Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! No, I wish I were back on the Constellation today, but this post is a memory of our Valentine’s from 3 years ago. I logged onto Facebook this morning and saw I had memories of three years ago, so I thought I’d do a post about this and the many happy Valentine’s sailings we took.
Tonight as I write this, however, I’m in frigid Redwood Falls, Minnesota for the week on business. Instead of warm ocean sunsets, I am overlooking a sunset over rural fields with patches of snow. My dinner tonight with a co-worker in this small rural town is a far cry from the balmy Bahamian breezes of yesteryear, but I made the most of it as I watched all the other couples dining out together at Duffy’s restaurant. The ornamental display in the flower pot out front reminded me it was Valentine’s, not that I needed a reminder. I had a nice ribeye for dinner, and the waitress was wonderful and fun – sympathetic to us being away for Valentine’s. She said my co-worker and I were among the happiest people she had seen all night; and judging by the lack of smiles I think she was right.
My motel, the Redwood Lodge is the best in town as rated by Trip Advisor. Well, when there are only three motels, and one of them has all ratings of all Poor or Terrible that means the bar isn’t set to high. Actually the Redwood Lodge is pretty decent and clean, with a rustic feel, and even has a huge jacuzzi in the bathroom. The floors are a bit creaky, but the wifi is quick, and for a rural motel it will do for my 3 nights here. A fireplace welcomes you in the lobby, and the staff is very nice.
I flew up yesterday, and will be here until Friday, although I’m staying at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis Airport on Thursday night since I have a 6:30am flight on Friday. Steve (DOS) and I usually take a trip for President’s Day weekend, and this year we are doing a quick trip to Sao Paulo Brazil. Fortunately the weather seems like it’s pretty mild for a winter in Minnesota, as I was a bit worried about potential heavy snow this week delaying my departure on Friday. I’m scheduled to get back to Orlando at 2:45pm (if the flight’s on time) and then leave at 5:50pm on another flight to Miami, and ultimately Sao Paulo at 10pm, so Friday will be a LONG travel day.
But more about that later; now a flashback to our wonderful cruise from three years ago today.
We sailed out of Ft. Lauderdale for a four day President’s Day Valentine’s cruise. Joining Steve (DOS) and I were my brother Andy and his partner Art, and my good friends Ed and his Aunt Gladys, and my neighbors Kenny and Mary; all of whom are like part of the family. Here is (right to left) Steve UNO (me), Steve DOS, my brother Andy, my neighbor’s Kenny and Mary, and forward left is Andy’s partner Art, taken the night before the cruise at Outback in Ft. Lauderdale.
Ed and his Aunt Gladys joined us aboard the next day as they live in nearby Miami.
DOS and I were in Penthouse 6147 which is the port aft Penthouse (one of two) and covers some 1,400 square feet, and nearly 1,000 foot balcony! We have sailed on many cruises, and this is truly one of the nicest suites at sea due to the size, aft location, and humongous balcony, which is ideal for entertaining. We sailed this trip on either the Constellation or virtually identical Millennium for four years in a row in this Penthouse (or the adjacent one 6148) until a group chartered the whole ship for this sailing starting in 2015 – how dare they! (We actually already had a deposit for the Penthouse and adjoining sky suite booked a year ahead of time, but were bumped out by the group a few months into our booking – not a nice thing for Celebrity to do to Elite Plus Penthouse guests!)
The Penthouse on the M-Class ships, unlike the newer Celebrity and other ships, is located in the aft of the ship, and the deck six location occupies half of the width of the deck with it’s wrap around deck offering view from the aft, side, and facing forward. The balcony has both sunny and shaded areas as well as an outdoor jacuzzi, lest it be a rainy day and you can’t use the indoor jacuzzi in the master bathroom.From the entrance foyer, to the bedroom, to the two baths, baby grand piano, and Butler’s pantry, the Penthouse is truly a destination in itself, you really could stay in this ‘apartment at sea’ without going ashore.
Even though this was only 3 short years ago, it seems a world away from the changes in sailing of today. We’ve sailed in the Penthouse on longer trips too, more recently the 14 night South America/Panama Canal trip of March 2015, and yet even then we could feel the tide changing with the new and relaxed (some would say mass-market) cruising concepts. We actually enjoy dressing for dinner on formal nights, and this cruise was no exception. Unfortunately today the cruising industry has become much more casual; too causal if you ask old-timers like us, although like everything, things change over time. We have recently started enjoying river cruises, which are really causal, but more destination oriented with land tours, rather than the party go-lucky atmosphere on Caribbean cruises.
On this cruise and other Valentine’s cruises we started off with a sail away party in our room. I brought Valentine’s decorations with us (DOS thought were tacky decorations considering the elegant Penthouse Suite decor), but it made for a festive atmosphere. We had registered for the Cruise Critic party, and invited some of the people to our suite for sail-way. We ended up having a large crowd and fun time indeed – in fact some of the people we had met on previous Valentine’s cruises sailed a couple years in a row with us!
We love the Constellation, which was the last of the four Millineum class (M-Class) ships, and entered service in 2002. The mid-sized 2,200 passenger ship has aged beautifully, and while not the largest and grandest ship with rock climbing walls, bumper cars, skating rinks and water slides, it does have charm, class, a beautiful theater, excellent specialty restaurants, spa, thalassotherapy pool, and a more refined elegance than found on many of the mass-market ships. We enjoyed dining at the specialty dining venues each night (although they now have a separate dining room for suite guests).
On formal night we had a small party for our group, and invited a few friends we had met on the previous Valentine’s cruise. We were entertained in the suite by my brother Andy, who played the baby grand piano for us, while our Butler arranged for hors dourves, wine, and drinks. The outdoor breeze on the balcony with the moon lighting up the aft deck and ocean below was mesmerizing and brings back wonderful memories to this day.
Celebrity recently replaced it’s signature Ocean Liner’s restaurant with another dining venue, which is really a disappointment for Celebrity old-timers like us due to it’s refined elegance and high quality cuisine and table-side service offered. Yet on this sailing three years ago it was a classy and intimate dining oasis for us. in Ocean Liner’s was always a wonderful ‘night out’, but especially on Formal Nights such as this when the guys were in tuxes and the ladies all decked out in red for Valentine’s.
Years ago when the ship was first sailing, this specialty dining room actually had a harpist that played during dinner. That was phased out over time to a pianist, and later a player piano, and then to simply piped in music. Bitter sweet changes over time, but still bring back wonderful not so distant memories. We now miss the fancy triangular shaped butters, fancy appetizers, table-size service and freshly prepared chocolate soufflé desserts!
Of course part of the fun of cruising is ultimately docking somewhere, which in this case was Nassau and Key West. While we’ve been to both many times, it’s always a fun and easy stop to make, and you don’t arrive back to the ship worn out like all day touring in some other exotic foreign locale.
So here’s wishing you and your family, spouse, significant other, and friends, a very Happy Valentine’s Day, and everlasting love!
XOXOXOXO from The Steve’s!
Here is a link to the full gallery from this cruise; also under the home page Cruise menu. Valentine’s Cruise.