We sailed on the Celebrity Constellation on Dec 13-19, 2013. We had sailed on her in 2008, and we were amazed with the improvements on this trip--not only in decor and service, but also in the food. I reviewed my Cruise Critic review from 2008, and I had said that you needed a chain saw to cut the beef and the lobster!! Not so on this cruise; the food was prepared correctly--the beef and the seafood were done to perfection. With the exception of one arrogant woman in customer service, the crew was fantastic--very friendly.
We drove from Tampa to Fort Lauderdale on Dec 13th and stayed at the Rodeway Inn on SR 84. The manager, Izzy, does a fantastic job in arranging transportation to and from the cruise port. We left our car at the motel, and they provided round trip transportation to the port. We paid the extra 2 bucks to go to the ship early, and we were very happy we did because we were on board by 11:15 am.
Day 1-Saturday, 14 Dec.:
I would give Celebrity 5 stars except for a few things, so they only get 4 stars. We booked the cruise and were supposed to have the free classic beverage package, free gratuities, and a $50 on board credit, and Celebrity only thought that we had the on board credit. We immediately went to customer service, and the agent corrected the free beverage package, and gave us new cards indicating this. Fortunately we had brought a copy of our receipt; otherwise we have really been had. He did not correct the free gratuity package, and it took several trips back to customer service to correct this. A very unfriendly agent insisted that we could not have had all three packages, although I showed her the receipt showing her that we did. She finally faxed a copy of our receipt to Celebrity's HQ, and by the day we were to get off the ship, it was finally corrected. However it wasted at least 2-3 hours of our time and several trips to customer service getting the problem fixed. I still do not know if it was Icruise.com's fault or Celebrity's, but it was a major pain in the rear to go through this aggravation.
Celebrity does a classy job of giving you a glass of champagne when you get on board. We had Select status and concierge level, so we got priority boarding. There was a lot of confusion among some Celebrity personnel as to where you actually went to get on the ship. We were told the wrong answer 3 times. This dock was a new position for the Constellation (or so we were told) at Ft. Lauderdale, so that must have added to their confusion. Still, they should have known the correct answer.
We sailed on the Silhouette earlier this year, and the Eclipse last year, and Celebrity has added an additional step in the boarding process. Before, when you presented your passport and boarding pass, the agent took your picture for your pass. Now you have to go to a different agent to get your picture taken. Guess Celebrity has to buy less cameras this way, but they added 2 new agents to take your picture.
Cabins were not ready until about 1:30 pm, but this was no big deal. We had lunch at the buffet, and took a tour of the ship. Food was excellent in the buffet, especially the carved beef and the fish. We were pleasantly surprised that our luggage arrived in our room about 2:30 pm. We have been on over 25 cruises, and never recall our luggage arriving so soon. It may have been that we were among the first to board, but we really do not know.
The cabins had been totally redone since we sailed on her in 2008. I believe the ship was renovated in the spring of 2013. The shower was the best we have had on any ship and considerably better than we had on the Silhouette or the Eclipse. The towels were quite lush, but they still have the same scratchy toilet paper!
Lifeboat drill was a complete joke; we cannot believe that the Coast Guard allows ships to have people gather in a lounge, casino, or bar, and the crew tells them what they are supposed to do. We met in the casino and sat around a black jack table! We never even went to where you would get on the lifeboat. Carnival, HAL, and Celebrity all do this, but we think it is crazy. If the ship is going down, we sure are not going to the casino--we are going to the lifeboat. You learn by doing, not by watching!
We had requested a table for two at the 6 pm dinner sitting, and found out that we had a table for 10. Again, I do not know who screwed this up--Icruise.com or Celebrity, but a visit to the dining room steward fixed the problem, and we had a very nice table. One thing we noticed on the Constellation that was not on either the Eclipse or the Silhouette, was that the tables for 2 were pretty far separated from nearby tables. On the other two ships, most of the tables for 2 were within a foot or so from the next table. We liked the arrangement on the Constellation much better, and it was better than we have had on any cruise ship. We had a great waiter (Wandas), assistant waiter (Sasha), and sommelier (Kemal). For dinner we had fantastic salmon, and the NY cheesecake with caramel topping was out of this world--so much for not gaining weight on a cruise!
