We booked our cruise for our 25th Anniversary on the Constellation sailing on March 12th from Fort Lauderdale on the Western Caribbean itinerary. We booked Concierge Class cabin # 7182 and we can honestly say, that everything on board was close to terrific.
The only less than positive comments we have about the ship were minimal, so I will get them out of the way early. The on-board Email account that we were issued in our cruise documents was cancelled because the service had been discontinued just prior to our trip. We worked around this by setting up a free Yahoo account the first day. Some of the excursions were not available as choices when trying to book them via the cabin TV, but that was resolved at the Shore Excursions desk. And a few of the entrees and the daily canapés were very salty. That’s it – that’s all I can honestly say were the only negative comments of our 12-day Celebrity experience.
Embarkation was painless. From the time we pitched our luggage out of the car at Port Everglades to opening our cabin door was less than 15 minutes. The room was completely ready including the amenities such as flowers, champagne, ice, etc. Bedding was fine and the bed firm, but very comfortable. We met our stateroom attendant Analiza, and took off on a recon mission. As everyone knows, the Constellation is nearly identical to the Millennium (we were on her 2 years ago), so getting our bearings was easy. We hit the buffet for a little lunch and went to the excursion desk to book the tours that were not available on the TV.
The service in every area of the ship was terrific, especially the dining room staff. Our Turkish waiter Ibrahim and his Jamaican assistant Jacquilee were professional, efficient and friendly in every way, even down to seeing pictures of their families. Almost every crewmember that we encountered welcomed us and all were very accommodating when we asked for anything. Our tablemates were also great and we were all neighbors in the 7100 series cabins. They were from Bellingham, Washington and Fredericksburg, Virginia so that gave us plenty to talk about. We did eat one night in the Ocean Liners restaurant and it was very good. Fancier than I enjoy, but the food was good, surprisingly large portions and the service was spectacular.
The ports of call were Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Oranjestad, Aruba; Colon, Panama; Puerto Limon, Costa Rica and Cozumel, Mexico. My impression was that Panama was the dirtiest, Costa Rica was the poorest (but cleaner), Grand Cayman was the most crowded (8 ships in port that day) and Aruba and Cozumel were just OK. Of the 5 excursions we did, I enjoyed the partial transit of the Panama Canal the best. We traveled by bus to the Pacific side, then boarded a ferry and traveled 3+ hours through 2 of the 3 sets of locks (Miraflores and San Miguel). Then it was back on the bus at Gamboa for the trip back to the ship. Seeing the canal in operation and going through the locks was unforgettable. Only poor weather we had was in Costa Rica where it was cloudy and off and on misty rain for most of the day.
Shipboard activities and entertainment were standard Celebrity quality, though this is the part of the trip that interests us the least. We are more interested in excursions, dining, service and overall quality than always being able to “do” something. The shows were better than we expected and everything was on time. The cabin TV programming is a little weak but we don’t spend a lot of time watching it anyway, so not a big deal for us.
Dinner quality was very good, though some choices were fancier than I prefer and sometimes too salty. There were 3 Formal, 5 Casual (big fan of that) and 3 Informal nights. There was no problem requesting any substitutions or extras (including lobster), from appetizer to dessert. Buffet quality and choices seemed, compared to our last Celebrity trip in March of 2005, to actually be better than I remembered. And we really liked the breakfast-on-the-balcony routine.
The overall appearance of the ship is fine – a few rust spots outside, but after all, it’s a ship! My wife commented that the awnings over the balconies below us were a little dirty, but they were pressure cleaned during the trip. All of the common areas are bordering on spotless. No virus outbreaks were reported and there were plenty of hand sanitizing stations and most people were using them. Analiza and her assistant were very stealthy and efficient when it came to our cabin and I happily tipped them well above and beyond the recommendation – same with the dining room staff. As for the question of bringing liquor on board, checked baggage was not a problem, neither was having it in plain sight in the cabin. On our last full day, the Captain announced that we would be arriving in Fort Lauderdale about 6 hours early so that some engine maintenance could be done while in port prior to the next departure. The crew also has been telling us that when the ship goes into dry-dock in April, there will be engine work done. At no time did any engine trouble disrupt our trip so it seems that whatever is being done in port is preventative.
As a sidelight, the USCG had to do a medical evacuation via helicopter on Day 11 while we were between Cuba and Key West. About 200 people headed to the forward bar on deck 11, me included, to watch the process. As usual the USCG and Constellation crew performed their task professionally. My only wish is that the impolite people that were up there pushing their way to the windows would just stay away. Of course they were probably the same people that try to push their way into the other lines at every opportunity. Behavior like that could explain why some people “fall” off cruise ships.
Overall, our trip was just like the vast majority of reviews on this board indicated it would be. All aspects of our trip were very good or better. Service, food, accommodations, activities and ports did not disappoint. Celebrity, while supposedly cutting some corners (though not really evident to us, the occasional cruiser), provides a quality experience for the overwhelming number of its customers. No one that we spoke to was less than happy with their trip, though it would be unrealistic to think that everyone’s experience was exactly the same. We however, were very happy with our decision to again choose Celebrity.