My husband and I have sailed twice on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas, but really wanted to experience a longer cruise. We live in Central Florida, so the 10-night "Ultimate" Caribbean cruise seemed perfect for us.
Embarkation was fairly easy. We drove to Fort Lauderdale from our home on the space coast, and arrived at around 11:30 am. We parked in the big parking garage and took a shuttle to the ship. Our shuttle driver was a bit confused ... he reluctantly took us to the ship, but was expecting to take a load of people to the airport. Hmmm ... that makes no sense. Why would you park at the port to catch a plane? I think he was hoping for an extra tip from all of us. Anyway, once we got to the port we were on board in maybe 15 minutes.
We have always had a balcony cabin, but decided to book an oceanview this time. We selected a category 7 cabin on the third deck, and were situated slightly aft. The cabin was a decent size, and we liked the large porthole window and loveseat. This cabin was smaller than ones we have had on Mariner, but it was still sufficient for our needs. My only complaint about the cabin was the fact that we were so close to the waves. I suffer from motion sickness and when I looked out the window all I saw was water ... moving, surging water ... Good thing I wore my scopolomine patch! I didn't necessarily miss the balcony, and would take oceanview again if necessary.
Constellation is a nice ship. We noticed the many smaller "intimate" areas for sitting or having a drink. I did miss the multi-level promenade that we had on Mariner. But we LOVED the aft bar off of the buffet. We liked to sit there in the evening and listen to the guitar player. One night we were fortunate enough to sit outside, enjoying the music and a cocktail, and watch a lunar eclipse. That's one of those things you'll always remember!
On our first evening we looked forward to meeting our table mates, but were a bit disappointed to find that we were seated alone at a table for six. There were actually six tables in our area and all were set for just two. Had we been served by the same waiter, I probably would have asked the others if they wanted to join us at a table. Oh well, I'd rather sit with my husband and be happy with the company than be seated with a group that we didn't enjoy.
Our waiter was very efficient and provided us with very good service. Our assistant waiter left a lot to be desired. He spent much of his time in the wait station, and we would often sit for 3 or 4 minutes, waiting for salad dressings or rolls, while he stood and looked at us. Our water was often left unfilled. Fortunately one of the other assistant waiters took it upon himself to take care of us.
The food was quite good. The desserts were excellent. I've always managed to gain only maybe 1 or 2 lbs in a week on Mariner. I think I gained about 6 on Constellation ... and it was all due to the desserts!
We had dinner in Ocean Liners one evening and that was a highlight of the cruise for us. The service was impeccable, and the food was just excellent. My husband had the set menu with wine, while I had a salad and steak (and dessert of course!). I had participated in the wine pairings class earlier that day, and I was eager to try what I had learned. I tried three wines plus a port, and was really happy to use my newly gained knowledge. My husband had about six wines, but they were in smaller glasses. We almost rolled out the door after that meal ... absolutely excellent.
We had dinner in the casual dining establishment one night, and were very happy with the service and offerings. Please note that you need a reservation for this, and sometimes it is hard to get guest services to take your reservation. Another night we ate in the pizza and pasta buffet as we just wanted a quiet night.
We had breakfasts in the buffet each day. We had about three lunches in the buffet, and the rest were on shore or at the burger bar by the pool. LOVED the burger bar!!! That really made it feel like a vacation ... sitting by the pool and having a big old burger and fresh fries. I had breakfast in the aqua spa one day, but we didn't manage to have any other meals there. So many choices, so little time!
Our ports were St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Kitts and St. Thomas. We have been to St. Maarten and St. Thomas before, so just headed off to the beach on our own in St. Maarten. In St. Thomas we were both feeling really lousy with colds that we had picked up on board the ship, so we wound up shopping a bit, then heading back for a nap.
In St. Lucia we took a kayaking excursion. We have our own kayaks and use them in the intracoastal and Atlantic Ocean. We were pretty disappointed in this excursion. It's absolutely not for those who have any experience kayaking. The port area in St. Lucia is just stunning - I took several photos from the top deck of the ship. It's a really beautiful island!
