a sail-away party that some on-line acquaintances of ours had organized an met those folks. They are organizing one of the excursions, so we wanted to meet them at the sail-away. We did not leave port until around 5:30, and the rain at least stopped long enough for us to be outside.
At 6pm, we found our way to the main dining room where we met the other 6 people at our dining table (8 in all). The demographics of the cruise were... old. But not as old as our experiences on Holland America. The dining room is pretty nice, with a huge window complex at the rear of the ship that gives a spectacular view. I am looking forward to seeing a sunset or two during our dining.
As we had dinner, the waiter forgot to bring me my dessert. Everyone else at the table got theirs, but me. I am not sure if they forgot it or was delayed in bringing it. But after 20 minutes, I figured it was not coming, so after my wife finished hers, we left. I was not going to wait any longer for it. And as both our waiter and assistant water kind of disappeared, I could not find them to ask where it was.
After dinner we went to the show, and then planned to hit the hot tub, but all of the pools close after 8pmn. We usually like to go to the hot tub after the evening events are over - at 11pm or so, but since the hot tubs close early, we are going to have to get used to early times for those activities.
Sunday 22nd Apr, 2012.
A day at sea. We got up at around 7AM and went to eat. The arrangement of the Seaside Cafe was a bit strange. Some dishes they allow you to spoon out yourself, but others – mostly the meats and eggs are done for you.
We both had omelets, which were quite tasty and made to order. Also they offer both sausage in links and patties, which is unusual compared to the other cruise lines we have been on. There really was not much to do in the morning until 10:00 am when we had the Cruise Critic meet-up and finalized plans for our excursion in Aruba.
It is a fairly dreary day, with rain off and on all day long, and it is very windy. Deck 5 has been closed off due to high winds, and it is almost too hard to walk topside. While some of the wind of course is due to the ship's movement, it is exacerbated by the wind. The captain indicated that a front was following us.
We spent the afternoon at the Solarium in the Thalassotherapy Pool, whatever that is. It is essentially a warm salt-water pool, with water jets and these things you can lie on that remind me of a barbecue grille. I suppose there is some therapy oils or water in the pool, but at any rate, it was really nice.
Tonight is the first formal night. Even though this is our first cruise with Celebrity, since we are Diamond members from Royal Caribbean, we have courtesy membership in Celebrity at the Elite level, which is their highest perk. So we will make it to the Reflections lounge and see what kind of pre-dinner activities there are.
We also found that the lemonade was quite good. On other cruise lines, the lemonade is watered down so much that it just looks like dirty water.
So far, we are pretty impressed with Celebrity. Our dining table mates all were remarking that they liked Royal Caribbean better, but it's kind of hard for me to judge which is better. Our table mates are all experienced cruisers like we are, and have sailed many of the cruise lines. But to me, between Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, they both have some good points, so I am rather going to judge each on their own merits. As we have been doing, it is the itinerary that is more the reason we pick one line over the other.
After dinner, we went to the Captain's Reception in the main theater, quickly followed by the evening's entertainment. I have to say I was quite impressed with the entertainment, even though it was the song-and-dance style that I normally fall asleep watching. The event included a few acrobatics and and even some magic intertwined within the songs.
The other highlight of the evening was listening to Perry Grant. He is somewhat of a local legend, and we were really not sure what to expect. All that I can say is he is a “hoot”. He is the piano-bar singer, with a unique form of nearly slap-stick comedy thrown in (although he is the headliner one night during the cruise). He has many repeat-customers, which makes it a bit hard to find a seating spot as it is usually standing-room only before the show begins.
At any rate, not knowing what his entertainment was like, I suppose it is best you are not in the front row anyway. He takes audience participation to a new level, and mixes songs (with some ad-lib or replaced words) with one liners and making fun of the audience – which play along. For instance, dare you get out of your seat and leave during the performance, you are immediately made fun of. While other comedians have done this – Perry takes it to a whole new level. He did a 2 ½ hour performance when we watched him.
