My wife and I recently sailed on the March 18th Constellation voyage from Abu Dhabi to Singapore. In reading recent reviews on said trip I’m wondering if we were on a different cruise altogether.
Why this Itinerary -
We’ve done the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Coastal, Transatlantic, and Mediterranean. A cruise to the other side of the world (for us) gave us an opportunity to experience new areas with minimal upheavals, knowing that we always returned to the comfort of the ship. So we booked it and started the process.
All adventures require a bit of planning; much of what can be obtained via the internet. So we studied the various countries and their ports of call, checked out the shore excursion offerings, and looked into what could be done on our own.
India extended the use of “e-Visa” to cruise ports in 2018 so after uploading the required documents, entering the required data, and payment of fees we had our visas in less than 24 hrs.
Obtaining the “Transit” visas for Sri Lanka was even easier. We received them in less than an hour.
Also checked how to get to/from the sailing and decided to book air travel on our own as offerings from Celebrity Air were all via Heathrow with lots of wait time between connections and higher costs.
And of course ordered our luggage tags which, for some reason, we received twice. But better than none at all.
Our home base is the Washington, DC area; Northern Virginia. Flew from Dulles to Abu Dhabi where we had decided on a 2-night pre-cruise stay. We returned eastbound from Singapore where we had also decided on a 2-night post-cruise stay. Thus without thinking about it we ended up with a round-the-world adventure.
Abu Dhabi -
Navigating the Abu Dhabi airport was easy: made our way from plane to Immigration, collected our luggage, found an ATM right off to obtain local currency, and loaded our luggage on one of the luxury taxis (Mercedes SUV’s); all within 30 minutes. As always we brought along more than we needed, but as we would be gone for 3 weeks why not! We selected the Aloft Hotel as it seemed to be mid way between various sights. We were at the hotel in short order, checked in, had a light dinner, and off to bed. I had forgotten to check if there were any special events in Abu Dhabi. Found out that it was Special Olympics time and that the Aloft was ground zero for this. So lots of folks in the public areas.
Next day we were made it to the Grand Mosque and arrived in time to take one of the private tours - highly recommend this to avoid the masses. From there we went to the new Louvre Museum where we had lunch and also took a private tour which greatly explained the format and setup of the museum as compared to the Louvre in Paris. Afterwards went to the gold market souks and browsed a little. Then back to the hotel.
Travel to/from all sights in Abu Dhabi was very easy by taxi. It was also very economical.
Cruise Day 1 - Abu Dhabi:
Checked out of the hotel shortly after 11 AM and promptly arrived at the cruise port, again via taxi. The terminal was small but clean and efficient.
Check-in was straightforward; dropped our bags, presented documents, surrendered passports, got our Sea Pass, and were invited to board right away. Enjoyed the welcome cocktail and made our way to the public areas to await room availability. Made reservations for specialty dining as we had purchased a 2 dinner and 1 lunch special. Had lunch at he Oceanview Cafe, found the Martini Bar, and made a quick tour of the ship to get the lay of the land.
After room availability announcement we checked out our cabin, met the room steward, found our luggage already there, and started the unpacking process. We booked Aqua class this time as we wanted to compare against Concierge Class which we had always done before. Other than the room locations and the special showers everything else seemed similar to the Concierge rooms.
Soon it was time for Muster then, after changing for dinner made we our way to Blu via the Martini Bar. We found Blu to have the quality of food that used to be at the Main Dinning Room. Service and attention were superb by the Maitre’D Laurence, Waitstaff Armando & Gary, and Sommelier Enrickkee throughout the cruise. The food offerings were always varied and very satisfying.
Cruise Day 2 - Dubai:
We signed up for a ship excursion to the Burj Khalif so we were off by 8:30 AM. This got us through early enough to avoid the crowds; very long lines seen as we came down. Then we took a bus ride through some of the “notable” areas of Dubai - tall buildings, freeways, the outside of the Emir’s palace, and the outside of a couple of luxury hotels at Palm Island. We considered driving around to see the outside of hotels a waste of time and is something that ought to be eliminated as it makes the tour just drag on and on.
