We sailed on the Celebrity Constellation on 02-29-08 for 10 days. This was our first cruise on Celebrity, but our 20th cruise overall. It will be our first and LAST cruise on Celebrity. The Constellation was rated as the #1 large ship by Conde Nast Traveler in 2006; well, it may have been #1 then, but it sure isn't now in my opinion, and I would like to explain why we think that.
We sailed from Ft. Lauderdale to St. Thomas, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Barbados, and St. Maarten, and took Celebrity-sponsored tours on every island except St. Thomas. Most of the tours were very good, but be careful of the wording: for example, in St. Maarten, we took the Island Tour, which according to the brochure, said "Continue on to Orient Bay for a view of Orient Beach, Pinel Island and St Barts before heading to Marigot for approx. 30 minutes of browsing among the shops and cafes..." WHAT A JOKE THIS WAS--the view of Orient beach was from about a mile away on top of the hill!! I guess they did not lie, but we had expected to get a little closer.
The staff and crew on the Constellation were very friendly, and spoke English very well. At least you could communicate with them.
Now to get into some specifics:
We booked this cruise in April 07, and had requested a main sitting for dinner for a table for two. When we checked out our table, we had a table for eight; so much for booking in advance!! When we found this out, we went to see if we could change this. Fortunately the head maitre d, Mario, was overseeing the complaints, and he put us at a very nice table, adjacent to the Captain's table. Most of the tables for 2 are in very bad locations, so we got lucky.
Comments on cabin: we were on the Vista deck, 7, with a balcony. The cabin was one of the smallest that I have ever seen for the price we paid. You could barely walk between the end of the bed and the opposite wall without running into either of them. Fortunately the opposite wall had some mirrors, so it made the cabin look bigger than it was. Holland America and Carnival have much larger cabins for a lot less money. Last year we cruised on Holland America's Westerdam with a far superior cabin, for a lot less money per day.
We had black mold in the shower and on the bathroom floor, and this was never corrected in the 10 days we were on the ship.
We have been spoiled by the luxurious towels and bed linens on Holland America; the towels on the Constellation looked and felt like rejects from Motel 6 or Walmart's cheapest stuff--fairly small, and scratchy--uck!
Dining: Dinner in the San Marco restaurant was ok, but it took 2+ hours to get through it. If you are going to order the steak, please bring your own CHAIN SAW, because the beef is very TOUGH; I ordered the New York Strip steak twice, and sent it back twice because it was difficult to cut, much less chew. It was cooked correctly (medium rare for me), but it was a really bad cut of beef. Likewise for the prime rib. The seafood was much better, although they tend to overcook it. I complained the first night about the salmon, and after that I had no problem with the seafood until the last formal night, when I got a lobster tail that you needed the chain saw to cut!!
Celebrity does not offer a normal buffet for dinner like most cruise ships do. The only thing that you can get is pizza and pasta. The breakfast and lunch buffets were very good for the most part, except the fish was overcooked. The salad bar(if you can call it that) is in the middle of the buffet line, rather than being off to the side like most ships offer. If you are a health addict, check out the mini-buffet at the Aqua Spa--it is well hidden, but very nice for healthy food; it is not open for dinner--only breakfast and lunch.
Embarkation: fairly easy and well organized. We got to the pier about 11:15am and were onboard by noon or so. Do your preboarding stuff online and print out your pass and it goes fairly smoothly.
Debarkation: A total disaster; I have never seen such a mess. I had read on CruiseCritic.com that you could carry your baggage off, and I called Celebrity to confirm this. The lady I talked with said that Celebrity did not advertise it, but you could do it. I checked with customer service onboard, and they said you could NOT do it. You have to fill out a debarkation form, and they assign you a color code and number supposedly depending on your airline flight time--what a joke. I requested from customer service that we leave the ship by 9am. By 9:30am they had still not called our color code and number. You have to put the color code on your baggage that you check. When you get to the terminal, you can find your baggage easier; i.e., look for Yellow or Blue, or whatever color they give you, because that is how they segment the baggage.
My advice: For your carry-off baggage, do NOT put the color code on it. When you hear, or see, the first people getting off the ship, go to deck three, and just leave. If you don't have any color coding on your carry off baggage, they won't know the difference.
We were supposed to leave the ship no later than 9am, and by 9:30 they had still not called our code. I finally just cut the tags off our carry off baggage, went to deck 3, and walked off the ship. There was no line at all!! Celebrity surely needs to improve this process. On Carnival, if you have roll-off luggage, you can be the first to leave.
Booze: Celebrity says that you can carry on 2 bottles of wine at embarkation, but no liquor or beer. We put 2 bottles of wine in our checked luggage, and 2 bottles in a roll-on cooler and had no problem. They also don't specify the size of the bottle, so we had 1.5l bottles.
They do check the stuff you buy in the islands, and will take it, but they deliver it to your cabin on last day of the cruise. On the last day of the cruise, you can buy liquor at the ship's store, and take it to your cabin. The prices onboard are much higher than at St Thomas or St Maarten. I took a picture with my digital camera of the prices at a liquor store in St Thomas, and showed it to the clerk on board, and they matched it. For example, the price for a 1 liter bottle of Jose Cuervo tequila on board was $18, and at St Thomas, it was two bottles for $22. I showed them the picture, and they matched it. Saved me the problem of lugging it onboard!
Art auction: we did buy some are onboard, but not sure we got a real deal, since they add 15% "buyers premium" plus $45 shipping. The art auctioneer, Jason, was very smart and knew a lot about the art he was selling, but was very cocky--reminded us of a used car salesman!! But the champagne was good, and free!
Cruise director: guy named Jeff--very average, or less
Announcements: almost non existent. They are supposed to announce when the ship clears customs, and you can get off the ship at the various ports. When we were in in St Lucia, the announcement came about 30 minutes AFTER people started getting off.
Casino: average; they have a computerized hold-em poker game, and have $50 and $100 buy-in tourney games most days. No real dealer--bad odds. Payouts on slots not good, as you would expect.
Passengers: on this cruise were older(estimate mostly 55-70); very few kids, as you might expect for a 10 day cruise in March.
Dress code: 3 formal nights, 2 informal nights, 5 casual nights. Celebrity does not enforce any code, unfortunately. Some clods showed up in shorts and t-shirts the last formal night, and Celebrity did nothing about it. My thoughts were that these people had no class, and Celebrity should have enforced the code that they set---but didn't.
Entertainment: The Celebrity singers and dancers were very good. One night they didn't even have a show---and no one ever explained why.
Celebrity Constellation may have been great in 2006, but in our opinion now, it is not good now; we will not sail in it again, or any other Celebrity ship unless they get their act together.
In our opinion, Holland America and Carnival are far superior to the Celebrity Constellation for food, entertainment, and value.