Solsticizing A Constellation

by Geoff Edwards

This trip came together quickly. Celebrity Cruises has just finished “solsticizing” the Constellation and as I write this from Amsterdam, it is the summer solstice. So I figured, given the coincidence, I could make some kind of connection. Like I said, it happened quickly.

Solstice was the first of Celebrity’s new class of cruise ship, with two other Solstice class following. These new builds have amenities beyond imagination. How about a quarter acre of lawn for croquet, bocce ball, or just to cover your wriggling toes. The lawn remains exclusive to the big guys, but enough has been passed down to make Constellation seem like a new build all on its own.

Of course every trip has a beginning, like how to get from LA to Amsterdam. United Airlines had some room on a flight connecting in Washington, DC. They offer premier seating for around $150 or so; it’s a good deal. No charge for the second bag, fast TSA lane, priority check in and boarding, and 5 extra inches of seat space. Amazing what a difference that makes.

Unfortunately, when I looked at my boarding pass, the seat assigned looked to be too far to the rear to be “premier”. The guy who did my tickets allowed as how it was a premier seat and not to worry. I followed his advice and didn’t worry until I was on the plane. Not a premier seat! It was then off the plane fighting the oncoming passengers and their backpacks to the gate counter. The UAL representative fluttered her fingers over the computer keys and printed out another boarding pass. There was a big difference between10A and 37A. I smiled and thanked her, but she didn’t look up. Maybe I’m being cranky, but it all reminded me of why I had stopped flying United.

We landed in Amsterdam at 6:45 AM. Hearing that I wanted to go to the cruise pier, the driver said, “Which one?” We concluded that the one “for the big boats” was the one. This is Euro land and the cab to the pier cost $100 US.

Ok I’m at the right pier, Constellation is shiny bright in the sun, and we board at 11. It’s only 8 AM, but no big deal. Oops, big deal. There was norovirus on the last two cruises, and additional sanitation means boarding is delayed until 4 PM.

Celebrity is offered complimentary shuttle bus service to downtown Amsterdam and gave a 25 dollar shipboard credit to cover lunch in the city. I’m too exhausted to go in to town, so I’ll spend the next hours washing my hands.

The boarding area was crowded,

but no one seemed upset at the wait. Most reading or chatting, but a few trying to get as close to the ship as possible.

Promptly at 4, we boarded by the numbers issued at check in. The passengers are a diverse group. It was the first time in a long time that, in the mix of different languages, I heard no Spanish.

Security was tight and required us to take off our watches, but not our shoes. I wondered what they thought I could put in my watch that would not work more effectively in my shoes.

Safely in my cabin, I grabbed my cell to call home. NO SERVICE!!! I had to call on the cabin phone ($15.00) to ask my wife to call T-Mobile and get me the service I paid for. She did, and I’m now connected. Weird stuff.

We left Amsterdam at 7 PM.

I have late sitting (8:30 PM).  My tablemates were a lovely couple from England. Maybe it’s the English, maybe it’s just them, but they scrutinized the menu, trading suggestions for 15 minutes. Just as they had decided, our waiter showed up and pointed out the different choices available; the same each night from the left page, the right page would change nightly.

“We didn’t know that.”

Another 5 minutes back and forth. By the time they were set, I had completely forgotten what I wanted.

The food was excellent: goat cheese soufflé, lobster bisque soup, and Grandmothers Coq au vin. For some reason I can’t remember my grandmother ever putting anything named Coq on the table.

My tablemates were chatty and interesting. We were near a view window

and  could see all the lovely Netherlands greenery.

It took 4 hours to travel the channel and get to sea.

The problem with late sitting for me is, well, how late it is. The show for lthe late sitting crowd doesn’t start until 11 PM. Trouble is, I start to snore at 10:55, so as much as I hate to leave pleasant company, I’ll have to change to early sitting at 6 PM. Oh well, I can tell the same stories to new people.

Tommorrow at sea heading for Alesund, Norway.

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