We just finished a marvelous ten days on the Constellation, our third cruise aboard her in the last 3 years, and she shows no signs of aging. The diligence of cleaning and maintenance staff really pays off. As you read our comments, please bear in mind that we are two seniors taking no kids along, early-risers not night owls.
EMBARKATION: Couldn't have been smoother. We arrived at the terminal at 12:40 and were in our state room a half hour later.
THE SHIP: We selected an Ocean View cabin on Continental Deck and appreciated the stability of being amidships. Our steward Iwan's name was easier to remember as "Ivan the Terrible" which he accepted with good humor. He and his assistant kept our cabin tidy and clean at all times, adjusting to daily variations in our schedule.
DINING: Having been raised to believe "Only children and dogs dine before 7:00" we can't adjust to eating at 6:00 and went for the second seating. Right after boarding we confirmed our request for a table for two and were assigned a good location. Our waiter quickly got used to our tastes and steered us to things we enjoyed, as varied as osso buco, duckling, grouper fritters, steak and fish. There were always plenty of choices. The waiter said to try something else if we hated the first selection. It never happened. We dined at the 10th Deck Casual Restaurant and were satisfied with a more limited menu and the change of scene. The dining highlight of the cruise was a night at Ocean Liners specialty restaurant where we went for the Menu exceptional. The chef selects a glass of wine to enhance each course and it is definitely worth doing. We can recommend the lobster bisque, rack of lamb and soufflE. Breakfast and lunch in the main restaurant are much more relaxed than the buffet scramble and can be enjoyed at leisure especially on days at sea. A breakfast of porridge (oatmeal) and kippers took me back to my youth in England. We discovered that the crowds thin out further aft on the 10th deck so you can enjoy your bacon & eggs, waffles or Asian lunch back there in relative peace.
ENTERTAINMENT & ACTIVITIES: We were delighted with the Celebrity Singers & Dancers. Even though they put on the same productions each cruise the caste keeps changing and their youth and vitality is a refreshing contrast to most of us in the audience! We had never seen Perry Grant perform in Michael's Club and greatly enjoyed his singing and piano routine at the theater. We will certainly go to Michael's in future. His camp style of involving the audience can probably trace its roots back in theater tradition as far as Noel Coward and he had quite a following on board. Guest comic Noodles' clankingly predictable, often lavatory humor turned us off but he certainly raised a lot of laughs. We really missed a classical music performer as we thought Celebrity was committed to providing one on cruises of ten days or more. Dr Thomas Ryan's Enrichment Series talks were a fascinating potpourri of pirate tales, Caribbean island history and odd anecdotes. Close attention had to be paid as at the end of each session he got us to compete in a quiz for prizes. The second morning on board, Celebrity arranged a CC coffee get together in a private room where we met ships officers and many CC pen-pals in person. This enabled us to keep in touch during the week. Right afterwards about 20 of us went to the Casino for a slot pull: each put in 21 dollars and we split the winnings. It was good fun. Captain's Club members were invited to interesting visits: up on the navigation bridge with the captain and behind the scenes in the Celebrity Theater. There were few children on board, seen only when eating or on their way to special activities arranged by Celebrity. We don't know how pleased they or their parents were with the trip. Also we were done for the day after dinner so cannot comment whether the bars or dance floors got hopping in the late evening.
SHORE EXCURSIONS & SHOPPING: It turned out a wise decision that St Thomas would be our shopping port. The shops opened at 9:00 and by 11:30 we were back on board with our loot. Delicious Belgian Chocolates are sold at their shop in Royal Dane Mall, between Main Street and Waterfront Highway. You don't need to cart your chocs around in the heat as they will deliver them back to your cabin at no charge. On the same street Okidanokh Goldcraft's owner/designer Abel Fabri offers his hand-crafted jewelry. Abel has been working on the island in gold, metals and gems for 30 years. He helped us choose an unusual ring, a diamond set in palladium, today's "in" metal from the platinum family. On Main Street, you can't beat the name brand selection at mega-store Little Switzerland. We came away with a Movado watch at an amazingly low price. We bought rum twice on shore. Once it was taken into custody by Security and returned the night before disembarkation. The next time the bottle in my backpack was ignored. Celebrity offered a St Thomas snorkel and sailing excursion which left from the dock beside Constellation soon after noon. Castaway Girl's young crew was entertaining and professional. The hour-long outward sail offered good views of the coastline along the way. When we reached Buck Island a crew-member lead those who wanted to swim to the best places to see turtles and lots of fish. Rum punch and other drinks were served on the way back. Based on CC Ports of Call comments, we made arrangements via Internet with local tour operators on 3 islands. We can recommend them all: St Kitts: We hired a lovely local lady, llva Wallace, to show us the highlights. She took us all over the island and did a great job explaining what we saw which included the Batik Factory at Romney Manor, Brimstone Hill Fort with its magnificent views, and surf at the black lava rocks. Barbados: We don't know what we missed by not being guided as planned by Cameron Reid. Instead, he assigned Colin to drive us to places we selected. Colin was a mine of local information, pointing out traditional "chattel houses",churches and rum shops. He helped us enjoy Sunbury Plantation, Andromeda Gardens, Bathsheba Beach and St Philip's Church. St Lucia: COSOL's tours were very popular. In spite of 3 ships in port, the energetic boss sorted us into ten-passenger vans and we were soon on our way. The first stop was to try delicious fresh bananas at a plantation that supplies Sainsbury supermarkets in England. We stopped off later for breakfast samples of local specialty foods washed down by rum punch, beer or soft drinks. Our destination village was beside the Pitons, the island's signature peaks that rise hundreds of feet out of the sea. A small boat took us to a white-sand beach from which we could snorkel in crystal waters. On the way back to port, we dropped in to see a still-active volcano and a waterfall you can bathe under. St. Martin: The port taxi dispatcher quickly pulled together a group to do a tour of the island. We saw Marigot's market and Orient Beach on the French side and drove through some of the Dutch territory. Nothing very striking for sight-seers and it seemed that shops and beaches are the island's main attractions.
DISEMBARKATION: Well organized. We were on shore at the promised hour to meet our driver for the ride home.
PS: We are now planning for our next cruise around the East Med on Solstice, wondering how different an experience the bigger ship will offer.