It may seem like many moons ago now, but back in September we cruised onboard Celebrity Eclipse from Southampton visiting Vigo, Lisbon, Gibraltar, Barcelona, Palma, Toulon, and Cadiz. Read about my first real cruise experience with Celebrity cruises and a few observations I made along the way.
Its been a while since the last cruise (well a while for me) and its certainly been a while since we had some decent sunshine, so we went off in search of both! This time we have gone for something completely different, well for us anyway. After being totally bowled over by the Celebrity Equinox last year when I spent a couple of nights onboard, and then literally drooling over the Celebrity Summit in St Kitts last February, we decided it was time to try the Celebrity Experience!!
I’m excited. I think I know what to expect, but do I? Online check in and pre cruise embarkation info that had to be filled in online has nearly driven me round the bend. I had to do everything times four and register the cards for payment etc, which wouldn’t be so bad if Celebrity’s online system attempted to work at anything like a normal speed. Then I had to order the luggage tags, but it wasnt clear if these were per person or per stateroom, so I even managed to tie myself in a knot over that. I later learnt that ‘My Travel Agent’ actually request those for me, but me being the impatient type didn’t realise. My admin team actually do it automatically 3 or 4 weeks before departure.
Meal times even became a stress. Originally we waitlisted for late meal sitting, but were listed as anytime dining in the meantime. This in turn meant we had no option but to pre pay gratuities. I have a personal gripe regarding pre paid gratuities. I do tip, and I do consider myself to tip quite generously, but to be told I will tip before I have even received the service just goes against the grain. Maybe its a mind over matter thing, and maybe if the cruise line included it into the fare and informed me ‘no tipping required’ I would feel a lot happier. So between the four of us I have already handed over, over £400 in gratuities – Ouch!! A few days later ‘late meal sitting confirmed’ pulled through and so then what did I do? I switched it back to Anytime dining on the basis that we felt late meal sitting of 8.45 to 9.00pm was just too late to ask Mum to dine, and early meal sitting at 6.15pm was way too early for us! So thats main meal time sorted, but it doesn’t stop me worrying. Will we be able to get into the restaurant at a reasonable sort of time. Will we be given nice tables in a nice location of the restaurant, or do you get placed in the main walkway, or near the restaurant doors. I have the option of going online and pre booking every evening, but will that be to my advantage or disadvantage when it comes to table location. Plus I have spent enough of my time on that online check in system and dont really want to spend any longer.
Which brings me onto alternative dining options. We want to try the much talked about Qsine, and Tuscan Grill. If we were travelling alone we might also try Muranos, but we will give it a miss this time. So I’m back onto Celebrity online ‘Before you cruise’ section. Im really beginning to dislike the website by now just because its so slow. I cant recall how many times I attempted to pre book these restaurants and simply gave up in frustration, only to try the next day. You select the restaurant of your choice and have a drop down box for the dates, select that and it ticks over and does its thing, then you select a time from the drop down box, and it ticks over and does its thing again, only to tell you that your selected time isn’t available but you can eat at 6.00pm or 9.30pm! and so the process starts again. All the time I am skipping back to the itinerary, trying to pre judge which evenings will be formal etc. I breath a sigh of relief when I finally get to the end of the ordeal of pre booking two of the restaurants and already have £76 per restaurant charged to my credit card for the privilege. Ive not even sniffed the food yet!
One final hurdle to overcome – whether to pre purchase a drinks packages or pay as we go? Well we debated long and hard over this one. I knew that the prices onboard were in $, but I also knew they were generous measures, so maybe I wouldn’t order as many? In the end we each drew up a list of what we were likely to purchase on a full day, including soft drinks, speciality coffees, premium cocktails, frozen cocktails and wine with dinner etc.Plus of course the lovely Spaniards would be adding a further 8% Spanish tax to all onboard purchases when in Spanish ports, and as this was a Spanish Mediterranean cruise, we knew it made sense. Plus knowing that I would immediately be drawn to the $12 premium cocktails it was decided that both me and Lizy would have the Premium package and Mr C would have the classic package.
So its still a couple of weeks before departure and what do you know? I already have a hefty four figure sum sitting on my credit card for payments against drinks and two meals that I haven’t experienced yet. Its not a good feeling. I feel like I have just paid another entire cruise fare over.
Another gripe of mine has been the total lack of pre cruise embarkation information. Im old fashioned, I like a book to browse. Something I can flick through at bedtime and read at leisure and digest the information provided. But Celebrity has ‘gone green’ and if I want my pre cruise info I have to read it via my computer flicking through an electronic book and magnifying the text. I spend more than enough time staring at a computer screen, so reading a 36 page document cover to cover across my desk just doesn’t appeal. I was under some sort of mad delusion that Celebrity would send me one anyway, but I should be so lucky. Mum has been asking for weeks for such a book so I called Celebrity and requested one, only to be informed I could print one off for her. I dont think so!! Why would I want to use 36 pages of ink and then present Mum with a black and white, stapled together copy? Hardly 5* is it? I more or less insisted that Celebrity produce me at least one booklet and mail it to me. That was weeks ago and I’m still waiting. Not impressed!!! (it never arrived)
So my expectations are high! Very high! Im venturing out of my comfort zone of P&O and Cunard and trying something new. Ive spent all my money before I have even got there and experienced it. I need a stiff drink to get over my bar bill. Its not right is it? A bar bill before a drink?
Saturday 4th September 2010
I have booked chauffer driven Bees Knees Executive 8 seater for our transportation to Southampton. We have an 8.30am start. I like to allow plenty of time for the journey as we dont usually travel down the day of departure. Mums case and wheelchair are already here ready for loading. Mr C is despatched to collect Mum. The driver is here. Will the 5 cases, 4 pieces of hand luggage and a wheelchair all fit? I dont know, its not my problem, so busy myself with the ritual of last minute checks. I need a little man to come over the tannoy and inform me ‘all pre departure checks have now been satisfactory completed and you can now leave the building!’
We have a trouble free ride down to Southampton and arrive at City Terminal at 10.50am. the cases were unloaded from the back of the van and a porter took them away before Mum was allowed out of the van. Big Mistake!!! I didn’t know who she was going to kill first? The driver or Mr C?! She needed to see her case for herself. I think here blood pressure must have shot up a few notches. Then the ritual of ‘where’s my little black case began’ Mum would not accept that the little black case that Lizy was pulling behind her was actually Mums! Once inside the terminal clip board lady is the one to upset Lizy. She is handing out the health check forms and informs Lizy that ‘children’ are included on the parents form (Lizy is 21 by the way!). We are informed that check in has been stopped due to a technical issue and asked to be seated. We stood for about 3 mins while I completed the forms and then check in was declared open once more. Through security and onto checkin. We were directed to the wheelchair checkin and swiftly dealt with, although checkin lady did put her foot in it by asking ‘who is paying the little girls account’? Ooops! The waiting area was packed, even at this early hour, but we were handed priority boarding cards and we had no sooner found an area to stand with the wheelchair as we were invited to board Eclipse!
