Holy Land Cruise on the Celebrity Constellation
10/21/16 to 11/2/16

Due to the length of the review, it is in 5 parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top of each page. 

Page 1 - Pre-Cruise in Athens, Greece and Ship
Page 2 - Ship continued; Ports of Call:   Kusadasi, Turkey;  Rhodes, Greece
Page 3 - Ports of Call:  Limasol, Cyprus; Haifa, Israel
Page 4 - Ports of Call:  Ashdod, Israel - Day 1
Page 5 - Ports of Call:  Ashdod, Israel - Day 2;  Valletta, Malta; Disembarkation in Civitavecchia, Italy  


When we booked this cruise while on last year’s Transatlantic cruise, we wanted to be in a Concierge cabin, since they are larger on this class ship than the standard veranda cabins.  They are 191 sq. ft. or 12.3% bigger than the standard 170 sq. ft. cabins.  On the S Class ships, both classes are 194 sq. ft., so Concierge Class isn’t as important on those ships.  When we tried to book a Concierge cabin this time, they were sold out; but they were selling the Aqua Class cabins for the same price, which are the same size cabins as Concierge.  So, we decided that it would be a great time to try out Aqua with cabin 1116.  When the Constellation was renovated a few years ago, they added 37 Aqua Class cabins in the back of the ship on deck 11.  I really liked the location, since they were close to the rear elevator and just above the buffet and sundeck/pool area.  Another real plus was that there was an open hallway and a sitting areas just outside our room.  It was a good thing they were there, since with the bed by the door, storing Carol’s TravelScoot would have been a big issue.  Our stateroom attendant told us that we could leave it in the area just outside our room if we wanted to.  That really made it so easy.


The room was very comfortable and it was nice to have the large couch. 



Our two large suitcases fit under the bed with no problem.  The desk had two US and two European electric outlets.  We usually bring European adapter plugs to double the capacity if needed.

The bathroom is a nice size with adequate storage.  The shower is quite nice and relatively large for a cruise ship.  Aqua Class showers have the Hansgrohe shower panel, which provides different nozzles to spray different parts of your body.  After trying it a few times and being shocked by the cold water coming out of special nozzles when turned on, I just used the main head most of the time. 


Our balcony was slightly larger than the normal balcony, since it was over an area of the buffet that sticks out.  You can see how the railing sticks out further from my balcony in the below photo.


The balcony itelf was quite comfortable with footstools for both loungers.  The view to the water was unobstructed.


We had an outstanding room attendant, Dado from the Philippines.  He was such a sweet guy and so very helpful.  Normally, there is an assistant attendant to help the main attendant; but Celebrity had changed things up where they don’t have any help.  He had 16 rooms to take care of on his own.  I don’t know how he kept so cheerful, since he never slowed down.

Dining (Link to Menus)

I have included copies of the menus for the Blu dining room along with photos of some of the food items at the Menus link just above and at the top of each page of the review.

Blu – We had always wanted to try Blu; but were a bit concerned about it, since people seem to either love it or hate it.  I was worried that we might not care for it, since we normally enjoy the main dining room meals, and my imagination went wild picturing “healthy” food.  Since we could always get some menu items from the main dining room if requested, or just eat in the main dining room, we figured it would be fine.  Celebrity says that Blu has “clean cuisine”, which means they don’t use heavy sauces; but still have the same basic meat, fish and fowl.   We found that they did have some different types of items on the menu; but the menu didn’t seem to have as many different choices as in the main dining room.  Perhaps because they had more fish, pheasant and duck dishes on the menu.  Anyway, we never had a problem finding something to get and we did enjoy what they had. 

The real difference between Blu and the main dining room was the smaller venue that made it quieter and much easier to carry on a conversation.  It also wasn’t as crowded.  The service was very good; and it did seem more personal from all of the different types of staff there.  The Maitre D’, David from Canada, was a real pleasure.  He was always cheerful and friendly with all the guests.  He was constantly walking around trying to make sure everyone had what they needed.  He would clean tables, bring drinks, clean up spills or do anything that was needed. 

We particularly enjoyed having breakfast there in the morning.  It was very peaceful there, since not many people went to Blu for breakfast.  They made great omelets, which was my normal choice there. 

One of the very popular specialties of Blu for breakfast is the muesli that is prepared tableside.    There are a lot of options as to what to include in the mixing bowl.  It was good; but too much to eat along with an omelet, which I preferred.

