Of the eight cruises we have taken, the one on the Infinity, sister ship to the Constellation, was one of the best. This experience, with the opportunity of seeing Quebec for two days and to see some fall color, led us to Constellation. On paper, it looked perfect.
We flew from New Orleans nonstop to Newark a day early since we could not determine the exact nature of Celebrity's air program as to getting us to the ship on time. It is a very long and confusing way (with luggage) from the arrival gate to the levels where you catch the train to the main terminal then to the cab stand. The Hilton Hotel Airport is lovely and the restaurant unexpectedly good, but the Starbucks is only open in the mornings. This and most other airport hotels sit far from anything else. They did have an airport shuttle at no cost.
Sailing day, we eagerly loaded up our gear and headed for the ship around 10:00. We caught a taxi and had been told that the fare would be $30.00, but they failed to tell us that this was per person for a total of $60.00. The cab driver told us many interesting things about the area, almost a tour itself. We arrived at the terminal, which looks out over the river, including Manhattan and the Statute of Liberty, without any problems. There were signs all around the terminal stating that loading would begin at 11:00, so we thought we would not have long to wait. We checked in and received a card showing that we would load fourth on buses. From the terminal to the ship is a long haul and all are required to ride the bus. No one loaded until after 1 and Celebrity personnel never said a word as to the delay. No food or water was provided in the waiting area. We later heard from other passengers who had come from Europe on the ship that it docked late, information that should have been shared with incoming passengers by Guest Relations.
Once we got on board the ship, we were offered wine or juice and invited to lunch in the Seaside Restaurant. Rooms were not ready, so we journeyed on up to have a bite to eat. After lunch, we went to our room and met our room steward, Miguel, who took such good care of us for the entire trip. Our room was small, as we had expected for an inside, but with good storage.
We really enjoyed the Thalassotherapy Pool. This pool is a must do; it's a salt water pool that is great and totally relaxing with areas to recline on as the jets message your entire body. It was tepid instead of warm the first day we tried it and the hot tub was warm, not hot, but that was corrected later in the cruise.
During the entire cruise, the entertainment was among the better we have seen. The singers and dancers and the production shows were superb, the comic Fred Klett far above the usual cruise ship comedian, the magician outstanding, the Australian singer just such an artist. All were great.
After a sea day, we made our first stop at Portland, Maine. This City was a total surprise to us, the people so friendly and helpful. There were many things to see within walking distance of the ship and the hop on - hop off bus is very convenient.
After another sea day, next stop was on Prince Edward Island. A most charming place, we rented a car, drove through the countryside, and had a nice lunch at a small town cafe way back in the woods. Toured the National Park on the north side of the Island, but stayed away from Green Gables to avoid the crowds. Upon our return to the ship, we were dropped off at the north door of a rather long building. Upon entering, we found that the line began at the south end of the building, so we made our way to the end of the line. No problems, everyone stood in the same line, no break-ins or priorities. I point this out because you will find out that later Celebrity wholly failed to provide crowd control.
Sea day and next on our ports was Quebec. We had looked forward to this for a long time and it was not a disappointment. We took the all day tour and recommend it. The bus drove around the walled part of the City, the plains and most of the northern area. The tour guide was great and most knowledgeable. At one of our stops, an amusing and informative skit was given by locals portraying Generals Wolfe and Montcalm as they planned their actions. Lunch was at a small restaurant on Île d'OrlEans where the food was only so-so, chicken breast with no choice of entrees. We also drove around the island and visited an early home, where local period-dressed players showed the house, tools and furniture and the manner of preparing food. Another stop, the spectacular Montmorency Falls, are not to be missed. After the all day tour on the bus, we came back to the old town and walked around it. It was great!
It seemed that all of the bus tours returned at the same time, each with around 50 people on board, so that the line was quite long. This in itself presented no problem; but while we stood in line, people who had walked into town were taken to the front of the line and given priority boarding as they returned. I complained to the security guards who were handling the matter, and to say that they were indifferent would be an understatement. When we got to the gangplank, I again complained to the ship officer in charge, but her response was that she was too busy at that time to do anything, and that I should go to Guest Relations. I did so, and was told to submit my complaint in writing. This I did, but again got no response. On the last day of the cruise, late in the afternoon and after we had reported this on our comment card and asked for a copy, a brief response to the initial complaint was slipped under our door; this appeared to be boiler plate and in all likelihood the same note was given to others. I leave Constellation with the idea that no one really cared what I thought. The solution to these problems is so simple: if you have one line, everyone should get in that line. If for any reason it is determined that two lines are necessary, then there must be two entries. Otherwise someone will become angry and in this case it was me.