Its a bit of a walk to get onboard. We basically walked the length of the ship, and then entered the tunnel which was on quite a steep slant. I would never have managed to push mums chair, so good job Mr C had it under control. Boarding became a bit of a juggling act. First we were attacked by hand gel woman. I know they need to do it, but trying to keep the queue going, not drop anything and rub the gel in is not an easy task. No sooner have you set foot on deck and the security photo has to be taken. Ooh, I’ve made it through a door, I have arrived! A glass of champers is thrust in my hand. But guess what? Nothing for Lizy as she is only a ‘child’! I hadn’t noticed, but when I realised I went back and pointed out the servers mistake and she was granted some fizz.
Boarding didn’t give any of us the Wow factor and it would have been nice to enter via the central lobby of something with something to look at. Instead we were stood in the photo gallery, hand luggage at our feet, wondering where to go. Fortunately, having been on Equinox, I knew we needed the central lifts and to head to the Ocean View Buffet. We were first in there and were greeted by a lot of welcoming crew. Good Morning and Welcome Onboard. We were seated, I walked round the entire restaurant and all the food stations to get my bearings of what was on offer before making a selection for Mum, and then going back for my own. A drink would have been good, but we had sat on the wrong side. The bar was on the other side, which is where I guess all of the waiters were. Eventually one appeared and me and lizy went for a Cuba Libra while Mr C had a beer. Jeepers, how much rum in a cuba libra? So strong lizy struggled a bit with hers. Well it is only 11.45 am. We decided it would be nice to get out in the sunshine and enjoy a cocktail on deck, but the pool bar wasn’t open yet. We set up camp on the large double beds under the canopy but it was a bit too windy, so moved to the aft bar up by the grass. At 88 Mums struggling to take it all in. She has just seen dancing water down by the pool, been greeted by amazing displays of food in the buffet, and now she is being wheeled past a lawn of green grass. She keeps saying she feels like she has gone to another world! Its very breezy up on top deck, but as staterooms aren’t yet ready, we decide a drink is called for. I had a cocktail which was very nice, but it had no sooner arrived than we were informed staterooms were ready. Im impressed, we have our stateroom an hour earlier than promised.
Cabin location is excellent (I have a good travel agent) Deck 8 (or ‘Dick’ 8 as the man on the tanoy refers to Decks, calls it! – much to Mr C and Lizys amusement!!) right on the hump, by the central lifts. Oh and right at the top of the ‘Tree of Temptation’ that now talks to Mr C and Lizy everytime we set foot outside the door and sets them a little task (if you don’t watch Big Brother just move on) I dread to think what the tree of temptation is going to make that pair get upto over the next 14 nights?!
The stateroom is good, I knew what to expect, but it does seem small compared to my more recent Superior Deluxe onboard Ventura. Its a lot smaller. Very compact. A little bit of disappointment when I realise the staterooms aren’t exactly to the deck plan as ours was supposed to be the one on the angle of the hump, and therefore a larger balcony, but it wasn’t and we were in the last flat balcony of the hump. Oh well! Our cabin has the bed nearest the door and Mums has the bed nearest the balcony. I think I prefer it with the bed away from the door. Looking around I start to wonder where everything is going to go? A stack of 5 small drawers, 3 deep and two shallow. Two long cupboards over the bed, and one double wardrobe. Thats it! For the three of us. Well, the cases are here so I might as well start getting organised. Both Lizy and I had packed everything on hangers which helped with wardrobe space. Mr C utalised every one of the wooden hangers for all his shirts and trousers. Each small draw is packed to the hilt with undies and smalls which insist on bouncing out at you everytime a draw is slid open!
We decide to go out for a little refreshment and head for the Martini Bar. A solstice Martini seemed appropriate for me and Lizy went for the AppleTini which was very nice!
Attending Muster drill is enforced so we head back up to the staterooms to collect Mum, passing of course the Tree of Temptation. Mr C and Lizy just cant resist! Oh, no, mum is causing chaos, she had what i thought was our stateroom attendant in the cabin and Mum was insisting she was in the wrong room and should be next door, trouble was she didn’t know what room number she was in or supposed to be in so was tying the girl in knots, she looked relieved when we emerged! I explained a few things to her, then asked about getting the balcony divide opened up and the interconnecting door opened etc. Turns out she wasn’t our stateroom attendant, just some poor random girl who happened to be walking past and got dragged in. Needless to say, once she could get a word in she was off like a shot.
We attended muster in the restaurant where we had to sit through a short film before being free to leave again. Back at the stateroom, Michelle our stateroom attendant came to introduce herself and get us organised. The balcony was opened up for us. I decided the tea tray needed to go as it was taking up essential space, so she has made a tea tray up for all four of us in mums room. She has spotted the bottle of Dom Perinon that has been delivered and has advised us that when we want to drink it she will arrange for it to be chilled to the correct temperature, ensure that glasses are delivered and have some cheese and nibbles delivered to accompany it. Nice one Michelle Im impressed! No need to ask on here! Michelle gets her assistant to organise the interconnecting doors. This has been something that had started to fascinate me before we got onboard. Im used to an interconnecting door actually along the internal wall, but I had picked up on the fact that they didn’t have that sort of door on here, quite late on. On solstice class ships there is an external double door that can be put in place. Normally you wouldn’t notice them as they are fastened back and set into an alcove. But these are released to form a double door, our now internal cabin doors are then fastened back as open. We now have two cabins that we can freely move through, and it flows round in one big circle from the balcony through to front door. We have our own little vestibule entrance, great for parking the wheelchair. It also means we can see and hear what mum is upto. I can tell Mum is very unsure of our new door arrangement and seems to think anyone and everyone can get through that big door and our cabin doors should be closed. Hopefully she will get used to it.
So Sailaway drinks must be on the cards. Mum decides she needs a lie down, its been a long day. We head upto the pool bar where a group is playing and the atmosphere is good. Grand Princess glided past us and up ahead of here was Oceana. We were next to depart, and I felt obliged to go up and wave at Ventura. Her funnel is back to ‘normal’ she no longer has the entire buff funnel that I didn’t like and just hast the centre funnel shaped section painted buff. I waved at my ‘Chadwick Suite’ balcony, but nobody appeared to be on it. The decks were lined with people waving and taking pictures of us. The boat show had taken over Mayflower park so there was a lot going on and a lot to see. No doubt Ventura followed us out, but I didn’t hang about to check and went back down a deck to my drink. Me and lizy went on a bit of an explore in the Solarium. Nice! We like it in here. The pool water was very warm and might tempt me in for a daily swim. We shall see. Lizy likes the double bed rattan cocoons, and double hammocks are rather fun too.
Back in the stateroom Mums up and about and demanding dinner. What? now? She eats like a mouse at home and now she has decided its time for food again? We take our time getting ready, but the drinks measures are starting to take their toll on us. Non of us can really be bothered to get washed and changed for dinner, but we make the effort and if find something comfortable to wear. Somethings not right. Its only 7.45 and we decide we just cant face a pre dinner drink! Thats a first.
