My husband and I were on the January 28th sailing of Constellation and we had a fabulous time! I'm organizing my photos right now and I'll be posting daily entries about the cruise in my travel blog over the next few days if anyone's interested.
First, some general comments. My husband and I are in our mid twenties and love to cruise. Celebrity is our preferred cruiseline. We have previously sailed on Galaxy and Summit. Travelling with us were my mother and her friend, who have also sailed on Galaxy and Summit.
We flew from Toronto to Fort Lauderdale the day before, and we stayed at the Rodeway Inn. It was a dump, but it was cheap and had a shuttle from the airport and to the port which was convenient. Just don't order breakfast there- it was a comedy of errors and was so bad at the end that without us saying a word of complaint, the manager came out and told us to have whatever we wanted because the meal was free.
We loved Constellation. She is well laid out and it's easy to navigate through the ship. We never felt crowded except on the pool deck on sea days (which we avoided). The artwork was interesting if eclectic.
We saw absolutely no maintenance issues or any problems like that. Constellation is in wonderful condition and we would definitely sail her again. In fact, my mother booked onboard for next year!
Embarkation: Quick and painless. We arrived at the port at 11:30 and after a short wait in the main waiting area (we were given numbers, and priority was given to Founders, Elite, and Select Captain's Club members as well as suites and Concierge Class) we were able to line up to get our Seapasses. By 12:30, we were onboard with champagne in hand.
Stateroom: #7199, a corner aft FV. I still can't get over how lucky we were to get this wonderful stateroom. We had originally booked a category 11 inside, when about a week before final payment we saw them open up a family verandah guarantee at a ridiculously low price. We jumped on it, and three weeks later we saw that we had scored one of the best FV cabins! (for photos, visit our travel blog)
It really felt like we had our own apartment or minisuite onboard. The cabin has its own hallway with an inner and outer door, so it was a perfect place to store our luggage out of the way. Inside, the amount of storage space for two people was fantastic. My husband and I each had our own closet and more drawers than we could use. I have no idea how five people could fit (they generally hold these for five people) even if three were children, but it was certainly comfortable and roomy for two. After the main room, there was a sliding wooden door with windows that opened into a little sitting area with another TV and VCR, which was very convenient if one person wanted to nap and the other wanted to read or watch TV.
The best part of course was the fabulous verandah- it really is bigger than the cabin! We had two loungers, four chairs, and two tables, and there was still plenty of room for walking around. The only tiny, minor negative is that instead of the nice clear plastic walls on the regular verandahs, this one had one panel of that and the rest was solid so that when you were on a lounger you couldn't really see the wake. But everything else was so fabulous that it didn't bother me at all. The verandah is half covered so you could lie in the sun if you wished or sit under the overhang and have some privacy- the best of both worlds.
There is some vibration at the rear of the ship and you can feel the motion of the ship a bit more than you can midship, but it didn't bother us much.
Our stateroom attendant, Analiza, and her assistant Ronald, were fabulous. Our room was always clean and tidy and they always seemed to know when we were in our cabin. Some days we liked to sleep later and she still somehow knew not to bother us even though we forgot our Do Not Disturb sign. On the days we got up early for breakfast, our room was made by the time we returned.
We also had some Bon Voyage items waiting for us: a fresh flower arrangement (beautiful, and it stayed lovely until the end of the cruise), two bottles of Cakebread wine, and the Premium Celebration Package. I loved the daily canapés, although I know many here do not. I am still unsure if we receive the same or different ones as Concierge. On many nights we received caviar, smoked salmon, and shrimp. They were a nice nibble before dinner.
We would absolutely book this cabin again if we are ever fortunate enough to get it for only two people.
