This was our 15th Cruise, 4th with Celebrity, and the second time on Constellation, the first being New England and Canada in October 2004. Because of this we were keen to see how Constellation was looking after 5 years, albeit having had a refit. Had read some reviews which left us a bit concerned.
We drove to Harwich having pre-booked car parking. Some were paying at the gate so a slight hold up, but nothing untoward. We arrived at about 2pm. Dropped off luggage in Car park which was then put into containers and taken to ship. Glad it was not raining, no cover at all. Parking was well marshalled and Courtesy bus efficient.
Having completed all boarding details on line, embarkation was quick and simple. On board we were met and greeted and escorted to our cabin, where our Cabin steward introduced herself. Having been on before we knew what to expect, and the cabin was as we remembered clean and plenty large enough, as was the bathroom.
Prior to boarding we had read some reviews and were a little concerned that the ship had let standards slip in respect of furnishings etc. We found that the standards were as we remembered, excellent.
We were second sitting in the Dining room, which is where we found, in our opinion that standards had slipped. The menu had been written in such a way that it seemed you could only order 4 courses, with the soups and salads being listed together, although the Chefs recommendations always listed 5. A subtle way of saving money? The food although very good did not seem to have the Wow factor as it did the first time on Constellation, although the service was still as good. Last time on board we commented on the price of the Wine, so it was good to see that Celebrity have introduced a House Red wine, very drinkable, at $25. We also found that whilst the quota for the cruise lasted, it was sold at $5 off. With the 15% service charge this made it $23- still expensive but we suppose acceptable.
It was the dress code that really shocked us. Sports shirts(Fred Perry Type) seem to be the norm now at Dinner, but some were arriving in Jeans and round neck `T` shirts!. On one formal night one man on an adjoining table turned up in a striped open neck long sleeved shirt. Not very satisfactory for those who take the trouble to dress correctly. Celebrity didn`t seem to do, or want to do anything about it. We ate in the dining room every night and most breakfast times. Other times we used the buffet and always found something we could both eat. It wasn`t like a Bun fight either, as on some ships we have been on.
We enjoy the shows on ships, and those put on by the Production company were excellent, However the visiting entertainers were absolutely dire and thats being kind. A singer/impressionist who we watched for 10 minutes and couldn`t work out who he was supposed to be impersonating. Then a Comedian ( I use the term loosely) who only told Irish jokes,that he had obviously been telling for 40 years or more. So much so that even my wife knew all the jokes! My wife wouldn`t go to see the Guitarist/Singer, so I went on my own for 10 minutes, I couldn`t stand any more. He seemed to be an advert for Grecian 2000 and serenaded us with a guitar solo of Apache and Hava Nagila. I think this sort of entertainment went out in the 60`s, or was it the 50`s. We didn`t bother with the opera singer who had sang to the Queen, although Celebrity didn`t actually say which Queen. One good thing, it was the Cruise Directors last cruise. Perry Grant is still on the ship, he is very good but you can only have so much of him.
We did not take any of the ship excursions, but relied on our past knowledge and experience. Celebrity put on an expensive Shuttle bus at most ports, which weren`t necessarily needed. One lady took the bus into Copenhagen and back to the bus and missed the Mermaid statue. No mention of this by Celebrity. Best option here is the open top bus, virtually same price as the Shuttle.
The highlight of the cruise for us, and why we booked this one, was St. Petersburg. On recommendation we booked 2 days with Denrus. Absolutely superb and would recommend them highly. Take absolutely no notice of what Celebrity tell you about disembarking at St. Petersburg. They tell independent travellers to meet in a bar the furthest away from the gangway, and not to leave until 8.15am. They even went as far as sending to us, what can only be described as a spoof letter, from the Port authority, indicating that Celebrity booked tours would be allowed through Immigration first. In addition the Cruise Director was on the ships TV saying the same, and offering a free phone call, to such as Denrus, to tell them what time to expect us. Needless to say you weren`t allowed to dial the number yourself and we don`t think anyone got through!.The Russian Immigration, who are very courteous and friendly, do not care who gets off the ship first. Also if you book a tour with an accredited company such as Denrus or others, you do NOT need a Visa, despite what Celebrity tell you.
All the ports we visited were excellent, and this is a superb itinerary.Disembarking the ship was very efficient. When we arrived at the car park we found our suitcases neatly sorted and laid out. Pity someone had thrown them about so much before, they were filthy. We can only assume also that if it rains they would get soaking wet, unless they erect a marquee, which we doubt. If you have a car in the car park you are not called to get off. If you are ready, ignore the time they give you and leave the ship, nobody checks.
To sum up, Constellation is more or less as we remembered her from 5 years ago. Still expensive on the drinks, still lacking in the entertainment department but otherwise very good. We will still maintain our dress standards whatever cruise line we go with. Finally, don`t forget that you can take the tips off your onboard account, and tip who you feel has given you good service, as we always do. Do not feel embarrased to do this, lots of passengers do.