This was our 5th cruise but our first with Celebrity. The period of the cruise was over Christmas and New Year and having been on 2 similar cruises before which were very good, my husband and I were looking forward to a similar experience on Constellation. We flew British Airways to Miami. Having cheated all sorts of obstacles (BA threatened strikes and bad weather in the UK) we arrived in Miami only 10 minutes late. We were transferred to the Wyndham Miami Airport hotel for the night and would be transferred to the ship the next morning. The hotel was adequate and the transfers were fine. We were in a Concierge Class cabin and were therefore entitled to various extra goods and services including priority check in and boarding. Not on this occasion. We were at least an hour in the check in queue whilst all other queues moved a lot quicker. There were plenty of complaints from us and our fellow queuers!! Then, when we got to the check in desk the clerk made a song and dance about the fact that my husband has a USA visa (and why did I not also have one - as if it was any of his business) and that he had never seen anyone with a British passport with a "white entry form" whereas mine was the visa waiver green one. I was hugely unimpressed. Eventually we were allowed to proceed. We went straight to our cabin which was ready, had a quick look round, noted that there was no fruit to which we were entitled and then went for some lunch in the Seaview Cafe.
After lunch one of our cases had arrived at our cabin door and the other 2 cases followed in short order. Our cabin steward came to introduce himself and the fruit arrived. We opened our complimentary bottle of sparkling wine and sipped this on the balcony overlooking the marina in Miami. Then we had a look around the ship. The atrium was nicely decorated with Christmas trees and sparkling stars and we felt ready to enjoy a nice Christmas and New Year cruise.
The ship was supposed to sail at 17.00 but there was an announcement that the captain had decided to wait for an hour to see if people who had been delayed on flights could make the ship before it sailed. There had been bad weather in the eastern USA as well as Europe and flights were being cancelled wholesale. In the event, over 100 people did not make it and had to join the ship 3 or 4 days later in Curacao or Aruba.
We were booked for second sitting in the San Marco Restaurant (deck 4) on a table for 6. 2 of the other 4 people were there for the first night. They were from Miami and therefore had not had any hassles with travelling. The menu showed the day's specials on the right hand side and the "always available" items on the left hand side. There was a good choice. We both chose a crab starter, followed by a soup and then main course and then chatted to our table companions. When our crab dishes arrived we were dumbfounded. On my plate there were 2 leaves of rocket and drizzled on one of them was about a tablespoonful of a crab sauce. That was it!! We did not say anything at the time, thinking this must be an error or a first night hitch. However, when the soup arrived it was lukewarm and slopped all over the sides of the soup bowls. Altogether we were not impressed with the food and we also noticed that the staff were running around like headless chickens. There did not seem to be any leadership or co-ordination. We thought we would see how things went the next night before making any comments.
We took breakfast in the Seaview Cafe. This was fine and there was plenty of choice and room to sit no matter what time you arrived. We did this every day. Also the tea and coffee stations were good with nice sized mugs instead of small cups. No complaints here.
Our first day was a sea day. The weather was cloudy and windy and not very warm. Still we found a nice place to relax on sunbeds at the front of the ship on deck 11/12. This was nice and quiet but if you wanted music all you had to do was to move further to the centre of the ship where there was more action and they had a Caribbean band playing for part of the day.
That night was the first formal dress night. My husband and I like these opportunities to dress up. Unfortunately we were not in the majority. Around 95% of the ladies dressed up in nice gowns or cocktail dresses but around 95% of men could not be bothered to adhere to the dress code. This got worse on the next formal night - but read on......... The food in the restaurant was about on a par with the first night and the service was no better and just as chaotic. I did notice that when our waiter came round to ask if our food was OK he also asked if it was hot - strange - never been asked that before. With just a couple of days to go before Christmas Day, we noted that there were no decorations whatsoever in our part of the restaurant or indeed in the Seaview cafe. We decided that they would appear perhaps on Christmas Eve.