On Barbados we did a beach pub crawl, and that was quite fun. We went to five different bars and tried rum punches everywhere. Our tour guide was a hoot ... lots of good stories that got better as she had more rum. :-)
On St. Kitts we took a bus ride out to a beach at the far end of the island, where you could see Nevis. What a gorgeous island! The landscape is just spectacular. Hope that development doesn't spoil it. We didn't see any of the legendary green monkeys, but saw loads of wild goats. The beach we went to was very busy, but it was scenic. I was glad we had booked the ship's excursions for both the pub crawl in Barbados, and the beach excursion in St. Kitts. Both of these had quite long drives involved, and with the amount of traffic around, I was concerned that we would miss the boat!
Our sea days were primarily spent by the pool. The chair hogs were out in full force. We saw one man who had three chairs saved, all in different sun/shade locations. He would take a book from the library and place it on a chair. Many people saved chairs for groups of 6 or 8. Very frustrating, and the pool attendants did nothing.
We didn't actually use the main pool, instead we liked to use the thallosotherapy pool. It was fabulous to get in to that pool in the evening (we had early dining). We often had the place to ourselves, and would just float around with the waves. They also have dry saunas and showers, so that was a really relaxing way to end the day.
As an aside - we are in our 40s and were younger than many of the passengers. We would often see older folks making their way into the warm thallosotherapy pool just to ease their aches and pains. On our last sea day it was quite rough, so the pools were like wave pools. It was really fun to see the older folks just floating in the waves, laughing as they went from side to side.
We saw about four of the production shows, the two main song and dance shows, plus a guy who played the electronic xylophone, and a fiddler. They were alright, but it really seemed like they developed the shows for a much older passenger.
Two nights we went to see Perry Grant, and his shows were fabulous. Well, they were fabulous for people like me who like lounge singers and sing-alongs. My husband wasn't quite as enthusiastic. I could have gone to his show five or six times ... but you couldn't get a seat in the lounge most nights! He's pretty popular.
A few miscellaneous comments: - we didn't use the internet cafe. It often appeared to be empty. - brought two bottles of wine onboard in our carry on luggage. The room had glasses and a corkscrew. - the cabin was unbelievably QUIET. So much quieter than any hotel room! - noticed almost no cigarette smoke anywhere - almost everyone dressed for formal night, which was great. We like to do the tux and long gown thing, and most others dressed the same way. Saw no people trying to enter the dining room in jeans and t-shirts.
The positives of the cruise were: - the food; - the itinerary; - the quiet little areas and interesting "hidden" gems of entertainment (guitar player on the aft balcony and Perry Grant) - the casino (I walked away in the positive!); - the library is great with many books to keep you occupied all week; - the drink of the day was always a great way to go!
But there were a few negatives as well: - some of the servers were pretty surly. I had a soda card and a couple of the bartenders in the pool area were absolute jerks about filling it up; - the passengers who came on board with colds and proceeded to hack and cough their way through all of the public areas without using a handkerchief or even their hands to cover their mouths; - rude and horrible service at guest relations when trying to book a reservation at casual dining, or sorting out our disembarkation time; - the average age of passengers was about 60+, so we found few people of our own age group. On the positive side, I felt like a hot young thing in my bathing suit! ;-) - and finally, the disembarkation (more below).
Disembarkation was an absolute mess, and it almost ruined the vacation for me. I was pretty relaxed that morning, but by the time we got off the ship I was ready for a valium. We needed an early color (like 9 am), and after assurances from Guest Services that we would get a 9 am color, we were the last color called. We waited in a jam packed lounge for 2 1/4 hours with no coffee, no water, and no communication (the PA system wasn't working). RCCI does it much better. Then the shuttle buses to the parking garage were completely overloaded and we waited another 30 minutes just to get to the car. Don't know if this was Port Everglades' problem or the fault of X, but it left a very bitter taste in my mouth. We would have gladly done self-disembarkation, but it's not permitted.
We will sail X again, but we will read more reviews to get an idea about the mix of passengers. We pretty frugal, but felt that it was an excellent value for the money. Yes, it is more expensive than other lines, but it was worth every penny more.
We won't do this itinerary again. One can only visit St. Thomas and St. Maartin so many times. And ten days away from home is just a bit too long for me.
Hope this helps someone else when selecting their cruise.