Celebrity Constellation Cruise Review by ScottMc101
- Sail Date: April 2015
- Destination: Eastern Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Aqua Class Balcony
In addition, many of my family cruise several times a year. We are both in our 30's and have two children - ages 10 and 14. Our past cruises have always been with Carnival, which is known as a "party ship" and know for its bargain pricing, so we thought we would try something a little more upscale, since this was our children's first cruise.
I am writing this review as I sit in the airport to fly home, so the information is still very fresh. My hope is to simply to provide future-cruisers like myself more information since it seems that the Celebrity website doesn't do a very good job of this - other than selling their additional products and excursions.
Overall this cruise was very good, however I feel that the Celebrity experience did not live up to all the "hype" and "greatness" that other cruisers and their advertising has expressed. I had the expectation that Celebrity was more "upscale" and "finer" than other cruise lines - even their website says "Premium Cruise line of the year" - however I no longer believe that.
Let me say, however, it's not that we had anything really bad, it's just that compared to our other cruises (with Carnival), I had expected this to be "much better" and it was "just average" and in many areas I feel that the Carnival line excelled as follows (from my customer survey which I sent to Celebrity):
ROOM STEWARD / SERVICE:
Although the service was fine, there was nothing exceptional about it. Many times on Carnival ships, we have had an attendant who seemed to go above and beyond - for example - one time the Carnival attendant noticed that I had some drinks in a box and took the liberty of providing us with an ice bucket and each night he pre-chilled the drinks. Another expectation is the towel-animals you normally receive each night - on this particular cruise, we only received towel-animals on 3 of the 5 nights! A bit disappointing, especially for my kids who look forward to seeing what new animal we will have each night. On other cruises, I have also had stateroom attendants who went above and beyond to make the room "extra clean" (doing things such as discarding old programs, hanging up our personal clothes and/or towels, etc.) Not so on this cruise.
Although we did not experience the "exceptional" service, I will say that the room was kept clean, beds were made, and each night the beds were turned down, towels freshened up, and after I had to ask for the ice service, it was taken care of each day. One thing to note (see cabin review below) is that the cabin (an ocean view state room on the 2nd deck) was actually much larger than I expected and the way they have the bunk-beds configured for the kids actually worked out really well.
FOOD QUALITY / SERVICE:
Once again, if I had nothing to compare to, I would have said the food quality and service was just fine, however given my past experience with Carnival, I had expected much more from Celebrity, which I don't believe I received. The quick-service buffet, "Ocean View Cafe" was very good, although many times it was frustrating because it took so long to get served - especially at breakfast. For example, there was ALWAYS a line to get fresh waffles, because they are made only a few at a time, which is quite typical for a restaurant. However, due to the way the buffet was arranged, you had to stand in the same line for things like French Toast and Pancakes, of which there were PLENTY of. The was true for the omelette stations, however there were plenty of those. The main problem is that the position of the omelette stations caused the line to back up around the buffet and thus blocked other self-service items (i.e. fruit) which normally wouldn't require such a long line. The other MAJOR problem with the Ocean View Buffet / CAFE is that their service closed really early. Another interesting thing was that there was only ONE pan of hash-browns on the entire buffet! I do not understand why you would have only one of ANY item. I realize that sometimes there are specialty areas for specific foods (i.e. English breakfast or foreign foods, but I don't believe that is the case with something as popular as the american hash-brown!)
I understand that they can't keep a full buffet, but on past Carnival cruises, usually there is at least one or two lines for things such as PIZZA and PASTA that are open VERY LATE (usually at least 2 or 3 am) - again, not the case on Celebrity. There as a pizza and pasta line that stayed open, but many nights they were closed by 12 pm. Again, nothing really wrong with that, just not what we were expecting based on our past cruise experiences.
Regarding the formal dining room - again the service and food was "ok" but not exceptional. The food was decent but nothing exceptional, however each night the food presentation was very nice and everything tasted great. Portions were also fine for most meals, and of course, you can always order seconds if you wanted it. We didn't try any of the premium dining - perhaps you just have to pay more if you want the exceptional food and service the
other cruise lines offer.
