Our Constellation Cruise was our sixth cruise vacation. Previous lines have been Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. After our second cruise with Norwegian we had decided that the Norwegian Cruise Line was not for us. Being in our mid-fifties, we decided to try the more upscale Celebrity Line. We cruised with two other couples that had also done previous cruises.
DAY ONE - San Juan. Embarkation at San Juan (4:00 p.m.), after a long flight from Minneapolis, was extremely smooth and fast. Liquor purchased at the pier at a very good price and carried on board in our carry on bags went unquestioned. The champagne and juice offered as we boarded was a nice touch.
Our inside cabins, forward on deck nine, were slightly larger than other insides that we had experienced in the past. The refrigerator helped to chill our beverages. My wife did not feel the supplied hair dryer had adequate power. The cabin had adequate space for all our belongings.
The cabin steward, Alfrado, was attentive and friendly throughout our cruise.
Due to our time of arrival we did not eat in the main dinning room that evening but rather snacked at the Sea Side Grill.
DAY TWO - Casa De Campo. We awoke early to take pictures of the sunrise only to discover it had been raining during the night and a light mist still persisted.
We ate breakfast at the Sea Side Cafe Buffet, as we did every morning throughout the cruise. The buffet offerings were quite good. The omelet station and Belgium waffles, located near the rear of the ship, at the Sea Side Grill, were especially good.
At Casa De Campo we decided to take the free shuttle to Altos De Chavon. These free shuttles were a tremendous marketing ploy by the Dominican Department of Tourism. The route taken to Altos De Chavon wound through the Casa De Campo Resort as well as other high-class residential areas. Prior to our cruise I had not succeeded in attaining much information about the area we were visiting except for the Casa De Campo Resort. At the time of our visit to Altos De Chavon it had begun raining (wish we had thought to bring the umbrellas supplied in our cabin) and not having knowledge of what the village was about, other than overpriced shops, we made a fairly short tour of the area and then returned to the shuttles. In depth information of the village of which construction began in 1976 "to create the rich architectural landscape" that has become a "vibrant cultural village, which is a replica of an XVI century Mediterranean village," can be found at www.altosdechavon.com. The rain was beginning to subside so we decided to visit the marina. Again the route taken to the exclusive marina area was through very influential neighborhoods. After a stroll though some of the area shops and taking pictures of some very nice yachts, we returned to the Constellation.
That evening we dinned in the San Marco Restaurant. The wait staff was very accommodating and efficient. We felt they seemed a bit rushed without a lot of time to visit or talk with us. This may have been due to our main dining seating rather than the late seating that we are accustomed to, where wait staff does not have to prepare for an additional seating. Dinner choices in the San Marco Restaurant throughout the cruise were of good variety and in our opinion, very well prepared. We did request and were served Shrimp Cocktail with every dinner during the week.
In talking to others that had cruised with Celebrity in the past they felt that the quality of the food had gone down some in comparison that of previous years.
We enjoyed the evening shows that we attended.
DAY THREE - At Sea. We started the day by taking pictures of the sunrise and then enjoyed leisurely coffee on the stern of the ship, outside of the Sea Side Grill. Breakfast included selections from the Sea Side Buffet, omelets and waffles at the Sea Side Grill.
The winds were quite strong on deck so we spent much of the morning enjoying the Aqua spa, hot tubs and wave pool.
Each day we ate our lunches on deck 10, the Sports Deck. As mentioned in other reviews you have the healthy choices in the Aqua spa, the Themed Buffet at the Sea Side buffet, Pasta and Pizza selections at the Sea Side Grill as well as sandwich selections at the rear Sea Side Grill area. Always available poolside, were very good hamburgers, turkey burgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs and French fries.
Our afternoon at sea was spent soaking up the rays while trying to avoid getting a windburn. During the cruise there was never any trouble finding a deck chair. The "pool butlers" made continuous rounds removing towels from unoccupied chairs. During the day at sea the very good, Onyx Band played at poolside, which livened things up a bit.
