Pre-embarkation: We flew in from the West Coast 2 days early and spent 2 nights at the Courtyard by Marriott, Ft Lauderdale Beach. What a great time we had. It is RIGHT across from the beach, close to Las Olas Blvd, and within walking distance of the water taxi terminal. The hotel staff was superb and tended to our every need. Though it did not offer free shuttle service to the port, the $20 from the airport and to the port was worth it. It is about Location, Location, Location!
Embarkation: We were told by experienced Ft Lauderdale cruisers to arrive early, so we caught a cab and were at the port at 11:15. These port employees know what they are doing. We were on board in less than 30 minutes and headed to the Seaside Grill Buffet for lunch. Rooms were ready by 1 pm.
Stateroom: Our veranda cabin was on deck 8, slightly aft of midship. The initial shock of how small ship cabins are wears off quickly as you unpack and find there really is room for everything. We loved being port side and at most ports actually docked on this side so got to have a first hand view as we entered each port...great for photo ops. The bathrooms show a bit of wear in the tile floor, but were kept meticulously by our cabin stewards. The bed was comfortable, but our big suitcase did not fit under the bed so had to be stored until the end of the cruise, when our steward returned it like clockwork.
Dining: It's all about the food, right? This was our 6th cruise on a variety of lines. Due to a previous experience on another cruise line, we went into the experience with modest expectations. We were very pleasantly surprised. The buffet experience is what you would expect (alot of variety, good, but not outstanding quality, sometimes difficult to find seating). The afternoon snacks and unlimited ice cream made up for any short-comings. The MDR food, though, was outstanding. There were multiple choices each night, (including the stand-by menu listed on the left side). With one exception in 14 nights, the food was well prepared, served attractively and served hot...all at the same time for 8 people at the table! Truly an impressive accomplishment. We did eat at Bistro on Five once (excellent crepes, slow service), and The Tuscan Grill once (very good, but for us non beef eaters not great).
The Ship, the crew and the service: Here is where The Celebrity Constellation really shines! Each and every staff member goes out of their way to say hello and be engaging. I've chosen not to single out the cabin stewards, the MDR waiters, the buffet servers, the restroom attendants, the officers or anyone else by name, because the entire staff is soooo good! We were treated royally from embarkation until disembarkation. The officers were always visible, and we saw more than one of them checking the cleanliness of the ship facilities or stooping down to pick up a scrap of paper or errant towel. Captain Frantzis runs an extraordinary business, The Constellation, and his love of his ship and respect for his staff shows. It was the high caliber of service and outstanding food that prompted us to book our next Celebrity cruise while on board.
Port and Ship Excursions: For the most part, we did our own pre-bookings of private tours or took taxis to beaches and snorkeling spots. We shared taxis with Cruise Critic members we had met on the boards or while on board and this worked well. The 2 ship excursions we took had somewhat of a "cattle-call" feel. They were crowded and went to crowded beaches. There were a variety of activities available through the excursion desk for people to choose from if they felt more comfortable going with a ship sponsored trip.
Disembarkation: We tried for luggage valet service, but our airlines turned us down. If you are flying Southwest and you are a senior make sure you are "age cleared" before you board the ship. If we hadn't had to show age verification at airport check-in, we could have checked our luggage straight through from the ship. As it was, we were the last to disembark at 10 am and spent the morning on our balcony watching them load the crates of fresh food for the next lucky cruisers.
We had a great time on this wonderful 14 day cruise, met many fun people, (including our new Cruise Critic friends),enjoyed the sunny warm Caribbean and the excellent service of the Constellation crew.