When we returned to our stateroom for the evening, we were pleasantly surprised to find a vase with 2 roses – courtesy of the Captain's Club, and an invitation for a bridge tour by the captain. I have to say we are pretty impressed with the amenities of Celebrity, and we are already thinking of when to book a next cruise.
Monday, 23rd Apr 2012.
Second day at sea. More rain? Really. This looks more like Michigan weather with the gray overcast skies than the sunny Caribbean. C'mon, we are headed to Aruba, where it only rains 4 days a year. Well at least we are on a ship should it rain 40 days and 40 nights.
Even though this is only our second full day, we already received our disembarking form. Our cruise has not even hardly started out. I suppose for planning purposes it is OK, but reminder of our cruise ending will come soon enough as it is.
We received an invitation to the bridge for a tour, which we did at 11:00am. It is really neat to see how automated things are these days, and how little equipment there is on the bridge. While everything is automated, they still rely on backup charts and so on for navigation. It is almost hospital-room clean. I was able to stand on the port-side wing and get a view of our stateroom – well, almost. I was able to take a few photos as well. The bridge tour was an unexpected highlight.
We also had a cabin crawl today, which is where several cruise critic members get together and view each other's cabins. We saw an inside, outside, Sky Suite, Regular Suite, as well as a Concierge and Aft Balcony Suites. Pretty much a mix of all of the different categories of rooms on board.
Today though at the cabin crawl, we walked up 8 flights of stairs. We have been doing pretty good so far about taking the stairs rather than the elevators. This might not continue throughout the cruise, but so far, we have managed to get a lot of exercise by walking and using the stairways.
Beach towels – no problem. We discovered that the steward leaves two beach towels for your use the night prior to each port-of-call. Another nice surprise. We are completely astounded by the amenities that we have been given on this cruise. Our impressions with Celebrity has been nothing short of awesome.
By dinner time the sun was out, and the the humidity confirms that we are now in the tropics. Hopefully there will be no more bad weather on the trip. I can stand the tropical rain – as it goes through for just a few minutes and it is back to sunny. But the all day drizzle is just reminiscent of an Alaskan cruise – not a Caribbean cruise.
Tuesday, 24th April, 2012.
The ship docked in Aruba at around 8AM. We have a long day here, and are not scheduled to leave until 8PM. Our next stop – Curacao is only 50 or so miles away, so it is a short trip tonight to our next port-of-call.
Today we went with our Cruise Critic group to Baby Beach at the extreme South-Western tip of Aruba, past the refinery. It was a private charter bus, and cost us about $18 each for the trip there, plus another $8 for renting a lounger – for just 2 ½ hours. But we are on vacation and it was nice to have our own beach chair. In Aruba and the southern Caribbean islands, you must use sun-screen especially during this time of year, as the sun is just about directly overhead.
Our bus ride took us about ½ hour, and although Aruba is a nice clean island, we went by some of the more seedy areas, as well as past the island's prison. Lots of foreigners locked up there for drug related crimes we were told.
Baby Beach is where the famous incident in 2011 occurred where a woman went missing as she was snorkeling with her boyfriend – the one in all the news. She supposedly got caught up in an undertow while snorkeling. While there is indeed a bit of an undertow here, it is not anywhere that severe as to sweep someone out to sea.
After returning from Baby Beach we went to the ship and had lunch. Later, we changed clothes and went back into town and walked around. We walked about a mile or so around town to walk our lunch off. The hot kind of got to us, and it took all of our remaining energy to make it back to the ship. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool to rest and relax.
Early in the evening, before dinner, we had an appointment with the future cruise ambassador, where we booked a future cruise.
Wednesday 25th April, 2012
Today we arrive in Curacao. It is an early arrival – 7AM as the distance from Aruba is only 50 miles, so it does not take a long time to get here. We have no plans for an excursion today; we are just going into town for a few hours, as it is a nice area.
Off the ship around 8:30, and we found our way to the internet hot spot at the fort. We only found two hot spots that were open, and they were so slow. Still, I was able to download me email. Many members of the crew were there, and they had the password for the higher speed secured hot spots.
