Ever since my cousins embarked for a year in the Middle East (Iraq!) in the early '60's on a trans-Atlantic cruise, and I had to get off the Italian Line boat before it sailed (when you could still do that!), I have wanted to sail across the Atlantic. Finally, a last minute "sale," and other factors, combined to make such a trip possible. It is great that my husband has ended up being a fan too!
We researched lines for about 6 months; and instantly most were eliminated due to the allowing of smoking, or not enforcing limiting rules, as reported here on CC & elsewhere. Picking a cruise, is like buying a car, you are never going to have everything exactly the way you might like it. Celebrity was one of the few left and we were very happy with the experience.
We were later than we would have liked boarding, as we were scheduled on a late van from an area motel. Upon boarding the Constellation, we were immediately accosted by crew trying to sell us a specialty dining package. Not a good start! We broke free and made our way to our cabin, where our wonderful attendant, Victor, was a lot calmer & helpful. (The cabin was cleaner than clean, I'm thoroughly spoiled.) Then we made our way to the top of the ship, for the sail away in beautiful weather.
Somewhat disconcerting was the every other night loosing of an hour as we traveled East. Thus to pick up that hour of lost sleep, life on board settled into a pattern of a late b'fast, lunch & dinner. Most breakfasts & lunch were at the Seaside Cafe/Grill. Having chosen the Anytime Dining, because we didn't want to be tied down to a schedule, worked out most times. The Maitre'D there performed a nightly juggling act very well, we thought. The only problem there, was except for the brunches (YUM!) we didn't get to eat on the main floor. Noise level was a problem, which was why we sometimes preferred the Seaside. We did the Tuscan Grill one night - service was excellent, one of us was pleased with our meal, the other less so. Late in the cruise we went to the Bistro on Five, and wished we had visited more often.
Since this was our first big ship cruise, we really enjoyed the behind the scenes tours - galley, bridge & engine control room. We also liked popping in on the lectures, & sometimes caught up with them via in house video. We never seemed to connect when the Strings were playing and that was a regret. Overall the atmosphere on board was cheerful and pleasant. Thanks to all the crew for their hard work. Husband had 3 acupuncture treatments with Dr Woo, on an unhappy thigh area, and he credits these for getting him up Mt St Michel on a port stop.
Although this was the first big ship, we have been on other boats from rowboats, to multi-night whale watches for 35, to large Canadian & Danish ferries. We thought the ship was very smooth, and actually enjoy the roll of the ship, if it is not violent. Some Bonine took care of one of us one day between the Azores & Portugal. Alas the sky's were often cloudy, so we missed seeing the stars we had hoped to.
As for excursions, part of the attraction of this trip were the northern ports in France. Seeing, climbing, being at Mt St Michel & Monet's Garden will cast a glow for the rest of our lives. Thanks to the wisdom & knowledge of Susie, Bonnie and Mike & Clare, all contacts brought together here on CC before sailing, these private, small group excursions were beyond satisfactory. Lisbon was probably the most interesting port to sail out of, with the ship just squeaking under a bridge with the low tide.
As for the plumbing troubles experienced by others on higher decks, all of us in steerage on the lower decks, seemed to obey the flushing rules, and had no issues that I know of. :-) The cabin signage should be a little more explicit & visible with instructions in this dept. Many people do not think of the disinfectant wipes so popular today as a problem for a ship's sewage system - they are. The crew should put the disposal baggies out in a more prominent location. At one point we had to ask our cabin steward for more bags, they were hidden in an under-sink cabinet. This is where experience with smaller boats & living on off-shore islands, had us well trained.
Celebrity & other lines have got to get their act together with Internet access, if they wish to attract younger cruisers. At present, it's overly expensive, slow, poor service, etc. They need to install more 'lines' to the satellites for passengers.
We liked the daily NYTimes news sheet. Found the daily reporting of the winnings in the casino amusing - with no info on the amounts bet! HAHA Our group experience with others at the beginning of the cruise, didn't encourage us to try again. Mistake on the part of the casino people.
On the positive side, they shouldn't change their chocolate supplier or the onion ring recipe! We didn't want the cruise to end. We are looking forward to another cruise with Celebrity in the future - maybe on the Solstice, with the hot glass show, where you will find me fused to a chair to watch the magic!