Overall, my main disappointments were:
1. It seems that the buffet service could be better organized in order to facilitate allowing guests to more-quickly serve their food while separating the ones who are willing to wait for special items such as waffles or omelettes, rather than clogging up the rest of the buffet line with guests who are only waiting on one specific item.
2. No 24/7 food service (except room service) and no 24/7 ice-cream
3. No Steak and Lobster night (as we have seen on EVERY cruise we have been on in the past) When we asked the waiter about this, we were told that they "do not do that anymore on the shorter cruises".
4. Service was slow at times which could probably be alleviated by having common items such as coffee, tea, and sodas located in the main dining room rather than having wait staff traipsing all over the ship.
DRINK PACKAGE (ADULTS):
I would HIGHLY recommend the drink package if you drink alcohol at all. This was probably one of the better deals on the ship - about $50/day for the premium package and it covered virtually everything we needed. I think one of the few things that wasn't covered were the premium wines (they have an entire wine cellar on-board but we did not partake). Both my wife and I did have a glass (or two or three) of wine EVERY NIGHT at dinner, which was
covered and we had PLENTY of cocktails and liquer shots - all covered. I do recommend upgrading to the premium package because many of the cocktails (for example, the "pomegranate martini" which was featured on the first day) were not covered. However, once we upgraded our package, we never had to worry about it the rest of the cruise and we just drank as much as we wanted. However, CHECK YOUR BILL because we were charged for a few drinks during the cruise, even though we had the package. They happily removed these charges once I pointed them out.
NON-ALCOHOL DRINK PACKAGE (KIDS/TEENS):
Once again, we weren't really sure about this, but if your kids drink many sodas, I would highly recommend the CLASSIC package. For us, that package covered everything the kids needed and allowed them to receive sodas and many non-alcoholic virgin drinks (i.e. virgin pina colada). My teenage son even enjoyed a latte now and then and several red-bulls which we didn't think were covered but they were.
ON-BOARD SHOPS / PROGRAMS:
I don't know about other cruisers, but myself and my wife don't usually do a ton of shopping on-board, however it is nice to know what to expect. The Constellation has an entire floor (Deck 5) dedicated to tax-free shops including things such as Jewelry, Bottled Liquor (to take home, you cant consume it on the ship), Perfume, High-End Make-Up and Cosmetics, High-End Clothing, and a unique store which sells Apple products such as iPads and Apple computers.
Almost every night they have a drawing / raffle of some sort with the idea being to get you to come in and see their merchandise. I don't know about the higher priced jewelery (i.e. Levian Dimaonds) whicn they say are some of the "best prices in the world" but in my opinion many of the deals were OK, but not that great. We compared several of the liquor prices to those of a typical liquor store at home in the US and in general you probably save 5%-10%. If you are a bargain shopper, then many of the "inexpensive" jewelry items can be purchased at a regular department store such as Macys or Kohls when they have their sales and you would probably save more. As for the expensive jewelry, I know several people who have bought things on cruise ships, but my personal feeling is that I wouldn't make an investment with a store i can't easily go back to if I have a problem - regardless of what promises they make. I don't have any personal experience but I'm not overly excited about handing thousands of dollars over to a "company" (remember the on-board stores are not owned by Celebrity) I know very little about; however there were LOTS of people buying so I guess their sales strategy is working.
One thing that is a good value are the $20 watches and bracelets, but they don't go on sale until the last day at sea, so wait if you can. The same watches will be $100 during the rest of the week but for $20 if something breaks - who cares?
In some ways, the on-board live entertainment was incredible. In comparison to Carnival, Celebrity has several live "production shows". On our past cruises, carnival only had one. The production shows themselves had great value and were well done. I highly recommend the late-night show "Illeria" and don't be offended by their "adults only" warning - there is no nudity but there is some off color humor so don't ignore the warning completely and certainly don't let your kids go.
