The BW Carol and I (Beautiful Wife, OF course...) booked this 14 day Southern Caribbean through an internet "Senior Special". Embarkation was from the Port of Miami and boarding was quick, efficient and friendly. Our second trip on the Constellation and definitely much better than the prior, within the calender year. In that one, we were not sure we would return to the Constellation (Heretofore referred to as "Connie") but decided to give it one more time, based on value, itinerary, and frankly, plain curiosity to see if things had changed for the better. I am happy to report that, in the main, they have. The most obvious and apparent thing was that, even though there was nothing lacking in the friendliness and "Smile factor" of the crew, it was even more pronounced this time. Almost, and only almost, to excess. But it became apparent early on that this was a well trained and happy crew, who realized that their job consisted of two parts...their specific individual tasks, and secondly, accepting the post of Good Will Ambassador of the High Seas. With a few days in tow, it became apparent that this was a very good idea and was never fawningly done, and resulted, at least for us, in a richness of spirit and feeling of well being and being truly appreciated and welcome.
On boarding, the now near inevitable glass of either champagne or juice was offered and accepted. We checked out the location of our (inside) cabin and were pleased to find a mirrored wall behind the bed, giving more light to the room, and the appearance of more space. Drawer and storage space were more than adequate, to the point where one nearly had to remember: "Oh, yes, where did I put that..."
Luggage not having been delivered (would have been a surprise had it made it ahead of us) we moved our activities to the upstairs (Deck 10) for lunch. This was the only somewhat disappointing meal we had there, in that a few things seemed to definitely show signs of skimping. This appeared to be a one time and only time anomaly, as it was never repeated, and food there was consistently good to very good.
The balance of our first day was spent in reacquainting ourselves with "Connie". With this voyage, the concept of "Select Dining" has been introduced, which means, if and only if you prepay tips, an understandable request, if you did not desire or select assigned seating (we tried but booked too late) you can choose any time between 6:00PM and 9:30PM by making a reservation for any night or the same reservation (our choice) for the entire voyage. We always asked for a table for six and always received our request, and on every occasion had excellent, friendly and companionable fellow diners. The majority of passengers were of retirement age, most from the U.S. or Canada. There were a few children aboard, but only a few, this time of year being into the school period in most venues.
We had an absolutely excellent meal in every way, with friendly and well timed on spot service. Due notice was paid to my dairy allergy, which as always is asked to be reported to the line well before sailing and again the Ass't. Maitre D and waiter. A great touch: when reporting to the reservations desk, a small printout with available table number and other pertinent information, in this case, the dairy allergy, is handed to the waiter who notes of any special needs at that time. A great touch indeed.
The first night's entertainment, as is usual, is a "sampler package" of what may may be experienced throughout the balance of the voyage, with the Cruise Director (Kevin W. from the U.K.) introducing himself and on board entertainers, with the production show performers giving a taste of what they may be doing.
Let's talk a bit more about dining and food quality. In our opinion, food quality has, with few exceptions, greatly improved since our prior experience. Two lamb dishes, (one of rack of lamb, the other of lamb chops) were as tender and flavorful as we have ever had anywhere, at anytime. Yet, darn, a later lamb shank preparation was so tough as to be mostly inedible. The several steaks I had were decent but not outstanding. Other meals were exceptional, as was service and attentiveness. Only the occasional keeps us from a 5.0 rating as to food. This, in the (main) dining room, the San Marco.
Two very nice brunches were served during the voyage, on several days in, the other, near cruise end. These events show a great deal of planning and care, with numerous and highly varied dishes being prepared. Two chocolate fountains, one dark, one milk, with sliced fruit for dipping, were available and nicely done.
How impressed were we caring and attention to detail? The first port day, we were literally awakened by a loud announcement blaring into our cabin, instead of being piped into the public rooms and hallways exclusively. Two reports to the front desk (this was repeated the next day as well) seemed only to confuse, with one person seeming not to grasp the concept at all, and another saying: "We'll look into it". As the same thing had happened on Connie's sister ship, The Infinity, and a query brought a shocked: "I am So sorry, that is NOT supposed to happen!", and it never did again, I took matters into my own hands and wrote a brief note to the Captain. This brought a personal hand written apology, cessation of sleep deprivation, and more than this, the next day, a personal follow up apology and more from Guest Relations. Well done, Connie.