Sea day and then came Halifax. When we arrived, we tried to dock, and after several efforts, the ship abandoned these efforts. An announcement was made that because the wind was so high, the ship could not dock, and that we would anchor and tender in. You would think that anyone who thinks straight would wonder at the safety of a small tender in the same wind that is too great for the ship. We did not and we really rocked and rolled to shore and on our return. The worst and most fearful part of the debarkation and reloading was a free-floating, wildly pitching dock where we landed and then had to walk 25 to 50 yards to land. There were no guard rails and no one to hold onto. Later shipboard rumor, true or false, was that some other ships came in out of the weather and took Constellation's berth. Rumor also says that the other ships were given all the tour buses and that none were available to take Constellation passengers. I know that few buses were around where we docked.
Another sea day and off to Bar Harbor. On the way we had a disastrously executed immigration processing. Each stateroom was given a time to report card to the Bar at the End of the World. When we arrived, the line had formed on the port side of the ship and wound around several times to the starboard side. We, like good citizens, took our place at the end of the line. When the doors opened and processing began, others were entering the line from the elevators, from the entry on the port side and up the stairs. No ship crew were in sight to control the process in the hallway, even after a phone call to complain to Guest Relations. People began yelling and cursing one another, with numerous threats, still no ship crew appeared. There was some pushing and shoving. We took pictures of this mob scene. We Marines calls this type of congregation a "cluster", and if you saw the movie Heartbreak Ridge, with Clint Eastwood, you know the meaning. Some who had been among the first to arrive were among the last to enter the room for processing. Once in, we dropped a card at one desk, walked across the room and showed another, all within 30 seconds. On the trip across the room, a ship's officer was standing there advising us to watch our step. Why had he not been out in the hall where there was actual danger of a riot? NOT ONE PERSON EVER CHECKED THOSE CARDS TO SEE IF THE PERSON WHO WAS THERE WAS SCHEDULED AT THAT TIME.
Finally, debarkation was well organized and went smoothly. We had a nonstop flight back to New Orleans at 8:00 that night. When we finally got through the security, we determined to just stay at the airport, read and, fortunately, there were plenty of TVs to watch the football games, a long wait. There were plenty of food options available including a Ben & Jerry's ice cream parlor.
THE GOOD: 1) Our room steward, Miguel, and his assistant, Carlos. 2) Our waiter in the dining room, Odewa, and his assistant, Mags, consistently cheerful and friendly without ever being overbearing. Odewa went out of his way to send items to our stateroom when we didn't feel up to coming to dinner (once for each of us. 3) The excellent music available in the various lounges. 4) The entertainment in the theater. 5) Easily accomplished car rental. In Charlottetown, Hertz deducted our taxi fare to the airport from our rental and provided transportation back to the dock; in Halifax, Hertz was in easy walking distance, and in Bar Harbor Enterprise had a shuttle waiting at the dock and back later.
THE SO-SO: 1) Food selections and quality, which were clearly a step or three down from our previous Celebrity experience. The soups in particular were a disappointment, most being watery and lacking flavor. Both shrimp cocktail and steak have been removed from the alternate menu, although apparently available upon request. 2) Service in the buffet. There seem to be many fewer personnel there, with some trying to cover several food stations and delays in busing tables in the more popular areas.
THE BAD: 1) Dearth of information to passengers. 2)TV channels.The few entertainment programs ran over and over throughout the 12 days, and there was scarce news coverage. Information about weather, seas, etc., was often not updated, i.e., showing the 6am temperature the same as the predicted high for the area. No dining room menu (useful for planning one's evening) was available on TV. Shows, even the production shows, were not broadcast. It appeared that most of the channels were taken up trying to sell something. 3) Food from the dining room menu is supposed to be available from room service during dining room hours. A call to room service got us the reply that this was impossible, but as stated above, Odewa accomplished "the impossible". 4) Time required to deliver room service. 5) The wine stewards, who got to be a nuisance at dinner and on more than one occasion had someone else's wine at our table.
THE UGLY: 1) That mob scene at immigration check. 2) The dangerous tender and unstable dock at Halifax. 3) Others being given priority in a long line because they had not taken a ship's shore excursion at Quebec. 4) Failure by ship's personnel to respond to complaints.
We should be remembering how beautiful and enjoyable Quebec was, how good the entertainment was. Instead, we think that we paid for an upscale experience that was not. Absent some indications that changes have been made, we will not use Celebrity again.
We are sending this to Corporate Guest Relations along with a copy of our comment card given at the ship.