Crossing Concierge Class

MOMENTS AFTER WE ARRIVED, our room steward Frederic introduced himself and said, “Here’s the menu.” I thanked him and explained that we’d be heading topside to The Seaside Café for lunch. “No, no,” he said. “This is the pillow menu!”

My wife Michael and I were on a 12-day Atlantic crossing sampling Concierge Class on Celebrity Cruises’ Constellation. Celebrity created Concierge Class to bridge the gap between a pricey butler suite and a standard ocean view cabin with balcony.

The pillow menu was just one of the amenities. There were four choices: Conformance, Goose, Body and Isotonic. The latter, according to the menu, reacts to your body with foam that sculpts and contours — self-adjusting according to your body dynamics. As I read the description, Michael’s eyebrow shot up. I chose Goose.

Our cabin was about the same size as an ocean view with balcony, but we Concierge Cruisers got binoculars, Frette robes, special bathroom toiletries, preferred dinner seating, nightly hors d’oeuvres, daily fresh fruit and flowers, special towels, invitations to special events, three, count ’em, three umbrellas and special in-suite breakfast offerings.

The Other Menu
Concierge Class guests also may order food from the regular dining room menu to be served in their cabins. Otherwise, the dining experience was the same for all passengers.

Celebrity has a well deserved reputation for its dining and service. In the San Marco restaurant, our waiters never missed a beat and graciously extended themselves to make sure we were satisfied. The Ocean Liners Restaurant, Constellation’s alternate dining venue, takes the dinner experience to another level entirely. Noting the surcharge of $30 per person (including gratuity), I initially balked, but it was worth all that — and more.

I’m not certain how many waiters took care of us, but enough for a few tables of bridge. We ordered from the “Menu Exceptional,” six courses, and for $27.95 more (the price of one of the less expensive wines on the Ocean Liners wine list), the Sommelier served a glass of wine paired for each course.

For the casually dressed set, there were beautifully set tables in the nightly transformed Seaside Café, with full wait service and an attractive menu. A $2 per person tip was suggested, but if you want to save that $2 for the slots, around the corner is a self-service sushi bar. Among the various sushi rolls was the Japanese Bagel, which consisted of salmon and cream cheese wrapped in seaweed.

During the day Constellation offered a full buffet service, divided into sections according to food types. Pasta and Italian (including pizza made to order) in one area, sandwiches freshly made in another. The Spa quarter offered a more health constrained fare. I loved the Salmon Tartar. Even with 1,992 passengers on this cruise, no line I encountered was ever more than four or five deep, including the food areas.

Ports of CallLeaving Dover, we visited Amsterdam, Brussels, Le Havre, Cork, Halifax, and (tada!) Bayonne, New Jersey. In Amsterdam, we took a canal tour and learned that the houses along the canal were taxed according to width, so the devious Dutch built them deep but narrow. So much so, that furniture could not be delivered up the steep and skinny stairs. Most homes were equipped with outdoor hoists for the large stuff. We also learned that Heineken once used water from the canals to make its beer. No longer, though the image stays with me.

After a tour of the many canals bisecting Amsterdam, it was time for a pot of coffee. Naturally, we went to a coffee house. Oops! The big cannabis plant outside should have warned us that the only pot inside was to smoke. For coffee, look for a café.

We passed on other tours. In Brussels, we spent the day in Blankenberge, a delightful cobble-stoned village with friendly people, lovely small shops and tons of chocolate. In Cork, we hung around the port, Cobh (pronounced Cove), our last stop before crossing.

Coincidently, it was also the last stop of the Titanic. To get to Cork was almost an hour on a bus, and the main tour attractions, Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone, were another five miles out of town. To kiss the Blarney Stone, you had to climb 100 steps, and then do a Cirque De Soleil backward lean to press your lips to the magic rock. Not me! Who knows where all those lips have been?

In Halifax, we came across a bus named FRED (Free Ride Everywhere Downtown) that runs every half hour. FRED stops at the ship terminal, and lets you on and off at shopping areas and tourist attractions. The driver will point out the sights. The ship charges $36 for much the same tour. Both will point out that the local McDonald’s has MacLobster meals. Nova Scotia means new Scotland, and it seemed appropriate when a lone bagpiper serenaded us as Constellation eased away from the pier.

About the only hitch we had in our Transatlantic crossing was the lack of contact. “Celebrity Today,” the ship’s paper, seemed to have lost touch altogether. The day after we left France, the paper featured a piece about getting to know France. The day after we left Ireland and had started across the Atlantic toward America, a story began, “As we cruise the Atlantic Ocean toward Europe.” I checked my bearings, and for a moment wished it were true that we were headed to Europe to begin the voyage all over again.

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One Response to “Crossing Concierge Class”

  1. Alexa Says:

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