Dining Room: We had a table for two at main seating, #590. I have to be honest and say that we were very disappointed with the dining room experience on this cruise. We love Celebrity's food and were absolutely bowled over in 2005 on Summit. When we did Galaxy last year, it was still good to very good. This year, we found the food to be mediocre at best. There were a few dishes that were done well (the salmon on the everyday menu, the soups, and the pasta dishes) but in general we both felt that the quality had slipped badly. Maybe this was just an off cruise, but it was not what we have come to expect from Celebrity. We were told by John, the cruise director, that Celebrity is working on the food and will be offering new coffee, as well as new items on the Seaview buffet and casual dining, however in this case we didn't think that newness would solve the problem- there were several new items on the menu and we tried them. It was the basic quality and preparation of the food that was lacking.
The one meal that was very good, to my surprise, was the lobster. The tails were large and generous and very tender.
I'm disappointed to say that our dining room service was lacking on this trip. Our dining room waiter, Marshall, was very standoffish and impersonal, and we never really developed a relationship with him. He also tended to forget our special requests. For example, we always like to have the cheese plate at dinner between the main course and dessert, so we asked him to please bring it to us before we had our dessert. He brought us the cheese and dessert at the same time. It's not really a big deal, but blue cheese is very pungent and I found that I could not really enjoy my dessert with the odor of the cheese hanging in the air. We asked him almost every night if it was possible to have the cheese and then for him to bring the dessert, but it never seemed to happen. It wasn't that we were lingering over dinner and he didn't have time to serve dessert as a separate course- we were generally finished dinner by 7:45.
Our assistant waiter, Cecilio, was excellent. We told him on the first night that we prefer a specific kind of bread from the basket, and after that every night it was filled with only that type of bread. Also, I told him early on that Celebrity salad dressing is my favorite and asked if it would be possible to get it most nights if it was not on the menu. Every night, Cecilio brought me the regular choices plus the Celebrity dressing.
Our maitre d', Dariusz, was again a little disappointing. We asked him on the first night about a specific dessert, Fraisier, that we had seen on Cruise Critic that was no longer on the menu. He told us that was correct, it had been replaced. We told him it was our favorite and asked if it was possible to have it on one night, and he said of course. Unfortunately, although we asked again halfway through the cruise, we never got our Fraisier.
Our sommelier, Emilia, ignored us on the first night. It seems that if you are young and have a table for two, they assume that you aren't going to be worth their while. We had to ask three times for her to come to our table, and we didn't get our wine until the entrée had already arrived! I understand that they are busy on the first night, but waiting until the meal is nearly finished is really lackluster service for Celebrity. Much to her surprise, I think we ended up being her best customers and after the first night, she was always at our table first.
Open seating breakfast and lunch tended to be good and we enjoyed our meals there.
I don't mean it to come across that we didn't enjoy the cruise or the dining, because we did. The difference is that on previous cruises, the dining room was truly a highlight of the trip. Hopefully this was just a bad week on Connie.
Specialty Dining: I can't rave enough about Ocean Liners. We had trouble with the shoreside service when we tried to book a reservation and they made it for the wrong day and told us it couldn't be cancelled, but as soon as we got onboard the problem was handled very quickly and easily.
We ate at Ocean Liners four times, and I would have loved to go more frequently! The food was absolutely wonderful and the service was top notch. After the first night, we were offered off menu items that were fantastic. My husband and I have eaten at five star restaurants before, and a few of these items were in that caliber. Our favorites were the Chateaubriand, the Lobster and Shrimp in Champagne sauce, and the Crepes Suzette. We tipped extra every night and felt it was well merited.
Dress Code: In general, the dress code was followed, even though we had the somewhat strange layout with two informal nights in a row. We actually noted that the men seemed to follow dress code more than the women, but in general (with a few exceptions), we estimated that at least 80% of the passengers were honoring the letter of the dress code. I don't recall if the wording in the Celebrity Today has always been the same, but we noticed there was a request for men not to remove their jackets at dinner to preserve the ambiance of the evening.
Room Service: Very quick! We found that our breakfast orders always arrived on time and were hot. I saw on another thread a comment about plastic covers being used- on Connie, room service was still delivered with metal plate covers.