I received questions from my friends about what I thought of Blu.  I did enjoy Blu and would happily book it again; but as a whole, I don’t know that Aqua Class is worth the extra cost.  The main benefit to Blu was the more intimate environment and personal service.  We were equally happy with either Blu or the main dining room food.

Ocean Liners – We enjoy the specialty restaurants on occasion; but with the prices at $50 per person, it is hard to justify over the good food in the main dining room or Blu.  We decided to go to Ocean Liners one evening with our friends Paul and Gail, since they had received a free specialty dinner as a promotion for their booking.  I was only able to get a 20% discount.  Better than nothing. The meal was very good as expected.  The highlight was the table side crepe dessert.  The preparation and presentation made it special.

Oceanview Buffet – The buffet food is usually pretty good and this cruise was no exception.  Lunch was the main meal we ate at the buffet.  There was always a good selection and we normally headed for the salad area, since the choice of items was so good and fresh.



Our Cruise Director was Rich Spacey from England.  He did a good job; but for some reason, I just didn’t care for his style.  He seemed to be too full of himself.  Many CD’s have things that they do each evening at the shows, that is their thing.  With most CD’s it is normally something they ask the crowd or say each night.  With Rich, he showed off his brightly colored socks.  Since most of the audience sits too far away to see what is on the socks, it probably isn’t as effective as he would like it to be.


Performers –
We3  -  This was a very interesting acapela group.  Rather than each of the three performers being singers, two of them acted as instruments.  One sounded like a bass guitar and the other like drums to accompany the singer.  It was very well done and an interesting show.



Ollie Mulkeen – He is a singer and trumpeter.  His trumpet playing was good; but his singing wasn’t that great.  Unfortunately, he spent more time singing and talking than playing the trumpet.


Katerina Rossa -  She was an outstanding violinist.  She played a very enjoyable music selection and mixed up the types of music.  It really showed off her skill.  I really enjoyed her show.  I was able to see the exact same show a couple weeks later when Katerina was on the Silhouette Transatlantic cruise.


Marco Romano – The flight with the originally scheduled entertainers for the two sea days in a row after the port of Ashdod, Israel didn’t arrive on time, so the ship had to find substitutes.  The first one was singer Marco Romano, who had people leaving the show early.  I would have much preferred to see the magician that had been scheduled.


Elton John Tribute – This was the other substitute performer.  When he first came out, he looked a lot like Elton, so I had high hopes.  When he started singing, he kind of sounded like him; but it went downhill fast.  Like his substitute the previous day, the audience was thinning quickly.  I left early too.


Steve Womack -  I had been hoping to have a comedian for one of the shows and on the next to last night, we finally did.  He was pretty funny, but he preferred to sing and play the guitar more than telling jokes.  It was rather disappointing.



Production Shows –
I am writing this review after being on 27 cruise days on this and the Transatlantic cruise, so my recollection of 8 productions shows I saw over the 32-day vacation is not as good as I would like it to be.  I did think that the singers and dancers on this cruise were very good.  Celebrity has been coming out with new shows.  I have found that many of them seem to have a silly story line that is confusing or distracting.  The music is more current, which I enjoy; but many of the older folks on the cruise weren’t familiar with many of the songs.

iHollywood – This show focused on the music of beloved musicals.  There wasn’t a story line and I remembered that this show had good music, so it was my favorite of the shows.  The aerilists always do a fine job in the shows.









Land of Make Believe - It is described as a modern day musical twist on classic fairy tale stories such as Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz.  It is the story of a dream wedding that gets very confusing.   The story made no sense at all.  At least the sets and costumes were colorful.   The gymnasts did a good job.








Elyria – This one was described as a fairy tale fantasy show. It was at 10:15 PM and called a seductive show for adults only.  With the show being the evening we overnighterd in Ashdod, I didn't go to it.  I was just too worn out and based on the previous production shows, I assumed that I didn't miss much.  

Celebrate the World – This show played music from different countries around the world.  A few songs would be played from each country and then there would be a background and outfit change for the next one.  There wasn't much to celebrate about this show either.






Cruise Critic Meet and Greet (www.cruisecritic.com) - We always look forward to the Connections Party, where the people we have been communicating with for many months on our roll call get to meet each other.  Around 140 people had signed up for the party and good number of them showed up in Reflections Lounge.  The Hotel Director, Niina, hosted the party.  She did a good job, but we were surprised that the Cruise Director didn’t make an appearance.  They usually do.  One of the organizers of the roll call, Ann, had contacted Cruise Critic about the large group that had signed up.  She was able to get some free prizes, like Cruise Critic hats and shirts to give away in a drawing.  It was very nice and appreciated that Cruise Critic did this.  Niina drew for the prizes.  Cruise Critic asked that we have a photo of the group taken and sent to them.  Below is one of them.




