Celebrity Constellation - 2 Night English Channel
Back at the end of September 2011, the Port of Le Havre listed Celebrity Constellation several times between September and November 2012, and coming to or going from Southampton, the time she would have been doing cruises from Istanbul.  I contacted Celebrity UK via Twitter to ask if she was coming to Southampton and was told no, Istanbul.  So off I went on Norwegian Epic the 9th October and unbeknown to me, two days later, they announced wine cruises from Southampton from the 7th September 2012, with her repositioning to Miami the 30th November!  After I returned home, I had a look and saw a two night repositioning from Amsterdam on the 5th September.  As much as I'd LOVE to do one of the longer cruises on my favourite Celebrity ship (even though I'm not keen on the itinerary), I couldn't afford that so booked this instead, going for inside 2169 at a mere £184.40.  I hadn't realised at the time the cabin was the same as the one I had for by Caribbean cruise at the end of December 2011 so at least I'd know my way around.  I paid it off on the 20th December 2011 (only had £34.40 on the balance) and booked my flight to Amsterdam.  At least I was definitely going on one cruise during the year and I couldn't wait for her to bring me home like she had in April 2007 when the love affair began!  I received version two of my confirmation around midnight on the 2nd August which added $125 onboard credit!

And so the 5th September arrived and an early start to catch the 7am Flybe flight from Southampton.  It was a lovely morning.  The company I normally used, Silver Drive, closed their business without telling past customers, so I decided to try Andy's Private Hire.  Steve, who was doing it, turned up at 5.10am, twenty minutes early.  I didn't mind that.  At least you're there!  I had last done this in 2010 for Norwegian Epic, when there had been a huge picture of Cunard's Queen Victoria on the wall, now replaced by an advert.  We went from Gate 7 slightly late but still arrived on time.

We were met by a bus, which would take us to the terminal building.  A lady sat next to me who I thought was familiar and she was.  Mandi, who booked my Celebrity Equinox cruise back in 2008!  I hadn't realised she'd now left Thomas Cook but she told me she had set up on her own.  She'd only found out about the cruise while looking it up for a client.  My friend David Greenwood was waiting as we went inside so I said goodbye to Mandi with a promise she'd push her details under my door during the cruise.  David went with me through immigration, though I'm sure his KLM pass wouldn't have caused a problem, then we went onto the roof for a drink and natter before I went to the city centre for my girly waiting at the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam.  Although I had been to Centraal Station a couple of times, I never noticed the sign pointing towards the exit for ships before, unless it was new.  To kill time because I was there too early it was a wander around to the other side for photos.  Back on the ship side, I met a Welsh bloke on holiday who had a film camera!  Not a fancy one but a bulky thing, probably from the 1980s.
Time to stop daydreaming over Connie and check in otherwise she couldn't take me home.  Connie's bag drop was in the main terminal while Prinsendam's was a few doors down, though why they had a picture of Century or whatever is beyond me.  Connie had been there on a regular basis since 2010 so you'd think they'd have their own.  Check in was smooth and you were required to tick how you would be disembarking.  Security and then on!  Since the cabins wouldn't be ready, I decided to go for lunch in the Seaside Cafe.  Ailsa Dixon from Facebook was aboard so after some texting back and forth, she finally found me.  We had got to know each other via the Celebrity Facebook page when she asked about the Caribbean cruise I'd just done.  Cabins were ready so I went to mine while she went to the Martini Bar or somewhere.  At least I was familiar with the cabin and it felt like coming home.

Muster was at 3.45pm, still without taking life jackets but they did a roll call.  Ailsa and I had the Rendezvous lounge as our muster station and as we waited, a wedding party turned up, complete with bride in white dress.  Pity they'd done away with putting on your life jacket.  I'd have loved to see one over her frock.  Partway through, it all stopped as cabin numbers were read out of those who hadn't told them they were there.  Most were still missing.  I went on deck for sailaway while Ailsa went to see the boys working in the Martini Bar.  Aad and Nicoline were also onboard, having visited Prinsendam in the morning then checked in for Connie.  I decided to phone my dad before we left, since our time was 4.30pm with Prinsendam following half an hour later.  There was a lot of activity on the water while two tugs came to assist the HAL, one pushing her in as we finally pulled away nearly thirty minutes late.  It was a lovely sailaway but once Prinsendam went out of view, I headed back inside to have a curry until we were nearer the lock then returned to the deck.  Deutschland was berthed the other side of the lock.

Finally a crew member I recognised - my assistant steward from last year!  He didn't remember me until I mentioned the orange he left for me after I'd fought flu.  Really annoyingly the shops, bar photo gallery, were closed they claimed, due to EU law.  Weren't on Norwegian Epic.  How was I supposed to spend my onboard credit????  I met Ailsa in the Martini Bar, which was heaving with booze cruisers consisting of several nationalities.  I was used to them, albeit on the likes of P&O, and it was MUCH quieter on those.  We escaped by going to dinner.  It was open seating instead of the usual first and second but at the same times.  Bar service was really bad and we only wanted a soft drink!  I know a booze cruise was a new experience for them but you would expect their service to be as usual.  Our Sommelier looked stressed.  Being only a short cruise, I didn't tell them about my dietary requirement so enjoyed some forbidden foods.  Now, as much as I lurve this ship, the one thing which I hate is the darkness in the dining room.  With the Solstice class being bright and them trying to turn Millenniums into them, you'd think they'd up the lighting.
The Martini Bar was still heaving, as was Reflections where we went.  I noticed a ship through the window so took a quick photo before going onto the deck for a better look.  Deutschland and Prinsendam had caught us up!  A group of young Dutch drunks were also on deck so I didn't stay long.  A quick visit to Ailsa's Concierge Class cabin, which was very nice.  I miss a balcony, though it's rarely used when I have one except for taking photos!  The Martini Bar was quieter when we returned so we had a much needed drink.  Time for bed so I left Ailsa to it.  I was still exhausted from travelling two days earlier after the Discovery cruise.  One thing which did annoy me was the hand towel I had used had been taken away leaving one.
After a lovely sleep in the same bed I'd been in nine months earlier, I got up at 11.20am.  Technically, we were about seven hours away from Southampton, but we dawdling at under 10 knots so as to arrive at the ridiculous time of 4am in the morning.  Today we had an immigration check by the UK Border Agency, which meant Reflections was closed.  One solitary official woman in that huge room.  I asked why we didn't have to do this on Norwegian Epic, which had been Rotterdam to Southampton.  She looked at me blankly and just replied, "Things change."  As the afternoon wore on, there were several announcements of cabin numbers for those who hadn't gone.  It got to the point they started announcing names instead.  It was unbelievably hot and sunny, more Med than English Channel.  There were two female crew taking photos as we neared Dover. One said she's from there, having caught a ferry over the day the ship docked in the port while the other was from Bournemouth, never having docked in the UK before.  It was very busy as usual while Grand Mistral was in port.  It took nearly three hours to get from Deal to Folkestone!


© Patricia Dempsey 5th-7th September 2012
Not to be reproduced without permission