January 05, 2024

Jan 3, 2024 Celebrity Constellation

The first cruise of the year. We chose this cruise because of it unusual itinerary. Sailing from Tampa we first go to New Orleans, La. and then to the Western Caribbean.  There are only a couple of cruises a year that do this, and that was reason enough. Being honest, adding to the destination is the fact this is a 9 day cruise on a smaller, older ship. Facts that keep the younger cruisers at home or on different ships. No zip lines or wave riders here.

Our assigned boarding time is 12:30, meaning that we can depart from home after 10 and still have time to stop for breakfast on the way. For a few extra bucks I have booked valet parking to avoid any hassle with the car.

We are anxious to get under way and leave the house a few minutes before 10:00. Traffic is lite, we are late enough to miss the morning congestion. I never know which way to go to Tampa. Sometimes it is faster to take 50 to 95, other times 27 to I-4.  Today my car GPS says 27 and I-4.  

After the usual pit stop at a McDonalds, I arrive at the terminal 30 minutes before my assigned time. There is little traffic. I am quickly directed to the "Valet" line. Our luggage is handed over along with the car keys. I carefully check that I am not leaving anything in the car.

With passport and printed boarding pass in hand we are quickly processed and board the ship. The agent really appreciated that we had printed boarding passes. Much faster and easier for them than scanning from someone's phone.

Not that the Constellation is a small ship, but the gangway goes down to board the ship, not up as with most vessels. I have sailed the Constellation before, but it may have been ten years. I remember none of her, but definitely a pleasure to be on a smaller ship where it is only a few minutes walk from one end to the other.

Cabins are not open, but we are allowed to drop our carry on bags and get our keys while the crew is still preparing for our stay. A much appreciated change in policy.

The first stop is the dining room to change our dining time. When I booked, only 8:30 was available. Impossible for either of us. As I have matured the food digestion has definitely slowed down.

We are added to the wait list for 6:00 PM dining. No promises, but she will let me know. I have little influence with Celebrity being in the middle of the status ranks.

The second stop is at shore excursions to cancel our tour in New Orleans. The weather forcast has been for cold temperatures and heavy rains in the afternoon and evening. A boat tour through the swamps is not worth getting cold and soaked.

Next stop is to check in at our muster station. Of course at the other end of the ship. Everythig is always at the other end. In the process a walk thru the casino. A smoke free casino. Finally! Not that I am a gambler, but the smoke often wafts thru the ship to other areas.

Our luggage arrives and everything is quickly stowed away. For a ship that is over  20 years old, the accomodations are very spacious with ample storage room. Yes the shower has a plastic curtain instead of a glass door, but the shower itself is larger than on many of the newer ships.

A beverage or two in the lounge on deck 11 as we sailaway and head out of the Tampa Bay Harbor. About 2 1/2 hours after departure we will pass under the Skyway bridge. I say pass under as our clerance is less than 5 feet.

Before we get to  the bridge we hear the first medical emergency announcement. Thirty minutes later the captain tells us he will be stopping the ship to transfer a passenger to the coast guard for transfer to a shore side medical facility. No details are given other than that the passenger is stable.

Dinner in the buffet is a little disappointing, but better than trying to eat at 8:30 or 9:00. Steak is being offered. I didn't know you could slice a piece of meat so thin and still call it steak. Regardless, I don't cruise for the dining. If I did, I would often be disappointed.

Shortly after passing under the bridge, the ship comes to a stop, the passenger is transferred to a coast guard vessel, and we resume our journey.

The passenger manifest on this ship is definitely more mature. If I don't count any of the crew, I think I have seen one person under 30.  Surprisingly though, the number of first time cruisers is quite substantial.

The production show is decent, a tribute to classic songs, mostly from the 60's and 70's. the theater is about half full.

It has been a long day. We turn our clocks back an hour for the next week, and retire early. In the Gulf of Mexico the seas are about 3 feet and impact litlle roll and pitch to the ship. As predicted rain showers arrive just after dark and continue for much of the night.

I will say tomorrow is a sea day, but in reality it is a Gulf day.