On the 3rd night in the restaurant, things were no better and my husband decided to make a complaint. He pointed out about the soup being slopped over the sides of the bowls and about the food not being overly hot. Complaints were taken on board although the waiter said they just delivered what was sent up by the kitchens. It had also come to our attention that whilst our table (and a couple of others) had to wait a long time for service, another table next to ours seating 8 got served straight away. They had the same staff as we did but the staff fawned over them the whole time - you would have thought they owned the ship. By this time the service and the quantity of the food on offer was a nightly talking point on our table as our companions were no more impressed than we were. We were all driven to ordering a starter, soup and salad in order to ensure that we had enough to eat. Having said that, the salads were mainly chopped up lettuce.
By the 3rd day, we had got used to our cabin. Lots of storage space. It was clean and the beds and pillows so comfy. The balcony was rather small with 2 chairs (non reclining) and a large table. Still we managed. The worst aspect was the cold water from the tap in the bathroom which was always warm - sometimes quite hot. On the other hand, there was plenty of hot water, the shower was OK (but not the best we have had) and the cabin was nicely serviced including change of towels twice a day. The air conditioning was particularly good.
On Christmas Eve, we returned to our cabin late morning to find that our balcony was flooded. The glass doors outside were streaming with water, the table top was similarly covered in water and the chair cushions were soaked. By late afternoon, the balcony was still in no fit state to use and we had to complain. Someone came up and sort of dried it.
Christmas Day and Santa had found us on the ship!!! we also got a nice beach bag from Celebrity and a card wishing us season's greetings (not Merry Christmas). When we arrived for breakfast in the Seaview Cafe, there were Christmas streamers along the top of the serving counters. Hurray!! But by lunchtime they had been taken away. We spent the day relaxing in the lovely weather. There was plenty of sunbed space at the front of the ship and plenty of beds spare. So no fighting over sunbeds or deck space on this ship (which we had experienced before). Arriving back in our cabin late afternoon, there were no canapes so we rang to ask where they were. When they were delivered our cabin steward told us that they had not been delivered because we had put the "do not disturb" sign on the outside of the door. NOT TRUE. This statement was later retracted and our steward told us it was his assistant's fault - he had missed us out.
This was the second formal dress night for the restaurant. Needless to say, compliance was hardly better that on the 1st formal night. Even worse, the aforementioned table next to ours that got the good service, turned up in casual clothes - some in jeans. How ignorant can you get? And still they got the best service and despite coming in very late, got their food before us. 3 out of the 4 of us on our table ordered a lobster salad for starters. This arrived on a plate hardly bigger than the side plates used for bread. It consisted of some shredded lettuce leaves, about 4/5 very thin slices of radish and a couple of slices of cucumber - but no sign of the lobster. We all stared at our plates and called the waiter to get us some lobster. It was pointed out that the lobster was between 2 of the slices of radish. Well I managed to retrieve mine but it was cut so thin that it disintegrated when I tried to move it away from the radish. We could do more than laugh even though it was so bad. We had pre- ordered a particular bottle of wine for my husband and a bottle of champagne for me. We had been told they would be on our table when we arrived at dinner. When we enquired where they were we were told that they had run out of the champagne. You can imagine how unimpressed we were. We chose an alternative bottle at the same price as the original bottle.
The Christmas turkey was OK if a bit salty but there was no Christmas pudding or cake or mince pies and no decorations in the restaurant. Where had we come to? On arriving back in our cabin at 22.55, there had been no turn - down service and no bathroom service. My husband rang to enquire. 25 minutes later when no one had come to sort things out, I strode down to guest relations in my long gown and flip flops (!!) to complain. 10 minutes later, the room was serviced. The following day our steward said the cabin had not been done because we had locked the door. LOCKED THE DOOR????? WE HAD BEEN IN THE RESTAURANT SO HOW DO YOU LOCK A DOOR FROM THE OUTSIDE??????? This accusation was later retracted and we were told that the steward had simply missed our room. This was the second time we had had to complain and on each occasion, it was initially our fault. What sort of customer service is that??