We have elected to have Select dining which is the anytime option. I haven’t pre booked a time slot for this evening so we go straight to Moonlight Sonata and are greeted by a very nice Restaurant Manager and she informs us there will be a wait of 1 minute 30 seconds for a table by the window to accommodate us. Her timing was spot on and we were escorted across. Uri was our waiter and both he and his assistant introduced themselves and explained the menu. Mum must have been hungry as she was the only one that went for 4 courses and a coffee. I struggled after my soup and ended up leaving most of my steak and jacket potato – lovely though it was. I managed to fit in most of the sugar free berry crepe though. Grand Princess has sat outside the window and sailed alongside us for most of the meal, but she is starting to break away more to starboard now and our distance has increased. She looks good with all her lights on.
We all head upto ‘Dick’ 8 past the Tree of Temptation and its speaking to them two idiots again. What are they upto now?
I help mum get into bed and by the time I come back round to our place the other two have declared a sit in. The day has beat us all. We are defeated and its not yet 10.00pm. we cant even muster ourselves to go out for one little nightcap. So its pj’s on and into bed. The clocks have gone forward an hour so it looks a bit more respectable to be turning out the light at 10 past 11!
My eyes must have closed straight away and I was comotised. Well that is until Mum starts yelling! Mr C is despatched, but it turns out she just couldn’t find the light switch. I had been a sleep for all of 5 minutes, but that was me now and I spent the next few hours tossing and turning!
Sunday 5th September – at Sea
And what a flat calm sea it is too. The phone rings to tell me that breakfast is on its way. Mr C did the ordering so who knows what we have got. Cereal, fruit, juice, tea, bacon, sausage, omelette. Not bad. We all sit up and eat, then they all go back to sleep while I attempt to do a little bit of work.
We spent the entire day doing not a lot of anything. First challenge was lunch and we stupidly elected the Ocean View Cafe along with 98% of other passengers. Way too many people in there for me and I ended up with a chicken fajita, which would have been nice had I have found the salsa’s etc, so my own fault. The drinks waitress really didn’t want to serve us, and the plates were not cleared even after we stacked them, so not the best first impression of self service dining. We will try again when its quieter.
Its quite pleasant out, suns shining and I could have sat by the pool, but we knew Mum would find the breeze a bit too much so we went into the Solarium. I don’t usually like to be sat in indoor pool areas, they are usually to echoie and loud. But not this one. Its warm, tranquil, lovely soft music in the background, dancing water to mesmerise, and lovely wooden beds with deep mattresses. We all lie down and just chill, which is nice, and it is Sunday! I even elected to go and put a swimsuit on and do a bit of gentle swimming in the pool. It was lovely and warm and not to deep so I felt safe. I somehow managed 10 laps which is a lot for me. I got out and chilled for a while longer, reading a magazine, but the eyelids were on their way down, so it was back to the stateroom for a couple of hours and look at my eyelids more closely. Meanwhile Mr C and Lizy went for Burgers from the Mast Grill and a couple of beverages.
Its Formal night tonight so a dress was decided on, and we are all booted and suited and ready. It is actually Captains Welcome Aboard, but to see him you had to go to the Theatre at 8.30pm or 10.30pm, where I guess he does the line up of officers prior to the show, and as thats not my cup of tea we didn’t make the effort to attend. Instead we went to the Martini Bar. Mum liked it in here, all the snow pictures, the snowflakes on the curtains etc. Personally I like the Appletini – Nice! I had pre arranged our dining table with the lovely Restaurant Manageress, so all we had to do was turn up. There was a bit of a queue to get to her but we were whisked more or less straight in and to a lovely table for 4 overlooking the balcony. Plenty of people watching opportunities for Mum. The Captains table was below us and the settings were laid with precision and the napkins folded time and time again until they were perfect. Name cards were put in place and a final check to ensure every seat was in line. The lower floor soon filled up with the 8.30 sitting and it felt a little more like a restaurant now. Im not going to lie, the food was good but it was nowhere near warm enough. The plates were cold and the meat was tepid. It was the same last night. Of course we could mention it, but then the food would have to go back and the wait be twice as long. They know they are serving cold plates so its not acceptable for a 5* line really. I will see how it goes and say something if things don’t get better. On the way out I pre book the table again for the night after next.
While I’m putting Mum to bed, the Tree of Temptation is speaking to Mr C and Lizy again. I wonder if Big Brother knows the Tree of Temptation is taking a cruise. It seems to like talking to these pair anyway as he is always yelling something to them.
Night out tonight, so where shall we go? We decided on the Sky lounge for a lie down on the beds, but that wasn’t a great success as we ended up staring at reflections of ourselves. So we relocated to the bar. I have to say the Bar staff didnt go out of their way to be friendly, they serve and thats about it. Some interesting takes on formal dress code. On the whole most are smart, but slacks and t shirts are just wrong! The band are really good and play anything and everything. Lots of dancing so lots of people watching. We decide to have another drink, but by now the bar man knows we are on a package so is in no rush to serve us. By the time he does make the effort, lizy asked for his advice about the different flavours of Mojitto. Any other barman I have dealt with would maybe have said ‘oh this ones good, this ones sweeter’ or at least offered a bit of advice. From this one we got ‘your drinking it you decide’ and off he walked! Im not impressed. We headed down to Quasar nightclub, but it was dead apart from the John Travolta lookalike from Fantasy Island strutting his stuff on an empty dance floor. Shops are still open which seems a bit bizarre at this late hour, but its bed for us. To the top of the tree of temptation and its the double doors on the left.
Monday 6th September 2010 Vigo
Its Monday so I have no choice but to do my work. Oh I wish I hadn’t bothered. Outlook was receiving but not sending. My booking systems weren’t working. What followed next was just hours of stress. Mr C is a technical whizz in instances like this but even he couldn’t solve it. Nearly all of my internet time was swallowed up while he fiddled around with ip addresses and stuff. Phone calls had to be made to help desks in the UK all the time costing me time and a lot of money. I was on the verge of flying home at one point as work must go on and I have never had this problem on any other cruise line so why now. Mr C despatched me and Lizy to the shopping centre ashore with Mum while he tried to get his head around it all. Then I spent the entire afternoon in the internet cafe ashore working away like a little beaver trying to catch up. A very stressful day! Ive been so stressed I didn’t even realise that Ventura was berthed infront of us. I was so stressed I was tempted to jump ship just for the internet. Its so important to me! We couldn’t help having a little wander down to see her properly and the security guard greeted us immediately ‘Ahhhh Mr & Mrs Chadwick, I didnt know you were onboard?!’ “We’re not!” clearly we are not easily forgotten, lol. We tried to get the Windswept and Interesting one out of the engine room but clearly he was working for once. Messages were relayed back to him so we might see him in Lisbon maybe?
We are going to have a nice night out tonight, despite having had a very bad day. We are dining in Qsine and we are all looking forward to it. Mum just knows we are going somewhere different and thats it. We decide on pre dinner drinks in the Ensemble Lounge. Very civilised. Lush comfy sofa’s, nice cocktail music and a drinks menu – good I need to chill after the day I have had.
