We took a break from cruising for 6 years and spent 6 winters on the Costa del Sol. Tiring of planes we decided to head South one winter and check out retirement homes and spend some time cruising again. We ended up on the Caribbean Princess and had an OK cruise and then on Holland America's Ryandam which neither of us cared for. We decided cruising was no longer for us and bought a retirement home near Hilton Head, SC where we have kept busy for the past 5 winters.
During the unusual cold winter of 2010 I decided to once again try our former favorite, Celebrity and booked the Constellation for Jan. 15, 2011. I also became addicted to Cruise Critic since I now considered ourselves newbies. This review will not really mention ports much and we did not take excursions. We aren't beach people and the ship was our destination.
The travel club in our community had this cruise on their schedule and I used their TA who provided a free RT bus. We stayed at her recommended hotel (I booked it myself $25 less than her "bargain price.") All luggage remained on the bus overnight and we boarded the bus at 10:30 and we arrived at Port Everglades at 11:00am where the bus was unloaded, all bags accounted for and given to porters.
Upon entering the terminal we had a brief wait in line to go through security. Check in was a breeze, no lines at all and we were on board by 12:15 sipping sparkling wine.
We found a shaded table in the Sunset Bar where we grazed the buffet and had some delicious cocktails. Rooms were ready shortly after 1:00 but the cocktails were more fun. Our bags had not arrived so we went exploring and found many of our roll call had already autographed the frozen Martini Bar. Thongboy was there!
At 3:30 we met several of our roll call at the Sailaway party arranged by Scott and Sandy. Great folks, sorry our schedules didn't mesh more. We did run into them at the Martini Bar a few times, though.
We had early seating, 6;00, so even though we had luggage we had no time to unpack and had to rush to the dining room. We have booked Select dining for our next cruise. Our waiter (I won't mention his name) was very nice but his assistant, Irina, was outstanding. The first two evenings even though we were among the first table in the dining room we were the last served. We had a table of 8. We would be just getting our entrees when other guests were finished and leaving. The third night when we had been waiting for our filet for 25 minutes and our Irina was standing by her station looking at her watch, we called our Maitre'd ,Jan, over and explained we thought there might be a problem in the galley. He went rushing down the escalator and when he returned apologized profusely saying he'd told the kitchen to let our waiter "jump the line" from then on.
Our filets (very very good) arrived shortly after with an extremely nervous waiter who explained the galley had not cooked enough and that he had to wait 20 minutes for ours to be prepared. He looked like he'd been crying. I explained we hadn't complained about him but about a problem in the galley. We later were told the problem wasn't with the galley. For the rest of the cruise our service was very good and timely and Jan was always close by.
Food: I found the MDR food good but unmemorable. I can't say anything was bad, just not to my taste. The bread and breadsticks, which I normally don't touch, were delicious. I had salmon off the everyday menu once and it was excellent as was the everyday baked potato. I found salads and dressings so so with the exception of an Asian salad and dressing. My Caesar was left mostly uneaten.
The 2 nights I had rack of lamb were very good as were the filet, tournado of beef, really just like the filet, and the double sirloin Mediterranean style. Mama's pork chop had a very strange seasoning which I didn't care for but was large and cooked nicely. DH loved his veal chop but thought the Osso Bucco very dry and needing more gravy. I love lamb shank but mine was dry and I didn't like the way it was seasoned. Just my taste. Many we spoke to loved it.
We did order Pork Bellies and quickly exchanged them for a different entrEe. We never noticed beef cheeks on the menu thank goodness!
I did try a few desserts and loved the Crème Brulee the cinnamon ice cream, peanut butter ice cream and after eight mint ice cream.
The Buffet: We had breakfast and lunch there daily. I couldn't wait to try the waffles and after being on these boards knew to ask for a freshly made one left on a few minutes longer. The first morning I did this, most politely, and while I was helping myself to some bacon the server sneaked a waffle from the steam tray onto my plate. I kept my mouth shut and the waffle was good but I knew it could be better. A few days later on a less busy day I asked again and received my special waffle, a little piece of heaven.
The first time I visited the poached egg station I had a perfectly poached little guy, the next time it was undercooked and the next hard boiled. This meant another trip but I hate to waste food.
Scrambled eggs were mostly divine and bacon cooked crispy all but one day. Fried to order eggs were good but with only one cook at the station they took a while.
Corned beef hash....yeah!
Appreciated hot milk for my coffee. I brought my own thermal cups and Starbuck's Via and would run up for a before breakfast to fill a cup to enjoy on the balcony each day. Many people commented on this good idea. (Thank you CCers.)
We had lunch every day in the buffet or from the pool grill. We found the hamburgers, hot dogs (all beef) and chicken wings great. One day we had the idea of getting one of the marvelous "pretzel rolls" from the sandwich station and using it for our burger. Great idea!!!! The French fries were awesome. My favorite lunch spot at home has the same ones. They have a sort of batter coating so they come out extra crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Hint: If it's not too busy ask for some fresh and get some ranch or creamy garlic dressing from the salad bar to dip them in. On our final sea day a big poolside BBQ was taking place and instead of waiting in line got a burger and a dog. To me they tasted completely different. I didn't eat them. I found plenty to graze on inside, though.