After the official party was over, there was a gift exchange for those people that had signed up.  It was fun; but did take a long time to do, since there were so many participants.


Ports of Call

Ephesus (Kusadasi), Turkey
Our first port stop would be in Turkey; but unfortunately not Istanbul.  Kusadasi is a great port stop; but since we had toured the main attraction of Ephesus during our first visit there in 2007, we decided to just take it easy and walk around the market area.  I had originally booked a tour to see Pamukkale.  This is a place I had seen photos of for years and yearned to take my own.  It is a place that has beautiful blue pools of water on snow white cliffs.  Since visitors aren’t allowed to wear shoes on the cliffs and I didn’t want to go barefoot with my left foot still recuperating, I chose to cancel it; rather than risk injuring my foot more.  I didn’t want to do anything that might limit my ability to walk around Israel; which was my highest priority for this vacation.

I always try to be up on deck to see the entrance to the various port harbors.   Since we live in very flat Florida, it is always nice to see mountains when we enter a port.


The ancient fort in the harbor was an eye catcher.

Looking out at the dock, we could see that there would be a long walk to the terminal.  It was a good thing that Carol had her TravelScoot to take her on the walking tour of the markets.

The terminal was fairly modern and like many had an assortment of shops that we were required to pass to exit the port area.

As we entered the market area, I was able to get a better photo of the statue of Ataturk, the first president of Turkey on top of the mountain, that I had seen earlier when we arrived.

The market area was interesting and pretty in some areas.  We could also see a mosque in the distance.  It was quite obvious that we were at the end of the season, since there were very few tourists in port and the streets weren’t crowded at all.  We were quite surprised at how polite and friendly the vendors were.  They weren’t very pushy and backed off when you said you weren’t interested.  Quite a pleasant surprise compared to some of the other ports we have been to.  Of course they still sell the genuine fake wathes in Kusadasi.  At least in Kusadasi, they tell you they are fake.  Most of the ports try to make you think they are the real name brand watches.



Carol and I had no interest in shopping; but Gail was trying to find a leather jacket.  Well, Kusadasi has lots of leather shops, so she was very happy.  We went along to see what she found, since we had absolutely no interest in leather jackets.  Why would we?  We live in warm Florida.  After going into several shops, she finally stopped at one that had just what she was looking for.  It was named Benny’s.  There are several of them in the market and they are all related.  The owner, Adam, was quite a good salesman.  They began the haggling process to arrive at a final price.  During this entertaining process, Adam’s nephew and assistant was picking out jackets for me to try on.  I kept telling them that we don’t need warm jackets in Florida.  Adam was quick to point out that the one’s they had picked out were very light weight leather that would be perfect for our mild winters.  So I tried one on.  It really was a nice weight and the leather was so soft.  It was a very nice jacket and Carol liked it too; but I didn’t need a new leather jacket any more than she did.  Then Adam started to show Carol jackets.  In the meantime, they had found a second jacket for Gail and even Paul was trying on a new leather jacket.  OK, I guess we all really did need new leather jackets, since the girls got two each and the guys each got one.  I told you Adam was a good salesman!  But we were all very happy with our purchases.   I had to include a photo of Adam with Gail.

Before we left the leather shop, we asked Adam for a restaurant recommendation for lunch.   He walked out to the street with us and pointed to one that we would come back to later.  We did some more walking around the market area.  It really is nice place and pretty clean.  There was a statue of a famous Greek trumpet player named Maffy Falay who was popular in the 1930’s and 1940’s. 



Paul and Gail wanted to stop for a break.  They got an interesting looking coffee and I got a Turkish beer called Efes. 

After the break, we walked around a bit more and passed by the mosque we had seen earlier.  Unfortunately the view of the sunny side of the mosque was obstructed by trees.


When lunch time came, we headed to the Saray Restaurant that Adam had recommended.  I wasn’t sure which street to turn on to get to it; but Paul was quite certain which one to take.  He is a better navigator than me and took us right to it.  We were a bit concerned that we were the only customers in the restaurant; but we hoped that Adam had steered us to the right place. 


Carol and I loved the Turkish food we had during our first visit to Turkey; but we had a guide that told us what to get.  We didn’t know what to order from the menu; but we knew we didn’t want fish.  The waiter told us that he would get us a nice selection.  That sounded good.  Then the parade of food began.  He brought out a huge piece of bread and various spreads to put on it. 

