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. More
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. Less
Celebrity Constellation Cruises to the Southern Caribbean
We couldn't decide what to do in Antigua, so we tried the Sandals Day Pass. It was a nice change from the beach days and allowed us to experience the Sandals amenities without committing to a week's stay. We enjoyed the fabulous pools, lush grounds, friendly service and unlimited smoothies (alcohol if you wanted). It was at the top end of what we would pay for an excursion, but was a great experience.
Aruba was our first port, so we were just warming up. We used the cheap bus system to get to Eagle Beach. Though the beaches are public, most are in front of a resort and it can be difficult to get lounges and especially umbrellas. Plan accordingly. Remember when you are buying food or drinks the price is quoted in foreign currency so pay and tip appropriately.
We took a pre-booked (not ships) catamaran excursion to swim with the turtles and snorkel the ship wreck. Advice: Leave the ship early. Our excursion left at 9:30 and by the time we got to the turtles there were only 3 swimming around with people everywhere trying to touch them. I think they had already been well-fed and were going home. We enjoyed the catamaran experience, but it was a very rough water day, so the ride was bumpy and the water was cloudy.
This was one of our favorite islands. We had read about Cas Abao Beach and took a taxi with some friends for the 30 minute ride. Loved the beach, the sand and the snorkeling. We also walked the town later and got to see the floating bridge in action.
This is a very lush and hilly island. We took a private taxi tour with Cruise Critic friends to Seven Sisters and hiked in to the waterfalls. We left the port early and got there before the crowds. If you can walk on rocks, through water, and hike up and down hills it's worth doing at least once! We spent the afternoon at Grand Anse beach which was not very crowded but very pretty. Leave the driving on this island to someone else. The roads are narrow, twisty and crowded.
St Lucia is a beautiful island...very mountainous and green. We had pre-arranged a tour with Spencer Ambrose by water taxi to "Swim beneath the Pitons". Our tour guide got us there FIRST and there were only 12 of us for an hour before the crowds arrived. This was the best snorkeling of the entire trip. The shopping area at the port on this island is very nice and we found it to be a good place to purchase souvenirs and gifts to take home.
On St Martin/Marteen we took the ship's excursion (by bus) that stopped in Marigot for an hour and then on to Orient Beach. The tour bus waited for passengers from another ship to arrive, so we got a late start. Marigot is somewhat European in flavor, and 1 hour did not do it justice. We liked the shopping at the newer mall hear the marina, but never got the chance to find the Patisseries and Boulangeries. We plan to stay longer next time. On to Orient Beach. Thire were hoards of people and lounges laid out one next to the other. Umbrellas were first come first served. We were given a chip to "buy" lunch at a hut on the beach. The food looked inedible and unsanitary. We passed on lunch. This was our most disappointing tour of the trip. Next time we will do our own thing via private tour or taxis.
St. Thomas was beautiful but very crowded with 5 ships in port. We took the snorkeling trip to Sapphire Beach. It was great when we arrived (early) and we snorkeled for an hour...not too many fish. Then the ships excursions started arriving. A beautiful white sand beach overrun with crowds and more lounge chairs lined up and down the beach...so close to each other you could hardly stand up next to your own. The Sapphire Beach Resort at least had a good dive shop and a respectable looking eating place. Our tour left early and dropped us off at the shopping area at the cruise terminal. One quickie trip through and we could see that we had no interest in another so-so jewelry store offering.