TRAVEL TO FLL - We flew South West from Denver and connected to the FLL flight in Kansas City. We brought our own food. So, starvation was not a factor. One of the planes had Wi-fi. So, all was good. The passengers and crew were all pretty sane.
At the TSA checkpoint, since we had lots of toys (Cameras, Ipads and Cell Phones) it took a few seconds for the trays to be loaded. Unencumbered Spring Breakers were behind us and did not wait for us to pass security. They just crowded in the lines. When we moved back in the line to follow our stuff through and get screened, we caught flack from a selfish Denver co-ed for "crowding". I fly on business and pleasure about 5 to 10 times a year. As we all know, the TSA Security process is serial. The TSA folks should have been monitoring the lines.
HOTEL - We stayed at the Hampton Inn on Stirling. It was clean, friendly, quiet and had a great breakfast. They also provide free transportation from FLL to the hotel. Transfers to the cruise port are arranged at the front desk.
EMBARKATION - After a quick X-Ray of our carry-on luggage, we walked to the DECK 8 Counter. Our paperwork was ready and we were quickly boarded. It took about 35 minutes from entering the terminals to stepping on the Constellation. The terminal at 24/25 is pretty much an old warehouse. We were greeted onboard with glasses of champagne and lots of friendly faces. Our room was ready at 13:30. That allowed time for a hamburger by the pool. Our luggage came in about 16:00. We were pretty rushed trying to put up a Easter Flag on the railing of our balcony (before we passed the "PortFever" video Camera).
As stated by other "Connie" guests, you receive the safety review in the assembly area for lifeboats. Ours was A4 in the forward theater. Lifejackets are not required. Our review was not terribly delayed by stragglers.
THE SHIP - We found the Constellation to be very clean. No smells or other issues. We had room 8021. That is a veranda located four openings back from the forward superstructure on the port side. Except for the normal nightly creaking of the vinyl patio door and other seams, the room was quiet. The "sea effect" was probably heightened by being high in a forward room. However, we did not have any issues. I could never tell if it was the sea or the wine causing me to bounce off of walls (smile). Some rust was visible on the balcony railings. But, it's a ship. For example, even the newer Koln-Dusseldorfer Rhine River cruise ship "The Nederland" showed visible rust when I spent four nights on it in 1968.
Our cabin stewards were Thanawatt and Everett. Both provided excellent service and were very well recognized (beyond what's included in our fares). They met and exceeded every expectation. We had 7 AM breakfast on the veranda at each cruise port. It's entertaining to watch the activity and scenery as this ships are moored at the pier. .
While in St Thomas, there were repairs to the water system on our side of the ship. Water was off from 10AM to 1PM. Upon arriving back from St Thomas the water system worked fine after a few seconds of black debris cleared the system.
There were rumors of a minor outbreak and quarantine on deck three. That was all I heard. It was a healthy ship from what I could see.
I should have bought stock in that manufacturer. As passengers went from place to place we had a choice between self serve or an attendant squeezing Purell in your hands. I always took a medical grade product called "PAWS" ashore for cleaning our hands.
Great service in the main dining room...We had Celebrity Select. That meant we entered on the 5th floor. We always tried to eat in the section that had Jimmy Carter (from India) as the server. It was run perfectly. Omg!!!! So much food and wine..so little time. We only ate in the MDR about five times. We used the Tuscan Grill, Pool Grill and Buffet for variety.
All of the MDR entrees were prepared to perfection. The chicken and steak dishes were perfect.
THE TUSCAN GRILL
The servers and staff are from Turkey, Yugoslavia (Macedonia), Italy, Greece and a host of other European countries. They provided upbeat and impeccable service. Our Dinners were as relaxed as one might experience traveling in Europe. Yet, it was almost like a family dinner as they made an effort to get to know their guests. The wine stewards at the Tuscan Grill and MDR were excellent. Oh Yes, the soups, appetizers, pasta dishes, steak and filet were as good as one might expect in the best five star restaurants. We definitely added to the 15% service charge for both the servers and Wine stewards. ..Also, they offered to prepare any Italian dish that wasn't on the menu.
The GELATO stand on Deck 5.
Let's see, do I want a good wine or do I want some premium Italian Ice Cream? It was always a split decision. A gregarious young lady from Romania, who ran the stand, was always helpful with samples and recommendations. When it came time to order, there was usually time for talk about the ships departure for Europe, life in Romania, life on a cruise ship and even a Romanian surgeon I met in Denver. The Gelato was worth the extra few bucks.
There was a lounge across the atrium from the Gelato stand. It was outfitted with large yellow wing chairs and provided great views. I consumed a few glasses of grape juice there. Again, there was excellent service.
In the area of the atrium, we had a extensive social conversation with "Katook" (sp?) the head bartender from Indonesia. I told him that I was impressed with the overall job Celebrity does to please it's guests.
The POOLSIDE Grill - The service seemed glacially slow. However, the food was worth it. Cookies, some toppings and veggies were self service. There are four entrees: Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Turkey Burgers and Veggie Burgers. The hamburgers are sourced from Colorado beef. I'm not sure if that will be true in Europe.
The CASINO - The casino was pretty much like stateside. If the casino is busy, the payouts are frequent. There was an outstanding staff supporting the casino. No long waits for jackpot payouts. Many of the machines are older and dispense coins/tokens. Lots of table games and poker opportunities.
The AFT OUTDOOR BAR
I thought it would be our hang out for breakfast. After I discovered one afternoon that room temperature for red wines was whatever it was outside (80 plus), I decided this was not the place for me. However, I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the staff. Sunsets off the stern are fabulous. I filed an inquiry about the red wines not being kept at a proper temperature in the aft bar. The ship's staff went out of their way to correct the problems.
The SEASIDE GRILL BUFFET - It was always a good place to eat. I generally had to flag down someone for sodas and drinks. The Pizza selection was predictable. There was a great sandwich bar selection at lunch. It doubled as the grill at dinner. Most dinner entrees took about 10 minutes to cook and were created to your specifications.
The SHIP's PHOTOGRAPHERS -- Love them or Hate them, they serve a purpose. As a photographer myself, there is nothing more irritating when they are not paying attention and start bugging you for group or couples photos while you are shooting video or stills. This team did very good work.
The FEEL -- The art work on the ship is very modern compared to what might be found on HAL. I enjoyed some of the more humorous pieces. The passengers were mostly a mixture of Europeans, Canadians and Americans. That tended to steer the overall feel towards European civility. Children were welcome. But, they rarely were seen running around or behaving boisterously. It was quite refreshing. On Celebrity, we were treated very well. Being friendly and open to new cultures and experiences enhances the experience.
My Stupid Mistake -- I was wearing a "Tilley Hat" for sun when disembarking in Antigua. As I was putting the ships id in my wallet the hat blew away. I tried to catch the hat with the same hand my wallet was in. The hat ended up in the Caribbean. My wallet ended up in the net (WHEW!!). I was hoping the crew could get a gaff hook and grab the hat. I could have washed it in our cabin. Alas, that did not happen. The moral to this story is to be aware of side winds when entering the gangplank. Of course, I could have also used the straps on the hat. I'll buy another up at Grand Lake.
DISEMBARKATION -- We were scheduled off the ship at 10:10. We left at 09:50. It took 20 minutes to find our luggage, get through customs and step on the airport transfer bus.
SOUTHWEST to Denver -- I've flown many hundreds of times. I'm not sure if it was sidewinds; but, the landing was one of the 5 hardest landings I can remember. The crowd on the plane was eclectic. Spring breakers, crying babies, sick folks and even a barking dog (Dogs are Cargo -- Period!)
WILL WE BE BACK??? There is a strong chance of us repeating this itinerary on March 23rd. This cruise was a good rehearsal for the Eclipse cruise.
REVIEW OF OUR ITINERARY:
This cruise proved the point that we don't need "private islands". The real ones are wonderful! Please see the Ports Section for our review.