One of our biggest complaints of the entire cruise was the lack of poolside activities, and the small amount of time that live bands played on the pool deck. During the majority of the cruise poolside music was from subdued CDs of the "elevator music" variety. Our group loves the beat of music poolside when cruising the Caribbean. We questioned our dining room waiter, Bernard, about the lack of poolside bands and we were told he is asked that quite often. When he raises the question to his superiors he is told that guests like it the way it is. Not having read other reviews criticizing the lack of band music on deck our group must be in the minority of those who find this a disappointment.
Dinner dress on the day at sea was formal. The filet minion steak was very good. Following dinner we were entertained in the Celebrity Theater by a very good ventriloquist/comedian.
DAY FOUR - Barbados. Our highlight of the day was our trip to Mullins Bay Beach. We took the advise offered in other reviews and made the ten minute walk a long the waterfront to the Cheapside Bus Terminal. I didn't remember which busses were recommended (the large blue busses with yellow or the smaller yellow busses with blue on them) we chose the smaller yellow busses with the blue stripe, which were the correct busses. The trip through town and to Mullins Bay was a riot, hang on and go. The trip cost $1.50 American, per person. Friends who joined us later in the day took a cab at a one-way cost of $35. Beach chairs were $5 each for the day and $5 for a beach umbrella. The beach was white sand and the ocean a beautiful turquoise. The waves were not overly large. A nice bar and restaurant is also located here. There was no one trying to pressure you into buying souvenirs. Although "the Chemist" did appear offering for sale "smokes and crack," upon turning down these offers, he offered me a girl for the afternoon. My wife immediately turned this offer down on my behalf. By mid afternoon we decided to head back to the ship. The yellow busses to "B town" passed by Mullins Beach every fifteen minutes or so.
Another exciting ride on a crowded bus. During the ride my wife, Judy, visited with a native of the island and learned (to no surprise) that one can live on the island relatively inexpensively if you know where to live, shop and how to get around.
Back on the pier the ladies stayed and shopped at the cruise ship terminal. The guys stopped at one of the liquor stores on our way through the area. It turned out that prices for many of the items located in these shops were better than on any of the other islands.
At last music and dancing on deck with live music by the Onyx band for the poolside Caribbean night deck party at 11 pm.
DAY FIVE - Grenada. The plan for the day was to spend some time on shore and the afternoon in the sun on deck. Prior to joining the others in our group, Judy and I ventured ashore to check out the town located just adjacent to the pier. What an experience. We were descended upon by masses of natives offering taxi tours, walking tours and those selling trinkets and souvenirs. Most of these people did not quite understand the concept associated with words such as "no thanks," "not now, maybe later" or "we have other plans." After a short walk through the downtown area we returned to the ship to join our other two couples.
This time we were better prepared as we left the ship and ventured down the pier. Four of us opted to take the water taxi to Grand Anse Beach while our other couple, in spite of our warning, decided to venture into town.
The water taxi was also a unique adventure. A group of cruise ship passengers were led from the pier into a tunnel passing through the hillside. This was very tight for vehicle and pedestrian traffic. On the other side of the tunnel we arrived at another smaller pier area. Here we found the old small wooden water taxis that carried from ten to twenty people each on the wood seats mounted around the perimeter of the craft. After some arguing amongst boat crews as to what boat should be loaded first, we were all seated and ready for the ride. There was some difficulty in getting the outboard engines started but eventually we were off. After a fifteen minute boat ride that would not be for those that have a fear of water, we approached the beach and were told to remove our shoes because we would be getting out in the water. The two-man crew held the boats against the surf while we all disembarked off the rear into the shallow water. After an uneventful visit to the beach and some souvenir shopping we returned to the ship. The cost for the water taxi is a very reasonable $2 per person each way.
