Celebrity Constellation Cruise Review by Mississippian
- Sail Date: June 2016
- Destination: Eastern Mediterranean
- Cabin Type: Aqua Class Balcony
I’ve cruised on Princess eight times and RCCL once, so I was looking for a bit of change from Princess. Our last Princess Western Caribbean trip out of Houston was a giant dud, since it rained on us the entire trip; we missed one port and really couldn’t get off on another.
I was cruising with my 16-year-old daughter, and had read that Celebrity tended to have as many or more teens as Princess. That certainly wasn’t the case on this cruise, as there were only 15 teens in the 15-17 age group. There were simply very few younger people (or young adults) on our cruise, and one couple told us that a staff member told them it was the “oldest” cruise he could remember.
We booked the trip because it was discounted, as all European cruises seem to be this summer. I originally booked an inside stateroom for a total cost of about $1,850 for the two of us. After a day I upgraded to Aqua Class, which cost $3,600 total, but also included the drink package and prepaid gratuities. Given that the value of the free amenities was worth about $1,200 and our travel agent gave us a $100 credit, we ended up paying about $450 more for a balcony and the right to eat at Blu. We weren’t interested in the spa, but I had heard good things about Blu.
I’m going to list some things I didn’t like, but before I do, let me share the things we did like. And I will makes comparisons to Princess, since that is my point of reference.
CONDITION OF SHIP: I have read a few reviews critical of the condition of the ship. I didn’t see it. I thought the ship was in great shape and well maintained. Overall the ship was very elegant, and I couldn’t have asked for more.
SERVICE: I found the overall level of service to be much higher throughout the ship than what I’ve generally had on Princess. I found the employees to be friendly and outgoing, and with a few exceptions I found bar service to be quick.
CASINO: The casino was not all that busy much of the time, and I don’t think I ever saw a blackjack game with more than a $5 limit, save perhaps on a single-deck game with a $10 limit. The two six-deck games were H17, das, rsa, 3-2 on natural. The single-deck game was a 6-5 game, so it is not playable. My memory has failed me, because I can’t remember whether the dealer dealt and checked a hole card; my recollection is that they did not. This can be important for doubling and such. These are not the greatest rules, but they are about as good or better than any low-limit game in Vegas these days, and I enjoyed not having to play with a csm. There was a plentitude of “penny” slots, as well as a small number of traditional reel machines. Oddly enough, the casino did not have “bartop” video poker machines, so I didn’t play any video poker. The VP payouts were terrible. I think JOB was set on a 6-5 payout, which gives the house a five percent edge against “perfect” play, and a 10-15 percent edge against average play. I was up about $1,400 for the trip but had two terrible nights and ended up the trip up about $200. Still had fun, and I give the casino a fairly high rating.
“BLU” RESTAURANT: I paid the small upcharge for an Aqua Class room purely for the right to eat at Blu. We did not use the spa. Overall I would rate the Blu dining experience very highly.
We really enjoyed the staff at Blu, including maitre d David. The staff remembered us, and after ordering a bottle of sparkling water on the first night they had a large bottle of San Pelligrino delivered to the table almost as soon as we were seated. I had to repeatedly ask for ice for it, though. Refills on wine were offered and provided painlessly, with any signing of a bill done at the end of the night. On Princess, ordering wine takes a lot longer and is more of a hassle, and even if one is on a drink package there is a big production of signing for drinks in triplicate. Refills are never provided without a big hassle on Princess.
A couple of shortcomings of Blu were that a wine list was never provided when we sat down. I noticed a few people had wine delivered as soon as they sat down. Clearly they just had a standing order for a particular first glass of wine, and I strongly recommend this. Second, many of the hot dishes simply were not hot enough. The first night we ordered escargot it had been allowed to cool quite a bit; I later specified that we wanted it HOT. But there was a general lack of “hot”-ness to many of our entrees. And third, I found the desserts to be uninspired and unexciting, and I do mean REALLY uninspired and unexciting. I ordered a cheese plate one night and found it to be mediocre. I believe BLU can do better here, and they should have a proper cheese course available every night, appearing on the menu, with the names of the cheeses listed. The cheese should be cut by hand and not sliced with a machine, and having the cheeses NAMED is really important.
We never tried the regular main dining room, but I suspect we might have been a bit disappointed in comparison to the service we received from Blu. Despite the above criticisms, we really enjoyed Blu and its staff. Overall the food was quite good.
