My wife and I (around 40) sailed on the Celebrity Constellation on March 6 for a 10 day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. We had been regulars on Holland America Line (HAL), but decided to try Celebrity since we had heard it was perhaps a cut above HAL. Overall, we found that cruising with Celebrity was good, but found we preferred HAL after all. Some things Celebrity did exceedingly well, and other things they did not do well at all.
The Service. The service in the San Marcos Dining Room was very good. We appreciated our waiter and assistant very much. The person in charge was especially helpful making sure to take care of our special dietary needs (gluten-free). Everything was very professional. We did notice, however, that many of the crew seemed new and we often observed them crashing into one another and not getting along with each other. The service in the Seaside buffet was not very good. Some were responsive to our dietary needs, but others didn't seem to care.
The Food. The food in the main dining rooms was superb. The appetizers and soups were very tasty and many entrees were exceptional. On other cruises we usually didn't care for some of the dishes, but it was very rare that we did not like a dish here. The food in the dining room contrasted with the food in the buffet, which was often cold and not as tasty. The Aqua Spa Cafe located near the pool, however, was exceptional. This offered a light and healthy alternative to the buffet, and even though it was serve-yourself, the plates were already made and presented like we saw in the dining room. We found the servers very friendly and they seemed to take pride in their food preparation.
The Entertainment. The Celebrity singing and dancing crew were first-rate. They had plenty of energy, plenty of talent, and the sets were amazing. They were complemented by an acrobatic duo that was the talk around the ship. The theater was set up very well with plenty of good seats-you didn't have to get there too early to get a great seat. But these shows contrasted with their other entertainment which was not that great. One show featured a singer (Perry Grant) that you either really liked or really didn't-we unfortunately were in the latter category. The other singers were just OK. We didn't see the hypnotist, but even the ones who went to that show were convinced that things were fixed. We did appreciate the string quartet that played classical numbers, although the venue could have been better.
The Ship. Overall, the Constellation was pretty well laid out. Our cabin was more than adequate. They have a nice place to eat or have a drink back aft. Probably the best part of the ship was the Aqua Spa pool that was separate from the main pool in which the band and pool games were held. This pool contained salt water and had a place to recline back on top of a bubble jet. It had relaxing music as well as had two adjoining hot tubs. Additionally, there were saunas in the adjacent changing areas in which they each had a window to look out of as you were sitting there. As far as the overall decor of the ship, I found it to be strange. Instead of traditional nautical themes, they had photographs of city scenes. Instead of fresh flowers, they had displays of weeds (I'm not kidding). I thought there weren't enough elevators, at least not enough convenient ones. It seemed at times you had to walk quite a ways to get to one, and many times the cars would fill up with people and therefore would stop on every floor. There was no place to walk around the ship, although you could walk partway around on the top deck, but here you had to dodge all the beach chairs. There was a nice place to read and sit outside on the 4th deck, which was the same set up as HAL has on their promenade deck, but without the people walking by. Another plus was that Celebrity restricted how often they used the ship's loudspeaker so that they didn't announce every time there was BINGO or other similar events.
The Ports. We sailed to St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Barbados, St. Lucia, and St. Maarten. We appreciated that the cruise director mentioned where to catch the taxis if we didn't want to go on a shore excursion-HAL would only recommend that we explore by taking their shore excursions, which were often too pricey. We rode on the tramway to the top of the mountain in St. Thomas, which provided an excellent view of the harbor, although the nature trail at the top was steep and not marked well. We took the beach/snorkel shore excursion in Barbados, which was very nice although they want you to snorkel as a group over the shipwrecks, which made it a bit crowded. We took the bus ride to the Pitons in St. Lucia. The views were outstanding, but the ride was exhausting with all the hills and switchbacks. I probably would look into taking the boat excursion instead. In St. Maarten, we took a taxi ($4 pp ea way) to Little Bay at Diva Resort. The snorkeling was not that great since the water was choppy, but the location was scenic and it was only about 15 minutes from the cruise ship terminal. Here we rented chairs and an umbrella (all $5 each). There were restrooms to change in and a place get drinks right next to the beach. It was a very relaxing beach.
Overall, we enjoyed our vacation with Celebrity. They offer a good package at a fair price and they have their strong points. But we especially appreciate the Indonesian crew on HAL, which seem to make the cruise more special. It seems to rub off on the people as well- we found the people on Celebrity not as friendly as those that we met on HAL. But I still think people would enjoy their vacation on the Constellation.