Back on board for lunch at the Spa Cafe and then took to deciding which of the many activities to participate in. We have always felt that there are so many things to do that one can’t do it all. Late afternoon and early evening Trivia became our mainstay.
And, of course, a stop at the Martini Bar on our way to dinner became de-rigor.
We did see many of the shows throughout the cruise; enjoyed the large productions most of all.
Cruise Day 3 - Muscat:
We had signed up for another ship excursion which was called a “Walking Tour of Oman”. Since this was in the late afternoon we took it leisurely, starting with the Captain’s Club Elite breakfast and then wandering through the shops and such until tour time.
This excursion ended being one of those that should never have been offered. All participants came ready for a least a brisk stroll but we found ourselves just going a block here to another block there, with way too much time listening to a guide who had difficulty with English and who then sent us off to explore a museum and shop the souk. Many of the participants complained to the Excursion staff to no avail. Fortunately that was the last ship excursion we had signed up for.
Cruise Day 4 - Sea Day # 1:
We located ourselves in the pool area by mid-morning. There was never an issue with finding seating and continuously enjoyed the music, the pool activities, and the beverage offerings from the pool bars. Also had lunch at the Pool Grill.
I had signed up for several of the Cycling classes but decided that it was way too much of an effort so never made it to the gym.
This being the first “Chic” night we enjoyed a great dinner at Tuscan Grille. It was very satisfying to see many folks in their finery. The Tux came along as being retirees (pensioners for our British friends) we don’t have many opportunities to spiff up.
Cruise Day 5 - Sea Day # 2:
More pool time with lunch tidbits from the Pool Grill, Spa Cafe, and Oceanview Cafe. We did find the layout at the Oceanview difficult as one has to circle around to get something from one end and then something else from another end. Understand this is to be changed after the ship undergoes its “revolution”.
Cruise Day 6 - Mumbai (with overnight):
Wanting to see the sights with a more direct involvement we signed up with “Mumbai Magic” for a tour using local taxis, busses, and trains. This is an outfit run by students who take you throughout the major areas of Mumbai. After the shuttle dropped us off at the “Green Gate” we found our guide and embarked on a fun filled adventure using all of the above conveyances and even stopping for lunch at “Swati Snacks”, where we had a great vegetarian meal. Back to the ship exhausted but very satisfied.
My wife, being blonde, was stared at throughout the day. The guide explained that many young people who are visiting Mumbai like to ask for selfies. So we had a good laugh.
Cruise Day 7 - Mumbai:
This day we went on a tour of the Dharavi slum, the second largest in the world after the one in Pakistan. Again, we did this with a local outfit - “Young Tours”. The tours are led by actual residents and our guide led us through the area visiting various enterprises, enjoying a cup of special Chai tea, and even visiting his home. It was amazing to see so many people being industrious from the lowest job upwards.
Cruise Day 8 - Goa:
After two days under the unrelenting sun and exhausted from all that touring we stayed on board to recoup. Spent the day mainly inside and participated in various activities. We did enjoy a stint at the Persian Gardens.
Cruise Day 9 - Sea Day # 3:
More pool time; again no issues with finding seating.
This was “Chic” night number 2. By now we were “regulars” at the Martini Bar which meant that the stop before dinner started earlier. Folks were a little less dressed up but still very smart looking.
Cruise Day 10 - Cochin:
Many on the cruise signed up for “Tours with Lijo” in all of the ports in India. We elected to take the Cochin tour which was essentially a leisurely ride along the backwaters of the many rivers and canals on a houseboat with lunch. The tour was well organized; each group of 20 was assigned to a houseboat, and we cruised along for several hours with a nice lunch served halfway through. The only negative was the long ride to/from - an hour and a half each way. This was the complaint about most tours at all ports - it required a very long bus ride to get to the sights and back.
Cruise Day 11 - Colombo:
Here we took a walking tour with “Colombo Walks”. Harold, who we met at the port gate after a shuttle ride, gave us a view of various aspects of Colombo - Pettah market, Red mosque, Hindu temple, Grand Oriental Hotel where we enjoyed tea, Fort Clock Tower which used to be a lighthouse, presidential residence, and the Dutch Hospital precinct.
