Sunday, September 18, 2011

After 6 days of traveling on our own it was time to hit the ship! We were all excited to get the chance to indulge in some ultimate laziness (nobody more than Kent), but first we had to get to the cruise terminal, which is located about a 10 minute walk east of the Centraal Station.

Our trip onto the ship was something of an adventure. Despite willing to go on vacation practically every month, it has become something of a joke how cheap my friend Chris is when it comes to taking cabs. Since we still had time on our 24 hour tram access card, instead of simply taking a cab to the cruise passenger terminal, we dragged our suitcases the three blocks to the tram stop where Chris assured us we could take the #25 all the way to the terminal. The trouble began as we were pulling our suitcases; it began to rain. Once we got on the #25 we found out that it wasn't in fact going to the terminal, which would mean we would need to take a bus or walk 15 minutes from Centraal Station. AND THEN. Before we got to the station, the tram in front of us was hit by a small truck, and we were kicked off the tram along with all our luggage. As it was now pouring rain, we FINALLY convinced Chris to
take a cab to the terminal and the rest of our journey was completed without incident.

Getting onto the ship itself was relatively painless. You hand off your baggage to one of the many porters waiting at the front of the terminal (the cruise company provides pre-labeled luggage tags that you put on before you get to the terminal). You are then handed a boarding number and go through a check-in process similar to an airline. I would say within 30 minutes we were on the ship in our cabin and our bags arrived only a few hours later.

These first few days on the ship have been quite relaxing, a welcome change from our sight-seeing in Iceland and Amsterdam. We started off with a day at sea while we travelled to Germany (specifically the port at Wernemunde). Many people had booked excursions into Berlin that required a three hour train ride each way, but we had gone with a more relaxed Segway tour of the port town. Unfortunately, our tour was unceremoniously cancelled (maybe due to lack of interest?) and so we just kind of wandered around and enjoyed the sunshine and cool breeze for a few hours. Then we had another day at sea which basically involves laying around, participating in some activities (such as a lecture about the history of St.Petersburg, Russia) and relaxing.

Compared to the other cruises I have been on, which were with the more budget cruise line Carnival, I can definitely tell a difference being on Celebrity. The ship is smaller and the food, rooms, and shows are of a better quality. But don't get me wrong: being a cruise ship the entertainment show are still extremely cheesy. But that's part of the draw (for some people).

There were many performance groups on the ship including an a capella men's quartet (called Lemon Squeezy--you can find them on Facebook), a classical trio, party band, DJ, guitarist, and piano bar player/singer. And of course, there are the Celebrity Constellation dancers and singers who put on such shows as the Salute to Hollywood. They are really talented, but oh my goodness it was cheesy. We only made it to that one main-stage show, it was just too much ridiculousness for me to handle--at least while sober.

Another great thing about cruise ships (and why a lot of people go on them) is the food. For those of you who haven't been on the cruise, let me lay it out for you. Every night, there is a sit-down dinner in the main dining room. You sign up for an earlier or later seating when you buy the cruise, and eat at the same table with the same waiter staff through the cruise. Usually, you have random people assigned to your table, ad while Chris, Kent, and I sat at an eight person table, our assigned seatmates never showed up. Maybe it was something we said.

For breakfast and lunch there is open seating in the dining room, but most people go to the 24 hour buffet where you have more options and more flexibility. You have your standard buffet food, but also a grill with burgers and fries etc. and special late night offerings. The reason why so many people gain weight cruises is because there is always plentiful and free food to be had no matter the time of day. Thank goodness they also have a really good gym and even an outdoor running track that I was able to take advantage least until I busted my ankle.

There are also two specialty restaurants on the ship: one French, one Italian. There was a $25 charge to eat at these, but they offered two 20% off nights that we took advantage of. Both times we ate at the Italian one and the food was AMAZING. Totes worth it.

Even though our assigned dinner partners didn't show up, we did meet some nice people who decided to randomly sit at our table one night. Two older couples from South Africa who have been extensive world travelers (and are Jewish!). One of the ladies is one of the premiere South African diva opera singers and we got along with them all famously. We met up with them for drinks on several occasions and would often bump into them around the ship.

Coming up next: Stockholm, Sweden!

The Celebrity Constellation

Our stateroom aboard the ship, the couch in the back opened into my bed.

Chris orders dinner in the main dining room with our head waiter, Bobby

The dessert spread at the special Sunday brunch (note the ice sculpture)

Me doing my best bathing beauty impression at the indoor pool

Our South African friends at the martini bar

Our main dining room water staff: Bobby (from Indian), Tarjeche (from Macedonia), and Peggy (from Nicaragua)

Out waitstaff at the specialty restuarant, the Tuscan Grill. Mustafa (a giant flirt) and Sennon.

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