Qsine – We were greeted as Mr & Mrs Chadwick and party as soon as we set foot across the threshold and we hadn’t even spoke. The waiters came across to greet us all, we were shown to the perfect table in the window. Mum was fussed over and the restaurant manager was charming. Suri was our waiter and he was excellent. He tried his hardest to explain to Mum what was going on but even he worked out he was fighting a loosing battle. 88yr old and an ipad – what a combination! I have to say though that she had almost grasped it and was ordering her fish n chips! I want to tell you everything about Qsine, but at the same time I think you should all come and experience it for yourselves. Its an experience, a journey that involves food. The most amazing food. The view from the window was simply amazing. perfect sunset. We saw dolphins again (we have seen dolphins every day so far, but I keep forgetting to tell you) and then Lizy spotted a whale spouting away! How good is that? Meanwhile the food just keeps coming, and coming. All served very different and all to die for. We had all added our favourites on the ipad and Suri worked out our preferences from that and went with an average of things to serve. He soon sussed that Lizys isn’t a fish eater so a huge towers of variations of potatoes and vegetables was produced. And at the end when he asked if we were all done I mentioned Lizy would have liked to have seen the Taj Mahal and no sooner said than delivered! After each session the table was cleaned and it started all over again. Mums face when we were presented with the desert menu! Lol, don’t know what was best? Mum with an ipad or mum with a puzzle cube? And just at that moment the man with the tray of grass turned up with his field of fresh strawberries and freshly laid eggs. What fun! I thought the waiter might wet himself when Mum declared she couldn’t eat a bl**din fresh egg after eating that lot! Deserts were decided upon. Mr C predictable as ever opted for the chocolate tombstone. There was never any doubt that lizy would choose anything other than the design your own cupcakes. Mum had the silver bullet and I went for the surprise! it was the best night ever, as Mum said, she will never forget it! We went in at 7.30 and left at 10.30. A whole dining experience which was just fantastic and you have to try for yourself to experience it. We literally rolled and waddle out of there. Even lizy felt fat. Have you ever seen a fat stick?
Mr C is edging for an early night and try to convince me that the tree of temptation has told him has to, but lizy takes him out for some air while I help Mum to bed. Martini Bar is busy so we end up sharing a seat.
Tuesday 7th September 2010. Lisbon
I wake up just as we are gliding up the River Tagus. Its still dark and all the lights are looking very pretty. Just as I step onto the balcony the pilot is coming alongside and the April 25th Bridge is just ahead. Feels like only 5 minutes since we were stood on the Chadwick suite balcony going under the same bridge. Ventura is behind us again on the horizon and I guess we will be berthed pretty close again, but we carry on going, past Black Horse Square and round to the other side of town. Never been up here before I don’t think?
The sun is out, its going to be a glorious day. A day that involves chicken and chips and custard tarts no doubt!
Well I was looking forward to today, but my day was ruined when I discovered that every email I had sent from my outlook had bounced and it is something that simply has to be sorted. The internet situation with emails and blocked web addresses for my booking tool has dominated every day I have been on here so far and its more than stressing me out now.
We head ashore and wait for the shuttle bus that has been adapted for wheelchair users and only have about a 5 minute wait. But nobody asks for our tickets that I purchased. They weren’t as badly priced as I thought they were going to be, but Im guessing there were a lot of people on the bus who hadn’t even paid! We paid $6pp roundtrip, which is probably better than a cab, but even so why are we paying? I am under the impression that the port authority’s provide these buses complimentary as they want us in town spending our money. Celebrity dropped us at the bottom of the main street, not far from Black Horse Square so we walked up through the main street and around the other square. I kept seeing the same character and I was watching him on a street corner. I turned back to watch him more closely and watched him and his buddy lift from three peoples pockets. But what could I do? I felt really bad for the people concerned and when I pointed it out to Mr C he flipped, then I was panicking incase he went after him. Yes I would have love to at least gone and told the tourists involved, but how many of his mates were around? How many of them had knives? Sad world that we live it it just was not worth me getting involved. We seen him several times again after that.
We made our way to BonJardin for our chicken and chips. We were first to arrive, along with another couple, who instantly recognised me as Jane Chadwick of GoCruisewithJane! We hadn’t been seated 5 minutes and another family come around the corner and are utterly amazed to see us. Well they knew I wasn’t on Ventura so what was I doing sat there, lol. BonJardin soon filled up and with more and more Ventura passengers, it seems its fame hasn’t reached Celebrity cruise lines yet. We had a lovely chilled out hour or so, and I knew a lot of those who came and sat outside, most of them crew from Ventura.
As we headed off back down through the main square it started with very light rain, then it started to get worse until it threw it down. We went as fast as we could to the shuttle bus but by now we were like drown rats. I did have a brolly with me which mum had the pleasure of, so the rest of us got wet. Ironic thing is that there are brollies in the staterooms so if I had bought those out as well we would have all kept dry. We sent lizy back on the bus that was in with the waiter from Qsine and we waited a few more minutes for the wheelchair adapted bus. Despite us all standing back with wheelchairs to allow the others to take the last bus, those with fully functioning legs still thought it was there god given right to surge forward out of the rain to get on the adapted bus. Jeeepers I was cross!
Back at the ship we had to go through security in the terminal with all bags scanned etc, then at the ship gangway we were squirted with handwash, back on the ship and we had to do the full security scanning again, and then just as your hands are full and you have barely moved away from the scanner, you are squirted with hand cleanser again!! What a performance! And to top it all there is a waiter from Qsine standing there with menus asking if you would like to book a table?! What? Now really isn’t a good time to ask.
Back in the stateroom, my stress levels go through the roof again as I try to sort my email issue out but after 3 days I’ve done almost no work and spent the best part of my $99 internet package just trying to get the dam thing to work. An aeroplane to the UK is looking like the simplest option still!
The sun is back out on deck after the rain. Every lounger by the pool is taken and so I sit at the bar with a Mojhito, before heading back to the dreaded emails and internet. Ive had enough now and go and wait for the internet manager to come on duty in the iLounge. He could see the desperation in me and the tears threatening so he took over my laptop and tried every ip address he knew but nothing would get it to work. He was very helpful and showed me a couple of other web addresses I can use to send my emails but its not as convenient as having my outlook, I don’t have email addresses and I cant work off line so thats going to whack my internet bill up.
I have the tiniest of snoozes before getting ready for the night ahead. We had pre dinner drinks up in the Sky Lounge, so that was another new place for Mum. She loves it and is fascinated by all the trendy furniture. The view is spectacular this evening and me and lizy look out for dolphins as today will be the only day we wont have seen them, but we are not lucky today. We head to dinner at 7.45pm and again there is a short queue that is dealt with quickly and efficiently. I am told I can wait for a table in the place I like by the balcony, but we opt to take whats available and are shown to the far end by the galley. I am beginning to regret not sticking with the late meal sitting now as I am thinking it would have been better to know where we are each day, but then I suppose we could have got stuck in a location I didn’t like too. All of the waiters we have had have been very pleasant, always introduced themselves and given us the recommendations. Food was a lot hotter tonight and the rib eye was delicious, although massive! I also had the flambe’d crepe which you never actually see flambe’d.
