This is my review for the Constellation's sailing for the 11 night Southern Caribbean Cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Ft. Lauderdale. Overall it was a very nice cruise and we enjoyed our return to the Constellation.
Pre-cruise and Embarkation.
Although we live in North Carolina, we decided to drive to the ship this time to avoid the hassle of airports, airlines, flight delays, etc. Although a long drive, we drove to Ft. Lauderdale the day before sailing. We spent the night in the Holiday Inn Express in Plantation, FL, which was an easy 10 minutes drive from Port Everglades the next morning. We used Park an' Go for the car and found their service to be excellent and about $6.00/day less expensive than parking in the port garages. I can highly recommend them. Embarkation itself was straight forward and we were on-board, and having lunch by Noon, having dropped our carry-ons in our Cabin.
Ship Accommodations and condition.
We had booked 8003 (CAT4) but found out the week before sailing that the Upgrade Fairy had touched us and we were actually in 9030 (2A). This was our first real upgrade and we did appreciate it. The cabin at 170 sq ft was a little tight on drawer space but otherwise very comfortable. Our Stateroom Attendant, Hilda, and her assistant did a very nice job for us and we appreciated their efforts.
Constellation appears to be in excellent condition with no maintenance issues that I noticed. Everything was clean and appeared to work properly. The Thal pool as always was wonderful.
Itinerary and Ports
We were interested in trying this cruise to see how we responded to the increased number of sea days. This was where the upgrade to the Veranda Stateroom was really nice. We spent a fair amount of time out there. There were plenty of other things to do; I particularly enjoyed Marine Biologist Dr, Jay Christoffson's lectures.
Grand Cayman: we had planned to snorkel here again and again the excursion was canceled because of high wind and seas. This was our 4th unsuccessful attempt in Grand Cayman; I think that we will give that up for the future.
Cartegena Columbia: This was the only new port on the itinerary and we took the walking city tour. We were fortunate to have a great guide, Sr. Villa, who to great and justified pride in his beautiful city. A very good day.
Colon, Panama: We had been here before and had taken a Panama Canal tour so we went to Panama City and took a walking tour of the old city there. Also very interesting.
Puerto Limon, Costa Rico: Again a repeat port, this time with not much to do. We walked around the craft market at the Port Terminal for a while and then spent the rest of the day on the ship.
Cozumel, Mexico: finally had a chance to snorkel and had a great day doing it. Warm, clear water and lots of fish.
Cuisine: Celebrity has made it's reputation on its food and service. Unfortunately there has been some slippage in some areas.
Ocean Liners ( Specialty Restaurant): no slippage here, a very special meal, beautifully prepared and served and worth every penny of the extra charge.
San Marco Restaurant( Main Dining Room): Here there has been a significant decline. The menu seems much narrower with few options. I saw very little that I thought was particularly creative or attempted to push the envelope. Salads were almost always warm, not cold and crisp, hot dishes were usually warm. By and large, meats were cut much thinner ( including the standard New York Strip Steak which I usually have if I don't see what I want on the daily offering). Since I like my meat rare, this was harder to achieve. I was fortunate in having an excellent waiter who did do the best for me that I think that could have been done. Service was certainly up to Celebrity Standards; the menu options and kitchen's renderings were not.
Seaside Grill ( Buffet Restaurant) Breakfast: It may be that this is one area where I have been spoiled by Azamara. The Constellation's buffet design as been adversely commented on by numerous cruisers; I found it particularly difficult this time—for some reason, breakfast at the Seaside was like feeding time at the Zoo. There seemed to be less help available to serve, clear tables, and help carry trays where needed. It also seemed as though many of the passengers were wandering sort of aimlessly trying to figure out what they wanted or where to go. Certainly the entry coffee station needs "Enter" and "Exit" signs to keep people from meeting in the center with no where to go, and the bread/roll station needs to be after the tray/silverware station and not before.
Seaside Grill, Lunch: Same sort of comment applies to the Seaside here. The items were not consistent from side to side and only half of the available stations were open at any given time, no matter what the demand.
The aft buffet stations ( Waffles, French toast in the morning, sandwiches at lunch.) were much less crowded and more pleasant.
Seaside Grill/Alternative Dining, Stir Fry, Sushi.: This sushi was excellent, fresh, tasty, and well presented. The stir-fry stations were also excellent and this became a very viable alternative for dinner to the San Marco as it was never crowded and always nice. Guitarist Dave Weber provided excellent ambiance.
Aqua Spa Cafe: We found this to be the best choice for breakfast and always worth a look for lunch. Sort of a well kept secret. Cereals, fresh fruit, lox and bagels, nicely served in a relatively uncrowded environment.
Wine and Beverages: we were fortunate to have a very knowledgeable and pleasant wine steward in William. He was helpful without being pushy and was very patient while we decided. The wines that we had were very good, but relatively expensive, all considered.
The ships coffee in the Seaside for breakfast was simply terrible. Overly strong, bitter without a lot of flavor, and needing to be diluted with hot water or milk. I remember the Constellation's coffee as being excellent on our previous cruise. Not this time, ugh! Did, I guess, provide the required morning caffeine, though.
Entertainment: I thought that the entertainment was pretty typical cruise ship, well executed, but typical. We did see Perry Grant in both Michael's Club and in the theater and really did not understand what all the fuss is about. He is much more entertaining in the smaller venue to my thinking. As mentioned above, I thought that Dave Weber, the guitarist, was the best entertainer on the cruise.
Ship and Condition: Excellent Cuisine: Average, but not up to Celebrity's historic Standards. Much more like a main-stream cruise line ( or good High School Cafeteria) Service: on a one to one basis, excellent overall, very good Overall Rating of Cruise Experience: 7/10, very good.
Summary Did we have a good time, we certainly did. Will we sail Celebrity again, we certainly will. But this experience was not up to our previous Celebrity Cruises and we can only hope that this will not be the new standard for the future.
Addendum: One of the things that I have been asking myself while on the cruise, and while writing this review is whether or not my two Azamara cruises have colored my perspective on the Constellation. I admit that I do like smaller, less crowded ships and that I have really enjoyed my Azamara cruises. At the same time, we have been on the Constellation before and have not noted the things mentioned in the review. So the conclusion that I have to draw is that the changes noted are really there for what ever reason and will just have to wait and see if the trend continues.