Something that we learned on our visit was that the majority of the hurricane damage occurred on the side of the island opposite the pier. Also, the majority of relief money coming from countries outside of the islands went to non-native interests on Grenada.
On this night the Onyx Band played in the Rondez-vous Lounge for a '50s & '60s dance party. The place was completely packed, another lesson to be learned by Celebrity staff, play music and they will come.
DAY SIX - Antigua. As we approached Antigua, we were able to take pictures of another beautiful sunrise.
The six of us had decided that we would hire a taxi to do a tour of the island. As you exit the pier you walk directly into a plaza type shopping mall. Unlike Grenada, the people of Antigua are very well practiced in tourism. To hire a cab one simply goes to a kiosk in the middle of the plaza and talks with a guide/dispatcher, who suggests places to visit on the island. We had predetermined that we wanted to see Nelson's Dockyard. It was suggested that we return from the Dockyard via Shirley Heights, Dow's Hill and the rain forest, Warner, in taxi #918, was assigned to us for the day at a predetermined price of $20 per passenger. We highly recommend this tour as well as Warner. Warner is an educated young man studying to attain a teaching certificate, a top-notch tour guide.
Nelson's Boat Yard is definitely worth visiting for the historical value as well as to view the beautiful harbor and numerous yachts. The views from Dow's Hill and Shirley Heights were wonderful.
We returned to the Constellation in mid afternoon and spent the rest of the day lounging in the pool area.
Dinner that evening was the second formal night. The big decision in ordering dinner that evening was whether to order one, two, or three lobster tails.
DAY SEVEN - St. Thomas. Definitely the worst day of any seven night cruise - the last day.
This was also the morning all passengers were required to go through immigration formalities. On previous cruises we had stood in line for over an hour to go through this process. This time it was only a matter of a five to ten minute process.
St. Thomas was the port we had booked our only ship-arranged excursion. It was the Buck Island Sailing & Snorkeling Tour. A group of twenty-four of us met on the pier at the scheduled time. We were divided into groups of six and assigned to four sailboats. Judy and I were assigned to the Miss "K." We all walked to the beginning of the pier to take rubber dinghies to our sailboats. Due to a strong wind blowing out of the non-prevailing direction, Buck Bay was out for snorkeling so an alternate bay was selected. The crew of the Miss "K," Larry and Shay, were supper. Larry, the skipper, was from San Juan via Florida and Shay was from Northern California. Upon anchoring at the snorkeling site, Larry took off in the dingy to pirate a bottle of rum from another vessel while Shay served as our snorkeling guide. One couple stayed relatively close to the boat while the rest of us took off for over an hour of swimming and snorkeling. The fish, coral and octopus we saw was some of the best and most numerous of any snorkeling we have done in the Caribbean. We give a strong recommendation for the Miss "K" and her crew. We were told that on future cruises contact them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tours booked directly are substantial cheaper than those booked though the cruise line, where the cruise line receives a substantial cut.
We have learned that if there is any shopping that we feel needs to be done in St. Thomas it is best accomplished at the HavenSight Mall, adjacent to the pier. The shops are the same as those found in town with the same prices and not nearly the congestion.
LAST DAY -- Disembarkation was the smoothest we have experienced from any cruise.
SUMMARY -- Overall satisfaction in the cruise was very good. Service was very good to excellent. Entertainment in the Celebrity Theater was very good. Food in the numerous venues was very good to excellent. The Constellation is a beautiful very well laid out vessel. The ship did seem to have more of a roll then other ships we have been on but we enjoy the movement on the sea. The periodic vibration that shutters throughout the ship due to problems with the Pod propulsion system is somewhat annoying.
Our biggest disappointment of the entire cruise was the lack of music and entertainment on the pool deck. Again, we can only assume this is what the majority of Celebrity Cruise Line guests' desires.
We will probably cruise with Celebrity again, but our next cruise is going to be with Royal Caribbean where there is a little more action and not quite so laid back.