Embarkation: We arrived at Cape Liberty around 1130 am. I was actually quite surprised at just how makeshift the cruise terminal was. As compared to the facilities in Red Hook or even New York City, it seemed almost as though they took an old cargo terminal (which is what I believe they did), put up some new signs and created a cruise terminal. In any case, check-in procedures were handled with a minimum of effort and before long, we were directed to the waiting area to await embarkation. Being physically challenged, I was put on one of the first buses to the ship. Incidentally, the staff at Cape Liberty handled the embarkation needs of special needs passengers well. My only observation is that, not being a wheelchair user, but having requested one at embarkation, there was a short wait once we got to the ship for them to escort us aboard. Once this was sorted out however, it was smooth sailing for the next two weeks. Upon boarding, we were told that the staterooms would not be ready until about 1:30pm, so we proceeded to Deck 10 for lunch. While the embarkation buffet consisted of most of the usual selections, the quality was definitely, several cuts above average. Another thing which seemed to set this first meal apart, was Celebrity's attention to detail. Not only were the trays lined with linen napkins, but there were ample staff members to assist with carrying trays.
Stateroom - Initially upon getting my cabin assignment, I was concerned at the location, Deck 9 forward. However, upon entering cabin 9018 my concerns dissipated. The cabin was very comfortable, with the beds configured as twins as requested. I did notice however, that closet space was not as abundant as on the Crown Princess, which I sailed on earlier this year. However, our cabin steward, Allan, quickly offered to store our empty suitcases for us to give us more room in the cabin. Also, as I am mobility impaired (I walk with crutches and braces, however have never found the need to request an accessible cabin), I require a stool for the shower. Here again, Allan quick complied with my request, as well as making sure that our cabin was well kept and our needs met for the rest of the voyage. Having seen our home for the next two weeks, it was now time to go explore! Public Areas - My first impression in seeing the public spaces on board Constellation, is that they are elegant and understated, with less of the flash and glitz found on other lines. One of our first orders of business was to try to change our dining room seating. We had initially been given late seating, but as we do not like eating dinner late, asked to be switched to early seating. A quick visit to the Rendez-Vous Lounge was all it took to deal with this. Again, the general impression I got was that the staff took pride in providing service which was effortless and unassuming. With this taken care of we went to make reservations at The Ocean Liners Restaurant for one evening later in the voyage. We then walked around for a while trying to familiarize ourselves with various lounges and public spaces. My first impression was that Constellation was indeed a well planned out ship whose public spaces and passenger flow allowed one to quickly become comfortable. Next we returned to our stateroom to see if our luggage had arrived, which indeed it had. After some unpacking, it was time to proceed to the Celebrity Theatre for the muster drill. Here again, the staff of the Constellation excelled, quickly directing us to the section toward the entrance of the theatre which is reserved for physically challenged guests, thus alleviating the need for climbing down stairs. Surprisingly, when it was time to go out on deck to where the boats would actually be lowered in the event of an emergency, we were directed by a staff member to return to our cabin, as they said it was not necessary for us to stand out on deck. This being the case, we returned to our stateroom to dress for dinner.
Dining: The first night of any cruise can be intimidating in terms of meeting the people who will be your dining companions for the rest of the trip. Upon entering the beautiful San Marco Dining Room, my trepidation was almost immediately relieved. We were greeted warmly by our servers, Bernard and Pauline, two of the best, most professional wait staff I have ever had on any cruise. Not only was no request too small, but they always provided menu suggestions which were right on the money. As for our tablemates, sometimes you just get lucky, and in this case we couldn't have been luckier! We immediately hit it off with June and John from Scotland, and Betty, Caroline and Kay from England. Over the next two weeks, we would share many travel stories and laughs and hopefully we will stay in touch for a long time to come. In terms of quality, the food was consistently excellent. Standout dishes included the rack of lamb, veal chop and the osso buco, but truthfully , I cannot say that we had a dinner which wasa disappointing (and we like well prepared food and eat out a lot at home). Breakfasts and lunches we mostly ate at the buffet and found the daily offerings there to be quite good. I especially enjoyed the waffles at breakfast and the pasta at lunch. I did feel that Princess and Royal Caribbean had an edge when it came to pizza, but to me, that was a small detail. Our one dinner in Ocean Liners, was what I would imagine dining was like on the great ships of yesteryear, was a very fancy affair. We shared this meal with our tablemates from the dining room John and June and had a very pleasant experience. Standout dishes included the goat cheese souffle, the lobster and scallop entree and of course, the chocolate souffle for dessert.
