Constellation - 5 Night UK & Ireland Cruise

Back in 2006, Celebrity Cruises Constellation was originally due to call at Southampton on the 20th September 2007 en route back to America.  However I discovered at the beginning of August there had been some changes. September's visit had been cancelled and instead we were getting a 5 night UK & Ireland cruise from the 25th-30th April so they could sail for refit at the end.  As it's not every day we get a Celebrity ship cruising from here I didn't hesitate in booking.  Prices for single travellers aren't cheap on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity.  I had to pay double for my 2C grade balcony stateroom 6108 on Penthouse Deck (6) making it £938.40 including tax and pre-paid tips.  The balcony upgrade from Oceanview cost an extra £330 but when you look at the total price it was worth every extra penny.  Now considering on some other lines you pay around the same for less days and no balcony this was excellent value for money and I didn't mind paying.  

Things hadn't been smooth sailing (no pun intended) in the run up to the cruise.  I had problems first with my online profile.  They had given me a Captain's Club number.  I didn't think anything of it as Cunard and P&O give you their club numbers before sailing even though they don't become active until you have completed the first cruise.  My profile wasn't saving so I contacted the UK office.  A very nice lady called Viv discovered there was a woman in Canada with the same name and they'd given me her number!  She removed it and problem solved.  Or it was until I enquired about pre-booking the Ocean Liners Restaurant. Natasha at the UK office told me bookings weren't being taken until the 25th February and to email her then, which I did.  I received confirmation in March from the Miami office and again they thought I was this Canadian!  I tried to reply to her explaining I wasn't but got back an automated away reply so emailed Natasha asking her to tell them.  They were very good about it and due to the mix up let me keep the booking so it looks like you can't pre-book unless you are a Captain's Club member.

The build-up to the excitement began on the 2nd April when
Constellation's older sister Millennium arrived from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton on her first visit since 2000 when she was fresh from the shipyard but this time would be heading off to St Nazaire for a refit.  She returned on the 21st and watching her arrive in the morning then sail down Southampton Water made me like a kid in a sweet shop.  Millennium was doing a repositioning cruise to Barcelona and was the first to use the revamped City Cruise Terminal at 101, which had been closed since mid-October.  Liberty of the Seas was 2nd on the 22nd-24th while Constellation was the 3rd.  It was officially reopened on the 26th when Navigator of the Seas arrived for a series of summer cruises.  As Millennium headed out towards the Isle of Wight I kept thinking how four days later it would be me.

And so the big day arrived.  My second ever cruise and my first alone.  I knew a few people who were going but being on my own worried me a bit.  Not safety but boredom!  I'm not one for spending hours in the bars, lounging by the pool or gambling so how would I pass the time?  I would soon find out.  I caught the 11.40am Hythe ferry after meeting up with Caryll from The Crows Nest board and her friend Brenda and one of the crew kept asking them questions about the cruise before getting on the phone!  It was a lovely day.  
Constellation was in 101 with Ocean Village Two in 106.  Saga Ruby was also meant to be in but was delayed until the next day after bad weather on the east coast of America which kept her in New York longer.

