Firstly, a bit of background, this was our first cruise with Celebrity having 25 plus previous cruises mainly with the Carnival group of brands. The last ten years apart from one with P&0 and one with Fred Olsen all being with Princess Cruises.
Last New Year we tried P&0 after a gap of 9 years - just to see if all the so many poor reviews could be accurate. For us they were true and could only be described as dreadful. The Ventura herself was a nice ship but Food and service were dreadful. For us the company that offered the cruising experience of old - was confirmed as long gone.
We love Princess and have been Elite status with them for quite a few years. We have however become bored with their itineries; especially out of Southampton. So, we decided that it was time for a change and booked our first cruise with Celebrity.
The cruise was a repositioning voyage from the Arabian Gulf back to Europe starting off in Abu Dhabi
We became a little concerned when before the cruise various reviews on the Constellation were very mixed. However, we should not have worried - Overall the cruise was a great success and an absolute pleasure. It was almost as if the clock had been turned back and the cruising of 20 years ago was back again.
Cruise was booked as a package through Cruise Kings including flights to Dubai All Transfers – 2-night stay in Dubai – Transfer from Civitavecchia to Rome airport and flight home.
Transfer from the airport in Dubai to the Hotel was chaotic as reps attending the arrivals seemed to have little idea as to what was going on and who was going where. This was not helped as we were delayed getting through to arrivals by 1.5hrs delay in getting through the long lines at immigration.
Hotel in Dubai whilst fine for the time stayed would not use again. We were booked in the Holiday Inn in Al Barsha; very close to Ski Dubai and the Mall of the Emirates.
Hotel was more basic than expected, whilst clean and friendly enough the continuous piped music which resonated from the central atrium through to the rooms right through the night drove us mad. Our outbound flight with Emirates on the evening A380 Flight from Manchester was fine, but delay in getting through immigration in Dubai was a pain.
Return flight from Rome to Manchester with Jet2.com was as expected - very basic. We knew at booking that this would be the case but due to relatively short flight and good timings we stuck with - but would not be a flight of choice otherwise.
Boarding Celebrity Constellation in Abu Dhabi
Had previously read that long queues could be encountered depending on the arrival time in Abu Dhabi. We changed our original departure time from the hotel in Dubai from 11.00 to 09.00.
This was a very good tactic, as we arrived at the terminal with only a handful of other guests. The terminal building was very nice and seemingly brand new. After a quick look at the shops we proceeded straight through security and basis our Aqua Class cabin waived straight through to priority boarding. We were on the ship at 10.30 am and offered welcome onboard sparkling wine before we even got as far as the elevators – Nice touch.
On boarding we were told that cabins would be available from approximately 13.30 and that announcements would be made. This was fine by us – Overall very well organised and stress free.
On boarding was very pleased to see that Celebrity Constellation appeared to be very clean and in Good condition. Yes, some carpeting in alleyways and public areas was obviously well worn but not exactly threadbare, Décor appeared a little dark and ‘dated’ but we soon got used to this and she is still a lovely ship.
She does not have all of bells and whistles of more recent ships but still considered her as very nice.
What was so striking was the friendliness and apparent high morale and friendliness of all the crew. It was all so nice after our most recent experience with P&0 where majority of crew persistently looked as if they were chewing a wasp!
Cabins were released to passengers at 13.20. Our cabin Aqua class Balcony 9057 was slightly smaller than the balcony cabins we are used to on the “Grand Class “of ships but was well laid out and spotlessly clean.
Balcony itself was ok and it was nice to note that it was not only very clean (Seen to be cleaned throughout the voyage) when other ships more recently full of salt and general grime/overpainted balcony furniture not touched throughout the cruise.
One thing to point out which we found out about pre-cruise is that by design of the ship all balconies and those on decks 8 and 9 are completely shaded by the large overhang from deck 10 above. This was not a problem for us as the weather was so hot and the shade welcomed but for some cruisers and more temperate cruises direct sunshine onto the balconies is limited or in our case non-existent.
Bathroom was excellent spotless – no plumbing problems – Proper glass shower door and excellent multi nozzle power shower.
Only possible complaint was that the bed and mattress was worn and very lumpy – Hopefully this will be rectified in upcoming refit. We really missed the new luxury beds found onboard Princess.
Another minor note was the condition of the net curtains on the patio door which were drab and patched. Other than this we were quite happy.
With Aqua class – daily hors d’oeuvres are delivered in the afternoon. These to be honest these are not worth it and we told our steward not to bother with these about half way through the cruise as they often deserved afternoon naps.