The Captain was wandering around having a chat this evening in the restaurant, which I thought was a nice touch. He came to chat to us and when he asked if we were liking his ship, although I answered yes along with the others he read my face and pulled up a chair for a chat. He knew I had my reservations and so he wanted to know what they were. Poor bloke might have walked away wishing he had never asked, but he did show genuine concern so best he knows hey?
Lizy is threatening an early bed again but they busy themselves next door with magazines and the daily newspaper while I help Mum to bed. It was decided that we would go to the Molecular Bar this evening, just because the serious professor type barman in his white overalls fascinates me. But oh, hes not there, and another bartender is drafted in. Another couple were already there, and later another couple came so that was the bar full, and certainly 100% more people than I have ever seen sat here in the past. I think we chose and excellent night to visit as the bartender was very entertaining and Im guessing he sold more drinks last night than that bar has taken in a while. Many of the cocktails use liquid nitrogen to freeze them so it makes for a pretty spectacular show. I also had a lovely rose petal one. We could have stayed for more but it was all pretty potent stuff so three each was more than ample. Mr C and Lizy seem to be on some sort of mission, and head out to the Martini Bar and the nightclub, but after my stressful day I head for my bed.
Wednesday 8th September 2010 ~ Gibraltar
Well we are due in Gibraltar at 1.00pm this afternoon so we have a morning at sea. Its warm and the sun is coming up when breakfast arrives. Hopefully I can fit in some sunbathing. The morning soon ticked by and we sat on the lawn watching our arrival at Gib next to Thomson Destiny. I would say 90% of the ship walked into town at the same time and it was baking hot. The Main Street was rammed. Lizy had a shopping list of things she had ‘forgotten’ or ‘needed’ and after a lot of intense research it was mission complete. After that we decided we needed a cooling drink from the Ocean Village complex but Mum threw a hissy fit when she realised we were about to sit and chill for a bit as ‘we will miss the ship’ it was 4.20 and the ship sailed at 6.00pm, so we were turned around and marched back to the ship, pronto!
Earlier today I had been to see about swapping to late meal sitting dinner as Anytime dining isn’t suiting us. I have a voice mail to say that table 262 on late meal sitting is now ours for the duration of the cruise. Fab little table right in the middle of the lower lever. Two nice waiters, although service was extremely slow. Between starter and main the tables around us had been served main, desert and were on coffee, but he did arrive eventually with an apology that he had been waiting for more lamb, so we will see how it goes.
Thursday 9th September 2010 ~ A day at sea
I was up and out on deck early at 8.30am and a lot of the sunloungers had already been reserved with not a lot of bums on seats. The sun wasn’t even high enough in the sky to be shining on us and it was very windy, but we sat it out. By about 11.00am Guest relations were on the PA warning that items would be removed from the sunloungers that had been left unattended, but I didn’t see any big sweep of the belongings. It has been very busy around the pool all day, so busy that eventually they turned the fountains off and laid out a few rows of loungers on there. I would imagine that during the peak months with a lot of children onboard it would have been too much for me with children running around as the kids pool is next to the deeper pool. There only appears to be a handful of toddlers onboard but then running round and round in the shallow water at the edge of the pool was a little irritating. Next time I will find somewhere away from the pools I think. It was a glorious hot sunny day and even I could only sit in it until about 1.00pm before retreating to the cabin. After a shower I joined Mr C and Lizy at the sunset bar for a long refreshing drink and then they played croquet on the lawn, all very civilised. Not that they knew what they were doing but it looked impressive. Despite having had lunch less than two hours ago, Lizy and Mr C decided it was burger time so we had to drop by the Mast Grill for food! I was good and I nibbled on a chicken wing.
Back to the stateroom for a bit of a snooze and then it was time to get ready for the night ahead. Being a sea day I was expecting a formal night, but I was wrong and it was just a casual night. We wanted pre dinner drinks in Martin Bar but I have come to the conclusion that you have to get there late afternoon to get a seat. We did manage to get a sofa in the end. Behind us was the best sunset of the cruise and would have liked to have seen it from the balcony.
Service in dinner wasn’t quite so long and drawn out this evening and was timed just right between courses. Lizy decided to retire to her bed after dinner so me and Mr C went off for a wander. Peter wasn’t in Molecular bar and the professor in the white coat was back, but I note that the bar was also empty, unlike when Peter is there. We ended up in the theatre watching Jeff Stevenson. He was funny, so funny even I laughed. He did a lot of mickey taking out of the Thomson ship that was in Gibraltar with us yesterday. We also went for a stroll out on deck but the ‘prom’ deck is a strange place, with lifeboats blocking the view for most of it.
Friday 10th September 2010 ~ Barcelona
Im stuggling today with my poorly back and cant even get out of bed for some breakfast. Up until now we have had room service breakfast but its hit and miss whether anyone wakes up to eat it. We have docked in Barcelona and MSC Fantasia has just come alongside and turned so I watched from the comfort of my bed while the others went to Ocean View Cafe for breakfast. It was even touch and go whether I went ashore as I was in agony but mustered the energy from somewhere. We had purchased the shuttle passes again for today at $4 each return, so not too bad. I struggled in the town, it was blazing hot, very busy and every step hurt for me. I was glad when we decided to return. They did have wheelchair adapted buses on today but as they only seemed to be allowing one wheelchair per bus and there were already 3 wheelchairs waiting we elected to get on the non adapted bus. Straight upto the Ocean View Cafe for lunch and half of the stations were closing down. It still takes a while to navigate where all the different food types are, but today I opted for a small portion of stir fry. Then for me it was bedtime, I needed to just laydown and rest my bones. Next thing I knew it was 20 past 6! Mr C and Lizy had been to their usual spot by the lawn club and bought back some sushi, thankfully they brought me back a small beef roll.
I was even in two minds about going out this evening and its one big effort to shower and put a dress over my head. I missed out on pre dinner drinks and went straight into dinner, but Im suffering and cant even stand the smell of food. I ordered the spring rolls, which were lovely but passed them onto Lizy, then a bowl of lovely cream of Broccoli soup, but that hit the back of my throat. I choked and thought the end was near, so once composed headed for my bed. I did join Lizy and Mr C in the Martini bar later but never had a drink. Then we went to Molecular Bar to see Peter and hes concerned because I wont have a drink, but eventually I cave in and have a tiny tot of Southern Comfort. Two Senior officers are stood at the bar talking to a couple and I cannot believe the way they are putting P&O Cruises down. I so wanted to butt in and put him straight on a few things. Apparently everything on P&O is very stiff upper lip and traditional. The officers walk around in crisp white shirts, starched knee length white shorts and long white socks! Clearly he needs to get his head out of the 1970’s P&O brochure that he did his research from.
Saturday 11th September 2010 ~ Toulon
Clear blue skys and the sun on the balcony is baking. It looks ‘interesting’ out there. We can take the shuttle into Toulon for $12pp but wonder what is on the doorstep. Lizy wants a French Pateserie, and I want a fridge magnet, but is it worth the $48 roundtrip into Toulon? Mmm we shall see whats ashore and report back.