The Cruise Director "Alejandro" was AMAZING and probably the BEST PART of the entire cruise! My biggest complaint was that we have come to expect more entertainment and activities (i.e. game-shows, trivia, etc) and while there was some of this, there was not a-lot. For example, on our first sea day I think they had one trivia session, and one BINGO compared to Carnival ships which have several of both. Most likely, this is because Celebrity cruises typically attract an older demographic, but if this is the case, then you should make that more obvious so that younger family cruises like myself know what we are getting (or not getting) before we select a cruise line. This was something I found very hard to find any information about. They also had very little to do for "late night". Typically the last show was at either 9 pm or 10 pm and all the "older" people head off to bed. However, if you're like us and ready to do something your options are either a) spend money in the casino or b) head up stairs and party/dance in the reflections lounge. While these are both fun choices, it would have been better to have had a late-night comedy (we did on Carnival) or trivia (also Carnival) for those of us night-owls who want something to other than dance. i was also very disappointed that the pools closed at 10 pm - it would have been really nice to sit in the hot-tub at 11 or 12 or 1 am and enjoy the coolness of the evening, but no such luck.
Along the same line, I think the biggest problem with this area was that the cruise was not prepared for so many young cruisers. The kids club was good and our children did participate, however there were many times when my kids said that they were "bored" because there wasn't much going on. I think the biggest area of improvement might be the number and level of activities offered for children as well as families.
My 10 year-old daughter did participate in most of the kids-club activities, and for the younger ones, it seemed like a great baby-sitting service.
One thing that is neat is that you can give kids 9 and older permission to "check themselves in and out" so you don't have to if you desire. We did this and it was good because she could come and go as she pleased and if she wanted to see the show, then she could simply meet us at the appropriate time.
My 14 year-old son however didn't get into the kids activities AT ALL. He went the first night, but was terribly bored (they do have consoles such as the X-box and a few other things like that). The good news is that he found a group of friends that were his age and we didn't really see him much after that. Just know that many of the teenage kids felt the same way, so their weren't many of them in the teenage "x-club" after the first night.
Overall, the Celebrity experience was OK and we all enjoyed our vacation, however I will most likely NOT be selecting Celebrity for future cruises (especially with their premium pricing) until I am able to better understand and receive the "premium" value I should be getting from a line that touts themselves as an upscale, 1st class line.
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- Room was surprisingly big enough for 4 of us - myself, my wife, and 2 kids (10 & 14)
- Bunk bed configuration works really well (hard to find a picture but the two bunkbeds are laid out such that one is over each side of the queen mattress which is set with the head just below the (large) porthole window (not sideways like in the pics on the celebrity website).
- Plenty of closet space for all four of us - including two suitcases, two duffels (all stored empty) and all our personal clothing - formal wear, casual wear, swimwear, personal beach-towels (x4), LOTS of shoes - i think there were a total of 3 shelves, 6 drawers, plus storage on either side of
- Not a bad location even though it is next to the elevator - it was quiet except when sleeping late (after 9 am) when we heard a little noise as people were waiting for the elevators and you could hear the "ding" occassionaly
Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
ScubaCozumel is one of my favorite places and we decided to book a dive trip for myself and my son. Although we didn't use the ship to book it, we did book directly with "Blue Magic Scuba". Here is my review from tripadvisor.com:View All 109 Scuba Reviews
When we booked a trip for my 14 year old son (who had never dived) and myself (not certified but dived a few times previously) with Blue Magic a few weeks ago, I have to admit I wasn't 100% sure because we were coming in from a cruise (Celebrity) and I couldn't really find any info about the particulars with this dive shop (i.e. getting to/from port) on their website. They were also MUCH CHEAPER than booking directly with the cruise ship, but I was a bit cautious because of all the "scare tactics" the cruise lines use. I emailed them and got a reply from Yuval (the owner) who answered all my questions, and gave me the particulars about getting to/from the shop as a cruiser. I easily booked online and gave him a deposit via PayPal (which helped me feel comfortable since I didn't have to give them my cc over the phone or anything)
First of all, let me just say that they exceeded my expectations - above and beyond! Once you get off and leave the port, it is easy to get a taxi, but ask them to take you to downtown "4th ave" because they don't necessarily know the dive shop by name. Cab fare was $8 for four people. Once you get there, the dive shop is right on the street, however it is not the tourist district. We checked in with Yuval (who by the way is VERY AMERICAN and speaks perfect English).
