My wife Carol and I are both classed as Seniors (people tend to tell us so, anyway) and though we had been on four cruises this calendar year, the one we were looking forward to the most was the Celebrity Constellation, for one very good ... Read More
My wife Carol and I are both classed as Seniors (people tend to tell us so, anyway) and though we had been on four cruises this calendar year, the one we were looking forward to the most was the Celebrity Constellation, for one very good reason. It is considered the highest rated line in its class, (So, we are told, says the well regarded Conde Nast Traveler's magazine) and everyone we had queried over the years had told us that Yes, indeed, it deserved the title, with superior food and service.
To our mutual regret, and stating right up front in no uncertain terms that we are positive people and look for the best in all things, Darn...unfortunately, we did not find much to rave about here; we wondered if our expectations were set too high. Let me first comment on the good.
Embarkation from our S.Fl. area of Ft. Lauderdale was as rapid and smooth as any we have ever experienced. Greetings both at the service counters, as well as by staff helping people entering the embarkation area, could not have been more gracious and helpful, as was agent service once reaching the counters to present necessary paperwork before boarding. Reception on board was also friendly and efficient and we found our cabin, an oceanview on Deck 2 in the forward section, to be clean and functional. Storage was more than adequate for a ten day or somewhat longer voyage. There was a small desk with a chair and a small sofa as well. The steward appeared quickly and introduced himself politely and offered to be of any needed present or future assistance.
We entered the drawing for free services at the spacious and well laid out spa and (Surprise) found ourselves passing through the gauntlet of smiling young faces offering numerous services, requiring us (Surprise 2) to pass through all the "stations of opportunity" to reach the location to deposit our drawing entry.
BW (Need I translate: Beautiful Wife) and I were assigned Table 489, lower floor (of 2)in the attractive San Marco Dining Room. We always look forward to meeting our new tablemates and request a table for 6; we find this the ideal size for conversation. We could not have been more delighted with our new friends, two couples of similar age, lovely sisters and their husbands. The usual first night jamup with people being met and escorted to their seats was handled well and with good grace.
So, Dean and Carol, was the food all that you had looked forward to? Was it? Tell us...tell us NOW! NO. I am subject to a life long dairy allergy, to my regret, and as usual had notified the line well ahead of time as had our local travel agent. To our interest, one of the delightful sisters also had the same problem, and we were both greeted with understanding by the personable Ass't Maitre d', "Christian" from Romania. All wait staff was exceptional but the table agreed had too many tables to handle. Christian brought our tablemate "Iris" and myself the next night's menu at the end of the meal so that we could place an advance order to be handled without any dairy of any kind. Problem in main? Every night the vegetables (usually broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and/or string beans) were so undercooked as to be nearly or completely inedible. We applaud short-cooked vegetables, but never ever those that taste barely warm and are so hard as to be left uneaten after a worthwhile try. Despite mention to appropriate staff, PLUS three handwritten notes to the Hotel Manager hand delivered to Customer Service, this continued except for one night when it seemed as if notice had been taken. After that? The parade of the hard and inedible food continued, and the final night was the worst of all. There is, in our opinion, no excuse for this and certainly no reason for a line supposedly noted for superior food. Credit where due, two meals featured excellent palate cleansing sorbets, a special delight to BW Carol.
To their favor, special dairy free desserts were made for what was, Christian told us, the complete list of passengers requesting dairy free meals. Unfortunately, there is, I suppose, only so much one can do. Regrettably, after a few nights, desserts were placed in front of both Iris and I with a flourish and the announcement: "Lactose free!", as were some entree items. I seemed unable to convince that Lactose intolerance and dairy allergic are two vastly different things. We do and must give them a resounding "A" for effort, if not for execution. Ex.: On the third night I ordered decaf tea at the end of the meal and it was subsequently brought every night without request. Well done. (The tea service, not the vegetables) The far too underdone vegetable concept appeared to overflow to the cafeteria service on Deck 10, the "Seaside Cafe." One day we had Butternut Squash chunks in wild rice; the few chunks of squash were hard and undercooked, and even the rice had hard undercooked kernels appearing in it. A major plus, in the service line, dispenser containers of various nuts and dried fruit, and by the hot cereal section, serve yourself small bins of flax seed, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Well done with a view toward healthful eating. Now if I could just chew those errant vegetables.... Staff here on two occasions were above and beyond with special help and are to be well applauded.
There were two excellent open station brunches served in the San Marco, with special displays of ice carvings et al, and numerous open small stations for convenience, serving/ carving stations of broiled meats, to-order eggs, waffles etc. Table service at of course open seating tables did fall short with refills of drinks hard to come by. This was served on the first Sunday and the last Saturday.
To work off all the attendant calories BW and I made several trips to the well equipped gym. Again, here we found a major and inexplicable flaw. Piped in music was so obnoxious that my wife and I were near incredulous as to what the thinking was when the demographics of the ship were, and may well usually be, a mature clientele. We were treated to what BW described as "War Music" and consisted of what I can only describe as a veritable cacophony of sound consisting of screaming, pounding and screeching. One rap segment featured a female-decorum prevents my describing in exact detail-rapping in full detail the woes of her female cycle...there is NO reason for this "musical" assault, and we notified spa staff at the entrance desk. Both young ladies said that they did not know what the music consisted of and they did not hear it from their station, but that they were told to play it "for aerobics". Really? At no time when we were in the gym was there any aerobic activity of any kind. My wife resorted to doing her exercise sets and running outside in the interim. Oddly, the background the young ladies were listening to was quite lovely and soothing, consisting of soft Eastern chimes and bells...This was (the "War Music") subsequently moderated, but one must ask, why was it there in the first place? Does no one in authority pay attention?