Well, what shall I say about Toulon? It was a pleasant enough place. A bit of a market, a few nice shops, nice Marina with bars and yachts, but I wouldn’t rush back. We did get the shuttle service so it did end up being a very expensive fridge magnet and cake. The journey took about 30 mins each way and when we got there we were dropped at the far end of a car park, so the little walk in with the wheelchair wasn’t an exciting one. There is a little road train where the shuttle drops you for a ride around if that takes your fancy. There was also a football match on in the stadium in town so it was busy with football fans. There is a little town with harbour about a 20 minute walk away from the ships berth, but what it was called I don’t know. It looked a pleasant enough little place as we drove through on the bus. They did have wheelchair friendly buses but they only took maximum of two wheelchairs, so despite waiting for one to arrive, there were by then 3 wheelchairs waiting to board and as Mum can get on with a lot of effort and pushing and shoving we did end up hauling her up the steps of the bus, so could have got on the bus before.
Ive since spoken to passengers who went ashore in Toulon and had a better experience than us. They took the 2 euro water taxi, which only took10 mins. The little train was 6 euro and took them all around the marina and past some lovely beaches, so if I’m ever this way again I would do that rather than the town.
Back on the ship I had a freshly prepared stir fry for lunch, which was good, followed by a nice fruit sorbet and washed down with a glass of wine. After lunch we headed for the Sunset Bar and took up seats by the lawn for a couple of hours soaking up the rays.
Formal night tonight. We tried in vain to get a seat in Martini Bar, but it was very busy as usual. We stood for about 10 minutes and much to my annoyance other passengers were being asked if they would like a drink and seats found for them, but not for us. One nice lady by the railings had spotted us waiting for a long while and indicated to us that they were about to leave, but then another lady moved in and made it more than clear that she would be sitting there. I did not like her tone one bit and politely informed her that we had been stood for quite a long while. She was having none of it! So I told her to have the dam seat as I wasn’t prepared to have a row with her about it. But I was fuming to say the least. Car park wars had nothing on that incident,
Sunday 12th September 2010 Morning at Sea afternoon arrival Palma
We did not a lot of anything today. We didnt even venture into Palma. Shuttle buses are enough hassle without having to pay for them, plus its a Sunday so nothing will really be open, and Im not a huge fan of Palma. Lizy walked ashore in search of the shopping centre just across from the dock area but she found a MacDonalds and free wiFi instead. We chose to just have a relaxing afternoon onboard. There was a deck party this evening and we chose to venture up there and have a wander around, but then strolled back through the ship before dropping off to see Peter at Molecular for one of his spectacular cocktails.
Monday 13th September 2010 Palma
I was a rebel last night and slept with the balcony doors open for fresh air. The fresh air was nice, but we had a tower full of sea hawks opposite us and the gangway below us. I did have a little smirk to myself at 4.30 in the morning when I heard a very merry bunch of crew return to the ship and dance their way up the gangway. No chance of a lie in with the sea hawks squawking their heads off. Two men came to attend to them and feed them and then let them out for a fly around. Not sure why they were there? Maybe to keep away the seagulls? I nipped upstairs and had a peaceful breakfast of salmon bagel on the back deck before returning to a bit of work at the lap top. We had made the decision not to go ashore today and I spent the day flitting between ‘office’ and sunlounger. It was hot! Scorching boiling hot! Roasting infact! Lizy went ashore to the shopping centre just outside the dock area but came back empty handed.
I had pre booked Tuscan Grill for this evening and all of us had been very careful to eat lightly all day so that we wouldn’t be full. Pre Dinner drinks in Michaels Club, which was very pleasant and lovely pianist playing Frank Sinatra and the like.
Booking Tuscan Grill for the final week was a mistake for us as we were all a bit food’ed out and simply didn’t want anymore food. The food was wonderful, lovely breads, anti pasta, Onion soup (they like onion soup on here as its everywhere!) I avoided the Millet Mingioin as Ive seen enough beef to last a lifetime, and thought the pasta might be a little lighter, but I was wrong! A huge plate of rich pasta and three forks full and I declared I could take no more. Why I felt guilty for not eating the food I don’t know as I had paid for it (£19pp covercharge) but I just couldn’t face anymore. Even Mr C left his! Lizy was the only one to do all 4 courses and complete every one! I went for chocolate fondu for desert but confess to hiding the brownie (as nice as it was) in the chocolate fondant, just so it looked as if I had made an effort! We rolled out completely stuffed. The service was wonderful, faultless but as I say non of us really appreciated it at this stage of the cruise which was a shame. I did feel that all of the tables were very close together and there was a lot of chatter noise in there with everyone competing. I would rather have seen the tables away from windows used to spread us all out a little more.
After dinner we went for a wander to try and get the food to go down a little. We nipped in the back of the theatre and a very good fiddle player was playing music from around the world. It was almost a packed house. We strolled past Molecular and me and Lizy decided to stay for one, while Mr C admitted defeat and headed for bed. Floyd made the mistake of passing by the bar and so he and I had to have another little chat in the carpark, lol about one or two of my concerns. Lizy was exit stage left and gone to her bed before I could blink. I was thinking of heading for my bed but Iain and Lynne appeared round the corner so it would have been rude not to stay for another
Tuesday 14th September 2010 ~ at sea
I can see the flat calm sea and the sunrise from my bed. Could be the last day at sea so I fumble around for some clothes and head out on deck. Sunbeds by the pool and all is well with the world
I decided it was about time I had a day off so declared it Sunday. A glorious day today. Very hot and very sunny. The Acapelo quartet sang, the Spanish guitar player did a stint and the party band came on stage for an hour. I was in and out of the pool all day just trying to keep cool. It was hard work I can tell you. We had a family meeting and decided we would like to go and experience Qsine again, so we booked in there again for this evening. We did have a choice of 3 evenings but only very early at 6.30, but we were slotted in at 7.30 this evening so looking forward to that.
I had a light lunch of chicken salad roll. Mum had some lovely fish with pineapple salsa.
A little bit more chilling in the sun and we retreated to the cabin.
It has been almost a perfect day today. Glorious hot sunshine and the flatest calmest sea like glass. Everytime I have been to the cabin to check emails I have seen dolphins swim alongside. We went back late this afternoon and there was a whole pod of them right by our balcony, playing and jumping and showing off. Fab!
We were greeted by all as we returned for our second dining experience in Qsine. We had asked for Surj to serve us so he knew what we had and didn’t have before. We discussed our preferences again, chose our favourites and left the rest to him. We had Disco Shrimps, spring rolls, fish n chips, followed by Chinese (mmmm the best) Mexican tacos with make your own guacamole – which lizy had the task of! Mini burgers and fries (yum) then Mr C completed his second Chocolate tombstone. Lizy had cheesecake and candyfloss, I had frittas and doughnuts, yum yum yum!! I do love Qsine and would do it all over again (if the belly and waistline would allow) latte to finish was good.
We then went off for a waddle around the deck and rested in the rocking chairs. A little browse of the shops and then we dropped by our favourite bar Molecular and I had a smokey Very Berry. Bed is calling loud and clear!!!