Specialty Restaurants: We went to Bistro on 5 one night and the service was outstanding (not crowded) but my friend wanted to order a soup and salad and a crepe and she was told soup or salad only. As many crepes as you like but only soup or salad. Otherwise they were very accommodating and we had one person with us who was a real whiner and kept asking for special this and that. They gave her blueberry sauce, not on the menu, blueberry sauce too dry she whined.... then she asked for some strawberries, provided...... still too dry..... she was brought whipped cream. Finally happy.....and silent.
Stateroom: We were in 8159 near the aft elevators. Noise was minimal, almost non existent unless you really listened. We heard absolutely nothing from cabins on either side. The cabin was well appointed, plenty of storage. I brought an over the door shoe hanger which I used for...........shoes. Had too many but love the choices. Plenty of room for cosmetics etc. could be found on the vanity and bathroom cabinets and shelves. More hangers were quickly provided by our attendant Charlie who was the absolute best!!! He kept our collapsible cooler full of ice, brought large wine glasses daily and when he noticed a few days into the cruise that I had been getting a napkin and silverware from the buffet I found them on the coffee table twice daily. He always greeted us by name asking if we needed anything. He was there to open the door and take the tray from me almost every morning when I returned with our coffee and delivered it to the balcony table. The cabin was always spotless.
Some of our traveling companions did not experience this stellar level of service. One friend in a Concierge cabin said the same coffee stain on the balcony table was there 3 days into the cruise until she made special mention of it. One acquaintance in 3031 had a strange "noise" every 2 or 3 minutes which the brought to the attention of customer service. The same couple also experienced a stopped up drain which took 2 visits from the plumber to remedy. After 2 sleepless nights they eventually were transferred to another cabin.
Service: We have never in all our cruises experienced such wonderful friendly service from each and every crew member. The bar staff, Boom Boom in the martini bar greeted us by name each evening. Lili and Natasha in Michael's club were exceptional even when we encountered them in other venues. Daniella from Macedonia you won't miss with her little pony tail and cute bow clip in her hair as well as a big smile on her face. After waiting on us one time whenever we ran into her she greeted us by name. Jan, our maitre'd seemed to be everywhere both in the dining room and buffet making sure everything was to our liking. DH made a special request for southern fried chicken and three platters were delivered to our table the next evening.
Entertainment: On our first night I wandered into Michael's Club and had the pleasure of listening to Perry Grant. I told DH what he missed and we were regulars for the duration of the cruise. He is 50% of the reason we have rebooked the Connie next year. We did catch one production show, The Land Of Make Believe and thought the singing, dancing and set design were excellent. The steel drum player who boarded in Antigua, I believe, should be thrown overboard. The loud incessant bass noise he produced did nothing to enhance the enjoyment of a relaxing time in the pool area. In fact if he is on our next cruise I may jump overboard. Don Adamson the guitar/vocalist in the Sunset Bar was outstanding.
Casino: We lost. We did have a slot pull with our roll call. I contacted the Casino Host, Selma, the day before and she notified the cashier who divided the proceeds. A nice touch since we were without a calculator. We had a roaring good time.
Fitness Center: I used it several times and DH daily. Rarely found it crowded. I only use the treadmill and didn't find out till well into the cruise that earbuds are available at the desk so you can actually hear the TV.
Disembarkation: Although I thought it wasn't bad I heard lots of complaints. We had to wait for our luggage to be delivered and were only let into the holding pen in small groups. I found all 4 pieces grouped together and had no problem finding a porter and having it taken to the bus. He even knew exactly what bus I wanted!
Future Cruise Booking: Make an appointment early on. We didn't until the 26th and when a mistake was made on our paperwork were unable to get back in and correct it prior the end of the cruise. I also changed my sail date and lost my 2 category upgrade by doing so. That is not mentioned anywhere. I still retained my $300 OBC but the upgrade worth $200 was down the toilet. Since the res is now transferred to a TA I can no longer complain to Celebrity about it,
Things I'll do differently next time: We'll drive to Port Everglades ourselves and get a hotel where we can leave the car and take their shuttle or a taxi to the port.
I'll pack ½ as many clothes.
Pack a folding large brimmed hat with chin strap or at least a visor
I'll book a future cruise after coffee not after the martini bar and double check the paperwork.
I'll book select dining so I won't feel rushed if I'm in mid conversation to get ready or be seated for dinner.
Things I'm glad I did: Bringing on my Starbuck's Via, bringing thermal coffee cups, bringing large insulated mugs for our Crystal Light Lemonade, my over the door shoe bag and magnetic clips for the wall. I always knew where my sea pass and my daily were