In July 2013, we cruised from Amsterdam to Scandinavia and Russia for 12 nights on the Celebrity Constellation. This was the best cruise of the nine weve done. The ship was lovely, the crew couldnt have done a better job, and the ports were incredible. We have cruised several times on both Holland America and Celebrity, but Celebrity is now definitely our favorite.
We arrived at the cruise terminal about 11:00 and were checked in within 10 minutes. Suite guests were boarding. We had to wait about 10 minutes for general boarding. We boarded and had some lunch. Rooms were available at 12:00, so we made our way to the best cabin in the whole world, a corner aft Family Veranda normally reserved for 5 people. When we booked, more than six months before the cruise, I was dumbfounded that they allowed 2 people to book this cabin, for only $200 more than a regular veranda cabin. The best part was the huge veranda with a 270 view. The aft position sheltered it from wind when the ship was moving. We also enjoyed the separate sitting room with two couches, and the huge amount of storage. Never before have we been able to open a closet door without blocking access to the other closet and the bathroom. This made unpacking a breeze. We are seriously considering choosing our future cruises based on the availability of this wonderful cabin. Our stewards were great.
The food was very good. Since we had such a nice cabin, we ordered room service several times, which we have never done in our eight previous cruises. We also ate dinner twice at Tuscan Grille (30% off on the first night of the cruise), once at Ocean Liners, once at the Bistro on Five, and several times in the Oceanview Cafe. We tried the San Marco dining room, but we did Select Dining for the first time, and while we liked the flexibility, we really disliked the closeness of the 2-tops. I was actually nearer to the person seated at the next table, than I was to my husband across the table from me. It was really awkward, pretending you were at a private table, while knowing that people at the table 12 inches away could hear every word you said. So we ended up enjoying the alternative dining options more than the dining room. We liked the food variety and quality very much. Celebrity did a great job of changing the menus daily. There were only two things that werent perfect: beverage service in the Oceanview Cafe was not adequately staffed (I waited 25 minutes for a glass of wine), and the coffee was terrible. (They did have one pot each morning labeled strong coffee that tasted better, if you can find it the location changed periodically.) Other than that, we enjoyed the meals quite well.
The gym was good, but more consistently crowded than on any of our other cruises. We didnt do a lot of ship activities since this was such a port-intensive cruise, but we did really enjoy the Galley Tour. Several of the chefs gave an interesting presentation, and small groups were taken through the kitchen. It was fascinating to see the resources that go into preparing so much food. This was one of my favorite ship presentations ever.
A note about the staff: at Stockholm, we couldn't dock in town and were diverted to a tender port, 45 minutes' drive from town. The ship had a bad atmosphere that day due to passengers widespread disappointment, but I think Celebrity did everything they possibly could under the circumstances. They gave free Internet time so passengers could change or cancel independent tour plans. They provided ample free shuttle buses into town. And they ran a very efficient tender operation. (Some of the kids on board actually enjoyed this port the most, due to the tender ride.) All the staff did their best to be accessible and provide information as plans quickly changed, and they all kept their cool despite many passengers being cranky and demanding. We waited near a staircase where the Food & Beverage manager Karl had stepped in to help out, and I couldnt believe how nice and polite he was when people were complaining, asking the same questions over and over, and demanding information that didnt exist. I have worked in some effective corporate cultures and some toxic ones, and I was really impressed to see that Celebrity has the kind of culture where an officer from a different department will step in to help out, cheerfully and effectively, with whatever needs to be done. We saw nothing but exemplary customer service from every single Celebrity staff member.
Overall, this is one of the best cruises weve taken maybe the all-time best! All the ports were great. Seeing St. Petersburg was a special thrill. The Constellation is a wonderful ship, our favorite of the ones weve sailed on. Our cabin was fantastic, and the staff of the Constellation did an exemplary job. Well done, Celebrity! We will be back.