Celebrity Constellation Cruise Review by CrabbyHarper
- Sail Date: February 2009
- Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
We flew two days early from Harrisburg, PA to Newark, NJ to Fort Lauderdale on Continental. Will not do that again. All four of our flights were late. In future we will drive to BWI or Dulles and fly directly. Due to our travel agent's recommendation we booked our flights back in May. We should have waited. Prices dropped to less than half of what we paid on our non-refundable fares.
Stayed at Embassy Suites hotel. Hotel amenities including full buffet breakfast and Manager's Evening reception were well worth the extra bucks. Room was clean, comfortable, very quiet, and everything worked. The location is wonderful for walking to the Water Taxi and nearby last-minute needs shopping.
Embarkation was a breeze. Taxis at Fort Lauderdale are cheap and plentiful. Don't bother with "free" hotel transportation or a booked transfer. We were aboard before noon, and having a leisurely lunch in the Seaside Cafe. Our cabin was ready by 1:00 pm.
Our cabin was one of those "to die for" family suites with a corner balcony. The stewardess was excellent and unobtrusive, as well as responsive to our needs and requests. The soft furnishings show some wear - that was to be expected. The mattresses were excellent!
Dining: After the first two dinners in the San Marco Restaurant, we told the maitre d' to give our two seats at the "main" dining to someone on the waiting list. We never went back. We always request a table for 2 or 4, and get seated at a table for 8 or 10. I have lower back issues, so I cannot sit at table while the meal drags interminably. Nor can I comfortably converse with that much noise in the background. The food was not all that great.
We ate many of our dinners in the Seaside Cafe. One improvement was the addition of a stir fry area, other than that, in the evening one can choose pizza (not as good as frozen pizza at home), pasta, salad, sushi, and dessert, as well as the stir fry. The one advantage was the peace and quiet.
We ate once in the specialty restaurant. The food was excellent, but very rich, and the portions were much too large. The quality of the food is what I would expect in the main dining room, at least in days gone by.
We ate several breakfasts on our balcony. The service was prompt, and one could write a special request on the bottom of the form - Bananas and yogurt for instance.
The bread is wonderful - the best thing on the ship!
The Cova Cafe was a disappointment. In previous voyages, we were able to purchase a coffee card, good for several coffees at a slightly reduced price - much like a soda card. This was not offered on this voyage. Just as well. The one cup my DH ordered was about $5 with tip, and it was awful.
Entertainment. The one thing I love about Celebrity is all the live music: there was a male a capella quartet, an instrumental quartet, a singer/guitarist, the Celebrity orchestra, and probably more that we didn't get around to hearing. I had heard about Perry Grant and was very anxious to hear him. Not my cup of tea. His music was loud, with no varying of dynamics or tempo. You could hardly tell the difference between one selection and another. He plays piano with only one hand, with the other he manipulates a rhythm and harmony machine. Not my cup of tea. But some folks do like him, so more power to him! The special pianist, Antonio Salci, who appeared in the evening, was a great entertainer and good musician. The comedian, Noodles Levenstein, was very funny to my DH. I had trouble in distinguishing his words - a problem with the sound system?
The Lecturers. Dr. Diane Buffalin, a practical and funny psychologist, was excellent! I attended all of her lectures - and especially liked "How to talk with a Y Chromosome!" There was a veterinarian - rather low key, and informative in a general way - popularity of his lectures reflects that so many of us are pet lovers. There were two other lecturers, and to my regret I did not get to hear them - there is only so much on can do on a cruise, and naps take priority!
The presence of a Roman Catholic priest, and the celebration of daily Mass, is very important to me, and one of the reasons I choose to cruise Celebrity. The priest on this voyage was a gentle man whose original language is Spanish. He was an excellent temporary shepherd to his temporary flock.
The shore excursions were a very mixed bag.
Grand Cayman - if I never go there again I will not pout. There were a lot of ships in port - 8? - so I had booked an excursion through the ship to the Turtle Farm, Hell and the rum cake factory. Actually the Turtle Farm was very interesting, and if we are ever in Grand Cayman again, I will take a taxi there and purchase the ticket that allows one to swim in the lagoon. It is absolutely criminal to cram senior citizens, many of us with canes, artificial knees, and other infirmities, into a small van with jump seats. My DH said " why are we paying for something you couldn't pay me to do?"
Cartagena - we had been there previously, and did not want to see the sights, so we booked a boat trip and beach break. The boat trip was great - I love small boats. The beach was lovely and the water was almost warm. HOWEVER the local vendors were the most persistent we have every encountered! They simply would not leave us alone. When we sat in our beach chairs, they squatted in a circle around us and looked at us like starving puppies. OK- it is their country, and they are very poor, but this was not what we had expected. I did leave with them all the cash I had brought with me - purchasing some cheap things that I did not really want. It was a voluntary act of charity.
Colon - the city center itself used to be very pretty - maybe about 100 years ago! What a dump now! But we went on the Gatun Lake Explorer excursion and it was worth every penny! The small "jungle boat" was manned by a very funny and informative captain. We saw five kinds of monkeys, crocodiles, turtles, and a sloth, as well as innumerable birds. For lunch, we rode through a very narrow jungle canal into a lovely secluded lake, with several connected barges. The lunch was enjoyable, the beer was cold, and DH swam in the (perhaps) crocodile infested waters, very carefully I might add. A great day!
Puerto Limon - the city itself was grim. We took the Hacienda Experience. We had to ride a bus - a very nice bus this time, for 2 hours to get to our destination at a macadamia and coffee farm. The visit to the lovely hacienda, the demonstration of sugar cane processing and coffee and macadamia processing was interesting and worthwhile. The lunch was excellent. But I think we will be careful not to choose again those excursions which require a lot of bus travel - it just makes the day too long. I recommend the hacienda but not the bus ride!
Cozumel - the last time I was there was one day before Hurricane Wilma. I was stunned and delighted that Cozumel seems better than ever! We took the Passion Island Escape, and again, it was money well spent. The Island itself and the experience remind me of the various cruise line private islands I have visited, but perhaps a little bit better! Very clean, very lovely white sand beach, very well laid out, lots of lounge chairs, shade, a great lunch with cold beer and margaritas, and massages in a little kiosk on the beach. And wonderful service. What a relaxing day! I'd do this again in a heartbeat!
Clothing on the ship: We notice that very few people are dressing very formally. "Smart casual" is the designation for all nights other than the TWO formal nights - used to be THREE on a cruise of this length. My simple dress, and DH's sports coat and tie fit right in with the rest of most of the folks on the formal nights.
Debarkation was a breeze thanks to the valet luggage program. We signed up for this when we got on the ship. The night before debarkation, we put our special luggage tags on our luggage, left it outside the door and did not see it again until the baggage claim at our home airport. We even got our boarding passes delivered to our cabin. So on debark day, when our number was called, we walked off the ship with our little carry-ons, handed in our customs claim, got in a taxi and were in the Fort Lauderdale airport by about 9 am. So easy! Only thing we had to wait in line for was Security.
Already booked for two more Celebrity cruises.
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