Celebrity Constellation Review Cruise 6-15-11!!
Having never been to really any of the countries on this particular cruise, we felt a bit unprepared, but were very excited to go on a cruise somewhere other than the Caribbean, and none other than our favorite line, celebrity!
Boarding in Amsterdam- from our hotel we decided to be brave and take the tram to the cruise port, instead of taking a taxi that would have been very expensive. Taking our luggage on and off the trains was quite hard, but knowing that we would be soon aboard, was not so bad. The day before walking around Amsterdam we had tried to find the cruise terminal, and found it, but you have to look hard, if you're not taking a taxi or bus, it's kind of sandwiched between many buildings. So we got off the tram, and walked (in the rain) to the terminal. We walked in, they took our bags and went to some other area were we got a ticket (# 1) and we had to go up stairs, and wait for the number to be called. But when we got there, we found it had already been called, and we had to continue with another group. We went to security, got our room key, and proceeded to the ship, with a drinks waiting. Overall the embarkation: not too bad.
Stateroom- we had a cat. 2A veranda, 7080. It was nice, the new carpet, and the very light wood paneled mirrors, made the room feel much larger than it was, I'm surprised more cruise lines don't do this. The bathroom was small, of course we knew that, but had everything we needed, it did get very steamy when you took a shower however. The bathroom on the solstice was much nicer. Storage space was good, but we used every single drawer and shelf, because I was traveling with my parents, (I'm 15 By the way ?) so it was tight. The TV worked great, but we hardly spent any time watching it, except for looking at the map. The beds seemed very comfortable, but note, that if you are, or have someone in your room sleeping on the sofa bed, note that it is very small, if you're taller than six foot, forget trying to sleep there. The balcony was very large, we had a much larger balcony that looked at everyone's else's, so in that sense it was not very private, but the different views you could get from the balcony were amazing, great for pulling into ports, and being able to see more than everyone else ;). There were 2 of the standard balcony chairs and a table, our room steward Maria ( who did an absolutely amazing job cleaning our room every day) brought out an extra fold up seat for all three of us to sit on, nice touch; we probably could have had one of the large pool deck loungers in this room too, but decided that we didn't need it. So all in all the room was great, small, but very functional, it does not seem as boxy as some of the other rooms on others ships as well, just to a good simple layout, with rounded corners and mirrors.
The Ship- The received a refit more than a year ago, it looks like all the carpets were replaced, as well as many chairs in the lounges. My favorite, former bar at the edge of the earth, Now reflections is a very nice, large room, everything from golf putting games, to the a capella group are featured here. It has a nice new white chairs, (the beds were taken away by the forward windows, as well as all the cheep curtains), the white stone tables, which are very neat, have though. There is a large dance floor, used for a variety of activities, X-box Kinect, to celebrity life dance classes, and many other featured activities, like trivia's, scrapbooking, cooking demos ...ect. The views are fantastic from the forward windows; it made a somewhat popular place to relax on sea days. The new martini bar, is very similar to the one on the solstice class ships, and fits really well in the space that used to be the internet room. The ice bar is very cool, but gets a bit dirty by the end of the night. For those who know how crowded and busy the martini bar on the solstice can get, this one was almost never too busy, except only around dinner time. The new cafe albacio, is very stylish, I still like the cova cafe better, but it's very cozy (And also gets very crowded when the string quintet is playing), and has been enlarged by taking out the former card room and moving it to one of the meeting rooms on deck 3. The food there is free, they serve tea sandwiches in the late afternoon, and nice little desserts later on in the evening; there is also a small box of chocolates on the serving counter that are very tasty, better than the ones they give you for evening turn down service. The ever popular rendezvous lounge is also a very nice space, but gets very crowded right before dinner, not a surprise, it makes a great space for a pre-dinner drink, and for dancing. Note that for people who like to dance before dinner, the dance floor is very small and gets full quickly, so get there early, or right after the doors to the restaurant have opened, when people start to rush into the san marco dining room. The ceiling height in this room is really quite small, I wish they kept the hole in the floor, it really opened up the room, they really could have kept the hole if they really wanted to, but oh well. Speaking of what is above the rendezvous lounge, cellar masters, was never too busy, and very quiet. It really reminded me of the ensemble lounge on the solstice. It is a very stylish lounge, the dEcor is probably my favorite on the entire ship. The Michaels club is another very pretty lounge, it is actually larger than the one on the solstice, which I find strange, because it was very popular for Richard Rubin, and was even nicer for the Michaels club elite lounge, more on this later. The dEcor on this ship is very nice I think. Kind of modern and very light. I heard a couple talking in the elevator one day, they were commenting on how the dEcor is very bland on this ship compared to princess, how princess had a much nicer atrium (which I think it does) and how the art work was much nicer. Of course this is a touchy subject, but I think the art work is very nice on the ship, a bit strange in places with random statues, and show cases of weeds (look for these forward stairway)but very contemporary, however it might not be to everyone's style. There is a lot of wood paneling, or what looks like it, on the solstice the look like wood walls are very cheap looking, but here they seem much more