It was interesting to note that our orders were always exactly correct when we wrote them in on the breakfast card (I like fresh strawberries and cheddar cheese in the mornings- not together!) but when we ordered generic items through the TV, we always seemed to get the wrong things. Oh well- we either ate them or ran upstairs to get pizza or a hamburger if it didn't work out.
Seaview Café/Poolside Grill: John told us that Connie was the first ship trying out some of the new Elizabeth Blau improvements. The new Poolside Grill items were a really nice change and we enjoyed them, especially the daily nacho station. I do miss the chocolate chip cookies, though- the new recipe tastes like store bought cookies and I much preferred the European style cookies they served before.
We tended not to eat much at the buffet during the day because we preferred the Grill or the dining room. We did enjoy the made to order pasta station and the pizza station as well as the Asian station and the ice cream. Of course, the waffles at the aft were fantastic as usual!
Afternoon tea in the Seaview was also a nice treat, with little sandwiches, cakes, and cookies. The new coffee mugs that actually held more than a swallow were definitely welcomed.
Public Rooms and Entertainment: We spent a lot of time in our stateroom since we loved the balcony and didn't venture out as much.
I have to say that we thought the daily activities and entertainment on this ship were a little weak. On previous cruises, my husband and I wished we could split ourselves in two so that we could go to all the activities that we wanted to. On this trip, some days we didn't really do much of anything but relax. Not that we didn't enjoy it but it would have been nice to have some more choices available.
We tended not to go to many of the evening shows because we feel that if you've seen one production show, you've seen them all. We really enjoyed Perry Grant, however, and the comedian Don Sherman was an absolute riot.
In the afternoons, we liked to relax at the Cova Café with some snacks and a drink. The chairs were comfortable and it was quiet. In the evening, they featured the a cappella group Oceans Four who were very good.
We also visited the Bar at the Edge of the Earth for the honeymoon/anniversary party and some of the bingo games. The windows were fantastic! We never sailed Connie pre-Cirque so we don't know what it used to look like, but it was still a nice place to listen to music and have a drink.
The Rendez-Vous is always one of our favorite hangouts for dancing, having a drink, and listening to some good music. My husband particularly enjoyed the jazz group.
We spent most of our evenings in the casino. The electronic poker table was a major disappointment. My husband and I love poker and played every night last year on Galaxy. We don't know if it was the table or if there were just not poker players on the cruise but we could not get a cash game going despite advertising in the daily and asking the players participating in the tournaments (a total waste of money given the blind structure). However, the casino staff was friendly and a lot of fun and we enjoyed ourselves with blackjack and craps.
Aqua Spa: I had my hair done twice for formal night by Letitia, and she did a great job and I got lots of compliments. She also gave me a free makeup consultation which was very helpful. We also did a Rasul treatment which was very nice, although the facility and products offered were not as good as those on the Galaxy.
Photographers: They were wonderful and so talented. We always get as many photos taken as possible to ensure that we have at least a few good ones to choose from at the end of the cruise. We bought thirteen photos this trip and regret not buying more! I strongly recommend doing the casual Lifestyles photos if you haven't done them before- they really come out so wonderfully. It's absolutely worth taking off your shoes and using silly props!
It was also pretty cool that one of the photographers asked me to sign a release so he could use one of our photos as advertising. He gave us a copy of the photo for free as a thank you, which was nice. It'd be kind of neat to see myself on an ad somewhere!
Ports of Call: We did the eleven day Ultimate Caribbean itinerary, which was fabulous! Grand Cayman: The port was swamped by ships that day- there were seven others plus us so it was a bit crowded. This was our only tendered port and I think it was handled poorly. We had a private tour so we got up early to catch the first tender. We had a short wait where we got a number and then were escorted to the tender. Although the water was not at all rough, the tender must have been secured to the dock badly because every minute or two, the tender slammed back into the dock, causing passengers to fall and loose objects to fly around. We stayed there for over ten minutes like that before finally leaving for shore. Being young and in good shape, it was irritating but not a real bother, but some older people were very upset.
