This was my 9th cruise, third with Celebrity, and only my second transatlantic.
I now consider myself thoroughly addicted to cruising in general, and longer duration repositionings/transatlantics in particular. I am ALWAYS looking for interesting ports with historic significance and beautiful scenery, but the very relaxing pace of numerous sea days is also appealing. Being retired and of modest means, PRICING is ALWAYS a very important consideration.
This cruise fit ALL of my requirements VERY nicely. I booked with my favorite online agency over five months in advance to assure necessary dates for my girlfriend's work schedule. I considered $609.00pp with $102.00pp for taxes to be an EXCELLENT rate for a 15 night cruise. The $150.00 OBC from the agency, along with the $250.00 OBC from rcl shareholder benefit made it OUTSTANDING.
We drove the four hours from Fargo, ND to Minneapolis to hop our nonstop Delta flight to London Heathrow. We booked through Choice Air and considered the fare of $394.00pp to be outstanding as well. The seats were cramped as is usual in coach, but the food was fine and the service quite good. We landed early due to favorable winds and BREEZED through customs VERY quickly. Got a cab in SECONDS, and was at our hotel in 3 or 4 MINUTES!
The Jury's Inn at Heathrow was a GREAT choice that allowed us to settle in quickly and relax after an all night flight. The facility was spotless, service was flawless, the room was quiet, the bathroom was perfect, and the beds were VERY comfortable. The Hatton Cross tube station (for sightseeing access to downtown London) was a 3-4 minute walk, and the 5 minute shuttle back to the terminal for the bus to Southampton was simple. Booking through Hotwire at $104.00, made it even BETTER!
Sightseeing in London was rendered less than enjoyable due to the cold, wet, windy weather and any future trips there will be made earlier in the year! BRRRR! Wished we would have spent AT LEAST one or two extra nights.(next time!)
We took the VERY reasonably priced National Express Bus from Heathrow to Southampton. The bus station inside the terminal is quite easy to find and there was a nice coffee shop that made the short wait for the bus comfortable and enjoyable. The bus itself was clean, the ride was comfortable and about an hour and a half long through pretty rural countryside with a short stop in Winchester. (Didn't get to see the Cathedral!)
Took a cab from the bus stop to the Ibis Hotel in Southampton only to find out it was only 3 or 4 blocks away! The hotels, bus stop, cruise terminal, and downtown shopping/mall/eateries are ALL within an easy to walk 3-6 blocks from each other. VERY convenient, relaxing and enjoyable. Although the service was great, unfortunately, the Ibis is a VERY dated facility with cramped rooms that I would not choose again, even though it was fairly priced at $84.00. (Hotwire)
The hotel front desk had a direct line to book the 3 minute cab to the port. We only had to wait 5 minutes. The Cabbie even made a quick stop at a food market to see if I could get a case of Coke to feed my sugar and caffeine addiction at a rate lower than $2.30 per can on the ship! I found out that cases of cans are very hard to find, so obviously I could NEVER live there!
At the port, our pre-tagged luggage went DIRECTLY from the cab to the ship via porters. I only carried a book with the necessary documents folded inside. The ship was diligently fighting an outbreak of norovirus on the previous cruise so boarding was delayed and the lines to clear security were long and slow moving. As is usual, SOME people were outraged and indignant that they should have to wait SSOOO long. Get a grip folks, I hate to be the first person to burst your alternate reality bubble, but you are REALLY, SERIOUSLY, and TRULY... NOT THE ONLY PERSON ON THIS EARTH, and the planet does NOT revolve around YOU. After about 45 minutes in line for security, we were checked in less than 5 minutes later, and boarded about 20 minutes after that.
The Constellation is a beautiful and quite comfortable work of marketing, art and engineering. Our inside room was well designed, efficiently laid out, and spotlessly clean. Smart use of mirrors in the cabin (and everywhere else on the ship!) make the spaces look much larger. My only negative comments here are the rather worn and cheap looking "sofa" in the cabin and the old fashioned shower curtain in the bathroom. (Solstice class ships have taken care of both of these minor glitches, at a cost of going backwards in terms of cabin storage space.)