After sharing a taxi we arrived at City Cruise Terminal.  Externally it's really no different even though they have knocked into the old Windward shed.  The old entrance was closed so you had to walk a bit to the new one.
Once inside you have a choice of queues to join.  I can't remember what they were now but I think it was Captain's Club and non-CC.  You show your ticket then go through to security followed by the new check-in hall.  Again there were different queues, those for Xpress pass and those without.  I had filled in the online check-in so went to Xpress.  There was no queue at all.  She took my form, passport and credit card, did a couple of checks then returned the credit card and passport, gave me my Sea Pass/cabin key and a number then I went through to departures to wait until called.  I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with the terminal.  Despite spending a reported £9 million, it didn't look much different to when I visited Black Watch.  There was now a picture window looking onto the dock and chairs where the check-in desks used to be, plus a new way through to board the ship but it was still blue with the same chairs!
They stopped calling numbers after six and we began to wonder what was going on as people were going through to the ship.  We decided to ask and were told we can go ahead.  After having boarding photos taken we made our way towards the ship.  They have a window en route so I stopped and got a pic of the side of the ship.
Boarding was the same as had always been, despite two brand new gangways just lying on the dock.  I quite like this as it's the old fashioned way but not so much when the ship is very tall and you see the ground getting further and further away through the slats between narrow steps.
We arrived in the Grand Foyer on Deck 3 and were offered a glass of champagne or fruit juice.  The photo below is of it taken from Deck 5.  A steward took us up to the Seaside Café on Deck 10 for lunch while we waited for the cabins to be ready.
At 1pm we were told we could go to the cabins but were still having lunch.  I made my first purchase - cocktail in a souvenir glass.  They get you every way!  The Bon Voyage cocktail was really nice and for once I couldn't taste the alcohol in it.  After lunch Caryll, Brenda and I went our separate ways as we headed for our cabins.
The cabin was really nice.  The bathroom was a bit small but the shower cubicle was quite large so you had elbow room.  The curtain was on the left opposite the toilet.  There was a pull down bin tucked away of which the knob came off a few times.  The wardrobe was average but my case was quite large and it fitted in there perfectly.  The TV had the webcam, which aren't online any more sadly, and many other channels including Celebrity Classics which showed old US programmes like The Andy Griffith Show to Bonanza.  Being a Lucille Ball fan I was delighted to come across an episode of The Lucy Show later that night but every other night at the same time was The Beverly Hillbillies.  I know why they tell you to keep the balcony door closed all the time.  If it and the main door are open you get a hurricane wind blowing through!  That could be how the fire on Star Princess last year spread so quickly.  Once I had checked over the cabin I decided to explore the ship before lifeboat drill, starting with the San Marco Restaurant on Deck 5.
Lifeboat drill was at 4.30pm.  Despite the announcement saying to go to our muster stations when you heard the eight bells, the cabin attendants were getting people out sooner.  You had to go wearing your lifejacket and I did notice several women with handbags.  My muster station was Fortunes Casino on Deck 4.  After some initial announcements we were all led out to line up under our respective lifeboats.  I couldn't help noticing a firetug making its way past us towards Ocean Village Two and hoped she would go first as I'd suspected.  Once it was over, I hot-footed it back to the cabin, quickly changed and awaited the departures.  Our time had been changed from 5pm to 6pm which meant Ocean Village Two was certain to leave before us and I may have missed dinner being the first sitting.  I waited and waited until finally around 5.20pm I heard blasting from behind us.  Silly me had the camcorder on standby and it had switched itself off so I didn't catch that bit.  I heard but couldn't see fireworks as Ocean Village Two emerged.  She blasted a lot passing us but Constellation stayed silent.
As all the deck clocks on board are five minutes fast (TV is three and phone is accurate), we cast off at 5.55pm.  Like with the QE2 last October, I had no idea until I heard blasting.  Yes, Constellation has got a horn and can use it when it suits her!  My dad was on the marina and told me someone DID think she was Millennium and also quite a few people were waving at me.  Being in red and separated from everyone else, there was no way he could miss me THIS time.
Once we reached Fawley I switched everything off and went to the San Marco Restaurant for dinner.  I was on Deck 5 so only one deck down.  They close the doors after thirty minutes but you get to keep your table reservation card.  Only two other people were at the table which seated ten, a mother and daughter called Eileen and Christine.  I learnt all about cataract operations over dinner.  Our waiters were Doods (never got his first name) and Stephron Sterling who were excellent, as was the food.  After a marvellous feast I returned to the cabin and spotted Ocean Village Two in the distance as I made my way there.
After I'd had some pictures taken in some life thing poses which made me feel stupid, I collected the boarding photo, pre-ordered the cruise DVD and did some souvenir and duty free shopping.  Very disappointed with The Emporium.  So many shops held no interest.  In the souvenir shop postcards were only available in books of twelve with interior pics.  In fact they were so old, as is the deck plan you get with your room key/Sea Pass they had Refelections instead of Bar at the edge of the Earth which I spent two days trying to find!  Souvenirs were a bit naff too.  There was so little choice unless you were into clothing.  I got chatted up by a steward as I headed outside to get some night shots.  It was blowing a gale or at least seemed like it.  I was going to look and see if I could spot Saga Ruby, Navigator of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas and Saga Rose as they headed towards Southampton but decided I didn't want to freeze.  The funnel wasn't lit up but you could just make out Ocean Village Two disappearing in the distance so you'll have to peer closely at the screen for the blob on the photo of apparent darkness below.
I went to The bar at the edge of the Earth and had a Zodiac cocktail.  Lovely!  Didn't stay there long before trying the deck again but it was just as bad.  Being very tired I was in bed by 11pm after seeing The Lucy Show.

