This 11 day January 7th cruise on the Constellation was our third ever, all on Celebrity within a year, we got hooked quickly! Previous cruises were, Century, 5 day Caribbean last January, great but too short and Summit 14 day San Diego to Hawaii round trip last October, also great. These previous two were in Concierge Class and this time we had a non Concierge balcony (6053) which we chose because it had a larger balcony than those available in Concierge Class when we booked. So, inevitably we were comparing the Constellation to the Summit and evaluating the benefits to us of Concierge Class. Conclusion are; this was another great cruise with a good itinerary and spacing between ports; overall we preferred the Summit and Concierge Class is not worth a lot of money for us.
To deal with Concierge first, for us its biggest benefit, is the bigger cabin, which only applies to Millennium class ships, also nice are the better hair dryers and shampoo. The robes, canapEs, champagne etc. we could take or leave; having said that; we have booked our next two trips Concierge and will do so again if the price and cabin choice is right.
If we tell you we went ashore at only two ports (Cartagena and Colon) of the five we visited you will understand that we enjoyed the ship and the sea days. We stayed on board at Grand Cayman, Aruba and Cozumel having visited them recently and not being real beach enthusiasts. It's very nice when almost everyone goes ashore and leaves all the amenities of the ship to just a few people; it's a bit like having your own private yacht! Cartagena was an interesting old town to visit and appeared quite safe to stroll through. We did the ships tour which allocated too much shopping time for our liking while others in our group hired a taxi with a driver who acted as guide which worked out better. Visiting the locks on the Panama Canal was very interesting, again a ship's tour, which includes a small boat trip on the Chagres River and an eco-walk in the rain forest, where would you believe, we experienced a downpour! Take an umbrella even if it looks dry when you are leaving the ship.
Entertainment on the ship was very good; two groups (Top Secret and Cooler Kings) provided great music for dancing in the Rendezvous Lounge; allowing us to work off just a little of what we consumed each day. The shows at the Celebrity Theatre with the Celebrity Singers, Dancers and Orchestra were all very good. The Guitarist, Charley Butler was good and we particularly enjoyed Hyperion Knight the Concert Pianist Less to our taste was Singer Helen Jayne, Comedian Louis Johnson and the acrobat couple Rebecca and Philippe. One of our biggest disappointments was that Perry Grant, who has a huge following, performed nightly in Michael's Club which, on the other ships was our favorite pre and post dinner watering hole. He is so popular that it was standing room only every evening, completely ruining the ambiance of the Club. So, for us, this was another plus for the Summit which featured much more mellow entertainment in Michaels. Just like our other Celebrity experiences this was not a trip for late night partying, the ship was very often quite dead well before midnight.
The food and service in the San Marco Restaurant was very good and our assistant Maitre D' was particularly attentive. On the first night we mentioned that we liked Indian food and from then on a sampler, was provided for the whole table every night in addition too the main courses we had ordered. On some occasions we enjoyed the Indian food even more than the main offering. We certainly have not noted any deterioration in standard over the year since Celebrity parted company with Michel Roux. Celebrity's traditional fixed seating works well, we had a table of eight who were fun to be with, so there was never a dull moment at dinner and we met up sometimes for other activities. There were three formal nights on this cruise and a majority of people got dressed up with a good percentage in tux's this is a nice part of the cruise tradition. On one of these formal nights we had the experience of getting invited to the Captains table, hosted by one of the senior officers, this was another very sociable group and we met some people who had been cruising much longer than us, one couple having done seventy cruises.
Our experience at Ocean Liners, the specialty restaurant, was a bit disappointing, it is very elegant and the food was good but the service was not as good as the Summit. On this occasion we failed to establish any real rapport with the staff which was the complete opposite to that on the Summit. A measure is that on the Summit we initially made two reservations at the Normandie and went back another twice including once with our whole the whole group from our table in the San Marco. On this trip we initially booked to go there three times but in the end went just twice and cancelled the third. When we went with our group from the San Marco, unlike on the Summit, we managed to get the table in the wine cellar, which is a separate small room in Ocean Liners, it's very nice but its isolation, a plus in many respects, may have been a cause of the deteriorated service on the occasion we were there. So, for us, this was another win for the Summit. Breakfast pastries and afternoon cakes, sandwiches and savories in the Cova Cafe were excellent, another delightful amenity of these ships. Also, it is a good place to enjoy the Discovery Strings quartet with a glass of wine in the evening. Mostly we ate healthy at breakfast and lunch in the Aqua Spa Cafe which serves very tasty lighter fare, the Salmon Tartar and Pasta Primavera come particularly to mind. We did not use the buffet very often but when we did it was good particularly the sushi and pizza.
There was never a shortage of things to do and sometimes we had to rush from one end of the ship to the other to get to our next activity. We enjoyed the naturalist, Don Enright, his talks on sharks, whales etc were interesting and entertaining. Most of our afternoons ended very pleasurably with an hour in the Persian Gardens with its relaxing lighting, Turkish baths, Sahara room etc. a good value at $175 per couple for the whole cruise.
Captain's Club members were invited to tour the Bridge, a back stage tour, a Chardonnay blending seminar and a Senior Officer's cocktail party, nice touches by Celebrity and all of which were enjoyable. There is nothing of much value in the Captain's Club coupon book, however we thought the $20 for a full bag of laundry was good until we got it back all washed but nothing pressed! What use is an un-ironed dress shirt? Again a poor comparison to the Summit, where everything came back beautifully pressed
The ship is in good condition, sure there are signs of wear and tear if you look hard enough, but it is well maintained spotlessly clean and the staff always courteous.
Embarkation was a breeze, we arrived at eleven hoping to board right away but it was twelve before boarding started and we were on board within a few minutes. Can't complain about the wait as our documents told us boarding would not start till 1:30 PM. Debarkation was also hassle free, we used Celebrity's shuttle to Fort Lauderdale airport which worked fine but a taxi might have been more efficient.
We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise would not hesitate to sail the Constellation again but preferred the service on the Summit, which is just as well as we have two Tran Atlantic's booked on her this year. Main complaint again, is that it was too short, we were jealous of the people who were staying on for the back to back which is what we plan for next year on the Galaxy.