Thursday, November 24, 2011

Celebrity’s “Connie”: Solstice-ized and Sanitized

Happy Thanksgiving all from off the coast of Africa. . .

I’d been thinking about that chilled glass of champagne on the silver tray – the one the staff member would hand me as I stepped aboard the ship last Sunday afternoon.

That experience, last spring, was my first impression of Celebrity’s Solstice ship and it had set the standard for my expectations for the Constellation. We are heading back to the United States aboard “Connie, an older, smaller ship than the one we sailed in the spring, but one that has been refurbished, ‘solsticized’, to feature “Solstice class” amenities.

solsticetransatlantic 001 That glass of champagne  – as well as  the chilled bottle of champagne and roses that would be waiting in the room – is standard fare for Concierge Class on this cruise line.

But as I have written before about experiences on this trip, sometimes what you expect and what you get are two different things.

Boarding in Barcelona

We knew something was up when we were greeted at the port by women in health-care smocks squirting sanitizer on the hands of arriving passengers before we went through the security gate, the first step in check in.

Another pair squirted more sanitizer on our barely dry hands as we entered the check in line, where additional staff were wiping down the check-in counters as each  guest completed check-in.

Somewhere along the line we were handed the letter explaining that on the previous cruise, from Istanbul to Barcelona, a number of passengers had been stricken with a gastrointestinal illness. . .the ship was undergoing extensive sanitization as a result.  Tips for washing hands to for preventing illness were printed on the back.

barcellonaandconnie 012 And as a result of that process, we were told, boarding would be delayed and’ once on board, our rooms would not be available until 5:30.

We were offered unlimited amounts of canned pop and bottled water, potato chips and other packed treats. We waited with other guests in a makeshift waiting room-- better recognized as the baggage claim room of the terminal -- for three hours in our case.

barcellonaandconnie 011 When called to board ( 3 p.m. for us) we were again given another round of hand sanitizing as we left the room.

As I stepped aboard the ship that is our floating home until December 3rd, instead of that champagne I’d been thinking about,  I got another dollop of hand sanitizer.

barcellonaandconnie 013 We did get to our room at 5:30 and found it a no frills, pretty bare basics place: bed and paper cups.  Our weary – but cheery --room attendant explained that not everything had been sanitized and would arrive the next day.

It is now Wednesday (and with luck I’ll get this posted on Thursday) and our room is back to normal. We got the champagne bucket Sunday evening, the bedding on Monday and flowers Monday evening.  Paper cups were replaced with glasses. Our ice bucket is filled.

Enhanced sanitation continues though as everyone is well aware we will soon be at sea for seven days  -we are still receiving generous dollops of hand sanitizer at every turn.

barcellonaandconnie 014 We are secure in the knowledge that staff members worked their tails off  to make sure the ship is as clean as it can be.  Our cabin attendant, Isabelo, began his work day Sunday at 5 a.m. and ended it at 10:30 p.m. (Makes our wait time rather insignificant by comparison.)

We popped the  cork on that champagne Tuesday evening and I had that glass of champagne I’d been dreaming of. . .we lifted our glasses to “Salud!” (Health!) and Isabelo!

I should note our adventures didn’t stop with boarding; on Tuesday afternoon our captain informed us that the Portuguese had announced a strike for Thursday so our stop in Funchal is cancelled. Stay tuned for where we ended up going. . . we are entering an area of the world with sporadic internet connections. . .

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