Wednesday 15th September ~ Cadiz
We arrive really early when its still dark. It might have been about 7.00am. We are docked right in town and by the time I get to the balcony people are buzzing around all over the place heading for work and school. 18 buses are on the dockside waiting to take the tours out and the photogs have a dockside of photo opportunities – in the dark! You can have a ships wheel, the ships gangway, ships life ring or a cuddly dolphin (a stupid looking dolphin at that!)
Mr C and me head for breakfast in Ocean Cafe and its deserted. We head out onto the back deck and the welcome sight of a P&O flag is off our stern. Oceana is sitting alongside us. Im not a Oceana fan but I do like the P&O flag : )
As we head ashore (with the thought in my head of ‘who would want a photos taken with a stupid looking Dolphin) who stops for only the second photo of the whole cruise? This time with a Dolphin? Lizy!
Ive been to Cadiz many times, but in all honesty I can never recall ever going ashore there. Its really nice there and I was very pleasantly surprised. Lots of nice little streets full of shops, and little squares and cafes to sit and have a drink. We made it as far as the Cathedral and stopped for a coffee in the square and made use of the free wifi there. We crossed the road to the opposite coast to where we were berthed and would have been tempted to head for the beech but its not ideal with a wheelchair. Apart from that it was hot, really melting hot so we needed the air conditioning of the ship. We walked back through town and alongside the Oceana before turning the corner to Eclipse.
After a light lunch of jacket potato in the Ocean View Cafe we decided to go and sit up at Sunset Bar on the top deck aft by the lawn. It was hot, really really hot and for me too hot to sit in. I took a stroll down to the pool with the intention of taking a dip to cool off but I have never seen a pool so full of people just standing to cool off. Thankfully a breeze came along to cool the aft deck and I could sit for a little bit longer.
After a little snooze on the bed back in the stateroom I showered and stood on the balcony watching for latecomers to the ship, and there were a few. The gangways and hospitality drinks were in long before the last few passengers strolled across the dockside. And I do mean strolled like they didn’t have a care in the world. Crew clearly knew who they were waiting for but there was never any call put out for missing passengers to contact Guest Relations as a double check. One thing that did strike me as we slipped our lines for the final time for this cruise. There was no welcome home, no ‘all pre departure checks have been satisfactorily completed’ etc. And the funny thing is I haven’t ever felt as if I was returning ‘home’ after my time ashore during this cruise. I nipped down to deck 5 to see if Oceana had gone out before us but she was still there, with passengers lining the rails waving their union jacks at the Great British Sailaway. Then the CD was telling them all to yell at Eclipse and tell them what a fab time they were having. Oh the times I have done that, but its oh so annoying when you are the other side of the fence! We departed at a fair old speed and that was us, departed from our final port of call.
We were ready early and out in the Martini Bar for a leisurely pre dinner drink. Mum had decided she needed an early bed tonight so I went to Ocean View Cafe to get her a meal. I was surprised that it was such a reduced service in there for early evening, but it was adequate with salad, fish, pasta and a roast to choose from.
Dinner was a long drawn out process tonight and we were some of the very last to leave. After checking on Mum we went back to the Martini Bar before heading to Molecular, but our bar was full and we were relegated to the back tables! Peter gave as first class service as ever though.
At midnight there was a Venetian Parade and Celebritys 20th Birthday Celebration on the Grand Stairs. We nipped away from the bar to see it, put it was rammed out there and way too much pushing and shoving. I saw a few tops of heads and that was about it. Captain said a few words and there was a cake but I could see neither. Mr C headed for his bed so it was back to Molecular for me and Lizy and we were the last ones out after the bar had been cleared and cleaned. We headed upto Ocean View Cafe for a cookie, but no such luck, no sign of even a cookie crumb. Just a couple of cleaners and two security guards making a cup of tea.
Thursday 16th September 2010 ~ At sea
Not a bad day for the second to last one. Me and Mr C went for breakfast and rendevouzed out on the aft terrace, me with my salmon bagel and him with his full English. It was rather dull so I decided to sit on one of the bright yellow rattan sofas. Jeepers creepers I nearly dropped my bagel as I let out a rather large shriek! Closely followed by the same from Mr C (isn’t he supposed to protect me?) there was the most gruesome and large bug happily lounging on the bright yellow cusions. Peter, our restaurant waiter, was out there wiping down tables etc and was highly amused at our reaction. Like seeing a bug that size was to be expected?. He came over and explained that they were very quiet this morning, usually that are ‘rattle, rattle, rattle’ What? there are more?! It would appear so. Im uneasy now as I dont like bugs at the best of times but he was a big one. I watched Peter go over and calmly collect the bug and take him out to the pantry area to deal with him. But how many were under the cushion I was sat on? I was uneasy so made a hasty exit. Its not the first time the bugs have been spotted. We watched a lady pick one out of the grass and launch him overboard. And we heard another story of a man that had one run up his trouser leg and cling onto what he could find with his pinchers. That resulted in a very hasty retreat to the Gents, but personally I think my trousers wouldn’t have lasted long enough for a visit to the bathroom!
A lot of die hards were out sunbathing but I didn’t feel the need. We occupied our time by browsing the shops, taking Mum to the slots and stopping off for a chat here and there.
We had saved today for lunch in the Bistro. $5pp cover charge and the food was delicious. Mr C and Lizy had savoury crepes, I had a Panini. We all had crepes for deserts. A really nice place to eat as an alternative and the cover charge not too OTT.
I went up to enquire about the cost of the Persian Garden. $20pp per day! Which I thought was a a bit steep given that you wouldn’t want to stay in it all day. No half day passes are offered. I had viewed the one on Equinox and can only recall the stone hot beds, a vapour and a steam room so if I’m correct I would be pushed to spend an hour in there. Bed and a sleep seemed like a better option so thats what we all did.
I woke up to glorious sunshine on the balcony and sat for a while whilst pondering what was on my to do list.
Formal night tonight and everyone was out parading around the bars. We sat at the Martini Bar with Iain and Lynn and Mum was collected at 8 and was quite happy to sit and people watch. Its always busy in Martini bar but this evening was busier than ever which hardly and inch of floor space.
Moonlight Sonata for dinner and some nice choices tonight. I had the beef which was to die for but I confess to being all beefed out of late. All evening I had been waiting for the Parade of the Baked Alaska as promised by Floyd. But the rest of the table think Im a little bonkers. Baked Alaska seems to be arriving on every table as standard so its a good sign. But there was no Parade of Baked Alaska. Instead there was a celebration of all the chefs, galley staff and waiters. Much napkin waving and clapping and banging of tin lids followed and what fun! Peace was soon resumed and the evening ahead was planned for.
We went to a show! Well there a first. It was the cirque de solei acrobat themed show. Well worth seeing if you haven’t already seen one, with some pretty spectacular stunts – like a man riding a unicycle on a low rope – on his head!! Mr C managed to slip away before the end of the show and head for his bed. But me and Lizy had an appointment at the Molecular Bar. Why change the habit of a cruise.
