This was our first cruise, but certainly won't be our last, thanks to our recent Constellation experience. As complete novices, we can't make comparisons with other ships. However we have traveled extensively, know what good hotel and restaurant service is and hope these impressions will help.
Background: As context for what follows, please keep in mind we are two 65 year old bachelors of European backgrounds living in Florida, given to rising early and retiring early to bed: Family groups and night owls won't find many useful tips here!
Transportation: We were driven to and from Port Everglades, in part to avoid the high cost of parking there. Embarkation was a breeze when we arrived at 1:30 pm. Celebrity's shore and deck staff was cheerful and welcoming. Likewise our return was smooth, when even the Immigration Officers tried to maintain a holiday mood.
Stateroom: Before booking we listened to many experienced friends and to our TA, and on boarding were totally satisfied with our choice of an outside cabin, mid-ships on Plaza Deck. With a port hole we could always see where we were and what the weather was like, which was important. Ship movement in rough weather was less on Plaza Deck than on higher ones, as well as in cabins further fore or aft. There was enough room to stow all our stuff and the stateroom was kept perfectly clean by our efficient and unobtrusive attendants.
The Ship: Although there were some 1900 passengers, we never felt over-crowded. We managed to find plenty of places to sunbathe on top or to quietly read a book in an air-conditioned public area below. Apart from good-humored competition to get on and off elevators at peak meal and show times, there was plenty of room for all. We particularly enjoyed walking briskly round the jogging track and the fitness center. We were pleasantly surprised at the level of communication of the Captain, the Hotel Manager Niina, and Cruise Manager Don Fluke, with us passengers. It made us feel really important to them and appreciated. The dates of our cruise were inconvenient for school-age children and there were very few. Even seeing a baby was an event. Most passengers were about our age, some younger particularly from Europe.
Dining: We recommend the second dinner sitting at 8:30 pm. It worked fine as we could go to the first show, and other days had time to relax before eating if shore excursions ended late. Other writers have made wild claims for theirs, but our waiter Lloyd (from Bombay) and his assistant Danang (Indonesian) were unquestionably the greatest team in the San Marco Restaurant. After a couple of nights, Lloyd pretty well knew what we would enjoy on the menu and made sure the courses came when we were ready. We found the food excellent and always had plenty of choices. One night all four at the table chose the same dessert. It was inedible, we laughed and substitutes proved fine. We ordered a bottle of wine each night, in spite of off-puttingly high prices, and our cheerful and energetic sommelier Pieter (from South Africa) knew how to guide us to ones we would enjoy. We were lucky to have Hannah and Paul as our table companions. We shared tales of the day's events and always had lots to talk and laugh about. As early birds, the breakfast buffet worked fine and we particularly enjoyed a choice of egg dishes cooked to order and the fresh croissants. After two days elbowing our way along the line at the lunch buffet and ending up with stuff on our plates we really didn't want, we opted for the San Marco and relaxed with table service in its relatively cool, calm atmosphere.
Entertainment and Activities: We enjoyed most the great voices of the two British singers, Lindsay Hamilton and Mark O'Malley. The resident Celebrity troupe sang and danced excellently other nights. A few members of the Cirque du Soleil cast came on board and were a disappointment, couldn't live up to the hype that preceded their appearance. Celebrity Today! was our activity bible. So much to choose to do the next day. I got to see two recent movies, one of which was Capote, which inspired me to borrow In Cold Blood from the ship library, and finish it just in time. Allan (the Australian) Shopping Guide made the hunt for bargains in each port a lot of fun with his maps of recommended shops and daily tips. We happened to be in the same duty-free store at the same time as Allan, and he helped us walk out with a beautiful emerald ring at a great price.
Shore Excursions: Lots of choices and we were fortunate with the ones we took. We avoided the pure beach trips. Highlights for us were:
Grand Cayman: A turtle farm with some 11,000 turtles in residence, breeding before their return to the sea. Panama: an eco cruise on a lake where we saw howling monkeys and sloths before visiting the Gatun Lock, where it was amazing to see a 90,000 ton tanker glide through the canal just feet away. Costa Rica: A bird watching trip led by Mariano, an expert in wildlife, to the tropical jungle reserve of Bocuaire. After spotting brightly colored birds, the friendly owners involved us in preparing our typical lunch and we were entertained by dancers in local costume. Cozumel: the extensive and impressive Tulum Mayan Ruins, poised on the cliffs above the Caribbean, where you could swim off the beach below.
In Sum: 12 days was just right, a really happy experience and we were sorry to say goodbye to our new Constellation home. However, on the third day out from Ft Lauderdale, a chat with Sales Manager Stephanie was all it took to convince us to sign up for a June cruise from England to Scandinavia and St Petersburg, coincidentally on the same ship. We can't wait!