From there, we walked downtown and strolled around.downtown Willemstad. I took a few more photos that I had not taken the last time we were there for a rounded out photo portfolio.
We returned to the ship pretty wore out, as the hot sun and high heat just saps the energy from you. We arrived around lunch time and had their famous hot dogs at the pool cafe, and spent the afternoon keeping cool at the pool.
I have been experimenting with time-lapse phots of the port visits, but twice now, the camera has stopped mid-afternoon. I think it is because of the heat as the cameras are sitting out in the sun. The next port, we'll hopefully have the sun to the other side of the boat.
Thursday 26th April, 2012.
Today is our third sea day. We have an invitation to a Captain's Club event at 1pm, so it sort of makes it hard to be at the pool all day. But methinks we will go to the pool after the event. One nice thing is that there are a couple of guest speakers that Celebrity brought on board. One; Dale Collie gives talks about cruise ships and maritime folklore. Patrick Abbott – a geology professor and sponsored by Smithsonian Journeys has been giving talks about how the Caribbean islands formed, how closing of the Panama Strait caused the ice age, and other topics.
We received an invitation to the Captain's Club get-together for 1PM. This about nixes the pool unless we rush to our stateroom to change into swim wear, go to the pool, then rush back to get dressed for the 1PM event.
The event, although nice, was the standard fare, similar to what we have experienced with Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor events – other than it was during the daytime.
We were also given a show of aerial bombardment by birds following the ship. There were both Masked Boobies and Brown Boobies flying along the ship all day long. Every once in awhile, they would dive from a couple hundred feet up into the water to catch fish.
And since we had our nightly Elite event occurring at 5pm, we really did not get much time to go to the pool. So we spent part of that time logging on the internet and leaving messages for our family.
The evening's menu in the main dining room didn't sound all that appealing, so we skipped it and went to the buffet style dining – which was not much different than the lunch offering. The main show in the evening was good, as well as the “not-so-newlywed” game – of which most cruise lines seem to have a version.
Friday, 27th April 2012.
This is our 6th full day of the cruise. If we were on a 7 night cruise, this would have been our last full day, so in some respects, we are nearing our half-way point in the cruise. The next 6 days will be island days, so it is a full-marathon of sorts for the near future. The heat, sun, and activities on the islands all add up to a busy and tiring day – especially for us old folks.
We are going into Grenada today, and are booked on the Grand Etang (crater lake), Annadale Falls, and Fort Fredrick tour. At the end of the tour, we are hoping to have a bit of time to purchase some spices, as Grenada is known for them, and along with Coffee, are among the very few items we can bring back to the US.
Our tour started about 9AM, and our driver Sereal (who calls himself George) took us on about a 45 minute ride to a nutmeg and chocolate nut plantation. The roads in Grenada (prounounced Green-nada) were fairly narrow, with lots of switchbacks as Grenada was formed by volcanos.
However the first part of the tour consisted mostly of the coastal road and we saw several fishing villages on the way.
After visiting the nutmeg plantation, we made a side trip to Gouyave as the driver had to put air into one of the tires on the bus.
We then went to Grand Etang lake, which is a caldera formed from the collapse of a volcano. Due to a mix-up in communication, they wanted to charge us $5 for entry into the lookout, but our driver was nowhere to be found to escort us by. So we did not get a chance to see that item of interest.
Next we drove over one of the highest (but not the highest) points on Grenada, at 1,910 ft. before driving down the other side to Annandale Falls. This was kind of neat, as the while the falls themselves was not that big a deal – perhaps only a 50ft drop. But the local men were high-diving from the top, and I got a photo or two.
The last stop was Ft. Fredrick, where we had a panoramic view of the entire island, before returning to the port. At the port, we bought several packages of spices; Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Vanilla - the pure stuff, not the stuff you get in stores.
We returned to the ship at around 2PM, where we ate a late lunch, and relaxed for a few hours before getting dressed for our second formal evening.