Same applied with the delivery of daily jugs of supposedly infused chilled teas.
Being Aqua Class also got upgraded Bathrobes – Slippers and use of Binoculars and Umbrella in the cabin.
Toiletries were informed to be upgrades on the normal items on offer but this being first Celebrity/Aqua class cabin can’t really comment.
It was nice to see though that individual shampoos and conditioners are still provided as opposed to the general refillable bottles of shower gel recently replacing the individual toiletries on Princess cruises.
Another supposed bonus for aqua cabins was unlimited use of the spa suite of sauna and steam rooms which they called the Persian Garden? Was told that this was much better on the Solstice class of ships but found on Constellation this was rather dark and dingy.
Would not bother with the so-called rewards of aqua class if it were not for our own designated restaurant “Blue”
This was in our opinion worth the upgrade on its own
Food and Service
We have not yet travelled on Princesses recently announced new Club class but guess that this is designed to compete with Celebrity Aqua class.
Availability of separate restaurant even though we never used the main restaurant was to us well worth the upgrade on its own.
The small and more intimate Blu restaurant open for Breakfast and Dinner we used every day except one day when we dined in Ocean Liners.
To us the food and service could not be faulted. It was excellent. Management ashore should give credit to the excellent staff – service levels and Maître D as to the levels of excellent service and the product provided.
Blu restaurant had different menu every day of the cruise. Must point out though that we are in no way criticising the product on offer in the main restaurant, as many conversations we had with other friends made during the cruise commented on the excellent standards and Menus on offer in the main restaurant.
As already mentioned we did on one occasion use the speciality restaurant “Ocean Liners”. This was very nice indeed but we only used this once and did not use the other restaurant the Tuscan Grille quite simply because the food and service in our main Blu restaurant was so good there was no need to use the specialty restaurants.
Our only possible complaint with food offerings was the main buffet the Ocean View Café.
This was to our tastes and that of many other passengers not to our liking. We found the offerings to be very repetitive even though we only checked this out at lunchtimes.
It was badly planned – laid out the different sections made the flow to be very poor making the pushing and shoving encountered very uncomfortable.
Access to serving areas was poor forcing users to lean under the enclosed serving areas often needing the leaning over of other items more towards the front of the displays. This was as said poor and uncomfortable.
Score of the main buffet is the only item which could possibly lower the overall score of the food and beverage dept.
To be fair though ship can hardly be blamed for design and layout of the serving areas, but management could be faulted on the offerings available.
Evening entertainment and Productions in the Theatre were some of the best we have seen for a long time. During the cruise, we had 4 production shows by the ships production team 3 of which we considered to be excellent and one good. Other evenings we had different guest entertainers ranging from excellent to very good. Only one considered as mediocre was the magician card trick type of act but probably some people liked.
All shows – acts lasted for approx. 50 minutes Much better than the 30 min presentations offered over the last couple of years by Carnival Group ships.
Thought that cruise director was OK certainly put himself out and about around the ship, which is more than can be said for most these days.
Daytime entertainment especially since we had so many consecutive sea days was lacking – Morning lectures were OK But afternoon offerings poor. Again, considering so many sea days Some of which were too hot to stay in the sun. During the latter part of the cruise afternoon movie presentations started – not sure if this was due to complaints but in any case came as a welcome break.
In conclusion, the cruise was good – very good. Hotel aspects Food Service General Hotel services were excellent as was the ships cleanliness.
So, nice to see that cold towels still presented on open decks during the very Hot weather and on return from shore.
People think these are minor items and other companies cut these little things thinking they are not missed or indeed noted. Maybe not by the newbies who seem to be the target groups of other cruise lines
But companies should be reminded that they are noted.
Cleanliness onboard Celebrity Constellation was to be commended. Had into the habit of not using - even avoiding public restrooms onboard as even recommended due to outbreaks of Noro virus etc.
Constellation was spotless Public bathrooms even had attendees especially in the evenings and kept gleaming with cloth towels offered by smiling attendants.
Crew to be commended throughout the ship - starting at the top and all Hotel Management team commended. Many thanks to the Hotel director and all his obviously, content and happy crew.
Whether next cruise will be Celebrity or Princess would go with either subject to itineries and possible deals.
We missed many items normally found on Princess not least the free Laundry for Elites – Mini Bar Set up – Free Internet etc., Celebrity has the edge in our opinion from this one cruise. Hope that it is maintained and that ship based fixtures are attended to in the upcoming refit.
Thanks to all on Constellation for a great experience overall