Most public spaces are designed with rich dark woods to appear soothing, relaxed and cushy-comfortable. Rendezvous Lounge, Cellar Masters, the Main Dining Room and Michael's Club and even the Main Theatre. To me, it's a much different "feel" than the more contemporary chic-elegance of S class ships.
Ocean Liners specialty restaurant is the equivalent of Murano on an S class and is every bit as impressive, delicious and enjoyable. Tuscan Grille has the same menu and service as S class ships, and is MY favorite, but the location on M class ships just can't compare. We got two for one deals in BOTH as the staff was trying to fill empty seats on nights that were NOT formal ones.
The buffet is not quite as well laid out as S class ships but kept me VERY happy with omelets for breakfast and all of the Indian and Asian curries for lunch. 8 different flavors of home made ice cream each day also kept me smiling but I definitely noticed the disappearance of MY favorite flavor, cinnamon.(?)
Bistro on Five was very nicely retrofitted and the Aqua Spa Cafe is standard.
The gooddie case at Cafe Al Bacio is fun but not all that great. The venue is very relaxing overlooking the atrium as well as outside views, and the cappuccino flavored gelato is just WAYYY too good to be true!
The "old" martini bar is now Cellar Masters and seems to waste a whole bunch of valuable square footage in the middle of deck 5 next to the Bistro, but is VERY comfortable. The "new" martini bar (and Crush)looks as if it were "cut and pasted" (quite nicely!) from any S class ship. Anybody who complains about drink prices there must have a MUCH higher tolerance for alcohol than I, 'cause the way those bartenders measure a pour is VERY generous! If you have a sweet tooth do yourself a favor and try the Almond Joy Martini, downright TASTY!
Entertainment was pretty standard with an acapella group, a very fun party band that could play ANYTHING, a newly arrived Caribbean band, and the typical Main Theatre shows of Pianists, Violinists, Singers, Comedians and of course, the Ships own production company. Most shows were quite good, but some were just not my cup of tea. The Elvis Impersonator, Shaun O'Shea WAS pretty darn good!
Our shore excursion to the Normandy Beaches from La Havre, was with Overlord Tours and was so far above and beyond mind boggling as to defy description. Absolutely unbelievable. Profound, inspirational, sobering, DO NOT MISS IT.
Our shore excursion in Lisbon was "Pirates of the Cruiseships" with "We Hate Tourism Tours" An incredibly fun whirlwind tour of Lisbon, Sintra, Cascais, and Cabo de Roca. If you want to have fun and see as much as you can in the one day you have available, you just have to give these guys a try! Fantastic!
This brings me to my ONLY serious complaint about the entire cruise. The music. The average age for longer cruises, and transatlantics in particular, range above 65. At 55, I was one of the 200 or 300 YOUNGEST guests on board and if I wasn't enjoying the the music, you can be CERTAIN that the VAST MAJORITY of those older than I, were quite probably not big fans of the contemporary techno beat CRAP that is constantly being played.
EVERY SINGLE NIGHT as soon as the band stopped, the DJs would have the entire place CLEARED OUT by the 2nd or 3rd song. I watched crowds of 200 to 300 people evaporate down to groups of 15 to 30 in less than 10 minutes because of your inappropriate music.
HEY! CELEBRITY! Your CUTOMERS are the people paying the bills and they want to hear THEIR music. NOT the music your 25 or 30 year old DJs are playing that quite literally, DRIVES your guests OUT of your lounges and AWAY from your bars
EVERY SINGLE NIGHT! Your DJs don't know the music that they should be playing even exists!
STOP IT! NOW! It's EASY! Get some CD collections from Time Life Music and make your customers happy!
Did I mention that the music onboard was a SERIOUS complaint? (cleansing breath)
Disembarkation was the simplest, fastest, and easiest I have ever experienced! We left our room at 8am when the announcement was made. We were in line for less than 5 minutes before swiping our cards. We were through customs in less than 10 minutes and on a rent a car shuttle less than 5 minutes after that! WOW!
Overall a WONDERFUL experience for a fantastic price, BUT, please fix the music!