real, and natural here. There are three main stairways, the elevators never got full, except when people come back from being on shore, or before dinner. The glass lifts are really stunning. The main lobby, is kind of strange on the m-class ships, which is taken up by a very large marble stair case, which really makes you feel like a celebrity, it's a very pretty lobby, with lots of nooks and crannies, it seems very closed off with the curtains, which is nice, but it is not as near as grand or open as the solstices foyer, except for the stair case, which is not very nice on the solstice. The casino is another nice area, it's just like any other casino though, lots of lights, and glitz. Then you enter the very white and bland photo gallery, which is the only part of the ship where it looks like they ran out of money. The open decks are in good shape, they weren't too much use on this cruise, but on sunny days, when it got warm people sat outside, but it was never crowded. My favorite outside area is the promenade deck, it's very close to the water, and great place to watch the waves, it almost always empty. The main pool deck it another nice space, they were replacing the blue pads on the sun loungers with new ones, and they are some of the most comfortable loungers at sea. The pools were never crowded, the one pool further from the buffet, was heated a bit, but still cold, the one closer was like ice; even the hot tubs were a bit cold. The aqua spa was very popular on this cruise, but it is still a good size and never too busy. The water was warm, and the atmosphere very relaxed, one of the best features of the m-class ships. The jogging track was in very good shape, as well as the decks above the reflections lounge, this deck was actually very full when we passed under the bridge in Denmark, and people stayed up past midnight, in the freezing cold to watch, a very nice sight however. There is also the very large basket ball court behind the funnel, it was seldom used. Note that on the celebrity today papers, they often had activities like shuffle board, and games on the pool deck, but on this cruise, either no one showed up, because it was too cold, or they simply just never had them based on the weather. Overall the ship is in good shape, there are a few spots that the ship could have looked better,( I saw on many occasions the crew painting over quite a few spots on the ship) mainly on the outside, but overall for a nine year old ship, I was impressed. The M-class is not too small, not too large, for right now it's just right. ? that's also what we used to say about the century class :0;)
Food. San Marco dining room- We were seated at table number 405, right next to the captain's table, adjacent to the large two story window. When we saw that this was our table we in absolute awe!! In almost all of our cruises we had sat either on the side, sometimes near a window, but our tables were certainly nothing special, except for this one! The dining room itself is very pretty, some of the buttons have fallen off the chairs, but other than that, it's in good shape. Our waiters Ari and Denis were probably the most amazing waiters that we ever had. Many times people around us were not there, so they would talk to us about upcoming ports, what's good, what's not, were we were going, when we would enter the locks, and tell us about ship life, and when we couldn't decide between entrees and desserts he would bring us both, without even asking!! And on a few occasions he would surprise us with entrees and desserts he wanted us to try, that we didn't even mention, by this point we were very full, but we tried to eat them! ON one instance he even brought us 3 chocolate soufflEs from ocean liners!! The food itself.... Very good, some things, particularly the steaks, which were small, but were excellent! Most things were very good, and a handful of courses were just ok. Appetizers are for the most part good, but the shrimp cocktail is quite small, but I really enjoy the Featured Specialty restaurant dishes. Soups were nice, the French onion soup is always great, and the salads for the most part were fine, some of them are very small; however a few I had were great, particularly with the celebrity dressing!! Entrees were probably the best course on average; meats including fish, were, for the most part excellent. The lobster they serve on the last night was good, but not what it used to be. Overall the entrees were fine, most very good, but some just ok. For example, the lasagna, and meat balls, were just ok; the lasagna wasn't really that great all, but why celebrity serves something so average and common anyway? Desserts were good, some were great, and most of them are very small. One thing you don't see any more are actual cakes that celebrity makes, and then cut and serve, now it at least seems that they are almost individual cakes, and desserts that may be less quality, may be easier to make, and less money, but don't get me wrong, some things are still really good, like the cheese cake, and the crème Brule but overall it really seems like celebrity took a bit away from the dessert table, at least in my opinion. On formal nights they still the palate sorbet before your entrEe, and I swear that we didn't see it on the solstice?? Do they do it on the solstice class? The orchestra only played one formal night. In summary the dining room was truly very good, probably the best In the premium cruise industry, with just a few possible let downs in a few places, but overall it was great, the dining room cuisine was really good, but in comparison to the old celebrity (Michel roux) it's not as good.
Ocean liners- We came here five years ago, and thought it was too much food, we decided to try it again, and it's still too much food, but not quite as much as I remember, but just as good. The avocado soup they serve in the begging is absolutely delish! The goat cheese soufflE melts in your mouth! Absolutely wonderful! For my entrEe I had the ocean liners lobster they prepare at the table, it was excellent. The cheese course was very good, but the cheese ice cream was way too weird for me. For dessert I had the sampler one, with juice, the three donuts, and something else, none the less it was great! Overall ocean liners were fantastic, food: excellent, service: excellent, and the value is unbelievable.