Activities: I am a huge trivia fan, so I really enjoyed participating the various contests offered. The cruise director's staff did an excellent job of getting everyone involved. One standout for me was the Battle of the Sexes, in which the guys were pitted against the gals for a battle of wits. Suffice it to say, the fur flew a few times and a good time was had by all.
Entertainment: The nighttime entertainment was on a whole very good. However, I did not feel that the production shows were quite up to the level of Royal Caribbean or Disney. Standouts were Elliott Finkle and Dominique Ava. But on a whole all of the nighttime entertainment was of a very high caliber. After the shows, we generally headed to Michael's club to hear the musical stylings and comedic antics of Perry Grant. While we found him to be very entertaining and funny, I understand that he is not everyone's cup of tea. Note to Celebrity, on future newbuilds, make Michael's Pub, a larger space with more seating, as getting a seat was a problem most nights.
Ports: The itinerary provided an interesting mix and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the weather was much warmer than expected on our late September sailing.
Newport - As my mother's cousin lives about an hour from Newport we did not do any excursion here. She met us when we disembarked and drove us around on our own self guided tour. Later we some shopping and then caught what we thought was the last tender back to the ship.
Bar Harbor - Here we took a half day excursion to Acadia National Park which provided us with some beautiful views and amazing scenery. Upon returning to the pier area, we had lunch in town and did some shopping.
Quebec City - As this was a long port call we had many options. The first day, we took a full day tour of Old and New Quebec, which provided us with an amazing overview of all that Quebec has to offer. The only downside to the tour was lunch at a local restaurant which consisted of rubber chicken, however this was to me a minor detail. The tour ended with a visit to beautiful Montmorency Falls. The next day, we spent the entire day walking around Old Quebec with our new friends, John and June. As the gangway was quite long and steep I asked to use one of the ships wheelchairs to disembark. Not only did the staff of the Constellation comply with my request, but a staff member wheeled me off the ship and halfway into town!
Halifax - We took a half day tour to Peggy's Cove. Along the way our guide provided us with the history of the area as well as tales of the sinking of the Titanic and how many of its passengers are buried in Halifax, and also of the tragic crash of Swissair 111 and how the people of Halifax rallied to assist in the recovery efforts.
Portland - This was a very special port call for me, as I had arranged to meet my best friend from first grade, who now lives in Maine. We spent the first part of the morning walking around town and then my friend picked us up and drove us a short distance outside Portland to a little seafood restaurant, where we ate lunch alfresco, with the ocean so close you could almost touch it. I have never had such sweet lobster in all my life!
Boston - We started the day with a two hour city tour, which thankfully was by motorcoach as, for the first time this trip the weather turned misty and rainy. Later, we met up with John and June at Quincy Market and did some last minute shopping. Then it was back to the Constellation for lunch.
Disembarkation: As usual, a very early morning. We decided to meet John and June in the San Marco for breakfast as we wanted one more meal of being pampered by Bernard. However, at the last minute, he was needed upstairs so we just enjoyed one last breakfast with our new friends. We then proceeded to Rendez-Vous lounge to await disembarkation. Once ashore, we found our luggage fairly quickly and proceeded through customs and found our car service waiting for us.
In conclusion, while this was my first sailing with Celebrity, it will most certainly not be my last. Hats off to Celebrity and the staff and crew of the Constellation for a memorable voyage and a job well done!!!