The next morning I was awake at 6.30am as we were coming into Guernsey.  
Constellation creaked and rocked during the night which was quite soothing.  We anchored fairly close to St. Peter Port at 7am.
I met Gary and Allan for breakfast, as we were also dining in Ocean Liners that evening.  I had to rush off at 8am to get ready for my 8.45am excursion then went down to the Rendez-Vous Lounge on Deck 4.  I had chosen the Medieval St. Peter Port walking tour and Castle Cornet.  It was fairly warm so I wore my light summer jacket which I soon regretted!
The tender ride lasted about five minutes.  It started clouding over and getting chilly.  The forecast was also light rain and guess who forgot the umbrella!  Our guide on the tour was a brilliant lady called Annette Henry who brought history to life with demonstrations using whips, a pretend sword and squeaky rat.  You couldn't ask for a better guide to make what could have been an ordinary tour interesting and enjoyable.
We also got exclusive access to the dungeon which day visitors don't get to see.  Being almost pitch black there wasn't much to see anyway.  At the end of the tour we went to the cafe at the castle for a cup of tea or coffee and slice of gache.  Annette was leaving us here and said anyone wanting to walk back to the town with her could.  I was frozen, but thankfully not wet, so decided to go back to the ship.  A couple of Americans also walked back with Annette, one of which was interested in buying a jacket.  I heard there were about forty Americans on board.  I took a couple of snaps on the way back then queued for the tender.  Once back and board and defrosted, I decided to explore more of the ship.
We were due to sail at 4pm so I went on deck for sailaway.  It had warmed up considerably but I still wore my cardigan and winter jacket to be on the safe side.  Party band Intenz played on Deck 10 and at 3.55pm (yes early again) we began to turn before heading off to Cork while the weather got colder again.
It was formal night which was marvellous for dining in Ocean Liners.  Better than being in your scruff as you experience a bygone era.  I had arranged to call on Gary and Allan at 6pm only they weren't ready so I went to the Rendez-Vous Lounge to wait after having some pics taken and ordered a strawberry daquiri which was delicious.  Gary arrived about ten minutes later followed by Allan.  Usually the waiters jump on you as soon as you enter asking if you want a drink but no one bothered with Allan so he had to order one.  Just before 6.30pm we took our drinks down a deck to the restaurant.  It truly is magnificent and worth the $30 surcharge.
The harpist was Melissa Calusio who told us after her second session she had been playing for 27 years since the age of ten which now gives her age away!
Although I had taken the above photo of our fabulous waiter Dejan Todorovic (he's from Sarajevo) cooking my Steak Diane, he told me to take pictures when he had set light to it.  He was so funny, joking it's not his real job as he's the piano player.
Three hours later were were stuffed.  I don't know how the first class passengers in the old days managed to stay so thin!  I couldn't even finish the chocolate souffle Dejan had promoted, never mind petit fours.  I went back to the cabin for a while then realised I hadn't ordered the DVD after all so did that then was in bed by 11pm, absolutely exhausted.

The following morning I woke up at 7am, looked through the balcony doors and saw a beautiful sunrise as we neared Cobh.  After getting dressed I made my way onto the deck and found the observation area!  Pity it was closed off with glass.


© Patricia Dempsey 25th-30th April 2007
Not to be reproduced without permission