This was the first Celebrity cruise for my wife and 18 yr old son. We`have previously cruised with NCL, HAL, Disney and Carnival. We thoroughly enjoyed our Constellation experience, so much so, that wife and I are in process of booking a 2006 Mediterranean cruise on the Constellation's sister ship, Millennium.
As most Celebrity veterans know, the Constellation is a very elegant ship, nicely appointed and well maintained. The public areas are very inviting with some really interesting art, soft lighting and furniture/fixtures that really make you feel lie you are on a premium experience. The cabin as well is nicely appointed and accommodated 3 adults pretty well. Closet/hanging/drawer space worked out just fine. You do need to have some kind of schedule for getting ready for dinner each night, but we've done this before and have our own system of letting each person own the bathroom/shower for a period of time. There is only one electrical outlet in the bathroom and it's suggested that electric razors only are used. There is a hair dryer mounted on the wall. There is another electrical outlet beside the desk in the cabin, but we never used it other than to recharge a laptop (wireless internet access is available on this ship @ $0.75 per minute).
The staff onboard were very friendly all the time. We `really enjoyed seeing our cabin stewards and restaurant wait staff everyday. They always had a pleasant smile and greeting and were very nice to talk to about their country, family and experiences on the ship or in the ports.
Couple of the the ports on this itinerary weren't that great, but we anticipated this based on reviews from others. We are quite happy to spend a couple hrs walking around the ship then getting back on board to use the pool/spa/gym. We did participate in a couple shore excursions and had a great time on both. Swim with the Turtles in Barbados and BOB (Breathing Observation Bubble) in St. Thomas were both awesome. The gym on this ship is very good complete with about 10 treadmills, 6 bikes, 2 stairmasters and every piece of weight equipment including free weights. They also have bikes for spinning and a couple classes during the cruise.
Food was very good to excellent. I wouldn't say gourmet or 5 star, but always presented well, tasty and served at right temperature. We did make reservations in Ocean Liners for 2 nights but cancelled both because we were having such a great time with our table mates in the main dining room as well as with Marius and Yusmin, our waiter and assistant. We`had one vegetarian at our table who had a special menu each night. We ate breakfast and lunch at the buffet in the seaside cafe and found selections and quality to be very good. We`did eat breakfast in main dining room on disembarkation day and really enjoyed it too. Some people wonder why more don't use main dining for breakfast/lunch. We`meant to try more often, but found the buffet convenient and enjoyed the food. Son ordered from room service a couple times late at night. Pretty good menu and no additional charge. Order showed up each time in about 20 minutes.
Entertainment was very enjoyable each night. We went to the show in the Celebrity Theater each night. The theater is beautiful with great views from all seats. The Cirque du Soleil teaser is very enjoyable and the singer/dancers very entertaining. The Cruise Director and Activities staff are very approachable and friendly.
All 3 of us like to gamble and since this was my son's first opportunity to be in a casino, we had a lot of fun. The casino staff are very friendly and helpful to rookie gamblers. We find there are few really serious gamblers on a cruise, although they do have at least one table of blackjack each night set up with higher limits. We came back even so think we did well!
Embarkation/disembarkation is no different than any other cruise. It's hit and miss as to how well or poorly it goes. One thing we ALWAYS do is take care of our own air travel, pre/post cruise hotel stays and transportation to/from cruse terminal WITH our luggage. We met a couple people who had lost baggage and both had pre-arranged transfers thru cruise line or hotel. I guess it could happen to those like us who following the do it yourself method, but we've never had a problem and I'm sure I get just as good a deal or better than doing everything thru cruise line. For this cruise took us about 45 minutes to get on and about 15 minutes to get off in San Juan. Luggage arrived at room within an hr and was off the ship by the time we got off and in the port terminal. We did have a customs process to go thru in St Thomas on the second last day since that really is our US return point. They try to organize this by assigning cabins to certain times, but the line to get thru a very simple process was quite long. It did move along thought and while the customs process of scanning your cruise card and having a customs agent look at your passport took 30 seconds, the line to get there was about 40 minutes long. My recommendation, go have breakfast first and show up around 8:45 am by which time there is no line.
The profile of the cruise passengers included all age groups, but most were in the 30-50 range and mostly people from the US and Puerto Rico . Very few kids on this cruise (<300 we were told with over 700 registered on the Dec th sailing.
There were really only two things that caught us off guard. We can't remember the smoking policies on other ships but on this ship smoking was allowed in all bars "in the bar area" and in designated areas around the ship. I don't think cigar smoking was allowed inside anywhere. In the casino they had designated non smoking tables, but if there were smokers in there, you'd know it given the room size wasn't that big. Fortunately for us non smokers, there didn't seem to be a large crowd of smokers on board and they did abide by the designated smoking areas. Didn't see any smoking in the dining room and not sure what the policy was in there. The other thing we noticed and made comment on was the hard sell on the specialty drinks during deck parties. We think they go a little overboard on pushing these, but you get used saying no thank you a lot.
Overall a very enjoyable cruise. We had higher expectations given the way Celebrity and the travel industry market Celebrity as a premium line. They met these expectations and will result in our return to them for a Med. cruise in 2006. On a side note, we found it very telling that a number of people we met on board had sailed with Celebrity several times, and some on the Constellation several times.