Late last year I decided my husband and I should take a cruise. I had never really wanted to cruise, but after hearing about a friend's recent experience, I decided that we should give it a try. I am an incurable detail person and embarked upon an exhaustive review of cruise lines, ships, passengers and just about every other detail that I thought might be pertinent to achieving the perfect cruise experience. I had a long list of requirements: I didn't want to be on the party barge, I needed a little luxury, I wanted to be with more "middle aged" people and less 20-somethings and children. I had to have a nice stateroom and a good wine list. The Constellation kept coming up as the ship for us.
We flew into Miami on the morning of embarkation and had a seamless transfer to the ship. A friendly Celebrity representative was there to greet us and direct us to the bus which was waiting nearby. The journey to the port was short and comfortable and once we arrived (around 1:00) were able to board the ship with no delay whatsoever. Being first time cruisers, we had no idea what to expect, or even where to go. We were handed a glass of sparkling wine upon our arrival and directed onto the ship. We weren't exactly sure where to go at that point, so we asked one of the many smiling and helpful Celebrity employees what we should do. His response, "you can do anything you want! You're on vacation!" We decided to head to our stateroom which was a concierge level room with a balcony. We found it to be sparkling clean and ready for us, which was a nice surprise because I had read that often rooms are not ready. We had hors d'oeuvres waiting for us along with a chilled bottle of sparkling wine.
The room was HUGE compared to what we were expecting and the balcony was worth every penny. I have seriously stayed in NYC hotel rooms that were not as big as our concierge level stateroom! I had taken the advice of just about every poster on the first time blogs and had packed all the usual "space saver" devices like the over the door holder, etc. We didn't need any of them because there was so much storage space in the room. It was wonderful! We didn't really see our stateroom attendant much, but we really didn't need him. Our room was beautifully cleaned every day and each day we had afternoon hors d'oeuvres delivered to the room.
We chose traditional dining just to try it with the intention of changing to open seating if we didn't like the way it went. We sat with 2 of the nicest couples we have ever met, and ended up spending the rest of the cruise dining with them. We even had drinks together in the airport on the way home! Service was pretty slow (we were never in a hurry!) but the food was good. The sommelier was good about keeping my glass full, a benefit of the beverage package. The experienced cruisers among us were disappointed that there was no lobster served, as apparently that is the norm for most cruises. I usually ate light at dinner and hit the sushi or pizza bars laters. Sushi was better than expected and I enjoyed it often.
Bistro on 5, as mentioned in other reviews, is a hidden gem. We ate their twice, always had good service and excellent food, and it was NEVER crowded. Well worth the 5 bucks. My favorite place to hang out when we were not outside was Cafe al Bacio. They have these big, squishy, comfy chairs and we usually tried to get there early to get a window seat. My hubby and I spent several hours there one cold day reading, talking and drinking coffee, tea and yummy drinks. We never tried Cellar Masters, the wine bar with the cool dispensers, because I don't think the dispensed wine was included in the beverage package.
We opted for the premium beverage package and got more than our money's worth. Not only does it cover wine, beer and mixed drinks (pricey if you're buying them) but also special teas and coffee drinks which we enjoyed often. Wine and beer selections were pretty good. It made for a much more relaxing vacation because there was no bill waiting for us when we got home.
In Key West we did the Hemmingway House tour and had a drink at Sloppy Joe's which was fine, but we were really there for the cruise and cared little for the excursions. In Cozumel we were originally scheduled to snorkel, but all water activities were cancelled because of windy conditions. We ended up in a Mexican cooking class instead, which ended up being one of the most fun things we did all weekend. We were paired 2 others from our cruise and the 4 of us made dinner under the supervision of Oskar, a Mexican chef, while a little man kept bringing us drinks. We opted not to stay and use the beach facilities after our class and dinner and instead returned to the ship. Don't think I'd go back to Cozumel, but our class was fun.
The few kids that were on the ship during our cruise (school was in session) were either European or home schooled, both groups that generally behave better than average American kids so they were no problem. However, they did monopolize the outdoor pool most of the time so we chose the adult only pool which was a bit crowded at peak times. We're not big pool people anyway, so this was not a problem for us.
The ship was unbelievably clean. I had heard horror stories from others about cruise ships, but I will say that every surface was perfect! The public bathrooms in particular were very impressive, and there was an attendant present during busy times, cleaning the commode just as soon as someone exited the stall.
The show was OK, but we really weren't there for the big shows and were looking for more of an intimate getaway for us. We loved Michael's and spent our last night there. Entertainment there was wonderful!
The only negative was room service. We ordered our breakfast the first day, anticipating a leisurely breakfast on the balcony. After more than an hour had passed and it had not been delivered, we called. It finally came after another 30 minutes and was ice cold, obviously had been sitting somewhere. Our concierge was very apologetic.
Disembarkation was easy but we were so sad to go. Four nights is just not enough, so we are looking for a 10 day cruise next.....if we can get someone to watch our children for that long!