Beware traveling on Celebrity, the Constellation in our case, if you are expecting 5 star service, maintenance and management. Ok it wasn't the Carnival Triumph or Costa Concordia disasters, but when you spend $8,000 on an alleged 5-star ship you have the right to expect an excellent experience. Instead we had a "wreck" of a cruise with repeated service and maintenance problems and a lack of concerned and responsive management. This spoiled our July 2013 Constellation cruise in the Baltic, our first with Celebrity.
As the issues multiplied, management's inadequate problem handling, faulty staff training and lack of communication to guests gave us quite a different view of Celebrity's standards than they had advertised. We escalated the issues past the Guest Relations Director and needed daily meetings with the Hotel Director for the first 7 days of our 12 day cruise. We learned that ship management was much better at smooth sailing than knowing how to avoid, manage and resolve problems and keep passengers informed and happy when those problems occur. We also observed that these senior guest relations officers had little authority, needing approval from Celebrity's Miami headquarters on routine compensation and other requests. After a while you got the sense that they just didn't get it.
Our problems included:
1. Shower drain sewer odor: Instead of being found and resolved before we boarded as a health and quality issue, it took 5 hours, 2 sets of plumbers and 3 levels of management up to the Hotel Director coming to our cabin to get it resolved. We missed the sailing party as a result and it occurred again later in the cruise anyway.
2. Hot water failure: One afternoon there was a 5 hour outage of hot water on the entire ship with no announcements or status updates to passengers of any kind. Forget about a shower after a hot 10 hour summer tour. Also, a dining room manager and the Hotel Director contradicted each other about whether food services relied on the affected water system.
3. Room card error: One day we needed a replacement room card and were erroneously told we should have a higher cabin category's room cards. Of course this claim turned out later to be wrong. You would think to make amends for two trips to Guest Relations and this misleading information that they would at least give us one day's features in the upgraded card class. Wrong. We just got another apology and more thanks "for providing feedback and helping them improve their operations".
4. Room Service: Don't expect it to come at the time requested. We ordered it for 7:30-8:00am delivery and it came at 7:05am when we weren't ready. When it was remade and redelivered at 7:40am, it was cold and 2 items were missing. We did not use Room Service again for the entire cruise, although we did get another apology.
Other problems and complaints included:
5. Poor buffet sanitation due to passenger behavior, which was pointed out twice to food managers.
6. Inferior dining room entree choices compared to our experiences on Disney and Holland-America. Every night our head waiter would tell us which 2 out of 5 featured entrees he would not recommend.
7. Excursion misinformation: We were denied access to one St. Petersburg church because we were wearing shorts despite being told by the excursion desk that all attractions allowed them.
8. Ice cream dispensers that did not work for virtually the entire cruise despite repair assurances from the ship's Food Director.
9. Wrong dining room hours: The wrong seating time was in cruise confirmation documents to all passengers, causing huge hallway crowding the first night for dinner.
10. Fees for technical classes: Be prepared to pay exorbitant rates not just for Wifi/Internet but for classes available on other cruise lines for free.
11. No movie theater: Constellation no longer has an in-theater movie experience for passengers. They replaced their theater with conference rooms, useless to most passengers on our cruise.
So ok, there were some positive experiences including the extra-fee deluxe restaurants, an occasional main dining room meal, some entertainment, our cabin stewards and a couple of well-intentioned junior Guest Relations staff. The ship was also nicely refurbished in its latest overhaul in April 2013.
However, for an $8,000 Concierge Class cruise, passengers should be entitled to better quality, more responsive management, faster problem resolution and better and easier compensation. All we saw was weak management, inadequate operations quality and poor customer service. Who expected an alleged 5 star cruise line would need so much feedback to help improve their procedures and have such powerless and out-of-touch management?
We weren't looking for apologies. We were looking for quality and results. If I and my wife were going to be turned into quality control consultants on our spoiled first Celebrity cruise, we should have been better compensated. But initial compensation offers were insulting. We had to spend days during and after our cruise on meetings, emails, phone calls and even a letter to Celebrity's president fighting for what we thought we deserved, and were disappointed with the compensation we were finally offered. Their primary compensation was to offer us a discount on a future cruise, or as we described it, us having to spend another large sum to give them the second chance they requested.
You'd be advised to look elsewhere, such as Disney and Holland-America, for cruise management that knows how to get things right the first time.