BUFFET: Overall I found the quality of the buffet to be fair to poor. I just didn’t care for the offerings most of the time, and it was not equal to the Princess buffet. It was just something to eat. My one big gripe against Princess and Celebrity is the lack of a proper cheese course. Well, they really did have proper cheeses being served from time to time at the buffet, hand cut, with nuts, honey, and all of that. I really couldn't believe it! But I want such cheese after a meal, so I never availed myself, but if they can offer that at the buffet, why can’t they offer it at Blu?
They did have an ice cream station at the buffet, and it was for true, dipped ice cream, with eight or 10 flavors. The quality was good. Over on the Princess boards there are people who squeal like stuck hogs because lousy soft-serve ice cream isn’t served 24 hours a day. So I think it’s impressive to have real ice cream available for a good part of the day. I enjoyed getting a couple of scoops to go with my desserts at lunch.
THE ALCOHOL PACKAGE: I had originally booked an inside stateroom, but realized that I could upgrade to a balcony for less than the cost of the alcohol package and the gratuities. So I did so. I really don’t know how to feel about the alcohol package. I love to drink as much as the next guy, but there is no question that the package pushes me to drink a bit more to get my money’s worth. Is this healthy? Personally I would rather see reasonable drink prices without the package, but of course that goes into how the cruises are being marketed. Also, the menus at Blu had wine pairings listed that weren’t available. Was this due to the alcohol package and everyone drinking like fish?
ALSO: One odd complaint: Celebrity never makes announcements in the staterooms. This sounds great, but when they are doing a fire drill, they ring the fire alarm in the stateroom. They ought to go ahead and make the announcement 10 minutes before that it’s only a drill, as well as a few other announcements. No, I didn’t come running from the room, because I suspected it was only a drill, but still.
ENTERTAINMENT AND NIGHT LIFE: I did not attend any of the ship’s shows. This was in part because I was with my daughter who did not want to attend, but another factor was that the “Celebrity Today” newsletter was inferior to the “Princess Patter,” which gives a little more information about various events. Princess has some venues like the Explorers Lounge that might feature a comedian or singer, and Celebrity seemed to have less of this. Many people rave about the Martini Bar, but I just didn’t love it, and I also didn’t care for the 11th floor Reflections Lounge. Sometimes portions of it were reserved for other groups when I visited, and I just felt uncomfortable, and it just wasn’t a great place for me.
For some reason, it was very important to close the pools and hot tubs as early as possibly, lest someone actually enjoy themselves. I think all pools and hot tubs were shut down by 9:30 every night. How weird! And the top deck bars tended to be dead and closed early. On Princess the pools stayed open much later, as did the bars. On Princess the top deck is always very active, and the top deck bar is always a great place to get a beer a strike up a conversation. Not so on Celebrity. I did not understand this, and it really detracted from the cruise.
PORTS OF CALL: I never take ship’s tours, and usually just debark and look around. This was especially important when traveling with my daughter, who is not a very motivated traveler. I don’t plan to give much of a review at all, but our ports of call were:
KOPER, SLOVENIA: Liked it, great placed to walk around
ZADAR, CROATIA: Liked it, great placed to walk around
SPLIT, CROATIA: We did not care for Split, althouth it was interesting to see the magnitude of Diocletian’s palace.
DUBROVNIK, CROATIA: The walled city is amazing. Want to go back for a week.
KOTOR, MONTENEGRO: Another great place to visit. Would be a wonderful place to spend a week.
NAPLES, ITALY: We visited on a Sunday, and Naples was an absolute bust for us. We’ve been several times before. It’s a terrible city, worse on Sunday.
CATANIA,SICILY,ITALY: My daughter did not get off the ship. I enjoyed my walk around, but nothing special here, really.
BOLOGNA (RAVENNA), ITALY: We really enjoyed visiting the various churches with the mosiacs. I wish we had perhaps done a little more homework.
CONCLUSION: Although we had a reasonably good time, this cruise really didn’t work for us. The unusual ports of call attracted an exceptionally older crowd. I had thought about taking an NCL cruise with a few of these port calls and could have done so for substantially less money. I wish I had. If my wife had been with me I think my views might be different. From my experience, I would say a Celebrity Europe cruise is not suitable for teens or single adults. Your milage may vary.
My brother loves Celebrity, but of course he always cruises with his wife and not one of his children, and I suspect that makes a difference. I’m not sure I’ll cruise on Celebrity again, but the staff and service was outstanding.
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