The opening night show in the lounge was excellent, as were the other shows that we saw.
Day 2 Sunday, 15 Dec.:
We had very smooth sailing to Key West. We docked at Pier 2 by the Westin about 7 am. It is an easy walk to wherever you want to go in Key West. We were just in Key West in Sept. for 3 days, so there wasn't much we did not see. We did walk over to the Truman White House and took the tour--very informative. We had taken the tour of Hemmingway's house in Sept, and highly recommend it, but do the tour yourself rather than booking through the ship because you will save a bunch of money. It is a short walk from the ship. However, if you want to take the Conch Train tour, it is cheaper through Celebrity.
When we sailed on the Constellation before, we had some great healthy food at the Aqua Spa cafe. However this time we were disappointed and only went there once. We opted for breakfast and lunch at the buffet and both were very good, especially the seafood and stir fry. We did have breakfast one day in the main dining room, and it was fairly slow but excellent--first time I have ever had a smoked salmon omelet. Dinner was excellent, as usual.
We were supposed to leave Key West at 5 pm, but one of the engines had a problem, so they moved us to the Navy dock adjacent to Pier 2 so they could fix the problem. Unfortunately, the repair took much longer than expected, so we had to spend an extra day in Key West and did not get to go to Cozumel. We are very thankful that the problem with the engine happened when we were docked in Key West, rather than being in the middle of the Gulf where we would have been stranded at sea.
Day 3- Monday, 16 Dec.:
We spent the day in Key West, not doing much of anything. We did take the galley tour, which was OK, but not nearly as good as the one we had taken on the Eclipse. They do give you a glass of bubbly, but since we had the free beverage package, it was no big deal.
Since we are Select members, we were supposed to have a special Captain's Club event for Select members in the Reflections Lounge; this did not happen and no one seemed to know why. We were really looking forward to this since this was our first cruise as Select members. Instead, they had a dinky reception in the main showroom the next day with all past guests where they gave you a glass of wine or champagne and some pastries--more like Carnival does than the high class we have come to expect from Celebrity. On Silhouette and Eclipse, the normal past guest reception was fantastic; Celebrity certainly has gone downhill in this regard. This was probably because of the officers being busy with the overseeing of the engine repair, but still a major disappointment. Let's hope our experience next month on the Equinox is better.
We were getting ready to leave our cabin about 8:20 pm to go to the show when the lights went out in our cabin; fortunately this only lasted for a minute or so, and we had brought flashlights so we could see. I opened the door to the hall, and most of the lights were on in the hallway. A couple of our neighbors had the same problem. No one ever explained this, but fortunately it only happened once for a brief period.
We were supposed to leave Key West about 10 pm, but did not get to leave until about 6 am on Tuesday morning. The trip to Cozumel was cancelled because of time and distance, so the Captain decided to go to Nassau.
Day 4- Tuesday, 17 Dec.:
We left to go to Nassau about 6 am, so we spent the day at sea. We did get to go to the free wine tasting at 11 am in BLU that was held for Select members. This was very nice and informative, and we got to taste 4 very good wines. On previous sailings when we attended the wine tastings, they served some kind of food pairing and also some water to cleanse your palate; this did not happen on this tasting--maybe because it was free--we do not know.
Once we got into the Atlantic, the seas were about 5 feet, but it was still fairly smooth sailing.