We booked two tours with Captain Marvin- the stingray city tour in the morning and the Hell/turtle farm tour in the afternoon. The stingray city tour was amazing- we had a great time snorkeling among the coral and feeding the stingrays. There was also a videographer onboard who made a video of the day and sold copies if you were interested. There was water and fruit punch onboard for refreshments.
Unfortunately the second tour was very poor and we would not recommend it. Our tour guide for the second tour hardly spoke to us at all and we really had no idea what was going on at the stops in Hell. We nearly missed the volcanic rocks because we weren't told they were there!
We also only got half an hour at the turtle farm which wasn't really enough time to finish exploring and hearing about the turtles. These were both fun stops but I think I'd do them independently or get a taxi driver next time so that we could have more time and maybe get some commentary on the sites.
The other minor annoyance is that no meal or snack was served. The tour met at 9:15am and we returned to the dock at 3pm- by then we were all starving. It would be nice for the tour operator to offer sandwiches for the people who book two tours.
Aruba: We had already been to Aruba last year on Galaxy, so instead of doing a tour, we decided just to go to the beach and relax. We got a taxi to take us to Palm Beach and we relaxed in chairs in front of the Radisson resort. I went tubing and had a good time although I was a bit sore since the waves were so rough! It was nice to have a late stop there so we could spend more time onshore.
Cartagena: We booked the Deluxe Cartagena and Fortress tour and it was fabulous. The tour guide was excellent and we got to see a lot of different stops including the Inquisition. The only downside is that the locals swarm you to sell their wares, however if you say no thank you they will leave you alone.
Panama: We booked the Gatun Lake Eco Cruise and it was a great tour. The guide was very good and full of information about all the sites. We started at the Gatun Locks and were able to see a ship moving through the locks. Then we drove to Gatun Lake (stopping to see wildlife along the way) and took a cruise all around the lake while he told us the history of the lake and the Panama Canal. We would definitely recommend this excursion.
Cozumel: We were going to see the ruins but decided we wanted more of a relaxing day. We went to Cozumel mini golf and had a great time. The course was a lot of fun and the drinks were cheap and plentiful. After the mini golf, we walked around Cozumel a little and did some shopping before heading back to the ship.
General Comments: We are beginning to wonder if Celebrity is using the Drink of the Day as a hidden profit center. On three separate occasions when we ordered the Drink of the Day as part of a larger bar tab, we were not given the discounted price and had to ask for the bill to be adjusted. In fact, on one occasion they brought us the corrected bill and when we checked our account through the TV noticed that they had not removed the incorrect charge so we had paid twice! Guest Relations did remove the charge after an investigation but it was a bit frustrating.
Although we saw no sign of norovirus on the trip, every daily had a warning about Celebrity cooperating with the CDC about noro and a suggestion not to shake hands with people ashore. We are not sure if there was a minor problem or not but there was no bleaching and people were allowed to serve themselves in the buffet, so nothing affected us. There were sanitizers outside the dining room and Seaview and staff to ensure they were used.
We did not bring any alcohol aboard on embarkation day, but we did buy some onboard (delivered the last night) and bought some in the ports. They were being quite strict about the alcohol purchased in port but they missed us. The people before us and after us carried their liquor in the duty free shop bags. I put my bottle of Bailey's in my purse under some other junk and they never even asked me to open my purse. We did this again with some rum in Cozumel- we bought tequila to take home so we left it in the bag and put rum in my purse. The tequila was taken but the rum made it through.
Although there were several minor annoyances on this trip, we really had a fabulous time. After rereading this review I'm a little concerned that I didn't stress the things we enjoyed as much as I should have, but we definitely wished we were doing a B2B! We would definitely sail Constellation again.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask!