There have already been several quite comprehensive reviews of Constellation and the 'Immersive Wine Cruise' she's sailing. Without repeating too much, here are our impressions.
First up, the Millennium Class Celebrity ships are not as new as the Solstice vessels, but its not all bad. For one thing, they carry fewer passengers and so are less crowded. They have also been 'solsticised' which effectively means redecoration and re-branding of some inside venues. Constellation is 10 years old but there is still life left in this ship and compared with the prices you'll pay for a cruise on a Solstice ship, its worth a look.
This cruise attracted a fair few North Americans. Mostly middle aged or retired couples with a passion for Europe and Wine. I'd say they made up around 50-60% of passengers. But if there was any loud vulgarity it wasn't our North American cousins, but the lower end of the cruising market Brits who lowered the tone. We were grateful not to see any football strips being worn though.
The ship is suitable for a quieter cruise than one might get on a larger Royal Caribbean ship like Independence of the Seas. But this makes for a more relaxed break.
Ports of call were all good. Even Le Verdon which was near to Royan which is worth a visit. Do research and make plans though, to make the best of your time.
Food is competent, but no more by cruising standards unless you pay for Ocean Liners and the Tuscan Grill. The MDR is not as accessible as it should be, closing quite early for breakfast and not open for lunch in port. Bad Celebrity! This is not good enough. I suspect that Celebrity were staffing both the Buffet and MDR from the same roster and so were not able to run both venues competently at the same time. Select Dining was not quite so 'select' as Celebrity might like to suggest. We had to wait to be seated most evenings. Logistically I fail to see how it could have been run any better though. This is a case of managing expectations. I think Celebrity slightly oversold Select Dining in order to get those tips prepaid. Still, the waits were not unreasonably long or poorly managed.
Entertainment was likewise competent but not exceptional. But at this price do you really get everything? I would have like to have seen more live music in places like the MDR. Alas, the resident string trio were playing in Cafe El Bacio during evening dining times, where you paid to drink the good coffee. I get that you want to drive people to these paid-for venues but the MDR is a big part of the overall experience and should not be neglected in this way. Move the String Trio to where the people are Celeb!
Crew were all good. Very attentive, polite and well turned out. Our stateroom attendant earned himself an extra tip. In light of the rather naive and stupid documentary about Celebrity on UK Channel 4 the night we returned, we think we did alright by the guy. I am pleased to say we did not see a towel animal the entire cruise.
The pool deck and solarium were the part of the ship where it most showed its age. This is puzzling as 'solsticising' the pool deck should not be too expensive. A bit of new pool furniture?? But that aside, the pool decks were perfectly usable and we could usually find a space. The solarium came in handy when the weather was less accommodating.
Our only excursions were shuttle buses and we ended up demanding (and getting) a refund for the utterly dire service in Le Havre, which left me waiting for a shuttle bus for over an hour. It was better value in Bilbao though where proper coaches were used. The service was convenient and frequent, making it worth the $15.
In summary I would have no hesitation of paying a similar amount of money to what we paid this time to cruise on Celebrity Constellation again. It perhaps suffers unfairly by comparison with its newer sister ships but is perfectly acceptable by comparison with other ships in the fleets of other lines. Well done Celebrity and Constellation! You've got our Â£75 open passage booking so you know we'll be back!