There were nine full tour buses from the Constellation heading to Seville today. Thankfully, the seating was relatively comfortable again, as it is a 90-minute drive from Cadiz to Seville. Compared with our wonderful guide in Lisbon, today's seemed rather mediocre, but the city of Seville is so beautiful the lack of great guide didn't take away from our enjoyment of the tour.
Seville is renowned as one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, and for good reason. As we entered Seville, we passed many structures that were built as pavilions for the America/Iberian Expo of 1929. Some are used as embassies now, and others are private homes.
Next, our guide escorted us to the King's Palace, originally built in the 13th century and expanded in the 14th. The buildings and grounds show the abundant Arabic influence common to the region, which includes a distinctive asymmetrical style of arches and passageways. The walls and ceilings feature extensive use of wood inlays and ceramic tiles.
This was another journey through history, as we walked through the same great hall where the King and Queen of Spain greeted Christopher Columbus when he returned from America. We felt a bit in awe of just how "palatial" the Palace is.
After leaving the Palace we toured what is still referred to as the Jewish Quarter. This area, with its typical narrow streets, is now full of small hotels and quaint cafes.
Then we boarded the buses for a buffet lunch at the Hotel Macarena. (You can't make this stuff up. That was the name. However, during our lunch break there I never did hear the song played anywhere, except in my mind.)
Before heading back to the Constellation we stopped for a short visit at the Plaza de Espana, the Spanish Pavilion for the Expo in 1929. Just for the record: During our entire day in Seville, I never did see a barber.
The bus returned us to the ship in Cadiz just before departure, so we didn't have time to take a look at Cadiz. From the comments of fellow passengers, we missed out on a very pleasant city. Everyone seemed to agree this was the hidden jewel of the itinerary so far. Though we loved our time in Seville, we were sorry we ran out of time to get a taste of Cadiz.
After three days of some very intensive ports, we're looking forward to a day at sea, to recharge in preparation for the three magnificent ports yet to come. We've been accompanied on this cruise by a number of Celebrity Cruise Line executives and other journalists. There are more than 20 of us, and we're all getting along famously; it's a bit like traveling on a small group cruise, and we've shared the fun parts of a group cruise as well.
At Celebrity's suggestion, we've been rotating table-mates for dinner each night. All the tables are next to each other, but with the rotation we've been able to visit with the other members of the group, and experience a number of different service staff.
Due to the nature of the group, at least in the dining room, I suspect we're experiencing the best of the Constellation's dining room staff, and they've been a delight. The service has been attentive to our every need without sacrificing a friendly attitude.
I've been able to chat with our waiters, Sergio and Lorenzo, and both have displayed excellent wit and disarming charm, giving as good as they get when it comes to teasing back and forth.
On our ship's excursions we've often ended up on the same tour bus as other journalists as well as some of our Celebrity hosts. It's been interesting to share opinions of various ports and tours with other travel professionals.
It's also been interesting--and provided some good laughs--to see experienced travel writers, and even cruise line executives occasionally make the same mistakes that can befall everyday cruisers.
Case in point: Lynn Martenstein, the vice president of corporate communication for RCI/Celebrity, joined us on the ship's tour to Seville, which we were advised would involve a lot of walking. Lynn's problem arose because she's been on the road so much lately, she had just sent all her socks out to be laundered, forgetting to leave one pair for today's tour. She had assumed it would be easy enough to find and purchase a pair of socks once we got to Seville. However, this was really a historic tour, from start to finish, rather than a shopping tour.
As we toured the highlights of Seville, we checked in all the little souvenir kiosks to see if they sold socks. Mrs. Kuki and I even made this part of our quest when we skipped the tour of the cathedral. Fortunately, even with all the walking, Lynn's feet escaped getting blistered even without socks. Lynn was a great sport with the joking that went on all day about her quest for socks, and even allowed me to take a picture of her sockless feet. It added so much fun to our memories. After all the laughs we shared today we'll always remember today as "The Socks of Seville Tour."
Now when we get a glimpse of the Constellation after a day of touring, we feel we're coming home. This class of ship is among my favorites--the layout assures that traffic flows well in most areas so it doesn't get congested.
I rarely comment on color and interior design, but I have to make an exception in the case of the purple carpet in the Constellation's public areas. In my humble (and usually wrong) opinion, it doesn't work. In the corridor to our cabin, we see purple carpet, combined with orange trim and wall treatments. If I wore that combination of colors, Mrs. Kuki would probably insist we walk everywhere separately. Of the three sister ships I've sailed (Millennium, Summit and Constellation), Millennium most closely matches my taste in its interior design.
In conversations with many of the crew, we learned that when cruise lines bring new ships into the marketplace, they often take top staffers from other vessels and put them onto these ships because they want the initial season to go as smoothly as possible. With experienced staff, it's also easier to deal with "new ship glitches" that may arise.
But with Constellation, Celebrity's current building program is over. The line has no new ships on order, so many of the crew, who have been together on new vessels since Millennium came out of the shipyard, will be split up to work different ships at the end of their current contracts.
In talking to the crew, you can detect a hint of sadness, and understandably so. After sharing their lives over the past couple of years, bringing out all the new builds, I'm sure many of their relationships feel like family.
To be continued...