A little history first... I am early 40s and have been on 9 cruises to date of which 3 are westbound transatlantic crossings (including the one I am writing about). Typical cruise vacations are usually 3-4 weeks in length that include ... Read More
A little history first... I am early 40s and have been on 9 cruises to date of which 3 are westbound transatlantic crossings (including the one I am writing about). Typical cruise vacations are usually 3-4 weeks in length that include vacation time on land either pre or post cruise (or both).
I read plenty of cruise reviews that have no details or explanations (not helpful) or reviews that focus on too many subjective complaints (also not helpful). I will comment on facts and actual events that occurred during my cruise.
This 16 day westbound transatlantic on Constellation was to embark on 05-November-2014. Due to severe weather conditions at the port in Civitavecchia, passengers were notified on the evening of 04-November through a number of different methods (e-mail, telephone, text message) that the ship would remain in Naples, Italy to disembark passenger on the prior cruise and to embark passengers for the upcoming cruise. I started to receive notifications on my mobile phone around 5:00 PM (Rome time). I was able to communicate all of these changes to other passengers I was cruising with in my pre-arranged shuttle as well as post on the Cruise Critic board for the larger audience that would be affected. This was the first time for me to have this kind of event happen and it was a bit of a shock at first, but nothing that didn't work out in the end. I was fortunate to have already been in Italy for several days pre-cruise, so this last minute change was a hurdle that could be easily overcome. I made a quick call to the shuttle service I used (Rome Cabs) and they updated my final destination from the port to the FCO airport where Celebrity had motorcoaches waiting for us to take us to Naples to board the cruise ship. This worked out relatively smoothly given the vast number of people that were impacted by this change.
Boarding the cruise ship in Naples was easy, but due to me forgetting my Express Pass at home, I had to fill out some paperwork provided by the cruise ship staff before I could check in. No worries, a few extra minutes to complete the paperwork and off I went to an agent to check in. Since all passengers were arriving by motorcoach sporadically throughout the day, there was never a line and that made boarding a breeze, even under these different circumstances. Because of the changes to the embarkation port, departure was at 8:00 PM (local time) and arrival in Livorno (Day 1 port stop) was delayed by about 2 hours. All in all, things would work out quite well. Muster drill was shifted a bit later to accommodate late passenger arrivals.
For the next 16 days, I am in Aqua Class stateroom 9112. Again, our late arrival to the ship ensured that our room was immediately ready for us to access once on board the ship. Stateroom 9112 is a typical Aqua Class (A2 category) stateroom located on Deck 9 about 8 doors aft of the center stairwell on the Starboard side of the ship. The bed arrangement is near the bath. While this stateroom is below the Oceanview Cafe, noise was never an issue. No issues with noise from adjacent staterooms. In fact, our neighbors in 9110 were 2 of the 8 passengers in our shuttle van from Rome to the FCO airport. They were great neighbors and we had many long chats on our balcony. The proximity of this room to the center and rear stairwell allowed for easy/quick access to the Oceanview Cafe and Sunset Bar as well as elevators and stairwells for other parts of the ship (very convenient).
We had excellent service from our stateroom attendant throughout the cruise. Very friendly and willing to assist us in any way possible to make our stay more enjoyable. He greeted us the first day, learned our needs for ice and our preferences for other things (in room tea, canape delivery, etc). The room was kept neat and spotless, the ice bucket was filled twice a day, and twice daily service happened so quickly when were out of the room. I did not miss the nightly chocolates as there were plenty of chocolate fixes around the ship. No towel animals either, but I would rather have fantastic service and no towel decorations, than to have lack luster service.
Although we are booked in Aqua Class and Blu is our primary dining venue, I had pre-purchased a 5-dinner package in the specialty restaurants (2 dinners Tuscan Grill, 3 dinners Ocean Liners) with the first of these dinners to be had on Embarkation Day in Tuscan Grill. This was a very nice supplement to our many wonderful dinners enjoyed in Blu. As you can imagine, due to these changes the luggage did not get to our stateroom till much later in the evening. Since I had dinner reservations for 8:30 PM in Tuscan Grill, I was dressed more casually than I would prefer (wearing shorts and a polo), but the Tuscan Grill maitre d was wonderful and said to not worry. We would end up dining in Tuscan Grill 2 more times and it was some of the best service we had on the ship!!