An odd cabin noise in an otherwise satisfactory cabin surfaced the second night out; one of tablemate couples reported the same in their cabin. It sounded as if someone were tapping constantly on the wall of the other cabin. This was of course more noticeable at bedtime and so loud that it interfered with both falling asleep and staying asleep in extreme instances. My BW finally decided it was the ship's construction creaking. We have never heard such noises on any ship we have sailed on.
I must mention several issues of general housekeeping which we found highly disappointing. Ship's clocks, visible at key points throughout the ship, usually at stair tops, were universally and without fail, never correct and ran from five minutes to as much as twenty minutes off. On at least one floor, elevator call button parts were missing, and in at least one restroom, a coat hanger was missing from the wall. Two notes were written to the Hotel Manager; neither situation was addressed. Now really, how hard can it be to tell someone: "Hey, the clocks are off all over the ship; please tend to that." Oh, that hard? Apparently so.
And the photo department...dear me.The usual picture taking and display of course is hard to mess up, but other things may not be. In one daily bulletin entry, an announcement was printed of a session dealing with interests in using and setting your digital camera. I attended in the photo department section as noted, expecting to see chairs set up for a speaker and attendees. Alas...utter confusion. I went to the desk to inquire, stating the bulletin entry and advised that I wished advice on how to access a certain setting. I was looked at oddly and asked: "What's wrong with it?". Well, there was nothing "wrong with it" nor was there any discussion or group that I could find or the counter person knew about. A second entry noted a discussion on the Nikon L18. As I was interested in a small point and shoot camera for my wife, I "attended." Attended...what? Again, I asked at the counter where the demonstration was and a photographer demonstrating a full size SLR was pointed out as "the happening"...this to one older gentleman all alone standing in the open space with a staff member. I said, I thought humorously, to the person telling me this, "That's an L18?" It was of course, not. "Yes". He responded. My feet and I departed, the part not my feet shaking its head in wonder.
More wonder is still to come. We have never yet been on a ship that did not provide, for most ports with rare exception, postal services with stamps for mailing from the various ports visited. On calling the desk to inquire the price of mailings at our first port, I was told: "Are you mailing to the U.S.?" "Yes", I responded. Subsequent response? "We hold those and mail them when we get back to Ft. Lauderdale"...Hm. We carried our mail off ship and found a local P.O. to mail at. Ports visited were: St.Thomas, St.Kitts, Barbados, St.Lucia and St.Maartin. Having been to all before more than once, we simply left the ship briefly to visit the everpresent dockside shopping areas. I must make note of the extraordinarily courteous and helpful Barbados Tourist Police, who, as we were looking for a certain dockside building without immediate success, followed us and dismounted from their vehicle to see if they could be of any help. Gracious and commendable indeed.
Entertainment: A few bright spots: Production shows well rehearsed and presented, but with all due respect to the sincere and talented young performers, we found nothing surpassing other ships of lesser reputation. Comedian "Noodles" exceptional and a bright spot. An act I can only describe as "Extreme Aerial Dexterity" by a young lady working without any safety device whatsoever, breathtaking and heavily applauded. Two solo songster acts, one male and one female, a matter of individual choice.
There were several deck parties with food at various points, one a featured Fruit Buffet. On entering the area our ears were blasted nearly to oblivion by a sound system turned up so high that we had to literally cover our ears with our hands and retreat to the furthest available point, where it was still impossible to carry on a conversation without shouting into each other's ears. The "Fruit Buffet"? as with all fruit served in the entire 10 days, all melons were cut while far from ripe and generally uneaten and wasted. I do not exaggerate-I had three bites of ripe melon the entire cruise. Is it not possible to time fruit and open it when ripe and only ripe? Apparently not on the Constellation. Orange slices and bananas served at breakfast were, to the contrary, spot on and sweet.
Based on these myriad points and problems, I found our anticipated superior experience to be anything but, and, sadly, to be a major disappointment and would not sail this ship again. BW agrees and feels that only if it were a bargain in the extreme would she care to go, and then only for the experience of being on a cruise per se. We have earlier in the year been on RCCL's Freedom of the Seas (as the reader no doubt knows, The Constellation is part of the stated upscale line of RCCL, excluding the much smaller sized Azamara subsidiary) but we found The Freedom to be vastly superior in every detail and would book it again in a minute.
Oops...final noted incompetency de jour, the Constellation is of course in the trade simply known as and referred to as "The Connie". At the BW's request, I called the line before departure to inquire if there were bathrobes furnished in our room, so that BW Carol did not have to pack one. When I was asked what ship I was on and replied: "The Connie", I was advised that Celebrity had no ship by that name. Dear me. I was then advised that there were no bathrobes in our room. Can you guess? Scene; Closet door opened...hanging inside closet, two bathrobes. It's another'Dear me"...and I was expecting SO much more. Dean M. 30 __________________ Read Less