Boxing Day we dined in the Ocean Liners restaurant. What a difference from the San Marco. You were made to feel special, the service was great, the food likewise. But why did we have to pay a 30$ surcharge each to get these things?
Thereafter we spent our days leisurely on the sun deck or wandering round the ports of call - we did not do any trips as we had been to a lot of the islands before. We went to the Casual Dining restaurant in the Seaview Cafe on 2 nights and this was excellent - no surcharge but a tip was suggested. We left in excess of the suggested amount as the service and attention was so good. On each occasion, this restaurant was underused. We felt that people did not realise now nice it was and that what you got was far better than the San Marco.
Talking to fellow passengers, a lot were disappointed with the lack of Christmas feel on the ship. Some had complained and had been told that this was out of respect to non - Christian passengers. OMG - I thought we had left political correctness at home when we stepped on the plane at Heathrow. No it is alive and well at Celebrity.
New Year's Eve was another formal night and this time a lot of people adhered to the dress code. There was a deck party around the pool. This had all the makings of a disaster when at 23.00 on 24 December, we had to sit and watch the band set up on the stage and someone trying to get a computer to project imagines onto a screen. At that time I expect to be dancing. Once the band got going it was fine and the Caribbean band they had on next were excellent. They had ice carvings showing 2009 and when it was 2010 they changed the carving to show the new year - very clever and very good. Except that they told us it was midnight with some 5 minutes still to go. So we had 2 goes at Happy New Year. As someone next to me said, you would think that on this ship they were doing everything for the first time, it was so amateurish.
When we got to the San Marco restaurant for dinner on New Year's Day - we waited almost half and hour before we got the menu. Needless to say the aforementioned table next to us arrived late and got theirs straight away. My husband lost the plot at this stage. He called our waiter and asked him to explain why on each night, this other table got priority service over everyone else. The waiter agreed it was unacceptable. Needless to say the following couple of nights we got quick service - but by then the damage to our confidence had been done.
Disembarkation was fine for us as we were told to go early. However, on leaving the ship we found out that we had to complete USA entry forms. We still had the stubs of the previous forms we had filled in on the plane for arrival in the country. Apparently these should have been taken from us in St Thomas. We got off the ship there but no one asked us for anything. We weren't the only people having to re - do forms. When we got to immigration we were told that there were 68 people who did not hand in their form stubs on leaving the ship in St Thomas. If that was so, the ship must have known who they were so why did someone not contact the people concerned to tell them what to do? Apart from this the disembarkation experience was OK and we were soon at Miami airport for a long wait for our flight home.
So to sum up, and putting glitches to one side, GOOD POINTS of the cruise were the cabin size, storage space, air conditioning, cleanliness and (on the whole) service; the space on deck for sunbathing; the Ocean Liners and the Casual Dining restaurants; the New York steaks in the San Marco, the bread served in the San Marco and Aqua Spa restaurants, the Caribbean band and the dance band in the Rendevous Lounge, the Martini bar, the IT centre and the New Year's night party (when it got going). POOR POINTS were the standard of service in the San Marco (except for our assistant waiter), the variety on the menu on some nights, the unpredictable amount of food you would get in the San Marco, the length of time it took for us to have our dinner (we were often not getting out of the restaurant until nearly 23.00)and the table settings - often there were no wine glasses on the table and the water glasses were all wet as if they had just been rinsed, embarkation and to an extent disembarkation, the warm cold water in our cabin and the lack of Chrismassy feel in the ship generally.
We did not do the shows and therefore cannot comment on them.
The bottom line is that what we experienced on the Constellation was nowhere near as good as what we had on the RCI Serenade of the Seas in September 2009 and was a lot worse than what we have had on P&O and not even in the same street as what we got on the QE2. Would we sail with Celebrity again? Well it would not be our first port of call when looking for another cruise. I doubt if we would ever use them again as we would not have the confidence that what we would get would be OK.