Then came egg rolls, rice, French fries and a small salad.

We were filling up when he brought out the main course.  It was a massive selection of meats, as you can see in the below photo.  They were quite good, as was everything else we had.  We had to leave a lot of the meat; because there was just too much of it. 

He asked if we wanted dessert; which we refused.  But he brought out a complimentary selection of fruits and ice cream.

Since we hadn’t asked about the price of what we were ordering, we were a bit concerned.  When the check came, we were pleased that this Turkish feast only cost about $16 each including the drinks. 

Our waiter had moved Carol’s TravelScoot out of the way while we were eating.  As we got up to leave, one of the waiters started to push it to Carol.  We told him that he could take it for a spin around the restaurant if he wanted to.  He couldn’t refuse that offer.  He certainly enjoyed it. 

On the way back to the ship we passed by an interesting statue of fishermen.


We had thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Kusadasi.  As we sailed away, we hoped that their political situation would settle down for the people of Turkey, so that tourists would be able to once again be able to visit and help their economy.  We also look forward to eventually visiting amazing Istanbul.  It will have to remain on our bucket list a little while longer than we had planned.


Rhodes, Greece
This would be our second visit to Rhodes.  The first time we took a ship tour to areas away from town and finished at the Grand Master’s Palace in the old town of Rhodes.  I thoroughly enjoyed this port; but since it was a full day tour, there was very little time to see much of the old town.  This time I planned on seeing what I had missed.  The entry into the port of Rhodes is very pretty with the old buildings, medieval structures and tall city walls surrounding it.  I liked the minarets and mosques in the distance.



I wanted to go into town and get a preview, while Carol wanted to wait until later in the day to go in.   The walk to the city entrance looked like a pretty good trek.  It actually didn’t seem that long once I started walking, probably because there was so much to look at along the way.  The beach even looked nice.


Entering through the wall, I walked through a small shopping area and came to Church of the Virgin of the Burgh ruins.  It was built in the 14th century.


Continuing on I came to a Hippocrates Square that had a nice old fountain in the middle.  I could also see the tops of the turrets at the Marine Gate entrance to the city.


Since the entrance was right there, I went through the wall to get photos from the outside.  It is a really impressive looking entrance.

My major destination for the day was to get some photos of the outside of the Palace of the Grand Masters.  Last time we toured the interior, so I wanted to see more of the exterior.  I would get my wish; but more than I wanted.  The ship map showed the general direction to the palace; but the grounds are quite large, so I couldn’t tell where the right place would be to get the best photos.  I walked in the general direction along lovely streets. 

As large as the palace is, I hadn’t been able to see it from street level, so I was concerned if I was even near it.  At last, I got a glimpse of it through the trees.  I must be getting close.

My iPhone GPS map helped more than the ship map and I finally found what appeared to be an entrance to the palace grounds near a small shopping area.  On the wall was a sign that said “Entrance to the Medieval Moat”.  I guess I had come to the right place.


The moat was really cool and I was able to look up to the palace.  I was surprised that more people weren’t taking this way to the palace.  As I continued the journey, I was getting nice views of the palace; but I was ready to get up to the palace.  This walk was taking a long time.  There were no paths out of the moat and I had walked too far to turn back to find a different way.  Thank goodness there were some photo opps along the way. 


At long last I came to a wider area in the moat where it appeared that there might be a way to actually get to the palace.  I could see the walkway on the bridge above the moat that I should have taken in the first place, so I assumed that my punishment for taking the “shortcut” was almost over.  And it was; but I had spent almost 20 minutes in the moat.


Once I found the steps up to ground level, I was really enjoying the Medieval architecture and looking down into the moat rather than looking up from it.



I remembered that the palace had a grander entrance than what I had just seen; but didn’t know where it could be.  I continued walking around the area around the palace, which was mostly shops, until I came upon a gorgeous mosques.


Not far away was a clock tower.  We were so lucky that we were in Rhodes with good weather and clear blue skies.

I soon came what looked like an opening in the gate to the main palace entrance.  At last I had found the grand entrance to the palace that I had been looking for all morning. 


I looked around and headed back to the ship, since I had been gone for almost 3 hours and it was lunch time.  I also wanted to be able to bring Carol back into the old town.  After lunch, we both headed to old town.  Since I had already scoped out the area, I was able to show her the main attractions, which didn’t include the palace moat.  It had been quite an enjoyable day and for the most part at a relaxed pace.  Something I normally don’t do.

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