Friday 17th September 2010 ~ at sea
Its that dreaded day – packing! I always regret having so much stuff with me on packing day. But after breakfast I attack most of it and get the cases put back under the bed out of the way. Outside the sun is shining and its warm. Whats all that about. Bay of Biscuits, mid September and its calm and warm? I was straight back down the stairs to locate a swimsuit and back to the lounger to just chill and do not a lot of anything. A very, very pleasant last day at sea, spent mostly on deck just chilling, relaxing and chatting to our cruise friends. I had my first burger of the cruise. Delicious, more like a steak than a burger. Just as well I didn’t indulge earlier in the cruise. Mum joined us on the deck for a while but she decided it was cold. Good job there is always plentiful supply of blankets at hand.
Back at the stateroom the last bit of packing was tackled and after a shower and pamper we were back out to the Martini Bar. Oooh we managed to get seats this evening. Either we were super early or everyone else was doing last minute packing.
It was nice to be able to go to dinner and not have to worry about tips and envelopes and who was ‘doing the deed’ so from that point of view pre paid grats are a good thing. What I dont like is being told how much pre paid grats to pay!
Mum is mythering about getting up early in the morning and shes not even in bed yet. what about the cases? Whos putting the case out? Is it locked, where this, that and the other? Mum is tucked up and its one last evening chat with the Tree of Temptation before heading to Molecular for a last drink with Peter. He has been a star, but he is off to the Martini Bar next cruise where he will have more customers to keep him busy and no doubt he will keep many of the m entertained.
Saturday 18th September ~ Southampton
What do you really not need at 4.45am on the disembarkation day? An 88yr old wandering into your stateroom and demanding that you all get up and dressed because we have got to get off the ship!! Mum does it every Southampton arrival morning so we should be used to it, but Mr C found a few choice words and she was sent back to bed, lol. I could hear her though, and she was not in bed, but pottering about and organising. Every 10 to 15 minutes she was back in our room getting crosser and crosser with us for laying in bed. Eventually, at some unearthly hour at around 6.30am we obeyed her command and got up, I dont think we had a choice.
Breakfast in Ocean View Cafe was really busy, so it was one last tour round to gather mine and mums breakfast and we were ready to disembark. But not before I nipped up the stairs to the lawn are and what did I see? The greenkeeper mowing the lawn. I had been looking for him all cruise so that sort of made it mission complete for me.
Back to the stateroom to collect the hand luggage. How did we accumulate so much? We were like pack horses. Wheelchair users were invited to go to the Bistro on Five for wheelchair assistance and we were greeted by a supply of wheelchair pushers. We walked all the way forward to the gangway and never passed anyone sitting around or blocking stairs and passage ways. We were disembarked and met by our driver by 7.45am. Result! P&O wouldn’t have even had the cases off by then let alone the first lot of passengers. A very swift and efficient disembarkation. It was an easy ride home. Well we werent driving for one thing and I didn’t feel the need to stay awake. Cant think for one minute what had made me so tired at such an early hour 9rolls eyes) We were back home for 10.30am thanks to the efficiency of Bees Knees.
Cruising with Celebrity was new to me and very different to what I am used to. The ship is stunning with some lovely areas, but for me personally maybe a little too cosmopolitan. I make no secret of the fact that I prefer a more traditional type of cruise experience and environment. For those people who like a 5* hotel type experience this maybe the cruise line for them. The ship is very much more a couples type environment. Despite having very good childrens facilities onboard, familiys is not their target market and the child fares reflect this. The ship offers some excellent alternative dining venues, and those in the AquaClass staterooms dine in Blu which was getting excellent feedback from the passengers I spoke to. Drinks were expensive, but at the same time they were large measures and mixers were not charged for, so it about levelled itself out. Drinks service, for us, was very hit and miss. We found the deck service and service within the bars and lounges to be very slow and more than difficult to catch their eye at times. But I did express my concerns to those concerned and I know that the senior team onboard were very keen to address this. I have heard only good reports regarding drinks service since our return from the cruise. For the times we were able to sit at the bars, the service was very good and in places like the Martini Bar and Molecular, very entertaining with the barstaff putting on an excellent performance.
Anytime dining wasnt for us. Its ok if you just want to be fed, but for a relaxed dining experience it doesn’t deliver. You have to be prepared to be sat anywhere, with the passengers on the next table just finishing coffee as you start soup, and within seconds of them leaving their table a buzz of waiters and head waiters on walkie talkies flipping up tablecloths, relaying the tables and another bum on seat within a couple of minutes. The OceanView cafe offered a really wide variety of food types. Pizza’s, pasta, stir frys etc were all cooked fresh and to order with your selection. I was a frequent visitor to the sandwich maker and liked the vast selection of bread types and fillings etc. there was always plenty of variety of hot and cold selections and food was very well displayed. Tea, coffee and fruit juices were available 24/7 in Ocean View but food wasnt, which seemed odd. We would have liked to have tried Murano’s fine dining option, but the experience would have been too lengthy for Mum so we gave it a miss. Qsine was by far our personal favourite dining place. The Bistro on 5 was another good option, but the selection and choice was very limited. Tuscan Grill was superb, but go on an empty belly! The Grill on deck offered excellent quality of food. Ice creams and frozen yogurt are also available complimentary 24/7 from the self service dispensers. Alighter breakfast and lunch menu was also available from the cafe area within the Solarium.
Deck areas and sunbathing spots felt very cramped and the choices of places to sit wasnt vast. The main area was around the pool, which became very busy unless you were there early. But I did like the fact that there was plenty of entertainment around the pool during the day time. There were plenty of sunloungers one deck above the pool, but this is where the wrap around jogging track and there were people going around and around that track all day everyday so that would have sent me nuts watching themwhizz around and around. You couldnt even turn the loungers to face out to sea because they were all tied into position. There were some lovely quiet areas right uptop at the front of the ship, but these were only accessed via stairs so for wheelchair users it was a no go area. The prom deck is more of a boat deck, with ships tenders hanging alongside for more or less the entire length, so if staring at a lifeboat is your thing its a nice quiet place to sit, but very little connection with the sea.Surprisingly one of my favourite areas was the lawn area and the sunset bar at the stern. I loved the smell of the grass, especially when at sea. I didnt play any of the lawn games, but it was good for people watching.
Staterooms are very modern. Adequate for two but cramped for 3 or 4, so again, in my opinion not ideal for families. Our stateroom had the layout of bed by the wardrobe and I found that the air conditioning unit above the wardrobe blew down onto me all night, often resulting in a chill, and cricked neck most mornings when I woke. For that reason I would prefer my bed to be at the opposite end of the stateroom. The decor and fabrics used in the staterooms was exceptional. Very tastefully furnished. Bathrooms are a plus as they are bigger than the standard shower rooms and plenty of storage space in the bathrooms. Small bottles of toiletries are replenished daily as required. As mentioned though the storage space within the stateroom, for more than two sharing, I found to be lacking.
At the end of the day its all down to choice, and there are plenty of cruiselines out there to choose from. Its good that there are so many cruiselines to choose because as passengers we all want different things from our cruise experience.
For 2011 I have some very good offers on selected departures. Celebrity Eclipse will be sailing out of Southampton from 29th April 2011 offering a range of cruises from 4 to 16 nights, so feel free to contact me for more information.