I'm sorry, this is a very long review; but there's a lot I want to touch upon.
As we are normally either "one stop" or "road trip" vacationers, we had never actually considered taking a cruise. We like to settle in to places, explore, find out of the way places and get to know our destinations. However, so many of our friends love cruising, so, we thought we'd give it a try. We selected a "mini" cruise -- 5 night/4 days -- to see if we liked it. We chose Celebrity because we'd heard so many really good things about the cruise line. I have nothing to compare it with, but we were happy that we did because it was excellent. We opted for only 2 ports and 2 sea days so we could see if we enjoyed life onboard -- a good way to "get our feet wet" so to speak!
We arrived in Miami a couple of days beforehand, which was nice because it made our vacation a little longer. We stayed at the Holiday Inn across the street from Bayside Market and a stone's throw from The Port. It was the perfect pre-cruise location and it was fun to watch the ships come and go from our bedroom window; we were even treated to a fireworks display one night.
Embarkation was so easy and efficient. From the time we left our hotel to the time we were onboard and sitting by the pool, less than 1 hour had passed! Good tip from a friend -- because the staterooms aren't available for a few hours, take a beach bag with change of clothes, swimsuit, sunscreen, etc. So you can enjoy some sun time before going to your stateroom.) We lunched at the buffet -- the only pre-sailing eatery open (maybe Bistro on Five was open too -- not sure). Great selection of food -- only quibble was the fact that they ran out of water and coffee quite early because of the amount of people being fed at one time. This was the only time we ate at the Buffet, apart from the occasional late afternoon snack -- we had all our other meals at the San Marco Dining Room -- so nice to be able to be served in a beautiful environment.
After lunch we made our way to our stateroom -- only got lost once! When we arrived there, only one of or two cases was there, but between our wonderful Cabin Attendant (Jaime) and the Concierge, the problem was resolved quickly. We were on Deck 7, pretty much in the centre of the ship, so it was very stable and we never felt any movement. We were also close to the elevators and staircase, but it was a quiet location. We were so impressed with our stateroom. Yes, of course it was tiny, but the design, layout and amazingly efficient use of storage space made it feel much larger -- we could have packed twice as much and still had room to spare. Same goes for the bathroom. Both rooms were light and bright -- good use of light woods and neutral colours -- both spotlessly clean. We were glad that we'd booked a room with a verandah -- it was lovely to be able to sit out there whenever we wanted, especially at night -- so peaceful watching the stars and enjoying the breeze. We slept with the door open -- the sound of the sea lulled us to sleep. Our Cabin Attendant and his Assistant were fantastic -- nothing was too much trouble. I happened to mention , in passing, that I found the pillows a little soft -- within minutes there were new, firmer pillows on the bed -- and that's only one example of the incredible service. Another was when I asked for extra towels, they were there by the time we returned from breakfast.
The Constellation is a beautiful ship. We spent an afternoon just exploring and getting ourselves orientated with all the different places onboard. The decor everywhere is just lovely. The crew are amazing -- so friendly (always a big smile), helpful, efficient and professional.
As mentioned above, we ate all our meals in San Marco Dining Room. We opted for a table for 8, second sitting, which worked out perfectly. We lucked out and were sitting with 6 other interesting, fun people. It was nice to be able to get to know them and we all looked forward to getting together in the evenings and comparing notes about our day. Also, our table was in a fabulous spot -- right in the middle, open ceiling up to the 2nd level, close to the Captain's Table and the dramatic, sweeping staircase. Breakfast and lunch was freestyle and we opted to share tables with others, so met more people. Our table attendants were excellent and the wine waiter was amazingly knowledgeable and gave us some great recommendations. (Another great hint from a friend. We are not big drinkers, but do enjoy wine with our dinner, so we purchased a pack of 3 bottles of wine, which was perfect for the 2 of us for 5 nights. Saved us a lot of money because to buy wine at the table is way more expensive.) There were also other drinks packages, which if split between a couple would be excellent value.
Of course, the food was constantly delicious -- always a good variety -- something for everyone. We didn't eat at any of the specialty restaurants or cafes -- however there was a good variety and they all looked lovely. My husband enjoyed the burgers at the poolside grill and we had to control ourselves with the fabulous homemade icecreams. The last day there was a huge, fantastic brunch - dozens of tables full of wonderful food + ice sculptures -- amazing. However, it was really odd that they were charging for orange juice at the brunch when it was included at no charge with breakfast every other day!
The Cruise Director and Entertainment Officer (Damien and Tyler) did a fantastic job and worked so hard to co-ordinate all the activities. We didn't take advantage of many of them, but there was definitely something for everyone. We just wanted to be lazy, sit in the sun, read and snooze -- so we found a couple of quiet corners of the ship and just relaxed. We did go to a couple of shows at the theatre and they were fun; the cast did a really good job and worked very hard.