Celebrity does a fantastic job with their brunch at the Marco restaurant--it was more like the brunch at Bellagio or Mirage in Las Vegas. This was one of the highlights of our cruise. It is not well publicized, but it was well attended. We went early at about 10 am, because on our past experience on the Silhouette, they fill up quickly. The fresh shrimp was more like Vegas buffets at the better casinos--all you can eat--not like the 4 little shrimp they give you at dinner when you order the shrimp cocktail. We had to leave about 10:55 am since the wine tasting started at eleven. Good thing, we think, since we had consumed a lot of really good food. Next time, we will skip breakfast and just go to the fancy brunch in the main dining room.
Celebrity does not, in our opinion, do a really good job of scheduling events; there are too many conflicting events of things we wanted to do. For example, they had the golf putting contest when we were on shore. We had the same problem on the Silhouette and the Eclipse. Since I have won a couple of putting contests on previous ships, this was a disappointment, but I wasn't going to give up going onshore to get to putt!!
At dinner we had the cedar plank salmon and steak and both were very good. For some reason, Celebrity no longer had surf and turf( lobster and steak). Lots of people were ticked off, but what can you do? Don't think there is a shortage of lobster, and this is the first cruise I have been on that they did not have lobster one night. Maybe another way to save money for Celebrity.
Day 5 - Wednesday, 18 Dec.:
We arrived in Nassau about 8 am. Eight ships were in port so it was very crowded since this was an unplanned visit for us. We had been to Nassau several times before, and we do not especially like Nassau, so we just went to the straw market, and visited a few shops and went back to the ship. We did not see any deals on anything.
We had lunch at Bistro on Five, and it was really great. There is a $5 charge per person, but it was not crowded. Unfortunately the service was slow, but they finally brought in a couple more waiters and the service improved. I guess that because we were in port, Celebrity thought there would not be much traffic. They have a very limited menu, but it was healthy and good.
Since we had to pack this afternoon, we did not do much except go to the martini bar; the drinks are expensive, but they have half-price between 4 and 5 pm. The classic beverage package does not cover any of the fancy martinis.
The dinner was great, and so was the show. We went to bed early since we wanted to get off the ship early on Thursday morning with the early debarkation program. We had told Celebrity that we wanted to get off with the "carry your own luggage off program", but they somehow never got the word, so were in group 26 to get off the ship. We went down to customer service, and told them again, and they gave us a form, which told where we were supposed to meet (Conference room, Deck 3) on Thursday at 7:30 am
Day 6 - Thursday- 19 Dec.: Disembarkation day
We got to the Conference room about 7:15 am and there were at least 100 people in front of us. Our advice: get there early. At least this was much better than our last trip on the Silhouette when you had to take your luggage to the main dining room, and then had to catch an elevator to take you to the deck where you got off the ship. On this ship, you got off on deck 3, which is where you met.
We feel sure that Celebrity did everything to fix the engine, but they offered no compensation to anyone that we know of for not going to Cozumel. I know other ships have offered compensation, but then they were stranded at sea, so there is a major difference.
We did book another cruise for 2015 when we were on board. You get the free classic drink package and $250 on board credit when you do this, and you can change the ships or the dates. They claim that you cannot get this once you leave the ship, but I called my travel agent, and she said this was not true. I have not had time to investigate this, but I will.
We were disappointed that Celebrity does not host a Cruise Critic "Meet and Greet" on cruises less than 7 days. We certainly have enjoyed meeting other Cruise Critic members on previous cruises. A plus for Celebrity is that Celebrity lets you sign up online for their CC meeting, whereas on Carnival and HAL, someone has to take the initiative to put one together and communicate through Cruise Critics blogs. One of the CC members suggested we have a meeting, but unfortunately it was scheduled for the day we were supposed to go to Cozumel, and since we did not get to go to Cozumel, we went back onshore, and do not know if the meeting was held.
To Celebrity's credit, they do not allow smoking in the cabins and verandahs, dining rooms, lounges, showroom, or casino. Too bad that HAL and Celebrity do not do this.
Overall it was a very good cruise, and we look forward to our next sailing with Celebrity on the Equinox.