Embarkation was a snap. We were on line early because we hoped to buy a pier upgrade, since we'd seen about 6 balconies available online a few days earlier. They started boarding around noon and we went straight to the pier coordinator's desk and he wasn't there yet, although a list with the same balconies was sitting on the desk (ok, I'm nosy). We were hopeful but he flatly said there would be no upgrades available. I looked at his list meaningfully and he said once again there were no upgrades. I was dismissed.
Kudos to Celebrity for a quick embarkation process. They had a duty free shop in the terminal and we were told that as long as we put the bottles in our bags, we could take them on. This proved true.
Cabin: Our cabin was bright and cheerful and seemed quite functional. For a ship only a few years old, it was a bit worn. The caulking in the shower was discoloured and there were stains on the fabric of the chair and sofa. That said, we enjoyed our room and found it a nice retreat. The storage was ample and we appreciated the safe and that the maid emptied the fridge for us. Being on deck 2 was great as we could just walk up one flight to the room after ports and the room didn't creak in the night the way the ones on higher decks do (due to the ship flexing).
Ship: Outside, the Constellation is not that attractive. The exposed pipes and machinery and the overall look of the ship are rather utilitarian and drab. I also made a mental note not to get an upper balcony in the future because the over-hanging deck above is rather unsightly and would block the sun. The pool area was fine and the aft bar was rather lovely, in teak woods. I noticed that those on aft balconies below were directly visible from the aft bar and that children were throwing grapes, to the amusement of the bartender but not their mothers.
Inside, the Constellation is a lovely ship. The grand foyer is the hub of the ship and is serene. The lounges all scatter out from there and are not that visually distinct from one another. The martini bar and the champagne bar are actually two sides of the same bar so if you don't like smoke, sit on the martini side and order your champagne. The martini tastings were great fun and the barman there, Sudi, is a minor celebrity on the ship. The Michael's Club and the Rendezvous lounge are the exception to the sameness that rules elsewhere. Michael's club is much like a cigar lounge or gentleman's club in decor, with lots of wood and a pianist/vocalist. Wonderful. The Rendezvous lounge was rather dated looking, especially for a three year-old ship, with plum and purple coloured chairs scattered about. A tired sounding lounge act played here and the place was empty except for Karaoke night, when it looked like the lounge of an airport Howard Johnson's.
The theatre was wonderfully decked out and there are cocktail tables at the seats, as opposed to how some ship's carve drink holders out of the arm rest, as though you're at the local multiplex. Bar service was great and the shows were fine, although the music is definitely chosen to appeal to Celebrity's older demographic. On RCL, we saw numbers from Mamma Mia, the Producer's and Contact. Here, we saw numbers form Mame, Will Roger's Follies and other "older" shows. The shows were well done but they seemed to have audio troubles often, as there was intermittent static on all the show nights.
The Bar at the Edge of the Earth was an avant garde space that they used for the Cirque Ball. It was free and was essentially a dance with images projected on the walls. It was fun and one of the only nights we ever saw people dancing. The bars were not well used outside of dinnertime on Constellation and one night, we went to the disco party and were the only four people there.
The library was well-stocked and useful and the internet cafe was well-equipped, if not a bit more expensive than on other lines. I got a phone call one day saying I had used more than 20 minutes of time and I should buy one of their packages. Guess Big Brother was watching. It had the opposite of the intended effect. I was reminded I was spending too much time and money on the net and stopped going.
While it is kind that the casino offers a smallish non-smoking area, there were so many people smoking in it that it didn't really matter, since the staff saw this happening and did nothing. Nonetheless, I lost more than I am happy with on their machines and never had a decent payout. Oh well, some people spend money in other ways, I likes spas and casinos. Speaking of the spa, it's rather nice. There is a sauna in each of the men's and women's changing room with large windows overlooking the ocean. I had a massage and while it wasn't the best massage ever (more like a rub-down than a trained massage), the attendant was kind and chatty. He did push rather held to sell product during the end of my session, which I dislike but seems to be the norm at all resorts.
The shops were fine, except they didn't seem to be open much. They would be open during the dinner and the show but we were...at dinner and the show. They were also under-stocked in terms of sizes and they said they hadn't had a shipment in a while. The bingo had rather small prizes (starting at about a hundred dollars) but it was till $20-40 to play.
The pool was as most cruise pools are. Crowded on sea days and fine otherwise. They have pool butlers but they would not police the chair hogs. We loved the thassolatherapy pool. It was like a whirlpool you could sit on a lounge chair in. Wonderful. The cafe near there was amazing, also. Light and healthy food that was much more creative than the steamer table food in the buffet. Because they serve you, as oppose to your dishing you own food, the lines go slowly in the buffet. You can't even get a tray and cutlery without joining the initial line.
The main dining was hit and miss. Some nights were great and on others, the food was disappointing. In general, the service was the same. We were very punctual and yet we still missed the show the first night due to the waiter's slowness and on other nights, our waiter would literally stop serving us and would go to help a lady into her chair or pass out menus as another table arrived. Our assistant was very able and our sommelier was superior. He was adept at selecting wines that worked wonders with the food.
Where Celebrity exceeds in food is the specialty restaurant. We loved it and bought the wine pairing, which was stunning.
In writing this review, I am aware that I am pointing out many faults and I should say that this was not a bad cruise. However, we had been told until the moment we boarded that Celebrity "just does it better" and that we would really notice how they were a step "above" the other lines. I can say that outside of more folks dressing up for dinner (and about 3/4 staying dressed for the evening), Celebrity was no better or worse than Royal Caribbean, which would have been a couple hundred less. I was doubly disappointed that the areas where Celebrity was most meant to excel (food and service) were what I would consider its weaker points. The announcement-free policy must not have been in effect on our cruise as there were bingo announcements every day.