All the above were positive aspects of the ship; but we did have a few "cons", which I'm going to mention.
First -- a real pet peeve. Having to pay for bottled water is just crazy. Yes, there are water dispensers at the buffet and near the pool, but having to pay for bottled water is just nickel & diming. I was checking the online room service drinks menu and everything was no charge except for the water!!! With the prices being charged for drinks, I'm sure free bottled water wouldn't be such a big deal. We solved that problem by buying a couple of large bottles at each port and filling our smaller bottles from those.
Also, at the pasta station at the buffet there were only 2 people working there: one cooking the pastas to order and one other who just put the sauce over the pasta. There were always long line-ups there, so why not have more than one person cooking the pasta and surely the same person could cook AND add the sauce!!
My husband noticed that some of the bathroom towels had holes in them, but, to be honest, I never noticed that; I thought the towels were lovely, thick and good quality.
Some of the beach chairs could do with replacing. The webbing is definitely starting to sag -- okay if you're sitting by the pool where the chairs are cushioned, but otherwise, they are a little uncomfortable. Not too bad if you pad them with lots of beach towels!
The cruise literature states that there's a dress code; nothing amazingly formal, but a dress code none-the-less. Pity it's not enforced in any way. People turned up for dinner in the restaurant wearing shorts, ratty tee-shirts, flip-flops and baseball hats worn backwards (that weren't taken off at the table!). People came into the buffet wearing wet swimsuits and wrapped in towels; not very nice.
Lastly, our one really big complaint -- the level of the music being blasted all over the ship!! I know it's just my opinion, but when I'm by the ocean, I like to hear the sound of the water and maybe some gentle, relaxing music; but the noise on the ship was absolutely mind-numbing and stressful. There was a really nice Caribbean band playing by the pool, but the speakers were the size of small buildings and I'm sure the music could be heard all over the Caribbean!!! It would have been nice to have the option of a "quiet pool" -- not just the Solarium, because who wants to sit inside on a lovely, hot, sunny day?! The noise coming from the Martini Bar was beyond belief -- might have been better if the bar was enclosed so that the music didn't permeate throughout the ship. It was impossible to sit and enjoy a drink in the Rendezvous Lounge before going in for dinner -- there was a lounge between there and the San Marco Dining Room -- live music, small dance floor and karaoke. Again, the sound level was astounding, so a relaxing conversation was impossible. Even when the singer performed in the open air cafe behind the buffet, the speakers were huge and we got up and left. During the rest of the day there was really nice music being played there and it wasn't ear-splitting! One night, after dinner, we wanted to sit up on the deck and just relax -- well, there was music blasting around the pool and there wasn't even anyone there!!!! Would it be too much to ask to lower the volume???? We were surprised because we weren't expecting that on Celebrity. Maybe the Caribbean cruises are more party-orientated, but still...........!!
Ports: Roatan and Cozumel. We selected these ports because we were more interested in the onboard cruising experiences than the land portions. I can't comment on the shore excursions because we didn't take any, but there was an enormous variety with something for everyone. They seem a little expensive, but I guess if you want to be sure that the ship won't leave without you if you're late, then they're a great idea. We just hopped into taxis and explored on our own. We were a little disappointed in Roatan, but spent a few nice hours browsing around and sampling local food. Cozumel we just headed to a beach club we'd read about and had a lovely day there. For $10 we rented 2 beach chairs and an umbrella. Enjoyed a nice lunch and a couple of beers, lazed in the sun, swam, snorkelled and listened to softly played Bob Marley music!!!
By the way, when we were docked at Cozumel, we were right next to Royal Caribbean "Oasis of the Seas"!!! Never seen anything quite so huge in all our lives -- passenger capacity of 6500 + approx 2000 crew members!!!! Unbelievable. Made us really appreciate our ship with only approx 2000 passenger capacity!! The Constellation looked tiny next to this behemoth!!
Our Cruise Rating for Celebrity Constellation -- 8 out of 10. Would have been 10 out of 10 if it weren't for our minor quibbles and the noise issue.! We loved the ship and we can't say enough good things about the crew and the service they gave. Apparently there's a 2-1 passenger crew ratio, which is amazing. Every single person had a big smile on his/her face and were friendly, helpful, professional and efficient. Special shout outs to Damien and Tyler (who I mentioned before) + Jaime and Carlos(our stateroom attendants), all the table attendants at Table Number 208 (sorry, I can't remember their names)and also to Marinela, the adorable girl who carried round a huge tray of pastries, croissants, brioches, etc at breakfast.
Would we cruise again? Maybe if we saw an itinerary that we really liked and had sea days -- we would cruise on Celebrity again for sure. It would also be nice to combine it with a few days ashore either at the beginning or end of the cruise. We really enjoyed it, but cruising wouldn't be top of our vacation wish list -- we still prefer to have our feet on the ground!