We met Mario (our dive master, who I highly recommend) and he helped us get our gear. We did the DISCOVER SCUBA PLUS dive, which I highly recommend if you are thinking about the discover program. Once we got the equipment, we waited for the rest of our class, then they called a taxi service and took us back to the first dive spot. This was a little restaurant on the beach right next to the cruise ships (about 1000 feet away). It was at this location that Mario gave us a short "class" (about 45 min) at the picnic tables and went over the basics of diving, equipment, etc. After that we were taken into the water (about 4 feet) where Mario showed us basic skills like breathing under water, clearing a mask, etc. From there we slowly moved into somewhat deeper water (maybe 15' or 20') and started our first dive. Mario was very helpful during this intro dive and made sure that each of us was not only enjoying ourselves but understood what we were doing, adjusted weights and BCDs, etc. This area was very pretty and we were able to see many species of fish, although there is not much coral there as it is not really a "dive" spot.
After this dive (about 45 min worth), we exited the water, got back into taxis to the boats - basically on the other side of the cruise ships (about 3 miles). We left the dock and went about 15 minutes out to the dive spot. From here, we dove off the boat (they taught us how to properly enter the water and provided a rope to easily descend). Once we were all down (about 30' deep), we started our main dive which was absolutely beautiful! If you've never seen Cozumel, the water color is the most brilliant color of blue you could imagine and the reefs are so full of life. As we were diving Mario and his assistant helped all of us and kept making sure we were ok. They also pointed out many forms of sealife such as various fish, corals, and a lobster hiding under a rock! At one point, my son freaked out a bit because he got some salt-water in his mouth. When he did, he took out his regulator and swam straight to the surface. They handled this situation beautifully! Mario took about 10 minutes with him making sure he was calm and helped him get his mask and regulator back on, then he stayed with him while they descended again so we could finish our dive.
Once the dive was over, they helped each of us back onto the boat and took us back to the "docks". They then provided a taxi back to the dive shop, but we elected to pay for the taxi to take us directly to the cruise port as it saved us about $10. All-in-all Blue Magic Scuba, and Mario and his team well exceeded our expectations and did an excellent job insuring that my son now LOVES SCUBA! My only complaint was that it takes a while (15-30 min) moving between places simply because we had to wait for Mario to load and unload all our equipment at each place. I wish they had a way to have someone already their and "waiting" for us rather that the other way around. Regardless, we will be back to do our certification and check-out dives with Blue Magic and we will recommend them to all our friends and family who visit Cozumel! One other recommendation - take something to snack on for lunch or plan to grab something quick at the restaurant where you do the first training. Otherwise you will be starving as it is a long day with no food provided. We left the cruise ship at about 8:30 am and returned around 4:30 pm.
Key WestAlthough we choose not to do a "ship-sponsored" excursion, we did rent bikes from a place called "Island Rentals". We booked online and pre-paid them (via PayPal). Once we got to port, it was easy enough to get off the ship and make our way into the town. From there it was about a 3 minute walk to the bike rental shop.View All 1,775 Key West Cruise Port Reviews
We were able to quickly pick up our bikes and be on our way. One thing to note - the bikes were somewhat dated and in decent condition, but not great. The tires were all a little low on air, probably due to the heat and the one thing I didn't expect was that the adult bikes didn't have hand-breaks or gears. They are all single speed and you have to pedal backwards to break - no biggie, but not expected.
We made a quick ride down to the "southernmost point" where we stood in a short line and took some photos, then around the block to the lighthouse. We visited the lighthouse museum (about $10/ea. not free like it used to be) and got some beautiful photos from up top. If you have time, it is worth the climb to the top of the lighthouse as you can see the entire island and get a nice panoramic view.
From there, we "cruised" on over to Duval street where there were plenty of shops and restaurants, etc. We ate at a small little restaurant named "Fogartys" which had an incredible mahi sandwich. (You can get it fried if you ask, but they don't offer that as a suggestion on the menu).
After that, we did a little more shopping and headed back to the ship. We returned the bikes and were back onboard by around 4:30. It was also very easy to get back on board and one nice thing was that Celebrity provided juice and a cold-towel as we returned to the ship.
View Cruise Critic's Key West Cruise Port Review