The first dinner in Blu would have been on the evening of Day 1. However, upon our arrival to the host desk at the entrance of Blu around 8:30pm, we were asked to take a seat in the Cellarmasters until a table was available for us. I was surprised and perplexed by this but did as we were asked. We were patiently waiting about 15-20 minutes before we were greeted by the Blu maitre d (an asst. maitre d from Ocean Liners covering for the regular Blu maitre d who was on vacation during this cruise). We were taken to Ocean Liners for dinner (no charge) on this night since tables in Blu were not clearing quickly enough to seat us anytime soon. While I was surprised, we were happy to be accommodated elsewhere.
What I didn't know until many days later in the cruise is that this would become a reoccurring problem for us (excessive wait times to be seated in Blu). In fact, I changed up our arrival time on various days hoping to catch a break with arrival times between 7:00 PM and 8:45 PM. We seemed to arrive to a full dining room at any of these times on any given night. One night I was so frustrated about having to wait to be seated for dinner (after 15 minutes) that I went to check if there was immediate seating at either Tuscan Grill or Ocean Liners while we waited for an opening in Blu. When Ocean Liners could take us immediately, I used another night of my 5-dinner package to have us seated in Ocean Liners instead of waiting for seating in Blu. After the cruise I counted back and determined that 8 nights were spent in Blu and 8 nights were spent dining elsewhere on the ship. Only 1 night at Blu in 8 visits were we seated immediately for dinner. Having only ever been in Aqua Class one other time (on the Reflection, November 2013), I was surprised by the difficulty to be seated for dinner in a reasonable time frame. Of the 8 nights for dinner not spent in Blu, 2 of those dinners were with friends that were dining in the Select Dining area of the MDR. I haven't been in the MDR since 2011 and was very pleasantly surprised by the service and food. Because of this, the next (future) cruise will have us eating in the MDR.
I enjoyed the Premium Alcohol package on this cruise and my partner had the Premium Non-alcohol package. No complaints for the most part, except for in the Specialty Dining venues where most wine by the glass is beyond the $13/glass package limit. In these situations, I would prevail upon the sommelier to find a recommendation that he could cover with the package. In all cases (except one) I liked the suggested options. The premium packages also allowed for many extra bottles of waters to take off the ship on port days, sparkling water with dinners, and specialty coffees at Cafe al Bacio. Service provided at bars all over the ship was good, even at busy times of the day. Bar service in Blu is a tad slow for my personal tastes, but once your relationship with your sommelier is established, your service improves. I still think that one sommelier for the whole restaurant is not enough (there should be 2). A single sommelier in Tuscan Grill or Ocean Liners seems reasonable as the pace of service is more relaxed.
On this 16 day itinerary from Rome (technically Naples) to Fort Lauderdale, we had port stops in Livorno, Itally (Florence/Sienna/Pisa); Cartagena, Spain; Agadir, Morocco; 3 stops in the Canary Islands (Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, and Tenerife). The first 3 port stops were new for me. I didn't care for Morocco, but all the other port stops were amazing. We did wonderful private tours at the other ports, with the exception of Tenerife. This was our third time in 3 years to see Tenerife and we did it on our own as the port is easy to navigate by foot.
My last time on an M-Class ship was the Millennium in 2011 and this was "pre-sosticization". These ships are so very beautiful and the solstice class upgrades and amenities make for a very comfortable cruise experience. While on board, I booked another cruise with Celebrity for 2015 on the Constellation.
I'm not the kind of person to make note of every bit of peeling paint/rust or worn carpet/upholstery... or to take small one-off situations and blow them up out of proportion and harp about them forever on Cruise Critic threads. The public spaces were all very elegant and comfortable and neatly maintained. Public restrooms were clean and maintained at a frequency adequate to passenger traffic at various times of day. Service was generally very good at venues around the ship. Ship crew were usually smiling, very courteous, friendly, and talkative when they were not too busy. The food throughout the ship was generally very good to wonderful. I would prefer to see less self-service in the Oceanview Cafe (more staff to place food on your plate), which removes opportunities for illness and poor hygiene of passengers to affect you.
Outside of the long wait times to be seated in Blu, there were no other issues that made for a mediocre or bad cruise experience while on the ship. Disembarkation in Port Everglades was at Pier 25 (or 27). Either way, it was not a fun/nice experience. The terminal is a dump (a roof and four walls). This particular day (21-November-2014) was very cool and rainy and windy. No comfortable means to take shelter from the elements once you are through customs/immigration and waiting for your private transport. If you are taking a cab to the airport right away, this is very easy to do. Read Less