Buffet Seaside cafe- It may not be as up to date as on the solstice, but it certainly is still looking good, (considering it it's a very high traffic area, and gets very crowded). Everything we ate here was very good. I am still a long time fan of the waffles, with whipped cream, and strawberry sauce, 1000 calorie breakfast right there ?. I particularly thought that the breads, salad, pasta, and English section, were very good. The desserts were fine, but they seemed to be the same every day, a small Jell-O, tiramisu, cookies, parfait, and small little chocolate cake. There was no welcome chocolate cake. Tea time here is not to be missed the scones with whipped cream are to die for, as well as the sandwiches, and the caramel cookies!! But of course the tea was make it yourself. We came back late one night, and found the sushi very good.
Aqua spa- another unique venue. They added tables from what I can remember, which was good, because there were never enough tables to eat there. The lunches were good, a bit small, but you could have a decent meal there. Desserts looked just okay, but they actually tasted quite better than they looked. Breads, and the soups were excellent. I think I'm running out of complements to use!
The celebrity theater which appears to be about the same size as the one on the solstice, (strangely) is a very nice large show lounge. The shows and the production cast were probably the best we have seen, especially the singers. The best show was probably the I- Hollywood show, it didn't have much of a story line, but was well performed, and very entertaining. The comedian was good, but the comedian juggler was amazing. (Sorry I can't remember their names). The cruise director was very nice, we actually chatted a few times, and he was a very approachable and down to earth. The activities staff were really good at their jobs, especially Stephanie, who did most of the day to day trivia's. Richard Rubin was an excellent entertainer! His trivia's were great fun, even if I knew practically none of the songs! He does a great job preparing his songs and is a very talented pianist. Open the Door Richard!!
Germany- We Joined small tour of just the 3 of us and 1 couple from Canada. The tour stayed a little bit in the port, and continued to Rostock. Rostock is a very nice German town with lots of war history, and a beautiful church, with a very interesting clock. The tour continued to the larger town of Schwerin, which had a castle that was absolutely stunning. Many people went to Berlin, which I heard was stunning, but we decided not to stress ourselves with being gone all day.
Stockholm- Well it rained here, but coming into Stockholm was beautiful, similar to Alaska! We took the hop on hop off bus, but it was raining so hard, we just decided to go back to the ship. It looked like a beautiful city, but it was spoiled by the rain. ?
Estonia- we had all day here, all of the other 12-night cruises stop here after Russia, But came before, which was nice. It's a pretty small city, but with beautiful buildings, and a lot of history; this country has been tossed around Way too many times!!, I actually felt sorry for them A bit considering all the wars, and then the soviet occupation they had to endure. We did a Celebrity tour which took us to see some of the sights of the older part of town and the churches, then on to a farm where we saw how they made cheese, milk, and some other foods. Then on to a standard house that day to day people live in Estonia. It was a very nice tour that was well worth it.
St. Petersburg- This was truly the highlight of the cruise, there are so many things to see do and experience here, that you cannot see it all, not even close. Note that you lose an hour of sleep the day before, and the day before that, so do not stay up! ;) We booked a private tour, which was nice because we didn't have to wait in any lines, but it seems like it does not matter what tour you do, whether it be with the cruise line or outside of the cruise line, all of the tour guides are very experienced, work hard, and take you to all the sights. We saw Peterholf, the palace with 300 fountains, all of them gold plated. It was packed with people, pretty much everywhere. Then on to the hermitage museum, I can't even begin to describe the detail, and quality, and extreme diversity of this museum, everything from famous still life paintings, to murals, to sculptures, armors, and everything in between.
Helsinki- compared to Russia, this place was boring. In all honesty, the rock church, and a few other buildings were the only main sites to see here; other than that the attractions were few and far between. It's very clean, safe, and easy to walk around, but you're not missing much here.
Copenhagen- This was actually a really great city! It would have been nice to spend more time here, like the Eclipse, which has overnight. There are lots to see here. We did a bike tour and had a good time looking at the sights. We saw the little mermaid, the presidential palace, and the Maserk sea land head Quarters- very cool building. We wanted to see Tivoli Gardens, but we really didn't have enough time to see it, and we didn't really want to ride any rides?. It's a cool city with a lot nice shops, and wind.
Other- The itinerary was a real treat, it took as to places we have never been, and may not be back to that soon, but it really opened our eyes to an area the was a bit of the beaten path of avid traveling, and The celebrity Constellation was the ship to do it on. The crew onboard the Constellation were one of the happiest and welcoming people we have ever cruised with. Since we are Elite members we get elite breakfast and cocktail hour in the evening. It is very nice that celebrity does this for its elite passengers, and was a real highlight of the cruise. We had cafe americanos made in the morning and diet coke for me waiting in the Michaels club. The bar tenders were some of the most friendly and warm bar tenders we ever met, they were always smiling, bringing drinks without even asking, and having our coffees made with right as we walked in.(but where was the captains club hostess, she was almost never there) The night we left the Michaels brought a tear to just about everyone's eye saying good bye to our new friends and bar tenders.
Celebrity certainly does cruising right, when it's the little touches like hot chocolate on the docks, or the smiling crew, and the padded pool loungers, you can't beat celebrity in the premium cruise market. When you mix the best premium market cruise line with an exotic itinerary, you know you have the cruise of a life time. ?