Summary of nightly entertainment? There are several solo entertainers throughout the ship, including an excellent guitarist, pianist, a chamber orchestra, and a four part male acapella group, which rather than being fixed, wanders about and pops up here and there. Surprise! There was the usual complement of nightly performers on stage, comedians, a solo xylophone player and a pianist/singer, and an outstanding singer/dancer production group of more than a dozen young men and women. A table mate remarked to us, when asked how he enjoyed the show, remarked; "I've never seen better, even in Las Vegas!" He lives in Vegas....
Daytime, there were usually a minimum (usually more) of various types of Trivia contests, interesting and well done by staff.
There is the usual shopping "arcade" with all anyone could want or need, attractively displayed and staffed with friendly smiling help. There were several jewelry "unveilings", and an impressive display of (and informative talks concerning) a Faberge egg and watch collection.
We had registered for a Cruise Critic "Meet and Mingle" which was well presented, as was a later Captain's Circle party.
Ports visited? After two sea days, Charlotte Amalie, St.Thomas, St.Johns, Antigua, Castries, St.Lucia, Bridgetown, Barbados, St.Georges,Grenada, Scarborough,Tobago, Oranjastead, Aruba, and finally, Willamstad, Curacao. Someone forgot to notify the appropriate person that it was the height of winter, as it was warm (spell it V E R Y H O T) and in Curacao, with heat index, 102 degrees. Yikes! We had been to most ports before and so debarked only to see what might be new dockside, except in Grenada, which was new to us, where we took a tour to the waterfall and Nutmeg factory. A worthwhile tour and excellent guide. Iced towels and cold water or fruit punch at return dockside are a welcome and nice touch.
All in all, this was a much more enjoyable visit than our last experience on the Connie, and we would add only this. We had previously remarked, both in our ship's comment cards and review, as to the inappropriate music aired as background, more suitable to a much younger and musically impaired crowd. On few occasions were we "treated" to the screeching, screaming and pounding more appropriate for another demographic. (Though, one can but wonder who that may be...) Only in the well equipped gym was this occasionally present; other times were blissfully quiet, and at dinner tasteful and relaxing music was piped in. However, on sail away and at poolside many days, the performers amps were cranked up so high as to be beyond intolerable. When I entered the pool area, even to pass through, I literally had to put my fingers in my ears and hurry to he nearest exit doorway. When trying to have a conversation with the BW, we stood as close as possible to try to talk and still had to shout to hear each other. I know of no reason why this should be to be pleasing to anyone, except hearing aid manufacturers.
We were told the Constellation is doing a TransAtlantic in April for a refurbishing in Germany. May we make two suggestions? Consider rollers on the dining room chairs; they are so heavy as to be very uncomfortable when moving closer to or back from the table. And...news flash, some people do like to read in bed. Requirement of he day..er, night...proper reading lights and placement. In our cabin, lying in bed, you stare directly into the ceiling lights, or have to lean over the bed's edge and hold your reading material under the light. Not at all convenient, is it?
We do wish to make note of the efficiency of our cabin steward, Ambert, as good as we have had anywhere, anytime. Dining staff, again, excellent, but too many to make note of, to our chagrin. You know who you are, and we say Thanks. Several instances of unnecessarily (is it ever really necessary?) passengers was met with good grace and well handled. Gym and spa staff, not unexpectedly, are beyond helpful and friendly. I must complain, however, that the resident gym scale is a TERRIBLE liar.
Debarking, Miami, we were off the ship and on our way in record time, well before our scheduled time. Slight wrinkle? One of our two checked bags somehow vanished between the cabin hallway and the baggage carousel, as did that of several other passengers we spoke to. We filled out a lost luggage form and the same afternoon received a courteous call that our bag had been found and would be returned the next day by arrangement with U.P.S. It was, fully intact and with a form from Customs/Homeland Security that it had been opened and searched. Would we do the Connie again? Absolutely, and looking forward to its new look as it comes out of its "freshening up" in Germany. 30.
Adequate space for an inside. Excellent storage space. We were actually in the equivalent of a small alcove off the main hallway, containing 17 cabins, so it was very quiet.
Needs reading lights.