This review turned out to be much longer than I intended when I started writing it. My family of four (parents and two college-age daughters) truly enjoyed this cruise, so much so we are considering booking it again next year.
This five-day Holiday Cruise left Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) on Dec. 23, called on Key West on Dec. 24, was at sea on Christmas Day, Cozumel on Dec. 26, at sea on Dec. 27, and returned on Dec. 28. We booked this cruise on Dec. 8 directly with Celebrity.
We traveled to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday Dec. 22. We arrived at the port just after 11 am, as instructed. After port security checked our ID’s and cruise documents to confirm we belonged there, we were directed to Terminal 4, which appears to be a converted warehouse. Although not a fancy new terminal, the lines moved quickly and we were on-board the ship before noon. Departure was simple as well, just a long line to clear customs. As with boarding, the entire departure process required less than 45 minutes to claim luggage, clear Customs, load the car, and exit the port.
The Constellation is in great shape. I do not know what the ship was like before the April 2013 dry-dock and “Solsticization”, but it looks great now.
The public areas were very elegant and tasteful. There is a lot of wood which gives it a very warm comfortable feel.
Our concierge class staterooms were also very nice. The carpet was obviously new (it looked like our cabin has never been occupied), and the bedding and pillows were firm. Although the bathroom appeared to be the original equipment, the shower tile, sink, and commode were still in great shape.
The size and activities of the Constellation suited our family. There is no water park, no ice skating rink, no rock-climbing wall, no mini-golf course, and no wave-rider like the mega-ships. There is a sports/basketball court and they hold pool volleyball competitions. I never saw children in the adult only pool or two adult only hot tubs, and they were never over-crowded. The two outside pools felt cool and therefore were not over-crowded either, although the four outside hot tubs were very popular with the kids on the ship.
During the cruise the ship tended to roll a fair amount. This was especially noticeable between Key West and Cozumel, when the ship was only going 10 knots and the swells were catching up to us from astern. This rolling motion was enough to create a wave in the pools during the first sea day. Based on several conversations I heard in stairwells, the amount of motion bothered some passengers.
The food was exceptional. We did not book any specialty dining on this cruise, since we do not eat at expensive restaurants often. However, the food far exceeded the chain restaurant fare we typically enjoy.
The Ocean View buffet was great, and they serve a huge variety for every palate during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The grill at the back of the buffet was my favorite. They served waffles, pancakes, and French toast at breakfast. For lunch you could get Panini’s, hamburgers and hot dogs. For dinner steak, chicken, and other grilled meats were available. There is also stir-fry, a pasta bar, Asian/Indian station and many varieties of pizza for lunch and dinner. The ice cream was also tasty and obviously made every day on-board the ship.
The San Marco main dining room food was also fabulous. We had “select dining” and made dinner reservations when we boarded the ship. We like to eat early and had dinner between 5:30 and 6:00 every evening without waiting. We had the same waiter Walter and assistant waiter Wendy three nights. They were both great, providing very friendly and attentive service.
The Pool Grill only served burgers, all beef hot dogs, and fries, and we enjoyed all three more than once.
The Café al Bacio and Gelateria (small fee) were frequented by both daughters, who became regulars.
The two Broadway-style shows were good. Both shows are worth seeing for the aerialists. The dancing was good, and the singing was average.
The comedian was good, just a little edgy but not over the top.
The Lairs Club was funny, and as advised in advance by cruise director JC, not appropriate for young kids. Captain Tasos, Mark, and JC were all very entertaining.
The Constellation crew was friendly, cheerful, and most appeared to enjoy their work whatever it may be.
The Master of the Constellation is Captain Tasos. He was promoted just 60 days ago, after joining Celebrity right out of the Merchant Marine College 16 years ago, making him the youngest Celebrity Captain ever at 37-38 years old. He seems to be everywhere all the time, as are all the senior officers and managers. He is also very nice and funny, making light-hearted jokes about being Greek. In Cozumel, we saw him eating breakfast in the Ocean View buffet, talking with the passengers at nearby tables and taking pictures when asked.
The Cruise Director JC is also very smooth and entertaining, as expected from a cruise director. JC is a Brit, and most all the senior officers and management are Europeans.
The Executive Chef Stefan also appeared frequently at the Ocean View buffet and other food service areas. He is from New York and is the only American on the senior management team. Like all the senior management, I am not sure when he slept because we saw him morning, noon, and late into the evening.
The Holiday Activities
The first three days of this cruise were all about Christmas. Every crew member greeted us with “Merry Christmas”, instead of the expected “Happy Holidays”. This was quite refreshing. All the public areas of the ship were decorated with Christmas Trees, Wreaths, and the like.
Christmas Eve was the Formal dining night, and a special holiday meal in the San Marco main dining room was offered. The highlight of Christmas Eve was the Dessert Buffet at 11 pm. Every kind of holiday cookie, pastry, and other sweet treat imaginable was available. There was also a Midnight Mass in the Theater.
On Christmas morning, Santa Clause (or Father Christmas as Captain Tasos called him) stopped by the Constellation about 10 am. All the kids on board had the opportunity to meet Santa in the Theater and receive a gift. At noon, a fantastic Christmas Buffet was served in the San Marco. The buffet was the largest and best we have ever experienced. There were ice carvings of Santa’s Sleigh and the Reindeer, Christmas Trees, the Constellation, etc. There were all the expected breakfast offerings, soups, salads, beef, lamb, turkey, salmon, fresh sushi, and copious amounts of dessert.
On Christmas Night, the entertainment staff put on a special one-time only Christmas show they prepared themselves. It was a wonderful show. The talent and creativity of the singers and dancers really came through. The singers especially were very good when singing the Christmas/Holiday songs they selected compared to the Broadway-style show songs.
We all enjoyed Key West. We booked the Old Town Trolley tour through the Ship, which only cost $20 per person for one-day instead of $32 for two-days booking it on our own. We toured the Island with a very entertaining driver named Louie and stopped at the Southernmost Point. Then we walked six blocks to the Hemmingway House and visited with the six-toed cats. Then we rode the OTT back to the harbor and had a delicious seafood lunch at the Half Shell Raw Bar, and chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick at Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Pie Shoppe, both recommended by friends who lived in Key West.
We decided to do the Salsa, Salsa, and Margarita shore excursion through the ship, based largely on the reviews we read on-line. We were not disappointed, it was just like all the reviews say, very fun and enjoyable, and you can drink bottomless Margarita’s for four hours if you so desire.
A most enjoyable 5-day Holiday get-away. As I said in the summary, we are considering booking the same cruise next Christmas we enjoyed it so much.