Tonight was diner at Sushi on Five. We had exchanged a lunch for a dinner so this gave us expanded offerings from which to choose. Good overall.
Cruise Day 12 - Sea Day # 4:
Back to the pool for the morning. In the afternoon we enjoyed the Elite formal Tea.
Cruise Day 13 - Sea Day # 5:
Pool time again with more wanderings throughout the ship.
This was “Chic” night number 3. It seemed like everyone wanted to look their best at the last dress-up night.
We had dinner at Q-Sine and were overwhelmed with the multiple choices. Interesting experience.
Cruise Day # 14 - Phuket:
This was the only “tendering” port. The ship anchored off Patong Beach and a myriad of launches ferried everyone to a small pier; about a 15 minute ride.
We decided to go to a different beach which was rated best beach # 2 in Phuket - Kata Beach. Found an ATM right by the pier for local currency and took a taxi for the short ride to Kata Beach. Secured chairs and an umbrella; spent the afternoon enjoying the warm water and small crowds. Another taxi ride back to Patong and back to the ship via tender.
Cruise Day # 15 - Sea Day # 6:
Spent a good portion of the day packing as the cruise was coming to an end.
I had purchased several Lotto tickets and as there had been no winners anyone who had tickets was invited to the Casino for a drawing to participate in a slot tournament. Not being gamblers this was our only foray into the casino. My name was drawn and I was one of six that enjoyed the slot event. As luck would have it I ended being the winner - a $100 credit! Now how to spend it - was offered the option of redeeming it at one of the stores. So off we marched to the store areas to see how we could put the winnings to good use.
This was also our last dinner at Blu where we once again enjoyed the attention of the entire staff and said our farewells.
Bags out by 10 PM and another cruise was winding down.
Cruise Day 16 - Arrival in Singapore:
Up early so we could have a leisurely breakfast at Blu. Then off to the Elite area to await our disembarking number. Our number was finally called and we sadly left Constellation.
We found the cruise terminal to be well laid out. Through immigration quickly, located our baggage, and off to find an ATM and a taxi. Only complaint is that the ATM is on an upper floor rather than on the exit level. Finding a taxi was easy enough and we were soon off to our hotel.
We picked the Hotel Fort Canning for our 2-night stay. This was the old British Army headquarters and has been very nicely remodeled. Only negative is that while relatively close to the MRT the climb uphill is exhausting in the heat and humidity. Thus it was taxis every time we left and returned. We did use the MRT to shuttle between the various sites once we were down on the flats.
We took on the usual major sights over our 2-day stay including the Arab Street area, the Chinese area, the light show at Gardens by the Bay, a climb to the top at Marina Bay Sands with an obligatory cocktail at Ce La Vi, and so on.
A big find for us, being somewhat foodies, was lunch at National Kitchen by Violet Bon. Violet is considered the grand dame of Singaporean cooking.
And we enjoyed the satay offerings at Lao Pa Sat hawker center. This is where one of the adjoining streets is closed at night and tables and satay being cooked line the street.
Again a taxi to the airport with all our luggage and we started the long journey home.
This cruise did live up to being a journey to “exotic” destinations. It gave us an insight to areas of the world that we had not been to and probably will not return to. Most of the ports where the ship docked were industrial areas requiring a shuttle to the outside; time consuming.
We found Constellation to be well maintained and all staff members were always helpful and accommodating. After being on many Solstice ships and several RCCL mega ships we were unsure as to how we would find a smaller ship. Needless to say we took to the size of Constellation right away; easy accessibility to all parts of the ship. One thing we both miss is a Murano class restaurant.
We did make our way through all of the eating and drinking venues on the ship other than the main restaurant and Luminae which is reserved for suites. All of them met our needs at various times of the day.
We were unable to participate in all of the onboard activities; too many things to do with not enough time. For example we never made it to the Rooftop Terrace to watch a movie. For some reason we also did not make as much use of our balcony as we have on other cruises.
We never encountered an overt “up sell”. Yes, there were staff members seeking takers for the specialty restaurants and drink packages. But all it took was a smile and an “already taken care of” reply and we were never asked again.
All in all we were very satisfied with our voyage. Until next cruise!